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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Final Mission; A First Launch


A Final Mission

David was one of the lucky visitors to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. last weekend when a newly acquired arrival, space shuttle Discovery, was on display as the new ambassador for an historic era of space travel.

I wanted to share a few of the photos of the great ship in her new home. Godspeed, Discovery, in your final mission.









And here's a very special tribute from her last voyage...



Every mission has to have a beginning, and here at Spacefreighters Lounge we're very proud to celebrate...

A First Launch!

The co-bloggers here at Spacefreighters Lounge
would like to congratulate debut author 
Pippa Jay
on her upcoming Science Fiction Romance release
KEIR
Coming May 7th from Lyrical Press

KEIR is going to be ushered in with one lively celebration!
Here's a preview of the festivities:


Keir Blog Tour

Prizes - At most of these I will be giving away an ebook copy of Keir. A $10 Amazon Gift Card will be up as a prize on the rest, with a special swag bag up for grabs here on release day. :)

(Here's a quick run down of all the stops, but jump over to Pippa Jay's Blog for complete information and all the links.)

Tour dates and places

May 1st-14th
1st - guest post on Writing Demons into Science Fiction with
Chantal Halpin
2nd - guest post on Casting Keir with
Lauri Owen and interview on the TBR blog
3rd- guest post on Tattoos at
Kerrianne Coombes blog
4th - guest post on Time-Travel with
Gayle Ramage
5th -
Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday
6th -
Six Sentence Sunday
7th - official release day on this blog and announcement on
SFR Brigade blog.
8th - interview up at
The Galaxy Express and guest post on Naming Keir at Layna Pimentel's blog.
9th - guest post on why Keir is oh so blue on the
Spacefreighters Lounge (you are here!) and guest post on Falling into SFR at Backward Momentum
10th - guest post with
Misa Buckley on Doctor Who
11th - guest posts with
Kaye Manro on Science Fiction with a Medieval Twist and Laurel Kriegler on the Origins of Quin
12th -
Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday
13th -
Six Sentence Sunday
14th - guest post with
Liana Brooks on Red Hair and an interview with Jessica Subject
15th - The draw will take place for all the prizes offered on the tour and winners will be notified.

Friday, April 27, 2012

NO EASY WAY OUT

One of my writing mentors, SF writer A.C. Crispin, tells the students in her writing workshops that the secret to storytelling is to give your characters problems. Problems are the basis of conflict and conflict is at the heart of, well, pretty much everything. The more those problems pile up, the better the conflict is and the faster the reader wants to turn those pages.

It’s easy to identify the conflict when the problems are all “external”, that is, when the manure that keeps hitting the fan seems to come from outside the character himself. James Bond has his hands full dealing with S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and Dr. No’s fiendish plans without worrying about self-doubt or guilt over how he treats his women. The pace is kept up by putting the character into one tight spot after another and letting him work his way out of it. That’s the fun of a good spy thriller or military SF plot, after all. The conflict revolves around the problems the external universe creates for the character to overcome.

“Internal” conflicts are more subtle, having to do with the character herself, or her relationships with others in the story. Some internal change must occur—growth must be achieved or an old pain resolved or a mystery solved—so the character can move on in her life. Often, as with romance novels, love must be gained. This has its own “arc” within the story, quite separate from the personal conflicts of both the hero and the heroine.

In fact, if the story is a romance, the problems caused by the “external” world (be it demons or vampires, aliens, the people next door, the ranch owners, or the bad guys of whatever world you choose), and those caused by the “internal” world (the relationship) have their own separate tracks which must wind their way through the story and find their own satisfactory solutions in the end. If the writer is doing her job well, the tracks intertwine, leapfrog and maintain a pace that leads the reader ever onward until by the last few pages it’s impossible to put the book down.

So easy to talk about; so very hard to accomplish! Even when the underlying elements of conflict exist in the story, some romance writers have a hard time sharpening those points of contention. It’s hard to figure out what the couple is fighting about. Or an author will have the couple waste energy in fruitless squabbling in the belief that “conflict” equals “dislike” (until suddenly the hero and heroine discover they love each other). Or, perhaps there is little external conflict to move the plot along at all.

Real conflict happens when both sides are RIGHT, when both the hero and the heroine have an equally valid point of view. Figuring out how to actually SEE it from both sides, then find a way to RESOLVE it, is truly difficult. The more convoluted and hopeless the problem seems, the more involved—emotionally and intellectually--your reader will be.

Madeline Hunter’s latest Regency novel, The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne, provides an excellent example of conflict done right in a romance novel. Hunter gives her hero and heroine conflicting interests from the first page and piles on the problems for her heroine until it seems there is truly no way out for her. With an external plot that involves the heroine’s kidnapped brother, smugglers along Britain’s Southeast coast, and the hero’s clandestine network of watchers set to intercept spies infiltrating England from revolutionary France all revolving around an auction house in London in which the hero and heroine find themselves unlikely partners, the tension between the lovers’ feelings and their natural conflicts builds almost unbearably throughout the book. There is almost no need for a “black moment” (although there is one), because things look so bleak toward the last third of the story simply as a result of “piling on”.

