Friday, April 28, 2017


Why am I sitting in the middle of my office surrounded by piles of books, customized pens, bookmarks and light-up fingertip “alien zappers?” Because next week is the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Atlanta, of course!

RT, as it is fondly known by its thousands of devotees, is the annual week-long party thrown for readers and their authors by the RT Book Reviews magazine (now a digital enterprise). The festivities include panels and workshops with the authors; meet-and-greet opportunities; photo ops with sexy cover models; signings—both formal and “pop-ups,” which can happen anytime and anywhere; special events for specific genres and publishing houses (like the YA Sleepover opening night); and parties—lots and lots of parties. 

This year, because it is Atlanta, there is a Magnolias and Moonshine party (planned by the Regency historical romance writers), a rockabilly party (boy, am I down for that!) and a Roaring Twenties costume party (that one will be tough, but I hear I can just buy a hat at a booth in the Bazaar and fit in).

Past RT stalwart Linnea Sinclair will not be attending this year, so there will be no Intergalactic Bar and Grille, alas! Science fiction romance authors (and fans) will have to make their own fun somehow. Toward that end, SFR bestie Riley Moreland and I have set up a Facebook Event page, The Invasion of Atlanta, to invite any skiffy rommers at RT to let their presence be known. Click and say you’ll be there so we can get together, either formally or informally.

Of course, the big event at RT is the Giant Book Fair, which happens at the end of the week, on Saturday. Hundreds of authors will be packed in the big ballroom, signing their books for eager readers, and, for the first time ever, I will be one of them! This is my third RT, but it’s taken me three tries to make it into that ballroom, where I’ll be competing for attention with the likes of Angela Knight, Sherrilyn Kenyon and at least two of my Golden Heart sisters, Kim Law and Terri Osburn. (Oh, and those things I mentioned in the opening paragraph? Swag--to give away to readers at the Giant Book Fair.)

I’ll be in the thick of things next Friday, so no post here at Spacefreighters. Check out my Facebook page for photos of the fun at RT! I’ll be back here in two weeks.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?

(c)izakowski Deposit Photos
It is becoming increasingly difficult for most writers to earn money from writing – and I think it's our own fault.

Back when I started this journey my books earned me a few thousand dollars a year. Not a fortune, but better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. The rate of return has been declining steadily ever since, even though the number of titles has increased. Last year, with twenty titles, I made a thousand bucks. That's one thousand gross, folks, leaving out costs for covers, editing, and a little bit of marketing.

There are so many authors out there, so many new titles being published on Amazon and Smashwords every single day. You've all seen the figures. As a result, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of authors jumping up and down shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!"

Granted quite a few of the books in the pile are not well written and not edited. But this post isn't about those issues. The only real judge of readability is a reader. I know myself that I've read and re-read a fan fiction desperately in need of editing. The grammar and punctuation was incorrect, typos such as 'hanger' which should have been 'hangar' were common. But I liked the story, so I forced myself to ignore the mistakes. For this purpose, though, let's assume the author has done all the right things. The book has been edited, it has a professional cover. The author might even have a few titles already out there. Even that doesn't seem to be enough. You have to market. I'm not the only author with not much in my budget for marketing. So what's the answer? It seems to be freebies.

I have one title, first of a series of six full-length books, which is perma-free in the hope that buyers will like that one and purchase the next books. It works pretty well. I put that book (The IronAdmiral: Conspiracy) up at eNews Reader Today a few weeks ago, and readers have picked up some of the following titles. I've done the same thing myself – read a free book and picked up the rest. And ENT is affordable.

It's interesting that the Holy Grail for book marketing is Bookbub. The most 'cost effective' form of getting on Bookbub's mailing list is to make your book free – but even then, you're up for several hundred dollars. List a science fiction book for free at US$315. List at $0.99 and you'll pay US$630. Here's the website. That means if you sell through Amazon, which pays 35% for a sale at $0.99 you'll need to sell 1,800 books to break even. If you put your book up for free, you'd better have other titles to make the money back. I know Bookbub works – but I suspect it works best if you don't really need it. Management is fussy about which books it lists, favouring those with many reviews, and/or awards.

