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.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

See You Next Week!



The Spacefreighters crew
is off to the Big Apple for the
2011 RWA National Conference.

See you there...or see you here next week!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Donna’s Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?



Just have time for a few words this week as we head down the final stretch to the RWA National Conference. As I was wrestling with my pitch and my wardrobe and various other concerns for the con, I got a phone call from the lovely folks in the Tampa Area Romance Authors chapter (in Florida, of course), telling me I’d finaled in the 2011 TARA contest with my second novel, Trouble in Mind!

As one of three finalists in the paranormal category, I move up to the final round now, for judging by editor Elizabeth Bistrow of New American Library. That means I get a chance to revise my entry, using all the feedback I’ve received from the first-round judges (and from judges in intervening contests) before I send it on. Plus I have to add a 1500-word synopsis (ack!). Of course, I have a 1650-word synopsis on hand and have to cut it to fit! (Did I mention all this is due in a week?)

Anyway, the hurriedly spiffed-up entry and synopsis is being sent off today. Wish me luck.

And, finally, the framework for my agent pitch has been hammered together and used to make up new business cards for passing out to all and sundry at the conference. Wanna see?

In a hidden war between alien slavers and Earth’s defenders,
love is the ultimate weapon
.


The Grays need us. They have the technology to take us, to wipe our minds and use our bodies. And they’ve been stealing us off this planet for generations.

In the cold dark of space, Rescuers fight to save us from lives of mindless slavery. Sometimes they even bring us home again, to pick up our lives as if we’d never been gone. With their help, we forget what we should remember.

That there’s a battle going on in the skies above our heads. Between humans and aliens. Between those who would take our lives to exploit us, and those who would give their lives to protect us.

Between what the heart wants, and what the universe sometimes demands.

The Interstellar Rescue Series by Donna S. Frelick
Unchained Memory
Trouble in Mind
Fools Rush In

(There's some nicer formatting here which I'm unable to show you, but you get the idea.)

The other side of the card shows the old Unchained Memory graphic, with Interstellar Rescue now featured, and my contact information.

This weekend’s task will be to take the one-sentence descriptions of each book I’ve developed and put them on note cards, backed up with a few other notes about the books as talking points. I’ll try to commit those things to memory, but I tend to get nervous, so it helps to have something in hand in case the old mind goes completely blank.

So, there it is, my strategy for success. You’ve all been with me all the way (thank you, especially, Linda, Laurie, Sharon and Barbara for all your support), and I’ll carry all that positive energy with me to New York!

Cheers, Donna

Monday, June 20, 2011

Laurie's Journal

T-Minus one week...and counting!

The RWA Nationals are upon us (where did the last three months go?) and we Three Laseteers are looking forward to the event with excitement and maybe just a touch of panic.  (Am I ready?  Am I prepared? Have I packed everything?)

PRE-CONFERENCE THOUGHTS

For Sharon, this will be her "First Sale" conference and her last Golden Heart Finalists conference. (The RITAs await you, Sharon!) Exciting times! Having sold (to Tor in a two-book deal) she's no longer eligible for the Golden Heart Award.  After being a finalist in every Golden Heart she's entered, I get to witness her getting the boot to the ranks of Golden Heart Alumni during the Tuesday Golden Network event.  You see, the Golden Heart is not just another contest, it's an amazing association that you join and are connected with for the rest of your career, if not your life.  For an aspiring writer, there's no other experience that compares.

For Donna, this is another big opportunity to get her work out there.  She'll be pitching agents, promoting her work, and furthering her career.  Donna and I are now the only ones eligible to carry on the Golden Heart legacy for Spacefreighters, so I'm sure we'll be discussing strategy for the 2012 contest. Donna will be joining us in the Finalist Section at the Golden Heart/RITA ceremony this year, so it's our first opportunity for all three of us to share the prestige seats as co-bloggers, co-Brigaders, CPs and co-SFR enthusiasts. How cool is that?

And for me?  This will be my first conference as a Golden Heart finalist. As a Starcatcher, I have some 65 GH sisters that I've been talking to online daily for the last three months--trading information, sharing successes and comisserating when the news isn't so great.  I already know a few personally--Sharon, of course, and a couple of others--but for the most part this will be the first coming together of the Class of 2011. It will be so amazing to talk face-to-face to the people behind these dynamic personalities I've come to know.  I'm also looking forward to the get-together with some of my fellow SFR Brigade members again...or for the first time.  Our Skiffy Rommer ranks have soared the last two years, from the four who originally met at the FF&P The Gathering in 2009 to some fifteen a year later.  And this year?  We may have even more. This year we even have a RITA nominee in our ranks (Marcella Burnard for ENEMY WITHIN)! 

So much has happened in the last three months, from "I'm not going to conference this year" to "I'm so there...with bells and hearts on!"  Maybe I'll be meeting you there.  I certainly hope so! 

New York City, here we come!

PITCHING

I'm going to approach my pitches a bit differently than I originally planned, which was just to memorize my written blurb.  I'll be expanding on what makes P2PC different from other SFRs and some of the elements that set the story and characters apart on an emotional level.  As Donna mentioned, it's all about concepts and not getting too far down into the weeds on the story detail.  It's a challenge, to be sure, and pitches usually make me very nervous, but I've come to realize they are, if anything, a win-win situation.  I have nothing to lose--a "no" only leaves me at status quo--and everything to gain--a "yes" can be career-changing.  I'm pitching an agent and an editor, and each pitch will have a different focus. 

