Friday, September 28, 2018


The concept of a fall television season is pretty outdated by now, given that new shows debut nearly every month on one platform or another. Streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime just throw things out there whenever they please; cable networks have never seemed to have defined seasons; and even the old broadcast networks have fall, winter, summer and “limited run” shows. It’s downright confusing for a child of the rabbit-ears generation like me.

Wow, Mom and Dad--it's the Fall TV Season!
But, okay, right now we have a treasure-trove of new stuff to look at: new shows, old shows coming back with new episodes, beloved canceled shows moving to new platforms. There is much too much content for me to cover it all with a blog post; I recommend a subscription to TV Guide to keep up with everything. I do have a few observations, however.

1) Some great shows have been saved from cancelation by the streaming services. Lucifer, starring Tom Ellis, a light-hearted paranormal crime dramedy, was picked up by Netflix when Fox canceled it. I was cheering, because I love the characters in this story of the sexy Devil who quits his “job” in Hell and sets up in a nightclub in L.A., then falls for a detective in the LAPD. Word on the street is that Star Trek star William Shatner helped save this show by tweeting his support to his millions of Twitter followers.

Our Spacefreighters favorite,The Expanse, was similarly plucked out of the Syfy Channel discard file by Amazon Prime after a fan campaign. It’s almost enough for me to buy that Prime contract, though I’ve been resisting all these years.

2) Manifest, another paranormal drama built along the lines of Lost orThe 4400, debuted this week on NBC. A commercial airliner disappears on a routine flight from Jamaica to New York, then reappears five years later. The people aboard haven’t aged a day; to them, no time has passed, they’ve just gone through a little turbulence. Their readjustment to daily life is complicated not only by what has happened in the time they’ve been gone, but by the fact they’ve acquired supernatural abilities in the meantime. 

The first episode was intriguing in a variety of ways, and not nearly as headache-inducing as Lost. The show definitely has a religious or spiritual vibe, though; I found that interesting, but some may find it off-putting.

3) Speaking of Lost, a new show about a maverick hospital administrator seeking to make sweeping changes in the way health care is delivered at a big public hospital in the city describes New Amsterdam, on NBC. I’m a sucker for medical shows, so I tuned in, only to be so confused I had to turn to my iPad for clarification.

The star of the show is Ryan Eggold (formerly of The Blacklist):

Could he be the long “lost” brother of Matthew Fox, star of “Lost?”:
Matthew Fox, actor best known for Lost

Weird, right? Not that I would kick either one of them out of bed for eating crackers, as my mama used to say.

4) The best medical show on television is still ABC’s The Good Doctor, starring Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel), the story of an autistic surgical resident with genius-level med skills and almost no people skills. Highmore is brilliant as Dr. Shaun Murphy, and his supporting cast stretches to come up to his level. Lisa Edelstein (House) joins the cast as the oncologist treating the brain tumor affecting Dr. Murphy’s mentor, Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff). If you aren’t watching this show, start now.

5) Science fiction has cresting on television for a couple of years now, but it appears that wave has receded. No new shows have made the list (unless you count Manifest, which I wouldn’t, really.) Many have been canceled or shunted to streaming services. The hot trend is “emotional family” stuff, following the success of This Is Us (A Million Little Things), heavy crime drama with an anti-terrorist twist (FBI, based on the success of SEAL Team, Blindspot and Quantico), or reality TV (too many shows to mention). 

The top 20 most popular shows are absolutely dominated by “unscripted” shows—talent competitions, football, “bachelor/bachelorette” crap, game shows. The only breakthroughs are aging comedies (Big Bang Theory, and its spinoff, Young Sheldon) and, rarely, a few episodes of the shows I mentioned.

My advice? Don’t look for a career as a television writer, especially if you write SFR.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Tales from the Longview - not your usual SFR

Many of you will have heard of Holly Lisle, writer of many excellent books on how to write. She also runs courses for authors. I've bought a few of her 'how to' books and use them quite often because of her hands-on style with good ideas, presented in an accessible way with lots of examples. Visit her website to find out more.

But although I knew of Holly as a writing coach, I'd never read any of her fiction. I confess I've now read her books as a result of a clever marketing campaign she carried out via her mailing list. In a kind of game she asked questions designed to have the person answering lead themselves to the items in her catalogue which would best suit their needs. Which is quite legit. Nobody was forced to buy anything. In my case, I was enticed into a group which was supposed to be coming up with plot ideas – and I was hoping to learn a few tricks of the trade along the way. She used an existing series for which she already had a number of titles – and of course, to contribute any ideas, you have to have an understanding of the universe and the characters etc. She managed to pique my interest.

