Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HAIL, HERO!

When you think about it, we Skiffy Rommers are all in the hero business. Our heroines, and thus our stories, would be lost without them. Not because our gals can’t take care of themselves, but because they can do more, fly higher, be stronger with these men at their backs.

I’ve been into hero worship for as long as I can remember. The first movie I can remember seeing as a child was THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD with Errol Flynn. The movie was old even then (yeah, I’m old, but I ain’t THAT old), but for some reason I was seeing it on the big screen in a real theater, and I was instantly in love. All that energy! All that compassion! That swash! That buckle! That sword!! To this day that movie is one of my favorites, and no one can hold a candle to Flynn’s take on Robin.

In 1966, the second of my lifelong heroes hit the small screen in the person of Captain James T. Kirk, and again, it was the energy that attracted me. It seemed he just attacked every problem with everything he had and never gave up. I was just a kid, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. And I still find him a fascinating character.

I fell in love with my third hero on the pages of a favorite book, long before I ever got to see him onscreen. I was old enough at 16 to truly appreciate Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and future king of Gondor when I met him in the LORD OF THE RINGS—the hidden passion, the self-doubt, the quiet courage, were SO calculated to make a teenager sigh! But when I saw him onscreen for the first time and he started swinging that SWORD? Well, let’s just say I was glad to be all grown up (and happily married)!

So what do all of my favorite heroes have in common? Besides the fact that two of them are genuine swashbucklers, they don’t seem to fit the same mold. And, strangely, the heroes I’ve written for my heroines don’t seem a lot like these guys either, on the surface. But they do share some qualities I think are absolutely essential in a good hero.

1) Energy—Charisma, animal magnetism, whatever it is, it draws the eye and in your heroine’s case, the whole body. Guys are compelled to follow, women to drool. You just can’t have a good hero without this kind of chemistry and it’s God-given.

2) Compassion—I love the scene in ROBIN HOOD where Robin shows Marion around Sherwood and the peasants are thanking him for helping them. He’s given up his life for this—that begins to make him a hero to her. Kirk is capable of making the tough decisions, but he more often breaks rules and stretches limits to save people. Aragorn is a healer—it’s what proves his right to the throne. An alpha male without compassion is too often a thug.


3) Resourcefulness—Every good hero has a wide range of skills, from weapons to fire-building. But he should also recognize and draw upon the skills his companions (Robin and Aragorn) or his crew (Kirk) bring to the table. Most of all he should be able to recognize and sometimes defer to the skills of his lover, as all three of these men are able to do. Besides, Robin and Aragorn can sing or recite to their loves for entertainment and Kirk can dance. Not too shabby.

4) Intelligence—Your hero need not be the smartest man in the world, but he should not be dumbest, either. Spock, clearly, was more intelligent than Kirk, but Kirk had the ability to synthesize information and opinions, the ability to make quick, decisive judgments, the ability to work with people and that, in effect, made him smarter. That’s the kind of global “smarts” I’m talking about.

5) Humor—This may be a personal preference, but somehow I don’t think anyone loves a glum hero. Lighten up, guys. Growling is only sexy in the bedroom.


6) Courage—This would seem to be a given in a hero, but there are all kinds of things that pass for courage that may be mere foolhardiness instead. Physical courage in the face of battle is something that all of my heroes displayed, but they also had to dig deeper and face grief, homelessness, abandonment, deprivation, despair and losses of all kinds in order to win through. Those challenges demand a different kind of courage, a kind not always recognized in alpha male heroes.

And, of course, the final characteristic that is absolutely necessary in a hero is vulnerability. In the end he must be open to the possibility of love. For without that, he would not end up with the wonderful woman we have all picked out for him, now would he?

Cheers, Donna

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finally! SFR from Barbara Elsborg!

As a Beta reader of Barbara Elsborg's LUCY IN THE SKY, I've been anxiously awaiting the release announcement so I could plaster it all over this blog. It's here! LUCY IN THE SKY will be Barbara's ONLY Science Fiction Romance/Erotica released to date.

Barbara (who we've nicknamed "The Phenom") has sold or released at least a dozen novels in the last eighteen months, mainly with Ellora's Cave and Loose Id and has consistently received four and five star reviews. She also gets outstanding covers, and LUCY (IMHO) is yet another. See if you don't agree.

Here's the blurb on "LUCY":

"When you wake up to find a spaceship in your backyard, what do you do? Choose from three:

Phone the police.

Scream.

Go yell at the alien for wrecking your garden.


Lucy storms out of her house to confront the inept pilot and the last option turns out to be both the right and wrong choice when she finds the gorgeous hunk’s name is Three. She’s torn between fury that he’s not only crushed her roses but decapitated her statue of Eros, and a longing that he enliven her boring life and whisk her to the stars. Three doesn’t give her a choice when he throws her over his broad shoulders and takes her into space. Lucy soon finds herself exploring alien territory in ways she never imagined.

Three’s efforts to hide and protect her on the mother ship are stymied by his inability to keep his hands—and other body parts—off the luscious Lucy, and it looks as if her immediate fate might be a solo trip into space without a spacesuit."

Reader advisory: Contains male/male sex scenes.

