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, March 31, 2016

Alien landscapes

I've been traveling in the Australian outback. And really, when you're in places like that you might as well be on another world. Australia is a whole continent, only a smidge less in area than the entire mainland USA, yet the US has 317 million people, and Australia has 24 million.

That's because very, very few people live in the middle of Australia. It's a desert. To give you some idea, the entire state of South Australia has 1.7 million people. 1.3 million of those live in the state capital, Adelaide. And most of the others live in the larger towns on the coastal fringe. There is water in the desert, underground. The only reason there are any towns out there at all is the Great Artesian Basin, which send its water to the surface in the form of springs. The only other way to get water out there is to build a pipeline from the coast - which was done in the 1890's for Kalgoorlie, a gold mining town in Western Australia.

What does a desert look like? Well, just recently there has been a lot of rain in North Queensland, where the great inland rivers rise. The Diamantina and Coopers Creek (and their many tributaries) empty into Lake Eyre, which is the remains of what was millions of years ago under the ocean. This year is a once or twice a decade event, when Lake Eyre has water in it. It fills maybe once or twice a century. And when it does, the birds come. No one knows how the pelicans and terns on the coast find out there's water in the lake. But they do and they flock there in their millions to breed along the edges of water brimming with life which has waited patiently in a dormant state for the rains to come.

That's one country. Really, you don't need to find an exoplanet. Got any inspiration yet?

Here are some photos I took as we flew over the desert.
A salt lake. Those black dots are pelicans

That pool of water won't be there for long

Salt lakes and desert sand ridges. It's only that green after the rain

Weird, tough, low-growing plants

Despite the recent rains, it's still a desert. The man-made road is obvious


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fast and Dangerous - A Quickshot Teaser #spaceopera #scifi #romance

I'm taking my now traditional break from social media while my monsters are on their school holiday...and I chose this time to release a new title. Crazy, huh? Anyway, Quickshot releases in just two days so I thought I'd share an excerpt this week and next to celebrate, and to cover my time away. In this snippet, Sal's newest passenger is somewhat disappointed by his first view of the transportation. Guess he should have checked before booking, right? Enjoy!

“This is your ship?” The disgust in his voice irritated her. Yeah, the Barony Bitch was ugly but it was all she’d been able to afford after losing all her assets. And the ship was fast and dangerous. Just like Sal.
“Problem?”
“I just thought she’d be prettier. Like her captain.”
Sal resisted the urge to shove him up against the bulkhead and beat some manners into him. “That’s fucking patronizing. What kind of idiot judges on looks alone?”
“The kind of idiot who will pay a stranger anything she wants for safe passage?”
He has a point.
“She’s faster than she looks,” Sal muttered as they walked up the entry ramp and boarded.
“Like her owner. Tell me, do you always draw first? You’ve never thought about conversation?”
“I find that guns are a simpler solution. Cuts out a lot of unnecessary small talk.” Sal put emphasis on the last couple of words in the hope he’d take the hint.
“So I guess sparkling conversation is off the menu for our trip.”
“Yep. Other than about what you’re paying me.” They reached the control deck and Sal slid into the pilot’s seat with a sigh. It would be good to get out into the quiet emptiness of space.
Her passenger took the spare seat. “Like I said, name your price. You saved my neck, and I kinda value that.”
Sal eyed him up. He was well dressed in leatherine leggings, a pale cream shirt down to mid hip and a long jacket in a mid-weight black fabric. None of it brand new, but not worn or dirty. The leather boots covering his lower legs to his knees had some wear, so either he wore them all the time or he walked a lot. His physique said walking, being as he had none of the flabbiness from soft living. If she was honest, he was kind of on the skinny side for her tastes. She preferred her men broad and packed with muscle, and her women full bodied with generous curves. His accent and attitude said money. His smooth face said laser treatment or a daily de-follicle wash. No scent enhancers, but he didn’t stink either. No calluses or scarring on his hands, so combat or hard manual labor were unlikely. She didn’t much like the fact he’d still kept his shades up. How much to ask for?
A Space Opera Short Story
Goodreads | Webpage
Amazon | ARe | 
Smashwords
iTunes | Kobo | B&N
Sal, a legal carrier (just about) of whatever comes her way, puts her trust in just two things: her guns. 

