Monday, February 29, 2016

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

So it finally happened. I'm officially retired. Friday was my last day of work as Budget Director with the Department of Military Affairs. Though it was high time I moved on after some 21 years with the agency, it was still a little bittersweet. There probably aren't many careers where an employee can feel they're really making a difference, and I was lucky enough to have one.

There's an old Army motto that pretty much sums it up: "It's not a job, it's an adventure." It truly was an honor and a privilege--and often a profound experience--being a part of this organization for so many years.

Although I never officially served in the military, I worked on this military complex for, and side-by-side with, many military officers and enlisted personnel for a couple of decades. I think some of that culture was bound to filter into my books. :)

There were sometimes Black Hawk and Lakota helicopters dusting off from a helipad outside our building. One day I came to work to find an F-16 parked in my parking spot. O.o (It later was moved to a display spot on the grounds.)

I remember one of our former generals cracking the whip on personnel to get a static display of vintage heavy artillery and missile launchers set up ASAP/double-time in front of our building. He came to work the next morning to find every one of those barrels pointed at his office. (hehe)

Over the years, I also saw some tragic and world changing events. Our jets were some of the first in the air after the World Trade Center was hit on 9/11/2001, when they were scrambled to protect the air space over two of our national laboratories.

We supported relief efforts for the major Western US forest fires in 2000 and 2012 that burned hundreds of thousands of acres, as well as had troops deployed to Hurricane Katrina.

During the Gulf War, I saw many of our soldiers and airmen leave for their deployments to the Middle East. We waved farewells and hung US flags from freeway overpasses as their convoys passed beneath, or waved from the parking lot as they made goodbye flyovers.

These experiences will probably stay with me for life.

Other than the high energy of the place and my wonderful co-workers, one of the things I'm really going to miss is my office. I thought I'd give you a quick last look with some photos I took shortly before I packed up and moved out.

This is the "cockpit" that you see as you enter.
Another view. The big white binders are the last nine years' of budgets.
(There are another eleven stored in Tamara's office.)


A view looking out the office door.
This is the SE corner of the office with additional
bookshelves and filing cabinets. (I had already
started to collect moving boxes in the lower left.)
My three RWA Golden Heart Finalist certificates
and my RWA TGN Hall of Gold certificate were
proudly displayed in a place of honor.
(Nicely grouped with the thermostat. LOL)
Looking toward the door, with my art print titled
"Heart and Soul." Yeah, that fit. :)
A close up of my barrel cactus. (Fortunately, the
needles aren't sharp, they're very soft. Good thing,
since it came home with me.)

A bonus! A row of massive skylights let in
lots of natural light. ( windows!)

I had a Star Wars themed retirement send off. So. Much. Fun! You can see a few more photos on my FB page, but here's a close-up of my Stormtrooper cake, expertly made by Tamara. Awesome saucin'!
The head itself survived the cake-cutting and is now in my freezer. I'll thaw it out in September to celebrate actually having an August this year! (For the past 20 years, I haven't had a life in August because budget submissions are due September 1.)

They also framed my Star Wars retirement announcement along with all the good wishes and signatures of my peers. This photo is of the Director, Theresa, presenting it to me. This is going to be a treasured keepsake, always. The rectangular picture in one corner is of Yoda saying:
"You must unlearn what you have learned."
Ha, how perfect is that?

I posted a close-up of the announcement on my last blog, if you missed it.
So, yeah. I'm officially retired from my day job. It feels kind of...well, weird. Turning in my keys, my gate access and CAC card on Friday was like...whoa! This is one of those "you can't go back" moments. Very strange feeling. 

Some of you might remember the title of this blog title is the same as the final episode of the popular TV series MASH. It was the show when the war was declared over and the personnel who had worked together for so long were heading back home and having a really hard time saying goodbye. Even though they'd shared so much together, they knew it was time to start a new chapter of their lives.

Yup. That's pretty much how I'm feeling, too.

So. Laurie A. Green, full-time author, signing off. :)

Have a great week!