Let me add my own comments to the above. LUCY IN THE SKY is a unique blend of Barbara Elsborg's trademark humor, a fun space adventure filled with imaginative characters, situations and suspenseful action, all combined with a spontaneous and incredibly tender (and very HOT!) romance. Lucy is identifiable and endearing and Three is one of the most compelling SFR erotica heroes ever. If you like your SFR with extreme steam, don't miss LUCY IN THE SKY.

Intrigued? Want to see more? Read the excerpt here , then mark your calendar for October 21st.

Friday, September 25, 2009

AT THE MOVIES

I love movies. Not films, mind you, though I like them, too. Movies. Flicks. Picture shows. (Used to be) Drive-ins. You know, the stuff that Hollywood churns out in mind-numbing quantity and debatable quality every week of the year. Most of it is watchable. A lot of it is forgettable. Some of it is good. Once in a very long while it takes your breath away.

I’m usually not looking for that kind of experience when I go to the movies every Tuesday. I go to be entertained—and for the (almost) free popcorn I earn with my Regal Theaters Crown Card. (If you are a regular moviegoer and you don’t have one you are THROWING MONEY AWAY!) Most Tuesdays I’m not disappointed. I have a good time. The movie and the popcorn are decent. Life is good.

But going to the movies that often can really make you wonder.

For example, was it REALLY necessary to strip Kate Beckinsale and put her in the shower in the first five minutes of WHITEOUT? Beckinsale, of UNDERWORLD shower fame, did a creditable job in her role as a U.S. Marshal “with a past” in a dead-end post at a science station in Antarctica where people start dropping like flies, despite the gratuitous opening scene. The movie paid fair homage to those isolated science station on the ice movies that have gone before it—THE THING comes to mind—and it didn’t give away too much too soon. Best of all, it offered Alex O’Laughlin of the late, lamented MOONLIGHT, in a small, but crucial role. All in all, a good B movie with a decent female protagonist.

Rising a little higher on the scale, both in ambition and in execution, was GAMER, a science fiction flick starring the much more interesting Gerard Butler. The premise was not bad—some genius with more brains than ethics figures out a way to hook up “video” game players to live human avatars (who else but convicts?) in a combat game. The rest, of course, was all DEATH RACE 3000, but who cares when it was Butler’s soulful puss onscreen making us believe it? The acting was first rate, the dialogue well done, even if the plot was a little derivative. And the more it went along, the deeper it got, which probably explains why the fan reviews I read were less than enthusiastic. Not enough exploding body parts for the usual crowd, I guess. I gave it a B+. The only question here was the continuing puzzle of whether Butler’s agent, or Butler himself, suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Which brings me to the overriding question of today’s blog. Both movies were rated R, and justifiably so, for the violence they contained. So why were there children in both of these theaters? And I’m not talking fifteen-year-old boys sneaking in trying to look cool. In the case of GAMER, a man brought a little boy, who looked to be maybe six or seven years old. In WHITEOUT, a couple brought little Suzie and Johnnie, neither older than eight or nine. Nothing those kids saw up on screen was appropriate for them to see.

I don’t blame Hollywood for making the movies that were being shown that day. Everyone involved in making those movies had every right to express themselves creatively as they saw fit. The movies were rated appropriately so that everyone knew what to expect when they went in the theater. So I can only think that the guardians of these children didn’t care that they were seeing what they saw.

It’s no longer a valid excuse to say that the kids know it’s not real. Do they really? The Hollywood effects wizards go to great lengths to make it LOOK real. Hell, sometimes I’M not sure it’s not real! Some pictures you just don’t need to have in your head (especially if you’ve got an imagination like mine!).

And do we really want our kids growing up inured to watching realistic body parts flying through the air and squished heads UP CLOSE! and entrails oozing out of body cavities and all the things that God knows we would protect them from in real life if we could but we can’t always? What kind of world does that lead us to? It’s all very well to say it’s none of my business that those kids were in the theater that day, but what if watching this stuff has a permanent, negative impact on them? Excuse me if I don’t want to have to meet them in a dark alley some night in the future.

My solution? Easy. And very old-fashioned for such a forward thinking person. Make parents act like parents. No kids under the age of 13 in R-rated movies. Period. Let’s start with that. As a compromise to make that go over I’d probably lower the age of consent for R to 16. Hell, they’re sneaking in anyway. Mom and Dad, if you want to go to the movies, you have a choice. Take Junior and see the latest Disney or Pixar offering. Or get a babysitter and go see INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Somehow I think Quentin would agree with me.

LATE NOTE and yet another question for us Skiffy Rommers: News is that the powers that be have set back the release date for THE ROAD, starring Viggo Mortensen, yet again, this time until “closer to the end of the year.” The excuse is that the post-apocalyptic SF film is too much of a downer in today’s economic climate. Do you reckon that SF/SFR in general is seen as too depressing by the marketing types?

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood

For skiffy rommers out there thinking of entering the Golden Heart, my 2009 Golden Heart class this week launched a fabulous blog. GH finalist Liz Bemis designed and developed the site, and it's just lovely. In conjunction with the launch, the group is giving away GH chapter critiques and sexy slipper mugs. To participate, just leave a comment.

