Monday, July 13, 2020

Summer of SFR Book Selections

This summer the SFR Station is celebrating Science Fiction Romance.

For my blog today, I'm highlighting just a few of the books that are featured on the site.

My theme this week?

  Covers that Catch the Eye; Blurbs that Capture the Imagination 

I chose books with artwork and descriptions that suggests adventure, intrigue, depth and complexity, whether a space opera adventure or a struggle for survival on an alien planet.

The first was a 2019 SFR Galaxy Awards winner (the last year the awards were presented).

Aftermath
Hathe Series (Book #3)
by Mary Brock Jones
553 pages

War or Peace. It doesn’t matter. There is always an enemy.

Jacquel des Trurains of the planet Hathe knows all about enemies. He’s spent years as a resistance agent battling the Terran invaders of his home world. Now the war is over, but Hathe has been left divided and hurting. Years of oppression have left their mark on every dirtsider who stayed behind. The other Hathians who fled to the moon have now returned to their lost homes, but the greed of a few threatens all of Hathe. Someone has to fix it, and who better than a decorated leader of the Resistance. Jacquel is sent back into battle, but this time it’s to restore his home world. Then Jacquel’s bosses decide he needs help.

A gifted diplomat, Rheia asn Postrova spent the war off-world, playing twisted games to protect the secrets of Hathe. Talk, promise, beg; whatever it took to stop the other worlds betraying Hathe’s schemes to the Terrans. She’s paid her dues to Hathe. All she wants now is to hide in peace. Unfortunately, her boss has other ideas.

Together, Jacquel and Rheia must find a way to heal their home. But Jacquel has lost too many already. Can he risk losing—or loving—one more?

And Rheia has secrets of her own.

Find Aftermath (and other books in the series) on the SFR Station by clicking here

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Pet Trade
Central Galactic Concordance Series
by Carol Van Natta
121 pages

An injured veterinarian and a cyborg with unusual pets must join forces to save their town.

The vast Central Galactic Concordance strictly prohibits genetic experimentation and alteration of humans on any of its 500 member planets. Animals aren’t so lucky.

On a frontier planet, veterinarian Bethnee Bakonin made a home for herself in the frozen north. Her minder talent for healing all kinds of animals would ordinarily assure her success, but her unwilling stint in the shady pet trade industry left her damaged and scared. She works around her limitations as best she can, and rescues pet trade castoffs.

“Volunteered” for a black-box research project, elite forces Jumper Axur Tragon now has dangerous experimental tech in his cybernetic limbs. He escaped and crash-landed a stolen freighter in the northern mountains of a frontier planet, only to discover a secret shipment of designer pets was part of the cargo. Determined to do right by them, he enlists reluctant Bethnee’s aid in caring for them—a definite challenge, considering Bethnee is terrified of him.

When greedy mercenaries come raiding, can Axur and Bethnee work together to overcome their limitations, with help from their unusual pets, and save the day?

It’s a deadly adventure—with pets—in the fringes of space. Grab your copy of Pet Trade today!

Find Pet Trade and other books in the series on the SFR Station by clicking here.

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Last Run of the Ice Duchess
A Takamo Universe Novel
(A tale of the Distan Colonies Book 1)
by Shona Husk
162 pages

Bern Ober is on a discrete mission to the Evron starsystem of the breakaway Distan Colonies to gain support for a band of revolutionaries in the Terran Republic. It is a dangerous mission, but he is a dangerous man.

When Terran operatives capture him, Lady Fortini hires a reluctant smuggler and her starship, the Ice Duchess, to run the Terran blockade and collect him.

Captain Veronik Ayres and her intrepid crew must risk everything to run a gauntlet of warships to rescue the rebel spy. However, getting in is easier than getting out. To get back, the Ice Duchess must slip past the alerted Terran blockade ships or try their luck against the pirate corsairs of the Lotharian stellar coast.


Find Last Run of the Ice Duchess and other books in the series on the SFR Station.

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Stolen Flygt
The Flyght Series (Book #6)
by S. J. Pajonas
282 pages

One last mission to secure her birthright. A frozen world and a sinister conspiracy that may cost her land… and her life.

Vivian will do whatever it takes to finally be victorious in the battle for her family farm. So when her benefactor insists she infiltrate a hostile military base on a treacherous ice planet, she has no choice but to agree. But when two of her crew are apprehended during the operation, her focus shifts to desperate survival.

Outmanned and pinned behind enemy lines, Vivian’s options for escape dwindle. But everything she believes in turns on its head when she makes a shocking discovery in the base’s top-secret lab.

Can Vivian and her team evade a deadly trap to win back her legacy?