Then there's the latest band wagon, Instafreebie. You give away a book in exchange for a new email address on your mailing list. I don't have a mailing list, don't want one. But if you sign up with Instafreebie, you're sure to get access to dozens of free books every week. You might be doing a lot of unsubscribing, though – as my husband has found.

Other ways to give away your books are regular free or $0.99 specials in particular genres. And then there's anthologies. The latest one I've seen offers 22 complete, full novels for $0.99. Again, the idea is the sacrifice leads to future sales. I've done it myself, included my perma-free book with ten others in one anthology. I didn't notice much in the way of further sales. 

Which leads me to the point. If you're a reader taking advantage of these offers, you'd never have to pay for a book for the rest of your life.

What's my prediction for the future?

  • More writers will cut corners to reduce costs.
  • Writing books is hard work. It takes time, and commitment – and money. How many people can afford to work at something and not make enough to cover the costs?
  • Many, many writers will give away their books because they can't sell them.
  • Many, many writers will give up.

What's the answer? You tell me…

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why I (Still) Don't Want A Female Who #DoctorWho

This is probably a controversial view, especially from a feminist and a Whovian. Maybe it's because I've been a life-long Whovian - the first episode I can remember is Jon Pertwee's (3rd regeneration) last, Planet of the Spiders - that I can't and don't want to see the Doctor become female. I feel it's almost a step too far to achieving equality. Isn't it enough that the Master has just done it - an act that, bearing in mind his chaotic and twisted nature - actually seems entirely apt and in line with his/her desire to get his/her friend back, and I adore Missy. It works, though I'll admit to a slight wince at the gender swap. Not so much as at the incredibly forced and unnecessary male to female regeneration on Gallifrey during 13th's attempt to save Clara from the instant of her very actual death though. We had River Song too. To me, the Doctor has and always should be male (an idea also strongly echoed by my loudly feminist daughter).
A selection of actors, including Joanna Lumley, 
take on the role of the Doctor for Comic Relief

That's not to say we shouldn't or can't have female Time Lords, if Missy and River Song weren't enough to satisfy you. Personally I would much rather see the Rani return - once played by the fiery Kate O'Mara in the 6th and 7th eras. After all, if the Master and the Doctor could survive the Time Wars, why the hell couldn't she? She was at least as smart as both of them, and would most likely have run and hidden rather than perish in a war that wouldn't have advanced her own ambitions.
The Rani and the 7th Doctor exchange words

I'd also like to see less romantic involvement between the Doctor and his assistant, though apparently that's how New Who works. I'm awaiting the announcement of the next actor with some trepidation. I was so excited to see Capaldi take the part but the stories he was given have sucked and made poor use of his talent. I'm sorry to see him going so soon, though glad to see the back of Clara and Moffat. Despite the cringiness of the Christmas special, it was redeemed by Nardole as companion (and I'm not even a Matt Lucas fan), and I was glad to see him back for Who's return this Easter. A male companion, and one with a tendency to simply roll his eyes at the Doc, makes a refreshing change. I'd love him to stay though I don't imagine he will for long.

I also enjoyed Bill's debut. Those complaining about an openly gay character must somehow have completely missed Captain Jack Harkness or Vastra and Jenny. Me - I felt the fact was rather unnecessarily hammered home in the story but at least no one will be left in any doubt. Not the first water monster either, but I did like the idea of sentient space ship motor oil, and enjoyed the nostalgia of the Dalek war with the Movellans (wouldn't mind seeing them come back too). Two episodes in and I'm much happier with this season than I have been for a while. I have high hopes for the stories ahead, but not for future series until the new actor is announced.

In the meantime, I wrote a post some four years ago when we were awaiting the announcement of the actor replacing Matt Smith, where I thought it more unlikely we would get a woman but was apparently less adverse to the idea. I guess Missy has changed my mind in some respects as it all having been a done deal on gender swapping.

Perhaps I was fortunate in that my first couple of companions were Sarah-Jane Smith (a journalist and most definitely a defiant feminist, and who went on to have her own series) and Leela (a strong-willed warrior who despite her lack of knowledge took no nonsense from the Doctor), followed by Romana. I grew up with female companions who didn't just stand and scream, who searched for the truth and fought for it where necessary so I don't feel a female Doctor is needed. Doctor Who has seen female presidents and prime-ministers, warriors, leaders and scientists.

