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, March 31, 2010

Lightning Strikes Twice!

Zot!

I asked Sharon Lynn Fisher if she'd do a brief interview for Spacefreighters Lounge in light of her success this past week with her second RWA Golden Heart final in the Paranormal category (which includes SFR). She graciously agreed.

Sharon, in 2009, you were a Golden Heart finalist with GHOST PLANET, and lightning struck again in 2010 with SHADOWED. I understand they are basically the same novel. Can you tell us the story on why you decided to re-title it?

Shortly after the Golden Heart final last year, I got some excellent feedback and decided to substantially rewrite the manuscript. A big rewrite is a daunting task, and I was so proud and pleased to have accomplished it, I decided to enter again.

My Golden Heart class of 2009 had been a wonderful source of support and information, so I asked the gals if others had entered a finalist manuscript a second time. A couple of them suggested that if the manuscript was substantially revised, a new title is a good way to indicate that to a judge who may have read the previous version.

So that’s what I did, but the original title is my favorite.

So, let's get to the important stuff. Details, Sharon, we want details! What were you doing when you got "the call" last Thursday? What went through your mind? What did you do next? How did you celebrate?

I had told my husband calls were going out that day, but that I’d rather try to forget about it. There are so many factors that can affect your chances of finaling in any contest, and I really thought it would take a miracle to final two years in a row. Also, I had entered the revised manuscript in a regional RWA contest a few months prior, and one of the judges did not care for my writing or my heroine - I was still smarting from that.

But forget about it? Yeah, right. I was sitting at the kitchen table working furiously to keep up with posting announcements and congrats for the Paranormalists blog. My husband was making pancakes, and our daughter was sitting next to me waiting impatiently for her breakfast. Suddenly, over the sizzling of bacon, I heard our home phone ringing in the bedroom. I always give my cell phone number on contest entry forms. But last year, RWA called the home phone instead, and my husband brought the phone into my office with a stunned look on his face. When I heard the home phone ringing this time, I jumped up and ran into the bedroom, thinking, “Could it be happening again?” Glancing down at the phone, I saw “Sharon Sala,” in the little window, and I knew. I whooped in the poor woman’s ear.

I had already scheduled dinner that night with a friend and critique partner, thinking she would help take my mind off not making the list this year. We upgraded to a nicer restaurant (one with champagne), and had a lovely evening. The next day was my birthday, and that of course involved more champagne.

Last year the Golden Heart finalists banded together to found a web site called The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. Has anything similar been initiated for 2010 finalists, yet?

We do already have a yahoo group formed, but I’m not sure if there are plans for a web site. The ruby sisters blog has been an incredible success, with 30,000 site visits in less than a year (the page views were nearly 100,000). It’s a fabulous resource for anyone thinking of entering the Golden Heart.

Do you plan to attend RWA this year? What sort of events and activities are held for Golden Heart finalists?

I think attending nationals is inevitable. I was on the fence about it because of the expense (travel+conference fees+hotel). But nationals really are an incredible experience, and if you’re a finalist, it’s a shame to miss it. There’s nothing quite like seeing your picture on a gigantic screen in front of a thousand or so people.

As for events, last year there were two awards ceremonies – one small one with just the finalists and board members, and then the big presentation on the final night, where they announce the winners. The Golden Network holds a reception – I was bummed to miss this last year, but I had to choose between that and the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapter’s party.

My favorite part was the little ribbon you get for your conference badge. :-)

Thanks, Sharon, and we'll keep our fingers crossed for you for the Golden Heart Awards in July. Of course, we'll most likely be right there with our cameras and party horns (well, maybe not the party horns), so this article might be...

To Be Continued in July!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's hear it for the LHC!

Did you know that last night CERN's Large Hadron Collider made history? Check out the blog post at Bad Astronomy . . .

After more than a decade of triumph, setbacks, and much sturm and drang, the Large Hadron Collider made history last night by taking two beams of protons and smashing them head on at just a whisper under the speed of light.

Follow live tweets from the world's most adorable particle physicist (who works on the LHC) at:
http://twitter.com/profBriancox

Unfortunately the scientists had to exchange their champagne flutes for compasses to defend the world from the hordes of blood-thirsty demons that came pouring through the dimensional rift they'd created.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Why does E=mc2?


“From the simplest of ideas” ... If there were ever to be an epitaph written for humanity’s greatest scientific achievements, it might begin with these five words.

- Why Does E=mc2? (And why should we care?), by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw


Let me just cut to the chase and say I highly recommend this new primer on relativity, in which two British physicists reveal how all the really big ideas in science came out of asking simple questions. And they do it with such charm, wit, and modesty you almost forget you’re reading a science book.