GOLDEN HEART/RITA CEREMONY

Want to get real-time Golden Heart and RITA ceremony results?  You can watch the posting of the 2011 RITA and Golden Heart award winners—as they’re being announced—on Friday, July 1, from 8:00–10:00 p.m. ET on the RWA website (http://www.rwa.org/), Twitter (twitter.com/romancewriters), and Facebook (www.facebook.com/romancewriters).

SHARING THE WEALTH

When I return, I hope to share what I learned, what I experienced and any SFR industry news.  There's an amazing line up of editors and agents at the Golden Network Retreat who will be answering questions submitted by the Starcatchers and past GH finalists.  I'll be taking notes. 

See you on the flip side!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Surviving the Ice Age

I'd like to welcome author A. R. Norris as our guest blogger today on Spacefreighters Lounge.  A.R. just released her SFR novel, Duty and Devotion, on June 15th from Desert Breeze Publishing.

It's coming. You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. Will humans be ready? Today I want to outline my thoughts on the Ice Age planning. It won't be quick, thank goodness. But, the key is seeing the signs. *sigh* The old adage of "hindsight is 20/20" takes on a very depressing twist.

Of course, at what point do you shift from warning to planning to implementing? And who's doing this now? *Deep breath* Okay, okay. Enough drilling you. You probably don't know these answers any better than I do.

The ice age, when it officially is declared, will last at least twenty thousand years, minimum. It will creep up on us. The weather will become weird, with each year more extreme and recovering less than the last. Deserts will start to reforest, Amazon will change into a desert and those countries north and south of the equator will began to transform into permafrost wastelands.

Two or three generations later our descendants will look around and go, "Hey...uh oh."

How much will the ice age cover the Earth? Well, the ice age 850 million years ago (and lasted a couple hundred thousand years) was glaciated to the equator. Yup, full blown ice planet.

Now, I'd like to keep a positive mind (shhh...quiet) and believe the best in humanity (SHHHH). Our ingenuity, perseverance, and...okay, face it, the need to self preservation will drive us into survival mode. So, what do we need to do?

First, cover the basic human requirements: food, shelter, water, warmth/heat. Okay not too bad. Already there is science being developed to regenerate food: through cloning, algea based growth, and hydroponic vegetation techniques. And there are viable architectural drawings already created by futurists for civilization domes...just waiting for good incentives and approved permits. Having icicles growing on your local politician's bum should rush those along easily enough. It'll be tight and we'll have to factor in the thickening ice sheets, so we don't end up buried. As for water...we can just develop a water system that processes all the ice outside. Easy peasy!

Shelter and energy will answer the warmth/heat part of survival. Now what?

*Groan* Oh yeah, social infrastructure. Every city needs to run smoothly. That means things like energy, transportation, communication, waste processing, financial, manufacturing/business, and cultural.
All right, we also have well established alternative energy techniques such as solar panels and exploratory techniques, such as capturing movement energy (where floors are built with energy capturing technology). Transportation, same thing, we have energy efficient transportation systems and vehicles. Waste will be a little more difficult, but I think with the right vehicle and processing system we can overcome that with a little effort and a huge decomposition campaign. With the whole green movement in the last few decades we should have that down like rock stars.

The biggest issue I see humans facing is the financial, business and cultural aspects of a new Earth. Financially we'll break, completely. Those who are poor will get poorer and those who are richer will get richer. That's the way of human nature, unfortunately. Hopefully, society will immerge from this without ruining the safety of their shelter and infrastructure...and throw us into some kind of dystopian and/or utilitarian society.

Thankfully, sisters Nettie and Rinny from Duty and Devotion were not around when the ice age first hit...or during the rough transition period. In fact, humans have thrived and seeded out to populate the Solar System. Earth as become the equivalent of Washington D.C., but on a solar system level.

Unfortunately for them, humans have populated the System enough to begin fighting over territory with the neighboring outer government. Now, the two are heading to war. Their father, a corporate dignitary wouldn't have it any other way. Due to the fact that the story is set in space, I didn't get a chance to explore the Earth society, but the excerpt does give us Nettie's departure from the planet.

Excerpt

The discussion died away and after a small pause, Nettie again looked out the window. Windmore City's dome began its simulation of sunrise in the distance, cascading yellow to burnt orange from the base of the dome up. The temperature dropped to a crisp and cool midfifty to complete the program. The tall glass buildings, in reflection of the dome, turned from blackish silver to various hues of red, pink, and orange.

Hard to believe, just beyond the protection of the dome was frozen land. Earth, a barren ice ball for over five hundred years, stayed in a state of constant blizzard. The domes recreated the old surface, but it wasn't real. No one could even be quite sure of its accuracy.

*****

Leave a comment and you'll be entered in the chance to win a great gift package!

Hope you liked the excerpt. If you want to learn more about me, stop by my blog: Adventures of a Sci-Fi Writer or email me at ambernorris2000@yahoo.com

Duty and Devotion is available at Desert Breeze, All Romance Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, and the Apple iBookstore.

Image sources:
Ice Age Planet Image source: http://www.uclick.com/widgets/ew/080530/ew080530a.html
City Dome Image http://viralideas.net/1609/houston-dome-project-a-controversial-concept/

Friday, June 17, 2011

SUPER 8: SCIENCE FICTION WITH A HEART

Science fiction could use a heart and those of us who write SFR are generally in the business of giving it one. We have a kindred spirit in filmmaker J.J. Abrams, whose SF television series (“Lost” and “Fringe”) and movies (STAR TREK) focus on the people caught up in the strangeness of his slightly twisted worlds.

But Abrams’s latest effort, the spectacular SUPER 8 in theaters now, should join films like ET, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, AVATAR and the nearly forgotten ON THE BEACH in setting the standard for science fiction with a heart. SUPER 8 is an instant classic, worthy of multiple viewings and a spot on the DVD shelf or in the permanent queue.

