The space shuttle Atlantis made a safe landing today at Edwards Air Force Base in California, successfully completing a historic mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Florida storms detoured Atlantis away from landing at its home landing spot.
On Friday and Saturday, NASA called off all possible landing attempts because of weather on the East Coast.
Scott Altman, Commander, and his six crewmates made up the final Hubble repair mission that began 12 days ago. NASA's 19-year-old observatory is expected to continue to operate up to another decade after the $1 billion repairs and overhaul were performed.
This site is a well-organized and orderly source for the latest news on Artificial Intelligence--including news, breakthroughs, and research. It's arranged so that you can scan a number of titles and beginning paragraphs and clicks on those you're interested in and would like to read more.
Some of the more recent articles include: The Coming Superbrain, Could the Net Become Self-Aware, and An Invention that could Change the Internet. This site will be added to the Sci-Fi 101 box on the right sidebar as another excellent reference for Science Fiction Romance writers.
Q: Hi, Sharon, thanks for offering to share your experiences with other SFR writers and fans. Being a finalist for the RWA Golden Heart Award for Paranormal Romance must be very exciting.
A: Thanks very much for having me, Laurie! This was my first time to enter the GH, and I really had no idea what to expect. I knew competition was stiff, so I tried to put it out of my mind. Yes, getting the call that morning was quite a thrill!
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?
A: Well, let’s see. I live in Seattle with my husband and young daughter. My “day job” is freelance copywriting, though I’ve been on hiatus from that for about a year now. I lost a dear colleague last summer, and that started me thinking about how easy it is to put off your dreams until it’s too late.
I’ve been writing fiction off and on since I was 6. I read nonstop as a child, and I won an Honorable Mention in a Cricket Magazine contest when I was about 10. That’s really where it all started! GHOST PLANET is the first manuscript I’ve finalized and polished with the intent to seek publication.
Q: What sparked your interest in writing SFR? Are there any particular books or authors that inspired you?
A: The book that probably planted the seed was A Wrinkle in Time, though the “romance” between Meg and Calvin is pretty subtle. I loved the adventure and mystery, and the strong family bonds that hold the tale together.
Also I came of age over the course of the Star Wars saga, so that was a huge influence. I was probably the only gal who preferred moody, intense Luke to Han. (I never forgave Lucas for Luke being Leia’s brother.)
Q: Where did you get the idea or inspiration for GHOST PLANET, how long did it take you to write it and what’s the approximate length of the novel?
A: I had been writing fantasy shorts, sort of experimenting with what kind of speculative fiction I wanted to write, and had received a few Honorable Mentions from the Writers of the Future Contest. I decided I wanted to try something more in the sci-fi vein, and noodling around one day, the title GHOST PLANET popped into my head.
That got the creative juices flowing. I knew I wanted it to be a story of love and longing in impossible circumstances. I wrote the first 25 pages as a short story in a single day (it was more like the story wrote ME - my muse is a sumo wrestler). But the story was clearly too big for those britches, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened next. I had a first draft of 90,000 words in about six weeks.
Q: Do you have other writers or authors you work with for critiquing or beta-reading your work?
A: This was really my first time through this process and I was making it up as I went along. My husband turned out to be an excellent first reader and editor, and he helped me tremendously. Several friends offered to read it and provide feedback, including a couple other writers. Their support kept me sane (and still does). I may try working with a critique partner next time around.
Q: I understand GHOST PLANET has already won other awards or contests. Can you tell us about those?
Great Expectations (RWA chapter contest) – 1st place, specialized category
The Emily (RWA chapter contest) – 2nd place, paranormal category
Q: What steps or events led to GHOST PLANET becoming a Golden Heart nominee?
A: I looked into contests as a way to get feedback, and also as a way to get my work in front of agents and editors. I thought of GP as sci-fi, but the romance is central to the plot, so I started looking at RWA contests. I found they almost all included a category for speculative fiction, and that was pretty exciting. So I entered a handful, including the Golden Heart, and waited to see what would happen!
Q: Can you share your pitch or log line for GHOST PLANET?
A: For my agent queries I used a general statement about larger themes, followed by a hook, followed by a short synopsis. Here are the general statement and hook ...
GHOST PLANET explores the question of what makes us human, while probing the boundaries between love, dependence, and obsession.
Within 24 hours of arriving on Ghost Planet, Elizabeth Cole has discovered she's not the person - or even the species - she thinks she is.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the main characters and the setting?
A: Ardagh 1 (Ghost Planet) - Mysterious, Earth-like planet that hosts scientific colonies from Earth. In response to the colonists’ arrival, the planet has produced a race of symbiotic beings the colonists call “ghosts.”