Keeping out from under Imperium eyes—especially those belonging to a certain Ehi Wahu—while making a living, and trying to keep a lover who can tolerate her twitchy trigger fingers, are the extent of her ambitions.

Then a kiss from a passing stranger, and a promise of the biggest score in a long time, tempt her. Devin fulfils more than one need, but he comes with more trouble than one woman can handle. And this time it'll take more than her guns to save her. She'll have to trust a man again.

***
Status Update
Quickshot releases in just two days. Woot! In the meantime, I'm taking a nice break with my monsters and hopefully catching up on my TBR pile. See you in two weeks!

Friday, March 25, 2016

ROMANCE WRITERS CELEBRATE THEIR BIGGEST DAY WITH CONTEST FINALISTS




As Laurie mentioned on Wednesday, today is one of the biggest days in the romance world calendar: Romance Writers of America’s® RITA® and Golden Heart® contest finalist announcement day. It’s our equivalent of an Academy Award, the highest honor we can receive as romance writers, for one of our books to be named a finalist in either the RITA® contest (for published writers) or the Golden Heart® (for unpublished writers).

The competition is fierce for a spot on the final roster of no more than eight titles per category, from Paranormal (where SFR competes) to Inspirational, Romantic Suspense to Historical. (Entries are typically capped at 1200 for the Golden Heart®, for example, and up to 2000 novels are entered in the RITA®.)

On announcement day, those who have entered sit on tenterhooks, waiting for that all-important phone call or email to tell them their books have been anointed. Believe me, it’s a nerve-wracking process! By 2:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time, all the finalists will have been notified and the list is published on the RWA® website http://www.rwa.org. (If you want to follow the craziness live, as Laurie mentioned, the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood is hosting their party live here.

For the finalists, the flurry of excitement is just beginning of course. After all, in the end, there can be only one—winner per category, that is. Those winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony at the RWA® National Conference in San Diego on Saturday, July 16.


In the meantime, huge congratulations to all the finalists, for both Golden Heart® and RITA® from all of us here at Spacefreighters! Do your happy dance! Enjoy the joy and attention as you approach the National Conference in July. You deserve every minute of it!

Cheers,
Donna


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Insta-Love or Insta-Attraction--Part II

Good Morning!

Surprise! I'm blogging on Wednesday this week. Why? Well, it seems retirement has blasted me into my own special time warp where I was rendered incapable of reading a calendar. - red face - Sorry to any who encountered dead air on my usual blogging day.

I wanted to open with a reminder that March 25th is a very special day for many romance writers and authors. It's announcement day for the RWA(C) Golden Heart and RITA finalists for 2016! In past years, this day was like a National Romance Holiday for me. I'd take the day off work to monitor the constant announcements, updates, congratulate friends and peers, and join in the festivities. (The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog always throws a great cyber-party if you want to look in!)

And, of course, I'm always eager to see if any Science Fiction Romance books will be nominated! (If so, we'll try to track down the authors for an interview. That's actually how Sharon and I met so many years ago!)

This is the one competition in all the industry that is like a mini-Academy Awards. Nearly ALL the nominees show up in formal gowns for the glitzy award night production, wherever it may be (San Diego this year). Just like the Academy Awards, nominees have overwhelming competition and it's such a high honor just to be named--and getting that magical phone call to inform them they are a finalist is their ticket to the crazy train that is the Golden Heart/RITA experience.

Donna, Sharon and I were all fortunate enough to have been swept up in this whirlwind multiply times in years past, and it's an experience we will never forget.

This was the opening production for the 2011 Golden Heart/RITA Awards, and I was tickled to death to see some prominent SFR books and authors featured that you may recognize! (And yes...Donna, Sharon and I were there at NY Times Square that year.)




***Check back with Donna on Friday for awards coverage.***

But on to our topic this week...

Last week, we took on the topic of Insta-Love vs. Insta-Attraction, and offered up the opener of Farewell Andromeda in the jousting field.

I also mentioned a potential prize to a random commenter. :) We had six commenters, so a prize will indeed be awarded. I fired up the trusty Randomizer site and ran 1 through 6 through it to return a result.

