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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The 2012 SFR Galaxy Awards

About the 2012 SFR Galaxy Awards

The SFR Galaxy Awards is an annual, multi-award event for science fiction romance launched in 2012 to honor a variety of standout stories.

The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event recognizes the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.

Judges create award categories based on criteria of their own choosing. The goal is to deliver a group of awards that are fun, unique, meaningful, and informative for readers.

Below is a list of awards, books and authors (or producer, director, actors in the case of films). A "++" denotes books that are multiple category winners. An "aa" denotes authors with multiple category wins. Presenter names are linked to the announcements on the SFR Galaxy Awards web site with details on why the book was chosen for the award.

Announcing the 2012 SFR Galaxy Awards Winners


Best Alien Fertility Festival
Refugees on Urloon by Melisse Aires  aa
Presented by Anna McLain

Best Alien Hero
Alien ‘N’ Outlaw by KC Burn
Presented by Charlee Allden

Best BSG Inspired SFR
Cold Warriors by Clare Dargin
Presented by Rae Lori

Best Channeling of Django Unchained In A Steampunk Romance
Nights of Steel by Nico Rosso
Presented by Heather Massey

Best Depiction of Reality Entertainment in the Future
Alien Blood by Melisse Aires  aa
Presented by Charlee Allden

Best Disaster Re-Write
Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott
Presented by Marlene Harris

Best Enemies to Lovers Story
Fortune’s Hero by Jenna Bennett
Presented by Charlee Allden

Best Excuse for a Re-read
Break Out (revised and expanded edition) by Nina Croft
Presented by Marlene Harris

Best Heavyset Hero
A Gift For Boggle by PJ Schnyder
Presented by Heather Massey

Best How Was I To Know It Was an Alien Baby
Mothership by Martin Leicht
Presented by Jo Jones

Best I Will Remember You Even If I Forget You
Balance of Terror by K.S. Augustin ++
Presented by Jo Jones

Best I Wish I Had One of my Own
Stud by Cheryl Brooks
Presented by Jo Jones

Best May-December Romance
Keir by Pippa Jay
Presented by Anna McLain

Best Misdirection by a Shape Shifter
The Royal Scam - The Martian Alliance #1 by Gini Koch
Presented by Jo Jones

Best New Arrival From Another Genre Award
Dragonfly by Erica Hayes
Presented by Laurie A. Green

Best Non-Traditional Romance
Stellarnet Rebel by J.L. Hilton
Presented by Heather Massey

Best On-The-Edge-of-My-Seat Premise
Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher ++
Presented by Heather Massey

Best Recursion
Kicking Ashe by Pauline Baird Jones ++
Presented by Anna McLain

Best Repercussions of Living Off-Planet
Mako's Bounty by Diane Dooley +++
Presented by Anna McLain

Best Sci-Fi Romance Film Discovery of 2012
Happy Accidents 
Presented by Heather Massey

Best SFR Adaptation from An Unrelated Genre Classic
Romeo and Juliet: The War by Max Work, Skan Srisuwan, Stan Lee, Terry Douglas
Presented by Rae Lori

Best SFR Film of the Year
Looper
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blount
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

Best Subgenre Mash-Up
Kilts and Kraken (The Gaslight Chronicles) by Cindy Spencer Pape
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

Best Time-Travel Romance
The Mine by John A. Heldt
Presented by Marlene Harris

Best Use of a Historic Monument in A Future Setting
Bitter Harvest by Kim Knox
Presented by Charlee Allden

Best When a Space Pirate Is Not a Space Pirate
Mako’s Bounty by Diane Dooley +++
Presented by Jo Jones

Best Worldbuilding in a Novel or Series
The Psy-Changling series by Nalini Singh
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

Closest Experience to "Boldly Going"
Isolation by A. B. Gayle
Presented by Marlene Harris

Couple That Worked Hardest For Happily Ever After
Moon and Srin from Balance of Terror by KS Augustin ++
Presented by Heather Massey

Cutest Android (also Best Use of the Winter Solstice)
How the Glitch Saved Christmas by Stacy Gail
Presented by Marlene Harris

Dale Carnegie Prize for Novel or Series Most Likely to Win Friends and Influence People 
Born to Darkness (first in the Fighting Destiny SFR series) by Suzanne Brockmann
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

