Friday, October 30, 2015


Meet Gabriel. Half human. Half Thrane. All badass.

Gabriel Cruz is the best tracker in the galaxy. He can find anyone, anywhere, and blaze a path to safety through Portal’s Hell. But he’ll need all his skills—martial, telepathic and, most of all, personal—to accomplish his latest mission. He’s tasked with finding a young boy who may be the key to an intergalactic power play. His FBI agent partner is not only human, but female. She’s too smart for her own good and too beautiful for his. And it won’t be long before she learns his secret—his own alien half-brothers are stalking the same vulnerable prey.

This week kicks off a week of fun leading up to the cover reveal for the second book in my Interstellar Rescue series, Trouble in Mind. Today you see just a piece of that lovely cover, the seductive eyes of my hero, Gabriel Cruz. Whew! Is it hot in here?

For a chance to see more of him—and more of the cover, including heroine Lana Matheson—come on over to my Facebook page: DonnaSFrelickAuthor. I’ll be revealing new pieces of the cover at noon EST on each of the following days: Sunday, November 1, Tuesday, November 3 and Thursday, November 5. At each of those “unveilings,” I’ll be giving away a copy of the ARC of Trouble in Mind or a free copy of my first book, Unchained Memory (winner’s choice).

Finally, the full cover reveal happens here at Spacefreighters Lounge next Friday, November 6. That’s when the book will go on preorder on Amazon, so you can be sure to get in line to be the first one on your block to get a copy!

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NoNo-NaNoWriMo #amwriting not

At the start of this year, I intended to do all three NaNoWriMos - the Camp version in April and July, and the full version in November. Last year I did the Camp NaNo in July. I've done the November one three years running, though I've never 'won' the full version (I've won three of the Camp version, but usually doing 20-30K to either finish short story collections or the Zombie Girl novellas, now retired).

But things changed. While working on Zombie Girl 2 for the April Camp, intending to submit it to my publisher with the first book already due for release that month, Breathless Press and Lycaon Press announced their impending closure. Suddenly it seemed pointless completing ZG2, and though I went on to hit the 20K target, the story wasn't completed. By the end of April, and after just a few days live on the publisher's site, Zombie Girl 1 and the rest of my BP/LP titles were down. It was the end of an amazing but short era. My NaNoWriMo plans went up in smoke. By the end of May, I had re-released my debut novel Keir as planned (returned to me after the sale of my publisher Lyrical Press Inc at the start of 2013), plus the three novellas and a short I had with BP/LP. Zombie Girl went back into storage. Aside from taking the decision to go fully self published after losing three of my four publishers in just two years, I was at a bit of a loss.

I've always liked to use NaNoWriMo to either kickstart a new project, or complete those hanging over my head. I used the one in July 2015 to complete a trio of short stories, two of them for anthologies. One anthology never went ahead due to lack of submissions, and the other had its submission date bumped to December instead of August. I was starting to feel a certain apocalyptic pattern emerging!

However, this November I was debating whether to do a sequel to either my superhero romance When Dark Falls, or my scifi romance Tethered (partly because most of my word count this year has been shorts, titles that never got to publication, or additions on edits). Since Tethered was getting the better sales and a reader had asked if there would be more books to come, Tethered won. Then an idea for a Colchester-based urban fantasy started vying for attention. *side eyes muse*

But I've come to the decision not to do NaNoWriMo this year. Why? Well, after the kerfuffle in the first half of the year with publisher closures and anthology fails, and the prospect of having to go back to a full time job (not writing) next year, plus various real life issues that have required far more attention than previous years, I don't want to start anything new. I'm still editing Keir's Fall - something I planned to have up for pre-order by now with a November 7th release date. I have had a complete fail on it. I still have three short stories to finish, two of which have been WIPs for two years now (pretty poor when you consider the 10K word count. I've completed 40K novellas quicker!). I still have to polish up my superhero short story for the December deadline, I have a novella with my editor right now (a planned May 2016 release), a novella in the Rebecca contest which will be free for editing/publication after November, and a novel booked for edits in January. There's an awful lot of nearly-but-not-quite projects hanging over my head, and I'm feeling the pressure. I feel I can't move on until these are complete. I feel like I'm running out of time.

So, my plan is to work on completing all of these projects currently blocking me by the end of this year and so clear the path ahead. The January project could possibly be brought forward and finished for the end of 2015 for full closure. It means I can start anew in the new year with some bigger projects that need much more time during a period of my life when I may well have far less time to spare. This feeling of too many things left half done is holding me back.