Friday, February 26, 2016


The view from the top at Snowbird
Well, it's been a wild and craazzy week-and-a-half since the launch of Trouble in Mind. I had a real-time launch party in my new home town of Marshall, North Carolina, with a passel of my new friends from this welcoming mountain town coming out to listen to me read and lift a glass in honor of my book birthday. Then I had an Facebook Launch Party, with co-blogger Sharon Lynn Fisher joining in the fun online.

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one week, hubby and I moved into our dream house on the knoll at Snowbird on Friday. We bought this land (with several others) in 2006 and finally started building in April of last year. It's been a very long haul, but at last we're here!

And for a final piece of terrific news, Unchained Memory, the Audiobook version, made its debut last week. Yes, now you can LISTEN to the book while you ride in the car, run on your treadmill, work in the garden or relax in the bath! My marvelous Agent Michelle found a wonderful voice actor, Lisa Beacom, to read the book and the results are thrilling! Check it out for yourself--there's a sample of about half the prologue on the Amazon buy page. Guarantee you will want a copy of this for yourself AND a friend with limited vision issues.

Get your audio version Unchained Memory HERE!

 Finally, you can catch me on various sites around the Internet this week and next:

Men Behaving Badly Book Blog (Promo & Excerpt)

yah gotta read this (Promo & Excerpt)

Lush Reads Book Blog (Promo & Excerpt)

Us Girls & A Book (Promo & Excerpt)

Mom with a Reading Problem (Interview)

Pick a Genre Already (Promo & Excerpt)

Twisted Fantasy Book Blog (Promo & Excerpt)

B's Book Blog & Reviews (Promo & Excerpt)

Extreme Bookaholic's (Promo & Excerpt)

Lady Amber's Reviews (Schedule)

Itsy Bitsy Book Bits (Review)

Live Love Books Blog (Interview)

YourNextHotRead (Promo &Excerpt)

March I
Cathryn Cade's Blog

Stop by these blogs and say hello!

**GIVEAWAY**If you comment on any two of them and come back here to let me know you did, you'll be entered for a chance to win a FREE KINDLE COPY of Trouble in Mind OR a FREE AUDIO BOOK of Unchained Memory, your choice.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

When the plot hits a wall, ask your villain

It happens to most writers from time to time. The well runs dry, and you chew the end of your virtual pencil (or a real one if that's how you roll) and wonder what the hell happens next?

I came to just such a point a few days ago. Here we were, this had happened, that had happened. But what did it all MEAN? Why was it important?

So I sat myself down and summoned my villain. We'll call the villain Robin - just for fun. Why was this stuff important, I asked? What would happen if somebody else found it? Why are you doing all these horrid things?

And the answers came. I knew Robin's history. How Robin had turned up at that place at that time. What was missing. I jotted down the answers, and now I knew the rest of the plot. Mind you, I had to go back and tweak a few things as a consequence. But that's part of the joy of pantsing

Robin doesn't get a huge part in the new book. Sometimes villains don't. For instance Sauron is never actually seen in LOTR. He's just there, a looming archetype. I've been known to give the villain's point of view in some of my books, but there are dangers to that. Some readers can't seem to get their heads around the fact that you're telling THEM what the villain is doing. But the hero doesn't know that. This is when you get reviews which say things like, "Aaaargh - why would she do that? He's the baddie! She knows he's a baddy!!" But she doesn't. She doesn't like him much, but has little reason to suspect foul play. He has carefully hidden his intentions.

Sure it's up the writer to make these things clear. But if ten people 'get' it and one doesn't... I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Anyway - there we go. Progress is progressing. Next week I hope to be able to show you a cover.

In the meantime, do you like your villains up close and personal, or do you prefer a hidden force? Don't forget to share your favorite villain if you have one.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Problem with POC Characters #amwriting #scifi #romance

Now, before you think this is some kind of complaint against POC characters, bear with me. It isn't. But it'll take me a while to get to the point.

