Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Six Years Service: An Ongoing Mission? #amwriting #amediting

This Sunday marked my sixth anniversary as a crew member here at Spacefreighters Lounge, which caused a certain amount of introspection. My writing life has now been pushed so far onto the back burners that it feels abandoned and unloved. I've spent over a month struggling to finish a couple of paragraphs of editing. And word count? Well, thanks to those minimal edits I'm currently in negatives figures for 2018 so far. Not a great start.
Ideas pop into my head, plans for stories, series, revamps and collections, but nothing that has got my butt in the writing seat and my fingers to the keyboard. Too much real life stuff to do, and definitely none of the fire that first had me feverishly scribbling back when I took up an unfinished short story and turned it into a 110, 000 novel some nine years ago now.
What happened to that fire and enthusiasm? I suppose the realities of publishing, burn out, and a year of real life drama. I guess I'm still recovering, but I worry whether that original passion will ever come back, and even if it does somehow there aren't enough hours in the day. I used to make time, but that magical ability appears to have evaporated too.
But I'm not complaining. While I don't seem to be making a lot of progress with writing and editing, the royalties are slowly building up, ready to fund some of those currently vague unfulfilled plans I have, so it'll probably all work out. So while I'm a bit sad about not getting anywhere right now, I'm a touch optimistic about the future. I'm still here after six years, and no set plan to retire. :-P

Status Update
You know what I'm going to say. Reunion edits still aren't done. Maybe it would be easier and less repetitive if I just let you know when they are.
Chook Update
Right now I'm waiting in for a delivery of aviary panels for the girls' new super-run, and one that will finally allow us to walk upright in it rather than having to crawl around - another reason writing isn't happening. I'm not quite sure when the official build will start - we're still accumulating materials and have to convert a plastic storage unit into a coop as well, plus we need to somehow juggle the old coops and run in order to put the new ones in as they currently sit on part of the site needed for the new lot. Our poor girls are going to be somewhat confined for a while, and with a new avian flu alert I can't even let them free range in the garden when the weather permits. Hopefully they'll appreciate the extra space they'll get eventually.
In the meantime, here's a couple of pics of 'not such a baby now' Firefly (officially she's now an adult at 22 weeks, but still the smallest). In a rare moment of sunshine, I managed to capture the beautiful green iridescence on her feathers. Oh, and Kala and Phasma are settling in well, but refuse to stand still for the camera now.

And Jack Frost was apparently inspired by my girls to create these ice patterns.

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Evolving WIP: A WIP About Evolving

Before I launch into my blog this week, I want to mention the SFR Galaxy Awards will be announced this week on Wednesday, January 31st!

Please tune in to see the announcements as they're made each hour on the SFR Galaxy Awards Site, beginning with a welcome message at 8AM EST and the first of the award rounds posting at 10AM EST.

This is one of the rare award presentations where the authors don't enter to win, so the announcements are always a surprise.

Please come join us!

A New Story

A couple of years ago I had a stroke of inspiration and started writing one of those on-a-backburner-in-my-head stories that had been simmering away on my creative stovetop for many years. It started out as a lighthearted SFR story about two misfits who fell in love. But over time it evolved...

In a recent convo with a couple of peers, I described it this way (edited for this blog):

"I'm trying to finish up The Shell and the Star, which is an Inherited Stars Universe (not Series) book, but only tentatively, since it takes place 50,000 years in the future of Inherit the Stars. It's a Romeo and Juliette-esque story about two civilizations forging a bond of continuing self-reliance through an arranged "interspecies" marriage, but it has some fun twists.

And>Meaning of "The Shell" and "The Star"

The backstory hints at a Pern-style abandonment and resulting isolation, after a meteor event all but destroys the world. But two intelligent civilizations manage to survive, finding refuge in very different habitats, and a tenuous reliance on each other.

Visual inspiration for a semi-aquatic story.
The title refers to the symbols of the cultures to which the two main characters belong, one represented by The Shell, a society of aquatic beings who live in a shallow ocean, and the Star, a species that has evolved on an ancient, perpetual-use space station orbiting the ruined world.