Therefore NoNaNoWrimo this year. Maybe none for a few years now. But there will be plenty else coming out over the next few months up until June 2016, so you won't be left with nothing new to read. :)

Last Wednesday I was over the moon to learn that two of my book covers (and therefore two of my cover artists) are finalists in the EPIC 2016 Ariana eBook Cover Art Awards. Kudos to Victoria Miller (my cover artist at Breathless Press) for When Dark Falls in the Scifi/futuristic category, and of course Danielle Fine (who has done so many of my covers and additional artwork since we first met in 2011) for Keir in the Fantasy/paranormal category. I don't get the shiny things from this contest, but still chuffed to see my cover artists getting some of the recognition they deserve for their work. The winners will be announced in March 2016.

Scream! For the Cure is coming to an end, but the next book bundle is up for preview HERE. Please go check it out and come back for the auction on the Friday.

The Broad Universe Full Moon Blog Tour kicked off Sunday, with 30 authors participating, three main prizes including gift cards and books, and some fascinating posts on the subject of moons. My own post is about the moons featured in my books and a bit about the topic of blue moons. What are they? Why are they blue? What does it all mean?! You can find the full details HERE or stop by my post HERE where there are links to the home site and other participants to make it easier to navigate. The tour runs until the 7th of November.

Halloween is almost upon us, and I have a special newsletter going out on the 30th. But will it be trick or treat? Sign up HERE to find out.

Status Update
You know what I'm going to say, don't you? Yup, edits are still in progress for Keir's Fall. On the bright side, the edits for Quickshot - my new space opera short - were completed and the story submitted. I'm waiting to hear if it's got into the anthology or not. Reunion at Kasha-Asor - my novella length side story in the Redemption series - has arrived for first round edits.

This week is half term holiday for my monsters, and the youngest has an extra non-pupil day on the following Monday, so my post next week may be delayed or even non-existent. Sorry! Hopefully I'll have news on progression with Keir's Fall, and the winners of the Rebecca contest (in which I'm a finalist, squee!) will be announced sometime over November

Monday, October 26, 2015

Outer Planets: Another Scene from the Cutting Room Floor

Last week, I shared a cut scene from my current version of The Outer Planets as I continue with deep edits on this second novel in The Inherited Stars Series.

This week I'm back to share another encounter between the same two characters--Greg and Elena--who will be surviving edits even though their romance and their POVs will not.

Writing a Near Future SFR--a future that will take place within the lifetime of most readers--allows an author to incorporate familiar elements into the story that are part of our traditions today, as you'll discover in this scene.

To recap the characters:
Meet "Chief" Greg Farr, the head of security on the planetary exploration vessel NSS Robert Bradley, on a mission to explore the Jupiter and Saturn systems for potential colony sites. He's also an inspector in the RCMP--Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Which makes him a Mountie in spaaaaaaace.

His love interest? Elena Stevens, a wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky med tech (the futuristic equivalent of a nurse-slash-physician's assistant) in the ship's Medical section, more popularly known as Med Bay. Elena is Hispanic and hails from San Antonio, Texas. (She's also a huge Spurs fan. Yeah, I'm making a gamble that the Spurs are still alive and kickin' in the early 2040s.)

Scene set-up:
In the ship's gym, Greg discovers a friend and crewmate, Paolo DiLorenzo, has set a bead on Elena, and he steps in to rescue her from the uncomfortable situation.

When Paolo stopped rowing and turned sideways on the seat to face her, elbows on his knees and hands clasped in front of him, Greg studied her reaction. The tightening of her shoulders and quick glances she gave Paolo telegraphed she wasn’t lapping up the man’s attention. She glanced toward the exit then down at her machine. Finally she stopped, rose, took a long swig from her water bottle and said something to DiLorenzo before walking across the gym to a bench press.
Paolo followed, a man who seemed to enjoy a challenge. He settled on the bench beside her, raising one foot to the seat and casually wrapped his arms around his knee, visually devouring her before he re-engaged in conversation. 
            After a third, and this time more insistent shake of her dark ponytail, Greg decided some non-confrontational intervention might help his friend realize he was pushing the line with her.
            Greg moved to a bench on Elena’s opposite side and made eye contact with DiLorenzo over her prone body. “Paolo.”
            “Chief,” the man answered, giving him a lazy wave of one hand.
            “Hi, Elena.”
            Elena swiveled her head his way. “Hi, Greg.” She gave him a quick wink. 
Paolo did a subtle chin hitch and a grin, the male-to-male signal, I’m busy here, my friend. Why don’t you find somewhere else to be.
            Greg held his eyes, keeping his face neutral. Believe I’ll stay.
            Paolo didn’t take his meaning. Instead, he scooted closer to Elena. “How about that coffee then?”
            “Thanks, but no, Paolo,” Elena answered.
            “Am I to think maybe you do not like me, Elena?”
            “There isn’t anyone on this crew I don’t like.” She met his eyes, not smiling.
            “Then what must a man do to get to know you better?” Paolo accentuated his appeal by running a finger lightly up her arm from wrist to elbow. She stopped rowing.
            Greg bristled. Enough.  
He rose to stand beside her, shifting the towel draped around his shoulders and looking his friend in the eye. “Paolo. She’s with me.”
            DiLorenzo’s eyes widened and he sat back. “I did not know this. Sorry, Chief. No offense.”
            “None taken.” Greg looked down. “How about you?”
            “None taken here, either,” Elena said.
            “Is good.” Paolo rose and ambled away to an elliptical machine, looking like his pride had been bruised.