It's Holly Lisle's Tales from the Longview series. The series is set in a dystopian future where rulers rule and everybody else does as they're told. It's a hive society where any deviation from the rules results in public execution. That's where the Longview comes in. It's the name of a ship of a type known as a 'death circus' where the condemned are taken off to die publicly at the hands of the highest bidder, a bit like the Roman colosseum, or the more recent beheadings in the Middle East. I read the blurbs on a couple of the books and while I tend to avoid dystopian fiction, I decided I could afford $0.95 for the first book, Born From Fire.   

 When love is crime, who will save the guilty?

MEET THE LONGVIEW - An Ancient Spaceship Resurrected To Transport Conspiracy

Inhabited by a crew of misfits fleeing nightmare pasts, with a cargo of Condemned slated to die at the hands of the highest bidders, and with a passenger roster made up exclusively of people NOT who they claim to be, The Longview serves the hidden agenda of an eccentric recluse bent on playing puppetmaster to all of Settled Space.

Author's note: This story was previously published as ENTER THE DEATH CIRCUS.

EPISODE 1: When love is crime, who will save the guilty?

After falling in love and fathering a child, a young criminal refuses to voluntarily throw himself into a lake of fire to gain his community's forgiveness. So he's sentenced to death and sold to the owner of a spaceship that buys criminals like him. But the ship and its crew are not quite what they appear to be.

You'll find the book on Amazon.

I expected that this book would be about the hope of finding a better future. And indeed, it was. Our criminal is taken on board the Longview, expecting to meet his fate. But it wasn't what he expected. From there  we learn about the men and women who work on the ship, and their backgrounds, which fills in the details about a society dominated by rich corporations. It's easy to find here on Earth parallels, if not at the extremes in the novel. Think Nazi or Communist regimes.

As an author I was intrigued by the style of writing. It repelled and fascinated me at the same time. I tried putting it down here and there, but I kept going back to see what happened next. That is rare for me. I usually just note a DNF and move on. But I persevered. It's a dark story, and not an easy read but the concept sucked me in sufficiently to take on the second book The Selling of Suzee Delight.

When slavery is virtue, who will fight for vice?
When Suzee Delight, famous Cheegoth courtesan, murders the five most powerful Pact Worlds' Administrators during a private summit, the owner of The Longview Death Circus struggles against conspiracy to win the bidding for her execution. Meanwhile, Suzee’s powerless supporters race to save her, while the leaders of worlds pull strings to guarantee her death.

You'll find the book on Amazon.

This book is a winner. Perhaps you don't need to have read the first story to appreciate this one but it certainly helps to understand what Suzee and both sides of her struggle are dealing with. It's the haves versus the have nots, it's subjugation versus freedom, and at its heart it's a love story. Maybe more than one. Perhaps the underlying theme is that oppression doesn't work. There will always be resistance to tyranny. And there will always be love.

The author skilfully made me care about the characters. Kagen, who we met in Born From Fire, comes into his own in this story. He takes a chance that's unexpectedly offered and makes it work. Suzee Delight herself comes across as a strong, impassioned woman who is willing to do what she must for the greater good. We met Charlie in the previous book, too, but we learn much more about her in this story. We also meet the mysterious owner of the Longview and his personal representative, Shay. What is his motive? Indeed, what is hers?

Reading it I had a number of 'how will this play out?' moments, a few times when I wasn't sure how it would work and though a part of the ending is predictable, a lot comes out of left field.

Although the books are not strictly romance, I can certainly say that in my opinion without the romance the stories would fall apart. If anyone else has read these books, I'd love to know what you thought.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Price She had to Pay #Snippet

I'm off on a junket!

Check back next Monday, October 1st, for a photo blog about my adventures.

Meanwhile, here's a snippet from The Outer Planets, where Lissa Bruce isn't so sure about the voyage she's about to make or the price she had to pay to be included in the crew of the planetary research vessel, NSS Robert Bradley.

*     *     *

Lissa’s mouth ticked down in a hard frown when she caught her reflection on the port surface. This stranger looking back at her was their doing, too. The doctors had made surgical alterations to her appearance, disguising the facial landmarks a human brain correlates to recognition. They’d permanently changed the color of her hair and irises. Platinum to honey blonde. Cornflower blue to aquamarine. She resented the medical slight-of-hand, but bowing to their demands had validated her ticket aboard the Bradley.

The shuttle yawed and rolled in a sharp arc toward the mother ship. Lissa braced and glanced at the pilot.

“Beginning approach,” he said. “You’ll need to strap in, Ms. Bruce. Standard docking procedures.”

Lissa snapped and tightened the crash harness, grateful the sudden maneuver and pilot’s instructions took her mind off her memories. She was still adjusting to her new identity and answering to a different name.

“You’re the last of the crew to arrive?” the pilot asked as he awaited instructions from the Bradley’s instructions.