But what better way to keep us reading? When the book reaches its inevitable “happy ending”, we’re cheering—and looking for the next one!That is the best possible manipulation of conflict, and one I can’t say I’ve mastered yet. I’m a conflict avoider. But I’m getting better at it. When I put my characters in a bad spot, I don’t just look for a way out. I look for a way to get them deeper into trouble. No easy way out. That’s my new motto.

Donna’s Journal

Action
As Laurie says, our 2012 RWA® Golden Heart® loop is a busy bunch so I’ve had to use all my social networking skills to keep up with them. I’ve also sent out the first of my new queries based on the GH finals, with one request for partials in return! The Golden Heart does open doors, but I don’t expect it to serve as a door stop. My work still has to speak for itself, and SFR still has its own drawbacks in the marketplace. So I’ll go forward with cautious optimism and see what happens!


Ping Pong
Thanks to JC Cassells for being our guest blogger. Sovran’s Pawn looks exciting, and I wish you all the best with it! (Love Errol Flynn, too, so that’s a sales pitch for me!)

I know you must have been through the roof to find info on H.O.P.E., Laurie! So many ideas, so few funds, though, huh? Still, we can always dream, and the website was a gold mine for your book, I’m sure.

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

JC Cassels on Big Damn Heroes

We'd like to welcome guest blogger, JC Cassels to Spacefreighters Lounge to talk about one of her favorite subjects, Big Damn Heroes.

Thank you for hosting me today.

I appreciate the opportunity to talk with your readers about one of my favorite topics: the Big Damn Hero.

We all love the larger-than-life heroes, especially in sci-fi. The term comes from an episode of Joss Whedon’s short-lived Firefly television series. I have to admit that Whedon presented the Big Damn Hero better than anyone.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Big Damn Hero, especially as portrayed by Errol Flynn in his swashbuckling adventures. When I was in high school, I first started writing seriously with intent to publish. Errol Flynn’s autobiography, MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS had just been re-released and it was all the rage among my friends. The actor’s real-life story was so fascinating, filled with action and adventure, even fighting in the Spanish Civil War, that I was inspired to create a hero who was both holofeature hero and real-life hero. Blade Devon was born. Possessed of a devil’s charm and an adventurer’s spirit, he was the quintessential swashbuckling hero in the Flynn mold.

Since then, Blade has evolved into something more than just a pale copy of Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks. He’s wicked for sure. He’s mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Most of all, he’s fun for this writer to play with.

When I think of the term Big Damn Hero, I think of none other than Blade Devon, who at 6’2” with his shaggy blond hair, blue eyes, chiseled features, dimples, and lean, muscular build is guaranteed to make any damsel in distress swoon in delight. I hope when others read SOVRAN’S PAWN, they are as taken with him as I am. I freely admit that I am his number one fan.

SOVRAN'S PAWN

United by extortion, divided by duty, someone wants them both dead. They want each other. The catch is, nothing is what it seems, including them.

BO BARRON is the pawn in two Sovrans’ struggle for power. As the Chief of Barron Clan she commands the Black Wing, a strategic asset crucial to the balance of power in a Commonwealth in contention. That’s the reason she was falsely convicted of treason and sentenced to be executed. Instead of letting her meekly go to her death, Bo’s people risk all-out war by breaking her out and smuggling her into hiding. It’s what they do. They’re pirates at heart.

But if she can’t be killed, she can be manipulated. How? By kidnapping her father. If Bo wants him back she has to take on a false name and steal the schematics for a phase weapon being auctioned off to the Sub-socia at a Five Point tournament.

BLADE DEVON knows all about false names. He has more than his share. As Darien Roarke, he’s a well-known Five-Point player. If Blade is willing to use his alter ego to retrieve those schematics, the Inner Circle is willing to overlook the fact that he’s technically a deserter.

A botched assassination under the guise of a bar brawl leaves Bo blind and Blade wondering if there isn’t more to this job than he was led to believe. Never able to resist playing the hero, Blade tends her injuries and delves deeper into the intrigue only to find this mission isn’t about a weapon at all.

The catch is, no one and nothing are what they seem…

Monday, April 23, 2012

H.O.P.E. for the Future


Where am I?

If it's Monday, I must be on Titan.

[It's a play on an old joke about the jet age, but some of you might get the connection. *grin*]

A recent question list from an editor about the premise of The Outer Planets made me realize that what might be generally accepted in space opera may not so easily pass muster in Near Future SFR, where we actually examine the logistics and the reasons to explore space in our near future.