           ‘‘She’s with me’?” Elena muttered, not missing the chance to needle him.
            “Worked, didn’t it?”
            “Extremely well.” She took another sip of water and considered him. “Sometimes you surprise me.”
            He grabbed the ends of the towel with both hands. “Sometimes I surprise myself.”
She raised her wristband to rub her forehead, at the same time checking that Paolo was still busy on the elliptical. “While I do appreciate the gesture, you don’t need to be a big brother to me. I can take care of myself.”
            “Of that, I have no doubt.” He reached to brush a stray strand of hair from her face, tucking it under the sweat band. “Was I out of line?”
            “Never.” She tilted her head and the errant strand flopped back over her eye.  
He took a half-step back, heart hammering in his ribs when he remembered how soft and touchable she’d looked in that lavender dress in the ceremony, how it had flowed and draped over her curves. How her eyes had followed him as he walked up the aisle, playing his pipes. How he’d lain in bed that night, staring up into the blackness of his berth, losing sleep to a longing he knew he couldn’t act on.
            She pulled her headband free and finger combed her hair, gazing up at him from beneath damp bangs with those deep brown eyes. It made her look so feral, his throat tightened and his mouth went dry.
She bent to gather up her water bottle and towel. “Like to grab a cup of coffee?”
A smile crept into place on his mouth. “Is good.” 
She laughed. They left the gym together under Paolo’s dark-eyed scrutiny, and once alone on the lift, Elena turned to him. “I have to tell you something.”
Greg wasn’t sure he was ready to hear what she had to say, yet he couldn’t wait to hear it. “Okay.”
“I never understood what it was that made women go crazy over a man in a kilt.” She rubbed at her cheek and leaned back against the lift wall. “I totally get it now. You…in that tartan plaid…playing those pipes…”
He waited for a punch line that didn’t come. For once, her eyes held no hint of jest. They glowed warm with admiration. He turned toward her, the devastating need to taste her full, parted lips flared to life, blinding him to all logic, all uncertainty, all reason. 
Elena seemed to sense the shift in tide and a guarded look flashed in her eyes.
The lift doors opened suddenly on the busy corridor and the flare sputtered and died, letting doubt rush in like icy flood waters.
“Let’s grab that Joe,” she said quietly, turning to the corridor.


Thanks for stopping by to get a first-and-last glimpse into the budding romance between Greg and Elena that will never be. Although...could these two still have a future together in different novel? Well, as I writer, I've learned to never say never. *grin*

Have a great week!

Friday, October 23, 2015


In another of our ongoing series of joint movie reviews, Donna and Laurie give you the scoop on Sir Ridley Scott's action-packed science fiction flick THE MARTIAN, starring Matt Damon. Will it be a GO or NO-GO? And are we sure they saw the same movie?

Laurie: Time for Some Thrilling Science Heroics!

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that The Martian was a definite GO for me. Having read the novel--and the story behind the novel--I was waiting with enthusiastic anticipation (okay, that's a big understatement) to see just how it would all unfold on the big screen.

Brilliantly, thank you very much.

First, there was the visual impact. There are differences between what my mind conjured at the word "habitat" and actually seeing the high tech, bells and whistles on-screen environment. Between envisioning what a rugged Martian landscape might look like in my head, and actually viewing the immense red-hued vistas splashed across the big screen. Yet as engrossing as these images were, it was the story that packed the real punch.

For a time, I found myself stranded right there alongside Mark Watney (Matt Damon), in an utterly hostile world devoid of air, water, food or survivable temperatures. Though the odds of survival were about nil, he tackled each new problem as it came with eye-opening resourcefulness and a keen sense of humor. Surviving impossible odds became an adventure!

The movie took a very "show don't tell" approach that was more enjoyable than the novel's sometimes heavy-handed scientific descriptions. Although having read the book, maybe I had the advantage of knowing exactly what Watney was up to.

