Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WHO'S SCARING YOU NOW?

Usually, when we think of “scary” in relation to science fiction, we think of “them”. You know, the other guys, the aliens, the bugs, the Grays, the Queen Be-yotch in the ALIEN movies that scares the bejeezus out of us EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! (shudder) After all, they’re pretty scary most of the time. They’re usually advanced technologically and/or evolved genetically. They always seem to want us for our bodies/labor/DNA/planet. And we only seem to defeat them (as someone once said of Jim Kirk’s many triumphs) by the galactic equivalent of “your shoelace is untied.”

Or maybe we think of the misbegotten creatures of the mad scientists of the golden age of ‘Fifties drive-in movies (and their high-tech remakes and derivatives). We remember THE GIANT BEHEMOTH or THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS stirred up by nuclear testing to rampage through our cities before dying spectacularly in a tangle of arcing electrical wires. Or maybe the giant ants of THEM swarming through the Nevada desert (with a very young Leonard Nimoy leading the charge against them). The tortured scientist played by Vincent Price (and later Jeff Goldblum) got his own comeuppance in THE FLY, but not before terrorizing/grossing out his audience as the title creature. And the whole island got out of hand in JURASSIC PARK.

But the wonderful thing about all of these movies, and about science fiction in general, is that the real villain is rarely exclusively THEM. It’s more often, at least to some extent, US. Almost from the very beginning of SF, science was seen as a two-edged sword, something that could bring tremendous benefit to humankind, but also, unforeseen and nearly fatal dangers. The scientists in these movies may be portrayed as unfortunate optimists, arrogant egotists, clear-eyed pragmatists, heroic problem solvers or back-stabbing corporate spies, but they all tend to err on the side of “science for science’s sake”. This leads to trouble, with a capital T. The real hero of the story must then step in to save the day. Cue Everyman or Woman—and don’t be surprised, even now, if that person wears a uniform.

A great example of this kind of thinking can be found in the original version of THE THING (1951), produced by Howard Hawks, directed by Christian Nyby, and based on a short story by one of the great progenitors of SF, John W. Campbell. In a pattern which is repeated in the remake and echoed in ALIEN, the scientists at an isolated polar research station are so intrigued by their sample of an alien lifeform, they defy all common sense and, unbeknownst to the rest of the investigating team, start to replicate the alien using—get this!—human plasma from the station’s stores. (Uh—shouldn’t some kind of alarm be going off in their heads?) Fortunately our hero, aptly named Captain Patrick Hendry, gets the heads-up from his girlfriend, the station secretary (**Neanderthal alert**). The head scientist, still not convinced, tries to communicate with the alien, whom others have described as a “carrot with brains”. He is promptly smacked by said carrot, who apparently DOES have more brains than the scientist. Captain Hendry and the crew commence to fry the alien with electricity and save the day. The audience is then warned in typical ‘Fifties fashion to “watch the skies!” I guess they expected more intelligent vegetables any day.

In its day, the movie was seen as having strong anti-Communist overtones. But viewed by those of us who became the readers of New Age SF and fans of STAR TREK and STAR WARS and ALIEN and so on, the message was somewhat different. Scientific inquiry, without an ethical context, was dangerous in the extreme. Let your technology get out of hand, and there would be grave consequences. The ultimate movie of the time was quite clear on this point. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was just a taste of what we’d get if we didn’t pay attention. Given the evidence we already had, in the form of nuclear weapons, and the looming dangers of biological or chemical weapons, ecological disaster, genetic engineering, worldwide pandemic, etc., we were certainly inclined to believe that message.

The message these days has been somewhat transformed and reads more like conspiracy theory (bad government) than purely runaway technology (bad science). THE MATRIX, ALIEN/S, SURROGATES, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK suggest we as individuals are just puppets of some gigantic corporate entity whose purposes we can only guess at. Our individual survival doesn’t seem to matter to them, and it can be difficult to determine whether the human race matters to them. Who then becomes “us” and who “them”? What is truly alien?

Now I’m REALLY scared!!

Cheers, Donna

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Let's Talk About Pirating


Pirates are very much a part of Halloween lore as well as SFR world-building.  Pirates are swashbuckling rebels and rogues who assault other ships (whether space or high seas) to acquire their treasure.  They are generally viewed as dark heroes in our society, the Robin Hoods of the High Seas.

But I'd like to talk about another sort of pirating--the pirating of e-books.

There's a lively discussion on the Amazon Romance Community right now called Authors Behaving Badly.  It criticizes authors who react very emotionally to the subject of potential piracy of their work.  Sometimes writers have a knee-jerk reaction to the topic that makes them seem uncharitable, but there's a good reason why their tempers flare on this subject.  Their very careers are on the line.

How would you like to be in a situation where you must work for a full year to produce a product before you get paid, and just when your paycheck comes due, you're informed someone liked your product so much that they "borrowed it and passed it around."  Now your boss can't pay you most of your back wages because your work is available for free from those who admired it so much they "shared it with the world."  You've got bills to pay and you were desperately counting on that income...and now you've been robbed.  And your boss may have to fire you on top of it, because you didn't produce profit for the company. Would you be upset?

Darn right, you would.

Yes, I'm oversimplifying the situation, but I'm trying to put this into perspective for people who work regular jobs and expect to get paid for their efforts on a regular basis.

