Friday, March 31, 2017


Reviews--ummm, yummy! We authors LOVE us some reviews! And as Greta just described in her post this week, we’ll go to just about any lengths to get them.

But sometimes we forget the most obvious way to get those reviews might be to simply ask.

That’s what I’m doing this week via this blog, my Facebook page and my Interstellar Rescue Squad Facebook group. I’m asking really nicely and offering a little incentive to those who help me out. Write a review of any of my Interstellar Rescue books on Amazon or Goodreads and I’ll send you an Interstellar Rescue tee-shirt!*

But, you argue, I just like to READ the books! I don’t know how to write a review!!

But it’s sooo easy. A review is NOT a book report, like you remember from school days. (I don’t know anyone who liked those.) You don’t have to tell folks what the story is about or analyze the writing style (unless you want to). All you really have to do is say what YOU, lovely reader, liked about the book. Did the action make you keep turning pages? Did the romance make you sigh? Did you love the hero or the spunky heroine? Did you hate the villain? Great! Put it all in about three or four sentences and you’re done.

What? you say. Three or four sentences? Actually, Amazon only requires 20 words in a review. Anyone can write 20 words, right? (That’s less than the number of words in this paragraph!)

So, come on, help a writer out. Please?

*Comment on the offer posts on my FB pages to tell me you’ve reviewed so I can make sure to thank you!

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Did all that marketing work?

Well,,, maybe 'all that' marketing isn't really correct. But I did do some marketing for my latest book, The Stuff of Legend. You'll find the details in my previous post, The Joy of Marketing. But in summary:
  • I enrolled the book in NetGalley for all of March
  • I posted a headline ad at the Romance Reviews
  • I bought a book blitz tour through Book Unleashed which took place on 27th March
The purpose of all this was to try to increase sales, and to obtain additional reviews. At the beginning of the month I had three reviews on Amazon. Since it seems to be the only place I sell much, it's the only place I check.

It's early days, I know. March is not quite finished, and the book blitz ended a few days ago. I'm told that the book blitz entry appeared on forty-two sites, with a reach of at least 250,000 (without retweets and so on). 3,190 people ended the $10 Amazon gift card giveaway.

So how has this activity affected sales, and reviews?

  • I have no new Amazon reviews
  • There has not been a sales spike (huh) for TSoL but I have noted a tiny uptick in sales for previous books in the series
  • I have had a handful of friend requests on FB and follows on Twitter
Do I feel I received a reasonable return on investment? At this stage, no. I think I can reasonably assume that I would have made as many sales if I'd done nothing at all.

Would I do another blog tour/blitz? No. This is not at all a reflection on Book Unleashed. The event was conducted in a professional manner, and forty-two sites is good coverage. I did not pay extra for guaranteed reviews, or other options offered by the company. But then, my books are not aimed squarely at the romance market. Years ago I signed up for a blog tour, and the organiser refunded my money because she couldn't get enough tour hosts to sign up (Science Fiction, you see).

Would I put a book on NetGalley again? No.

What would I do instead? <Shrugs> Spend more time taking photographs.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's #CampNaNoWriMo Time Again! #amwriting #amediting #amrevising

Yes, it's that time of year again when the Camp cabins open for NaNoWriMo. As often happens, I said I wasn't going to do it. I said I was leaving writing to find a real job. But here I am, setting up camp, while my job hunting has been pretty barren and discouraging. I've got several works hanging over my head and I feel the desperate urge to finish something and get it off my chest, out of my head, and maybe...just maybe...out earning some dosh (ha ha!).
Reunion's cover reveal was over a year ago!

The great thing about Camp NaNoWriMo compared to the normal November version is that you can set your word count, and even what kind of project you want to work on (revision is now an option when you go to set up your project). While NaNo for me is usually a 'get an idea out of my head and into a Word doc', the Camp ones are quite often edits. Last year I used the April Camp to revise and re-edit Gethyon for re-release after the rights reverted to me last June (my last work still tied to a publisher).

This year, I decided I need the accountability of NaNo to complete the edits I've already paid for on my two SFR novellas - Revived, my RWA LERA finalist and a follow on to Terms & Conditions Apply, and Reunion at Kasha-Asor, a novella set directly after Keir (Book One of the Redemption series). Both have been languishing on my hard drive for over a year now, when they could, with the necessary work, be out earning their keep. I've picked at them and Keir's Shadow over the past few months but not made that much progress. Time for me to just sit down and get them done!