Very little is revealed about the main character's life back on Earth or those friends and family he left behind, however a great deal is inferred about his relationship with his tight-knit crew and how they function as a unit. Lacking any epic battle scenes, hero-to-villain grappling, or intelligent-but-demonic tech, the story provides plenty of drama through the power struggles and political posturing back home, when a NASA underling discovers the left-for-dead Watney is still alive and calculating back on Mars.

In Watney's own words: "Surpriiise."

The tension ramps up as the members of mission control walk an emotional tightrope, arguing the risk of a rescue attempt against further loss of life. The clock ticks down. Bad choices are made. Wrong conclusions are drawn. And at each new catastrophe, poor Mark Watney seems more doomed than ever. Until the reins are wrestled from the powers-that-be in one very bold, and probably criminal, act.

Director Sir Ridley Scott is best know for such diverse and atmospheric works as Black Hawk Down, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator. To The Martian, he brought a sweeping sense of isolation and desolation countered by the power of human ingenuity and the heroics of applied science. Add superb casting (Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor--the Operative villain from the Firefly motion picture, Serenity), big budget special effects, and a classic 70s soundtrack (a tongue-in-cheek running gag), and the film really ticked all the boxes for me.

What was the movie missing? For the most part, it followed the book quite closely. One notable difference was Watney's trek across the Martian landscape, which in the film was a lot less perilous or strenuous than in the literary version. But the film added a nice closing prologue that I felt made a terrific wrap. After all the trials and tribulations, I wanted to spend just a few more minutes with these exceptional characters, and the movie allowed me to do that.

Overall, I'd rank The Martian right up there in my top four Science Fiction-with-an-emphasis-on-Science motion pictures of all times, taking its place beside such greats as Apollo 13, Contact and 2010

Donna: Utilitarian MARTIAN Gets the Job Done

The science fiction film of the hour, THE MARTIAN, in theaters now, is a lot like its stranded astronaut hero, Mark Watney (Matt Damon): smart, engaging, full of black humor and a love of science and technology. But unlike Watney, who can claim to be the “first colonist on Mars,” THE MARTIAN explores no new worlds of cinematic art or drama. It’s a Mars rover of a movie, just getting the storytelling job done as efficiently as possible.

Sweeping red-hued Martian desert vistas? Check. Ongoing cuts back to tension-filled rooms full of science geeks frantically trying to figure out what to do about this guy somehow left behind on Mars? Check. Requisite final nail-biting moments in the vacuum of space (at incredible speeds)? Check. 

Yep, all the elements are there for some popcorn-gobbling fun (despite the whole nightsoil-mixing scene and the image of Watney after months of semi-starvation). And I won’t deny that THE MARTIAN is entertaining. The acting is spot-on: Matt Damon carries the story as Watney with his usual screen charisma and supporting characters Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena and Chiwetel Ejiofor all do a fantastic job. The directing is tight and the set design and art direction will probably win Oscars.

But there is something missing in this story. In a way, this isn’t a surprise, since it’s missing from the original novel upon which the movie is based, Andy Weir’s otherwise excellent novel The Martian. We know everything Mark Watney thinks at every moment. We see every action he takes to solve his problems. We see all the folks at NASA working feverishly to help him. But only one person ever really takes a minute to feel anything. Predictably, this is a woman, the female commander in charge of the Mars mission that left Mark behind thinking he was dead. Several times, she is caught feeling guilty and is quickly chastised for it by everyone around her.

NASA and its astronauts love this movie for its depiction of the heroism and calm, can-do attitude of Watney, the NASA mission control team and the Hermes crew. They exemplify what NASA and its astronauts are all about. As a lifetime supporter of NASA and the space program I certainly applaud that spirit. But realistically? Don’t you think Watney just once would have had a thought of the enormity of his situation? And been scared spitless?

THE MARTIAN has been compared to an earlier film about a real-life disaster-saved-by- duct-tape, APOLLO 13. That film, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard, was an edge-of-your-seat thriller with enough emotion to leave you wanting either a drink or your bed and blankie at the end. That was an enduring film.

But this is a different time in film history and director Sir Ridley Scott, who directed two of the greatest SF films of all time (BLADE RUNNER, ALIEN), must have realized he was making this film for a different audience. He keeps it light and the POV external, making Mark Watney the Jason Bourne of science. Only the “bad guys” chasing Watney are the human-killing environment of Mars and the infernal math of great distance vs. time.

So, the call on this movie-going mission? Grab your popcorn and GO. Just don’t expect an AVATAR or GRAVITY this time around.

Cheers, Donna