Friday, August 29, 2014


Not my child, but I feel for Mom.

A few more days and the kids here in Virginia will be climbing aboard those big yellow buses to head back to school.  Parents will be breathing a sigh of relief that their little darlings are resuming a coherent routine—somewhere away from home!  Yet for those moms and dads whose little ones are heading to the bus stop for the first time this September, emotions are mixed.  The very first day of school ever is fraught with anxiety for both parent and child, no matter how exciting it may be.

As I approach the launch date of Unchained Memory in February, I can’t help but think how similar the experience is to putting my kids on the bus that first day of kindergarten.  I had such hopes (and worries!) for my girls.  I find I have the same kind of hopes and worries for my book “baby”, too.

--I hope people like her.  Of course. This is the big one, right?  We want our kids to have friends to color with, to play with at recess, to eat with at lunch.  We want our books to have readers.  Lots of them.  And just like we want our children’s teachers to like them, we want bloggers and major reviewers to treat our books kindly.

--I hope she shines.  My oldest daughter was, well, let’s just say reserved.  Her teachers said she was “quiet”.  My youngest was so anxious the first few weeks of school she went every day to get a hug from the school nurse (after which she’d be fine).  Debut novels can’t afford to be shy and retiring.  We authors have to help them make a great first impression.  We have to make some noise as we come on the scene so folks will remember our names.  (In a nice way, of course.  Nobody wants to have that kid whose name the teacher calls 50 times a day because of bad behavior:  “Johnny, sit down.  Johnny, stop that!”)

--I hope she makes good friends.  It’s not enough for our kids to simply get along with their classmates.  For their school experience to be truly happy, they need good friends, the kind they can invite for sleepovers or playdates.  For some kids, these first friendships last a lifetime.  As authors, we need good friends, too.  They are the readers who meet us with the first book and recognize a kindred spirit immediately.  They support us with great reviews and extensive word-of-mouth campaigns; they write to us about the book and the characters; they eagerly await the next book in the series. I really hope my book baby gets lots of these!

--I hope she avoids any bullies.  Let’s face it.  School is not always a nice place.  Bullies roam the halls and the playground, waiting to pounce on the weak, or sometimes just that person in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Bullies also roam the literary world, in the form of pirates, trolls and just plain mean reviewers, bloggers and commenters.  Just as parents can’t always be at their children’s sides, we authors can’t always leap to the defense of our book babies.  We can fight piracy with the legal tools at hand, ignore the worst trolls, call out troops of loyal friends to stifle unfair reviews, drown negative blogs in positive comments.  But in the end, we must let the book fight its own battles by letting the story speak for itself.

--I hope she learns something. My kids had wonderful kindergarten teachers.  Those women were patient and caring, enthusiastic and creative.  I have no doubt my girls learned a phenomenal amount that first year of school.  The launch of my first book will surely teach me any number of lessons, too.  If I’m smart enough to apply them, first grade should be a breeze!


Check out Laurie's post below about our annual ritual of banishing blahs, wiping out woes, and eliminating ennui with the burning of badjuju!  Add your list to the pyre before we send it up in flames!  And it burns, burns, burns, that thing of fire, that thing of fire . . . 

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fifth Annual Burning of Badjuju!

Wait...what's Badjuju, you say?

We're so glad you asked.

The Burning of Badjuju has become a writer's tradition here on Spacefreighters Lounge!

Every year, we celebrate the Burning of Badjuju in conjunction with the Burning of Zozobra--also known as Old Man Gloom--in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The big day (which snuck up on us this year) is Friday, August 29th.

So what's this all about?

Well, it all started like this...

The Annual Fiestas de Santa Fe is a celebration with roots that go back to the year 1692 when the Spanish peacefully reclaimed the city from the Pueblos. Later, in 1924, the Zozobra tradition was started as a part of the Fiesta by artist William Howard Shuster, Jr. and it has been carried on in more recent times by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe.

For weeks leading up to the event, people can drop off slips of paper with details of personal gloom—or even certain legal papers—at the offices of the Santa Fe Reporter. These items are stuffed inside the giant effigy along with liberal amounts of shredded newspaper. They can then join the crowd of 40,000 to celebrate on the selected evening and enjoy the banishment of doom and gloom as the giant Zozobra effigy is set ablaze. It's quite a ritual.