Abrams’s film is partly a coming of age film a la STAND BY ME, partly an open tribute to his mentor Stephen Spielberg a la ET and a little of the weird darkness that is all his own. For those of us who are also fans of Stephen King, Rob Reiner and Stephen Spielberg, this is not such a bad combination. And Abrams has done a masterful job of weaving the elements together to produce a film that is both touching and taut, sensitive and suspenseful.

Before I go too far over the top, let me say that the movie does have some weak points. None of what Abrams does here is new or innovative. The effects won’t knock your socks off (though the train crash is pretty impressive). But who cares? Does every film have to blow your brains out with SFX?

What is truly memorable here is what happens between the characters—13-year-old Joe (Joel Courtney), struggling to recover from his mother’s death and his father’s emotional distance; Joe’s friends and the movie they’re making; the beautiful and mysterious Alice (Elle Fanning), who has more than one connection with Joe. Then, of course, there is what happens the night the friends are filming at the train station and the train crashes and something escapes into the night.

The kids, largely unknowns, who play the leads in SUPER 8, do a fantastic job with the material. Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning, in particular, light up the screen. Kyle Chandler, one of my personal favorites as an actor, (previously of “Friday Night Lights”), provides sterling backup as Joe’s grieving father who, as the deputy sheriff in the town, must also deal with the aftermath of the train crash.

Often when people ask me to describe my style I answer that I’m like “J.J. Abrams meets Linda Howard.” I used to have to clarify that with, “You know, J.J. Abrams—‘Lost’?” Now I have no fear that people will know who he is. I agree with Stephen Spielberg that this movie will make his reputation. The only problem is, how am I going to measure up to that?

Donna’s Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Well, kiddies, the Romance Writers of America National Conference is coming up in a little over a week, and you know what that means! Time to polish those pitches until they sparkle and shine so as to wow the agents and editors we’ll be meeting, either officially or unofficially at the conference. What? You don’t have a pitch for your book? Yikes! Time to get cracking!

I will be meeting with two agents in New York (for which I send thanks to the heavens), one of which has my manuscript already and one of which doesn’t know me from Adam. My approach to Agent A will obviously be different than my approach to Agent B, less of a true pitch than an exploratory meeting, I hope. In that meeting we may actually talk in some detail about the story itself, since she’s read it. She may want to know how I feel about changes or how the story relates to others in my projected series. If things are really going well, she may want to know what my plans are for the future—how I see my career unfolding, how many books per year for what market and so on.

My meeting with Agent B is a true pitch session, to be conducted amid the chaos of a grand ballroom full of other agents, editors and prospective authors. I’ll have to find a way to make my story stand out from all the others this agent has heard about all day (and all week). Concepts and ideas are the key here, not details (unless and until she asks for them). I have to distill my story down to its essential idea and get that across in a few words, then expand to a few key points: the hero and heroine, their goals, who or what must they overcome to reach them, what are the stakes, what happens in the end.

In my case, I’m breaking a rule or two. (So what else is new?) My books are easier to explain in the context of my series. So I’m going to pitch the series, then explain books one and two (both complete) in that context. I believe things will go quicker and easier that way. I’m planning to have new business cards made up with the series pitch and the book titles (debuting in this space next week!) to replace my old cards with the Unchained Memory pitch.

For those of you working on pitches, you may find this “A Pitch in Five Questions” format helpful. I came across this online months ago. (I can’t remember the source now, my apologies to whoever came up with it.)

1) Who’s your main character?
2) What’s her challenge?
3) Who or what is assisting her?
4) Who or what is working against her?
5) What’s at stake?


I know Laurie’s been working on her pitch, too. Maybe she’ll be willing to share some insights in her journal on Monday.

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bare Bones of Inspiration

I'd like to thank author Pippa Jay for guest blogging today at Spacefreighters Lounge.  I got to know Pippa through the Six Sentence Sunday exercise, and became intrigued with her thought-provoking and well-crafted excerpts. We've been exchanging thoughts and ideas on writing and publishing ever since. 

When I read her recently published short story, I was highly impressed with her visual prose and the dilemma her main character faces, and asked if she'd be interested in guest blogging. 

The Bare Bones of Inspiration
by Pippa Jay

I see authors being asked this question all the time: “Where did you get your inspiration from?” In truth, there are as many answers given as there are books: music, art, family, scientific discoveries; anything and everything. Sometimes certain stories have one single spark that brought them to life. Sometimes you have to search for them. Sometimes you have to really dig …

“Oh, damn!”

Aggrieved sigh from husband. “What?”

“My tutor said that final assignment didn’t count as a short story. Said it wasn’t complete.” Well, a 1500 word limit when I’ve been writing 40K plus for a year was always going to be a challenge.

“Did you fail?”

“Oh, no, I passed. Not as good a mark as I was hoping for, but I passed.” Guess I wasn’t teacher’s pet.

“What are you worried about then?”

“Well, I wish I could write short stories. I guess I’m no good at them.”

Husband makes a disapproving noise. “Now you sound like our eldest.” Mimics the whining tone of our petulant, eight-year-old daughter. “I can’t doooo it! It’s toooooo hard!”

“Oh, shut up!”

Husband’s eyebrows raise. “Well …”

A few weeks later and I’m sitting on a stony beach with the sun blazing down and a chill wind skimming off the water. The children are throwing pebbles into the estuary, their laughter a distant sound. Behind me, the scraggy grasses clinging to the dunes hiss and whisper loudly as the sea breeze dances through them. Strangely it’s very soothing, if a tad cold. It’s a little like waking up from a deep sleep - - a bit hazy, nothing quite real.