And Randomizer SAYS:

Here are your random numbers:
5
Timestamp: 2016-03-23 16:05:03 UTC

Commenter #5 was Riley Moreland. Thanks and congrats, Riley. You are the winner of a nifty R2D2 measuring cup set from ThinkGeek. Here's their promo vid:




This week, I'm back to a look at the first meeting between Sair (hero) and Drea (heroine) of Inherit the Stars.

My question to readers is this: If the characters show or think about their attraction upon first encountering one another, does it relegate the story to being a victim of Insta-Love?

My feelings as an author may differ from those of a reader, so my purpose is to gain a better understanding of the "Insta-Love" label.

How I currently define Insta-Love:

If the characters immediately fall in love, show undying devotion and become instantly attached at the hip (or other important body parts) after only an encounter or two, then that's clearly Insta-Love.

On the other hand, I think that characters feeling or showing a strong attraction or reaction is very important to a romantic plot. I call this Insta-Attraction rather than Insta-Love, and in my universe that initial heart flutter needs to be present in a romance story (with the caveat that if it's a story in the enemies to lovers trope, the initial encounter may summon very different emotions).

But some readers--and at least one reviewer--may have a very different take on Insta-Love. And that's why I'm asking to hear your thoughts.

In your opinion, does this scene present a mere ember that may one day spark into a flame...or does it kindle an immediate and undying bonfire?

____________________________

We join our hero in a scene already in progress: He's a desperate fugitive attempting to book passage off an enemy-infested planet, but the first mate of a potential transport has just made her feelings clear to the hero...via her knife.


“Zjel!” A woman’s voice rang out from the direction of the street.

The little slasher released him and backed off a few steps. Keeping one eye on his assailant, Sair cradled his wounded hand and stared at the blonde who strode toward him, a com set perched on her left ear. She wore the same olive-drab flightsuit, unfastened down the front with a sleek black t-skin underneath, and the tease of her curves made his breath catch.

The new arrival marched up, oblivious to the smaller woman’s incessant knife-weaving, and looked him in the eye before turning to his attacker. “What goes?”

“This Rathscum challenged me.”

“Challenged you?” Sair snapped. “I only asked to speak to the cap.” Blood seeped from his cut and fell to the dust below.

“What do you want?”

Gold stars glittered on her collar. This is the captain? One look at her and he knew he had to leave on this ship. “Passage.”

“To where?”

“Anywhere better.” He eyed the mate, still brandishing her blade, and tried not to think about his stinging, bloodied hand.

The captain appraised him with keen brown eyes. Wispy blond locks framed her face. “How much do you have?”

“We’re not taking this heo—

The captain’s gaze moved to her first mate’s face. No words were spoken, but her message was clear.

The smaller woman’s face screwed into a frown. “Peitchau!” She swiped her bloody knife on her thigh, sheathed it, and stalked up the gangway before disappearing into the ship. She’d sworn in Purmian, which should’ve come as no surprise. Her size made her subspecies obvious.

The captain turned to him, her eyes doing a slow sweep of his body, taking his measure. “How much?” she asked again.

Sair knew if he wanted to set foot on her ship, he had to show his hand. He reached for the front of his pants and tugged his coin pouch up past the waistband. He didn’t miss her cocked eyebrow before he took it in hand, offering it to her.

She shook her head. “Spill it.”

He poured the pouch’s contents into the cup of his good hand and held it out. It amounted to less than a hundred replas—what he’d stolen from the Ithian guard less what he’d paid the tender.

She perused the pile of gleaming gold markers and scattering of small gems then met his eyes. “It’s not enough.”

“I’ll pay the rest when you get me to my destination.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

He dumped the handful back into the pouch as she turned away. “Then what will it take, Captain?”

She turned back. Her eyes settled on his face before she spoke. “Who you running from?”

He straightened, debating his response. He didn’t think a lie would sit well with this woman. She had a look that could crack ice. “Ithian Alliance Intelligence.”

“Hm. You do have a problem, then.” Her gaze shifted to where her ship rested. “You have a headprice?”

“Yes.”

“How much?”

“Fourteen thousand replas.”

“That’s all?” She snorted, meeting his eyes. “You aren’t wanted that bad, then.”

“Maybe not. But most of the headrunners in Eliptis would be happy to collect.” He gave her a soulful look. “I need transport.”