Back in the summer of 2014, I went to see a film at the cinema a record three times (well, a record for me. I only saw Return of the Jedi twice because my local cinema did a special re-run of the whole trilogy when I was a teen - I was too young to see the first two at the cinema when they originally released). The film was Guardians of the Galaxy. I. LOVED IT! So it wasn't especially deep or thought provoking or hard scifi, but it was fun, spectacular, funny - for me, all round entertaining with explosions, spaceships, aliens, a kickass heroine looking for redemption and a reluctant, somewhat klutzy hero. Perfection! Aside from the problems with getting Gamora merchandise (oh, Disney, really...), I didn't have a single complaint about the entire thing (apart from that killer opening scene, which I now skip every time).
By Source, Fair use,
And it inspired me to write a story. I wanted to write a heroine based on Starlord, and what's more a POC heroine. At the time I'd planned to do it as a novel...eventually. But I was already busy preparing Keir for re-release in 2015, and was in the midst of a chaotic and demanding schedule of edits, tours and releases for five titles with my now ex-publishers Breathless and Lycaon. I just didn't have time to get sucked into a novel, so I tapped down a few notes that looked suspiciously like an outline (nope, not me, I'm a pantser, NO outlining!!) I put it aside and got back to work.

Then I spotted a scifi romance anothology call - Touch the Stars. I really wanted to submit to it, but I didn't have time to start something from scratch. What I did have was a 3K sketch of a potential novel.

Lightbulb! It wouldn't take much work to expand the 3K into a 10K short. Then if readers liked it, I could come back to the novel idea later, right? During the expansion, my heroine decided she didn't like much about Starlord other than his outfit and his guns and started nudging me toward Zoe from Firefly as character inspiration (at this point I'm going to admit I've only watched the Firefly series once and the film Serenity maybe five times, so in no way is my heroine claiming to be Zoe nor am I claiming her to be in any way an accurate representation!). The intended humorous play on a cheesy scifi name also wasn't going to work out in the space of 10K, so I dropped it.

Since the anthology hadn't yet found an editor, and Dani and I were already extremely busy with multiple editing projects, I turned to Diane Dooley who had edited my short story Imprint for the Tales from the SFR Brigade anthology. The two stories were similar in style and feel, and I felt Diane had done a fantastic job kicking my butt helping me get Imprint into excellent shape, so I had no doubts she could do the same for this short. At least that way no matter who eventually edited Touch the Stars, I was handing in a polished piece of work. She also helped me pick a better title for it now I'd thrown out the pulp scifi name for my character.
8 free SFR short stories in 1
Available for FREE from...
 Amazon | Smashwords 
ARe | B&N |  Kobo
iTunes | Diesel Books
So Quickshot was submitted to the anthology by the December 2015 deadline. Then on the 10th January, I received the disappointing news that the anthology had been indefinitely postponed due to too few submissions.

Bummer. But as you know I'm not one to stay down even when knocked down. Dani and I were still working on edits for two projects, and I'd decided to re-release Zombie Girl, my last BP/LP title that I hadn't put back up, for which she did the cover, plus a robbery put a huge spanner in her workload. While I waited for a suitable breathing space to commission a cover, I went searching for stock photos myself.

And here's where the reason for the title comes in. I see a huge number of complaints about lack of diversity in books. But the lack is everywhere, at every level of writing and publishing. Do you know how hard it is to find non-white model stock images, let alone ones that are dressed/posed/armed the way you'd like? And especially for speculative fiction? Bloody hard, that's what. I knew I had a pretty big ask for my heroine - I summed it up to Dani as Zoe from Firefly dressed and armed like Starlord from Guardians of the Galaxy - but even just finding a headshot that would fit was tough going. Even a visit to Mosaic Stock, who specialize in POC models, didn't give me much. I came up with a grand total of five headshots and one potential full body shot that would actually take quite a bit of work to turn into my heroine as I saw her. And the hero was just as bad. I resigned myself in advance to not getting anything remotely close, especially when Dani confirmed the difficulty in getting suitable POC stock images.

But Dani is a miracle worker. As you can see, she came up with something that not only fulfilled my wishlist but surpassed all expectations, that I never thought I'd get (and now I'm sorry I didn't write the whole novel!). Isn't it glorious?! (BTW, you can check out all her work and services HERE.)

A Space Opera Short Story
Goodreads | Webpage
Amazon inc KU 
After investigating the interracial categories on Amazon, I realize I'm even more lucky than I thought. The lack of POC characters on the majority of the covers in that category was frankly depressing. It's not that the books aren't being written or published from the looks of things (though from conversations on Twitter, I believe they're still a minority when it comes to publishing). It would appear it's more the lack of stock images available, a problem I know Greta and Donna have also run into for their books. While I know Mosaic Stock are committed to their vision of providing a wider range of diversity in their stock photos, it's clearly going to take time. I wish the current stock image providers would do the same.