Among the stones and sand lay hundreds of shells, thousands of them. Cockles mostly, though there are plenty of oyster shells, a delicacy for which Mersea is famous and that drew the conquering Romans to ancient Britain. A few whelks, winkles and mussels. Pieces of driftwood. String, odd feathers, bits of sea-smoothed glass and the inevitable tatters of plastic. The Bones of the Sea, I thought, and the thought stuck. I started scooping the shells and smaller pieces of driftwood into a pile. “Darrin?”

“Hmm?”

“What does ‘Bones of the Sea’ make you think of?”

“Er, dunno.” Silence for a moment. “Whale bones?”

Big curving rib bones at the bottom of the dark, dark sea. I poke some of the sticks of wood into the ground, making a circle into which I pile the shells, working without any real thought. An image comes to mind, the cover of one of my favorite books: Drowntide by Sydney J Van Scyoc. A shadowy figure hovering in murky water. My weird construction looks like bony fingers reaching up out of the sand, with all those empty dead shells in the center. And in among them is the glimmer of an idea, the start of a story. The Bones of the Sea.

Three thousand words later and I have a story. A short story. A moral sci-fi tale tied into the same Universe as my main manuscripts. It’s had 126 downloads so far and four readers have left five-star reviews. People seem to like it. And all it is came from what I saw in a pile of shells and a few sticks on the beach.

So now let me ask you: Where does your inspiration come from? And what’s the weirdest thing that’s sparked an idea for you?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Laurie's Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Two weeks and counting to RWA. The excitement builds as I look forward to seeing my friends, peers and fellow Brigaders. The apprehension spikes when I realize how much I still have to do! It's going to be a busy two weeks and the time is going to fly by at FTL speed.


I’m very excited to report I’ve had a request for a full of P2PC! Before sending, I took 36 hours to do a last read-through, make a couple of minor tweaks and add a bit more clarification on a couple of complex emotional twists. And we have lift off!

Godspeed, P2PC. :)

And…at last!...my Golden Heart Class of 2011 has a name. We’re the Starcatchers! After much wrestling and brainstorming, this is the tag that the majority of members felt best fit our group. Why Starcatchers? It was inspired by a number of ideas but I think the overarching themes are “hope” and “opportunity.” Stars have long been associated with striving, achievement and fulfilling your dreams. Reach for the stars. Rising star. A star on the horizon.

Robin Perini made the suggestion, based in part on the song Catch a Falling Star—

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

Being a Golden Heart finalist is akin to catching a falling star. It’s this little bit of magic we’ve captured and can call on whenever we query or pitch, and always tag onto our sig line “2011 Golden Heart Finalist.” Is it a bit like having a figurative star in our pocket.

For me, it brought back another song:

When You Wish Upon a Star

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

Also, another early name suggestion for our group was the Diamond Girls, because like diamonds, writers are formed under pressure over time, until it’s finally our time to shine. Stars are also formed under great pressure, and they certainly shine. For centuries we’ve looked to the stars to find our way through the dark.

So Starcatchers, it is. And of course, being a SFR writer, I’m also very excited that this is the name chosen for the class of 2011, the year when three SFR manuscripts made it into the Golden Heart finals and one SFR novel is a RITA nominee.

The Squeeze
At my LERA Chapter meeting (local RWA) on Saturday, I got some great tips for pitching at Nationals, including what to expect pre-pitch, and what not to do. It became painfully obvious from the exercise that I can’t use my written pitch, so now I’m in a bit of a panic how I’m going to do a pitch makeover in just two short weeks. My LERA peers and Starcatchers gave me some great ideas for elements to include such as:

Talk about where the story idea came from.

Explain what’s different about my novel.

Talk about my hero and his motivation, what he wants and why he can’t have it. Then talk about my heroine, what she wants and why she can’t have it.

Be prepared to answer questions about plot, conflict, black moment, resolution, and every conceivable off-the-wall question they might toss at you.

My task now is to find the head time to work on my pitch.

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

I’m very excited to relate that after many years of working on her very original SF/RE (Science Fiction with Romantic Elements), Splintered Energy, author Arlene Webb has independently published her novel. (With striking cover art by Greg Elsborg, son of author Barbara Elsborg.) Here’s the blurb:

Dawn breaks--literally. Energy sparks across the horizon, power grids go down…

Energy splinters and a few hapless humans fall dead. A moment later, hearts regain their beat and the confused aliens witness their first sunrise through the eyes of the deceased. Sentient beings can't recall a past, other than a blissful haven. Nor do they have memories from the host whose body they unwittingly hijacked.

California. A widower's twelve-year-old son is rather young to bring home a woman, especially a collapsed green beauty too frightened to open her eyes.

Arizona. A divorcee blinks hard, but the gorgeous red guy stepping in front of her car is still red-hello, ditch. When she comes around, she wonders which layer of hell she's fallen into.

Ohio. A teen also fears he's dealing with the demonic, but no matter how dangerous things become, he's determined to stand by a man with inhumanly blue eyes.

Only one learns to hide his unique skin color, and he assumes the identity of the victim, Malcolm James.

Malcolm learns of escalating violence through news clips. The cohorts he's able to locate--vibrant personalities with enhanced predatory skills--are breaking every law…He has a goal: return to wherever it is he belongs. But he can't do that alone, and is forced to shoulder the burden of reunification, despite his fear those who cross paths with color, himself included, may become permanently scarred or worse, killed.

This reluctant leader has no doubt-living light does not belong on Earth.