First Runner-Up/Most Ambitious SFR Film of the Year 
Cloud Atlas
Written by  David Mitchell, Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski; directed by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis; starring Tom Hanks, Halle Barry and others
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

Hottest Sizzle/Best Couple of the Year
Man O’ War Christopher Redmond and Naval Intelligence agent Louise Shaw
Skies of Fire: The Ether Chronicles by Zoe Archer
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

Most Eclectic Collection of Lesbian Speculative Stories
Adventuresses by Angelia Sparrow
Presented by Heather Massey

Most Entertaining Sidekick
Kicking Ashe by Pauline Baird Jones ++
Presented by Laurie A. Green

Most Fascinating Hero
Mako's Bounty by Diane Dooley +++
Presented by Laurie A. Green

Most Out of This World Couples Book Cover for 2012
Assassins in Love by Kris DeLake
Presented by Rae Lori

Most Romantic Moment
Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher ++
Presented by Charlee Allden

Runner-Up/Novel Most Likely to Appeal to Hard-Core SF Fans
Synthetic Dreams by Kim Knox
Presented by Donna S. Frelick

Yummiest Use of Nerd Reference Overload
Geek Love by Mechele Armstrong
Presented by Rae Lori

Friday, January 25, 2013

FRINGE BENEFIT: HEA AFTER FIVE SEASONS



One of the true great science fiction romances on television ended its five-season run last Friday when J.J. Abrams’s FRINGE aired its final episode. In classic SFR fashion, this satisfying end to the series gave the bad-guy Observers their well-deserved come-uppance, let lovable mad scientist Walter Bishop find redemption, returned a tortured Earth and its people to normalcy and, best of all, allowed the lovers, Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop, their happily-ever-after.

**Sigh**.  Don’t you just love it when the writers get it right?  Even if they do have to manipulate the gene pool, turn physics inside out, kill off a few major characters and throw in a few red herrings to do it.

Abrams himself has been a bit removed from the day-to-day operations of the show for a while now.  He and partners Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci created the show and Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions and Warner Brothers Television produces it.  He’s currently listed as an Executive Producer, along with Bryan Burk and Joel H. Wyman (who runs the show on a weekly basis, with Jeff Pinkner), while Kurtzman, Orci and Akiva Goldsman are listed as Consulting Producers.  Then, of course, there are the writers for individual episodes.

What all that means when the cameras roll only the people on set know for sure. One thing is clear, though.  Everyone associated with the show wanted to go out on a high note, one the fans would remember forever.  TV Guide Magazine called the final 13-episode season “a love letter to the fans who had stuck by the series through thick and thin.”  For a creative talent like Abrams (and the people he works with), finding a way to bring the complicated tale of FRINGE to a well-crafted ending that fans would find unforgettable may not have been simple.  But it must have been obvious once he committed himself to the classic structure of good storytelling. 

The first season of FRINGE suffered from a certain lack of focus.  Though all the elements of the story were present—the conflict between Peter and his father, the hint of darkness in Walter and in Olivia’s background, the nascent attraction between Peter and Olivia, flashes of the Observers and the true nature of Massive Dynamic—they really didn’t seem to come together in any coherent way.  This was just a more than usually interesting “freak-of-the-week” show at first, and its low ratings showed it.

Then we learned of the existence of a parallel universe that was causing all these odd occurrences.  Our heroine could somehow cross over.  Things got really interesting, with whole arcs on the other side, or with characters from the other side on this side.  Characters we thought we knew were not who they seemed.  Universes collided, melted and merged, with sometimes tragic results.  Characters we had come to love made terrible judgment calls (or did in the past).  Could we forgive them?  Could they forgive themselves?

Gradually we began to see that the show was not based on the science fiction ideas within it any longer; it was based on the characters, on their journey through this very strange universe that Abrams and his partners had created.  Walter had to overcome his hubris and find redemption for the many sins of his prideful youth.  Peter had to grow up and learn to respect both himself and his father before he could reach out in love.  Olivia had to discover her true power—and the ability to love and trust.  Of course, we all had to understand the underlying mystery of the Observers, the parallel universes and, eventually, time itself. That was  the framework within which the characters interacted.  In effect you had three character arcs, one plot arc.  Put them together and you had one terrific classic story.