Elizabeth Cole – Post-grad psychology intern who has just arrived on Ghost Planet to work at the New Seattle Counseling Center, which helps colonists adjust to the presence of ghosts.
Grayson Murphy – Lead psychologist at the Counseling Center, and co-creator of a “ghost protocol” that forbids interaction between colonists and ghosts.
(Shameless plug: There are a few excerpts, some back story teasers, and an iMix on my web site.)
Q: Any other projects in the works?
A: I do have a number of other ideas in various stages of development (all SFR with paranormal elements). But at the moment I’m focused on finalizing revisions to GP (intending to have the manuscript ready for my agent to pitch by the time RWA rolls around).
I’m working on a short story for Writers of the Future, as signing a book contract will make me forevermore ineligible. (A tradeoff I think I’m willing to accept!)
Q: Do you have any advice you’d like to offer other writers?
A: I think the best piece of advice I read, just before starting GP, was to write a story you feel passionate about. Hook yourself so you can hook other people.
Keep at it, no matter what. Joseph Campbell, one of my heroes, once said something like: “If you’re doing the thing you’re meant to do, the universe will help you. Doors will open for you that might not open for other people.” So how do you know if you’re doing the thing you’re meant to do? Writers KNOW. (Am I right?)
Also, if you’re writing in a genre that offers contests, enter them. The quarterly Writers of the Future Contests gave me a goal to keep me writing, and the RWA contests provide objective feedback and real opportunities for recognition (an agent requested my manuscript as a result of The Emily).
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: I’d just like to say thanks, again, for having me, Laurie. I really enjoy keeping up with your blog, and I wish you and your readers all the best in their writing endeavors!
Thanks for your thoughts and insights, Sharon. We’d like to extend our best wishes to you and GHOST PLANET for the upcoming Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, which will be held in conjunction with the RITA Awards on Saturday, July 18, 2009 at the National RWA Conference in Washington, DC. We’ll be rooting for you!
On Friday, I'll have an interview with RWA Golden Heart Paranormal Romance finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher.
What's the Golden Heart Award?
According to the Romance Writers of America website, "the purpose of the Golden Heart® contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts. "
Each year about twelve hundred romance manuscripts are entered in the Golden Heart by writers who have not, by the contest deadline, received an offer to publish a work of original fictional of 20,000 words or more.
First, the manuscripts are read and judged by general RWA members who select approximately 100 finalists. The final round is judged by editors from romance publishing houses. Many Golden Heart finalists sell their manuscripts to publishers as a result of the exposure from the contest.
Hundreds of items are up for auction, and something for everyone, including autographed copies of books and ARCs, evaluations of proposals, queries and manuscripts by agents and editors, all sorts of goodies, special packages, breakfast with VIPs in the industry, and celebrity autographed items (like a photo signed by the cast of Lord of the Rings and an Aerosmith guitar). So much to browse.
Some great raffle items are offered too, including a Mac laptop computer, an Amazon Kindle and more.
There's a lot to see here and you're sure to find something you love. And best of all, it's all for a great cause. Don't miss it!
While at the UNM From Start to Sales Writers Conference last month, I attended Marcela Landres' workshop entitled How Editors Think. It was an eye-opening experience. She worked as an editor for Simon & Schuster for seven years and offers writers an inside perspective of the industry from an editor's point of view. She's a dynamic speaker who provides tips for building a platform (and yes, fiction writers can take steps to do this as well as non-fiction writers). If you ever get the chance, be sure to attend one of her workshops.
One of her tips for creating a quick pitch is to use the formula, X meets Y. X and Y should be major motion pictures or cultural icons that people understand and relate to that offer a "feel" for the story. As she was explaining, I realized I'd already done this once when I described Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series as "Lord of the Rings meets the Sopranos." (Trying to describe my own books with this formula is proving a bit harder.)
Marcela's profession is Editorial Consultant. She provides a service to read manuscripts or proposals and provide feedback if it's marketable, and if not, offers specific advise how to make it more saleable. Click the link for more information on her book entitled How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You.
For more information, you can find her website here.
You can also watch a short video interview with Marcela here.
This is a photo from the workshop I attended in Albuquerque, and yes, I'm one of those faces in the crowd. :)
What do you do when you run out of Star Trek ideas for a new series or another movie? You take the cast back to the beginning of their careers, change history, and start all over again. But this time, with new variables.