Of course, there are complications with the April Camp NaNoWriMo. My monsters will be on their Spring Break for the first two weeks (oops) and usually I commit my time to them during school holidays. But these so close to finished novellas are driving me nuts. I figure an hour or two a day is a fair compromise - my older two are self sufficient and often arrange their own social diarys these days, while youngest generally only requires a cooked dinner since he can even make his own sandwiches now. And short of someone standing over me with a cattleprod (any volunteers? I'm serious!) I think Camp might be just the kick up the pants I need to do these projects. Wish me luck...

Status Update
Last week I went back into the cobwebby depths of my hard drive in search of an old story. I had quite a shock on seeing I hadn't opened the doc for exactly two years (to the day!). Wow. I had some beta reader notes to look through and make changes, but overall it didn't read too badly. It even made me smile, then a bit teary at the end (let's hope it works on readers). Would you believe I'm about to make a submission to a publisher? I haven't done this in a while, but I happened to see a sub call that was a perfect fit for this story - a f/f paranormal short I wrote for a sub call in 2015 but that later got cancelled due to too few entries. Since I wasn't doing anything with the piece, I figured I might as well give this a shot.
While I was there, I found myself looking at some other pieces, including a completed SF short written for another anthology that I pulled out of. I'd like to release it, but at the moment I think I'd better finish off the stories I've already paid for edits on rather than putting yet more stuff into edits. Especially as this one is going to require a rather specialized cover...
Sunday was Mothers' Day here in the UK, and we celebrated by hubs doing his best to feed me into submission, and another trip to the beach and rather tempestuous seas. Enjoy!

Too close!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Talking Across the Stars

It seems we're getting closer every day to actually exploring the stars. The science pages are full of new discoveries, new technologies, new ideas that could get us to the point of colonizing other worlds in a much nearer future than we once imagined.

But we have some problems to solve first.

In past blogs, I've talked about the need for artificial gravity (and ways it might be produced) and faster propulsion systems to get us where we're going in a feasible amount of time. But there's another key element that will be required. Neil deGrasse Tyson calls it Quantum Entanglement communication. I call it skip buoy technology or subspace communications (depending on the novel).

But what is it exactly and why is it necessary?

Currently, communications via radio waves can only travel at the speed of light. That sounds pretty fast, but when you're talking about the distances in our own solar system, that means to have a conversation between Mission Control and someone on a planetary exploration vessel orbiting Jupiter (hello, Mitch and Lissa), you'd have a 33 minute gap in your conversation between each person.

Want to see the actual math formula? It's right here.

Here's an example.

I'm on standard radio communication with the NSS Robert Bradley.

Imagine me saying "Hi, Lissa."

That takes 33 minutes to reach Lissa and another 33 minutes for her reply to come back.

So 66 minutes later, Lissa replies. "Hello. How are you?"

I respond: "I'm great. Just finished another book."

And 66 minutes later, Lissa replies. "What's this one about?"

It's already been over two hours and Lissa and I have had a convo consisting of six sentences. And that's just chit chat. Now imagine having a spaaaaaace...and needing help from Mission Control, stat!

You see the problem.

Remind you a bit of this recent animated movie scene?

This exchange is actually pretty speedy considering the realities of communications over lightyears in space. Using current technology, you'd have a situation like the one in Passengers where an attempt to send a distress message from an outbound ship runs into time complications, like...19 years for the message to reach Earth and 36 years for Earth to send a reply for a total of 55 years.)

I addressed this when I wrote Outer Planets by inventing a fictional communications system (also called subspace skip communications in Inherit the Stars some 1500 years later) that allows radio signals to be arrive at their destination almost instantaneously via "interactive particles" in skip buoys set at various intervals in space.

In utilizing skip buoy tech, there's only a short delay to account for the software's translation time, but that might resemble a broadcast from other parts of the Earth via satellite now. It's a delay of only a second or so, at most. (Though if you've ever watched a newscast or interview via satellite, even a second delay can be pretty disconbobulating to the discussion, but at least you can have a discussion.)

The theory of Quantum Entanglement Communications that Neil deGrasse Tyson attempted to explain via a Star Talk Radio video posted on Futurism (click the title above to view) is a similar concept to this idea. (Though the theory still has problems to be solved, as Neil makes clear.)

In an nutshell, Quantum entanglement is what Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance"--two particles located in different places in the universe that are somehow interconnected and communicate simultaneously. So...faster than the speed of light. In fact, faster than the speed of anything known to man. Instant!

Better--i.e. nearly instant--communications is something we're going to have to develop before people actually start galloping around the cosmos in starships ala Star Trek, because in my example convo above, we're only talking about Jupiter. A next door neighbor, as planets go. If we were attempting to talk to someone in another solar system, we'd be dealing with a time lag of years, decades...or even millennia.