Sal, a legal carrier (just about) of whatever comes her way, puts her trust in just two things: her guns. 

Keeping out from under Imperium eyes—especially those belonging to a certain Ehi Wahu—while making a living, and trying to keep a lover who can tolerate her twitchy trigger fingers, are the extent of her ambitions.

Then a kiss from a passing stranger, and a promise of the biggest score in a long time, tempt her. Devin fulfils more than one need, but he comes with more trouble than one woman can handle. And this time it'll take more than her guns to save her. She'll have to trust a man again.

Quickshot is a space opera short, available for pre-order at Amazon only, with a release date of the 31st March. Warning: over 18s only. Adult content including explicit sex, bad language, and implied violence.


You've got just six more days to get Keir for free to read and review from NetGalley HERE.
And six more days to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Keir's Fall.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keir's Fall by Pippa Jay

Keir's Fall

by Pippa Jay

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
From the 1st March you can get Keir's Fall from NetGalley HERE to read and review.
Zombie Girl: Dead Awakened is now available to buy from most online retailers, and you can find the links in the right hand side bar.
And lastly, Quickshot is available for pre-order exclusively at Amazon. In 90 days time I'll have to decide whether to go wide or stick with Amazon.
Chook update!
Sadly over holiday, we lost our Leghorn bantam Eowyn (my eldest's chicken, and the white one in the photo). It happened suddenly in the night, so at least she didn't suffer. We're not sure exactly how old she was and there's a huge variation in the predicted age of domestic chickens, so it could have been that - we just don't know.

However, we'd already been looking at more chooks, and this Sunday we picked up four new girls, bringing our total to eight. Mine is the dark brown one with the ruffled feathers (a chocolate frizzle), and I've named her Fizzgig. The 'ginger' one (a buff Pekin) belongs to youngest and got christened Spaghetti. The other two are yet to be named (my older two monsters are still trying to decide). Our original chooks go by the names of Scoop, Chiana, Kyru, and Rush, in case you hadn't been introduced before. :P

Status Update
Rather than reading over my nine days of no social media, I worked on revising and editing Reunion at Kasha-Asor. I really want to hit my deadlines on this one (unlike the last minute chaos of getting Keir out on time and releasing Keir's Fall a month late. Ugh). I am struggling with it. In fact, I've been struggling full stop. I've had another 'why am I doing this?!' phase because every day seems a battle with writing, publishing, and especially marketing. So I'll continue for now with blogging and tweeting, but cut anything else including Facebook. I'll continue writing, but I'll probably publish less. And I'm more set on job hunting. I hope to be back at a non-writing job by the end of this year.
The June project is in first round edits - I made a start on it last week as a break from Reunion, lol. I spend more time editing than anything else, and right now I'm looking at pretty much nonstop editing for the rest of the year. The June project may or may not release in June, but I hope to have print editions for BristolCon in October.
In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think of the cover and blurb for Quickshot. Or maybe you could help suggest some names for our two nameless chickens!
Pippa Jay signing off...

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fun Times! A Launch, a Birthday, a Mini-Review and a Surprise


Congrats to Donna on the launch of TROUBLE IN MIND. Woohoo! The second novel in the Interstellar Rescue series has been loosed upon the universe, and the universe seems to love it. Bery, bery excited for you, D!

Unfortunately, I was (yet again) bushwhacked by my lovely internet service provider and couldn't participate in the big Launch Day Event on Facebook--but at least my books did, many thanks to Lea Kirk, author of the recently released Sci-Fi Romance PROPHECY, for stepping into my to speak.

So, yes, I've been a bit quiet this past week, but I'm now up and running again. Not having internet is a very depressing thing. It's like SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Loss of interest, depression, sadness, despair. Yep, that totally fits.

Maybe we should call this condition OAD...Offline Affective Disorder. Same symptoms. A truly debilitating disorder--and that goes triple for authors.

As Chekov would say, "I am wery, wery happy to be back!"