Space Opera SFR
Question: Why go there?  
Answer: Because we can.

Near Future SFR
Question: Why go there...when the expense, peril, time required, and the potential for disaster are all considerable?
Answer: Because we can...establish future colonies, further scientific advancement, and harvest valuable resources.

It seems the closer to now the story takes place, the more questions it raises, where if a story is set---say, a thousand years in the future--there's less concern about how artificial gravity is generated, what sort of propulsion the ship uses to travels such enormous distances, or why mankind would even want to go there.

Okay, let's talk about that!


While doing research for The Outer Planets, I found an exciting reference site. [ *claps hands with glee* ] Just gotta share...

H.O.P.E.

What is HOPE? It's a NASA initiative that stands for Human Outer Planets Exploration, and proposes a six-person manned mission to the Jovian moon of Callisto. Three crew members would be deployed to the surface for 30 days to establish a re-usable research base for surface studies that might also include the exploration of Europa (one of Jupiter's ocean moons) via a tele-operated submarine probe. Mission duration: Five years.

Why Callisto? The largest of Jupiter's moons--about the size of planet Mercury--is shielded from the lion's share of radiation in the Jovian system and so may be the safest place to plant carbon units (people!) for a brief time to conduct research.

How challenging is this mission?  To draw a quote from the site:

It's like...
Herding cats
in a room full of smoke and mirrors
where the floor is covered with apples and oranges.

Hmm, a bit like the Columbus voyage then, que no?

I was delighted by this general audience HOPE overview of the project. The time frame for HOPE is 2045+. My fictional mission takes place just slightly earlier in 2039-2045. Jupiter and Saturn will be in close proximity in the fall of 2042 which is the reason I chose this time frame.

With the current climate of our space program, is HOPE dead? Although many of our future space projects have been scrapped, it doesn't appear the HOPE Project has expired. Though the majority of info sites date to 2006-07, I found active references to HOPE as recently as 2011.

Ship Design

Another fun product of my research is this site on interstellar ship design called Realistic Designs.  It includes a look at a very popular ship from fiction, the visually-stunning transport vessel from the movie Avatar.  From front engine design to proton sails to attached Valkyries space-to-ground shuttle, the Venture Star is an amazing ship. I found the site so awe-inspiring, I added the link to our Ship Design reference list on the side bar.

Take a few minutes to browse the site and you may pick up all sorts of interesting factoids to inspire your imagination.

And speaking of space, let me share this photo my spouse just took yesterday of the piggy-backed space shuttle Discovery sitting on the tarmac at Dulles. He knows I love this stuff! (The 747 with the Discovery is in the middle of the photo above the wing.)


The arrival of Discovery in Washington, D.C., including the flyover of the mall, is being met with contrasting feelings of awe and loss, with NASAs future in question as outlined in this article.


Mission Success

So much going on! The pace is energizing and head-spinning at the same time. 

Here's a recap/update:

1.  Pippa Jay's debut novel, KEIR, will be released within the next two weeks, on May 7th, and we're all excited by this first-ever novel launch by a Lounger. You can tune in to Pippa's blog tour here. The early reviews are starting to come in, and KEIR currently has a five-star rating on Goodreads! (Cover photo at right.)

2.  There's more excitement to come as Sharon's GHOST PLANET release date just got moved up more than a month to October 30th--and it also just went live for pre-order on Amazon! (We'll do a big promo later, once the cover art is included.) Sharon now has a brand new shiny author page, and you're cordially invited to stop by and "like" the novel, the author page and/or add a comment for Sharon. Here's what Linnea Sinclair had to say about Ghost Planet:
"Fisher's GHOST PLANET grabs you right from the start and doesn't let go. An entrancing, ADDICTING read, it keeps you on the edge of your seat with a fresh and fascinating take on the human-alien problem, while at the same time seduces you with a poignant love story. It's a psychological thriller, a science fiction adventure, and endearing romance all rolled up in one. Highly recommended!"
3.  Donna and I are planning to attend the RWA National Conference in Anaheim as co-Golden Heart finalists (she's a double!) and trying to keep up with our current Golden Heart class on a private Yahoo loop, who are proving to be a talkative (or should that be 'type-ative'?) and diverse group of seriously cool writers. 

Donna and I are scheduled to join forces for a special post about SFR on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog (the prolific 2009 Golden Heart finalist) on June 25th. 

4.  Here at Spacefreighters Lounge, we're watching the blog's 50,000 hit landmark approaching at FTL speed and trying to brainstorm what sort of celebration we should have. It'll be here before we know it!

So we're doing the blog equivalent of bouncing off the virtual walls here! Can you tell? 

