Friday, June 28, 2019

NEXT UP: COVER REVEAL/DEAL FOR TROUBLE IN MIND!

Life has suddenly gotten VERY interesting around here--skip to the end to see why! Nonetheless, book news just can't wait! Take a look at the new cover for Trouble in Mind, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 2!


Another winner by artist Jessica Hildreth! If you are a member of my Interstellar Rescue Squad Facebook Group, make sure to check in to see the full paperback cover, exclusive to Squad members!

And, of course, I'm running another Kindle Countdown deal for this second book in my series starting at midnight tonight PDT. The starting price is only $0.99 for the first 24 hours! The special runs through midnight July 3, so you'll have time to download something to read on your Kindle for the the Fourth of July holiday!

Don't remember what it's about? Here's the blurb:



She couldn’t get him out of her mind—
and that’s when the trouble started.

FBI Special Agent Alana Matheson is good at her job, despite a past that would make even a seasoned agent cringe. She has no time for the outside help the victim’s family has brought in on a kidnapping case, no matter how good-looking he is.

But galactic tracker Gabriel Cruz is no ordinary private investigator, and the skills he brings to the job will save both their lives. Because Lana and Gabriel are not the only ones seeking an unusual little boy and his mother. Their rivals in the chase are not of this world, and only an alliance built on the bonds of love can ensure that Lana and Gabriel beat the alien hunters to their prey.


Get your copy of Trouble in Mind, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 2 from Amazon NOW!

Oh, and why the complications? Two new six-month-old puppies have joined our household this week, much to the chagrin of our cats. Meet Skiffy and Rom!

Oh, sure, we look innocent NOW!


Cheers, Donna

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Morgan's Misfits Collection is here

I confess I'm finding it hard to get into the writing of a new book. I keep threatening to write a sequel to For the Greater Good (Puss in space) but while I have some starter ideas, it's not enough for a whole book, so the plot is simmering on the back burner until I have a Eureka! moment. We can live in hope.

Meanwhile, I had some fun designing a cover for a collection of the three Morgan's Misfits books. It's out there now, costing rather less than if you buy the three novels individually.

All three Morgan’s Misfits adventures in one volume.
 
Morgan’s Misfits – Jirra, a Hasta ex-Fleet engineer who's in love with the wrong man, Chet, a Mirka who was a detective and has been exiled, and Toreni, an elite Shuba trooper who'd rather be a chef. It’s an unlikely alliance of women who don’t quite fit into the rigid caste system of their society.

Working with Morgan Selwood, they embark on dangerous adventures to help Fleet in its fight against enemies of the Union. Success demands more than team work. They’ll have to jettison their own prejudices and forge relationships free of the rules and caste lines that dominate ordinary social mores.

And navigate the uncharted space lanes of romance.

  • Kuralon Rescue – the Misfits stage a daring raid to rescue two men from a prison plane
  • Rescuing Romila – the Misfits are on a mission to uncover a drug-smuggling operation.
  • Escape from Shar Burk – the Misfits rescue Shar Burk’s governor’s mistress from certain death – but what did she do to deserve a death sentence?
NOTE: All three books have been published individually

Buy the books at: Amazon B&N iBooks Kobo

Monday, June 24, 2019

"Un-manning" Space Exploration

Next month we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. If you've been on Earth that long, you probably remember what you were doing at that historic moment, though you were most likely just a kid.



But today I want to talk a little about the point that the SyFy series The Expanse really drove home--space exploration is for everyone. Not just males. And there's been some considerable effort involved in "un-manning" space language the last few years. The term itself is now considered archaic and sexist. Using "manned" and "unmanned" implies that females are not included in the equation, and we all know that's very untrue.

Image credit Depositphotos.com
Back in the 60s, this thinking might have aligned with the views of the time, but a lot of things since the 60s have, well, evolved. We've made many advances forward in five decades, and our astronaut corps is now very diverse. But that's not to say our thinking as a culture has changed.

Even in 2019, the terms "manned" and "unmanned" are still in use. It's a matter of perception, but sometimes perception is everything. Using a sexist term allows some people (especially those who tend to be sexist) to mentally exclude women. Yet women have contributed substantially to space exploration ever since the white-shirt-and-pocket-protector mindset of the 60s--as astronauts, as team members supporting the missions and as scientists on the cutting edge of astrophysics, astronomy and other sciences. In fact, there have been about 60 women from 10 different countries who have had missions in space. High time to change the "manned mission" language, I would think.

Although the colonization of Mars is being spear-headed primarily by wealthy white males, Dr. Mae Jemison--a black woman astronaut who has the experience of actually having been in space--now heads the 100 Year Starship Project, with the ambitious goal of reaching another star in the next century.

Below is a short video of Dr. Jemison explaining the 100 Year Starship Project, to educate the public what the mission is all about.




So what's being done to eradicate gender-based terms?

Ariel Waldman, founder of spacehack.org, adviser to NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program and co-author of a National Academy of Sciences study on the future of spaceflight, took the initiative to start educating the press in 2014. She tweeted a "Memo to Journalists" reminding them to stop using terms like "manned" and "unmanned" in their reporting, and start using the more fitting terms such as "crewed" and "uncrewed."