And while I am aware fans have exceptionally strong feelings about the series and the characters and may well not like my opinion, please bear in mind that it is just an opinion. I am willing to be proved wrong or debated with. However, comments are set on moderation and any hate speech or personal attacks on myself or any commentators will be deleted without discussion, so please bear that in mind!

Upcoming Events
May is super exciting for me every year, firstly because my wedding anniversary is on the 8th (24 years this year!) and also my anniversary as an author on the 7th. This year is extra special because I'm celebrating a landmark - five years! And as it's a special one, I have a special giveaway coming in association with Hoot and Luna.
But that's not all. I'm also taking part in two Instafreebie events to promote scifi romance as a whole. You'll get the chance to pick up my SFR Award winner for Grittiest Hot and Fast story - Quickshot - for FREE, as well as a whole universe of out of this world romance titles. Keep watch for date announcements, or you can sign up to my newsletter HERE to receive the links instantly in your inbox.

Status Update
Edits for my two novellas are done for Camp NaNoWriMo, but are now below the target of 60K that I set myself. Ooops? I'm currently working my way through them again, not to add words to make target but because it needs doing. If necessary, I'm going to add the chunk of rewrites done as part of the revisions for Keir's Shadow, being as that's another project I've been working on through April as well.

Chook Update
April has reverted more to type by becoming cold and grey (though without the characteristic showers we're used to) but we're still getting the odd bright day to let the girls wander.
Effie and Pitch

Kyru and Effie

A cheeky male blackbird takes advantage of the open coop to raid the chooks' food!

Kyru, Effie and Scoop


The cherry blossom is falling already
Tulips in the sun at Castle Park

Monday, April 24, 2017

If Wishes Were Horses: A Photo Album

I'm still in "Writing Reboot" mode, so today I'm going to share some photos of the other big part of my life--our horses and the ranch. 

Photos of our two-year-old Thoroughbred in training, "Star."

Star is beginning her second month of training with one of the top trainers based out of Sunland Park.

She's still in her "evaluation stage" though our trainer recommended we go get our fingerprints done--meaning he thinks it's time we file for our owners' licenses. Good sign!

If she continues to progress well, she'll probably follow the circuit of racing in New Mexico. First, she'll go to Sunray Park in the north of the state near Farmington, which just opened for its spring meet. Then to the Downs at Albuquerque over the summer, where she'll be close to home. Then on to Zia Park near Hobbs in late fall, and finally back to Sunland Park, which is a New Mexico suburb of El Paso, Texas, for the winter.

Here she is in her pink work bridle before a morning exercise with a look that seems to be saying, "Is it time to go play?"

Here's a shot of Star where it shows how she's in the process of greying out on her face. Grey genes have to come from one or both of the parents, and in Star's case, it's very easy to follow the grey down through her pedigree.

Stellar Rain (sire)  Storm Cat x Stellar Jayne

Stellar Jayne (sire's dam)  Wild Rush x To The Hunt

To The Hunt (sire's dam's dam)  Relaunch x Royal Advocator

Relaunch (sire's dam's dam's sire)  In Reality x Foggy Note

Foggy Note (sire's dam's dam's sire's dam) The Axe x Silver Song

The Axe and Silver Song were both grey.

I'll stop here, where the grey lineage splits into two branches, but I can actually trace her grey genes all the way back to the beginnings of the breed. The earliest horse in her pedigree where the grey color was noted was called Fairfax Morocco Barb, born in 1633.

All of Foggy Note's foals were grey, so she is considered to have been a homozygous grey. She's also in the pedigrees of outstanding sire Tapit, Frosted, Hansen, and many other notable grey horses that are running or producing today. (Not Arrogate, however, who's grey genes came through Caro.)

Here's Star under saddle on the training track with her exercise rider, J.R. for a morning exercise. At this stage of the game, building muscle and stamina is the primary goal. We'll find out if she carries the speed and heart her pedigree suggests as she develops later this summer.

It was a beautiful day for a jog, with the early sun rising on a mild but cool morning, the doves cooing in the background and the sound of hoofbeats on the track.