Over the weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the new Star Trek movie, with a young, new cast (well, for the most part--there might be one original in attendance) that retreads the early years of the famous crew, beginning with tumultuous moment of James T. Kirk's birth. We're soon back on board our old friend, the familiar, yet freshly-minted Enterprise NCC-1701. But something has gone seriously awry that has changed history, so nothing you know from the original series may be the same. Some of the past is rehashed but the outcome may be completely skewed. Fasten your crash harnesses, it's going to be a bumpy ride...and with some pretty awe-inspiring visuals along the way.
Would I recommend this movie? If you're a Star Trek fan(atic) like I am, yes, by all means. If you never much cared for the TV series or the spin off movies, then don't waste your time. You'll miss too many of the punch lines and be lost in the virtual nebula of cult culture. Disclaimer: That is, unless your kids drag you along, and then you may suddenly develop a severe case of Star Trek-itis in your later years. (Don't laugh, it's happened before.)
But for those who loved the series, I think you'll find the "everything's the same, but everything's different" feel to this movie a real delight. A couple of the actors got the original characters' traits down spot on. I especially loved Bones (and you even get clued in how he picked up his nick) and Spock's reconfiguration was also impressive. Sulu was very close; Uhura I found refreshing though the long hair and the bouncier, less serene performance kept her from totally capturing Nichelle Nichol's iconic communications officer. Those who looked least like their former selves were Scotty and Chekov, but from their accents the characters were immediately identifiable.
Without giving away any spoilers, let me tell you there are some huge changes in this particular Star Trek parallel universe that will forever impact the characters going forward. I hope this revamped generation (not next generation ;) ) of Star Trek voyagers will soon venture off on more cosmic adventures.
Admiral James T. Kirk once said, in another place and time and movie, "Galloping around the universe is a game for the young."
Welcome back to a brave, new reality, Captain Kirk.
In a rare scenario, the shuttles Atlantis and Endeavor wait to launch.
Atlantis (left) will blast off on Monday, May 11, if all goes well, for a historic and dangerous mission to service the aging 19-year-old Hubble Space Telescope with new and replacement hardware to extend its life.
Meanwhile, the Endeavour (right) will be on standby in the event the seven-person crew of the Atlantis requires rescue. In the last several years the missions have been to the International Space Station, and a second shuttle hasn't been required because the astronauts could take refuge in the ISS in the event of a mishap.
I'm giving Fax and Benna the day off to tell a little tale about inspiration and enthusiasm. In this case, the source of my inspiration has nothing to do with writing...it has to do with my other love, Thoroughbreds.
Something truly amazing happened over the weekend and unless you've been in orbit you probably know what I'm talking about. A 50-1 "nobody" won the Kentucky Derby...and he won it by the second largest margin since 1946. The horse was from my home state of New Mexico (unheard of!) and trained by a small town trainer who personally drove his horse to Kentucky in a horse trailer. He was laughed at and ridiculed by many and his horse was pretty much overlooked by all the pre-race hype as an automatic also ran. But the "horse that didn't belong" proved not only did he belong, he was the better by far.
OK, so what does it have to do with me and my writing?
Let me back up a week. Last Monday, I received a letter in the mail. It was a bittersweet moment because we've decided to close our Thoroughbred breeding business and this letter contained the registration papers of the last foal of our last crop, a filly sired by a stallion named Bay Head King. Who is owned by Dr. Leonard Blach. Who is one of the co-owners of Mine That Bird. Yes, we know Mine That Bird's owner, and that's why this astounding story has hit us so very, very close to home.
OK, so what does this have to do with writing and SFR?
Here's the thing. Many said Mine That Bird was a "nobody from nowhere" who shouldn't have been on the same racetrack with other famous, million dollar horses. But the facts are that Mine That Bird had been preparing for this race from the beginning of his career. He won three stakes races in Canada and was named the Canadian 2YO champion male. But after that he'd run in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile and finished dead last, then lost two races in New Mexico. His record was disheartening, but his owners and trainer believed he had a shot. They believed their horse could win. They believed that sometimes the odds mean nothing.
And most of all, they believed you have to be in the race to win it.
And that's what his has to do with writing.
Sometimes the odds seem overwhelming against writers, too. You hear the 10,000-to-1 chance of getting a manuscript published. You hear the trials and tribulations of fellow writers. You may even, like me, be baffled and discouraged over a few "good writing, interesting story, no thanks" rejections. But you can't win the prize if you don't enter the race. If you know you've put in the prep work, if you know you've paid your dues, if you know your story is market ready and it's good enough to take on the "big guys," then enter it in that horserace.
You can't win if you aren't in the race. Take it from Mine That Bird.