Her gaze left his face and slid over his broad shoulders, along his biceps, and down to his hands. She stepped forward and reached for his right; he gave it to her. Holding it palm up, she brushed her fingertips along the bloody trail her first mate’s knife had left across his lifeline. “Sure you want to chance it?”

He straightened his fingers and steadied his knees, surprised at the response her touch aroused in him. No female had affected him like this since…

He curbed a tug of grief. “I’m sure.”

“And you’d pay anything I ask?” she whispered, her attention moving back to his face. “No questions?”

Sair withdrew his hand. He understood. He needed a way off this rock; she was offering it at a price he could afford. Service in lieu of cash.

Saybin…

His stared at the invisible line the captain had traced across his palm with her silken touch. His body’s response was clear, but his conscience was slower to weigh in. Saybin would’ve wanted him to live, wouldn’t she? It was either this or face recapture—and worse.

“Agreed.”
____________________________

Comment below with your thoughts on the Insta-Love question and if you think it applies to this scene--yay or nay--and feel free to be perfectly honest. I'm curious to hear any and all thoughts.

Oh, and am I offering another prize for a random commenter? Could be. -- grin --

Have a great (rest of the) week!

~~~*~~~

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The #Kobo #Review Fail

Although Amazon is the big cheese in book publishing/selling, I'll say right off it isn't perfect. It is not the author's best friend. The recent scandal about Kindle Unlimited (go HERE and HERE, but keep an eye on your blood pressure if you get through both AND the comments) and the top new releases show how scammers are taking as yet unpunished advantage of Amazon, and the continually diminishing payments in KU with its demand for exclusivity have put my hackles up. That said, it is still the marketplace that pays me most.

And let's face it, there's no serious competition. Other retailers have been slow to adopt the often groundbreaking methods of Zon to provide an exceptional service to readersr. 1-Click purchasing to get a book straight on your Kindle, a loaning system that works for readers (but not necessarily so great for authors these days), a straight forward, easy option for authors to publish ebooks and print (it's the one platform where I NEVER have an issue with uploading or formatting) - yep, Amazon has a lot to offer. B&N have clearly given up, with their latest decision to withdraw from the UK. The Smashwords interface and Meatgrinder continues to suck. I've pulled my books from Google Play because of their random, unexplained and no-warning price changes that can affect my book prices elsewhere. I don't understand the All Romance eBook rebate thing, and I don't sell anything there. I only get sales from iTunes via D2D - not having a Mac or an Apple account makes them unfathomable to me.

The only real alternative I see to Amazon right now is Kobo, and I do still have my issues there as an author. At this moment I also have an issue with Kobo as a reader, and it's one that affects authors too. Authors love and want reviews, right? But what happens when Kobo rejects your review and won't tell you why?

I don't know about most people (when I posted about the problem on Facebook most didn't even know you could post reviews on Kobo. Now that's another problem for a start) but I've now wasted a lot of time on this issue and made zip progress. So I'm about to give up. I've wasted precious time, and an author whose book I enjoyed is missing out on a review. This has been ongoing for over two weeks now.

So, my issue with Kobo?
1. Their 'guidelines' - listed as review writing tips - are vague and no help in identifying exactly what triggered the rejection. Plus you can only find those when actually writing a review (at least, after searching Help and looking around their website, that's the only way I could find them. Please point out my blindness if that's wrong).
2. When I finally got someone to talk to me via email (after several auto responses and invitations to 'chat' - no. I don't chat. I want email) they gave me their more specific but internal review guidelines...which still didn't tell me what the actual issue was.
3. After removing three things I thought might be triggering the rejection, resubmitting, and hearing nothing for over a week, another rejection. Bearing in mind I've posted other similar reviews before and since, AND at all the other retailers (including Amazon who can be temperamental and random with review deletions) without ANY issues.
4. Their appalling lack of a decent 'contact us'. A form for reporting ereader faults only is...unhelpful.
5. Their Twitter account @KoboHelp was way more responsive...but after discussing it up to and including sending them my actual review, they went silent. I've messaged them again twice. I got one reassurance that they were looking into it the first time. Then nothing.