Talking across the stars is something that we need to make workable if we're ever to become a successful star-faring species.

Hope you have a great week.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

On tour tomorrow!

The Stuff of Legend is going on tour. Join in for a chance to win an Amazon gift card

When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, she sets out into space with their business partner, her grandmother and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss to find them. But she's not the only one interested in the Jhutta's whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia's parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy.
Jak goes on the trip to fill in time while he's on enforced leave, helping Olivia follow cryptic clues in what he considers an interplanetary wild goose chase in search of a fairy story. But as the journey progresses and legend begins to merge with unsettling fact, Olivia and Jak must resolve their differences and work together if they are to survive. The two are poles apart… but it's said opposites attract. If they can manage to stay alive.

Amazon readers say:

"Another thoroughly enjoyable book from a gifted author. I would like to see more from this universe with its Admirals."

"Greta is back with another race through space with an enigmatic admiral and the independent woman who will grab his attention and his heart. At first we can hiss at the hero as he stumbles through his usual seduction routine only to find Professor Olivia not nearly as impressed as he'd hoped. It will take a dash through space in a search for Olivia's missing parents, delving into the distant past, dealing with a megalomaniac, and facing their own insecurities for them to find each other. Great world building with the possibility of more stories in this part of Greta's universe. I can't wait."

Buy the book: Amazon  Google iBooks  Nook Kobo  Print

The Stuff of Legend is book 5 in the Ptorix Empire series.
Find out all about them at Greta's website.

The books all stand alone - although Deception follows on from Conspiracy. Oh - and Conspiracy is free just about everywhere.

Friday, March 24, 2017


What’s the hardest part of a book to write? Not the beginning, because what writer isn’t full of enthusiasm at the onset of a project? Sometimes that opening sentence is what launches the whole thing in an author’s mind. Call me Ishmael. Chapter One: I am Born. For years I couldn’t remember what happened to me that night.*

The middle chapters are almost always a hard slog, it’s true. They don’t call a problem with this section “the sagging middle” for nothing. Keeping up the pace, making sure you don’t lose all of your subplots in a swamp of details, enforcing consistency in your characters, all take discipline and drive.

But the proof of any novel’s pudding is at the end, when all the plot threads must tie themselves up in neat little bows, the bad guy must get his or her just deserts, and your hero and heroine must have resolved all their internal and external conflicts so they can enjoy their happily ever after. Aarggh!

Of course, the myth is that plotters and pantsers approach this moment of truth in completely different ways. Plotters, it is assumed, have it all figured out from the beginning. It’s there in the outline! This happens, then this, then, ta-da! Ends tied, bad guy dead, HEA.

Pantsers, supposedly, just write until things work themselves out. If they hit a wall, they write around it, or over it, or under it. Intuition working overtime, pantsers find solutions to whatever problems present themselves as they come up, though maybe that doesn’t happen right away. (I hope not, anyway, or I would be much more jealous of these folks than I already am!)

But, surprise! Hardly anyone is exclusively a plotter or a pantser. And the Muse is fond of throwing all sorts of obstacles in our path as we work our way through a story. Unexpected plot complications. Demanding characters. Corners, with wet paint on the floor all around. Inconvenient laws of physics that make you want to switch to writing contemporary romance. And, most especially at the end of a novel with any subplots at all, the issue of timing (that is, who is supposed to be where at exactly what day and time).

As a plotter, you might think I’d have fewer problems than some with tying things up at the end of a book. But right now, I’m close to the end of the first draft of Book 4 in my Interstellar Rescue series and, really, I have no idea how to end it. Well, I mean, I know generally what should happen. Minor villain vanquished by the hero/heroine (and, big reveal here, dog—which, I should add, I’d already put in the story before Pets in Space was launched). Major villain(s) vanquished (for now) by the Rescue team from earlier novels (since this is a series). Hero and heroine (and dog) get their HEA. Sexy secondary character set up for his own future book.  All good.

But the devil is in the details. I could use a little pantsing skill right about now. Because there comes a time when you just have to sit down at the computer and write something.
And hope it all comes out the way it should. In the end.

*The first line of Unchained Memory, Book 1, Interstellar Rescue series

Well done to the Finalists announced Tuesday, March 21, including SFR Brigade members Janet Halpin (Golden Heart®, Paranormal, for Beryl Blue, Time Cop) and Susan Grant (RITA, Paranormal, for Champion of Baresh)! The nomination for the RITA is especially sweet for Grant, one of the pioneers of SFR in the early 2000s who had been out of the game for several years. She self-published Champion of Baresh, which she calls a “book of my heart.” Good luck to Susan and Janet in Orlando in July!

Cheers, Donna