Splintered Energy is available on Smashwords and Amazon (psst....at a very reasonable price!)

Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

I recently read an excellent SF short by Pippa Jay, The Bones of the Sea. It’s already received several five star reviews, and it’s free on Smashwords. Pippa Jay will be guest blogging about the inspiration for her story on Spacefreighters Lounge later this week.

I also stumbled over a Science Fiction Romance by Zoe Archer. This one also went directly to my Kindle (did not pass Go, did not collect $200--just the very reasonable price tag of $3.03!). I had to stop reading my last Zoe Archer, not because the story wasn’t fabulous, but because the somewhat historical-slanted prose was influencing my writing style (you know how when you go to Atlanta and after a few days find yourself talking like a Southern belle—yeah, kind of like that). I’m very much looking forward to seeing how her style changes with Collision Course.

Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

For the last month I’ve been reporting on my bid to become an honorary Ruby Slippered Sister via the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. I’m sad to report I was outbid in the final four minutes and didn’t get to the notification in time to counter offer. I haz sadnezz, but I’m very happy that the auction brought in so much to help with diabetes research. This is, after all, the point. The Brenda Novak Auction has wrapped for another year. Look for it again next May.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Loved your thought-provoking discussion on villains, heroes and heroines. It did get my wheels turning.

@Sharon [Insert New York, New York music video here] Two weeks to the Big Apple! We’re in final countdown.

Looking forward to seeing you both soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

X-CELLENT PREQUEL A CUT ABOVE

Science fiction summer continues in the theaters with last week’s opening of X MEN: FIRST CLASS, the eagerly-awaited prequel to the X-Men story. The Marvel Comics-to-movies machine knows how to sell tickets. Compelling characters, great story, and lots of things that go boom in creative ways keep audiences coming back for more. And this latest effort is certainly no exception to the rule.

In this case, though, inspired casting and a willingness to allow for a certain amount of moral ambiguity has resulted in a film that goes beyond the usual summer popcorn movie. James McEvoy and Michael Fassbinder play Professor X and Magneto as younger men, each shaped by their experiences from the dark days of the fight against Nazi oppression to the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis which forms the climax of the film. Both actors bring their “A” games to what would otherwise be melodrama, leaving us to understand not only how differently they each see the world, but how, inevitably, they must become opposed to each other.

In the interim, they are brought together by a common enemy, the more typical evil bad guy, an ex-Nazi played by Kevin Bacon. He chews the scenery with relish and gives the audience plenty of opportunity to throw popcorn. And yet even he has a seductive line of argument for the “freaks” who are beginning to emerge in the post-war world with all manner of mutations, both visible and invisible. Join me, he argues, and we will rule. We are the future of humanity.

Of course, his idea is that those without the mutations will live only to serve the ones with them. He’s clearly a megalomaniac. But for the mutants themselves, faced with indisputable evidence that the “normal” world fears and hates them, the idea of embracing their power has appeal. For the man who will become Professor X, ever the optimist, humankind can be taught to accept their differences in time. For the man who spent his childhood in a Nazi experimental lab, Magneto, humankind is full of hate and will never change. Both viewpoints are valid; both have evidence to back them up. And when the mutants must choose which leader to follow at the end of the film, the audience finds it difficult to make the choice, too.

One lesson to be learned from this movie—one that the late, lamented “Smallville” forgot to its detriment—is that your hero is only as good as your villain. The more complex and tormented your villain, the more interesting he or she is. The man who becomes Magneto struggles with questions of who he is and what he truly wants, just as Lex Luthor did. Right up until the last moment, we wonder which side he will choose—good or evil, right or wrong. In Magneto’s case, he does the wrong things for the right reasons. In Lex’s case, he often did the right things for the wrong reasons. (You just kept wishing he would get it right, because he seemed to want that. Then he wouldn’t. Fascinating. No wonder Clark kept trying for so long.)

Oh, and Michael Fassbinder? He’s definitely on my list now. Complex, tortured and hot. Oh, my.

Donna’s Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Every once in a while you have one of those moments of inspiration by which the universe just seems to smack you in the head (in a good way). I had one of those recently as I was putting the finishing touches on an entry for the Land of Enchantment Romance Authors contest (New Mexico). I had made quite a few changes in the first twenty pages or so of the manuscript, and I thought I was good to go. But I looked over some feedback I’d gotten on past entries, and there was one little question among the rest that really threw me:

“What do these characters want?”

Now, of course, any author should be able to answer that over the span of an entire book. But to distill the essence of what your hero and your heroine want, and to make that clear to your readers in the first few pages of your book is another thing entirely. And as I looked over my first few pages I realized, despite everything I had done, I still had not communicated the answer to that one key question.

Why not? The biggest reason was that I was keeping secrets about my characters and my plot, thinking that by doing so I was creating suspense. Suspense is important, but this is not the way to go about it. Some things need to be said right up front, bringing your readers into the story and making them part of the “inner circle”. Keep them too much on the outside and they can’t relate to your characters. Share too little of the mystery and they lose interest in the plot.

The other problem is that what my characters say they want is not always what they really want. For example, my FBI-agent heroine wants to solve the kidnapping that is at the heart of my story, but that’s what she gets paid to do. It’s not enough motivation to carry the story. What she really wants is to save the child who has been kidnapped, because her childhood was spent running and hiding from unseen enemies. She relates personally to the child’s fear. Similarly, my galactic-tracker hero is working the case because his friends asked him to. It would be just another case to him, except for the fact that his alien half-brothers are also after the child. Now it’s a matter of personal honor for him to save the child.