So here's the review that posted everywhere else, and the crossed out bits are what I cut from the edited review that I submitted (and that also got rejected), with the new sections in blue. Can anyone tell me what's getting it booted? (PS, this is taken from the Goodreads version where the spoiler is hidden-for the retailers, the hide option is not available so the spoiler is in full).

Please excuse the peculiar phrasing which is due to Kobo's oversensitive review algorithms.
What I liked:
Grab some tissues and hold on tight! This final installment packs some serious emotional punch (one reason I generally go for SFR over straight SF, but here you get it without the romance), as well as a real adrenaline-laced ride through violence, more betrayal, sacrifice, and emotional awakenings. Basically all hell breaks loose. I finally forgave Caleb for being such a jerk as this a-hole twat of a reluctant hero has finally turned himself around from someone I hoped would die long before the end of the series to one I could cheer and feel for. Clean, crisp and gritty writing, with a couple of good twists towards the end, plus a satisfactory conclusion that wraps up the four books but leaves intriguing openings for more. Frankly I would love more of One's adventures, but could let Caleb fly off into the sunset because I can only see him reverting after all the character growth in the four books (and I don't want to see that).

What I didn't like:
*spoiler alert! Don't read this section if you don't want the ending given away* 

[Well. It's a minor niggle, but the ending didn't sit entirely right with me. I think it's more because I'm perfectly willing to kill all my characters at the end of a non-romance, so maybe I expect other authors to do it (and there's really no reason why they should!). And the vague hints of romance/light romantic elements throughout weren't exactly resolved either - there's still an opening there for potential future books. Maybe I'm just too set into the SciFi romance groove to accept a non-romance ending when I felt the story was heading that way. That said, it wasn't enough to even justify taking off a half star, and didn't spoil my overall enjoyment.]

In conclusion:

I feel like One ripped out my heart and squished it, before giving me a hug! This was a seriously good conclusion to the series, and a real tear-jerker, as well as providing some dark, acidic humor and high-adrenaline action. Those hoping for a romantic ending might be disappointed, but for fans of scifi action adventure who aren't offended by the sex explicit bedroom scenes and foul language, this is perfection. Recommended for those who like Firefly/Farscape certain space opera series starting with F.

Full disclosure: I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

###

Any ideas? Maybe the full disclosure thing? IDK.

Update: I received this via Twitter -

"Thank you for your continued patience. We have reached out to our web team and it would seem that this is currently a known issue. Unfortunately, until this is resolved you may continue to have issues submitting your review without it being denied. This is a system issue but please note that we are working adamantly to resolve it."

I'm guessing that means there's a problem with their automated system and perhaps not the review itself after all, but I'm not really all that much the wiser so I said so -

"It seems that quite a few reviews are being automatically rejected by the system. We are looking into this matter and working to resolve it. We apologize that you believed our team was rejecting your post..."

So there you go. I've still waiting for two further Kobo reviews to go live (I uploaded them before the second rejection) but they could get caught in this problem, and repeatedly rejected too. I'll let you know. But your best option if you want to talk to Kobo is very clearly the Twitter account.

Status Update
I'm pushing to get the revisions done on Reunion by the end of this week as my monsters break up for the spring holiday on Thursday and I'll be taking my usual social media/work respite. The release date is still 21st May, but the sheer amount of words I've had to add so far (almost 10K) is starting to scare me!
I'm also signed up to edit my June project for this April's Camp NaNoWrimo. I need deadlines! Another downside of being indie is I don't work well to deadlines I set myself, not even release dates. If anyone would like to volunteer to stand over me with a cattle-prod to get things done, I can pay in cookies...
Quickshot releases in just 9 days! If you haven't pre-ordered it, you can find it at all the links below the cover. With the scandal over KU I decided to pull it from Amazon exclusivity and go wide, and finished uploading it to other retailers last week (phew!).

A Space Opera Short Story
Goodreads | Webpage
Amazon | ARe | 
Smashwords

iTunes | Kobo | B&N