Enjoy your week. :)


~~~ * ~~~

Friday, April 20, 2012

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Girls in STEM
Created by: EngineeringDegree.net

None of this is exactly news, but the graphics team at Girls in STEM have presented it here in a rather dramatic way. The question is: what to do about it?

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So there's Life on Mars - and we killed it?!

From Wikipedia

Apparently two space craft landing on Mars back in 1976 found microbes in the soil samples - and then boiled them alive. So much for 'we come in peace'. In fact, it reminds me of a certain comical Star Trek song and Kirk's line of 'We come in peace (shoot to kill)'.



Okay, so we didn't know for certain that they were there and acted in ignorance, a bit like stepping on an ant because we didn't see it. But should we go stamping around on another planet if we can't watch where we're putting our technological foot? Maybe we should leave well alone until we can fine tune it all.

So how would we really react on meeting aliens for the first time? In this case the aliens in question are microscopic and not sentient - as far as we know. Most scifi films focus on the cliche that the military response would be to 'shoot first and ask questions later'. Our histories are dotted with a thirst for exploration which often turns to exploitation - taking the things that we value from those unable to resist. If we ever migrate to Mars, what would happen to the 'natives' then? Preserved in special microbe zoos? Eradicated? Or will our presence introduce other microbes against which they have no defence? Would people care if that happened?


Some would. Life, no matter what its form, is precious. But given the often commercial drive of most projects, I doubt any number of microbes on Mars would be seen as significant of salvation. You only have to look at what we're doing to our own planet to see how little respect for our world the global economy has. But if it was proven to be sentient?

Wikipedia defines sentience as 'the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences.' I was reminded about this on reading Refugees on Urloon by Melisse Aires, where one of her characters quoted a sentience scale as a way of judging whether a race was sentient or not. A 'sentience quotient' was created 'by Robert A. Freitas Jr. in the late 1970s.[1] It defines sentience as the relationship between the information processing rate (bit/s) of each individual processing unit (neuron), the weight/size of a single unit and the total number of processing units (expressed as mass)'. Not something that could apply to a microbe. Would we be able to apply this to an alien species as a way of judging their sentience? But even if the life on Mars proved sentient in any form - unlikely at best - would that give it any protection? If we can claim entire continents from their native and sentient inhabitants, what chance does a microbe have over us staking a claim on 'their' planet?

Perhaps we need Starfleet's Prime Directive in place - 'that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations'. Some might argue that microbes hardly constitute an alien 'civilization'. But isn't that how life began on Earth?

Pippa's Journal

On a more positive note...with Keir's release in just 19 days (squeee!), I thought maybe a post on the preparations I'd made for the day might be appropriate. The whole process from the very start to the actual publication date has been a steep learning curve for me, but perhaps the most daunting part has been the marketing side of it. I'm not a salesperson. Aside from eBay and car boot sales (kind of the UK equivalent of yard sales), I've never had to sell anything, least of all myself or my writing. So as with anything else I've learned, I've researched - looked at what other authors do or advise, and read up any posts I've seen on the whole promoting and marketing of books.

1. Virtual Book Tours. With the explosion in digital books and authors using social media platforms for promotion, this seems to be the number one choice for a book release. There are several sites which will, for a fee, organize a book tour for you. However, you can arrange your own. If you have friends/fellow authors with blog/websites, it's worth asking if they will host you. There's now a list on the SFR Brigade website here of various members willing to host book tours and what they will accept or extras they may do like interviews and giveaways. The advice I've seen is to consider the blogsites that you would like to host you in the same genre as the book you're releasing, but I haven't restricted myself to that. Although Keir is a science fiction romance, the first part of the book is set in a medieval style society, so there's an element of fantasy to it as well. Most of the blogs on my tour are speculative fiction and/or romance, so I'm hoping to reach as wide an audience as possible. And I've tried to tailor my posts to match the host as well as revealing snippets from the book. If you're struggling to come up with material for the posts, see if the host will interview you instead. I originally only intended to do a week's tour leading up to release day, but this has escalated into two weeks - and I could easily have made it a month's worth.


2. Giveaways. My publisher is giving me ten free copies of my ebook. Since they also submit my book for reviews, I've decided to use the free copies as a prize on most of the stops for my book tour. If I feel the need to make more submissions for reviews then I'll buy some. I've also put together a special prize for release day with gifts I feel tie into the book - a blue and silver scarf, a charm bracelet with KEIR on it, a temporary tattoo similar to one I describe on Keir and bookmarks. Try to make your giveaway international - of course, giving an ebook away makes this easy, but I often come across giveaways of physical items only to find they're US and Canada only. :(