Peter and Olivia’s story—and their happy-ever-after ending—place FRINGE squarely in the SFR camp.  Olivia and Peter were only colleagues at first and their romance was certainly of the on-again, off-again variety.  But in the final season, Abrams and his fellow producers/writers gave the fans what they wanted and put the lovers together in a more permanent way with the birth of a daughter, Henrietta.  The emotional roller-coaster that the couple endures through their connection with “Etta” was the crucible that tested and strengthened their bond throughout the final season.  They really earned that HEA—and so did the audience!

No great epic ends happily without sacrifice, however, and in this case, Walter, our dotty old mad scientist, fond of strawberry milkshakes, red licorice and recreational drugs, had to pay the price.  Walter owed both Olivia and Peter a debt for the selfish ways he used them when they were only children.  Those actions had repercussions that extended long into the future—and into two universes.  The only way to truly make it right was for him to make certain the plan that was devised to turn back time at the end of the last episode worked.  He sacrificed himself to do so and was redeemed.  Walter Bishop, then, is the hero of the story.

Though in many ways, J.J. Abrams and his cohort of Bad Robots are the true heroes for producing one of the best SFR shows on television for the past five years.

Breaking News:  An A.P news report cites multiple trade reports today that J.J. Abrams has signed on to film the next STAR WARS film.  Twitter has been alight with the news since the trade papers mentioned it, and Abrams’s partner Roberto Orci himself seemed to support it.  If true, it would probably be the first time in SF history that STAR TREK fans and STAR WARS fans had something in common to love.  (Abrams’s second TREK film,  INTO THE DARKNESS, is due out May 17.)

Cheers, Donna


Monday, January 21, 2013

The SFR Galaxy Awards Are Coming!


Time is getting close, and although the first quiet rumblings of the First Annual SFR Galaxy Awards has begun, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know the deets about this fun fiesta celebration of Science Fiction Romance!

What Are the SFR Galaxy Awards?

The SFR Galaxy Awards is an annual, multi-award event for science fiction romance releases. Launched in 2012, the goal of this event is to honor a variety of standout stories.

What's Unique About the Awards?

The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single release, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.

How Do the Awards Work?

A select group of science fiction romance readers and bloggers will each create unique awards for up to five releases in that year. Judges will create award categories based on criteria of their own choosing. The goal is to deliver a group of awards that are fun, unique, meaningful, and informative for readers. The awards can range from serious to fun to quirky.

Here's just a taste of a few of the many awards that will be bestowed this year:

Best Alien Fertility Festival

Best Alien Hero

Best Depiction of Reality Entertainment in the Future

Best Subgenre Mash-Up

Closest Experience to Boldly Going

Novel Most Likely to Appeal to Hard-Core Science Fiction Fans

Who Created the Awards and Who are the Judges?

The SFR Galaxy Awards are the brainstorm of outstanding SFR champion, supporter and author, Heather Massey, with collaboration by Laurie A. Green.

The eight award judges are well-known SFR reviewers, bloggers, authors and supporters including:

Anna McLain, renown SFR reviewer and supporter
Charlee Allden of Smart Girls Sci-Fi
Donna S. Frelick of Spacefreighters Lounge
Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express
Jo Jones of Mixed Book Bag
Laurie A. Green of SFR Brigade
Marlene Harris of Reading Reality
Rae Lori of the SFR Readers Challenge

When Will the Awards be Announced?

On January 31st the awards will be posted on the SFR Galaxy Awards site. Additionally, the news will be shared on various social media sites.

Who Created the SFR Galaxy Awards Badge?

The awards badge was created and donated by fabulous cover artist Kanaxa, who has been very supportive of the SFR community.

Who Created the SFR Galaxy Awards Web Site/Blog?

The very talented Charlee Allden created and manages the SFR Galaxy Awards web site.


Hope to see you on January 31st at the SFR Galaxy Awards site for the big announcements! The First Annual SFR Galaxy Awards

~~*~~

Friday, January 18, 2013

TALK LIKE THIS: TYING YOUR CHARACTERS TO YOUR SETTING

Leonard's U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens


A few posts ago Pippa showed us her inspiration for the settings of her works, including her novel, Keir.  When we think about setting, the first thing that pops to mind, of course, is place, and a description of what that place looks and feels like.