I learned many astonishing and/or useful things reading this book. Here are five:
  1. WHY someone who travels really fast to another galaxy comes back to Earth to find everyone they knew long dead. (I mean it. I really get this now – even the basic math behind it.)
  2. What makes the speed of light a constant of nature, and why it's critical to modern physics.
  3. What the Higgs particle is and why CERN has spent so many euros trying to observe one in captivity. (There is a marvelously simple analogy about a ping-pong ball suspended in maple syrup.)
  4. That 100 billion subatomic particles generated by the sun pass through your thumbnail every second.
  5. That contrary to the laws of probability, even particle physicists can have a sense of humor.
Now, this book has been touted as relativity education for the masses, but I have to say...the "maths" are hard. Once we got past the Pythagorean theorem, they pretty much left me in the dust. Fortunately, it’s not critical that you follow the numbers to benefit from the book. They spend far more time on concepts, and for the most part I found those easy enough to grasp. But it does make you feel a bit inadequate when they’re flinging out equations that might as well be written in Martian. My advice: Unless you're into that sort of torture, just skim those bits and move on.

Despite the intimidating math, it’s a compelling, educational, and yes, entertaining read. If you’re a fan of the world’s most adorable particle physicist, don't miss it. The book is rife with interesting perspective and eloquent insights -- here's one of my favorites:

It is worth remembering not only that scientific hubris has often been shown to be folly in the past, but also that the perception that we somehow know enough, or even all there is to know, about the workings of nature has been and will probably always be damaging to the human spirit.

These authors respect their audience, and you get the feeling that they hope, more than anything, to deepen our sense of awe at the beauty of our world and universe.

We walk in the midst of wonders, and if we open our eyes and minds to them, the possibilities are boundless.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Congratulations Sharon!

Co-Blogger Sharon Lynn Fisher was just named a finalist in the 2010 RWA Golden Heart Awards for the second year in a row. Sharon's novel SHADOWED, is the sparkly new revision of GHOST PLANET. And yes, it's science fiction romance!

Congratulations, Sharon! What an achievement.

And all our best wishes for a win in July!

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Madness!!!!

No, we don't mean the kind of March Madness that involves sports events and playoffs.  This is the Skiffy Rommers' own brand of March Madness--and with it comes our own major case of jitters and expectation.  Yes, it's almost the end of March and for many of us who write, that means it's time for the announcements of the *sigh* Golden Heart finalists!  It's a huge day for aspiring authors of romance everywhere.

We'll be watching closely for any possible SFR titles making the cut with the hopes of doing an interview(s) with the writer(s).  (This is what we did last year and look where it led--to a 2009 Golden Heart Paranormal category finalist turned co-blogger--Sharon Lynn Fisher!)

But while we nervously await the big, big news, we wanted to let you know what other blogs are throwing events and "GH watch parties" leading up to zero hour.

Paranormalists   A sparkling new Paranormal Romance community is kicking off their site this week and asking finalists in the Paranormal Romance category to chime in and let them know they can be showered with congratulations and praise. (Yes, we're all members.)

SFR Brigade  A sister-community to Paranormalists will be joining Spacefreighters Lounge in eagerly watching for those Science Fiction Romance finalists.  (We're  members of that one too, of course!)

The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood   A site formed by the 2009 GH Finalists (including Sharon Lynn Fisher) will also be sponsoring a big GH Announcement event.  Be sure to check them out.  You might want to read All Aboard the Runaway Train by Tamara Hogan to understand what a final in the Golden Heart is all about.

Judi Fennel  Ms. Fennel sponsors a bright and shiny Third Annual Squee! Party for the Oscars of the Romance World! announcement party on her Word Press site. 

Let us know of any others and we'll be glad to add the link to our list.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Websites Every Writer Should Know

Continuing with our Resource Week, author D. L. Jackson (LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK, SLIPPING THE PAST) chimed in with these very helpful sites every writer should know.  Here's her list:

http://canblog.typepad.com/canbookmarketing/2007/02/make_a_book_tra.html
This is the Christian Author's Network, but they offer advice on how to market you books online. This is where I got the information to make my own book trailer.

http://www.slangsite.com/
This is great if you're trying to intepret what your teenager is saying or you want to get a feel for slang words to incorporate into your novel, or make you own slang.

http://www.duotrope.com/index.aspx
Reference of where to submit your work from publishers to zines.

http://www.agentquery.com/
One of the most-up-to-date sources for agent hunting.

http://www.authorisland.com/index.php
This is a good site for authors looking for a publisist.

http://www.google.com/support/webmasters
Problems with your blog or google? Here's how I fixed the problem with my blog. Uber helpful for tech problems and they have forums and advice articles.

http://www.epicauthors.com/
Epic is an organization for E-published authors and the membership fees are decent, for people on a budget.

Thanks for the recommendations!  We'll add these to our sidebar, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WRITE ON!

Trust us here at the Spacefreighters Lounge to put ideas in your head. All kinds of crazy ideas. About starships and black holes. Spiral galaxies and spinning emotions. The evolution of an alien with two hearts and the story of how he gave both those hearts to a girl with a big brain and a bigger smile.