Restless In Peaceville (my YA paranormal with zombies) and When Dark Falls (my dieselpunk superhero romance) are now both out of KU and back up at most retailers (I think I'm just waiting on B&N for Restless. As per usual). This means you can't borrow my books anywhere at this point in time. I'm sorry about that. The KU system sucks for me, and nowhere else is currently offering a subscription service that works. If you want to read my books for free, I can only suggest signing up as a reviewer at Manic Readers or The Romance Reviews site - I'm currently updating and reloading my titles there and added Quickshot and Keir's Fall - or my YA works (currently excluding Gethyon) are available at YA Insider.
AND Keir's Fall is currently up at NetGalley to read and review for free HERE. Working for a review site is a fantastic way to get books for free without using pirate sites, harming authors and opening your computer to viruses or getting your financial info hacked.

Happenings
The Little Things Blog Hop is in full swing until the end of March. Over 100 participating authors and over 50 prized to be won! Click the banner to visit my post on the hop and find the link to the next.

From next week I'm taking a two week break as my monsters are on holiday, so my next two posts will be on automatic as I share some info and excerpts from Quickshot. Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2016

WE AIN'T SCARED OF NO ALIENS!

Time--and inspiration--have been a little short this week. So I hope you don't mind that I'm repeating here in edited form a post I contributed to Heather Massey's Galaxy Express 2.O Blog back in February. Thanks to Heather for having me, and here, in case you missed it, is a shorter form of the post that appeared originally as "Who's Afraid of the Little Gray Alien?"

Not so long ago the fear of “alien abduction” was a real and visceral thing in human consciousness. We had eyewitness accounts of our fellow humans being “beamed aboard” alien spaceships, of “experimentation,” of repeated abductions for nefarious purposes. Even now, an estimated one-third of Americans believes UFOs are real and a much higher percentage believes intelligent life exists somewhere else in our galaxy. One of our most prominent scientists, Dr. Stephen Hawking, believes we better hope there’s no one else out there, because we’d be at their mercy.

It’s no surprise, then, that alien abduction and its companion, interstellar slavery, are common tropes in science fiction and SFR. Granted, not a few of the titles which claim those tags tend to use the abduction as prelude to a sexual encounter (or twelve). But we can put those in a separate category for purposes of this discussion—“Sexual Fantasy”, certainly, “The Upside of Abduction,” maybe.

I’m referring to the dark side of alien abduction for the purposes of slave labor and the nightmarish fear we humans may have of it. The first sign of this fear came just after the Second World War, with the first flush of UFO sightings, the Roswell crash and its aftermath, and the B-movie sci-fi craze of the Fifties. This coincided with the final years of the Golden Age of science fiction (Thirties to Fifties), which was dominated by stories of evil aliens on Earth and spaceships to distant planets.

Our real sources of angst, of course, were not to be found in the skies, unless you count the time we spent looking up for those missiles from the USSR that would be carrying the A-bombs to wipe us out. Then there were the Commies who were supposedly infiltrating everything. Those real fears were reflected onscreen not in the cheesy MARS NEEDS WOMEN, but in the truly scary THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951-based on a short story by John Campbell), the creepy INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS (1956) and the stellar THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951).

By the time the Seventies rolled around, however, no one believed in the Commie under the bed and we’d stopped digging fallout shelters. Our thoughts about aliens had fallen into two camps: those who believed their coming would bring a wonderful new day to this tired old Earth, and those who thought they knew better. Even those who supposedly had had “interaction” with the little Gray aliens in their UFOs were split on the matter. Some said they’d had a great time on the ships; some relived their experiences in horror.

Stephen Spielberg captured this push-pull perfectly with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). Most of the movie was enough to give anyone nightmares: a little boy is pulled out of his screaming mother’s arms into a blinding light, a man goes more than a little crazy trying to re-create a compelling vision in a plate of mashed potatoes. But in the end, the boy is returned unharmed and the man happily volunteers to venture off into the galaxy with his new-found alien friends. Let’s just hope there’s not a labor camp waiting for him at the end of his journey.

Spielberg’s optimistic vision reflected a relatively optimistic period. America had not yet seen its embassy staff taken hostage in Iran, interest rates hit 12 percent with almost ten percent unemployment in the early Eighties (how quickly we forget), or either Iraq war. Oh, and the Russians were mired in Afghanistan in those days.

