Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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STAR WARS Romance Retrospective, Part I: Han & Leia



STAR WARS arguably has had more impact on modern-day cinema than any other movie in the last 30 some years.

From the lucrative merchandising to the repeat business from die-hard fans who micro-analyze every scene, this modestly budgeted, former studio pariah (before its release) went on to conquer both filmdom and fandom.

In terms of lasting cinematic impact and influence, STAR WARS is now the contemporary version of THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIM & CITIZEN KANE rolled into one—a movie most Hollywood filmmakers (as in 98%, allowing for the few David Lynches in the system) and certainly ALL of the studios (as in 101%) covet and yearn to emulate.

But at the heart of all the action figures, laser blasts, and other fun skewed to boys and their boy-at-heart dads, there lies a strong current of science fiction romance—and one that’s raked in, oh, just a few billion dollars over the years.

Given this, I decided it’s high time to explore what worked (and what didn’t) in the sweet side of Mr. Lucas’ 6-part epic. First up, let’s explore the smoldering good looks of our number one Corellian pilot and a certain diminutive princess with oh-so-distinctive hair stylings.


Han Solo & Princess Leia Organa: Why This Couple Rocks

1) Han’s Character Development – An SF Hero for the People

When we first meet the loveable, brash Mr. Solo, we’ve already acclimated ourselves to the kind-hearted farm boy and his grandfatherly mentor. Han immediately stands out:

Roguish good looks? Check.
Bad boy antics? Check.
A wicked sense of humor? Check.
An action-driven, cocksure, manly-man alpha hero…? Check.
…but still wrapped around a tender heart? Double-check. “Yahoo! You’re all clear, kid!”

Better yet, most of the aforementioned qualities are evident in the first five minutes of Mr. Solo’s onscreen introduction to the galaxy. (Let’s all agree to pull an ETERNAL SUNSHINE lever and just erase the incredibly wrong-headed Han doesn’t-shoot-first revision from our minds. Forever.)

There aren’t many romantic moments in the original film, but it sets up everything nicely for the sequel. By the time EMPIRE rolls around with its icy climes and icier princess, we know things are going to heat up in the Millennium Falcon very soon.

2) Han & Leia’s Dialogue: Funny banter. Sexy banter. (No bantha fodder.)

The magic couple


We all know the lines, but here are just a few as refreshers from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:

Princess Leia: Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder.
Han Solo: Who’s scruffy-looking?

Han Solo: Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?
Princess Leia: I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Princess Leia: Let go.
Han Solo: Shh.
Princess Leia: Let go, please.
Han Solo: Don’t get excited.
Princess Leia: Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.
Han Solo: Sorry sweetheart. I haven’t got time for anything else.

And of course…

Han (to Chewie): The Princess. You have to take care of her. You hear me? Huh?
They kiss. And Vader orders Solo lowered into the freezing pit. But before the carbonite hits…
Princess Leia: I love you.
Han Solo: I know.

These are just a sampling of the funny/sexy/heart-tugging bon mots that helped ignite the screen—Hepburn and Tracy in space. Nothing more needs to be added here, as this dialogue says it all.

3) Their Romance Evolved Naturally

Forget your foreknowledge of what’s to come and think back to the films in their order of release:

STAR WARS (1977) – Blasting his way out of the Death Star and helping rescue Leia left little time for more than short intros between Han and the princess—but clearly the undertones are there... along with a burgeoning love triangle.

Luke: Encounters a real-life princess. She’s beautiful. She’s sassy. She even gives him an innocent peck on the check, “For luck.” Days earlier, Luke’s monthly high point would be heading into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. This moment with Leia certainly tops that for excitement in his eyes.

Han: Also encounters a real-life princess, who better be loaded with the cash he can use to pay off a certain angry Hutt. She’s obstinate, headstrong, but…still “has a lot of spirit.” This realization causes him to wonder aloud, “I don't know, whaddya think? You think a princess and a guy like me...?” (A line delivered in a get-your-goat moment to an obviously smitten Skywalker, who quickly snaps, “No!” for more love triangle construction).