Not that we’d leave you all alone with those ideas. When it comes to writing it all down, don’t worry that it’s just you and the little blinking curser. Just as there are many resources out there to help you design your starship or your solar system, there are plenty to keep you inspired and on track with your writing.

First, inspiration. These books are legion. Undoubtedly your favorite author has written something on the subject of why he or she writes. My personal favorites in this category are Anne Lamott’s classic BIRD BY BIRD and Stephen King’s ON WRITING.

Lamott is a novelist of the literary kind, an essayist and critic, and a writing teacher. All of which is to say I haven’t read anything else of hers. But this little book is a gem of encouragement and insight. Everything she says is useful in some way, and her style is so quiet, so intimate, that you feel you know her as a friend from the very first word. On those dark days when the words don’t come, I’m reminded of her father’s advice to her younger brother, distraught over the impossible task of writing a report on birds. “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

King’s book is a bit of a mish-mash, which he himself admits. He started out to write one kind of book, imparting what he had learned about the art over the years, and ended up with something quite different—a book about how he approaches his craft and his life. It’s a little like sitting around with him while he muses about things. What comes out can be mundane—every writer should own a copy of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE--or quite startling. He relates that the check for his first significant sale came just as he and wife Tabitha were flat broke and unable to afford medicine for a sick child. And none of King’s novels compares in horror to his account in this book of being struck by a van as he walked on a road near his house. The accident nearly killed him. He took months to recover. Then, slowly, he began to write again. That, my friends, is inspiration.

Part inspiration, part practical manual is a book I recently found with the intriguing title THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS, by James Scott Bell. Based on the classic battle aphorisms of Chinese general Sun Tzu (400-320 B.C.), Bell’s book is a light-hearted but pithy collection of wisdom for aspiring writers. With advice such as “A foundation in discipline is always the first step toward victory,” Bell moves his readers along toward their goals, prodding them with little exercises along the way. Later chapters are devoted to the actual writing process (“Remember that love means never having to say ‘I love you’”) and promotion and sales (“Network according to the law of reciprocity”; “Never assume that a rejection of your stuff is a rejection of you as a person . . . unless it’s accompanied by a punch in the nose.”) Bell is a novelist and an author of several other books on writing. He also teaches writing at workshops throughout the country.

Okay, so we’re fired up and rarin’ to go! Uh . . . there’s that durn blinkin’ curser again! How exactly do we do this? Well, every science fiction romance has two sides, which deserve equal treatment. Of the many resources on writing SF, my favorite is an oldie, but goodie, HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, by Orson Scott Card. Card, of course, is the Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of ENDER’S GAME and numerous other SF novels, as well as the author of a number of books on writing. Card tackles such thorny subjects as the differences between fantasy and SF (alas, even the latest edition of his book was written before SFR was recognized as a subgenre), world creation, story construction, POV and characterization, and setting limits on exposition and jargon. Many of the lessons Card gives on writing are not unique to SF, but he recognizes the problems that are ours alone and offers some solutions. A final chapter on the life and business of writing is likely to be dated, even in the most recent (2001) edition, but the general information is still useful.

I’ve saved the best for last, because this is my favorite writing book of all: ON WRITING ROMANCE, by Leigh Michaels. All readers have expectations when they pick up a book, based on what that book is and the type of readers they are. Readers of Stephen King, for example, expect great characters, a Maine locale (usually), a chilling plot and a lot of weirdness. Readers of romance are no different. If we are writing a romance, even one set in outer space, we need to meet their expectations.

Michaels does a great job of laying out exactly what those expectations are with regard to the heroine, the hero, the development of the plot, the emotions involved and such details as “the black moment” and “the happy ending”. She explains that no matter what other story line a romance may have—contemporary, suspense, SF, paranormal, historical, Western—the romance itself exists as a separate-but-equal story line that is interwoven with the other plot. Why are your lovers attracted to each other in the first place? What’s keeping them from being together? Is he the best man for her? Is she the best woman for him? All good questions, which Michaels helps you examine in detail in exercises throughout the book.

She also addresses basic questions of POV, plotting, characterization and dialogue in a way that makes doing the right thing seem effortless. I’ve given a few copies of this book to friends who are beginning writers, even though they are not romance writers, simply because the sections on writing fundamentals are so good.

Two more recommendations from my fellow Lounger Laurie Green:
I've found THE PLOT THICKENS: 8 WAYS TO BRING FICTION TO LIFE by Noah Lukeman to be a great tool for using the fundamentals to improve storytelling skills. The first three chapters are devoted to building characters through “The Inner Life”, “The Outer Life” and “Applied Characterizations”. These are followed by a focus on “Journey”, “Suspense” and “Conflict”--those things that motivate, challenge and help define your characters. Then “Context”--what should stay and why, and what should go and why. It offers exercises and examples throughout to get you thinking about how the concepts apply to your own work. The author is a New York literary agent who also wrote another reference gem, THE FIRST FIVE PAGES.