Some readers are adamnant that sharing an e-copy of a book is both acceptable and legal, and in some cases they're right.  They are deeply offended by authors who claim they are "stealing" from them.  While readers see sharing of e-files as no different than sharing a favorite book with friends (which most authors endorse because it creates buzz for their work) or buying a book from a used book store, in the e-book industry, it can be very, very different.  Because one hard copy of a book loaned to a friend or two is not a problem, but one e-book downloaded to ten friends, and then shared with ten of their friends, and ten of theirs, etc. becomes a monstrous snowball.  And one copy shared through an e-book piracy site is a calamity for a writer. It's often catastrophic because it can impact the author's sales to the tune of hundreds, and maybe even thousands of copies. 

So?  Says the reader.  Is that really a big deal?

Yes, it is.  Because in the electronic age a book can be "cloned" and all those potential buyers who are not acquiring from a legitimate source and paying the fee for the book impacts the author's sales figures, not to mention the author's royalties--the "salary" they receive for the thousands of hours they've invested in getting the book written and published.  Ultimately, the publishing house may have the writer "walk the plank" for such poor sales. Even though hundred of thousands of people are reading and loving their books, it doesn't show in the sales numbers. 

So everyone loses when readers acquire books through mass sharing, which is usually via an e-book pirating site.   

The reader's favorite author suffers career damaging loss of sales and may not be back with another book. 

The writer, who (speaking as the voice of experience) has invested at least a year or two of blood, sweat and sanity to write, revise, pitch, sell, edit and promote a book (during which time they don't receive one red cent) may lose a lot of money in spite of all her hard work and the book's popularity.  And their reward may even be that they never sell another book because the sales don't show they are marketable.

The publishing house loses because its profits are impacted and it may not even be able to stay in business.

Yet, like the pirates of lore, these e-book pirates are seen as some sort of dark heroes because they are pillaging their favorite authors and offering their booty for free. 

With fans like that, who needs enemies?

I hope this article will help readers better understand the cries of rage and pain being heard from authors who fall victim to these e-book pirates.  I also hope they'll help join the effort to scuttle these sites by not acquiring or sharing e-books through them. 

The best way to show support and admiration for your favorite authors is always to buy their books new.  And don't forget, right after Halloween comes the Holiday shopping season.  Buy books as gifts!  :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Creature Feature

To continue our 13 Days of Halloween spook fest, I've compiled a special photo gallery of "Things That Make Me Go Eeeeeeek!" 

For your entertainment(?), here's a collection of some of the creepiest, weirdest or just plain What the--? images I've come across on the internet.




Can you say Arachniphobia?



...and is there such a thing as Cobraphobia?  *cringes*




Scaredy Cat




Umm.  Gives new meaning to: "What's wrong with this picture?"




It's been thirty years and he (she/it) still scares the bejeeters outta me!




Defintely not a creature I'd want to meet on a dark, er...lake bottom.



Thanks for stopping by, y'hear?  See you *mwahahaaa*...very soon.

SFR Film in the Works

An announcement was made on Rotten Tomatoes that Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst have signed on to star in Upside Down, touted as a Science Fiction Romance comparable to Romeo and Juliet. Upside Down is written and directed by Juan Diego Solanos and is a French/Canadian coproduction.

With a $50 million budget this tale about a man searching for his love in an alternate universe might help bring the spotlight to SFR and could potentially result in a boost to SFR book sales. Unfortunately, the film isn't expected to be released until the fall of 2011.

Related link with more information: FirstShowing.net

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Scares You?

A countdown of the eight top (weird) things that scare me:

Number 8.
Turning on the water faucet and having no water come out. When you're on a well, and not on a water system, that's a very, very bad thing guaranteed to elevate the heart rate.

Number 7.
Gamma Ray Bursts. Anything that can arrive without warning, burn off the ozone layer, liquefy the crust and destroy most, if not all, life on Earth is right up there with turning on the tap and having no water come out. ;)

Number 6.
Rattlesnakes. Because I've met a couple in person. And trust me, that raspy-rattley sound they make with hissing accompaniment is guaranteed to make your hair stand on end. :0

Number 5.
Waking up and finding out I'm back in high school. Yeah, ok. Nuff said.

Number 4.
Lobsters. They're just...creepy!

Number 3.
Great White Sharks. Um, I live in the desert, so that's kind of in the phobia class. Lobsters are too, I guess.

Number 2.
Clothes with a lot of buttons. I don't know why but it totally freaks me out to be buttoned up with 50 odd little buttons. My wedding dress had a ton of buttons. I almost got married in my skivvies. It took a rational Mom to keep me from ripping it off and running away screaming. It had nothing to do with David. Really!

Number 1.
Sinkholes. Just...because. Who wouldn't be afraid of big spontaneous holes that swallow houses and just...happen. Anywhere.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Night on The Queen Mary

Several years ago I went to a training event in Long Beach, California and was housed aboard the former luxury cruise ship The Queen Mary, now a floating hotel. This ship has a history of hauntings including phantom swimmers and wet footprints beside a long-drained swimming pool, a ghostly woman who roams the ship, the sounds of screams and scraping metal, and the occasional sighting of a man who was once crushed by a watertight door.

Now I've got a little tale of my own to add to the mythos.

