Saturday, April 30, 2016

Portals Project Announces Cover Art Reveal

This is a special Saturday post to let you know there's been an unveiling.

The Galaxy Express gives you an exclusive first look at the gorgeous new covers for the SFR Brigade's Portals project. Tune in to read about the creation process for the covers. (How do you design covers to represent 40 different Science Fiction Romance works by 40 authors, anyway?)

The concept behind Portals was announced on this blog last Monday:

Introducing the Portals Project (And Why Readers Will Love It) 

We'd also like to announce the winner of our Amazon gift card. The winner, chosen at random, is Kelly Crissy-Nickerson. Kelly we'll attempt to contact you through your account, or you can leave a message in comments here. Congrats!

Friday, April 29, 2016


Room for all, but you have to have an FTL drive and capable pilot.
Science fiction romance is a big spaceport. We have berths for all kinds of vehicles from space operas set in the wide galaxy to hearth-and-homes set here on Earth, mad scientists to alien slavers, utopias to dystopias, cyborgs to purple people-eaters. There’s no wonder we have such trouble defining who we are, what it is we’re writing and who we hope will read it. (If you are a member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and follow the Brigade on Facebook, you know we’ve been rehashing these old questions of definition again lately.)

Writers of paranormal romance have no trouble saying their stories must have an element of the supernatural along with a happy ending for the hero and heroine. Likewise, historical romance writers will gladly tell you one of their novels had better have an historical setting and an HEA. But if you had five SFR writers in a room, you would undoubtedly get 25 different answers to the question of what makes for a good SFR story.

Let me start a no-doubt rousing discussion by offering the five things I MUST have in any science fiction romance story to keep me happily reading.

--A hero and a heroine who are equals. A story may be written from anyone’s point of view—the hero’s, the heroine’s, even someone else’s—but in a romance, the hero and the heroine should find a balance in the story. If the heroine is constantly getting into trouble only to have the hero rescue her, or, conversely, is undertaking all the action only to have the hero hanging out waiting to, ahem, service her, then things are out of balance. From a writer’s perspective that often (but not always) means you have to write from both POVs, which makes things harder, but provides more balance in the story. No matter who tells the story, both partners should have talents, skills and qualities that come to bear on the external problems they face.

--A Happy Ever After or Happy For Now ending. This is my Number One requirement for a successful science fiction romance. And, in fact, I want the whole romantic arc: Boy meets Girl (or Boy or Alien Being, your choice), Boy Gets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back, Happy Ever After. Within that larger structure there are other well-defined moments: the meet, the declaration, the black moment, resolution. Romance readers (and I’m one of them) have been trained through years of reading experience to recognize those signposts on the road to true love. If they don’t see them, they grow, first, anxious, then frustrated. Deny them the HEA and you have a riot on your hands. This was supposed to be a romance, wasn’t it? What the . . .!  If, for some reason, you can’t bring yourself to write that happy ending, then please don’t market your story as a romance. It’s a story with romantic elements, or a love story set in the future or a friends-with-benefits-in-space story, but, by definition it is not a romance. Save your book being thrown across the room when a romance reader gets to the end and finds the lovers don’t end up together, as I recently did with an otherwise excellent book marketed as SFR.

--A great central idea or theme. This is the key to the SF part of SFR. To me, memorable science fiction always starts with an idea, something simple, yet so evocative it fires the imagination: terraforming Mars; alternate universes; sentient ships; interstellar slavers vs. an organization of abolitionists. This idea can be tied to a central theme—love as a unifying or healing force, for example—to give it even more narrative power. Without the Big Idea, however, or at least an interesting concept, a “science fiction” story is simply one set in the future, or in space, or with aliens. It’s a “futuristic” novel—not a bad thing, just a different thing, with a different marketing angle.