I'm a pantser, and as a member of that particular species I often write myself into corners and dead-ends. FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, by Karen S. Wiesner, came highly recommended by a member of my local writers' group as a system to help me write faster and with more organization and a bigger picture of the story concepts. It's touted as a sure-fire method to write a first draft (actually a very detailed outline) in a one-month timeframe that can then be painlessly expanded into a full-length novel. Of particular help to some writers is an entire chapter devoted to “Creating an Outline for a Project Already in Development or Re-Outlining a Stalled Project”. Karen Weisner is an award-winning author of over 20 novels.

Me, again. So, there you are, bookshelf stocked and ready to go! Now I just have two more recommendations for you. If you haven’t done it already, scoot over to http://www.rwanational.org/ to become a member of Romance Writers of America. The RWA is the only professional writers organization in the U.S. that opens its membership to unpublished writers, and the benefits of membership are too numerous to mention. Secondly, if you have finished that manuscript and are looking for an agent, don’t bother spending money on a copy of GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, or any of its like publications. Click on http://www.agentquery.com/ and get an up-to-date listing for free. Be sure to check those agents’ websites and blogs for further information before you query them. Dontcha just lurrve da ‘Net?

Cheers, Donna

From the (Space) Horse's Mouth

One Author: Two Great References

Continuing with Reference Week, I had to mention two books that have provided me insights into space travel and our space program as I never would have known it.  In writing a near future science fiction romance, time and again I refer to these two books by one authoritive author: A man who's been there.  

Do Your Ears Pop in Space?
and 500 Other Suprising Questions About Space Travel
by former astronaut R. Mike Mullane

On the morning of February 28, 1990, astronaut R. Mike Mullane flew his last of three shuttle missions, orbiting Earth in Atlantis. The launch was not without glitches. He describes the uncomfortable, lengthy hold on the launchpad due to weather conditions in clear detail and then those final giddy seconds leading up to blast-off. What happens next?

Do Your Ears Pop in Space? provides a wealth of detailed information about how things work in space--and the dynamics of getting there and back again--with questions grouped in nine easy-reference chapters:
  1. Space Physics
  2. Space Shuttle Pre-Mission and Launch Operations
  3. Space Shuttle Orbit Operations
  4. Life in Space
  5. Space Physiology
  6. Space Shuttle Re-Entry and Landing
  7. Challenger
  8. Astronaut Facts
  9. The Future
At speaking engagements throughout the country, Air Force Colonel(Ret) Mullane has addressed everyone from children to business professionals. He's answered thousands of questions about space flight and NASA's space program.  This is a collection of some of the most-asked questions--some expected, but many surprising. Where do astronauts spend most of their time? Is it possible to snore in space? Can you sneeze in weightlessness?  Have you seen any UFOs? If a shuttle is stranded in space, can anything be done to save the crew?  Where do astronauts get water?  Does space flight spiritually change an astronaut?  Do astronauts get taller in space? Can pregnant women fly in space?

Although many of the answers and situations are quite funny, there is an entire chapter devoted to the somber subject of the Challenger and her crew, appropriately Chapter 7. I clearly remember the events surrounding the disaster, but this book revealed facts I didn't know about the incident and changes made to the program in its aftermath.

I highly recommend this books as a resource about space travel from somone who has been there. 

Riding Rockets
The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut
by R. Mike Mullane

If you want to dig a little deeper than the facts to taste the true flavor of what it was like to by a shuttle astronaunt (and a peek behind the curtain of NASA public relations), Riding Rockets may be just what you're looking for.  Released in 2006, nine years after Do Your Ears Pop in Space? it is often funny, surprising, ironic or biting, but sometimes frightening and tragic. Riding Rockets feels much more like reading an adventure novel than a dry autobiography.

With chapter titled The F***ing New Guys and Adventures in Public Speaking, you get an up-close account of life as an astronaut told in a frank, warts-and-all telling. Despite overwhelming five-star reviews, and brief endorsements by the likes of Jim Lovell (Apollo 13) and Chuck Yeager (of "The Right Stuff" fame) and Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) which can be found in the front of the book, it hasn't been without controversy.  One review by John Kloss on the National Space Society refered to some of the hijinks described in Riding Rockets as "Animal House in space." 

A great read for inspiring ideas how bureaucracy and authority can affect space missions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Emotion Thesaurus

Continuing with our Resource Week, one of my favorite internet resources is the Emotion Thesaurus, brainstorm of Angela Ackerman and her co-blogger, Becca. Angela is represented by Jill Corcoran at the Herman Agency, and writes Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult books starring clever, wacky characters.

Emotion Thesaurus started as an experiment on CritiqueCircle and evolved into a popular project on Angela's blog, The Bookshelf Muse.  When asked about the success of the project, Angela said:  "It still kinda blows my mind how well it took off—generally with the Internet it feels like whatever you need you can always find with a few clicks, but there was nothing to help with portraying emotions that we could find at that time."

I refer to the Emotion Thesaurus whenever I'm stuck trying to translate an emotion into a facial expression or physical reaction that "shows" the character's feelings instead of the usual smiled, grinned, frowned scowled, or my personal favorite--nodded.