First, let me tell you a bit about the ship. The Queen Mary is much larger than the Titanic. She's so big that when you look down her corridors, you can see how the deck is curved downward from bow to midship and back up again to the stern. She has several restaurants and bars onboard, and hosts a massive Sunday Brunch in the grand ballroom that I believe is toted as the single largest room ever built inside a ship. (Been there, in the dark and creepiness, and trust me, it’s huge!) There's also a small shopping mall, a large museum below decks, and a "Ghost Ship" tour that takes groups to some of the haunted locations and recreates spectral visits with special effects. The ship even hosts one of the largest Halloween bashes of ghost tours, mazes and all night parties in Long Beach: The Shipwreck--15 Nights of Terror.

While exploring the decks one evening, my husband and I got onto one of the many elevators and pressed the button for one of the upper decks. The door closed but instead of going up, the elevator went down. :O David tried pushing buttons to stop it, but it continued to carry us down, down, down, deck after deck. When the doors finally opened, we were seriously spooked, and in an unfamiliar place--a very dark, cavernous room. We stepped off, looked around, stumbled through the black toward a light. There were large glass cases with memorabilia, nautical pictures on the wall. Our wayward elevator had carried us down into the belly of the ship, and we were in the museum! Except the museum had closed hours before. We were the only living souls there (though I can't say we were the only souls). We wandered around looking for a guard, an exit, an escape…anything! The exits were all gated or locked. We yelled. No response. Tried to tap a code on the bulkhead. Nothing. At last we had to admit the obvious...there was no way out except back through the dysfunctional (?) elevator. But if we got back on, where would it take us next?

We eventually found our way back to our cabin with no more interference from mischievous spirits, but our fellow conference attendees were so intrigued by our story of the runaway elevator that they scheduled an impromptu—and self-guided—ghost tour of the Queen Mary to be held after dark the next night.

There is nothing like wandering around a really vast, reportedly haunted vessel in the pitch black (especially in places we really weren’t supposed to be, according to the cordial security guard who was quite amused by the merry band of camera-toting spirit seekers he confronted). We wandered decks, corridors, massive halls and deserted staff areas for hours in search of…something. Something we were sure was going to be around the next turn in the hall or empty room. But nothing ever…materialized.

Still, I can say that—aside from one possessed elevator—I think we did come away with a gentle contact from the spirit world. On our last night there, I was startled from sleep by the sound of my suitcase buckles rattling and shopping bags rustling in the next room. I woke David and we both prepared ourselves to confront a burglar…but when we went to the room and turned on the lights, there was no one was there. Our cabin door was still locked from the inside and nothing had been taken. It seemed our mysterious visitor had exited right through the door.

And that’s the slightly creepy story of my night on The Queen Mary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LUCY IN THE SKY Released Today!

Barbara Elsborg's first (and only, to date) SFR/erotica was released today be Ellora's Cave. Click here for a direct link to Ellora's Cave (site is for those over 18 only, please).


Post Mortem Characters (PMCs)

No Halloween series is complete without the discussion of ghosts. But not all ghosts are banished to the Paranormal realm in fiction. Sometimes the most influential characters in a novel, other than the MCs themselves, are those of the departed. What would Luke Skywalker have amounted to without the spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi telling him when to use the Force? Would Aragorn have arisen to become the great leader against the forces of evil in Lord of the Rings if the cataclysmic failings of his ancestor, Isildur, hadn’t given him the strength of will to become a reluctant hero?

A Post-Mortem Character (PMC) is often someone who was close to the character, a relative, friend, or teacher. Or they could also be an idol (Elvis, Princess Di) or a person of political or cultural influence (Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa) or someone they admired…or despised. Any departed soul who is in a position to influence a character’s life, decisions, actions or plans could be a PMC. They can take an active role in the plot, taking on personality traits through flashbacks, memories, dreams or interaction with living characters. Or they can take a passive role through the living character’s thoughts. The influence of PMCs can take many forms.

The Mentor. The PMC can act as an active voice that lingers, guiding the character with their remembered wisdom. The character maintains a dialogue with the Mentor, whether real or imagined. The character might hear The Mentor’s voice in their head, see them in dreams or visions, or ask what would you, [insert name of dearly departed PMC], do in this situation? The aforementioned Obi Wan Kenobi was a Mentor PMC. Another example is in THE OUTBACK STARS. When Sergeant Terry Myell is close to death he is visited by his mother who calls him by his special name—Jungali—and gives him hints about the choices he must make.

The Inspiration. The character is compelled to complete a journey the PMC began, but could not complete themselves due to death. A son who takes up his father’s sword and vows to finish his quest is a common theme, sword being a symbolic word for cause. Although similar to a Mentor, there is no active dialogue between the character and the PMC, but the PMC’s influence is evident by the character’s motivation.

The Conscience. The PMC’s memory prompts the character to do things or make choices that would make the PMC proud, etc. This is probably the most universal passive PMC influence. My father always told me to… My mother wanted me to be… What would my grandmother think if she knew I…

The Reshaper. The grief of the PMCs passing results in life-altering changes in the character. The character might move away, change their lifestyle, because of--or to avoid facing--the memory of the departed one. The death of Duke Leto Atreides in DUNE sends his young son Paul into exile, where he raises an unlikely army of Fremen in the quest to avenge his father’s murder.

The Lingerer. This sort of PMC may incite the opposite effect of a Reshaper when the character holds on to their memories too tightly, whether or not he/she should, and this also causes life-altering events or conflict. In Ann Aguirre’s GRIMSPACE, navigator March is affected by the memory of his late Grimspace navigator/partner, while his new navigator, Sirantha Jax, still stings from the loss of her own pilot/partner/lover, Kai, a situation that causes a rift between them and threatens their freshly minted do-it-or-die alliance.