I'm celebrating TWO birthdays today. *Twirls noisemaker whilst wearing silly hat*

INHERIT THE STARS PART I: FLIGHT launched exactly one year ago today. Really! It's been a year. Of course, Parts II and III of the serialized novel didn't launch until March 1, the complete e-novel followed in April, and the print version in May, but this was my official "launch date," so I think it merits a celebration.

The second birthday I'm celebrating is...mine! Yup, it's mah birfday! How old am I? Well, let's put it this way. I became eligible for retirement today...and I officially retire this Friday.

A little more on that next week.


Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Claudia Gray

"Eight years after the fall of the Old Republic..."

I recently finished this novel and I'm offering my take with no spoilers that aren't already explained on the back cover. LOST STARS is a bonafide Sci-Fi Romance about two young people from an outer rim planet who forge an early friendship via shared love of all things starship and flying.

When they later attend the Imperial Academy together, they begin to see how the central core plots against those from the "lesser" outer rim worlds. But nothing will prepare them for the events that unfold as they begin their careers--and this is where it really gets fun. In time, the two young lovers will make hard choices and be divided by their ideals. They end up on opposing sides of the conflict. The reader is afforded a journey through A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from two completely different perspectives and experiences.

And I promise you this, you'll never view the original trilogy or the opening Jakku scenes of The Force Awakens the same way again! You'll know things that you didn't know before.

The story is competently written by a New York Times best-selling author, and although it has a YA/NA feel due to the coming of age beginnings and less than steamy love scenes, it still tells a fascinating story that was nicely interwoven into the better known Star Wars saga. I give it four stars for overall storytelling and five stars for the privilege of experiencing universe-altering events via the thoughts and emotions of two new characters.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves Star Wars lore and would like to relive the rebels vs. empire conflicts in totally new ways. **** 1/2

Here's another review from The Geek's Attic on YouTube.


I've often lamented the demise of our space shuttle program. But as it turns out, we do still have a space shuttle! Who knew? It's secret, it's unmanned, and it's already completed a nearly 700-day orbit. Surprise!