For instance, to show my character is happy, I might consult the list under Happiness/Joy and replace her generic smile by having her bounce on her toes or move with a light, floating walk.  If I have two characters expressing resentfulness (Resentful/Sullen) instead of having both of them face each other with arms crossed, she might spin away in a huff and he may roll his eyes and mumble.

Be sure to check out the Expressing Cardinal Emotions: Male vs. Female, which illustrates how the different genders show emotions or react differently in emotional situations.

Here is just a random sampling to give you a taste of this rich compilation:

ANGER
sitting/standing rigidly
muscles quivering
breathing deeply, noisily
laughter with an edge
talking in a carefully controlled tone
taking inappropriate risks

DISAPPOINTMENT
Rubbing at back of the neck, thinking of what to do next
False cheer, weak smile
Voice dropping or going quiet
Voice rising in anger
Denial (shaking head, whispering ‘no’ or a curse under breath)

RELUCTANCE
Reaching out slowly to take something or to assist
Glancing around, uneasy
Backing away from a situation, trying to not be noticed
Stuttering, stammering
Making excuses, lying
Holding a hand up, warding someone or something off

STUBBORNESS
Thrusting chin upward
Refusing to listen
Walking away from another person
Retreating into a personal space (bedroom, in front of the TV, shoving earphones in and tuning out)
Cranking up music to drown out someone else

The entire Emotion Thesaurus covers a comprehensive list of emotions and is organized as follows:
  • What is an Emotion Thesaurus?
  • Expressing Cardinal Emotions: Male vs. Female
  • Amusement
  • Anger
  • Annoyance
  • Anticipation
  • Confidence/Pride
  • Confusion
  • Contentment
  • Curiosity
  • Desperation
  • Disappointment
  • Disgust
  • Embarrassment
  • Enthusiasm
  • Excited/Elated
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Happiness/Joy
  • Hatred
  • Haughty/Smug/Superior
  • Hopeful
  • Humble/Meek/Shy
  • Impatience
  • Indifference
  • Indignation
  • Jealousy
  • Love & Attraction
  • Overwelmed
  • Powerless/Defeated
  • Relief
  • Reluctance
  • Resentful/Sullen
  • Resigned
  • Sadness/Grief
  • Satisfaction
  • Shame
  • Shock/Surprise
  • Somber
  • Stubbornness
  • Sympathy/Empathy
  • Uncertainty/Unconvinced
  • Unease
  • Wariness
  • Worry
  • Wounded/Hurt
  • Addendum: Defensive
  • Addendum: Desire
  • Addendum: Doubt
  • Addendum: Energetic
  • Addendum: Exhaustion
  • Addendum: Fatigue
  • Addendum: Hunger
  • Addendum: Loneliness
  • Addendum: Pain (physical/emotional)
  • Addendum: Sarcasm/Verbal Disrespect
To access the Emotion Thesaurus, go to The Bookshelf Muse blog and check the right sidebar for the Emotion Thesaurus heading.  While there, you might want to also investigate Angela's other projects: Setting Description Thesaurus, Color, Texture and Shapes Thesaurus, and the newest, Symbolism Thesaurus.

Happy writing!
~~*~~

Monday Blog Tour: (Surprise) This Blog!

Since we’ve declared this week Spacefreighters Lounge Resource Week, we’ll be posting some of our most valued resource books, websites and materials and why they’re so important to our work.

In many ways, this is a “back to the future” opportunity. Spacefreighters Lounge was created in 2007 with the goal of becoming “one-stop shopping” for science fiction (romance) related research. We’ve since moved away from that theme to a more general SFR focus, so what a great time to revisit the original purpose.

We’ve done our spring cleaning and rearranged the sidebar to sweep away some of the cobwebs and clutter and bring one of our offerings to the forefront for this week’s “blog tour”, namely SCI-FI 101. There’s a virtual planetlode of information here that you could spend days perusing for your next inspiration. Let’s take a look

SCI-FI 101
Part I
Lesser Known Sites

About AI
The Artificial Intelligence Community website features the latest news on developing supercomputers, advanced algorithms, nanotechnology and thinking machines. The overview explains the definition and goals of AI. What is Moore’s Law?  “When will we reach ‘Singularity?’”  Even if you’re not into cutting edge science, this site is sure to stimulate ideas and What’s Ifs…

Atlas of the Universe
An overview of the universal time/distances and structure including our solar system, the nearest stars, our solar neighborhood, the Milky Way galaxy, other galaxies out to the fringes of the known universe. What stars or bodies are within 12.5 light years from our Sun? 250 light years? 5000 light years? 500,000 light years? What is the Orion Arm? Open Star Clusters? How do double (binary), triple, and quadruple star orbits work? See the animated illustration. Solid knowledge for anyone writing about characters who venture off into the great unknown. Includes a glossary and useful links. Drill down under each heading for a wealth of information on various topics from nebulae to a star chart you can print and assemble.