The Reverser. Not all PMCs are someone admired. Another aspect of a PMC affecting a character is when they vow not to behave like the departed, not to make the same mistakes, or carry the same negative traits. In contrast to a Reshaper who sends the MC off in a different direction or spurs them to begin their initial quest, a Reverser sends the character into gear-slamming reverse. In this case, the PMC lives on as an example of what not to do. Aragorn, meet Isildur.

The Haunter. This PMC can have the effect of the Mentor, Inspiration, or Conscience but they do so more directly—through fear. They mentally or physically haunt the character with lingering nightmares, apparitions or poltergeist activities. They may be adversaries, villains, abusers, or victims, but not always. The tone is threatening, but not all Haunters are evil. In the motion picture Dragonfly, the deceased wife of the MC haunts her husband through her former child patients and household objects, goading him to take a journey to South America to discover something very precious that he believed lost—their infant daughter.

In a twist on the PMC, the characters themselves may already be deceased, but that fact is concealed until the shocker ending when their lingering influence on others is revealed. In fact, this isn’t all that rare. Do any of these movie titles sound familiar? Sixth Sense. The Others. Psycho.

Now, here’s the real test. Can you think of a major novel or motion picture that didn’t have a character somehow affected by a PMC influence?

Good luck with that. ;)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scariest SF Films of All-Time

Halloween is considered the turf of witches, ghosts, goblins, vampires and werewolves, but what about the impact of Science Fiction on Halloween? Haven't some of the most terrifying films of all time emerged from the realm of Science Fiction?

Here's our take on the Eight Scariest Science Fiction Movies of All Time. See if you agree. (Click on the titles to see movie trailers.)

Number 8: The Fly
A brilliant but eccentric scientist transforms into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly, disgustingly wrong.

Number 7: The Invasion (of the Body Snatchers)
A Washington psychiatrist unearths the origin of an alien epidemic. The latest incarnation of the often remade classic.

Number 6: The X-Files: The Movie
The truth is out there-in all it's glorious creepiness-from spooky bee experiments to an eerie Antarctic laboratory.

Number 5: The Thing
Scientists in the Antarctic find a creature that has been buried in the ice for 100,000 years--a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people it kills.

Number 4: War of the Worlds
Alien invaders wreck havoc on the planet and humankind in this modern remake of the radio classic that caused widespread panic when it first aired on August 21, 1953. Based on a novel by H. G. Wells.

Number 3: Signs
A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening. It soon becomes more than a suggestion when alien beings invade their home and their world. Signs made tin foil hats and baby monitors into something sinister.

Number 2: Jurassic Park
Scientists clone dinosaurs to populate a theme park which suffers a major security breakdown and releases the dinosaurs. Jurassic Park introduced us all to the two-legged terrors called Raptors, and an up close and personal staredown with a T. Rex. Several more Jurassic Park films were released, but none had the impact of the original blockbuster.

and the Scariest Science Fiction Movie of All Time...

Number 1: Alien/(Aliens)
In Alien, the crew of remote mining ship Nostromo investigating a suspected SOS lands on a distant planet harboring a hostile species and unwittingly take a specimen onboard their vessel. In Aliens, Ripley, the sole survivor of the Nostromo still in hypersleep 50 years later is picked up by a salvage team. She returns to the planet of alien origin with a squad of Colonial Marines. The Alien franchise declares itself "The scariest movie ever made" and made Ripley (not to mention Private Vasquez in Aliens) an icon of savvy female heroines. Re-released on Halloween 2003.

Wait. We forgot the best one(s)? Tell us about it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thirteen Days of Halloween



'Tis the season to be...terrified!

For the next thirteen days,

Spacefreighters Lounge

will bring you

a collection of posts

in honor of

the creepiest holiday

of them all.


Happy Halloween

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Second Sale for D. L. Jackson!

I am delighted to report that D. L. Jackson (who we know as Dawn) has just made another sale--her second in a little over a month!  Her Science Fiction Romance/Erotica titled LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK will be released as an e-book by Liquid Silver Books.  I'll keep you updated on a release date.  Dawn offered this preliminary blurb to whet our appetite. 

Evolution never happened so fast.

Twelve hours outside of Terra II, Colonel Kaleb Titan, a molecular geneticist and commander of the Ark, faces a life or death choice that could change the fate of mankind.

The Genesis I, aka the Ark, has traveled for eight months with a hold full of wildlife and three crew members to keep her on course and operating. When a wolf bite and genetically-altering gamma radiation transform Colonel Titan, he notices his senses have been heightened and his libido has gone haywire. He can’t keep his hands off his crew and they don’t seem inclined to stop him.

When their sister ship, the Genesis II arrives early, Kaleb’s problems compound. If Earth Command learns of the infection, his ship will be quarantined and the crew will die in space. When the command crew of the Genesis II boards his ship, one whiff tells him they’re not who they appear to be. They might have flown the Genesis II to Terra II, but they’re not from earth and Kaleb suspects they want their planet and cargo.

When he discovers that they’ve kept the Genesis II’s crew of over two thousand alive, he begins to believe their reasons may be far more ominous than anyone could have imagined. However, he also discovers what’s holding them back. The hijackers seem to be allergic to canines.

Now, Captain Melissa Deluzio, the pilot, Lieutenant Jessica Stearns, a wildlife biologist, and Colonel Rivers are forced to employ biological warfare against their own people, but will it be enough to save them?

History is about to repeat and only one species will survive.