--Convincing, but judicious, worldbuilding. Nothing is more fun than being immersed in a totally new world of an author’s creation, being swept away by a sense of an “alternate reality.” But a little description goes a long way, especially in SFR. I appreciate knowing that we used an ion drive to get here, but the details of how it works are of no interest to me. Worldbuilding details are like spices in cooking. Not enough and the dish is bland; too much and it’s inedible. The amount of worldbuilding detail has an impact on marketing, too, and relates to the expectations of the reading audience. A futuristic novel would have much less detail (and a less demanding audience); a straight science fiction novel would have a LOT of detail (for a very demanding audience). An SFR novel, for me, would provide a balanced taste of the author’s world.

--And, last but by no means least, a compelling tale. Make it fresh. If it’s complex, find a way to make it easy to follow. Make it surprising and emotional and grip-me-by-the-throat thrilling! I read a lot. I’m not the only one. I will skip the stories whose blurbs promise nothing more than yet another “she was stolen . . . and now she must choose . . . ,” but I hate it when I find myself bored in the middle of a story with a promising premise. Use all your writer’s tricks to keep me reading—pacing, snappy dialogue, varied sentence structure, great characters, an unexpected plot twist and, yes, a sharp turn of phrase. If I keep reading, then others will, too.

Of course, all of these must-haves assumes the author already has the basics of good writing well in hand. Did I say this was easy? No, and it shouldn’t be. Not everyone has what it takes to rise above the sea of competition out there and be truly exceptional. But our genre is no longer in its infancy. It’s time for us to grow beyond baby steps and take bigger strides. We’ve been playing in our own little yard long enough. To do that we need the confidence of knowing who and what we are.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

The vexed question of contracts

(C) Stockunlimited
You've polished your manuscript until it gleams, sent out your queries to publishers, and finally HUZZAH you're offered a publishing deal! A contract! Whoopee! Sign on the dotted line and away we go.


Have you read the contract? Do you understand what it means? Because if you don't you may well be signing away the rights to your book forever. Recently some of the largest names in small publishing (Ellora's Cave and Samhain) have gone under. Quite a few smaller publishers have gone the same way. And every time, authors are stuck with not being able to re-publish their books. But it's not just failed businesses. I have friends who bitterly regret signing away their rights to books forever, when their relationship with the publisher went pear-shaped. Most of the circumstances where rights to a book revert to the author, such as the book is out of print, don't pertain to ebooks.

This article gives an insight into why publishers are loathe to return rights.

I have twice been on the wrong end of a failed small publisher.  I was fortunate. I was able to regain my rights. I suppose I should have simply stuck with self-publishing, but I felt one of my books might be better off in a different setting. So I accepted an offer. However, I didn't sign without reading. I particularly insisted on a clause whereby I could regain my rights to the book. It was performance based. If the publisher had not delivered a certain number of sales in a specified time frame, the rights would revert back to me

They didn't reach the target, and I asked for my rights back. I'm not a lawyer, but I want to make the point that if a publisher wants your book, they should be prepared to negotiate the terms of the contract.

Personally, I'll just self-publish. It suits me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Back To The Very Beginning #amediting

A long time ago in a blog post far, far away...

Well, the 14th of June 2011 to be precise. That was the day I did my first post at Spacefreighters as a guest, talking about the inspiration for my very first publication - a scifi short story called The Bones of the Sea. My *coughs* unofficial publishing debut, since it was very much an experiment in all respects and a self published piece. I formatted it myself using the Smashwords style guide, bought a stock image for the cover and added the text, then got a couple of friends to read it over for obvious mistakes, and launched it on Smashwords only as a freebie. The story has had a new cover since release, courtesy of the ever fabulous Danielle Fine, but it's never had an interior makeover. Until now.

Original cover
I've decided the time has come for Bones to get a formal edit, a revamp, and perhaps to finally go up up on Amazon (yes, it's never been available there). I've almost five years of updated bio and links to add to it, and the plan is also to put it in the back of my June release as a bonus story (as they both feature the same planet) and thereby getting it into print as well (it's way too short to qualify for print on its own).
Current cover
Bones is my shortest published work at just 3000 words. I haven't succeeded in writing that short since. But I'm also not writing as long either. In complete contrast to Bones, the revised Keir is 111K. Most recently my titles have been around the 10K mark for a short, or 30-50K for the longer pieces. I'm planning to get back to some really hefty novel-length word counts next year.
I'm hoping to have Bones redone by the end of the week ready to do the whole 'tell Amazon of a lower price' tango, since they're about the only retailer that won't just let you set a book at free. *rolls eyes*

In the meantime...