Ancient Empires
When we write about future civilizations, we often draw on our knowledge of the past. This site offers a wealth of archeological information, including a list of the Top 8 Unknown Ancient Empires. Have you heard of the Indus Valley site? Carnal-Supe? Moche? Hittite? (Maybe the Hittites, if you’re a Ghostbusters fan.) Let your imagination wander through time on the About.Com Archealogy site.

Anti-Matter Drive Theory
Also listed under Starship Design as Relativity and Star Ship Design. A technical discussion on space-time theories and star ship propulsion. Good reading for those who are interested in the principles behind of Einstein’s theories.

Astonomy
Explains the formation of the universe from Big Bang through the formation of the Solar System and includes links to a host of space agencies and many observatories. Good basic information, although somewhat suspect due to the ideas for Mars colonization proposed under “Where Do We Go From Here.” [Throw rockets with fertile soil, plants, algae and bacteria at Mars and in 20-50 years we can send scientists to start colonies. By that time there will be oxygen, warmer temperatures and an infant ecology.] Ah, yes, if only it were that easy.

Cosmic Log
A long-standing (since 2002) and frequently updated site of info on the cosmos such as the March 4, 2010 article A Giant Among Galaxies served up by award-winning MSNBC.com science editor Alan Boyle. Other recent features include How Quakes Measure Up (effects of the Chilean earthquake) and Pluto Finds its Place. The fun and educational links on Weekend Field Trips on the Web will keep you in a wealth of new information and ideas. It also features a long link of valuable links on just about anything to do with space and science. Written in easy to understand, often entertaining language, consider booking yourself as a frequent flyer on this site.

Exploration: Sea and Sky
I heart kids’ sites! The contest is entertaining and provides a great jumping off point for the muse to further explore ideas. I’ve made a study of underwater vessels and habitats a major part of my research, because of the similarities to humans traveling through undersea and outer space environments. The site is divided into these two realms. Explore the Sky includes topic areas of Space Exploration, Sky News and Sky Gallery. Explore the Sea includes Ocean Exploration, Ocean Realm, and Sea Gallery to name only a few. Dive in!

Forms of Government
What sort of government will control your colonized planet or alien civilization? Will it be a form of Authoritarian such as Despotism, Kleptocracy, or Plutocracy? Or maybe it will form a Futarchy or Polyarchy Democracy? Possibly it’s been thrown into Ocholocracy or Tribalism Anarchy. Wikipedia brings some light to the many sides of civilization in this brief but informative overview.

HubbleSite
An attractive, image-rich site that features galleries and photo tours, telescope facts, education and museums, and a Reference Desk that includes frequently asked questions, a glossary and conversion charts. Here’s a pop quiz. 1) What’s the name of the Hubble Telescope’s successor to be launched in 2014? 2) What is Fomalhaut b, how far is it and what did scientists find orbiting it? 3) What will be the major players in tonight’s sky? HubbleSite has all the answers.

Pyramids (Nova)
The Inside Story. How were the Pyramids of Giza built? Who built them? How are they laid out? How old are they? How are they excavated. Take a virtual tour of the inside and uncovery the secrets. The mystery of the Egyptian pyramids is explored in this fascinating Nova site.

Solar System Viewer
I gleaned some great information about planetary orbits and timing for my current work in progress from this animated site. Where will the inner or outer planets be at some point in the future?

Space Slide Shows (MSNBC)
Not in a mood to read?  Looking for some muse candy and eye-popping visuals? Check out the amazing photos in this list of space slide shows.

Space Telescope (European)
A slightly different perspective. The European homepage for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

SpacePort America
Yes, there is a first-ever commercial spaceport now being built in the USA! In fact, it’s right here in good ol’ New Mexico. Check out what’s coming in near future travel, including the history, vision, challenges. The site includes some stunning imagery and factual information of where we are headed just a few years down the road. There’s even an online gift shop!

US Military Enlisted Ranks
US Military Officer/Warrant Officer Ranks
Whether you read or write science fiction romance, these US Department of Defense sites are essential for untangling the mystery of rank and insignia across the branches of military. For instance, did you know a captain in the US Army is not the same rank as a captain in the Navy? Is a Petty Officer an officer? Which two branches have the same ranks and insignias? What’s an Air Force E-5? A Marine O-4? Did you know Army and Marine officer ranks (not enlisted) are identical except that the Marines don’t have a war-time general officer rank and they abbreviate the ranks differently? Print out these handy charts for answers and quick reference to military rank questions.

Wikisky
An astronomy site that’s out of this world and one of my favorite “fly-bys.” Quick links in the upper right show you the latest and hot! views. Just hover your mouse over the link for a summary and click the link to get a “big picture” view. The “Getting Started” link explains how the site works. Your muse will love it.