Dawn's first novel, SLIPPING THE PAST, will be available soon from Liquid Silver Books.

Congratulations, Dawn!

ANN AGUIRRE'S WANDERLUST

Today, Donna and I are doing a one-two punch of the second and third novels in Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series, WANDERLUST and DOUBLEBLIND. You can also click this link to read a much earlier "First Look" post on the first in the series, GRIMSPACE.

Just an aside. Prior to last year, I didn't read many books due to time constraints. The more I heard that "reading is a must!" for writers, the more I tried to find ways to cram books into my schedule wherever and whenever I could. As a result, I was able to read 25 books since October 15, 2008--all in my spare moments. I began and ended my year long reading spree with GRIMSPACE and WANDERLUST.

In the first few pages of WANDERLUST, I realized why I enjoyed GRIMSPACE so much. Aguirre's dialogue, both spoken and internal, is some of the best I've read, bar none. It's intelligent and twisty in the best possible way. There's nothing predictable in anything her main character says, thinks or does--and some of March's retorts show him to be her equal in all things. (Have I mentioned how much I adore March?)

In GRIMSPACE I got downright upset with Jax for her treatment of March, but in WANDERLUST she's finally recognized March for the diamond in the rough he is, and her affection for him is much more evident and powerfully drawn, especially later in the story.

Since being declared prematurely dead in GRIMSPACE, Sirantha Jax has a whole new set of problems. She's been offered a new job with a lot of prestige--as the new ambassador to Ithian-Tor--but first she has to actually get to the planet, which proves to be almost an impossibility. It seems ambassadors-to-be get no respect and draw a lot of the wrong kind of attention.

March kept me fascinated and chuckling in the opening chapters until I hit that "Oh no!" wall that I had a feeling was coming. Well into the story March struggles with a debt owed from his previous pre-Jax life and it will take the characters in new directions for the last part of the book, and leave the reader with a paradox for the two lovers in the next book(s) in the series.

The bounty-hunter Vel is back, the soft shell of a man surrounding a crunchy Ithtorian center, and he's every bit as amazing a character as he was in GRIMSPACE. There are also a couple of new additions that are picked up along the way--Jael and Hit--and another who's more or less "assembled." I have to admit to a certain partiality to Jael and his talents, but I'm afraid to get too cozy with him, because I'm not sure he's completely trustworthy. Jael displays an irrestistible blend of strength and vuluerability. (And so I suppose, like Goose in Top Gun, that means he's toast.)

The big twist in this book came when Sirantha Jax realized something about herself and a newly acquired physical handicap that provides insights into her origins and makeup as a grimspace navigator. This amazing twist promises to lead her character to new discoveries about herself in later books.

The ending of WANDERLUST did leave me a bit unsettled and the characters' stories unresolved, but that seems to be the case in most bridge books. It definitely did it's job (as did Donna's upcoming review) in piquing my interest to get to the next in the series asap.

Go to the next post for Donna's take on DOUBLEBLIND.

ANN AGUIRRE'S DOUBLEBLIND

I’ve mentioned before that I’m often late to haul my ass to the spaceport before the shuttle leaves for the ship. But I’m lucky to have good friends who see to it I’m scooped up out of the bar where I’m arguing some moot point and beamed aboard before the captain warps for deep space. So it was when my friends here at Spacefreighters Lounge and Heather Massey over at The Galaxy Express (with an excellent series--Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 --ending with an interview with the author that you MUST read), dragged me out and pushed me in the direction of SFR writer Ann Aguirre.

Aguirre is the author of a series of books featuring space navigator Sirantha Jax, a kickass bad girl with a galactic reputation for wild living. Jax is one of the few humans in the galaxy with the genes and the skills to guide starships through “grimspace”, the disorienting and dangerous dimensions between “jumps” that allow long distance space travel. Her bosses in the major business conglomerates that rule the galaxy consider her a valuable asset despite her tendency to impulsive action and, uh, shall we say, unpredictability?

By the time we meet Jax in DOUBLEBLIND, the third book in the series, life has conspired to kick her butt pretty thoroughly. I haven’t read the first two books (see Laurie’s review of the second book, WANDERLUST), and I don’t want to give away a lot of plot points, either. But it’s clear from the way Aguirre reveals Jax’s character, that the bad girl has begun to grow up. She often compares herself to “the old Sirantha Jax”, wishing she could take the easy way out like that younger girl might have. This older, wiser Jax has been given a mission of monumental importance, as a diplomatic envoy to a closed, xenophobic society on a planet of strategic significance. And she’s not sure she’s up to the challenge.

Sirantha Jax is already a character we can’t help but love—independent, brash, funny and brave. But in this book, she is also forced to look at herself and wonder if she hasn’t been selfish or afraid or immature on a more fundamental level. That she comes out on the other side better for the examination speaks both to her character and to Aguirre’s immense skills as a writer. A character is supposed to grow in the course of a novel (or a series). We forget that sometimes in this age of the sequel for the sake of the Almighty Dollar.

Because this is romance, as well as science fiction, many of the changes we see in Jax come about as a result of her relationship with her lover, March. As the book begins, March is suffering from severe psychological trauma and has shut down all the emotions he once shared with Jax. In fact, he’s a threat to her physically, as he is to almost everyone around him, though she refuses to believe he’d hurt her. In typically stubborn fashion, she won’t give up on him, and eventually finds an innovative way to get through to him—just in time for him to become crucial to the outcome of her mission on Ithiss-Tor. (I will say the romantic interaction is both sparse and mild, by industry standards, but the emotion is heartfelt.)