Status Update
I won Camp NaNoWriMo well ahead of schedule but hung around to encourage my cabin-mates while adding to the June project having completed first round edits on it. The story got a whole new chapter, as well as additional material throughout. Bones will be added to the back for release.

I finally dared to crack open the third round edits on the original draft/first round edits on the revised content for Reunion. But I've only looked through the first, mostly unadjusted third. I haven't braved the revision section yet. In fact, at the moment I'm not sure I want to continue with it at all. One of the advantages of self publishing is that, if I don't feel a book is ready or working, I don't have to put it out. And right now that's how I'm feeling about Reunion. It's so far off where I would like it to be that I think it's broken beyond repair. So I'm going to focus on other things:
Bones and my Rebecca finalist Revived both went to my editor last week as she found herself ahead of schedule. So you may get the second Venus Ascendant story this year after all. No promises! I still don't have an official title for it yet, and frankly I don't know what I'm thinking. Four sets of edits on the go at once? Insane.


I'm part of a huge Scifi and Fantasy event starting tomorrow and running until the 29th, with 56 top SF, UF, and Fantasy titles going on sale, free or discounted. There's also a big giveaway - two Kindle Paperwhites, one US and one UK (UK contests are so rare I strongly recommend going for this!), plus Amazon giftcards. It'll be open to US and UK entries from the 27th. For the occasion, my urban fantasy/superhero romance novella When Dark Falls is part of the event, and is reduced to 99 cents/99 pence until the end of April. Superheroes for the win!

A Superhero Romance Novella
Goodreads | Webpage 

Amazon | Kobo B&N
iTunes Smashwords | ARe
Print edition
Amazon | CreateSpace | B&N
The Book Depository
Next month I will be celebrating Keir's fourth book birthday and my fourth anniversary as a published author. It will also be my 23rd wedding anniversary. Together with seven other awesome SFR authors, we'll be holding the Blue Moon Blog Tour later in May for your entertainment! There'll be posts on the blue theme, and a rafflecopter giveaway including books and giftcards.
The Portals project is coming! If you stopped by to read Laurie's post yesterday, you'll know there's an exciting set of scifi romance volumes coming up - first chapters from a variety of authors in varying subgenres. Looking for love in an alternative world? Portals will take you there for free...

Back to my mountain of edits...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Introducing the Portals Project (and Why Readers Will Love It)

Something's coming. Something FUN! But let me start at the beginning and explain what this project is all about.

When I put on my reader's hat, I'm often plagued by the same stumbling block that many readers face. Namely, finding books I love!

There are just so many out there calling my name! I've impulsively snapped up books based on a flashy ad, a terrific cover, or something in the blurb that resonates with me, only to find the story is just not my cup of kinna.

Scouting the great wide book universe for your kind of books--and especially hunting down those in the Science Fiction Romance vein--is no simple task. Sifting through offerings to locate and vet potential treasures on Amazon (or the venue of your choice) by reading through countless blurbs, reviews and clicking the "look inside" feature to get an idea if it ticks all the major "must buy!" boxes for you takes a lot of time.

And "a lot of time" is something few of us have.

What to do?

We just might have a solution for you! Here's the big announcement:
Introducing Portals. 
The #SFRBrigade community of writers is planning a FREE four volume set of Science Fiction Romance beginnings ~ and only beginnings ~ of 40 books by 40 different authors!  
This isn't an anthology, it's a transport to whisk you away to a host of exciting SFR worlds. We know you're going to enjoy the trip, and you're sure to find many amazing adventures you'll want to get lost in.
These four volumes will offer readers who are already fans of the genre a quick and easy way to scout Science Fiction Romance stories that capture their imagination and incite their sense of wonder.

They'll also serve as a gateway for those who've not yet read SFR by providing an unique sampler of what the genre has to offer--the exploration of exciting new worlds, times, and civilizations, and the characters who live them.