Today's post is "Don't Enter the Golden Heart ..." by finalist Amy Talley (who recently made her first sale). Other September blog topics include:
  • A Brick Road of a Different Color
  • Go for the Gold! Tips for Turning Your GH Entry Into a Potential Finalist
  • A Heaping Portion of Inspirational Sap, or, Why I Almost Didn't Enter the Golden Heart
  • Suddenly Cinderella: On Acquiring Glamorousness in Four Months Flat

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Space...The Final Romance Frontier

Every once in awhile I like to stop and re-evaluate what I'm writing, and why.

Space...The Final Romance Frontier.

*gives nod to Star Trek intro for the "borrow"*

That about sums it up, and isn't it the truth? Romance has sub-genres for historical, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal. But space...that truly is the final romance frontier. It suggests a genre that's forward-looking (though not necessarily the future). It covers a lot of ground. Even Earth is part of space, after all.

Space...The Final Romance Frontier.

(Can you tell I like the sound of that?)

Science Fiction Romance gives me the opportunity to create new worlds, new cultures, new traditions, taboos, and technology. It's such a wonderful, creative place to be as a writer. Skiffy Rommers can venture into areas of straight SciFi, military, apocalyptic, FoAP (my pet acronym for Fantasy on Another Planet ala DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN), near future or alien romance. For a small little niche subgenre, the ideas and territory it can cover are endless.

Does anyone recall that tiny little galaxy in Men in Black that the cat, Orion, wore on his "belt" (collar)? The one the bad guy zombie alien wanted soooo badly? Remember the Tommy Lee line that went something like, "Just because a galaxy is very small doesn't mean it's not important."

Yeah, that sums up my feelings of SFR; it's a miniature little subgenre with a whole galaxy of potential.

Monday, September 21, 2009

P2PC Wins SouthWest Writers Contest

Saturday, I had the honor of attending the awards banquet at the Albuquerque Marriott for SouthWest Writers national writing contest as one of the finalists in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. An even bigger honor followed when my novel, P2PC, was named the first place winner!

I was presented with a lovely color certificate that bore the theme of the awards ceremony "Enchanting Winners," a check, a copy of the awards program and a critiqued copy of my manuscript.

It was quite an experience.

SouthWest Writers did an amazing job on the awards banquet, including Master of Ceremonies John J. Candelaria who managed to use the name of every single finalist (in 16 categories!) in a poem that he read before the awards were announced. (I'm sure using "P2PC" in a poem was no easy task, but he managed to pull it off beautifully.)

I'd like to give a special thanks to SouthWest Writers (SWW) for all their efforts in sponsoring this national contest, to the contest coordinator, all the judges and members who worked so hard to make the contest such a success and the awards banquet a very special occasion.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And the Thunder Rolls...

Frustration and anger from viewers over the cancellation of the SF series Defying Gravity is mounting and has been gaining momentum in recent days as fans realize the next episode will not be aired after ending in a monumental cliffhanger last Sunday.

Will the backlash grow to Firefly proportions? Will the networks ever learn the care and feeding of a promosing new SF series? Will they make amends to disgruntled viewers and give it another shot? Or will it eventually resurface on SyFy where it will have the benefit of a healthy following from the SF community?

TVSquad is just one of dozens of television commentary sites and blogs receiving feedback about the cancellation of DG. A TVSquad article entitled Defying Gravity We Hardly Knew Ye had well over 200 comments at last count, almost all in support of the show. Similar backlash is being received on other TV commentary sites.

I wonder if the network is listening, or if it will turn a deaf ear to disgruntled fans?

And, most important of all to us Skiffy Rommers, what does this mean, if anything, for the SF/SFR book market?

The Secretary Who Would be King

I had to share this article because my thought was, "Wouldn't that make a great premise for a fiction novel?" Of course, being SFR, there would be a liberal degree of spin applied.

As writers, we talk about getting "the call." How would you like to get "the call" that you're no longer a secretary, but a king!

I loved the ritual for selecting the next person to rule. The process might spur a lively debate; is it fate, devine intervention, or utter randomness?

What a great nonfiction story.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Three's a Crew!

Hey, just wanted to take a moment to add my own welcome to new co-blogger Sharon Lynn Fisher. Guess I was out on EVA and somehow missed my timing on the day of the announcement. Welcome aboard, Sharon! Good to have you with us!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK"

I admit I’m a little slow. I often come to popular TV shows or books or authors (or genres) late, running full out, red-faced and out of breath, like that kid who never seems to get to the bus stop on time. (It’s because I hate to commit. The shows I like usually end up canceled after one or two seasons.)

Which is all to say that I haven’t been following “Torchwood”. (Yes, I know, you can all throw things at your computer screens now, in lieu of hitting me.) But I did catch the recent “Torchwood: Children of Earth” mini-series. I thought it was quite well done, and I enjoyed it. Still, when it was all over I had the strangest sense of the familiar. “Poor Captain Jack,” I said as I flipped off the telly. Off on another adventure—alone.

And isn’t just that always the way of it in “straight” science fiction/urban fantasy/graphic fiction? No matter whether you are gay or straight, alien or human, male or female, even good or bad, if you get involved with a space captain/demon hunter/vampire killer/superhero you end up dead/left behind/lost in the vast space/time continuum. And the hero/heroine goes on ALONE. **sigh** How tragic! How romantic!

NOT!

What it actually is, frankly, is CONVENIENT for that hero. No messy relationships to worry about. Nothing to work out. Goodbye. Good luck. Just focus on the WORK!