Find Stolen Flygt and other books in the series on the SFR Station.

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If you're looking for a great summer SFR read, be sure to check out these books and all the offerings on the SFR Station, where you can browse by author, sub-genre, pairing type, and even use the advanced search feature to narrow your scope. 

For the latest releases in SFR, click here:


Have a great week!


Thursday, July 9, 2020

BIG DILEMMA MAKES GREAT PAGE TURNER


In this time of pandemic, lockdown, global warming and general mayhem, I find I’m doing a lot of reading. And not, surprisingly, of SFR. For some reason, I don’t want to read about the future, about technology or science or shiny spaceships going to far-off planets. And certainly not about apocalyptic dystopias. I’ve got enough of that right out my front door, thank you very much. No, I choose to lose myself in the past a lot these days, in a time that may not have been any better, or even simpler, but was different enough from today that I can truly escape from the world of computers and cell phones and television news trumpeting the latest inanity 24-7.

I’ve written before of my admiration for historical romance writer Eloisa James, whose work was my entrĂ©e into the subgenre, and her incomparable talent for witty dialogue. I’ve blown through her catalogue and I’m anxiously awaiting her next book. Author Kelly Bowen has a way with broody heroes and quirky heroines. Mary Balogh writes beautifully of wounded heroes and heroines and how love heals. But right now I’m in the middle of a long string of books by Grace Burrowes, who is devilishly good at setting up what appears at first to be an insurmountable dilemma for her hero and heroine.
 
One of a series I've been caught up in lately.
This, of course, is the essence of the drama in a romance novel. In the girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-gets-boy-back, happy-ever-after romance arc, the central dilemma is behind the whole loss part. The loss, or black moment, is inevitable, if you’ve set up the dilemma correctly, because the hero and heroine have different goals and motivations, which lead to an underlying conflict of interest. How the lovers resolve the conflict/dilemma and find their happy ending keeps you turning pages. The more seemingly unsolvable the puzzle, the faster you’ll read, even when you know (because this is a romance!) that the story will have a happy ending.

For example, in A Truly Perfect Gentleman, The True Gentlemen Book 6, the hero is a newly minted country earl with lots of brothers and tenants (not to mention a crumbling estate) to support. He needs to marry a wealthy heiress.  But despite the financial pressure, he’s just not the fortune-hunting type. What’s worse, he’s already met and fallen in love with the heroine, a respectable widow who, alas, has not much money. Even she recognizes she’s not the right person for him and tries to bow out gracefully, though she loves him, too. Can they find their HEA, despite disasters at the home estate, uncooperative siblings and several wealthy young ladies who have set their caps at the earl? 

Well, yes, of course they can (and do), but all along it seemed like a narrow thing, thanks to the talent of the author, who keeps putting obstacles in her lovers’ path and reminding her readers that success is just impossible. As a reader, I’m enthralled, devouring the book—all Burrowes’s books—in a fever until the HEA is achieved at last. As a writer, I’m constantly trying to dissect the author’s methods, to see if I can learn her secrets.

One thing, at least, is obvious, if not easy to do: you have to keep up the pressure. My mentor in this business, science fiction author A.C. Crispin, once said you have to chase your protagonist up a tree, set a lion at the base of the tree, then throw rocks at your guy (or gal). In other words, you have to do everything you can to make it hard for your hero and heroine, throw obstacles in their paths, set up roadblocks, pile it on. Make your readers believe their situation is impossible, unresolvable. Only then can you perform the miracle of the happy ever after ending.

Some writers believe the way to do this is to have their heroes and heroines squabble through three-quarters of the book, then just randomly decide to make up for the climax and HEA. That doesn’t work for me. The central dilemma has to be real. It has to arise out of the goals and motivations of each character, which have to conflict in some way. That conflict can be mostly external, as it was in the book I described (the hero’s need for money and the heroine’s lack of it), but it helps if there is an internal component (the hero really couldn’t bring himself to marry solely for money). If the dilemma can be resolved simply by talking about it, it’s not a dilemma.

No danger of that with Grace Burrowes’s books. Every conflict is genuine, every dilemma seems incapable of resolution. Until it isn’t. Because, of course, this is romance, where we are guaranteed a happy ending.

Cheers, Donna

Science Fiction, please meet Paranormal

Science Fiction tends to be in the same section as Fantasy in most book stores, hence SFF. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. Anne McCaffrey's dragon books come to mind. Many people (most) would assume that a book about telepathic dragons would have to be fantasy. In fact a lot of people still don't believe the Pern books are SF, despite the fact that the dragons are genetically engineered from a species found on the planet Pern, and the inhabitants are humans escaping a war. I guess that's an in-built perception. Dragons = fantasy.