“Yes. Number seventy-two.” Lissa fought a grimace. "I had an unavoidable delay." She’d pay for her late entrance. Tardiness was a sin Daniel—Captain Storing—didn’t tolerate.

“You’ll be one of the first people to see Jupiter up close and personal. I envy you. Opportunity of a lifetime.” The pilot turned his wistful gaze on the huge ship. “So better late than left behind.”

Lissa wondered if he was one of the thousands who’d applied and been rejected by the program. “Right.” She tried to keep the bite out of her tone. “Never could’ve forgiven myself.”

He glanced back, one eyebrow quirked. “Cold feet?”

“More like hot feet.” The left side of her mouth spasmed when she attempted a smile. “From running into the burning barn.”

Thanks for stopping by Spacefreighters Lounge. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my upcoming novel.

I'll be back next week to tell you about my adventure.

Friday, September 21, 2018


I had always thought I lacked the brain power to write straight romantic suspense. You know, dropping all those little clues along the way to lead the reader in the right direction, but not giving the villain away until the last spine-chilling moment. That’s difficult enough when you can throw in the odd alien or two for distraction; it’s well-nigh impossible when you’re working with your everyday human serial killer. And, apparently romantic suspense contest judges agree with me. I’ve tried numerous times and failed to even place in the prestigious Daphne du Maurier RS contest run by the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America®.
You don't need real-life experience to imagine a killer.
Now it appears it wasn’t brain power I was lacking, but, um, hands-on research. As if romance writers don’t have enough to contend with these days, headlines this week featured a self-pubbed author in Oregon who’d been arrested in the murder of her husband of 27 years. Turns out the woman, Nancy Crampton-Brophy, writes “steamy” romantic suspense novels, and had even written an essay a few years back titled, “How to Murder Your Husband.” Since the murder investigation is ongoing, the news reporters were unable to say whether the murder of Crampton-Brophy’s husband shared either motive or modus operandi with those described in the author’s article.

I have no opinion one way or the other on Crampton-Brophy’s guilt. But I would bet good money that her lawyer will certainly say at some point in the proceedings, “Surely, your Honor, you wouldn’t think my client would be so stupid as to write this article, THEN go out and actually MURDER HER HUSBAND, now would you?”

Or would she? Hmm.

The problem here, of course, is that your average “mundane” believes we write out of direct experience. Our writerly lives must be glamorous! Our sex lives are no doubt spectacular! I’m not complaining, (love you, honey!) but romance novels are fantasies. The men (and women) in them may have flaws, but when it comes to the bedroom, they are generally close to perfect, because that’s how we all like it. Otherwise, we’d be writing (and reading) some other kind of novel—women’s fiction, or literary fiction about a dysfunctional family, or something.

Those of us who write science fiction romance write about aliens and space ships and distant planets. Read my lips: WE HAVEN’T BEEN THERE. We are making it all up! 

I was at Shore Leave just this summer when a woman stopped at my table and scowled when she read the blurb on the back of my book. “Have you ever met anyone who was actually abducted by aliens?” she said.

“Well, no,” I answered.

“Well, now you have.” She didn’t look happy. “Not something I want to read about.”

I could believe that, actually. I did try to say that my books all have a happy ending, that the good guys always win against the Bad Guy Aliens. Didn’t help.

Not that I haven’t been tempted to fib from time to time. I can imagine the boost Ms. Crampton-Brophy’s books are getting on Amazon about now. If I came out with a story that the little Gray guys had visited me here in NC, I might manage to break out of the sales doldrums, too. For a while. Kind of an extreme promo tactic, though.

This is not me.
This is all to say that the old saw “write what you know” shouldn’t be taken literally. You don’t have to have been a victim of alien abduction to imagine what it must be like for those people. You don’t have to commit murder to put yourself in the mind of a killer. Research is useful to provide the details that provide texture and color to settings, emotions, backstory. But 90 percent of that is to kickstart your own imagination and ground it in reality. Your intuition “knows” as well as your sensory experience does. Trust that part of you when it’s not legal, sensible or possible to pick up the gun or board the ship to outer space. 


No doubt you've seen the destruction Hurricane Florence wrought in the eastern part of North Carolina. The deluge of rain, historic storm surge and howling winds ripped through countless communities on the coast and even miles inland, flooding and isolating dozens of communities. Folks here in Madison County, though, were spared all of that, though. The storm's track ran just east of here, through Yancey County and north through Virginia. We had a few mild rain showers and no wind. The temporary refugees who had sought to escape from the east and hunker down in AirBNBs or hotels here were at least able to relax a little. Now they wait for the flood waters to recede so they can go home. Those of us who are lucky enough to live here in the mountains are grateful. 

Cheers, Donna