Okay, but here’s the catch. Real heroes (and heroines) need to be real people, with real emotions and real needs. They need to have something worth fighting for, and not just in the abstract sense of Truth, Justice and the American Way. Every one of those guys in the trenches in Afghanistan has a picture on him somewhere—in his helmet, in his chest pocket close to his heart—of someone he loves. He’s fighting to stay alive so he can get back to that someone. You think that makes him weak? No. It makes him a warrior instead of merely a killer.

So it’s possible, just possible, that a real hero or heroine might fall in love in the course of an adventure and not have to leave that someone behind forever. We, as authors, might not have to kill them off or send them into an alternate universe! Men and women (lovers of the same gender, beings of all created types) might fight side by side for the things they believe in. We could, dare we think it, even write a HAPPY ENDING! Romance, in other words, is possible in the SF world.

I came to be a Skiffy Rommer because I got really tired of watching the hero ride off into the sunset/galactic plane alone, leaving some wench sniffling on the planet behind him. It was no better to envision it with the heroine in the captain’s seat, leaving behind a heartbroken lover. I like the idea of men and women as lovers and partners, taking on the universe together. Sure, they have their own problems coming together and staying together. The universe makes it difficult for them, too. But in the end, they overcome those obstacles. Their relationship survives. They defeat the bad aliens and ride off into the galactic plane together. That, to me, is the essence of science fiction romance.

In defining it this way, of course, I’m following pretty close to the rules laid out for traditional romance. I’m focusing on the emotions that motivate my hero and heroine and following, as the central storyline, the birth and growth of their relationship and how those emotions play out. The SF genre in which I’ve chosen to develop that relationship determines everything else—the plot, the setting, the style, the secondary characters, etc. Everything serves to illuminate the story of the relationship and how it grows.

In making my decision to do it things this way, of course, I run the risk of losing the science fiction audience. Certainly “pure” romance is as “unrealistic” as “pure” science fiction, for different reasons. Stories at both ends of the continuum can be formulaic, their characters and their settings flat and lifeless. I try to avoid both extremes and I work hard to give my work true depth. No matter what I do, not everyone will be happy. But, then, as some dead rock star once famously said, “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

We all have to decide where the stories we want to tell fall—more romance, less SF? Smack in the middle? Science fiction with romantic elements? And once we’ve figured that out, we have to find the agent and publisher who fit that profile. It’s no use trying to sell hot SF romance to the Spectrum Agency and little use trying to sell hard SF with romantic elements to The Knight Agency (just guessing here—if anybody out there has had a different experience, I’ll bow to higher knowledge).

When I set out to learn about this thing called love (in a publishing context) I picked up a book called ON WRITING ROMANCE by Leigh Michaels. It is the best book on writing fiction I have ever read. And it’s terrific at defining what’s different about writing romance. I don’t think anyone out there will disagree that as aspiring writers we need all the help we can get.

Because, Lord knows, (and despite what your mom and your brother-in-law think) this writing business ain’t easy.
Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RT features Science Fiction Romance

The October issue of RT Book Reviews has a feature on Science Fiction Romance entitled Is Science Fiction Romance Ready to Blast Off? This is a very exciting event for us Skiffy Rommers.

You can find Romantic Times Book Reviews at most major bookstores, but for a sneak peek at the coverage, tune in to Heather Massey's
The Galaxy Express for more details on the RT coverage. (Pssst. I understand Heather may even have been a contributor.)

Viva la Skiffy Rommers and three cheers to RT Book Reviews for giving our first love so much fabulous attention.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Strong female protagonists

The blogger at ArchetypeWriting.com () recently attended a workshop on strong female protagonists and posted this report. Really thought-provoking commentary. (I'm dying to know if the factoid about Ripley is true! Does anyone know?)

Here's a snippet from the post ...

Some of the authors on the panel talked about how their female protagonists aren't really strong - they're just so incredibly vulnerable that they have no choice but to buck up a little bit to survive. Others talked about how their heroines' strength was born out of how much said heroines hate themselves.

The post generated some great discussion on both the blog and Critique Circle (login required).

- Sharon

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sharon Lynn Fisher Onboard

Spacefreighters Lounge now has a third pilot!

Fellow Skiffy Rommer and 2009 Golden Heart Finalist (Paranormal Romance) Sharon Lynn Fisher has joined us as a co-blogger. We are very glad to have Sharon join the team and look forward to her contributions. You can find Sharon's Ghost Planet blog listed under Contributors in the sidebar at the right. >>>>>>>

You can read an earlier interview with Sharon here.

Welcome aboard, Sharon!

Heather Blogs on Border's True Romance

I almost missed Heather Massey's (The Galaxy Express) post on Border's True Romance blog entitled "Insights into Science Fiction Romance."

A must read for Skiffy Rommers.

The Burning of Zozobra

Every fall, Santa Fe has a tradition that goes hand-in-hand with its Fiesta. Thursday night, Zozobra burned.

Now, before you get concerned about puppet brutality, let me explain that the 50-foot marionette is constructed for the express purpose of being set on fire. It’s a roast, in the most literal sense. As the monstrous figure ignites, he’s supposed to take all your cares and worries of the past year away with him.