Air Force Space Plane

Have a great week!

~~~ * ~~~

Friday, February 19, 2016

Imagining The Future #amwriting #scifi

copyright depositphotos

A few months back (August last year to be exact), Laurie talked about the difficulty of writing SciFi and keeping ahead of technology. We live in an era where science fiction from a few decades back has become or is becoming science fact. While faster than light travel is still theory and very early experimentation, and the first tentative steps have been taken in matter transmission and cloaking devices, a few years ago these were still very much fiction. And now scientists are working on them.

When I first thought up Zombie Girl, I'd planned it as near future SciFi - just 100 years from now. Looking back over the past century, it's not so hard to imagine how life might be in another (though I often wonder if we'll make it that far some days). Even though ZG is a zombie dystopia, it's also, bizarrely, utopia. The city of the future is self maintaining and self sufficient. Almost sentient. It keeps its streets and buildings clean, provides state of the art medical treatment, environmentally friendly and automated transportation (on the 6th February, it was announced the British government was discussing the use of driverless cars in London), and synthesizes whatever food, clothing, medicines, equipment etc its inhabitants could ever need (3D printing is well on the way to this, and the first lab created replica food has been made). The city is close to being a living, breathing entity in its own right. On top of that, the inhabitants have an all-in-one communication and entertainment device - a One-Dee - that also gives them access to all the city's facilities (since first writing about this, the Apple watch has come out). Life would be truly idyllic...

...except it isn't, because that would be boring. Even in the utopian city portrayed in Logan's Runpeople were still trying to escape to a mythical Sanctuary. And it still had its drawbacks - in this instance anyone over 30 is killed off. In Serenity, they used drugs to try and pacify their citizens, with appalling results (I won't say just in case you haven't ever seen the film, being as it's key to the whole plot). So is a true utopia actually achievable? Or will there always be some drawback that stops it from being a total paradise? What could possibly go wrong in a city that can cater to your every need? Well, a bioweapon that kills most of the population and turns the remainder into mindless cannibals maybe. The city couldn't anticipate or prevent something like that. Its programming doesn't allow for it, so it continues as if nothing happened, following the rules laid in by its creators. Adaptability is one advantage humans still hold over machines however well they're programmed. One day perhaps machines will learn that too, but not for this story.

Personally I hate cities. While I loved to visit events in London and go to Covent Garden, Greenwich and Camden markets, I loathe all the rush, the volume of dirt, rubbish, and people, the constant noise and traffic. I'm very much a country girl. So in some ways the city in Zombie Girl is the kind of thing I would dream of rather than what we have now, if we had to live in cities. But even though it solves the issue of dirt, poverty, the stress of modern living with its technology, would all human beings tolerate what is essentially a nanny state? Your every need catered for, but to never be allowed beyond the city walls, to build your own house, to have your own car, to have nothing to aspire to other than being one of thousands of solid citizens all at the same social, educational, and fiscal level? Would you give up? Want to escape?

YA Zombie Dystopia Novella
Goodreads | Website
Available from...
Amazon | 
iTunes | Omnilit
Kobo | Smashwords | B&N
Imagine waking up to find the world has ended, but unfortunately you’re not alone...

For Connor Innis, awakening from a year-long coma with no memories, no ability to move, and unable to speak was bad enough. Then he learns that a bioweapon set off a zombie apocalypse—for real—while he was sleeping, and the world he can't even remember no longer exists.

Rehabilitation might be torture, but far worse awaits him outside. All too soon, the hospital Mentor declares him fit to leave with nothing to go home to except a city full of mindless, flesh-eating monsters. That is, until he forms a strange relationship with the one he nicknames 'Zombie Girl'.


My certificate for my Rebecca finalist Revived came last week, along with my first ever cash prize. Woot! I'm hoping to release it sometime in the next year, but it all hinges on finances from now on. One of the downsides of self publishing is all the editing and artwork needs paying for in advance rather than being dealt with by your publisher.

Zombie Girl: Dead Awakened released at most online retailers on the 15th February.
Quickshot, my hot space opera short, is now available to pre-order (Amazon exclusive), with a release date of the 31st March.

A Space Opera Short Story
Goodreads | Webpage
Amazon inc KU 
There's still time to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Keir's Fall, and Keir is still up at NetGalley to read and review for free HERE until the end of the month.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keir's Fall by Pippa Jay

Keir's Fall

by Pippa Jay

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
I am shortly to be joined by a second published author in my household! My 11yo entered a fiction contest via his school (grudgingly, it has to be admitted - his whole class had to write an entry) for the Young Writer's Time-Travelling Tales mini saga competition. They were only allowed to use 100 words or less (something which I struggle with even for a blurb or synopsis). Work was selected from the hundreds of entries based on imagination, perception, expression, and creative use of language. I've no idea exactly how many entries were received or how many selected for publication - I only know his made it into the Essex and Kent publication - but apparently each book will be sent to the British Library and other libraries across the UK and Republic of Ireland, releasing 31st May 2016. Of course I've ordered a couple of copies. Considering 11yo is not an aspiring author and I only found out about the whole thing by checking his bag for homework (he doesn't like doing that either), I'm stunned. Imagine if he decided he did want to write... O.o With my eldest set on publishing too (though in her case it's finishing anything that's holding her back), we could one day be a multi-author household!