But what about how that place sounds?  How do the people who congregate in your setting talk?  What kinds of things do they say, and how do they say it?  Most of us think of this as part of character, and it is that, too, but a lot of what goes into making your setting authentic, is making your characters speak in a way that is authentically tied to your place.

When this works for an author, it is wonderful, and often becomes a trademark.  Think of Elmore Leonard, 87-year-old author of works as diverse as 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty and, his latest bestseller, Raylan, tied to the FX television show JUSTIFIED, which is, in turn, based on an older Leonard short story.  Leonard has lived most of his life in the Detroit, Michigan area, but his characters speak the vivid patois of whatever part of the country they come from.  (So much so that his dialogue is sometimes hard to follow.)  They leap off the page, which is why so many of Leonard’s stories have translated so well to the movie and television screens.  We really believe his cowboys are cowboys, his gangsters are gangsters, his hillbillies are hillbillies, because they talk like they’re supposed to.

Note that I’m not saying his cowboys, gangsters or hillbillies talk like we think they’re supposed to.  They’re not stereotypes; they actually fit the clothes they’re wearing.  Leonard is only a consultant on JUSTIFIED, but the writers on the show take their role as his legacy seriously and the characters show it.  U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens may come from Harlan, Kentucky, but he’s no dumb hick, and like many Southerners, he has a way with his few words.  The other night, he told his pretty girlfriend he wouldn’t throw her out of bed for eatin’ crackers.  That’s an authentic Appalachian way of saying she’s awful good lookin’.  I’ll wager a majority of JUSTIFIED’s non-Southern viewers were mystified.  I howled with delighted recognition.

Of course, when dialogue is misused or the language doesn’t match the setting, it can be just as glaring as putting high heels on a hiker or postulating a snowstorm in May in Georgia.   I recently read a romantic suspense novel by a bestselling author who will remain nameless.  The book was set in Richmond, near my home of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  And, although it was otherwise a great story with some terrific characters, the language missteps gave away the outsider status of the author, who is a native English-speaker, but not a speaker of American English or a Southerner.

For example, the author contracted “he had not” to “he’d not”.  Americans generally say, “he hadn’t”.   Someone was offered “a coffee”, not “some coffee”, as we do here in Virginia.  A guy described a dead woman as “petite”. Extremely doubtful.  “Tiny”, “just a little, bitty thing”, “real small”—anything but “petite”, which doesn’t exist in any Virginia man’s vocabulary, unless he speaks French, like my husband, or works in the fashion industry.

Now in the old days, an editor would have fixed these things. Editors don’t have time to do that in this day and age.  You have to comb your manuscript for that kind of glaring disconnect between place and language.  This writer didn’t do it, so I was left to shake my head, taken completely out of the story when I should have been caught up in the mystery of who is killing women in Richmond.

Granted, it isn’t easy to recognize when you’re making this kind of a language error.  To the author, “he’d not” is normal and correct.  It sounds right, whereas “he hadn’t” sounds weird.  But you have to learn to listen to what’s around you.  If Richmond is your setting, then you have to learn to listen to how people talk in Richmond, not in your head, which may be set for your hometown, your university, your family.  Really not easy if you can’t get to Richmond.

You can talk to natives, though.  Some of the best fun I had was in college where I had endless discussions with new friends from New York over the various pronunciations of “Mary,” “marry” and “merry”.  (In the South, they’re all pronounced the same.  Apparently you New Yorkers pronounce them all differently.  Amazing!)  I have an ear for accents, dialect and those quirky expressions that different cultural groups hold close to their collective bosoms, and it has served me well in my work.  I listen closely everywhere I go and stockpile the voices in my head.

The need for authenticity is the reason why we’re so often told to “write what you know”.  Imagination can take you only so far when it comes to things like reproducing  language and dialogue, or describing the streets of London or the mountains of Colorado.  Even if you think you can escape all this by setting your story on another planet or on a starship in the depths of space, the need for an authentic setting with real details still exists.  Characters still need to come from somewhere.  And even if you’re making that somewhere up out of whole cloth, you’ll need to be consistent and thorough, so your readers will believe it’s a place they can actually visit in the flesh.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why Kissing is Good - For You And Your Characters


But you knew that already, right? There's nothing like a smooch with the love of your life, whether new or old, to make you feel wonderful. To make you feel loved and wanted, and maybe even more. And the same is true with your characters. If they've been building up to that kiss for pages and pages, keeping you waiting, it creates great tension. Or maybe more conflict when it does happen. After all, one of them might not be so keen on the kiss!