Of course, because we write romance, we can always say that our heroes and heroines want each other. But do they? What if they haven’t even met in the first few pages? What if they’ve met, but as so often happens, they seem to hate each other? They obviously want something (and if it’s just sex, we’re talking porn, not romance), so what is it?

You must define for your readers what that something is in the beginning of the novel. Even if your lovers haven’t met, it must be clear they are destined for each other, not just for contests, but for agents, editors and readers alike. Obviously my heroines can't wish upon a star for a handsome prince to come and save them, but both my heroines have had to lose bad husbands/boyfriends (in the first five pages!) before they could move on to the good guys. From what I know of the world, that happens a lot. So even if they don’t know what they want before they meet the hero, they definitely know what they don’t want. The contrast is already made.

It’s harder for the heroes, who are alone in the beginning, to indicate that they want love deep down. In my latest novel I resorted to having my hero admire his friend’s relationship with his spouse, who is also his working partner. (I had to do it without taking the edge off my tough guy, though, and that was the hard part.) The example is provided so he recognizes a good thing when he sees it, even subliminally.

Honestly, it’s a miracle that we ever have the courage to approach the keyboard, given the complexity of what we do. I long for the days when I just wondered, “What would Jim Kirk do?” and typed it out (on an IBM Selectric) without a thought to whether the reader would get it or not. All instinct, no brains! And, um, no contracts, either!

Cheers, Donna

Friday, June 3, 2011

And Then There Were Twenty

Author Barbara Elsborg Reaches a Major Landmark with the Release of CHOSEN


Some crimes can never be forgotten.

Kate Evans doesn’t take risks. She chose her apartment with care—a safe district with a good neighbor—a place where she can live a quiet, unassuming, under-the-radar existence. Then she makes one mistake and opens her door to accept a delivery of flowers from a secret admirer and her life will never be the same again.  [Read more here.]

Barbara Elsborg is one of the most talented and prolific authors I know. Novel after novel, I’m always promised genuine, flawed characters, terrific conflict and a love story that dives and soars with emotional twists and turns. The release of CHOSEN on June 3rd will mark two important events in Barbara’s career—her twentieth novel and her first venture into Romantic Suspense.

Barbara’s work includes a Top Ten in the P&Ed Readers' Choice Poll for Best Erotica Novel of 2009, a #1 bestseller on Amazon and dozens of five star reviews of her work! (Links to many of her reviews are posted on the Barbara Elsborg Online Fan Club web site.)

Here’s a recap of her releases:

1. Perfect Timing
(e-book) April 30, 2008; (print) March 11, 2009
Daisy Leaf was named one of the Favorite Female Characters of 2008 by Book Utopia.

2. The Consolation Prize
(e-book) August 11, 2008
The first of the Trueblood vampire sibling series from Loose-Id.

3. Falling For You
(e-book) November 18, 2008
The second of the Trueblood vampire sibling series.

4. Something About Polly
(e-book) January 21, 2009; (print) Sept 2009
A companion book to Perfect Timing featuring Jake's brother Adrian.

5. Lightning in a Bottle
(e-book) February 24, 2009
The third of the Trueblood vampire sibling series.

6. Anna in the Middle
(e-book) March 27, 2009, Ellora’s Cave Spectrum
A companion book to Something About Polly introducing Jax as a main character.

7. The Power of Love
(e-book) May 20, 2009, Ellora’s Cave Twilight
An amazing tale of angelic love after death.

8. Susie's Choice
(e-book) July 31, 2009, Ellora’s Cave Spectrum
Three all-new characters in a sizzling and touching menage story.

9. Doing the Right Thing
(original version e-book) September 24, 2009, Ellora's Cave Moderne
Original version is no longer available. New version released January 6, 2010
Addie, Will and Ed return in a sexier, steamier version.

10. Lucy in the Sky
(e-book) October 21, 2009 Ellora’s Cave Aeon
A sometimes zany, sometimes suspenseful and always sexy science fiction romance.

11. The Misfits
(e-book) October 27, 2009 Loose-Id
The fourth novel in the Trueblood vampire sibling series.

12. Strangers
(e-book) Dec 2, 2009; (print) Feb 2011 Ellora’s Cave Moderne
A contemporary love story extraordinaire!

13. Fight to Remember
(e-book) Loose-Id
The fifth and final book in the Trueblood sibling series.

14. Digging Deeper
(e-book) January 13, 2010, Cerridwen Press
Can archeaologist Beck survive the mayhem that calamity Flick brings to his life?

15. Finding the Right One
(e-book) January 27, 2010 Ellora’s Cave Moderne
The sequel to Doing the Right Thing follows right on the heels of the first book.

16. The Small Print
(e-book) October 1, 2010 Ellora’s Cave Twilight
Vampire historian Turner has trouble in his attic...and in his past.

17. Kiss a Fallen Star
(e-book) March 4, 2011 Ellora’s Cave Moderne
Caspar is an outcast until he meets the one woman who might help him rebuild his life if an unforgiving world allows them to find love.

18. An Ordinary Girl
(e-book) April 6, 2011 Ellora’s Cave Moderne
Can a haunted war photographer and the survivor of a living nightmare find redemption and extraordinary love?

19. Rocked
(e-book) May 24, 2011, Loose-Id
A girl, her boss...and their gargoyle.

and now...

20. Chosen
(e-book) June 3, 2011, Decadent Publishing
Kate is chosen and forcibly abducted by a diabolical kidnapper with a startling claim. How can she escape when she must protect the secret?

(A very special thanks to author Cate Masters for designing the special 20th banners shown above!)

Recently, I had an opportunity to interview Barbara about her authorly pursuits.  Here's what she had to say.