Status Update
At the time of this posting, I'm coming to the end of my time away from social media for the half term holiday. Hopefully I've got some reading done so I can post some new reviews next week (and hopefully topped up my vocabulary too). I'll be back to my regular Tuesday slot here at Spacefreighters as well.
Reunion at Kasha-Asor is still in second round edits. The June project is still awaiting the first round. My word count is dropping, though mostly because of chopping out redundant scenes in Reunion while writing some new ones. It's unusual for me to do a slash and burn type revision on a work that's gone into edits, but sometimes it happens.

Ping Pong
Congrats to Donna on the release of her second novel - Trouble In Mind - on the 16th!
Good luck to Greta with her new WIP.
And how are edits going, Laurie? Strength!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Another step on the writing journey

The new book is coming along. I've cracked 20 thousand words and there's more excitement to come. No, I don't know the ending yet. My two characters are fairly fixed, although I've had to go back and change some of the opening parts to fit the evolving character of Brent.

I'm not entirely sure yet if this will be an SF ROMANCE. It will certainly be an SF with a romance arc, but I suppose that's what my books usually are. The romance is never the reason for the story, it's just a supporting actor. At this point several people are dead, everybody (including me) has had a few AHAH!!! moments, and I'm learning more about the Yrmaks. The women are the driving force in Yrmak society. They are the movers and the shakers. Yrmak men are fighters, although the generals are female. I've included a stock photo of what a Yrmak might look like. And here's a short excerpt to give you all a flavour. Tian is visiting a market, where she comes across a stall holder selling Yrmak artifacts.

"Name's Austen." He thrust out a hand. "I'm a well-known archaeologist. Ask me anything."
Tian shook his hand, which had the texture of sandpaper. So he did, at least, work with his hands. Of course, that could be digging ditches.
"I'm Tian. Pleased to meet you. Tell me about the Rite of Ur Bazoon. Isn't that some sort of fertility thing?"
"No. It's a ceremony carried out when the young men are mature enough to go to war. They pledge themselves to the Great Mother by cutting their left claw with a knife like that one. Their blood drips into a bowl on the altar, then the High Priestess drinks the blood. After that, they're given their spears."
He knew what he was talking about, and his pronunciation of Ur Bazoon had been pretty good. But that dagger was no more authentic Yrmak than she was.
"Do you speak Yrmak?"
"I do. It was difficult, but I find their culture fascinating. A true matriarchy, with the females running things. It's hard to find out about anything interesting if you don't speak the language."
So very true.
The main display didn't hold much of interest, but Austen held something in his hand, dark green stone with what looked like a gold inscription "Can I see that one? The one in your hand?"
He fondled the jar as though it were precious. "Beautiful, isn't it? It's not for sale. I… ah… only just got this one."
Stolen? "May I see it? Please? I'll be very careful."
"Well… okay." He placed the jar into Tian's outstretched palm.
Heavy. Not pottery, this was deep green, flawless aventurine. The symbol on the lid had been carved, then the carving filled with gold. It was an eye surrounded by rays. She'd never seen it before. "Where did you get this one?"
"Picked it up in a Yrmak's junk sale. Just came from there. The matriarch had died – that is, passed on to the Mother - and they were selling up her effects. Household goods and such."
"And they sold this?"
"It was part of a job lot." He waved his hand at the counter behind him, where an assortment of jars and cheap jewelry stood next to the box. "I've been sorting it out."
There was a certain resemblance between this symbol and the other one she kept in her comm. Not the same, but resonant. "How much do you want for it?"
Austen stared at the jar, then at her, then back at the jar, his eyes widening for the barest instant. He shook his head. "It's not for sale." He tried an apologetic smile. "Sorry. I think I'll be keeping this one."
"Do you know what it means? This symbol?" Tian traced it with her finger.
"I don't think it means anything. Not everything does, does it? Look, it's nothing. Just a part of a female's dressing room. That's why it's so fancy." He almost snatched it from Tian and put it in his pocket. "It's pretty. I think the wife would like it."

What I have found is that I've sat myself down to write after breakfast. A tentative goal is 500 words. But as the writing has continued, the ideas have come and with it the urge to write more. I'm usually putting down between 1,000 and 1,500 words a day. And even if it's garbage, I can edit garbage.

AFTER I've written The End.
Oh - By the way, tentative name is "The Eye of the Mother".

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I think I've reached my cliffhanger saturation point

Has anyone else noticed how pretty much every series these days relies on cliffhangers? I started watching THE EXPANSE this week, and I'm enjoying it so far. (Thanks for the tip, Laurie!) But just like everything else I've watched recently, each episode wraps with a cliffhanger. In other words it wraps without actually wrapping.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like FIREFLY. Did the feeling of closure Whedon rewards us with at the end of each episode keep me from watching more? Did it keep YOU from watching more? How about Star Trek (pick your favorite flavor)?

