Monday, February 25, 2019

Big News! #booknews #amwriting

Today I can *finally* announce something that's been in the works for several weeks, and I've been chomping at the bit to tell you the news!

Pets in Space® 4 is coming October 8, 2019!
And I'm one of the authors in this year's collection!

I'm really excited to be back in a Pets in Space® collection for 2019, especially after sitting out 2018. I already had a story idea in my head for a third StarDog installment, this one entitled SpyDog. This novella was going to happen with or without Pets in Space, but I'm much happier about it being part of the collection, as with the previous two stories StarDog and Courting Disaster. I'll talk a little more about the story below.

This time, 13 leading science fiction romance authors have banded together to bring you new and original stories from their popular series. Here's the complete line-up of authors (which, by the way, like the original PISA will simply be called "Pets in Space® 4," with no extended title this time!)

Pets in Space® 4 promises to be another great reading adventure and will once again support the wonderful organization! Once again, 10% of all pre-orders and first month's royalties will go to support this wonderful organization that raises and places support dogs with US veterans. Watch for more announcements between now and the release date.

Meanwhile, you're invited to join the Facebook Readers' Group for fun, updates and insiders' info: Pets in Space Readers Group on Facebook

And be sure to sign up for the Pets in Space® Newsletter, too!
  13 leading science fiction romance authors have banded together to bring you new
and original stories from their popular series

Inherit the Stars Celebrates its Four Year Anniversary!

It's really a little bit hard to believe that the anniversary of my debut novel being published happened last Friday! 

Inherit the Stars was 'born' on my birthday in 2015.

Where or where do the years go?

Inherit the Stars was a 2011 RWA Golden Heart finalist (under working title P2PC), and after being published it won the Carolyn Readers Choice Award, was given a coveted A+ rating by Reading Reality review site, and was named one of the best books of 2015 by

Inherit the Stars was, of course, the anchor novel from which all the StarDog stories sprang, and SpyDog will be no different. In fact, the events in SpyDog will happen at the same time as some of those in Inherit the Stars, so you'll get a very different perspective of the same timeline.

Although the stories were created to be read in any order, here is the time chronology of the four books:

StarDog - six moons (months) before the beginning of Inherit the Stars.
Inherit the Stars - anchor novel, events leading up to Operation Reset.
SpyDog - concurrent with Inherit the Stars and Operation Reset.
Courting Disaster - three calendars (years) after Inherit the Stars.

My mission for 2019 is to have all of the above titles published, plus a holiday story prequel to Inherit the Stars tentatively titled The Crucible. 

And possibly even the full length novel, The Outer Planets, which stands alone in its own timeline of the Inherited Stars Universe, but establishes important elements for the future Draxian Trilogy.

The next novel in the series, Inherit the Vengeance will take place seven calendars (years) after Operation Reset, and four after Courting Disaster. As the title probably suggests, the remnants of the Ithian Alliance did not go softly into the night and now they're out for the ultimate revenge. The book will feature many returning characters, along with a couple of new faces.

It's going to be a very busy year!

I may have even more big news coming next Monday (or...soon).

Have a great week!

Friday, February 22, 2019


With a writer like James Cameron (TITANIC, AVATAR, et al) and a director like Robert Rodriguez (DUSK TO DAWN, SIN CITY, GRINDHOUSE, et al) you would think the SF action film ALITA, BATTLE ANGEL, in theaters now, would be a slam-dunk. 

In fact, I couldn’t wait to see what the collaboration of these two cinematic visionaries would produce. After all, we have hundreds of science fiction romance novels and stories being published every year—plenty of raw material to work from, right? The state of the art in computer-generated imagery is phenomenal. If you can imagine it, someone can put it on the big screen. And with guys like Cameron and Rodriguez on board, money will be no object.