An ancient Spanish tradition? Not really. Although the
Fiestas de Santa Fe has roots that go back to the year 1692 when the Spanish peacefully reclaimed the city from the Pueblos, the Zozobra tradition was started in 1924 by artist William Howard Shuster, Jr. and it has been carried on in more recent times by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe.

For weeks leading up to the event, people can drop off slips of paper with details of personal gloom—or even certain legal papers—at the offices of the Santa Fe Reporter. These items are stuffed inside the giant effigy along with liberal amounts of shredded newspaper. They can then join the crowd of 40,000 to celebrate on the second Thursday evening in September in the banishment of doom and gloom.


It's quite a ritual. First the music starts and then the Fire Dancers come to perform a bizarre ballet around the monster's feet. Then amid fireworks, cheers and jeers, Zozobra moans, groans, rolls his eyes, waves his arms, and incinerates. This marks the start of the three day Fiestas de Santa Fe.

I think writers should have their own version of the burning of Zozobra, don’t you? Imagine collecting a stockpile of unsalvageable manuscripts, rejection letters, errant contest score sheets, misguided bad reviews, and other gloom-laced paperwork and having a bonfire of epic proportions to banish our cares.

Hmmm, what would we call our gloom-banishing celebration? What items would you stuff inside our literary Zozobra?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Watermelons and Words

I got these in an email today and was amazed. Someone looked at these watermelons and figured out how to turn them into art.






The imagination is an amazing thing. As writers, the medium we sculpt in is words. The images we create are in the mind.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dawn Jackson: FIRST SALE!

Exciting news!!! Dawn Jackson has sold her first novel, SLIPPING THE PAST, a Futuristic/Paranormal Romance to Liquid Silver Books. Many of you know Dawn as one of my IPs, a cross-critiquer, a co-blogger from Take it to the Stars and who I'm collaborating with on a YA SFR.

Trust me, Dawn has a lot of great novels in the works, and I know this will just be the first of many more to come.

Liquid Silver Books has already posted a release announcement and a blurb
here. Check it out! A release date is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.




*confetti* *fireworks*
*cake and ice cream all around*

PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE/RWA PART II

You may remember that Laurie, Sharon Lynn Fisher and I met at the RWA National Conference because Laurie took an interest in my tote bag. I’d actually cobbled the bag together out of a tee-shirt I’d had made advertising my manuscript UNCHAINED MEMORY (an excerpt of which will appear here in the Lounge soon). And therein lies a tale.

This was my first RWA conference and I really had no idea what to expect. I only knew I had to find a way to stand out in the crowd without looking totally ridiculous. First, you have to understand, I’m, uh, well, reserved. An introvert. And that’s putting it mildly. I’ve worked long and hard to be able to go out in public without a handler. Calling attention to myself is the LAST thing I feel like doing.

However, I have a personal demon/friend/critique partner, Linda Thomas, who has taken it upon herself to give me a swift kick in the pants whenever I appear to hesitate in matters of my career. When I thought of a tee-shirt with a novel cover for UNCHAINED MEMORY on the front and the “hook” on the back (“Three hours had ripped away her past. His love promised her the future.”), I mentioned it to Linda. She said, “Oh, no, you MUST make up a bunch of them and get people to wear them at the conference! Give them some kind of reward when you see them with the tee-shirt on! Think of all the notice you’ll get!”

I was horrified. The thought of asking people to do this made me weak in the knees.

As it turned out, I couldn’t get just one tee-shirt made. I was stuck with two dozen. I used one to make the tote bag, figuring it would be instantly visible, even if I was nicely dressed. The rest I took to the incredible Goody Room at the conference, where authors and publishers leave things for attendees FOR FREE! I got one person to don a shirt on the spot (for a $5 gift card from Borders). I’m sure none of the shirts remained at the end of the weekend. And when my book is published, those folks are built-in publicity for UNCHAINED MEMORY. Let’s just hope the editor keeps the dang title!

So what is the point of this story? Just that even if it hurts you have to go out of your way to promote yourself. And don’t be afraid to be creative about it. I also made up business cards with my book title and graphic on one side, the hook and a brief synopsis on the other to give out to agents, etc. at the conference. I figured it beat stuttering over the plot of the book in an elevator if I got asked. Didn’t happen, but who knew?

Christie Craig, one of the presenters at the conference, told the story of her first RWA national experience. She said she told herself to act as if she was the host of the event and literally went around asking everyone she met if they were having a good conference. Finally someone said, “Well, yes, Christie, but the mike in this room isn’t working. Can you do something about it?” So she went out and got someone to fix it. Pretty soon it happened again. “Christie, can you get some water for the speaker?” By the second day, the organizers were wondering who this Christie Craig person was.

Volunteering is a great way to get in on the ground floor. I worked the Literacy Signing event at the conference and met some great people, AND I got to get my FREE books signed before everyone else got in. I got a few minutes ALONE with J.R. Ward, Angela Knight and Linda Howard, and that was worth gold. They are some fantastic women, believe me. Very down-to-earth, very encouraging, can’t wait to see them again. What I learned from going to Shore Leave year after year is that even small positive interactions over time can leave an impression. People do remember you. (Of course, impressions go both ways. Be polite. Be nice. Remember they have limited time and energy to spare.)