3.Promotional items. One thing I'd decided I was definitely going to do was make bookmarks. Especially after receiving my gorgeous cover. I used a printing company to make them, but a fellow author told me he prints his own onto thin card and laminates them - something I'm going to try in the near future. So far my bookmarks have gone to a scifi convention in Wales, a US library and an office in Germany, an office in Alaska and to the Romantic Times Book Lover's Con. Hopefully friends and family would be willing to distribute a few of these for you. As for other items - I'm still thinking. It's a case of balancing a tight budget against something that may or may not work.

4. Blog rings. I've been taking part in Six Sentence Sunday on and off for over a year now. I also do Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday which is relatively new but growing fast. These not only help to put your name out there, but can also bring you into contact with authors in similar genres or styles. They may become friends/crit partners and/or favourite reads. :)


5. Extras. There are plenty of sites happy to do author features, giveaways, interviews, reviews, or include your release in their announcements and newsletters. Keep your eyes open for such things and compile a list of useful sites. Some charge a fee to do so and/or to advertise you on their sites - others do it for free or in exchange for you offering a prize. Grab any opportunity to get yourself mentioned somewhere, but take care to spread yourself out so that you're not hitting spammer level!

I know this question has been asked before amongst the Brigade, but if there's anything you've found works better/doesn't work or you have any additional suggestions, please feel free to put them in the comments. :)
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated their time, effort and blog sites to help me, especially those hosting me on the tour, the SFR Brigade, and a special thank you to Heather Massey at The Galaxy Express for the frequent mentions and the offer to post my tour dates. Honestly, I can't thank you enough but I want you to know how much I appreciate all the support I've had.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Nearest Galaxy May Be Closer Than You Think!

One of my quirks as a SFR writer is that I have a hard time buying stories set outside our own galaxy.  The distances are just too enormous unless the writer is employing some sort of galaxy-to-galaxy wormhole. And besides...why set a story outside the Milky Way when there's just so much interesting stuff that happens right here?

Recently, I started researching a short story about a scientist who studies Andromeda, and the Pandora's Box of Understanding suddenly began to open up. The little knowledge gremlins it released were startling, surprising, and totally turned my understanding of the Milky Way on its ear.

I wrote a guest blog on our nearest spiral galaxy in Andromeda: A Million Stars Coming at You.  But Andromeda isn't the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way.

So what is?

The answer may surprise you.

The closest galaxy to the Milky Way is the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, and it's only 25,000 light years away. But wait. The center of the Milky Way is only 30,000 light years away from our Solar System. How can another galaxy be closer? Because it's in the process of being assimilated by the Milky Way!

The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy was discovered in 2003 when astronomers analyzed infrared images of the Milky Way. This images let astronomers to see through the gas and dust in the galactic disk. Since Canis Major has a lot of M-Dwarf stars, these cool, red stars shine brightly in the infrared spectrum and stand out in infrared images. As galaxies go, Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is, well...dwarfed by most others. It only has about a billion stars. The Milky Way has 200 to 400 billion stars.


Like Andromeda, The Milky Way is a monster that has grown to the size it is now by consuming other smaller galaxy--like the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. Many stars from Canis Major are already part of the Milky Way, making it not only the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, but part of the Milky Way itself!

You can read more about Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy on the Universe Today site.

The Galaxy Series: Part III

Friday, April 13, 2012

Donna’s Journal

Selling the Synopsis

As part of my role as judge in the Virginia Romance Writers Fool for Love contest, I’m required to look over the synopses of the contest entries I judge. The synopses themselves are not judged, but they’re supposed to give me an idea of how the stories go after the partials I’m given to read.

As most writers do, I hate writing synopses. I sweat over every word, every sentence, every paragraph. I work to get the tone just right, to make sure I hit the high points of the plot and show the development of the romantic relationship as it progresses through the meet to the reveal to the conflict and “black moment” to the resolution. All in two pages, or at most, five.

Even though most agents and editors swear they ignore the synopsis until they have to use it as a sales tool, a good synopsis is a work of art. It should reflect your writing style (and skill), play up all the best parts of your book and downplay any flaws. Like the back cover blurb, it should sell your story.

I say all this because too many writers see the synopsis as simply a chore to be gotten through. They may pay attention to word count and getting all the plot points in there, but little else. But imagine that the agent or editor was to read the synopsis first, like I did for my most recent contest entry.