Because this is science fiction, we have some wonderful concepts to spark our imaginations. Aguirre has already given us “grimspace” in earlier books, with all the genetic implications and physical problems that go along with it. In DOUBLEBLIND we see Ithiss-Tor in detail, a world designed by (intelligent) bugs for bugs, in which the interiors (furniture, wall coverings, floors, etc.) are all alive, as if you were living in a terrarium. That is brilliant! We also get Aguirre’s ingenious solution to March’s problem, which I won’t spoil for you here.

And because Ann Aguirre is a writer of exceptional skill we get her wonderful turn of phrase. I can’t tell you how many times I had to just stop and admire the way she’d put the words together. “Melancholy brushes me with its dove gray wings.” “I feel the ice of her regard all the way down in my bones, and despair tries to follow.”

I mean, all you can say is, “Da-yum, gurl!”

Fans of the Ithtorian Vel will be more than pleased with the insight the book provides into his past. The former bounty hunter has a major role as Jax’s interpreter and advisor on his home planet. But some surprises are in store for followers of other crew members as the story reaches its conclusion.

Aguirre wraps up the loose ends of this storyline by the last page of DOUBLEBLIND, but this is not the end for Sirantha Jax, March, Vel and the rest of the crew. Aguirre has several more Jax novels planned for the series. I can say I eagerly look forward to more. This is spacefaring SFR at its best.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heat Level in SFR

There's been some discussion that was started by Kimber An, author of the YA SFR--STAR CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER--and one of the bloggers at Enduring Romance, on a Romancing the Blog post.

It focuses on the heat level in SFR and why some readers believe less is better. I don't tend to write "sweet" (more along the lines of "steamy") but I thought this topic raised some interesting points for SFR fans.


Romancing the Blog: Why Some Readers Hate Graphic Sex Scenes (by Kimber An)

The Galaxy Express: Will "Sweet" Science Fiction Romance Survive?

Furthermore...

The Galaxy Express usually incites some great topic discussion about SFR, but lately I've been netting a lot of posts from my Google search that further the discussions started on TGE. These conversations are well worth reading (and joining) if you're a Skiffy Rommer fan.

Here's a recent one:

The Galaxy Express: Does Science Fiction Romance Needs a Gene Roddenberry?
Jinn Lidster: The Struggle of SFR

What Talent!

Thanks to my Google search for Science Fiction Romance, I stumbled on an article written about Skiffy Rommer Nathalie Gray, who--much to my amazement--is also a talented cover artist.

Check out Nathalie's interview by Romantic Suspense author Nikki Duncan on her blog here. Then follow the link to Nathalie's (Kanaxa's) site to see her amazing portfolio. Wow! I was blown away. Those are some fabulous covers!

A Saturday eye candy treat for sure! Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Interview with Lynn Crain

Today I'm interviewing author Lynn Crain whose SFR novel MORE THAN ROBOTICS was released by eXtasy on September 15th. Lynn is also a fellow RWA Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal member and I found her novel through the "upcoming releases" search feature on the FF&P website.

I was very excited to find a new SFR book that I didn't know about, so I wasted no time in asking Lynn if she'd do an interview to tell us a little more about her novel and her writing career.


* * *

Hi Lynn, thanks for agreeing to do an interview for Spacefreighters. We're always on the lookout for interesting new SFR books and MORE THAN ROBOTICS looks like a fabulous read.

So first of all, is this your first SFR?
No, and it certainly won't be my last either...LOL!

Have you published other novels or e-novels? Yes, fifteen books and five of those went to print. What are the titles and genres or subgenres? There's lots of titles. Here's a quick rundown:
Atlantis Allure
Below the Sea

Blue Moon Magic Series
Night of the Blue Moon

Captive Illusions Series
Iain & Kelsey

Orchid Series
Fluke
More Than Robotics

Sanguinary Seductions
A Tale of Opposites

Santa’s Elves Series
The View From Santa’s Sleigh
The Thing About Elves
An Elf’s Desire
A Love for Eggther
An Elf’s Magic
Giselle’s Elf

Shopping Spree

Subtle Invasion

Summer Solstice Scorchers
A Lover for Rachel

Violet Visions
Private Dancer

That's quite a list. When was your first book published? October 2004

What inspired you to write MORE THAN ROBOTICS? I've always been a science fiction geek. I love sci-fi. When I started writing years ago, I started in the science fiction area and my first finished story was Fluke which ended up being the first book in the Orchid series. My love for sci-fi has been on a upward swing with such great TV shows as Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Sanctuary, Stargate Atlantis, Bionic Woman, Fast Forward, Heroes and the list goes on and on.

Can you tell us the level of steam (sweet, spicy, steamy, erotica)? Most of my things range from steamy to erotic, with most being in the erotic area recently.

Do you have a blurb for MORE THAN ROBOTICS that you can share? Absolutely. Here it is:
There were only three things in life that Captain Bekka Taylor wanted: 1)Command of a Warrior Class Star Marauder, 2) To grow old gracefully and 3) A lover who understood her fiery nature. She was accomplishing two out of her three objectives very nicely when an internal IUA conflict begins to encompasses the whole world as she knows it. Then Lieutenant Javed Malik comes aboard, clearly younger than she, with dreamy eyes and a secret meant only for her. But letting him in means getting rid of years of frustration and anguish and maybe her career. Can she survive another war or the smoldering looks from her junior officer sent to protect her 24/7?