In 2009, we decided writers might like to have their own version of the burning of Zozobra. Imagine collecting a stockpile of unsalvageable manuscripts, rejection letters, errant contest score sheets, misguided bad reviews, and other gloom-laced paperwork and having a virtual bonfire of epic proportions to banish our cares? So we created our own version of Zozobra for writers coming up with the name "Badjuju" for our version.

You can check out our archive of past Badjuju Burnings here:

So fire away! Toss all those woes, troubles, self doubts, bad vibes and disappointments into Badjuju so we can light him up on Friday. Then start afresh with a bright and shiny new year ahead of you.

What will you toss into Badjuju this year?

Friday, August 22, 2014


When I was active in STAR TREK fandom, we used a phrase to describe the need to stop having fun and return to the world of adult responsibilities—“life intrudes”.  As in, “No, dude, I can’t [attend the next con/participate in the costume contest/
practice for the filking performance], life intrudes.”  It meant we had to attend to the real world tasks of earning a living, taking care of the family, feeding the dog or cat. 

I’ve noticed since then that lots of geeky groups use the phrase—fans of graphic narrative (uh, that would be comics to the rest of us), gamers, re-enactors of all stripes and, oh, yes, romance writers.  Not all of us are geeky, mind you, but we all live in some alternate universe of fantasy, where all the women are empowered and all the men incredibly handsome AND sensitive.  We’d stay there indefinitely, except the kids just keep asking to be fed for some reason.  Life intrudes.

In my case this summer, life has intruded in a major way.  Not exactly like Godzilla intruded on Tokyo, because all of the life events I’m experiencing are positive.  I’m grateful for them, truly.  Still, they are all-encompassing, commanding not only my time and attention, but also my emotional energy, which is much more devastating to the concentration one needs for writing.

So what’s going on? 

--I’m moving.  Huge disruption here.  My husband and I are selling the home we’ve owned for 18 years, clearing out the detritus of over 120 combined years of existence on the planet, 38 years of marriage, two kids and multiple pets.  Yes, that’s right, we’re downsizing.  That means a decision must be made about every photo, knick-knack, bauble, tool, piece of furniture and item of d├ęcor.  It’s not only physically exhausting, it’s mentally brutal.  If I were the sentimental type, which thankfully I’m not, it would be emotionally crushing.

Still, we found buyers for our house after having the place on the market for only a month.  We located a nice house to rent for the next year before we move down to North Carolina to start building our dream house.  So, you know what?  It’s all good.  I’ll try not to trip over the boxes in the dark and be grateful the local landfill is just a short drive away.

--My youngest daughter is getting married.  I don’t mean she’s going to a justice of the peace to get hitched.  I mean she’s putting on a formal shindig worthy of mention in the same paragraph with Will and Kate or Kim and Kanye.  But only to say that those couples were extravagant morons when it came to wedding stuff, while my sensible daughter is keeping her special day well within bounds.  Still, formal weddings take a LOT of planning and time, what with multiple dress fittings and cross-state hunts for appropriate undergarments (!).  Fortunately for me, my daughter has things under control.  My main function seems to be Sturdy Shoulder for those times when It All Becomes Too Much.  But, again, she’s marrying a great guy, and they’ll be happy.  Al we have to do is get through October 5.

There are some other long-simmering issues that have finally been resolved this summer, too, which I won’t go into.  Suffice it to say that they needed time and attention, but it was well worth it to accomplish a goal my family has been pursuing for over five years.  Now we’re adjusting to a new, happier reality, and that takes emotional energy, too.

Never for a moment am I forgetting that I have my first book coming out in six months.  Or that a second book will need to be polished and prepared for publication six months after that.  One reason we decided to sell the house now, rather than next spring, was so I could concentrate on promotion, rather than packing, once the book comes out.  But there’s no question, life has intruded on my writing in a big way.  I’m stuck in the middle of the first draft of a short story meant to get out there ahead of the publication of Unchained Memory. Arrgh! Laurie was kind enough to send feedback on my third book that I haven’t even had time to look at. Sorry, Laurie! I’ll get this blog in, but I’ll neglect to respond to comments.  So sorry, dear readers!

I know I’m not the only one for whom the obligations of real life form obstacles to our work.  In most cases, the real world is not at all benign in snatching us away from our lovely alternate universes.  Laurie has shared with us just recently her personal challenges.  Sharon has certainly had frightening, life-altering intrusions to overcome.  Even Stephen King, whose 363-days-a-year work ethic is legendary, eventually had to face reality when a distracted van driver knocked him off the road and nearly into the next world.