And of course, there's some good old science as to why kissing is beneficial, aside from stirring up your libido. So let's look at some of the reasons why it not only makes you feel great, but is very, very good for you indeed. And for your characters too.

1. Kissing is excellent for the health of your heart. Not just emotionally, but physically too. Kissing can help stabilize your cardiovascular activity, decrease blood pressure AND decrease that nasty cholesterol doctors are always warning us about. And all without eating all those fancy special butter-substitue spreads and yoghurts. Which would you prefer?

2. Instead of dieting and slogging your guts out at the gym, three passionate kisses a day can double your metabolic rate, helping you lose up to a pound in weight. I think I know which workout I'd prefer. And writing those kisses will make your readers happy too.

3. This may be a little more off-putting (the thought, not the act) but during a kiss, your body secretes natural antibiotics in your saliva. There's also a natural anaesthetic in saliva that helps relieve pain. So, if you're writing an action scene, all the more reason for your heroine/hero to give their injured love interest a big smooch. And good reason for them being more willing and able to carry on the fight - or whatever else the kiss may lead to.

4. Going a bit further now. Often kissing leads to something more intense, and I don't need to tell you how good that is for you, your characters and your readers. But as an added bonus oxytocin is released during sex - a natural painkiller that can help fight headaches and PMS symptoms. So even if your hero/heroine has been hurt, this could be a great remedy for them.

5. Being in love can literally make you high and cause a state of euphoria, due to the chemicals released by the brain. This could get your characters into a lot of trouble if it leads them to doing something rash or out of character, but then conflict makes for a good story. And of course, they get to kiss and make up.

So there you go. Five excellent health benefits to a good snog, as if you needed the excuse. And five good story reasons for your characters to do the same.

Action!

Tethered is back! It got the thumbs up from my freelance editor and some suggested edits, which I've been working on for the last week along with the synopsis and query. I'm hoping it'll be out on submission soon, and Gethyon's edits will then keep me nicely distracted while I wait on a response. I'm also working on another short story, this time for an in-house submission call for my publisher Champagne Books. It's a straight scifi, currently under the title of Flaming Angel. Along with my SFR Brigade anthology short and finally completing Samaritan - a short tale from my Traveller Universe - I could have a total of four titles out over the next year! Fingers and toes crossed.

There's also good news on the health front. Turns out my scary symptoms were just down to chronic anaemia, and while that's no fun it's a simple fix - hopefully. 

With Gethyon now due out this year, I've already started thinking about the blog tour, promotional venues and swag. This weekend I worked on some new bookmark designs. What do you think?



Happenings

Keir's cover is up in the You Gotta Read Cover Contest here at number 14. Voting hasn't started yet, but if you like a man with tattoos, please stop by and give him your vote! I know he'd appreciate it. ;)

The Happy Ending Blog Hop starts on Saturday and runs for a whole week. Join in here for your chance to win some fabulous prizes.

The SFR Brigade anthology deadline is fast approaching! It ends the 31st January, so get your submission in quick.

The SFR Galaxy Awards are coming! On the 31st January, the awards will be posted here.

Next week I'll be posting final(ish) details of the proposed Brigade version of Six Sentence Sunday. Just to clarify, this is open to ANY Brigade members whether published or not. For those still aspiring, this is a great way to start building that all important readership. You will not be excluded because you don't have a published work. 'Kay? :)

Ping Pong

Donna - I read the post on story length with interest - and some trepidation. While my Keir series of books are all standing at 65K and above for the three that are written (Keir itself was 105K and cut to 100K during edits at the publisher's request), most of my titles lately have been more in the novella length category. Maybe it's writing all these short stories that's done it. Maybe I've just learned to be more succint. But Tethered stands at 43K and I still feel the world building has depth to it. So I have to say I'm torn. I'd like to get back to writing some longer stuff for my own personal satisfaction! As for publishers - is it them or the readers driving for shorter stories? I see plenty of complaints by authors that a review has marked them down for  being too short. I think clearer labelling might help, but both my publishers and those I hope to submit to are open to word counts up around the 100K mark. Maybe part of the preference for writing novellas is also down to authors wanting to create a bigger backlist faster. They do say that writing the next book is the best marketing plan. I just hope I haven't made my novella too sketchy...