What really got me thinking about this was my kids. They're watching a series called JUST ADD MAGIC. At the end of every single episode, they come flying at me with shouts of, "We have to watch another one! It ended on a MAJOR cliff-hanger! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!" Over and over. Just like little drug addicts. This caused me to do some research to see if dopamine is involved (cuz that's how I roll), but in this specific case it appears to be due to a stress/fight-or-flight reaction. Check it out:

There's a psychological reason cliffhangers are so effective. The human mind hates uncertainty. Uncertainty implies volatility, randomness, and danger. When we notice information is missing, our brain raises a metaphorical red flag and says, "Pay attention. This could be important."
(via Psychology Today)

So it makes sense that Hollywood uses cliffhangers (and has for decades). But let's call a spade a spade: it's manipulation.

All storytelling is manipulation. I get that. All of us writerly types use every trick we know to keep the reader engaged. But has anyone else heard that saying, "Rattle, rattle, here come the cattle?" (A co-worker of mine used to say this when our company was hosting a meal for employees and called us to the table via intercom.) That's how I'm starting to feel when watching these shows    like a cow responding to a rattling feed bin.

I guess what I'm missing is subtlety. And balance. Do we have to be as predictable as the sunrise with this stuff? Do these writers/producers/etc. not have the energy to create such great characters and plots we WANT to tune in, whatever happens at the end? And for those shows that clearly have quality writing (like THE EXPANSE), do they not have enough faith in their own story to trust we'll come back?

We watch everything on demand these days, and it could be that's why this is starting to grate. If it had not been an option for me to play the next episode of JUST ADD MAGIC for my kids, they wouldn't have begged, and I wouldn’t have had to say no. I wouldn't be faced, when watching DOWNTON ABBY, with that midnight decision of whether to watch "just one more." On top of that, watching multiple episodes in one sitting keeps us cycling through that conflict/semi-resolution/cliffhanger until we can literally see ourselves running in the hamster wheel. (It's true! I even had a little streak of pink hamster hair.)

Couples on Cliffs

I think cliffhangers are a lot like the conflict between heroine and hero in romance. It creates the same response in our brains. "Will they or won't they? I have to know!" (Never mind the fact we know they WILL, because that's a whole other discussion.)

I came to romance via sci-fi/fantasy. I had to learn about what makes a relationship interesting. Conflict. Tension. Micro-tension. These are important in every aspect of the story. But recently I've had cause to wonder whether even this has become fatiguing for readers. Foz Meadows addressed this in a blog post (Bad TV Romance: Could You Not?):

... there’s still a common misconception in TVlandia that romantic relationships are only really interesting when imminent or imperilled; that any sort of emotional contentment or continuity between the characters will be boring to watch.

Now that's just one person's opinion. But recently, upon the recommendation of RT Book Reviews (and many Goodreads readers), I picked up the fantasy romance RADIANCE. And frankly, I was stunned.


There is zero conflict between the hero and heroine. Just before their arranged marriage takes place, they accidentally meet without knowing who the other is. Their peoples have a tenuous alliance, and they're of different species. Technically they're almost-enemies and find each other hideous to behold. But they rapidly become friends, develop affection, and eventually find chemistry and passion. Every threat to their union comes from outside the relationship. They are unfailingly gentle and kind to each other.

RADIANCE is very popular, and it was a recent pick for Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy book club. When I finished the book, I looked up the YouTube review because I was dying to know what they thought of it. I mean surely at least spicy Bonnie must have hated this book. (My debut GHOST PLANET got an overall positive review from VF, except for Bonnie, who thought the heroine lacked backbone.) But all four of the ladies loved it, specifically citing how refreshing it was to read about a hero and heroine who are good to each other. A plot that poses no internal threat to the relationship. A book where a man who was supposed to be their friend and ally, in the finale turned out to be … (drumroll) … just that. Their friend and ally. A book where the villain gets her just reward and isn't preserved to continue her reign of terror into the second volume.


All this has got me wondering if it could be there are lots of us who are tired of our emotional buttons and levers being manipulated.

On a personal level as an author, it made me think about my own work-in-progress. Fifty pages in, I'm noticing the conflict between the heroine and hero smoothing out. I have a little bit of PTSD around this issue, having been schooled pretty thoroughly about conflict in my first submissions to agents, and then later in RWA workshops and how-to books. And in many stories (maybe even the majority), that conflict does make sense.

But also, it could be that if our stories are leading us another direction, we need to listen to that. To trust our own ability to tell a story, and not rattle the feed bin just because that's what we've been taught to do.

How do you feel about cliffhangers? How do you feel about romances where the couple's challenges are predominantly external?