The two species have survived by the grace of their delicate co-dependency. The society of the Shell relies on the technology supplied by the people of The Star, and The Star trades their technology for food to feed a population that has outgrown its limited agricultural resources.

Veros is (or at least was) the paradise world mentioned in both Inherit the Stars and Courting Disaster, a planet of warm seas and tropical islands. Fifty thousand years later, a percentage of the warm seas remain, but the once lush, tropical lands are now nothing but scorched earth. The people of the Shell have built their underwater cities in the shallow, protected bays of these oceans.

Home of "The Star"...better known as Talstar Station.
The species of the Star have evolved on a space station supplied with self-perpetuating energy systems built to operate continuously for 100,000 years. This station has now reached its half-life, and the increasing population of the Star is testing the sustainability of their habitat.

Those who recently read Courting Disaster in the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 collection may have guessed the identity of this manmade super-station. It's none other than Talstar--once home of the Universal Flight Academy and the Carduwan Fifth Fleet Headquarters in the long, long ago and all but forgotten.

The Star-(and Shell-)Crossed Lovers

Trey, the hero, and Jinn, the heroine of the story are both the children of important leaders, and both are outcasts of their respective societies due to their physical shortcomings. Trey is accepting and confident about his "disability" but Jinn is self-conscious and shame-ridden.

A meeting is arranged by their fathers--two loving and hopeful parents who wish to strengthen the ties--and the trade--between their two societies. Though Trey and Jinn strike a chord as kindred spirits, the soul-deep differences in how they view themselves and their place in society, along with conflicting cultural traditions, results in a heart-shattering outcome.

About that Disability...

In its infancy, I shared a portion of the WIP with a couple of local critique partners for their reaction. Though both had favorable comments, one was struggling to understand what the hero and heroine looked like. She scratched out a quick drawing of two squat, bulbous little bowling pin shaped figures and asked, "Is this how they look?" I stared at her drawing with raised eyebrows and a sinking feeling that, clearly, I needed to do a better job as the author. (Writer. Meet Shortcomings. heh)

The intended twist in The Shell and the Star is that Trey and Jinn look just like us--like modern humans--but their evolved, elegantly tall, graceful, long-limbed (or finned) contemporaries see them as hideously deformed social outcasts. Perhaps in the way our society would view a Neanderthal or a much earlier hominid if one were born in 2018. Perhaps viewed as a curiosity at best, but with those who are less tolerant seeing a freak evolutionary anomaly--what in animal husbandry is sometimes called a "throwback."

One facet of the story is how these children grow up to view themselves. And if they would embrace or reject the potential their differences offer. Trey and Jinn are throwbacks to our time. Two distinctly de-evolved individuals.

Or are they?

The Shell and the Star will go to my editor in about three weeks, with a planned release date in mid-2018.

Have a great week...and see you at the SFR Galaxy Awards!

Friday, January 26, 2018


The very first modern science fiction book I can remember reading was Rocannon’s World, by Ursula K. LeGuin, published in 1966 as an Ace Double with a forgettable novel by some other author on the flip side. (That is, you literally flipped the book over and there was another cover, another book that started on the other side.) The title was LeGuin’s first, too, and the beginning of her Hainish universe series. I don’t remember much about the story—age 13 not only seems a lifetime ago, it is a lifetime ago. I just know after I read that book I couldn’t get enough of science fiction—or of LeGuin either.

I read her award-winning SF books The Lathe of Heaven and The Left Hand of Darkness in college, long before I’d ever heard of the Hugo or Nebula awards. (The latter title won both awards in 1969.) Her next novel, The Dispossessed, also won the Nebula and the Hugo from the science fiction community in 1974. My husband and I used a quote from that book in our wedding ceremony when we married in 1976.