Laurie - great endings. I honestly could not think of a single book that had a spectacular ending. I think that's more down to my poor memory than never having come across one. Usually if I've enjoyed a book, the ending is always bad - because I don't want the story to finish, so no ending gives me the finale I crave for!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Celibate Hero in SFR

A recent post on Virgin Heroes in Science Fiction Romance discusses some of the more memorable heroes who have never done the deed prior to meeting the heroine, and how that element works for the story and the characters.

The topic got me thinking about another brand of hero, the hero who engages in self-imposed celibacy by choice or circumstance. Does celibacy make for a realistic hero? Or does our society's focus on sex make it implausible? What possible reasons would make a man resort to celibacy?

Actually, there are a number of reasons a man might decide to disengage sexually from society.

It may be due to his choice of work. He could be a space station astronaut, an Arctic or oceanographic researcher, a scientist conducting research in a remote area or any number of occupations where female companionship either is not available or not possible.

It may be because of his experiences. A broken heart can be a powerful deterent to intimacy, either because the man was badly burned in a relationship and doesn't care to repeat the experience, or because he still grieves for a lost mate.

He may chose not to be in a sexual relationship to focus on his duty or profession.

He may have been injured and is now undergoing a long recovery.

He may be a prisoner of war, a slave, a hostage, or incarcerated.

He might have chosen to become a priest or a monk with a vow of celibacy.

He may be head-over-heels in love with a woman who is not available to him, and unwilling to settle for anyone else.

Or he may simply observe religious principles against sexual relations outside of marriage that he feels he must honor.

When you start thinking of all the reasons a man might opt for sexual abstinence, it no longer seems so far-fetched in the context of romantic fiction.

And that goes just for our world. Once you start delving into the SFR universe, there can be any number of barriers to sex presented by a non-Earth culture or religion.

Whatever the reasons, abstinence often makes for a more appealing hero. It shows his degree of moral integrity. He's someone who doesn't treat sex--or relationships--as fun and games. In his mind and in his heart, it's serious stuff--and it's going to take one heck of a woman (cue the heroine) to overcome his resistance.

Examples of Celibate Heroes in SFR

Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five Series is anchored by the romance between Chas and Gabriel "Sully" Sullivan that blossoms in the first novel, Gabriel's Ghost. At a turning point in the story, Sully confesses to Chas that he had once been a monk. It's never perfectly clear why he took this step, but it seemed to be a result of his ongoing war with his personal demons. Chas has always thought of him as a player and a ladies man, and when she learns the truth about his past, she looks at Sully in a totally new light.

In Pippa Jay's Keir, the hero is an outcast who is demonized by his own culture. Tortured, tattooed and treated as a social pariah, he is eventually imprisoned for the "threat" he poses to his own people. Feelings of self-loathing and shame create an emotional barrier between him and the woman who later rescues him, the kind-hearted Quinn, who he secretly longs for but believes his desires are disrespectful.

Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon features a hero who's a top assassin with a tortured and twisted past. In his role as a trained killer, he has no time or patience for a love interest. Until he's assigned to protect Princess Kiara, the daughter of a consulate president.

Finn in Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy, is a hero who's an expendable slave in a situation that makes sex the least of his concerns. Leashed to the heroine with a biotech connection that will kill him if he's separated from her, he begins to experience temptation, even though her mental state can cause him extreme discomfort.

Celibacy is a hot topic for romance readers. There have been lists of books with discussions on Amazon and Goodreads about celibate heroes.

So now it's your turn. What books have you read with celibate heroes? Were you more or less intrigued with the hero because of his choices regarding celibacy?
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

SIZE COUNTS IN TELLING A TERRIFIC TALE



From Tolstoy's War and Peace
Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Asimov’s Foundation. Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. Sinclair’s Dock Five series. J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Christine Feehan’s groundbreaking vampire novels. Pretty much anything by Stephen King.  Big, meaty novels you can sink your teeth into.  Characters you can spend time with.  Worlds you grow to love because you live there for days, even weeks at a time.