I often joke that my marketing skills are so bad I couldn’t sell Girl Scout cookies. But I’m determined to change that, at least as far as my writing is concerned. That’s one product I truly believe in. And passion sells.
Cheers, Donna

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recommended Reading

Don't miss Science Fiction Romance for Dummies posted on Dirty Sexy Books blog. It's an excellent, informative interview with Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express about our favorite subject, SFR.

Whether you're already a SFR fan or wondering what the heck it is, be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

FUN AT RWA

First of all, let me say I’m as excited as a Lab puppy to be joining Laurie as a regular contributor to Spacefreighters’ Lounge. I’ll just try not to make a mess on the floor.

Not too long ago in this space, Laurie encouraged all you Skiffy Rommers with professional ambitions to join the Romance Writers of America. Let me throw my not insubstantial weight behind that idea and give you some inkling why by sharing a few impressions of the RWA National Conference in July.

WAIT! This won’t be boring! Or maybe it will, but it could CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Now, I had some idea of the networking potential of conferences, believe it or not, from attending STAR TREK conventions over the years. I was a regular at the legendary Shore Leave con outside of Baltimore for years and met many people there who became friends and gave me a leg up career-wise, too. But imagine the networking possibilities when you have 2000 writers, editors, agents and related hangers-on in the same hotel. And the great thing is, you can sit down in the lobby and meet someone like Laurie Green and the next thing you know, you’re contributing to her blog!

You have opportunities to be in the same (small) room with writers like J.R. Ward, watching her pace up and down in four-inch heels, while Jessica Anderson lounges calmly on the stage behind her. You can ask the agent you plan to send your manuscript to just what she’s looking for (and she’ll tell you, straight up). You can even (gulp!) have the editors at one huge publishing house critique the first few paragraphs of your manuscript. (I did and survived. I also spent the two weeks after the conference revising the first few pages of my novel based on the feedback I got.)

I spent five days at the conference and didn’t meet one diva. Instead I found an open, encouraging, smart and enthusiastic community of (mostly) women dedicated to their craft. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with them? BTW, did you know that RWA is the only professional “genre” writers group that opens membership to unpublished writers? For all the others, Science Fiction Writers of America included, you must be PUBLISHED first before you can belong. This organization actively encourages fledglings.

Finally, I have to say this was the best organized event I have ever attended, hands down. Laurie has already bragged on the hotel and I can only echo her comments there. The staff was incredible. But the conference itself ran like clockwork—everything started and ended on time; everyone was in place when they were supposed to be; there was no confusion over which workshop was where (and with two-and-a-half days of workshops that’s no mean feat). You could download all the handouts from the workshops ahead of time, and in case you forgot to do that, they GAVE you a thumb drive with all the handouts on it at registration. And that’s not even mentioning all the FREE BOOKS we were given. I mean, these people had their act together.

Okay, so I’m going to see all of you good Do-Bee’s at next year’s conference in Nashville, right? Because RWA membership is a no-brainer and the Music City is my old hometown and LOTS of fun, conference or no conference.
Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Co-Host on Board!

I'm very pleased to announce Donna S. Frelick has signed on as a co-host for Spacefreighters Lounge. I know you're going to enjoy her entertaining and thought provoking posts and articles.

Donna is a veteran SFR writer who is currently marketing a novel, UNCHAINED MEMORY. She was a guest blogger last week and you can read the account of how she got started writing SFR here.)

Welcome aboard, Donna!

Cast Your Vote!

Our partner in promoting SFR, The Galaxy Express, is up for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) Award. If you're a frequent flyer on the TGE rocket or only an occasional visitor and enjoy the wonderful content and SFR news, please cast your vote.

You can find the BBAW site here. TGE is listed about thirteen down under the "Vote for Best Speculative Fiction Review Blog."

Thanks for voting. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Getting Art

Part 1

This is what I hope will be a series of articles on a very exciting project. Read on!

Back in May of this year, I participated in a very worthwhile cause known as the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Resarch. Brenda Novak is a New York Times Best-Selling Romantic Suspense Author who has a son with diabetes. She has been holding these online auctions since 2005, and every year they've grown by leaps and bounds. So far, her efforts have earned well over $700,000 for diabetes research. For writers and readers, the auctions offerings are amazing. Lunch with your dream agent? It could happen. Books signed by your favorite authors? Take your pick. Critiques by published authors, editors and agents, you got it. There's also jewelry, clothing, artwork, special baskets, and some amazing finds (like a guitar autographed by a famous rock band last year). It's fun, it's exciting and it's all for a very good cause.

I've participated in the auction the last couple of years, but this is the first year I was the highest bidder on a couple of items. I was very excited that one of the items I won is cover art for a novel!

I wasn't able to get started on this before now due to both me and the designer having a very busy summer, but we finally connected and the first thing she requested is a synopsis of my novel, the genre, and any ideas I had for the design.

So, my first decision. Which novel?

That was pretty much a no-brainer, since I only have one novel at the point of being marketed, and that's P2PC. So P2PC, it is. (Though my muse had a field day trying to throw "Planets" and "Draxis"--both currently under construction--into the mix.)

I sent her some image ideas for the cover I had in my head (though admittedly, I think the designer can probably come up with much better ideas) and a 5-page synopsis of P2PC, as per her request.

Okay, the process has begun.