It was competently written, but the style was only workmanlike: This happens, then that happens, then so on. The main premise of the story was a contemporary romance cliché. (I won’t tell you what for fear of giving away the entry.) There was no indication of the special nature of the hero or heroine or the setting or underlying mystery of the story. I groaned. Reading this thing was going to be a chore. (Note that if I had a choice—i.e. if I were an agent or editor—I probably wouldn’t have read it.)

But then I started reading the actual entry. What a difference! The writer’s style was immediately engaging. Her (an assumption--the writer could have been male) characters were fully dimensional and had real chemistry together. The setting was not exactly unique, but it was vividly drawn, a place I wanted to visit right away. And the central mystery of the story was laid out in such a way that I wanted to know what happened next. I don’t read contemporaries, so you know the writer did a good job of setting this up in the first few pages of her book. How could she have failed so miserably in her synopsis?

Part of the problem is that her story includes a twist on an old plot device. She’s done a great job of emphasizing “twist” in the pages of her book; she needs to do the same thing in the synopsis (and, of course, all of her queries and blurbs). Similarly, she needs to play up the strengths of her strong characters and brilliantly sketched settings in the synopsis.

Most of all she needs to focus on more original aspects of the plot, rather than the more overused element of the story, which pops out first. Sometimes a “cliché” just has to be part of your story—Unchained Memory wouldn’t be a story without my heroine’s amnesia—but you have to find a way to hook your readers so strongly that they don’t think, “This has been done before,” they think, “I want to know what happens next.”

In fact, as we all know, there are no completely original, never-been-done ideas in literature. Someone once said there are only seven plot variations in all of human drama. The trick is to present your well-used plot device as something new and different long enough to get the agent, the editor, the contest judge or the reader to actually read your first few pages. If your query or your back cover blurb or your synopsis is good enough, they’ll take a look. Then it’ll be up to you—your skill, your talent, your ability to make the reader believe and take that leap of faith with you.

Ping Pong

Intriguing theory about the Law of Attraction, Laurie, and a new sub-genre, Visionary Fiction. Haven’t read any of the books mentioned, but it sounds like the genre might have had roots in some of the New Age SF authors like Zenna Henderson (The People), Theodore Sturgeon (More Than Human) and others. I’ll have to check it out.

Cheers, Donna

Monday, April 9, 2012

Visionary Fiction: Has a New Genre Been Born?

In my internet wanderings over the weekend, I came across this article:

Visionary Fiction Combines Romance, Shifting Realities, Paranormal Twists and Life-Changing Truths


*perk* What's this? I had to learn more.

The article was posted on March 17, 2012 as a Digital Journal press release for A Brief Moment of Time by author Jeane Watier in which Visionary Fiction is explained as "fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot."

Visionary Fiction may involve shifting realties, mystical experiences, and encounters with divine beings via expansion of the human mind. According to the article, the author is a Canadian who has studied "spiritual principles, including the Law of Attraction, for many years."

Okay. Show me more.

I followed a link to Watier's web site and found a page devoted to the Principles of the Law of Attraction based on her interpretation of the teachings of Abraham-Hicks.

I'll recap the basics of the principles defined on her web site here:

1. Everything is energy; everything is vibration.

2. The Law of Attraction regulates all things.

3. Everything has a vibrational frequency.

4. We can change the frequency of our thoughts.

5. It is natural to feel good.

6. Well-being is the basis of the universe.

So this Law of Attraction sounds to me like a re-combination or re-explanation of concepts and ideas I've heard before. Of being in balance with the universe, the opposite of which is Koyaanisqatsi--the Hopi word for being out of balance with nature. It seems compatible with Yin and Yang, the Taoism concept of the balance of energies. It suggests mind over matter and the overall health benefits resulting from meditation--learning to take a step back and realize we are more than the sum of our thoughts.

Am I on the right track?

To Google at the speed of light!

It turns out the Law of Attraction is not a fringe concept. Oprah.com even devoted time to the concept that (in the words of author Louise Hay), "It's as though every time we think a thought, every time we speak a word, the universe is listening and responding to us." The Law of Attraction proposes that by thinking positive thoughts about yourself, your life, your surroundings, that you plant the seeds in which the universe will begin to mold itself to conform to your positive thinking.

Interesting. But how is this related to Sci-Fi Romance?

Some of my recent discussions with co-blogger Sharon Lynn Fisher have been about scientific multiverse or M-theory that conscious thought can affect or spin off new universes, and in doing so we may create our own reality via our thoughts. Creating our own reality is hardly a new concept to many cultures and religions.

Are modern science and ancestral mysticism finding common ground? Beginning to merge? Some claim yes, that a few areas of scientific research are rediscovering ancient knowledge. If so, then some of the Visionary Fiction genre (or subgenre) could fall under the SF/R umbrella.

Within the context of the publishing industry, is it considered a legitimate, or at least an emerging, genre or subgenre?

Possibly. Visionary Fiction has a Goodreads group, and its own category on Amazon [Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Religious & Inspirational > Visionary Fiction]. The Visionary Fiction tag reveals a number of books and novels that are described as such.