The only remedy we have for this inevitable fact of the writers’ life is to recognize the intrusions as temporary, deal with them as best we can and get back to work as soon as possible.  Moving day is September 7; we close on the house September 12.  I should be settled into the new place and back to work before the wedding on October 5.  Then, after it’s all over, my daughter says we deserve a spa day.  Just the thing to get the old creative juices flowing again.

P.S.  Happy First Birthday to my granddaughter!  Little Lana is quite the diva, a delight to all who know her.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Landmarks - Pippa's Journal

The 17th of August 2009 is a date engraved on my memory. It's the day I sat down at my computer with a short story to hand, some new music, and a desperate need to rediscover myself as I began work on a rough draft that eventually became Keir and the now renamed sequel Keir's Fall. Yeah, I know the exact day I started it. Seems kind of surreal now, five years down the line. Back then I felt I'd lost my identity, and that I'd gone slightly insane. Once I'd started writing, I couldn't stop. Six weeks of nonstop scribbling and typing convinced my husband I really *had* gone crazy. I suppose I had in a way. I was definitely on another planet...

But now I can look back and shake my head. In the midst of that craziness, I found myself and rediscovered my passion - writing! Now I'm a multi-published author with my eighth title releasing TODAY! How awesome is that?! Five years ago it was enough to simply be writing again, let alone imagine that I might be published. Weird.

So if you're thinking that it can't be done, I'm telling you it CAN. I've done it. All you need to remember is - Never give up, never surrender!

Mission Success

Restless In Peaceville
Restless In Peaceville releases today. Woo hoo! Title number eight, and my first paranormal release. My first zombie story too. Definitely wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me I'd have something like this coming out. No, sir. You can check out the tour schedule HERE, and I'm kicking off with a post about why the heck I wrote zombies at the lovely Karen Y Bynum's blog HERE, and a book spotlight HERE. The official tour kicks off on the 1st September with a suitably zombie-themed giveaway. Bwahahaa!In the meantime my tour for Tethered is still running, and you have a couple more days to win a shiny thing HERE.

Amazon has enabled pre-orders for indies! Frankly, it's about time too. With Smashwords and ARe already offering this long before Amazon, it felt as if once more the Zon were denying indies the same rights as other publishers. Some authors are saying this isn't necessarily a good thing, but I for one am relieved. When self publishing, it'll make my life a lot easier being able to upload and set titles in advance rather than having to do it on or just before the day I want something to go live.

On the subject of self publishing, there's a post of interesting tips from a recent RWA event that you might find useful HERE. I didn't know about the series landing page for one thing.

I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy twice, and would happily go again! I know Donna's review found it lacking that essential something, but for me it ticked all the boxes. Reluctant hero makes good, interesting characters, great spaceships and planets, a strong storyline with a satisfying ending yet potential for sequels continuing character development...yep, very happy. And if you haven't seen the dancing baby Groot - go check it out NOW!

In the meantime, I have just two more weeks with my monsters home before I can really get back to work. There are edits and covers and releases to come, oh my! Here's my schedule as it currently stands -

Restless In Peaceville releases 20th August
Tethered tour ends 23rd August
Restless tour begins 1st September
Complete and submit YA dystopia short Zombie Girl
Cover Reveal for When Dark Falls TBA
Edits for No Angel and a paranormal short
Paranormal short releases 1st October, tour 8th-31st
BristolCon 25th October
When Dark Falls releases November
No Angel releases December

Keir, Keir's Fall and a side story set between the two are on my list for 2015, plus a novella in the Venus Ascendant collection, two holiday-themed SFR shorts, and completing a novel-length sequel to Imprint, my SFR short in Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology. However, I also have sequels to Tethered, RIP, When Dark Falls AND Zombie Girl in mind. Book three in the series for Keir is down for 2016.

Funny to think that when I started the submission process with Keir I was afraid of running out of ideas... O.o

Friday, August 15, 2014


Marvel’s latest box-office draw GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, has attracted quite the fanboy following, with some reviewers even comparing the rocket-fueled joyride to STAR WARS or FIREFLY.  The space opera adventures of a mismatched band of reluctant heroes may remind us of Serenity, but “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) is no Captain Mal.  At its heart, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is just another afternoon’s entertainment, fun, but little more substantial than the accompanying popcorn.