Stayed tuned as I take you along on this journey of Getting Art, and, hopefully, I'll have a final unveiling here on Spacefreighters Lounge at some point in the future. This should be a fun and educational process. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guest Blogger Donna Frelick

Thanks to Laurie for inviting me to say a few words. I had a great time with Laurie and Sharon Fisher at the Romance Writers of America conference in D.C. in July and I’m hoping to do it again next year in Nashville—my old hometown.

So, okay, SFR. Invented by Captain James T. Kirk back in 2266. Or at least that’s how it started for me. I wanted to be a science fiction writer, I loved STAR TREK and back in the day it was still possible for a new writer to submit a manuscript to Pocket Books. I got as far as being asked for a partial for a novel starring the Classic TREK characters titled THE MINDSWEEPER, only to be rejected in the end.

Enter Orion Press. Editor/Publisher Randy Landers runs a small press for TREK fans—all for entertainment purposes only, you understand, and not to step on anyone’s copyrights. He published THE MINDSWEEPER (three other Classic TREK novels and four short stories) for sale at conventions, by mail and online. (Check out www.fastcopyinc.com/orionpress.) I started going to Shore Leave in Towson, Maryland (the nation’s largest fan-run convention) to sell my books and do readings. Man, was that fun!

I met some great people at Shore Leave, including noted SF writer Ann C. Crispin. I took full advantage of the terrific writers’ workshops Ann gives there. And as part of her critique of a non-TREK SF short story I’d written for one of those workshops she told me, “You have a talent for writing romance.”

My reaction? “Uhh. Huh?”

Because, you see, in my mind “romance” equaled “bodice ripper”, and I don’t mean that in a good way. In those days there was no such thing as a paranormal romance, much less a SCIENCE FICTION romance. The closest you got to anything like that was a Gothic romance or maybe a contemporary ghost story romance a la Nora Roberts. Not my style. Really.

So I stayed confused for a long time. Then one day I’m standing in the grocery store line and I look over at the paperbacks and I see this gorgeous male bicep on a book cover. Okay, so it’s not a starship, but maybe I’m having a high hormone day or something and I pick up the book to check it out. It is THE HIGHLANDER’S TOUCH, by Karen Marie Moning, and the back cover sells it as a TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE. Angels sing. Clouds open up and a shaft of light comes down and lands smack on that beautiful black and red cover. It is a freakin’ sign.

I bought that book and the other one next to it by the same author. I devoured them both. (The plots are corny, but the SEX!) I went out and bought all Moning’s other books and did the same thing. And I discovered there was a whole big section of this new thing called “paranormal romance” in the bookstore! Go figure!

Two things happened in quick succession after that. I started gobbling up all the paranormal and what little SF romance I could find (more on that later). And, miracle of miracles, the story that had been rattling around in my brain for years and just wouldn’t work as straight SF, suddenly worked great as SF ROMANCE! I went to work on it and the first draft practically wrote itself. (Let’s not talk about the many rewrites, except to say the finished product is better for them!) The result is the manuscript I’m hawking now, UNCHAINED MEMORY.

**SHAMELESS PLUG** UNCHAINED MEMORY combines elements of both SF and suspense in the story of Asia Burde tte, who loses more than her memory in the one hellish night that changes her life. Nashville psychiatrist Dr. Ethan Roberts risks more than his heart when he agrees to help her. Soon they’re on the run, racing to discover who stole her off this planet and who brought her back—before those who would kill for her secrets make her disappear forever.**OKAY, THANKS FOR THAT**

So, what do I look for when I go back to Borders and roam among the romance shelves? Well, wait, let me back up. As a science fiction fan, I’m pretty much old school. I prefer the writers of the New Age—Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Wilhelm, Theodore Sturgeon, Phillip K. Dick. Moving along, I did read David Brin, Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, but after a while SF began to leave me cold and I stopped. Too much technology, too little humanity. Or maybe I just lost too many brain cells. Fantasy also started taking up a lot of space on the bookstore shelves, and for me there is only ONE fantasy world. I’ve read LORD OF THE RINGS too many times to count, starting when I was sixteen.

On the paranormal/SF romance side, I LOVE Christine Feehan(all of her stuff except the quasi-military “Game” series); J.R. Ward (ROCKS); Nalini Singh; Jacquelyn Frank; Lori Handeland (the werewolf series; not the latest); Linda Howard (she can do it ALL); Lynn Viehl, Deidre Knight, Angela Knight. These writers get it all right—style, concept, plot, relationship and, dare I say it, SEX. Yeah, I’m sorry, I like a good dose of it in my romance. Otherwise, why bother?

But then that’s the challenge, isn’t it? In a sub-genre that we are all still defining, we have to find the right balance between the essential elements, between the science fiction (or the fantasy or the suspense or the whatever) and the romance, between the idea and the execution, between the heat and the sweet. Then it's just a matter of finding the agent, the editor, the publisher and the readers, God love ‘em, who can't resist the mix we've whipped up.

Cheers, Donna

Sharon Lynn Fisher on Silk and Shadows

Sharon Lynn Fisher is guest blogging on Silk and Shadows today. Be sure to stop by for her inspired take on writer's block and a couple examples of her excellent photography.

Skiffy Rommer Found

I have to tell you a story.