But, though it’s true ALITA, BATTLE ANGEL is chock-full of CGI visual delights, it is sadly lacking in narrative cohesion or any kind of depth. Even the angst that usually affects Rodriguez’s charismatic antiheroes is missing here, replaced by a predictable cyber-teenage coming-of-age theme. The director’s touch is apparent, though, as [spoiler alert] romance falls by the wayside in favor of the tragedy that spurs our heroine on toward her ultimate fate.

The film has its moments. There is no denying the technology that allows actress Rosa Salazar to become the cyborg Alita onscreen is amazing. The incredible array of human/machine, animal/machine and machine/machine combinations that litter the screen staggers the imagination. And, of course, the fight scenes, chase scenes and rolling arena battles (think ROLLERBALL on steroids) between and among these cyborgs are a heck of a lot of fun to watch. This is a Rodriguez film, above everything.

The A-Team actors perform their jobs admirably, too, though they are given precious little to work with. Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly and Christoph Waltz (who plays Dr. Ido, Alita’s savior and father-figure) behave as if they are in a real movie, while I’m sure with every break in filming they went back to their trailers and consoled themselves by repeating, “I won an Oscar!”

Much of what is wrong with ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL lies in the fact that it has nothing new to say, despite all its visual flash. The powers that be in both publishing and filmmaking persist in thinking that SF is the realm of teenagers, so we get coming-of-age themes, whether the protagonist is a young Jedi, a rebellious winner of deadly games or a rebuilt cyborg. If that protagonist falls in love, it is first love we see, and likely tragic.

In this particular case, Scarlett Johansson’s THE GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017), like ALITA originally based on a manga story, addressed the themes of identity and humanity much better because Johansson’s Major was an adult. She had agency; she could act for herself from the beginning of the story (though the question of who is really in control is central to the film).

We don’t get much of those themes in ALITA. We get a lot of action, a lot of teen yearning. We get some “who am I?” We get bad judgment from both our heroine and her teenage love interest that leads to plot turns. But nothing unpredictable enough to be called twisty or even thought-provoking. We’ve seen this before.

And that’s a shame. With all the resources behind this film, we should have been open-mouthed with awe.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, February 21, 2019

First Man - it's not really about the moon landing

It seems these days when it comes to movies I either watch SF, documentaries, or historicals. This time it was kind of a combination of all three. Not exactly SF. Science Fact. I'd bought the DVD of First Man, a look at the life and times of Neil Armstrong as it fitted into the manned space program.

Of course, the Gemini and Apollo space programs were vital arcs in the movie – but it's not about the moon landing, it's about the man. The director tries to get inside him, see what made him tick. The loss of his daughter, Karen, to cancer at the age of three is shown as a vital part of his psyche. His wife, Janet, played an anchor role in keeping the family – Neil and their two young sons – together.

Some people thought this was an edge of your seat movie experience. It wasn't for me and I'll even admit to saying to my husband at one stage that I was bored. Kind of 'let's stop with the happy families and get in some more space time'. But I suspect that was me being churlish.

I think Neil Armstrong would have been a difficult man to get to know, let alone like. He is portrayed as very much a loner, not prepared to discuss his feelings with anybody. He was cool in a crisis, able to improvise to get results and from that point of view, after his heroics on Gemini 8, he was absolutely the best man for the job of piloting the lander in the Apollo 11 mission.

The whole movie also made it clear the extent to which NASA was driving the president's promise (we will land a man on the moon in this decade) by the seat of their pants, always one step behind the Russians. As Janet says (and I'm paraphrasing) "you pretend you know what you're doing but you're like a bunch of kids playing with a balsa wood plane and an elastic band". And she was right. Three astronauts died on the launch pad in Apollo 1. Others died in plane crashes. Death was always just one mistake away. One of the most powerful scenes for me is when Neil has been selected as command pilot for Apollo 11. Janet MAKES him go and talk to his two sons, makes him tell them that he might not come home.

That's how it was for all the astronauts' families.

The mon landing itself takes up the last few minutes of the movie. Basically it's not what the movie is about.