Q: First of all, major congratulations on achieving this incredible milestone. What are your thoughts as your 20th novel is released in just a little over three years? Did you ever think you'd be here, and in so short a time, at that? In other words, how do you do it?

Barbara:  It’s strange because I hadn’t been keeping count of the number of books I’d had released. I feel amazed that I’ve reached twenty. Wow, twenty!!! Since my first was only published in 2007 – that does sound rather a lot, BUT I had written some of them before 2007 so I’m not quite as prolific as it might look.

No, I don’t think I did imagine I’d ever be here. I’d had so many rejections that my first acceptance – which went into my spam – came as a shock. As to how I do it – well, I’m lucky that I write full time now without the distraction of a job and I just love writing. It’s hard to tear myself away from the laptop. Husband uses whip but no – I keep typing.

Q:  A "one book wonder" you were never destined to be! I'm always amazed how you manage to create so many diverse stories, always with flawed, very human characters that I can completely connect with. Where do you find your inspiration and is there a secret to turning out so much work without resorting to a plot formula? Are you a plotter or pantser?

Barbara:  Pantser through and through and maybe that’s the secret for coming up with different stories with no formula. Though I wish I could plan a little better. It would make life so much easier if I had more concrete ideas about where my stories were going. Case in point – WIP – I’ve been ages writing the first three chapters because I can’t pin down the motivation of one of my three protags. I keep changing my mind over his attitude to love. On the plus side, since I have no idea where my stories are going, I find it exciting not knowing what’s around the corner – or in this case – on the next page. I do tend to go with the flow.

Inspiration? Everything. Music, dreams, books, films, life. I like reading books with flawed characters. I like exploring problems, wondering how people would react to different situations, imagining myself in those situations, the more bizarre, the better. Of course, in most cases, I’d freak out and not be anything like my heroines.

Q:  One of your last three releases, An Ordinary Girl, recently garnered some wonderful kudos from Whipped Cream Long and Short Reviews and was voted the book of the week. As a result, this wonderful trailer was created.



Can you tell us a little more about the story?

Barbara:  My idea for that came from my daughter’s wedding. Her photographer cancelled on the morning of the big day because she was ill – though she sent a replacement. Noah, my hero, was a replacement wedding photographer. Ash, the heroine, came about because I thought – what would be the worst type of parents in the world – not going to spoil the plot – but Ash undoubtedly has them. They’re based on reality and the details are at the back of the book. I think – An Ordinary Girl and Strangers – are my favourite books of those I’ve written. Both similar in a way – damaged hero and heroine who save each other and that seems to resonate with readers.

Q:  Any advice for writers who are still working to get their first novel published?

Barbara:  The old cliché – don’t give up. But based on my experience – check your spam!!! Also be open minded. I stumbled into erotic romance. It wasn’t what I set out to write and perhaps I’d still be unpublished if I’d continued writing for me and not the market. That doesn’t mean I don’t like what I write, I do, but I think in many ways, I’m not like most writers in this genre. My stories are less sensually driven and more character driven than many erotic romances. That’s not to say mine aren’t sexy. They are but I hope I balance the sex with the story and it’s important to me that the story would stand without the sex.

Read is my main advice for any writer – I see so many who say they don’t read. Make time. You learn from reading – any genre – it doesn’t matter.

Q:  How many novels did you have written in advance of selling your first novel?

Barbara:  The awful thing is, I can’t remember. I think six. Of those, two are unpublished romantic suspense. So let me count.....Digging Deeper was my first try at romantic comedy, then I wrote Doing the Right Thing, followed by Chosen, Strangers and following that Perfect Timing was accepted. So my my reckoning, I write about three full length books a year. Wow!

Q:  Have you ever entered a writing competition?

Barbara:  A few but not many. I’ve won two prizes for children’s stories. One was about a boy who brought a tramp home for Christmas thinking he was Santa Claus. The other was about kids in a school who thought they were talking to aliens and it was Russians in space.

I entered Strangers for a US competition and got nowhere. When I saw the ones that won, I vowed never to enter another. It confirmed for me that I don’t fit neatly into the erotic romance genre.

Q:  You've sold all twenty of your novels without having an agent. Are you happy to continue or have you considered querying agents to find representation?

Barbara:  I suppose the dream of being published by one of the big guys is still there, though I’m much less driven by that than I used to be. I haven’t thought about approaching an agent for years. Now if someone wanted to make a film of one of my books, that would be the time to find an agent!

Q:  What's your take on the recent trends in self-publishing? Is it something you'd consider?

Barbara:  I was thinking of going that route with Chosen when Decadent said yes. (Thank you, Decadent!!) I think things are still wobbling with self-publishing. There are stories of huge sales but there are more stories of not very good sales. Sadly, I don’t think the quality of your work ensures you’ll succeed. It’s a matter of hard work to get your name out there and an element of luck that you get noticed. But if the chance to self-publish had been around when I first started querying – I’d have done it like a shot.

Q:  How do you feel about the switch in genre and publisher with your twentieth novel, Chosen? Is Romantic Suspense the (or one) direction you'd like to take with future books? Any more in the works?

Barbara:  The first three books I wrote were romantic suspense. I only changed to romantic comedy because I couldn’t interest an agent or publisher with the other genre. The first I wrote in my twenties – called Unnatural Selection – and it will remain in the closet. The second – La Heroica – set in Colombia – might be worth updating. The third was Chosen. The fourth romantic suspense, written more recently, is called – Crossing the Line. I’m waiting to see how Chosen goes before I decide what to do with Crossing the Line. I do like writing romantic suspense but I’m so deep inside the genre of erotic romance, with ideas for stories still waiting for me to write them, I’m not sure when I’ll get back to write the fifth! What I like to do is write something different each time. So I mix and match contemporary with paranormal. My WIP is a paranormal – temporarily entitled All About Love – but I think that will change.