Part II
Major Science News Sites

You could spend hours or even days wandering most of these familiar science sites, but we’ll list them here for convenience. Most cover the gamut of science topics including astronomy, breakthroughs, culture, health, nanotech, physics, space exploration, technology, and “weird science.”
We hope you've found some useful sites in our list of Sci-Fi 101 resources.  Do you have any favorite sites you'd like to recommend?  Please let us know, we'd be glad to add them to our list.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spacefreighters Lounge Resource Week

Resources. As writers, we’d be lost without them. Whether writing about future worlds or far-off planets, social issues or wars right here at home, resources are an invaluable tool for making the pages come alive with authenticity and suspension of disbelief.

This week on Spacefreighters Lounge, we’ll be listing some of our favorite resources and why we found them useful.

We hope you’ll spy some rare finds in the list that might be just what you’ve been looking for.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Future of E-Publishing?

Vook is coming!

Wait. What? What in the world is a "vook"?

It's the next generation of reading entertainment. A "vook" combines a digital book with video. According to Simon & Schuster's promo site, a vook will allow you to:

Read your book
Watch videos that highlight key moments in the story
View visual how-to’s
Connect with authors and other readers.

You can view a brief promo HERE or below:



Is this the start of what could be a revolution in e-publishing? Imagine reading a vook that has its own soundtrack? Or a video overature in place of cover art? Imagine chatting with other readers about the plot as you turn the pages. Or having virtual conversations with the characters.

And for we who write science fiction romance--star ship schematics, planetary overviews, starfield charts, alien species...Oh, the possibilities!

This could change everything about how we think of, experience, and promote the books of the future. In fact, it may change the very definition of books as we know it.

What do you think of the vook?

Ebook Sales Up 176% in 2009

According to an article from Publisher's Weekly, the e-book market (which has been especially kind to science fiction romance) has something to crow about.  In 2009, e-book sales were up 176% (based on the sales of thirteen publishers) to $169.5 million, while print trade books declined slightly.

Very good news for the e-book industry, but don't get too excited by the news. Trade print books still dominate the market.  The seemingly monstrous jump in e-book sales only equates to an increase of from 1.2% in 2008 to 3.3% in 2009.  Definitely a lot of room left for growth.  

Nebula Award Nominees Announced

I won't recap the entire list here, but you can check it out on The Nebula Awards.

I was happy to see the following nominees included for related awards:
  • John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Avatar, Star Trek, District 9 & Moon for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
The Nebula Awards are annually presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) and feature categories for:
  • Short Story
  • Novelette
  • Novella
  • Novel
This year the award ceremony will be held at Cocoa Beach Hilton Oceanfront, Cape Canaveral, Florida (just 20 minutes from Kennedy Space Center) on the evening of May 15, 2010.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Side Trip

Over on agent Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants blog there's a fascinating video on the making of the cover for BLAMELESS.  Definitely worth a watch...or two.
*     *     *

SFR Release

Last Flight of the Ark

A Science Ficiton Romance by D. L. Jackson is out today with Liquid Silver Books.

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, travels with a hold full of wildlife and three crew members. When a wolf bite and genetically-altering gamma radiation transform Kaleb, he notices his senses have been heightened, his libido has gone haywire and he can’t keep his hands off his crew. Worse yet, they don't seem inclined to stop him.

When their sister ship, the Genesis II arrives early, Kaleb’s problems compound. As soon as the command crew of the Genesis II boards, one whiff tells Kaleb they’re not from Earth or who they appear to be.

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 they're forced to employ biological warfare against their own, but will it be enough to save humanity?

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

*      *     *

You can read an excerpt on the Liquid Silver site or at SFR Preview.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

BRAVE NEW WORLD?

Okay, I’m just the writer. Some days it’s all I can do to drag myself to the computer and put one word after another.

Those of you who follow this blog, or any of the other blogs with which we’re linked, know I do my work in the midst of a revolution. This revolution is potentially as profound as any in the publishing world since Gutenburg and, if you don’t believe me, check out the two references cited in earlier blogs: Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s “The Strange Benefit of Social Networking” and Heather Massey’s “Ten Steps to Making Science Fiction Romance a Contender”. Both offer upbeat appraisals of the movement toward digital forms of communication—from Twitter and Facebook to blogging and e-publishing—and their implications for the future of publishing.

Lichtenberg’s analysis is particularly insightful and elegant, and I hesitate to paraphrase it here. I urge you to read it in its entirety. But as I understand it, what Jackie is saying is that we blog or comment or tweet to become part of the “in” group, or to remain on the inside. A unique sense of humor, knowledge or communication skills (that is, the ability to use the network itself), make you a valued member of the group. A disagreeable nature (a tendency to flame or brag, for example) might land you on the outside, just as it would in high school.

Jackie’s point is that it is very difficult to use this network for commercial purposes unless you are already a member of the group. She refers to corporate marketing interests, but the case could be made for anyone. Stick a pin in that.