The movie starts out with a very emotionally affecting scene here on Earth, where seven-year-old Quill is asked to say goodbye to his mother, who is dying of cancer in a hospital.  In a fit of grief-driven anger, he refuses to take her hand and runs out of the hospital.  Alone and crying, he is . . . abducted by aliens.  The next time we see him is as an adult on an “abandoned planet” where he is scavenging for a living, dancing to the beat of an old ‘70’s mix tape on a Walkman that was beamed up with him when he was taken.  The tape is all that he has left of his mom.

There is really no describing the emotional whiplash of the first few minutes of the film.  I’m not sure I ever got over it, especially since the director (James Gunn, SCOOBY DOO, MOVIE 43, SLITHER) keeps returning to the mix tape and Mom as essential to Quill’s character.  What tone are we trying to hit here exactly?

Anyway, to make a long story short, Quill finds something BIG on that planet, something it appears everyone in the galaxy wants.  It takes a while to sort out who’s who, as everyone and his alien brother begins to try and kidnap/kill/maim Quill to get the thing. Along the way, he acquires his quirky allies:  a bioengineered raccoon; a sentient, mobile tree; a green-skinned, kickass female assassin out to betray her bad-guy boss; a hulk with tattoos determined to kill the bad guy in revenge for the murder of his family.  When they figure out that the thing everyone wants can destroy worlds, they set out to Do The Right Thing, even if it hurts.  All to the tune of “Hooked on a Feeling” (the weird one by Blue Swede, not the superior original by B.J. Thomas).  Oogachaka, anyone?

Okay, so it’s a fun ride, with plenty of action and wisecracks.  And Marvel has already said they are determined to build this into a new franchise. But the Guardians have a long, long way to go before they reach icon status a la Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew, Captain Mal and his crew of desperate misfits or even Captain Adama, President Roslin and the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica.  Because, try as they might, the Guardians lack epic scope.

By epic scope I don’t mean just big battles or destruction on a grand scale.  I don’t even mean that the stakes are major, though that is certainly part of it.  (If the size of the stakes defined “epic”, then every blockbuster at the Cineplex would qualify, since our entire universe is at risk in each and every one of them.)  For a film or a television series or a book, for that matter, to have that sense of the truly epic, it must deal with the big questions, with fundamental issues humans struggle with over and over.  The best ones deal with those questions not simply within the context of plot, but in their premises and underlying themes.

So STAR TREK has epic scope because it deals with the questions of the hero’s quest and what it means to be human (or even more often, what it means to be free).  STAR WARS is a coming-of-age story set in space, but it also deals with the question of responsibility to self vs. responsibility to a higher ideal (Han Solo’s problem).  BATTLESTAR GALLATICA asks viewers to define what is home, what is God AND what does it mean to be human, and gives no easy answers.  FIREFLY is a quest for hope in the midst of despair, and the struggle that goes on in every individual between selfish and higher impulses.  Want good vs. evil on a grander level?  LORD OF THE RINGS takes you there, with the hero’s quest serving as the structure against which that struggle is played out.

Some of these themes could be teased out of GUARDIANS (that war between selfish and higher impulses, for example), but nothing is treated with any seriousness.  Everything is done tongue-in-cheek.  I have absolutely no objection to that.  Play the whole “save the galaxy” thing for laughs and I’m in all the way.  What I find puzzling is the reaction by some geekier reviewers who say things like, “this is my STAR WARS!”  Um, no.  Look up the definition of parody.

In fact, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a pretty good parody of our favorite save-the-galaxy tropes, and a lot of fun on that level.  Just don’t go to the theater expecting the next space epic.

SIDE NOTE:  Luc Besson’s LUCY did try to deal with some of those larger questions, at least in the traditional SF framework of “what if”.  What if we humans suddenly had the capacity to use 100 per cent of our brains?  According to Besson (the TRANSPORTER films, but also THE FIFTH ELEMENT), the answer is mostly ugly and violent, but it was interesting to watch the plot play out anyway.  Scarlett Johannsson as Lucy and Morgan Freeman as the “learned professor” did what they could to salvage the film.  Worthy of a late-night watch at home.

Cheers, Donna

Friday, August 8, 2014


Some of the swag from Behre's book signing

I had a few thoughts this week.