By this time, though, the SF world was undergoing a major upheaval. The kind of character-driven. “psycho-social” SF LeGuin and the rest of her New Wave fellows were known for was derided as “too soft” by hard-science writers like Ben Bova and Larry Niven. Tolkien was hot (showing up in Led Zeppelin lyrics and hippie artwork), so fantasy crowded science fiction off bookstore shelves, leading to an ugly backlash among SF pros. LeGuin, like many of her female peers, turned to fantasy and YA, leaving SF behind. Other female SF authors stopped writing altogether.

I lost track of my heroine for some time. But LeGuin never stopped. She wrote several award-winning fantasy and young adult series. She wrote children’s books. She wrote poetry. She was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2001, was made a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2003 and received numerous other awards over the years for her writing and contributions to the SF and fantasy communities.

In recent years, though she was in her eighties, she wrote a regular blog—thoughts  about her life, her writing, the adventures of her cat. I caught up with her, glad to have access again to her acerbic wit and keen insight. Now I have reason to say I’ll miss this woman who has had so great an influence on my life. Ursula K. LeGuin transitioned to the next world January 22, at the age of 88, after several months of declining health.

She leaves behind her body of work to have its impact on succeeding generations of readers, including this passage from The Dispossessed, which has such personal meaning for me and my husband:            

We come from great distance to each other, over great distances, over years, over abysses of chance. It is because we come from so far away that nothing can separate us. Nothing, no space, no time can be greater than the distance that stretches already between us, the difference of our being, our minds; that gap which we bridge with a look, with a touch, with a word, the easiest thing in the world.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Work in Progress is... progressing

Progress is being made on my new book, title unknown. Jirra, Toreni, and Chet (Morgan's Misfits) are on an undercover mission on Shar Burk, the sleaziest, most corrupt space station in known space. Their mission is to gather enough evidence to enable the Union Fleet to take down the station's mayor, Markus Soldar. After being elected to the post fifteen years ago, he has gradually increased his power base, so that he's the unassailable, autocratic ruler. Needless to say, he has acquired untold wealth, with his fingers in every pie on the station.

Our Morgan's Misfits trio have set up shop as independent freight carriers, using the heavily-disguised Vulsaur, which used to be Admiral Ravindra's yacht. Morgan Selwood has added a few top-secret smarts to the ship so it can actually change its superficial appearance from a sleek yacht to a little freighter showing its age, yet still have superior handling. Using their cover, the girls have been able to go in and out of Shar Burk, touting for cargo and learning what they can about the station and its dictator, Soldar. (If you glimpse a similarity with Putin of Erdogan, that's up to you <wink>.)

On one trip to the station, while they're conducting routine checks on the Shar Burk Police's system, they notice that the (female) owner of an arts and crafts store has called in a suspicious substance found in an imported artifact. The find is brushed aside as nothing, case closed, but not long after that one of Soldar's nastier enforcers is on his way to the shop.

This is what happens next – very first draft, folks, but you'll get the idea.

Romila glanced up at the chrono again. Two minutes to eight. She could probably safely start closing up shop. This sector of the Shar Burk space station tended to empty out around now. She turned around to lock the crystal cabinet behind the counter.

The door tinkled. Damn. Customers. She was looking forward to going upstairs, but that was retail, wasn't it? Fixing a smile on her face, she turned. "Good evening. How can I help you?"

Even as she said the words her pulse began to pound. The well-dressed man might have been interested in exotic crystal, and might have employed the Shuba towering behind him as a bodyguard. But the man exuded an air of menace. The half-smile on his face and the narrowed eyes hinted at a different purpose. Romila put her hand down under the counter, feeling for the grip of her laser pistol.

"Uh uh uh. Hands on the counter, Romila," the man said, stepping forward. "I wouldn't want Terkan here to have to make a mess."

The Shuba raised the Umex P-40 pulse pistol he held in one massive hand, its wide muzzle a gateway to hell. If he pressed the trigger, the shelves behind her would be shattered, and they'd have to pick pieces of her out of the wall to put them in a bag for the funeral.

Romila put her hands back on the counter. "What's this about?" Although she had a feeling she already knew.

The man made a show of sadly shaking his head. "You shouldn't have gone to the Sharpos."

Romila's stomach lurched. Her tip-off was supposed to be confidential. "I don't know what you're talking about."