I love novels with what used to be called “scope”, depth and breadth of subject matter, time or place.  They sweep you away and involve you in a way their less-ambitious sisters never can.  But in order to make that happen, words are required, sometimes lots of them.  A typical King novel can run over a thousand tightly-packed pages (300,000-400,000 words maybe?).  Try selling that to an editor at a digital-first publishing house, where the offerings generally run between 40,000 and 60,000 words, and a full-size novel is considered to be 70,000 words, 40k less than the industry standard for romance single-title paperbacks.

To be fair, not all epublishers are the same.  Samhain Publishing, one of the oldest and best-established of the digital-first publishing houses, touts a wide range of word counts in its submission guidelines (12,000-120,000+) and now tells readers straight-up what they’re getting when they buy a title—novella, novel or whatever.  You pay more for the novels, but I suppose it takes longer to edit them, too.  At least you know what you’re buying in a title from Samhain.

My point here is that the digital press has embraced science fiction romance (and vice versa), but overwhelmingly the digital press encourages works of shorter lengths.  I’m not sure that serves SFR well, particularly since the stories we write require both intricate world-building and indepth character-building.  It is extremely difficult to do that well at shorter lengths. I’m not even talking here about the special requirements of short stories, which have a completely different kind of structure than novellas or novels.  I mean that many writers treat a novella not simply as a short novel, but as a sketchy one, which leaves the reader unsatisfied.  If that happens, the reader may not only pass on that author the next time around, but if it happens too many times she may also begin to think SFR is not for her.

I read several digitally published SFR works in a row twice over the past year.  Once was as research for my own road to publication and involved randomly chosen titles from the publishers’ websites about nine months ago.  The other time was more recently as part of my “homework” for a project you’ll hear more about later this month.  In both cases I found great books and less interesting ones.  (Among the randomly-chosen titles I found some truly terrible ones!)  But only one title so far has been at what I would consider to be genuine novel length.  And only that title was fully developed in plot, character, world-building, romance arc, conflict arcs and the rest.  Every other story had something missing.

The easiest ones to dismiss were the stories in which it appeared the authors just “ran out of words”.  The story is moving along at a decent pace, you’re just beginning to settle in, and wham! That’s all, folks!  The ending is hurried, often makes no sense and seems tacked on in response to external pressure.  Having worked in newspapers, where the editor’s scissors are constantly in play, I can understand how this happens.  It’s just a shame. 

If you truly have a word limit to meet, write to the limit all along, not just in the final pages or paragraphs.  Even if you are a Pantser Extraordinaire, there’s no excuse for you to be surprised by the ending to your own story.  At least not in the final draft.

The more heartbreaking stories are the novellas that should have been novels.  These are the ones in which ideas are simply sketched out instead of explored, dialogue is reduced to the barest minimum, whole scenes are shrunk down to a paragraph of tell, not show.  The reader feels as if he is skimming a glorified synopsis, being allowed a glimpse of something that might have been great.

The problem here is an embarrassment of riches, none of which can be adequately explored in a novella.  Only a novel, with a greater word count, can allow the character development, the description, the world-building, the romance arc, the secondary characters, the subplots required by the author’s imagination.  I recently read one such effort in which a complex medical procedure performed on the hero by the heroine was reduced to a two-sentence paragraph.  Her medical skills were central to her character and the plot.  His injury was grievous; his recovery essential.  We couldn’t take a little time with this?  Nope.  She fixed him.  Operation complete.  Aaagghh!

A novella is a short novel.  That means you must eliminate unnecessary subplots, secondary characters and detail, not introduce them and treat them shabbily.  You only have time for one thing in a novella, not two or three things.  I could write STAR TREK “novels” at novella length because my readers already knew my characters and my universe.  If you have to introduce new characters and a new world, KEEP IT SIMPLE and allow yourself to develop the few things you choose in detail.  If you find intriguing characters keep popping up, the plot keeps twisting, the hero and heroine just won’t behave, and your world keeps expanding, you have a novel, not a novella.  Do it justice.

Should we worry that our audience doesn’t have the attention span to read a longer work?  Go back to my opening paragraph.  Stephen King is the second or third most successful writer in the world.  Christine Feehan and J.R. Ward hit the bestseller list in hardback with every new title.  Make the words sing and your readers will only want more of them.

Cheers, Donna