Okay, so how are these ideas used in a work in fiction?

Probably one of the best articles on the subject is by Monty Joynes, an author who sounds surprised to find some of his work classified as Visionary Fiction, The Altered State of Visionary Fiction. In it, Mr. Joynes states that Visionary Fiction includes "novels that deal with shifts in awareness that result in metaphysical understanding by the central characters."

Taking a look at the Amazon results for Visionary Fiction results in a list of books that contains some fiction and some more of the self-help variety. Of the fiction books, here's a sampling of novels that have over 10 reviews:

The Opening by Ron Saverese (27 reviews, average 4-1/2 star rating)

Mystic Warrior: A Novel Beyond Time and Space by Edwin Harkness Spina (14 reviews, average 5 stars)

The Last Day by Glenn Kleier (845 reviews, 4 stars)

Strays by Jeane Webster (40 reviews, average 5 star rating)

It appears some Visionary Fiction might fit as a new sub-subgenre of SFR. I'm looking forward to exploring some of the books in this new fiction genre. It appears that my fourth novel, Chimera, may fit some of the criteria for Visionary Fiction, though I think most would consider it more of a SFR/Horror blend.

Has anyone read (or is writing) a novel that might be described as both Visionary Fiction and SFR?

Friday, April 6, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES SURPRISES

I didn’t expect to like THE HUNGER GAMES much. There was nothing dramatically new in its premise of young “tributes” forced to compete in annual death match/survival contests in a post-apocalyptic North America. I’m not a huge fan of young adult themes in either books or movies.

But I tried to keep an open mind as I went into the theater to see this blockbuster that had everyone talking, and guess what? I was surprised. Writer Suzanne Collins (who wrote the novels and contributed to the screenplay), director Gary Ross (SEABISCUIT, BIG), and an impressive ensemble of actors managed to both entertain and engage me on a deeper level. In doing so, THE HUNGER GAMES rose above mere YA fare to become science fiction in the true sense of the word.

The difference was that the film, at least, was a story about a young protagonist, but it was not necessarily a story directed at a young audience. Yes, Katniss has some “adolescent” concerns—her confusion over the relationship with Peeta, for example, shows some immaturity—but for the most part she is someone who has been forced to grow up fast. The situation she is in is an adult one. This is not a story for kids, like Harry Potter, or even for “tweens” like Twilight, though it has kids in it. Much like Lord of the Flies, those kids aren’t doing nice things.

Someone told me after I’d seen the film that I would have liked it better had I read the books first. Fair enough, but I think that was just the enthusiasm of a fan who loved the author’s world-building. I didn’t feel there was anything missing in the film. I was able to follow the story just fine. Ross and his young actors captured the emotional tone of the story exceptionally well.

A key scene toward the beginning of the film illustrates this. The day of the “reaping”, when the tributes are selected, all the children (including Katniss and her sister, Primrose) make their way to the gathering place dressed in their Sunday best. Because this is Appalachia (and by some stroke of genius the costumer for the film chose to go back in time to the Thirties for inspiration), we see them decked out in plain cotton dresses, white shirts, dark pants, heavy shoes. It could be the first day of school—or a funeral. They’re thin, almost gaunt, like their parents, their faces shocky with fear. Their parents are stoic, like Appalachian people are in the face of disaster, sending them into the arms of death. It is a terrific scene, and tells us more than pages of dialogue what is happening here.

There are four or five other scenes I could mention throughout the film that hit similar emotional notes. That is so rare in a movie “aimed” at a young audience these days that you really have to give Ross and Collins some credit—and wonder if they didn’t aim higher.

If so, they were working with the right group of actors. Jennifer Lawrence, who stars as Katniss Everdeen, earned her chops in another role of Appalachian-girl-forced-to-save-her-family in 2010’s acclaimed WINTER’S BONE. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for that role. She’s supported by a stellar cast in Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Stanley Tucci as the over-the-top Caesar Flickerman, Wes Bentley as the conflicted Seneca Crane, Woody Harrelson as the dissolute but ultimately honorable Haymitch, and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. We see very little of Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’s friend-back-home, Gale, in this first film, but I’m looking forward to more of him in the next installment.

Yes, I am looking forward to the next film, because Collins and Ross have done their job of drawing me in and hooking me properly. They’ve answered some questions by successfully resolving the dilemmas set up in this film, but they’ve asked new ones at the end of the film to be answered in the next one. It’s not a cliffhanger, exactly, but the emotional conflict is clear. And very nicely done.

(Oh, and how did our Snowbird property look on the big screen? Green and lush and beautiful! Look for our views of the mountains as Katniss escapes through the fence at the beginning of the film, as she talks with Gale on the hillside (see photo above) and as she remembers her home later in the film.)

Photo credit Murray Close. THE HUNGER GAMES.

Donna’s Journal

Action!