As I mentioned last week, science fiction can accommodate a lot of paranormal or fantasy elements, even magic – as long as the magic has at least a pseudo-scientific explanation. Probably the best-known example is Star Wars. Let's face it, Jedi are magic users, even if they call the power The Force. Then there are shifters – beings who can assume the appearance of an animal. On Earth, we call them werewolves or similar. Out there amongst the stars, they're aliens.

It's hardly surprising that quite a few authors have combined science fiction and paranormal elements into one story. And there's no doubt they're popular.

But I'm a boring old fuddy-duddy. I prefer my science fiction to be science. Yeah, yeah. I'm a Star Wars fan. That's an exception.

But then again, is it?

I'm in a re-reading phase at the moment, working my way through Linnea Sinclair's SF stories. I'd read Gabriel's Ghost and Shades of Dark (the two books are essential the same story) before but I'd never read them a second time. Part of the reason was because they are that mix of SF and paranormal. I also didn't like the opening scene in Gabriel's Ghost where Chaz kills a Takan guard. This time, though, I knew who Chaz was and the circumstances she was in from my first reading of the book so I found it much easier to get into the story. A true space opera, the plot is full of politics. There's an Empire, a powerful Imperial fleet, and several species of aliens. I loved the machinations and intrigue. That's just my sort of thing and had me turning the pages.

The paranormal element is just as important. The books are written in first person from Chaz's point of view. Although it's not my favourite style, I think it was the right choice. It's a very sensual book, chronicling the slow burn of the relationship between Sully and Chaz as she peels off layer after layer to find out more and more of what Sully is – and the ever-present darkness lurking in the wings. It's called Shades of Dark for a reason.

I have to say that just like in my first read, my own book-boyfriend from this story wasn't Sully, it was Chaz's first husband, Philip Guthrie. (They're divorced) I gather I wasn't the only one. Admiral Guthrie got his own book, the next in the series.

Would I read these two books again? Most certainly. There are levels of complexity in there which can be teased out in subsequent reads. I love that. But most important for me was the political saga, as the failing Empire begins to collapse.

Do you have any favourite SF/Paranormal mashups? Please share.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Music To SFR To #amwriting #inspiration


I've always talked a lot about how much music inspires me, and in fact how I couldn't live without it. I miss a day with no music. In the past three years I've been privileged to go to several concerts featuring my two most favourite bands - The Rasmus, who inspired so much of the tone and feel in my Keir series and got me writing again, and Starset who have now become my favourite band to write to, and who I never expected to ever see in concert in the UK. I've now seen them FOUR times, twice as support and twice in their own right on tour. I saw them in February as headline, and each time I think I've already seen them at their best, they just set the bar higher again, with a super appropriate change of image and a set of songs that fit with our current pandemic.

While The Rasmus still take full credit for inspiring Keir, Starset have definitely taken the top spot as my SFR muse. Why? Not just because I love their music and lyrics, but because to me they encapsulate what SFR is, or at least the kind I like to write. Star-crossed lovers, separated by space and time, galaxies colliding, telepathy, enslavement, end of the world stuff. And it's not just music. No, these guys have a novel and a graphic novel out too. They are all about the science, and the fate of humanity, travel to other worlds, and messages from the future. It's not just what they do, it's what they are. Wrap all that up in a song and a video, and I'm a happy space bunny. Just as an example, the video below has always reminded me of The Martian (or rather The Martian reminds me of this, since I saw the music video first).
Or if that doesn't light your fire, you could try Breaking Benjamin's Ashes of Eden (undertones of Passengers), Linkin Park's In The End (for a touch of apocalyptic), or The Rasmus with Justify (a very Keir song, lol).




Writing Update
So, since editing and publishing my Christmas story last year, I've been working on Redemption 2.5, the story my editor felt was missing before book three of the series. I'd always had a vague idea for it in my head, but it wasn't until the release of Starset's Vessels album helped me fix some frankly terrible elements in book three and turn it into something that might actually work that I felt I could do something with it. Despite slowly recovering from burn out and wanting to write again, working full time didn't leave me much...well...time! However, by the start of this year I felt I might be approaching a point with it where I was thinking about booking actual edits for it. Well, more the point of 'omg, this story sucks!!' But as things happen, my beloved editor posted a discount for edits booked and I took it as a sign. Redemption 2.5 was booked for a slot in June. I've now completed the first round, and while I was waiting for those I've finally finished a solstice scifi novella, tidied up an angel short story, and re-opened book 3. Seems I'm an all or nothing kind of person...


About Spacefreighters Lounge

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.