With the Nineties and early 2000s our fears had begun to return. Chris Carter’s THE X-FILES was a perfect example, with FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder trying desperately to find the truth behind the abduction of his young sister. He wanted to believe aliens took her and sought proof. His partner, skeptic Dana Scully, wouldn’t have believed if a little Gray alien hit her over the head.

The cynicism of its audience was well reflected in the dark conspiracies of THE X-FILES. Mulder and Scully could trust no one but each other as they navigated their world of skulking monsters and government smoke and mirrors. The new X-FILES show, which debuted January 25 on Fox Television, brought these conspiracies even more to the fore. Even more than the aliens, our own government was behind the curtain pulling the strings.

This idea of a world hidden beneath the world we’re familiar with is a core element of my Interstellar Rescue series, too. In my first book, Unchained Memory, my heroine, Asia Burdette, only learns of her abduction by aliens and internment in an alien labor camp as she is on the run from government black ops kidnappers who want access to what she knows.

In the second book, Trouble in Mind, now also available from Amazon, that black ops group succeeds in kidnapping Asia and her son Jack, who is the key to an interstellar power play. Lana Matheson, an FBI agent every bit as skeptical as Scully, must join forces with a half-alien tracker, Gabriel Cruz, to find the boy and his mother.

The action in Trouble in Mind revolves around the question of how far those in power will go to protect their secrets and/or the foundations of their system. We know, of course, that this black ops group will do almost anything to get at the knowledge of other worlds that Asia has. What would they do with the psi talent that Jack has? The alien government minister who is also searching for Jack wants to use him in a bold move to take over the Minertsan Consortium—and ensure the continuance of slave labor as the basis of the empire’s economy. What will he do to get at Jack?

In this day of media manipulation, general cynicism, economic uncertainty, partisan politics and distrust of government, our science fiction view of aliens as threat has morphed from UFOs taking us as individuals to aliens invading us en masse. Either those aliens want to destroy us outright (PACIFIC RIM, the upcoming INDEPENDENCE DAY II) or they want to colonize us, forcing us to resist or collaborate (FALLING SKIES, COLONY). Again, it’s no surprise that our screens and SFR stories are filled with Mulder’s paranoia writ large—post-Apocalyptic tales, dystopias, unseen aliens with human collaborators (one of my favorite themes).

It’s becoming clear we no longer fear merely being Taken and enslaved. We fear being conquered and enslaved. And that speaks volumes about what we really fear.

Cheers,
Donna

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Writing is fun again

The Pleiades open star cluster (Wikipedia)
I'm over 5,000 words into my new book, with the imaginative working title WIP. And guys, it is just a heap of fun.

Writing Eye of the Mother was hard work, getting the writer brain back into some sort of focus. I will go back and finish it some time, because I still feel it's a good story. But after some navel gazing, I decided to start afresh, go back to basics. I had a few ideas, but they needed to be fleshed out so I had at least a road map to where I wanted to go.

I bought the pdf (Holly Lisle's Create a Plot Clinic )some years ago - and I reckon it was one of the best investments I ever made. I've used it several times. It's chock full of practical ideas to make the muse come up with the goods. Soon I was scribbling notes (or as well as I can scribble on a keyboard). Then I just couldn't stop myself from starting to write. And it was fun. I was back in routine, using the last hour of the day to gaze at the setting sun and work out what was going to happen next, and answer those questions. Yes, but how do they find that out? What did her parents leave for her? Who else wants to know? etc etc

Anyway, at this point we have a professor of history with a little bit of OCD whose archaeologist parents have gone missing, a full-of-himself alphahole admiral, bubbling politics, and an open star cluster called the Maidens. A bit like the picture. It's another Ptorix Empire story.

And here's a little taste. Professor Olivia Jhutta is at an official reception to mark the visit of the Confederacy Fleet. She's been warned about womanizing Admiral Jackson Prentiss, but actually physically bumps into him at the function. He always has time for a good looking woman.