There has been resistance to the new terms for two seemingly silly reasons. Because the term "crewed" is not in the Associated Press Style Guide, reporters claim even if the non-gender term is used it is often edited to "manned" which is included in the style guide. (Time for a new edition, Associated Press!) And also because the term "crewed" when spoken is often confused with "crude." (Imagine the phrase "the first crewed spacecraft bound for Mars" being confused as "the first crude spacecraft bound for Mars.") For this reason, some prefer to use "human" or "robotic" missions.

Actually, back in 2006, NASA's History Programs Office published a style guide that said in part space program references should be non-gender specific. Yet here we are, thirteen years in the future, and journalists and writers are still using terms like "manned mission," "sending men into space," and "landing a man on Mars."

As a writer, this hit home.

Language changes over time as the culture changes. As writers (and readers) revising our own references from "manned" and "un-manned" and other gender-specific terms to more inclusive terms might help move the world a little faster toward including them in dictionaries and style guides.

As for this writer? I can see I've got my work cut out for me when I do the next edit of The Outer Planets, which takes place only about 20 years in our future. At the time I originally wrote the novel, "manned" and other gender-specific terms was the norm in relationship to space exploration and I confess I didn't give this a lot of thought at the time. Editing to remove such terms in this and other books will be my contribution to un-manning space exploration. After all, fiction can also be an important part of modern culture.

Have a great week!

Resources:
Unmanning Space Language: Outer Space and Gendered Language
No Longer Hidden Figures: Women in Space Leadership
Men, Women and Mars: How Gender Diversity is Key for Success



Friday, June 21, 2019

UPDATED COVER REVEAL--AND A COUNTDOWN DEAL!

You may remember that I've been slaving over new editions of my Interstellar Rescue series books. All that reformatting work is done, and the new expanded works are getting all prettied up with shiny new covers by super-talented cover artist Jessica Hildreth. The first ebook cover is ready for prime time. What do you think?


 Yeah, I think it's pretty spectacular, too! And in honor of the unveiling, I'm running a Kindle Countdown deal on this book only starting at midnight tonight (June 22, 12:00 a.m. PDT) and stretching through midnight Tuesday night (June 26, 12:00 a.m. PDT). Discounted pricing starts at only $0.99! Don't forget the new edition includes a bonus short story set in the IR universe, as well as this gorgeous cover!  Can't wait to have it? Just click here for your Kindle copy of Unchained Memory: Interstellar Rescue Series Book 1.

P.S. If you prefer to read in paperback, don't fret. The hard copy version with its own lovely cover will follow shortly. Watch this space for the big reveal!


Cheers, Donna

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Sphere: Great Sci-Fi That I Somehow Missed

Recently, I tuned in to a Sci-Fi movie that I hadn't heard about. I dunno, maybe I've been living under a rock, but it seemed to have had a pretty high budget and a truly all-star cast: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, and more...

The premise involves an extraterrestrial ship found at the bottom of the ocean and a team sent in to investigate. The ship is believed to have come to rest on the ocean floor some 300 years earlier.

Here's the scene that sets it up:




What the team uncovers is truly shocking. After the vessel inexplicably opens for them, they find a very agreeable habitat inside the ship. In fact, it appears as though it was built for a species very similar to human beings.

That turns out to be more than coincidence when they discover who built it! But remember the part about it being at the bottom of the ocean for 300 years? What this team had on their hands was a science mystery of epic proportions.

I won't offer any real *spoilers* because if this much intrigues you, you should discover the story for yourself. I will say it had plenty of twists and turns and IMHO it wasn't a typical sci-fi plot where you could anticipate each coming scene. There were always surprises, a few that were "didn't see THAT coming!" and intelligent characters who acted in intelligent ways though they had their flaws, quirks and personal demons to overcome (but no TSTL characters or actions! Hurrah!) As things began to unravel and the mysteries and circumstances became more life-threatening, they were, at times, irrational. (If I'd been in their shoes, I would have been irrational, too!)

The ending was very satisfying for this viewer, because it didn't end the way I anticipated, nor was it a complete downer of an ending. It had a twist that fell somewhere between "killer" and "Ahaaaa!" There was a paradox to resolve and it was resolved in a satisfying but highly unexpected way.

It's really hard to write an interesting review without giving you major spoilers, so instead let me talk a little bit about the elements. I think those alone might intrigue you.

The Sphere movie poster copyright the
studio and/or its advertising entities.
The film had a decidedly Close Encounters meets The Abyss meets War Games meets Alien flavor. I list Alien last because--even though some scenes and a lot of the set were eerily similar to the original Alien franchise blockbuster, I will clue you in that there was no aggressive xenomorph stalking the crew. Or at least, not one of the same variety as the creature that stalked the Nostoromo's unfortunate inhabitants. But's that's not to say they weren't being stalked.