Tell us a little about the universe where the story takes place. The universe is obviously far in the future. I've made it so that Earth is considered planet 0 and everything evolves from here. It's a multi-universe, multi-planet system where almost anything is possible. Right now the IUA (Interstellar Universal Alliance) is fighting a group known as the UFF (United Freedom Front) for the controlling position of the known universes right back to the Milky Way. The UFF has found a way to infiltrate the IUA without anyone being the wiser. Or so they thought. Devlin Chapel, mad scientist type from Book 1 of the series, had developed clonedroids, biological cybernetic beings who could take the place of the human they were cloned from. In most cases. The heroine in Book 1, Fallon Montgomery, proves to be more than his match and equal. Book 2, More Than Robotics, opens when Fallon enlists the help of her mentor, Bekka Taylor to join the fight. One of the biggest allies that the people in both books have are the fact that the ships of this time are sentient. The AIs are fabulous and interface with the crew quite well and both adore their Captains.

How long did it take you to write MTR? It took about six weeks. And before anyone freaks, I work full time as a writer and write at a pace of about 1250 words and hour. This allows me to get a lot done in a short amount of time.
How much research did you need to do? I've been lucky in the fact I've been absorbing the science aspect of what I wrote about for years. The research was minimal on many aspects. I've really been putting in a lot of time on the space ships themselves recently as I want these to be the best I can make them. I have studied the cybernetics a lot as well as AI. All of it is like brain candy to me as I just lap it up.

Is there anything you'd like to share about the journey to get it published? Did you enter any contests or the RWA Golden Heart prior to selling it? I've been in RWA since 1983 and in the early years I entered quite a few contests. Contests are a good place to get one's feet wet because they help you to hone three chapters and the synopsis as in many cases that's all you'll submit. Now I think the greatest thing was when RWA implemented that you had to have your manuscript finished for the Golden Heart as up until that I was the Queen of the three chapters. LOL! And to be honest, I've had good and bad experiences with contests so you do develop a thick skin which is something you need in this business. Acting is the only other career which has a person getting rejected over and over again yet we come back for more.
My journey is pretty typical and my only regret is that I didn't push for it harder ten years ago. But I had a mother with early onset Alzheimer's and a father who needed me not to mention two boys and a husband whose job required him to travel. So after my national board stint with RWA, I had to retreat back to family. Some great writing friends encouraged me to come back after about five years and along with my Dad telling me Mom would kick my butt if she knew I gave up my dream to help him, I decided to come back. I took a slightly different route and went for the epublishing. And this really appeals to my scientific nature since it is the wave of the future. I've been blessed with really great publishers and will always stay with them even though I now have my sights on NYC and an agent for another go.

What would you like readers to know about MORE THAN ROBOTICS? I think that the readers will love the characters. Bekka Taylor is like many career women who knows there is something more in life but doesn't see the opportunity to grab it. All of us have flaws and she's no different. Plus she's a kick-ass heroine and I love her to death! Also, I actually wrote this book because I was missing Battlestar Galactica so much. There are a lot of similarities but I had developed this concept way before the new BSG came on the air. They did give me some ideas on direction of my stories though...which is a great thing...good TV or movies should do that to an author, stimulate your mind in new and different directions.

Do you have a favorite line from the book that you can share? There are so many...it's hard to choose...here's the one I like today!
Never tell me what I can and can’t do. Watch and see why I got the name the
Phoenix.


I think the cover art for MRT is gorgeous. So do I. Can you tell us a little about the cover and/or the artist? The cover artist is the award-winning Martine Jardin. Her website is http://www.martinejardin.com/ and she's just fantastic. Did you have input into the design? That is the great thing about eXtasy books. Authors have a lot of input into what their covers are like. Martine actually sent me to a couple of photo sites so I could pick out some some photos. The background is a combination of two I had found that I couldn't decide between. So yeah, I did have a lot of input into this cover and most of them.

Do you have any other SFR novels in the works? I have quite a few coming up. There will be more in the Orchid series, I have a WIP called Crusin' On The DIM Line about a VR cop who is on the trail of a drug dealer, another WIP called The Wizard of Skye which is a blend of science and fantasy but again about a futuristic cop and about a dozen more if truth be told. LOL!

For the aspiring SFR writers who follow this blog, can you tell us a little about your publisher? Well, I actually have four publishers but two are the ones I target for my FF&P stuff. One is Loose Id and MTR was published by eXtasy Books. eXtasy is the publisher who first put out my work so I'll always have a soft spot for them. They are great to work with and the author has a lot of say in regards to their career with them. They are very good for new authors as is every publisher I work with. eXtasy is always looking for new authors and they have a mainstream division called Devine Destinies I know is actively looking for work. Just check the website at http://www.extasybooks.com/ to see if they are reading new work right now.

Any advice for aspiring authors that you can share? The best advice I have to beginning writers is never give up. As long as you write well and are willing to learn every day, you will get published. The only other thing I can add is you must be committed to your craft. You need to write something every day and make writing a habit because the only way to accomplish a writing career is to plant yourself in the chair and write.

Anything else you'd like to tell us? I blog twice a week. On Wednesdays, I blog at http://www.themanyshades.blogspot.com/ and at least once a week at my personal blog, http://www.lynncrain.blogspot.com/. On Thursdays at my personal blog I interview two authors. And on all the blogs, I usually am giving something away. So drop by to see what's happening and you just might win sometime. I'm also MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Hope to see you all around sometime. Ask me anything and most of the time I answer. LOL!