While attending the RWA National Conference in Washington DC, fellow Skiffy Rommer, Sharon Lynn Fisher and I decided to take a break in one of the cushy lounge areas at the side of the vast and impressive (read that shock and awe) hotel lobby of the Marriott Wardman Park.

We took our seats and I happened to notice the tote bag of the person sitting nearby. Of course I'd notice! It was a gorgeous NASA image of a galaxy. This one, in fact:


So I said, "I love your tote bag. Are you here for RWA?"

When she replied yes, I said, "Do you happen to write Science Fiction Romance?"

Yes, she did.

I said, "Oh! We're Skiffy Rommers, too." At which point I got a quizzical look, and so explained about our motley band of merry SFR writers who hang out at The Galaxy Express. We exchanged business cards, started chatting, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Skiffy Rommer found.

Our fellow space cadet is Donna S. Frelick, and tonight she'll be guest blogging on Spacefreighters Lounge with an entertaining take on how she got involved in the wonderful galaxy of SciFiRom. Be sure to stop back to read about her adventures and give her a hardy welcome to the ranks of the brigade.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Confessions of a (Reformed) Contest Avoider

I admit it. I was in avoidance mode. I hadn’t had much luck with contests when I went a few rounds some fifteen years ago. More recently, some of my very talented peers had met with disappointment and frustration at their contest results which only reinforced my negativism.

Contests are a big waste of time, energy, and money, I decided. My time is much better spent on writing, editing and revising my work than messing around with silly contests.

Then I took a workshop from editorial consultant Marcela Landres at the University of New Mexico Writers Conference. She shed new light on the whole contest scenario. Ms. Landres proposes that today it isn’t just non-fiction writers who need a platform, so do those who write fiction. So how do you go about building a platform if you write fiction? I mean, you can’t very well be an expert on free-range plasma conversion drive systems, despite the fact you may write about them. So how do you do it?

Several ways. By having an online presence. By building a reputation through the media, speaking engagements or conducting workshops. And by entering writing contests.

Huh? I thought. Contests? Those frivolous time-wasters?

Yes, contests.

Why?

Several reaons, but first of all, there’s one big advantage for those who may be too timid to subject their “babies” to this test. Consider this. Nobody knows if you don’t do well, but you can tell the whole world when you score. Winning a contest allows you to write those magic words “award winning manuscript” in your query letters and to shout it out on your website (some even give you fancy banners to shout it out for you with custom logos) and list it among your accomplishments. If you are a finalist (usually the top three), your work may just end up in front of your dream editor or agent to judge, and sometimes they even request the manuscript. Nice little shortcut to the top of the stack, wouldn't you say?

That’s the icing, but there’s another huge value in entering contests. The feedback. Good solid advice from those who are either industry professionals, published authors or trained how to provide feedback to their peers. In other words you have the advantage of that elusive property that so many writers value….fresh eyes!

So there’s my spot of advice for today. If you’re an aspiring author, enter contests. (If you took my spot of advice earlier and joined RWA, you’ll find a host of chapter contests posted on their website in chronological order.) It could just pay off handsomely. :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

RWA. Seriously.

Can I offer a bit of advice?

If you’re not a member of RWA and you write any sort of romance, you really should consider joining. And if you’re actively marketing a manuscript that contains any sort of romance, you should seriously consider joining RWA PRO.

I dunno, you say. It’s kind of pricey. What’s in it for me?

Well, aside from being a member in one of the largest organizations in the world dedicated to writers, you’ll be gaining access to limitless network potential with other writers, inside info on the industry and all sorts of workshops and contests that are either only open to RWA members, or available at a discount.

Then there’s the Golden Heart Award for unpublished manuscripts. Being a finalist in--or winning--this contest can be a huge boost for your chances of getting published—or as editorial consultant Marcela Landres puts it—getting published well. It’s sort of like being a superstar among your peers, and getting elevated to the “Most Likely to Succeed” category.

And let’s face it, you’re probably in this to succeed, right? To see your work published, share your stories with the world and maybe even earn a nice secondary income or—better yet, your living—doing what you love.

I waited fifteen years to join. My mistake. I didn’t understand the importance of being a peer member of a professional writing organization or the fantastic perks! Now I do. I wish I’d come to my senses a lot sooner. But I made up for lost time by also joining the FF&P Chapter (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal) and I’ll soon be joining my local chapter, as well. Next, I’m going for my PRO membership. The FF&P Chapter is even sponsoring a program right now to help me get there.

As you may know from my earlier posts, I attended the RWA National Conference this year. What an amazing, motivating, high energy experience it was! So many writers, agents and editors in attendance that my head was spinning. I took workshops from agent Laurie McLean, senior editor Chris Keeslar of Dorchester, and authors like Ann Aquirre, Alyssa Day and Golden Heart finalist Jacqui Jacoby. But maybe best of all was the chance to meet, have dinner and drinks and “talk shop” with some of my peers including Sharon Lynn Fisher, Jess Granger, Lisa Paitz Spindler and Donna Frelick. (Donna will have an upcoming post on Spacefreighters later this week.)

I invite you to take a peek inside the world of RWA and see what this association has to offer. And the membership fee? Consider it an investment in your future. Remember, when you make a sale, that expense is deductible (please consult with a tax preparation expert, which I am certainly not, for the scoop).