Was there terror, tension and heart-pounding suspense? Oh yeah. Character conflicts? Plenty! Mystery? Leagues of it. References or tributes to other sci-fi tales--media or print version? A-yup! But many times scenes didn't play out the way you anticipated, and that was part of the charm--if you can consider this story in any way "charming."

It's equal parts smart, scientific, absorbing, it entails some jaw-dropping special effects, a whole lot of psychological thriller, and it's filled with little zingers of dark humor, so it definitely held me in thrall until the closing credits started to roll.

There are title cards that divide the film into segments and hint at what's coming next, such as “The Sphere,” “The Spaceship,” “The Monster,” etc. But the title cards don't give all that much away and each segment usually has its surprises.   

Sadly, there was no true romance involved, though there were allusions of a past romantic entanglement.

I found the ending something that writers could sink their teeth into. It really got my "What If" thrusters firing on full power. As always, your parsec mileage may vary. When I researched the film, I was shocked that it was made in 1998, though Sharon Stone's Total-Recall-esque appearance should have clued me in. The good thing is that the special effects, set and lighting didn't say "old film."

I don't know how I missed this when it came out, but I'm really glad I caught it later on satellite. If this sounds like your kind of story, catch it if you can.

And have a great week!




Friday, June 14, 2019

OFF TO S.P.A.C.E.!

I REALLY hope not like this!
No time to blog this week--I'm in the metropolis of Spruce Pine, North Carolina for the first annual Spruce Pine Alien Conference and EXPO! I'll be speaking on the Alien Nation panel with Mike Bara of Ancient Aliens fame, and selling and signing books in the vendors' area. Wish me luck, y'all, and hope I don't get Taken in the process! Follow all the fun on Facebook!

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Printing with Draft to Digital.


I publish my books through Amazon directly, and through Draft to Digital (D2D) for everyone else. I've always been very happy with D2D's service and when I was offered the chance to use their new Print beta, I thought I'd give it a go. And since a couple of people asked me about the experience, I decided I'd share.

I'm using two examples - my latest SFR, Escape from Shar Burk, and my historical fiction novel, To Die a Dry Death. Both books are already out in print, released originally through Createspace and then later converted to Kindle print when Createspace was retired. The cover of TDaDD was done by the wonderful Rebecca Poole of Dreams to Media, so I had a jpg cover file she'd created for the Createspace load. I created my own cover for EfSB. Of course, I created the pdf files from the manuscripts.

One small tip - rather than use Word's export to pdf, I found it better to use a third party export to pdf called doPDF. It's a free tool which allows you to embed fonts (very important) and I've never had problems loading the resulting pdf file into Creatspace, Kindle, or Lulu. You'll find doPDF here.

Also, there's an error when D2D loads Explorer for you to choose a file. It's set to list pdf or jpgs but they're not all listed. Just go down and ask to see all files. I expect that will be fixed in the fullness of time.

Standard conversion

D2D has developed a pretty classy program which will do a good job of converting the epub file it creates from the Word file you loaded for your ebook into a print file. The size of the print book is set to 5.5 X 8.5 inches. It creates a spine and back for you, using the major colour it detects in your ebook cover.

To get to the print option, just select your book from the list and select the orange 'Print Book' tab NOT the dark blue button marked '4 Print'. That's not exactly intuitive and I had to ask about why the options I got were not what I expected.

From that orange button you'll see this screen
 


You'll see you have two options – Start Your Print Book or Advanced Print Options. If you select the standard out-of-the-box paperback would look like this – using Escape from Shar Burk as an example. 
  


It's pretty classy, with a D2D allocated ISBN, with the blurb and your bio and photo on the back. (And yes, if you have your own ISBN it can be entered in the advanced options.)

To see what the book looks like, click on the graphic. You'll see the cover, interior, and back cover. Here's what this book looks like inside, using the header graphic I selected for my ebook. But it seems you don't get a table of contents.




Advanced options

If you want to load your own MS pdf, your own cover, or your own ISBN select the advanced options. You'll see there are fields to enter your own ISBN and to upload your own pdf file. When I loaded my manuscript's pdf file, the system recognised that I wanted the book to be 6 X 9.

Note that there are still some glitches in this beta. The circle telling you the system is working just sits there. You need to be patient while it finishes processing. That can take a minute or two.




I saved and continued to load my cover file. Before I uploaded my own file D2D showed me what the cover would look like if I used their generated cover. It's pretty good, but the font on the spine is different and of course, so is the art work.



If the cover image you load doesn't match what D2D requires, you'll receive an error message stating what the size should be in pixels. You can also download a template to load into Photoshop so you can correct the size. Here's what happened with EfSB's cover.


 

You can download the template into Photoshop, resize your image and try again. This happened to me with my To Die a Dry Death image file. I resized the jpg file in Photoshop and tried again.





As you can see, it all worked. I submitted my project and now I'm waiting for D2D to vet the files and send me an email, informing me I can order a copy.

All in all, it's pretty slick.It seems you can use the D2D generated MS and your own cover file, or use your own ISBN. Having worked through the gotchas, I'm happy with the end result.

I hope this helps people who are thinking of having a go.





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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.