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Jak accepted a drink and looked around him, evaluating the attendees. A few local military men, resplendent in their dress uniforms, dark blue pants and red jackets dripping with gold braid. Businessmen in black suits and colorful cummerbunds, many of them with trophy brides hanging off their arms. He circulated the room, smiling and chatting, the usual small talk when there's not much to do but be pleasant. A few women tried to catch his eye but he was in no mood to encourage adultery, and even less mood to be somebody's trophy for the night. Not unless something special turned up.
General Krenstein, commander of the local military, was in a corner, talking to a couple of Jak's senior officers. He'd better have a word with him, to show willing. As he moved through the crowd in that direction someone bumped into him. He gazed down into wide brown eyes flecked with gold.
"I'm so sorry," she murmured.
Tall, pale brown skin, dark hair hanging loose, a light blue dress that fitted her curves. Oh yes. Was she with someone? The man beside her registered on his implant. Chuk Lombardi, purveyor of trinkets and antiques. And the woman with him was…
"Not at all, Professor Jhutta. The room's crowded."
Her eyebrows arched, and then she smiled. "Recorded on your implant."
"It does make life easier." But no detail. Just a name and an occupation. God, these backward planets tried his patience.
She gestured at her companion. "Have you met Chuk?"
Jak inclined his head. "Mister Lombardi." The man was president of the independent trader's guild. Good luck with that in the current climate. Ormanov's machinations would have to worry Lombardi. But never mind, Jak's adjutant could find out about that, while he concentrated on the lovely lady in front of him.
"Um, will you be staying at Belledura for long, admiral?"
"Just a few days. And you?"
Her lips tightened. "A few months. I'm on leave from my university."
She was utterly delightful. Surely she wasn't married to this middle-aged bore who was glaring at him? "So you're not a local?"
He contacted his adjutant. "Mark, is the woman I'm talking to Lombardi's wife?"
"No."
"Good. Come and take him away."
"No. Well… I grew up here, but I work at Riewald University on Deloraine."
Mark arrived. "Excuse me, Mister Lombardi, if you have a minute, can you introduce me to a few of your members?"
Jak noted the eye contact between the man and the professor, almost as if she'd given him permission to leave. With a last sideways glare at Jak, Lombardi allowed himself to be diverted. Interesting. Back to the main game. "Riewald." He showed her he was impressed. He was. Riewald had a reputation for excellence. "What do you teach?"
"History. I specialize in Helicronia, but I also know a little about some of the older political systems that preceded the Confederacy."
"What can you tell me about Helicronia?"
She smiled and those golden flecks in her eyes lit up. "Oh, I could bore you for hours. First settlement by the faithful here on Belledura, establishment, expansion, the move to colonize other planets, the dynastic wars, rebellions, stagnation, decline." She chuckled. "I can see your eyes glazing over already. "Perhaps you can tell me about the Maidens?" She paused and her cheeks flushed. "I mean the star cluster."
Well, well. That was unexpected. Apart from the irritating rumblings on Belledura, the Maidens was why he was here. But she didn't need to know that. " Let me see… the cluster is about ten stellar units away, contains about a thousand stars, including many with planetary systems, and it's territory in dispute."
She cocked her head.
"The Ptorix also lay claim to the area."
"Ah. Why is that?"
"Because it sits between the borders of our established sovereignties. Neither of us has a settlement there, and neither of us will allow a settlement there."
"But you'll have heard the legends. About the Gh'ia."
Bless her heart. He couldn't help the chuckle. "Miss Jhutta, they're just stories to frighten children. We've found no trace of any space-faring giants anywhere, and neither have the Ptorix."
His aide spoke to him via his implant. "The Grand Plutarch is feeling a bit left out, sir."
"Yes, all right." Damn. His Eminence's timing was diabolical. But after all the opportunity to play 'mine's bigger than yours' with Ormanov was the main reason he'd agreed to attend.
"Professor, I would love to continue this discussion, but duty calls. Will you have dinner with me? Tomorrow evening?"
She was annoyed, those remarkable eyes narrowed. "Thank you. You're very kind, but no." She cocked an eyebrow. "I have b— other things to do. Goodnight."
She bolted. Grabbed… what was his name? Lombardi, by the arm and towed him out the door. Damn and blast. Fuck Ormanov. May he rot in the deepest pit of hell his confounded religion believed in. As he pasted on his official smile and walked toward the cleric, Jak contacted his adjutant. "Find out everything there is to know about the delightful Professor Jhutta. I want it by tomorrow morning."
"Yessir. It will be done." Did he detect a chuckle in Commander Bennett's reply? 

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There you go. All subject to change without notice, of course.  Gotta go. I's got a story to write. Oh - and Holly's little book is worth every cent of $10. You'll use it over and over again.