To make your literary treasure hunt even simpler, the volumes have been divided into various heat levels--mild, medium and hot! (The first volume to be released will be medium, followed shortly by its sister ships.)

And the authors? You'll get everything from flagship best sellers to perennial favorites to new pioneers. Here's the list of anticipated contributors (in no order whatsoever):

Marcella Burnard    Susan Grant    Lyn Brittan    PJ Dean
Athena Grayson     Sharon Lynn Fisher     SJ Pajonas
Greta van der Rol    Diane Burton    Lisa Morrow    Maeve Alpin
Veronica Scott       Amy Riddle-Declerck       Pippa Jay
      Monica Enderle Pierce   Donna Frelick    Sandy Williams
Laurie A. Green        Alison Aimes         PJ Dean
Melisse Aires     Cara Bristol      Cathryn Cade    KC Klein
Sabine Priestley   Wendy Lynn Clark     Marie Andreas
Jenna Bennett       Michelle Diener     SE Gilchrist
Aurora Springer     Pauline Baird Jones       Amelia Treador
Liana Brooks       K.M. Fawcett     Carysa Locke
Rinelle Grey     Lea Kirk     Rebel Miller     Elizabeth Munro

Exciting, yes?

You'll note the names of the Spacefreighters crew are highlighted in blue--and yes, we're all in! As authors, we're enthused about the opportunity to have our work included in Portals.

What are some of the other Portals authors saying about this collection?

Susan Grant
"From an author's view, I love the creative energy generated by this amazing group of storytellers, who, like me, are excited to be part of this collection. From a reader's view I can't wait to dive into all that dazzling energy transferred to every page."

Stephanie J Pajonas
"I loved the idea of Portals from the beginning. It was such an honor to be included with many other science fiction romance authors and their first-in-a-series works. I thought the Portals project was an ingenious idea and I hope everyone enjoys the new authors and stories we present to them in the collection."

Amy Riddle-DeClerck
"It's so difficult for new writers to get themselves noticed by readers. The Portals projects are a great way for readers to 'try it before they buy it' and hopefully discover new favorite authors!"

Veronica Scott
"I love the idea of The Portals project, providing a wide variety of science fiction romance for readers to choose from! I'm excited to be among this company of imaginative authors, which certainly includes many of my own favorite reads."

Cathryn Cade
"The Portals project brings some of SFR's best and brightest for readers to meet and fall in love with their characters and series. I'm thrilled to be a part of this!"  

Sabine Priestley
"They had me at Portals. Just like the inter-galactic portals in my books, this series will transport you to adventures across the galaxy. Jump in and enjoy the ride!"

Melisse Aires
"Don't we all sometimes wish we had a portal to a fascinating world full of adventure and romance? That is what this collection is all about."

Diane Burton
"I love being part of this project and pleased to be included with so many terrific SFR authors."

Lisa Morrow
"The Portals project is such an amazing idea, both for writers and readers. Readers are able to sample different writers without making a major commitment. Writers get the rare opportunity to show new readers a taste of what they do and hopefully have people who may never have otherwise run across their work become devoted fans."

Information about the release dates, covers reveals and more details will be coming soon. We promise you won't have to wait long!

Please share your thoughts about the Portals project in comments below. We'll choose a random commenter to receive a $5 gift certificate!


SPECIAL UPDATE 5/7/16: The Portals now has its own website so we can keep everyone informed on the latest news and help you find even more great Science Fiction Romance. You can visit the site here: Portals

Friday, April 22, 2016


So what can I tell you about the week-long cocktail party and schmooz-fest that was RT2016? You’ve already seen Laurie’s gleanings from the Twitterfeed, which gave you a good sense of the fun atmosphere. And, of course, this year’s RT Booklovers Convention was in Vegas, baby, where the neon lights and throbbing dance music go on 24/7.
The idea of RT is to bring readers and their beloved romance writers together in as many creative ways as possible, so there are lots of “meet and greet” panels, soirees and activities to make that happen, many of them involving cover models or games and prizes or other goodies. I took advantage of one of these to meet one of my long-time idols, author Christine Feehan, creator of the pioneering Carpathian vampire series which began with Dark Prince back in the 90s. In fact, I inadvertently jumped a long line waiting to get in for the panel and found her in an empty room. Embarrassing, but AWESOME! She was very gracious and approachable.