Thanks so much, Lynn, for the peek inside your SFR universe and for all your thoughts and insights on writing and publishing. MORE THAN ROBOTICS looks like my kind of story and I can't wait to read it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Congratulations, Sharon!

Kudos and congrats to Sharon for her final in the RWA FF&P On the Far Side Contest (Paranormal category). Fantastic job, Sharon! And a special note...this wasn't for GHOST PLANET, but her new novel ECHO 8!

Here's the announcement of the the finalists:

*Permission to Forward Granted!*

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA is thrilled, delighted and excited to announce our fabulous finalists in the 2009 On the Far Side Contest!!! Look at all our winning members – we so rock!!

2009 On The Far Side Finalists

* Denotes FF&P Member

Romantic Elements
Soul Trade by Melanie Card*
The Darkshaper Invasion by Karen McCullough*
Windborne by Brenda Nelson-Davis*

Erotic
MIA Case Files: Wolfsbane by Tracy Truman*
Gods and Mortals by Rebecca Zanetti*
Catacomb Bound by Robin Haseltine*

Fantasy
Wild Fire by Rashda Kahn
Rites of Clay by Bonnie Johnston*
A Soul for Trouble by Christy Gibson*

Futuristic
Unspeakable Acts by Cheryl Alldredge*
Apocalypse’s Daughter: Dystopia by Tracy St. Hilaire*
Passages by Laurel Wanrow*

Paranormal
Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Stealing Time by Elise Chand
Night Walker by Lisa Keesler*

Time Travel
Machine Slave by Jennette Heikes*
Once in a Coyote Moon by Christy Gibson*
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone Seguin

Young Adult
Breathing Fire by Christine Canada
Frostbite by Sheri Boeynik
Seaside Sorcery by Laurel Wanrow*

BTW, Sharon decided to enter in Paranormal instead of Futuristic because ECHO 8 has a near-future setting with sci-fi elements. Way to go, Sharon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn Characters

Most of my novels have important or influential characters that make an entrance late in the story. I think the trick with these “autumn” characters is to be sure you set up their entrance stage right from the MC’s perspective early-on and with a couple of reinforcements in the story so it’s not a total surprise when they appear (unless of course they’re part of a big plot twist and are supposed to take the reader by storm).

These tardy characters must be there for one of two purposes—to either play a major role in plot development or be a direct influence or barrier to the MCs mental or physical journey. In order to build their overture, the reader should have established a pretty good idea of how the MC relates to this character through verbal or mental dialogue, what the state of their relationship is, and how they are going to affect the MC or what the MC wants.

I’d like to give a few examples of autumn characters in my work and that of others (but I apology for the deliberate vagueness in an attempt to avoid spoilers).

In P2PC, I have several autumn characters make an entrance as the plot begins to wind up and the stakes climb. They are involved with Drea’s (female MCs) quest, but create a dilemma in the relationship between her and Sair (male MC) when she is put in a position of abandoning duty or performing it and offering Sair up as a potential sacrifice.

In Draxis, I have a character who walks a tightrope between being a protagonist or antagonist. He is strictly forbidden from taking a mate, and his attraction to an autumn love interest puts a spin on his perception of honor and duty—and his interpretation of right and wrong.

In Planets, two very different autumn characters emerge—one who has ties to two of the major characters, and another who has influence on everyone. Both autumn characters present issues the MCs must overcome, and they help add new layers of tension, drama and emotional resolution to the climax of the story.

In Ann Aguirre’s GRIMSPACE, an autumn character (who is an established part of the ensemble cast in later books) enters late in the story and appears to be an antagonist that turns out to have a surprising sense of honor. This autumn character is fundamental in helping Jax, the MC, gain what she needs.

In Stephenie Myer’s TWILIGHT, autumn characters arrive in the form of the rival vampire group with a contrasting set of value, which throws the MCs into a desperate and seemingly hopeless struggle to survive.

Autumn characters can add new dimensions to conflict and present formidable obstacles at the turning point in many tales, and so they can play an important role in crafting suspenseful stories.

Monday, October 12, 2009

P2PC Wins Utah RWA Heart of the West Contest

Saturday, the Utah RWA chapter announced the winners of the Heart of the West (HOW) Contest during a conference in Park City, Utah. Although I wasn't able to attend, Utah RWA had the results posted on their web site within hours, and I was delighted to see P2PC had been named the first place winner in the Paranormal category! Even more exciting, the judge for the finals was Heather Osborn of Tor/Forge!

This is my first win in an RWA chapter sponsored contest, and it follows on the heels of a win in the SouthWest Writers Contest (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal category) three weeks ago. Yeah, it's been a great fall!

Thank you Utah RWA, contest coordinators and judges for a wonderful contest.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CritiqueCircle Reaches Major Landmark!

I take every available opportunity to talk up an amazing online critique site for writers called CritiqueCircle. And yes, I'm a member, as are several of my frequent flyer cohorts and published peers.

Today, CritiqueCircle announced something huge--their 200,000th critique! To celebrate they awarded a year's premium membership to the luck member who wrote the 200,000th critique, and six month premium memberships to those who wrote the 199,998th, 199,999th, 200,001st and 200,002nd.

If you've never stopped by CritiqueCircle, why don't you click on the button below and pop in to take a look around. Psst, just tell them "Aspiration" sent you. :)