The man's yellow eyes narrowed. "Terkan, why don't you see if those pieces on the wall over there bounce?"

Grinning, the Shuba swept his hand along a shelf, sending a row of carved glass animals crashing to the floor.

Romila winced. They were cheap, popular souvenirs now reduced to shards and splinters, a pretty obvious display of what could happen to some of her more expensive stock. "What do you want?"

The man stood in the middle of the shop and folded his arms. "Nice little place you've got here."

"Thanks." Romila swallowed while her heart beat set to burst. His lips had set into a predatory, mocking smile.

"We just want the crystals, darling. We know you've still got some. Hand them over and we'll be on our way."

Romila swallowed again. "The police took what I had."

The smile vanished. "I'm not sure I believe you." The man unfolded one arm and beckoned with his index finger. "Come around here."

To hell with that. She wasn't going to come quietly. Romila dived for her pistol and rolled with it clutched in one hand. Terkan swore, his feet crunching on the shattered glass. Romila poked her head around the counter and fired a long blast at him. He dodged away, out of her line of sight. But where was the Shuba's boss? Movement in the glass front of the cabinet caught her eye. She jumped up, fired, and retreated, rewarded with a hiss of pain.

"Drop the pistol, bitch." The Shuba stood beside the counter, the muzzle of the Umex aimed squarely at her. "Do it now. Dak wants you alive, but I don't think he'll mind if I hurt you."

Dak. That would be the man in the suit. He appeared now, his face twisted, one hand clutching his arm. "Give us a hard time and I might just change my mind," he snarled.

Romila put the pistol on the floor. She was running out of options, but at least they wanted her alive. For now. She didn't have any more of the statues where the crystals had been hidden. The detective had taken the other four. She'd have to make something up.

The front door slid aside.

Terkan spun around, his weapon raised. He fell backwards, raking the front of the shop with energy bolts. Romila crawled behind the counter while the air crackled and fragments of her shop clattered and boomed and splintered. A figure appeared, leaping past her and into the backroom, another figure in hot pursuit. If she was quick she might make it, too.

The firing had stopped.

"Romila? Suri?" The voice was female, coming from behind her, and sounded concerned more than anything else.

Romila looked around and saw a pair of legs lying on the ground, the rest of the body hidden by the counter. Another Shuba stood beside Terkan's body, a short-barreled rifle in her hands, but held at rest, not aimed at her. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. Are you police?"

The woman snorted a laugh. "No. We heard some crashing in here and thought we'd better see if we could help."

Romila forced her trembling legs to move and clambered to her feet. "Is he dead?" she asked, gesturing at Terkan's body.

The woman glanced at the figure lying face down on the ground. "Yes. Trust me, he's no loss." She gazed over Romila's head to the open back door. "Where does that go?"

"A small service area for unpacking and what not, a little kitchen and steps up to my apartment." Romila pointed at the ceiling.

"External exit?"

"Yes." Romila sighed. "It was open, too. I got a delivery a little while ago and didn't close up."
Footsteps sounded from outside. The Shuba woman gestured. "Better pick up your pistol and get out of line of sight of that door. I'm hoping it's Chet coming back, but if it isn't…"

Romila scooped up her laser pistol and moved to the other side of the counter, stepping over Terkan's body. He lay as if asleep, although the side of his face she could see was twisted as if he was experiencing a nightmare. Romila swallowed bile. She'd seen death before, but not like this.

The Shuba tensed, her rifle raised, as a figure approached.

"It's me." The green-eyed woman who stepped through the door spoke the words before she appeared.

"Did you get him?" the Shuba asked as she lowered her rifle.

"No. You know what those damned alleys are like."

"Just like Crossmar. Well, we'd better get out of here fast. Dak doesn't take kindly to losing, and he'll have backup somewhere."

There you have it. Romila's a girl on her own, trying to take over her dead parents' business. But women running any business except perhaps a brothel is frowned upon in Manesai society. And nobody - but nobody - messes with Soldar.

I wonder what happens next?