Here's a bit of background from somebody who's old enough to remember the space race and what it meant to the Western World.

I was 18 when Apollo 11 left for the moon, in my second year of a BA degree in history. Like many of my colleagues, I stayed home to watch history being made. The whole western world quivered with excitement. President Kennedy’s goal of a man on the moon within a decade was about to be fulfilled. We’d seen the dark side of the moon from Apollo 10 (and the Russian probes, but we won’t go there). And now it was all about to happen. You’ve all seen the pictures as the three men in their bulky suits took their last walk to the tiny, tiny module on the top of the Saturn V rocket. So did we, on CRT TVs.

Now was the day, morning in Perth, Australia, and I sat on the edge of my seat in the lounge room, eyes glued on the TV while on the other side of Australia the signals came in to Parkes. We never knew, of course, that Armstrong had taken over landing the module himself, looking for a flat piece of Moon. Never knew he had 30 seconds of fuel left. That came out later. I peered at grainy black-and-white footage. First, the lander’s leg resolved itself and then you could just make out the ladder. Then a boot appeared and Armstrong eased his body down onto an unknown surface and uttered his famous words, ‘that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. Even then I wondered how long he’d been rehearsing; and who had written it for him. Here’s the footage

The next few days went by in a blur of extra-terrestrial shots of footprints on an ancient landscape, attempts to raise a US flag fitted with an arm because there was no wind, the famous photo of the moon reflected in a visor. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong cavorted like a couple of kids in the weak gravity, while Collins stayed up there in the capsule. I held my breath on that final day when they blasted off to dock with the capsule and cheered when they splashed down in the Pacific.

It was years later before we all began to realise how dangerous the whole thing had been. These men were pawns in a race with the USSR – which had its own pawns, of course. NASA took a lot of risks and I’ll bet Mission Control had its fingers crossed many a time. What happened on Apollo 13 is a case in point. If you don’t know, go see the excellent movie of the same name, starring Tom Hanks. So the USA won the race. But interest waned quickly; the last manned flight, Apollo 17, was in 1972 and we don’t look like going back any time soon.

I suspect when 'we' do, the astronauts will be Chinese.

Friday, February 15, 2019


It may be difficult as you struggle with the daily onslaught of personal challenges and the very real threats to the survival and well-being of the human race, but today I ask you to spare a thought for the delicate and beautiful monarch butterfly, a creature it seems that may be not long for our world.

We have known since as early as 2014 that the Eastern monarch population was in serious decline. Even at that time, scientific and citizen counts of the insects as they plied their annual migrations through the eastern U.S. to Mexico told us their numbers had declined by 90 percent, largely due to the lack of availability of their major food source, milkweed. It still remains to be seen whether last-ditch efforts by conservation groups and backyard gardeners to plant milkweed and protect remaining habitat can rescue a viable population to ward off extinction of this branch of the monarch family.

The situation on the West Coast of the U.S. is now just as dire for the western monarch, according to new reports from the Xerces Society, a citizens' conservation group quoted January 7 on Their latest migration counts show a dramatic drop in monarch populations in 2018 (20k), as opposed to 148k in 2018. Compare those numbers to the far healthier one million in 1997 and 4.5 million in the 1980s. The western monarchs are on the verge of extinction, largely due to drought, loss of milkweed habitat and pesticides, according to a collaborating study by the journal Biological Conservation.

We are seeing a lot of things disappear these days--beaches, birds, icebergs. But butterflies seem the hardest to flutter from sight.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The legend of the love lilies

It's Valentine's Day today, the day of love and flowers. Gifts to women a man admires have been around for - oh, ever, really. And I expect it'll keep happening in our science fiction worlds, too.

They don't exactly do Valentine's Day in space - but the Fleet has a lovely tradition. Let me tell you about it with a couple of excerpts from The Iron Admiral: Deception.

Allysha's secret admirer (she knows who he is, but nobody else does) sends her love lilies.