I’ve realised that success – small though it is - makes it hard to switch to a different genre. People who like my writing in the erotic romances – will they like Chosen? It’s much darker story. It ends happily – as all my stories do, but the path to reach that happiness is a hard one.

Q:  I know it's like asking you to pick a favorite child, but do you have one novel that is your favorite, the so-called "book of your heart?"

Barbara:  Still Strangers – but An Ordinary Girl comes close. Strangers is a book that made me cry when I wrote it. The hero does something incredibly cruel to the heroine and to make her still love him afterwards, feels like a triumph to me. Now I have the paperback version of Strangers, I’ve just started to read it again. I don’t often read my books after they’ve been published. I spotted a mistake in Strangers last night – grrrrrr – not a huge one but I should have caught it. Still my baby though!!

Q:  Let’s talk SFR for a minute. Lucy in the Sky was such an amazing SFR/Erotica story that we named it as one of our recommended reads for SFR (see list on sidebar at right). Any plans for more SFR novels in the works?

Barbara:  Yes, I hope my next after my WIP will be sci fi and set in Walmart. Don’t ask!! Alright then – if you insist. I had a dream. A dream about Walmart and I got up in the middle of the night and wrote it down. Of course, in the cold light of day, it didn’t seem quite so wondrous but the niggle remains to write it.

Q:  Do you read SFR and do you have any favorite SFR authors?

Barbara:  I do, but not a huge amount. But then I don’t read much erotic romance either. Favorite SFR author – well that would have to be you, Laurie, along with D.L. Jackson and I’m eagerly awaiting Arlene Webb’s sci fi romance series that she is self-publishing. The first – called Splintered Energy will be out very soon.

Q:  Do you have another novel in the works now?

Barbara:  My latest is my first MM erotic romance ‘Cowboys Down’. Set on a dude ranch in Wyoming and also in London, it’s the story of an uptight stockbroker trying to come to terms with the problems in his life who meets a cowboy who has issues of his own. I’ve written MM scenes before in the ménages I’ve done but it was an interesting challenge to have no female lead

Q:  In addition to your novels, you've also written several short stories. Can you tell us a little about them and where they're available?

Barbara:  I have a story called – The Special Gift – available with Ravenous Romance. I think it might be my favourite. It’s a short story about a woman who throws a GI Joe doll into her closet and thinks it turns into a real life man. The Bad Widow and Saying Yes are free stories available through Ellora’s Cave. I wrote them hoping they’d entice people to try my full length stories!! The other short is ‘Snow Play’ – also available through Ellora’s Cave. It’s based on my terrifying trip under a glacier in Austria. Sadly, in real life I was NOT rescued by a gorgeous hunk. I emerged almost in tears to be greeted by my poor suffering husband who a few hours later had to be whisked to hospital with kidney stones.

Q:  That must have been quite the vacation!  But once again, you found material for a unique story in your experiences.  Thanks so much for joining us today to help us celebrate your huge achievement, Barbara.  And may there be many, many more!  I'd love to do a 30th release celebration.  I can totally see a 50th in your future.  :)  And now, as a little surprise, here are...

A FEW WORDS FROM BARBARA'S PEERS ON HER 20TH NOVEL RELEASE

From Author Arlene Webb
20!! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and then repeat. Someone might say, so what? Boy meets girl, or boy meets boy, or boy meets boy meets girl, etc., they fall hard, problems happen, problems get fixed, HEA, and then off to be published. The reality? Every one of Barbara’s twenty novels is unique, with a fresh complex plot. And then to raise the threshold even higher, every scene is different. Barbara not only has the ability to keep a reader on the edge of their seat flipping pages, caught up in an emotional whirlwind, it’s impossible, for me a least, to pick a favorite set of characters.

Every book of hers that I read, and then re-read, grabs me by the throat and refuses to let go. I see a cat slink by and think of Keir (Fight to Remember). I find myself debating which way to turn and think of Turner (Small Print). I see a woman with pink luggage and think of (Finding the Right One), I cringe at a news report and think, thank Christ, Jack (Chosen) isn’t real. I’d go on, but I’d have to write a book!

Barbara isn’t just an amazing author, she’s also a supportive friend who’s been with me every step of my own career. In all fairness, she hasn’t just written 20 novels, she’s guided me line by line through everything I’ve written, as well.

One of the greatest joys in my life is opening a fresh chapter written by this woman whom I’m come to love dearly. Congrats, Barbara, on a truly impressive writing career that I, selfish person that I am, hope never ends while I’m still breathing. And now, happy dance time. Yippee!!! Chosen is published!!!

From Author D.L. Jackson
I love all her novels. My personal favorites are Strangers and The Power of Love--of all her novels I feel they are the most heart felt and you really can feel the emotions and pain she puts her characters through. I'd like to wish her a huge congratulations and I can't wait to see book 100, which I know is right around the corner, with the amazing way she kicks them out.

From Award-Winning Writer Donna S. Frelick
Congratulations and best wishes, Barbara, on achieving publication of your 20th novel!  Quite a milestone, and one we all aspire to--that title of successful working writer. I love your work, but most of all, I love your generous spirit and the encouragement you offer your fellow writers.  Here's to your second 20 and many more!

~~*~~   Congratulations, Barbara!   ~~*~~

To commemorate the release of her 20th novel, a random commenter will be selected to receive their choice of any of Barbara Elsborg's e-book releases!  Please share your thoughts, congratulations or wishes below.