J.R. indicated to us that Star has a good mind and likes her work. We know from her runs here on the ranch that she's quick, athletic and agile. The big question will be if she can put all the positives together on the racetrack along with a driving desire to win.

While being worked, she performed a beautiful flying change of leads with J.R. in the saddle. This entails a little "skip" in her stride where she switches the front leg she leads with.

Performed during a race, a horse is usually on the inside lead going around the turn, and a change of leads to the outside leg helps reduce fatigue and sometimes gives a horse an extra kick of energy as they come into the stretch.

Going on the walker with other horses is also a part of her exercise routine. Here she's being walked under saddle.

Here's a last shot of Star peeking out of her stall in the training shedrow.

She looks like she's saying. "Hi. Whatcha doing? Did you come to watch me today?"

She almost got to rub elbows with one of the "big boys" prior to the Sunland Derby when Bob Baffert's Kentucky Derby hopeful Bronze Age was stabled in our trainer's barn to run in the Derby prep race. But Bronze Age was actually at the Sunland Park track barn itself and not here at the nearby training center, so Star didn't get to meet a potential celebrity.

Today also marks a very special day for Star and for us, because it's the fourth anniversary of the death of the great racehorse and champion sire, Storm Cat. Storm Cat passed away on April 24, 2013 after leaving an indelible mark on the breed. He ran eight races with four wins and three seconds including the Grade 1 Young American, and over $570,000 in earnings. But his biggest impact on the breed were the horses he produced. He was one of the--if not the--most expensive stallion in history with a stud fee of $500,000. He was the grandson of the immortal Secretariat, through his outstanding daughter Terlingua, and also grandson of the great Northern Dancer, sired by his son Storm Bird.

His name is in the first four generations of the pedigrees of many of the great racehorses today, including Triple Crown and Breeders Cup Classic (Grand Slam) winner, American Pharoah.

Here's a tribute to the late, great Storm Cat. Rest in peace, Champ.

Star is Storm Cat's granddaughter, her sire being his son, Stellar Rain--but she's also his great-great-granddaughter, since Storm Cat is also on her dam's side of her pedigree. She has a host of other great racehorses in her pedigree, like Seattle Slew, Tale of the Cat, Lion Heart, and further back, Wild Again, Majestic Prince, Native Dancer and Man O' War.

But champion bloodlines guarantee nothing. As the old saying goes, "You breed the best to the best...and hope for the best."

This is something I once wrote about Thoroughbreds (I must have been waxing poetical that day):

You cannot develop a breeding program
for ethereal qualities like heart and courage.
These traits are spiritual, and will never be found
contained in the DNA sequence.
They do not breed true.
They cannot be captured in carefully selected pairings.
But when this blend of fate and miracle occurs,
often in the unlikeliest of candidates,
it is the stuff of dreams and legends…and rightly so.

So at this point it's all crossed fingers and wishful thinking for Star. If you want to follow Star's career and those of the other horses we've bred, as well as the Kentucky Derby (coming up on May 6th) and the Thoroughbred industry in general, you can keep track on our Facebook page here:
Rising Star Thoroughbreds - New Mexico

Recently, I was asked if I've ever put a horse in a book. No, not yet. (Though there is one hologram of a cherished horse in an upcoming novel.) To date, I've only drawn on my knowledge of the horse industry for certain aspects of the plots--the breeding industry, pedigrees and the discipline of dressage. But I do have this idea brewing. Stay tuned. :D

Meanwhile, back on the ranch...

Spring has sprung and the trees and flowers are spite of an April Fools Day snow storm. Here are a few photos.

April Fools!

A close-up of the Aristocrat Pear blossoms.
The Aristocrat Pears lining our drive. The same tree
surrounds our state capital.

White tulips
More white tulips
Our rig. It's a three-horse slant with a back ramp.

The "triplets" -- left to right, Luna (black and tan piebald),
Maura (English cream) and Katrina (black and tan).
They are miniature longhaired dachshunds, all from the
same breeder. Katrina and Luna are aunt and niece.
Maura is not related.

A sunrise framed by the front gate.

Hope you've enjoyed your visit with Star and the ranch photo album.

Have a great week.