The pace of my writer’s life accelerated this week as I finally got in the swing of things post-GH. I had to get a new picture made, one that will appear on the RWA website, in the conference program brochure and ON THE JUMBOTRON DURING THE CEREMONY!! Picture-taking is never a fun thing for me. But I got some help from a photographically inclined friend and a tip sent me to a website called Fotofix.com to enhance the results. So now my publicity shot is at least tolerable--somewhere between a glamour pose that looks like someone else and what we euphemistically call “40 miles of bad road” here in Virginia. I sent it in to RWA with a couple of suggestions of media outlets that might like to hear my good news, and I have fulfilled my PR obligations for now.

Meanwhile, I’m joining various networks and forums (forae?) and trying to keep up with the messages. Luckily I have Laurie for backup in case I miss something, which I often do.

Before I got the news about GH, I had volunteered to judge entries in my Virginia chapter’s Fool For Love contest. So, of course, that’s happening now, too. I could just give the scores and no comments—I’ve had judges who do that—but it just doesn’t seem to be my style. My contestants will get their money’s worth with me, but it’s a little time-consuming!

Ping Pong

Thanks so much for all your congratulations (and sympathy!) over the last week! Yes, I’m fully recovered and ready to take on the challenges of the flight to Anaheim, with your help and support. Y’all are the best!

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pippa's Journal - April


Action!
So it's just over a month until Keir releases, and the butterflies are well and truly having a party in my stomach. In the last month I've had another MS rejected and discovered that my editor for Keir has resigned from my publisher. Sigh. On the former I'm torn. The original plan for that particular piece was as my first longer length self-publishing project, but once completed I felt I wanted a shot at a traditional contract for it. It received an R+R but was then rejected, and now for the second time. I put the first chapter up on Critique Circle and got some really good feedback but have yet to decide on its future. As for my editor...sigh. I was really upset to hear that she'd gone, and it leaves me feeling uncertain about the sequel that I was working on. At the moment I've put that aside as I've had issues with it, and with Keir's release so close now I really don't have the focus to work on it. And there's other projects I'd like to concentrate on right now. 
On the major plus side, Keir got its first independant review - and it was a five star one! I'm chuffed! (That's 'very pleased' for anyone not familiar with the UK term).

Discoveries
If you're on Goodreads, then this might be a group worth joining if your ebook is up for free at any time - Ebook Giveaways. Just somewhere for a little extra promotion.

The Squeeze
I found this website - FutureTimeline.net - via Google+ and thought anyone writing a near future scifi might find it a useful reference. They base their predictions on current trends in the economy, technology, weather, politics and medicine. Also, following on from the post I did about 'How Alien are your Characters' I found this interesting hypothesis on what ETs might look like - the chances are apparently high that they really will look like us.

Bookshelf



This month I've read Machine by Jennifer Pelland (Apex Publications). This was a very thought provoking story rather than an action filled one. Diagnosed with a rare and degenerative disease, Celia opts for her mind being transferred into a bioandroid body and her real self cryogenically frozen until a cure can be found. Unfortunately, her wife divorces her for it, claiming she can't live with a mechanical copy. The psychological struggle that faces Celia as she tries to come to terms with her ex-wife's beliefs centres around what really constitutes that sense of self. Is it our minds? Our souls? If those are transferred to another form, be it mechanical, digital or flesh, are we still the same person? Interesting stuff.

Releasing April/May we have:
Even Villains Fall In Love by Liana Brooks (Today!)
Refugees on Urloon by Melisse Aires (9th April)
Echoes of Regret by A.R.Norris  (15th April)
Sovran's Pawn by JC Cassels (25th April)
Paradigm Shift by Misa Buckley (8th May)
and of course Keir by yours truly (7th May). I'll be guest posting here on the 9th May for the release so there'll be no Mission Journal from me next month. Hopefully in June I'll be able to give you some feedback on how the tour went and anything I've learned from the experience.

Happenings
Well, I've already mentioned the virtual book tour for Keir. You can find the schedule for it here.
I'll be hosting Jessica Subject (11th April) on her tour for the release of The Zurian Child, Melisse Aires (12th April) on her tour for Refugees on Urloon and JC Cassels (25th April) on her tour for Sovran's Pawn. Please stop by and say hello, especially on the 11th and 12th. I'm actually off on holiday for the week that Melisse and Jessica are guesting so I'd really appreciate the odd RT/G+ on those if you can. I'll also be hosting Misa Buckley on the 10th May for her release of Paradigm Shift. Plus the EPIC Ebook Awards contest opens on the 1st June and I'm planning to enter Keir.
In another moment of insanity, I volunteered to set up a SFR Brigade Midsummer Blog Hop. Details on taking part and signing up are now live on the SFR Brigade blogsite, and I'd really appreciate any help on the promotion side of it. Several peeps have already been kind enough to offer their assistance - a big thank you! 


The Romance Studio are also holding a Staying Home Party from the 13th-15th April open to ALL authors to post about any romance genre books providing you offer a prize. Details can be found here



There's also fabulous news on the SFR front with both co-bloggers Donna and Laurie snagging three GH finals between them! Woo hoo!

Ping Pong
At Sharon - congrats on the gorgeous cover for Ghost Planet! I love the ethereal look of it. 
At Donna - huge congrats on the double GH final!
At Laurie - huge congrats on the GH final with Draxis!
I'm so proud to be part of such a rocking bunch of SFR authors!