Speaking of which, Nalini Singh, author of several series which straddle the line between paranormal romance and SFR, including the bestselling Psy-Changling series, was indeed seen everywhere going out of her way to be friendly, open and accommodating to her many fans. By now, SFR Brigader Sabine Priestley’s pic of herself and Nalini lying in the gigantic “Fall Into Nalini Singh’s World” promo circle in the convention lobby must have gone viral!

Rachel Bach, Pauline B. Jones, Veronica Scott, me, Kyndra Hatch.
Science fiction romance has a stubborn, but limited presence at RT, a convention that is increasingly dominated by the popular subgenres of New Adult, contemporary and erotica. This year we had two panels: Sci Fi Heroes and Why We Love Them, moderated by author and USA Today/HEA blogger Veronica Scott, and The Dangerous, The Devious and The Irresistible: Villains in SFR, moderated by author and genre mentor Linnea Sinclair. I was honored to serve on the Villains panel, with fellow authors M.D.(Misty) Waters, Isabo Kelly, Colby Hodge and Janet Miller (aka Crickett Starr).

Both panels filled their respective rooms, and the discussions were lively among both panelists and audience members. Readers came up to panelists after our talks to meet us, get signed copies of books and other giveaways, and express their interest in our work and SFR in general.

Of course, the biggest SFR event at RT is always Linnea Sinclair’s Intergalactic Bar and Grille Party, the only real sanctioned gathering for readers, fans and writers of SFR at the convention. I was promoted this year to Commander (of a table of 10 readers—my crew). We competed against the other 24 crews for prizes in the crazy games and competitions of Linnea’s evil invention. Lots of fun and swag for all the 250 fans in attendance.

SFR Brigaders at the Intergalactic Bar and Grille Party
I should mention that Romance Writers of America® Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter members attending RT managed to take time out of an insane schedule to get together. For those of you who are not RWA® members, SFR is included under the FF&P umbrella within that organization.

As always, rumors circulated throughout the con that SFR is the NEXT BIG THING. Nalini Singh was heard saying this, as were a few agents and publishers. But I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

My agent confided that a certain well-established small publisher is looking for SFR, but NOT humans in space. They want shape-shifters in space. If you have a manuscript with a werewolf tribe on a starship, it has suddenly become a hot property. Contact me and I’ll let you know who is looking for it.

Smashwords came out with the results of a survey they conducted at the convention that indicated a big interest in the subgenre of SFR of among readers. (Thanks, Sharon Lynn Fisher, for posting this on the SFR Brigade page.) The only problem there was that the interest was expressed as a subset of YA and NA. SFR has always been considered a good sell to teenagers and young adults. Look at the popularity of such series as The Hunger Games and Divergent. But the Powers That Be have never considered it sellable beyond that audience.

If you’re writing SFR for the YA/NA audience, you may be on the cutting edge. Certainly skewing young is the one clear message I got from this con. RT has always had a younger demographic than RWA, but this year the difference was even more dramatic, with so many of the writers aged 25-35.

One thing my agent says we in SFR should learn from these younger writers is how to support and promote each other. For the most part, they are writing NA, contemporary and erotica, subgenres which are hot, but also quite competitive. And yet they are not afraid to cross-promote each other. They review each other’s books, actively participate on promo sites and so on. I’m still trying to learn how what they’re doing differs from what we’re doing, but it’s clear they must be doing something right.

I met one of these young writers, a funny, unpretentious guy with a fascinating background and thousands of fans. He’s at that level of popularity that his readers send him gifts—lots of gifts. Every day the mail carrier arrives with something else from his adoring fans. It’s driving him crazy. I guess I don’t have to tell you he doesn’t write SFR. The only thing my mail carrier brings me is the electric bill and the L.L. Bean catalog.

But at least I get to go to RT every year and meet interesting people. Writing does have its perks.

*Thanks to Kyndra Hatch for group photos!