The team had just started on their first exercise when the IS spoke. "Allysha, you have a delivery."
Allysha straightened up beside Sirikit’s workstation. "Delivery?"
"Yes. Flowers."
Leonov’s clerk brought them in and left. Allysha flushed. Flowers again. They were beautiful, ten tall stems with blossoms like wine flutes arranged to display their deep red throats. Their fragrance was unmistakable, delicate and delicious.
"Are they from Brad?" Anna asked, her eyes dancing.
All of the others stared at Allysha, equally curious. She felt like a fugitive under a spotlight as she read the note. ‘I hope your week went well. Brad.’
"Well? From Brad?" Anna repeated.
Please, leave it alone. But they wouldn’t. "Yes."
"Was he there? At that course?" Anna asked.
She had to think for a moment. Oh, yes. She was supposed to have been instructing at a senior officer’s course. "No, he wasn’t."
"Ah hah. So he is a senior officer."
"Where did you get that from?" They were guessing; they had to be.
"The way you said it. As though no, he wasn’t there but he could have been." Anna's eyes sparkled with gleeful delight. "Besides, these are love lilies."
"What?" Allysha collapsed into her chair. She didn’t need this. But she was intrigued. "Love lilies?"
"Yep. It’s a Fleet thing. If a man gives you just one of those," Anna jerked her head at the flowers, "it’s understood to mean he’s serious."
Sirikit nodded, her liquid eyes sparkling.
"They’re hideously expensive," Todd chimed in. Allysha thought he looked rather somber. They might be hideously expensive to a lieutenant, but not to the man who sent these.
"Have you given one of these to anybody, Hassan?" Allysha asked.
"Me? Not a chance. Like Anna said, those lilies make a statement. I’m not ready for that, yet." He scratched at his cheek. "Besides, I wouldn’t want to disappoint anybody."
Todd rolled his eyes at Hassan. "Yes, of course, you’d have to consider your harem, wouldn’t you?" In a different tone he continued, "I gave one to Cornelia and I’ll bet Tensan gave one to Jinsu." He cocked his head at Tensan, who nodded.
"And Brad hasn’t sent one, he’s sent ten." Anna tilted her head and stared at Allysha. "So, you might not think it’s serious, but Brad sure as shootin’ does."
If she told them who Brad was, she was certain they wouldn’t believe her anyway. She took the flowers into her office. Maybe she could pretend they gave her hay fever and throw them away? She shook her head. That would just excite even more speculation. Best to carry on as if nothing had happened.


When she returns home, Allysha asks her Information System to tell her about the Fleet legend.


"Brew me some kaff, Albert, then tell me what you know about love lilies."
Allysha took her cup over to a chair while Albert talked.
 "It’s something of a Fleet legend, Allysha. It harks to the times when space travel took months or years and even moving from a planet’s orbit to a point where a ship could transfer to shift space could take days. Captain Isaac Ishkar finally found the woman of his dreams. But he was called to war before they could marry. He knew months would pass before his return and, having very little time to do much else, he organized with a florist to send his lady one of these flowers every week to remind her of him until he could return."
"Hm. And did he?"
"Yes. He was captured and imprisoned so he wasn’t able to return for two years, but then, at last, they were married. And now it has become something of a tradition for male Fleet officers to declare their intent by giving their lady one of these flowers."
One. He’d sent her ten. "Are they expensive?"
"It depends on the time of the year. Perhaps I should say, they are always expensive. When supply is low, they are extremely expensive."
"Why is that? Surely they’re cultivated?"
"They are. But the cultivated blossoms are not of the same quality. They lack the fragrance and glowing color of the wild stock."
He’d sent her the wild ones, of course. Never mind. For now, Allysha had more important things to do.


So there you have it. Love and legend are alive and well in the Ptorix Empire. I hope you got the cards, flowers, and chocolates you deserve. Meanwhile, I've got a book to finish.