And one year, at RWA . . .” Last week I waxed eloquent about all the fun to be had at the RWA National Conference in San Antonio.  Each conference has its own unique flavor and new ideas to offer, but one thing that is always a feature of Nationals is the opportunity to meet other writers and make lasting connections.

I met fellow bloggers Laurie and Sharon at my very first RWA conference in Washington D.C. five years ago, and look where that has led us!  The three of us have come a long way since that day we met in the lobby of the conference hotel at the beginning of our respective journeys.

I’ve met others at Nationals whose progress I can cheer from year to year, including, of course, my Golden Heart® sisters, the Firebirds.  Many of the members of my cohort have found agents, publishers and sales success.  I made a point of going through the vast ballroom that held the Literacy Signing event in San Antonio looking for folks I knew so I could celebrate the moment with them.  Of the Firebirds, I found Heather Nickodem (w/a Heather Ashby), Terri Osburn, Susan Boyer, Lorenda Christensen and Kim Law signing in the same room as Nora Roberts, Nalini Singh and hundreds of others.

I was also surprised to see my friend Mary Behre, a writer of light romantic suspense who only a year or two ago had been working the Literacy Signing with me as a volunteer usher.  There she was, signing her first book, Spirited, the first in the Tidewater series from Berkley Sensation.  Mary lives in nearby King George, Virginia, but it took traveling to the national conference for us to meet.  As is not uncommon in our state, I attend the Richmond-based Virginia Romance Writers chapter meetings; Mary meets with the D.C.-based Washington Romance Writers.

Mary’s second book, Guarded, just launched last week with a signing at the local Barnes & Noble.  I went out to show some support.  She had a decent-sized crowd, and she was well-received, but reading to a bunch of strangers can be an intimidating moment.  It can help to have a friendly face in the crowd.  Because we have our RWA connection, I know she’ll show be there to back me up when I need it, too.

(Mary describes her Tidewater series as “humor, suspense and a psychic love connection”.  Her writing voice is just as much fun as her own genuine personality. The first book was a great read; I can’t wait to get to the second one.)

Come and get your love . . .  Mary had plenty of goodies to give away to readers at her Barnes & Noble book launch.  Those who bought a book came away with not only the author’s signature, but a pen, a notepad, a goodie bag with the book and author’s name, a drink coozie similarly printed (drink not included), and a bookmark.  Visitors to the RWA National Conference Goody Room  will find all of these items, plus chocolate; rulers; postcards and business cards with book covers on one side, blurbs on the other; keyrings; magnets; calendars; pins; mugs and cups; trading cards.  I’m sure I’ve missed something.  

The purpose of all this swag at book signings is clear:  readers love free stuff and will think kindly of those who provide it.  At a conference for writers, though, one wonders why you’d spend the money.  Yes, writers are readers, too, but do any of those writers go out and buy the book based on what they pick up in the Goody Room?

Stuck . . . According to one of the workshops I attended at the conference, Pinterest is the hottest social media thing going right now.  (Right behind Twitter, I guess.)  I have a hard time seeing the benefit for writers, beyond the obvious example of pinning covers with a link to your other sites.  The only time I’ve used Pinterest is to look at possible hairstyles.  I did notice, however, that when I Googled the hairstyle question, Pinterest literally took over the search, sending me there whether I wanted to go or not.   Hmm.

How long has this been going on . . .?  As if my life wasn’t crazy enough, my husband and I are packing up and moving out of the home we’ve lived in for 18 years.  We’ll be renting a house here in Fredericksburg for a year before we make the big move to Marshall, North Carolina, just north of Asheville.  What this means is, I’m hip deep in the accumulated junk of most of my life, trying to “downsize”.

I came across a few pages of an old journal, started in an aborted attempt to gain control over the chaos that was our life with my oldest daughter in her early years of grade school.  The journaling didn’t last long—I don’t have that kind of discipline—but on the last page I found a note that had nothing to do with real life per se.  

 It was an idea for a story:
UFO abduction on a dark country road. Kids die in a fire.  Woman spends story trying to find out what happened to two-hour memory gap.

That note is the germ of Unchained Memory.  The date is April, 1991.  The bad news is it took me almost 25 years to get the experience that would allow me to do the story justice, to write the book, to find an agent, to find a way to publish it.  The good news is, the story that came to me so long ago will finally be published in February, 2015.  

Hallelujah and amen.

Cheers, Donna