Heather’s thought-provoking piece suggests that science fiction romance may be in a unique position to take advantage of the benefits of social networking in support of a whole new model of publishing. Authors and readers might connect in a variety of ways—through e-publishers, authors’ websites, blog tours and so on—bypassing the traditional agent-editor-publisher-bookstore approach. Heather’s argument is that SFR lends itself to this new way of thinking about the publication process, since both readers and writers are more open to the possibilities.

Ah. But remember Jackie’s thought about this social networking thing? There may be limits to what you can do commercially with what is essentially a social beast. If all of us are pushing a book, doing an interview, wanting a review, seeking some kind of gimme from this network we are a part of, then the rewards will certainly grow thin. Call it feedback fatigue.

Now let’s look at the brave new world of digital communication from another perspective. This revolution we speak of hit the world of journalism long ago, and the implications are now becoming clear. A recent AP article reports the price per word paid to freelance journalists has plummeted over the last few years. And really, why bother paying anyone to write an article? Opinions on virtually any subject can be had for free on the Internet—the number of bloggers is mind-boggling. When the earthquake hit Haiti, CNN didn’t wait for qualified journalists to report from the scene. They took commentary from anyone with a cell phone or working computer. No filters. No confirmation. No waiting to see if the information was factual or not.

The result of the digital communication revolution in journalism has been a proliferation of “sources.” The problem is, if everyone is a source, no one is. Ask ten eyewitnesses to an accident for their accounts of what happened and you will get ten different accounts. That used to be why journalists were trained to ask the right questions, to seek balance, to check sources, to get confirmation. We’ve virtually dispensed with all that.

In a world where the source of news is fragmented so badly, the consumption of news is piecemeal at best. In search of the “truth” we seek out those outlets we are familiar with, or that give us what we want—the liberal view or the conservative one, the funny one or the deadly dull one. Just as in our listening preferences we confine ourselves to hip-hop or emo or classic rock, when we used to get everything from Sinatra to Howlin’ Wolf on the same station.

My fear—and it is a fear, not a belief—is that by embracing a wholly digital model of publishing for science fiction romance (or fiction in any genre), we leave ourselves open to this kind of fragmentation and lose any hope of a mass market. An ever-increasing number of writers end up chasing a diminishing number of readers. And soon, just as happened in journalism, when everyone is a writer, no one is.

One school of thought holds that anyone can be taught to be a competent, entertaining writer. As a former editor, I seriously doubt it. Too many people believe they are God’s gift to literature, and they don’t need anyone telling them how to shape their words. The reality is, without proper gatekeepers, quality becomes an issue. If all it takes to put out a book is 40,000 words and a website, how is a reader to determine whether the book is worth buying?

Without something more than the social network to rely on for distribution, how can any writer ensure that the months of hard work she’s put into her book will pay off in sales to more than just her friends and family? The proliferation of writers and “publishers” will certainly limit the audience available to any one title. (Or will it? Maybe it will work like car dealerships—put them together in one place and sales increase.)

Then there’s the issue of piracy. Theft must be dealt with or we’re wasting our time talking about this. Period. Going online to “share” the content of someone’s intellectual property is NOT the same as passing along a copy of a paperback to a friend. First case can cost the author hundreds of dollars of hard-earned pay. Second case, maybe a few cents. Someone smarter than me needs to figure this out.

Because there is another reason why we tweet, blog, comment and CREATE: it is to leave a part of ourselves behind that is somehow immortal. Our characters, our worlds, the principles expressed in our words, can live on when we have passed from the scene—either into death or into obscurity. That’s why I’d disagree with Jackie Lichtenberg on this one point. When we hit “send”, we don’t do it freely, thinking only to “give”. We very much hope to “receive” in return—a comment, some acknowledgement, some recognition that we are here. When we write, we want to know we’ve left a mark on someone’s heart.

Immortality, such as it is.

Cheers, Donna

Monday, March 1, 2010

SFR Preview Kick Off

We're very excited to announce the launch of SFR Preview, a site devoted to Science Fiction Romance "sneak peek" excerpts from published authors, and award-winning and selected writers.

SFR kicks off today, March 1st, with nine featured story excerpts by six different authors and writers, including:
  • Barbara Elsborg
  • D. L. Jackson
  • Arlene Webb
  • Donna S. Frelick
  • Laurie Green
Interested in having your work posted on the site?  Read the site guidelines or contact SFRPreview @ gmail . com (without the spaces) for more information.

Monday Blog Tour

We're very short on blog tour links today, because we have a big announcement to follow, but here's one you can check out:

D. L. Jackson is giving away a free copy of her first e-novel SLIPPING THE PAST for the price of a comment.  Here's all you need to do.  Go to her Backward Momentum blog and read the post, then hop over the Take it to the Stars blog and post your comment.  That's it!  How easy is that?  One lucky visitor will win a free copy.

And by the way, this is in celebration of her second novel, LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK (a SFR) coming out on March 8th from Liquid Silver Books!

You've heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers' Month)?  Well, meet NaNoEdMo--National Novel Editing Month.  Got a novel to edit?  Join the gang for a fast and furious scrub of your latest project.