Leia: Focused and fearless, Princess Leia’s mind remains on one thing: Protecting peace-loving Alderaan and the rebellion, and delivering the plans hidden within R2-D2. She has no time or thought for much else—although a girlish smile at the end allows her personality to seep through the royal exterior cracks.

So that was the romantic stage set, yet largely unfilled here, for the next in the series…

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) – Heeding the advice that some romance would help draw more teen girls, Lucas adds the magical valentine’s elixir to the story for what many consider to be the best of the six films. In it, the latent romance explodes.

Luke: After encountering the claw-filled end of a Wampa, Luke reconsiders his luck after a long, passionate kiss from Leia scores points for him in the advancing love triangle of Han/Leia/Luke.

Han: Tries to shrug this moment off…but can’t quite do it. We can read it in his open-book expression: He knows she’s only trying to fan the flames of jealousy (uh, right?), but he falls for it anyway. Further eruptions of the J-creature appear at Bespin, when the dashing Lando cavalierly attempts to sweep Leia away.

Leia: Han is fanning some seriously feverish flames within the stalwart royal even though she doesn’t want to admit it—least of all to herself. Later, a close encounter on the Falcon forces Leia’s romantic hand, and her tough façade finally comes crumbling down in Han’s arms…just as they are forced to say goodbye.

RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) – Han and Leia are reunited. By now, we know they love one another.

Blinded, coming out of carbon freezing.
Han: Who…who are you?
Leia (removing Boushh mask): Someone who loves you!

The relationship is now open and mature—all evolving naturally.

Trying to top EMPIRE’s secret, JEDI reveals another one itself—one that ties up the romantic triangle presented in the first two films.

I can imagine that infamous writer’s moment, the one where Lucas is sequestered in a room wondering how to fully resolve everything—including the triangle:

“Harrison wants Solo to die. If that happens, Luke and Leia could walk off into the twin sunset. But I can’t have Han die…. Hmm. What would Kurosawa do…?

I know! Leia and Luke are siblings! Han gets Leia! That way, everybody’s happy! Genius!”

Hits desk-mounted C3P0 figure with voice chip: “I find the odds of anyone disagreeing with you approximately 3,720 to one!”


Hurm. This revelation bothers me, only because I see it as the lazy way out. I don’t believe for a second that Lucas planned things this way from the beginning, no matter what he professes. It makes the scenes in the early films...well, “icky” is the most polite term I can muster.

Maybe I’m wrong—as it’s just a theory of mine. But, I don’t think so. And yes, I do remember Yoda’s “No, there is another” line from EMPIRE, but that’s extremely open-ended. At the time, I thought it could refer to Boba Fett being a secret Jedi, an arc that I still feel would be a better resolution for that great character than the throwaway one used in the film.

And exploring all possible narrative directions…? It can be a good thing. Lucas obviously changed his original far-reaching plans, given the dwindling presence of a certain Mr. Binks as well. (Lucas intended Jar Jar to be a major character in all three prequels.) Writing is an organic, creative process. I would have loved to see the romantic triangle resolved another way in JEDI, but…easier paths were taken. Can’t have everything. At least the final fight with Vader gets ye olde viewers’ hearts to pumping.

And, oh yeah…this movie also has Ewoks. Lots and lots of Ewoks.

As you may be able to tell, JEDI ranks a distant third for the original trilogy in my book. Like piping hot NY pizza sprinkled with spots of mynock guano: It certainly has its delicious moments, but its flaws are impossible to ignore, too.

Having said that, JEDI is, however, CITIZEN KANE wrapped in CASABLANCA’S script with 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY’s vision in light of what was to come.

Next time, we’ll cover the other great romance of the Star Wars Saga: One that manages to do everything wrong where Han and Leia did everything right (well, mostly everything) in the original.

In the meantime, as I said upfront, the first three films have brought in more than a few bucks at the box office. It’s an obvious point—as anyone who’s been conscious for the past 32 years knows—but I bring it up for a reason: Why is SFR still considered such a niche subgenre by the publisher marketing powers that be when its elements run so strongly throughout six of the most popular films of all time?

Await your answers, I do!

Yoda-ly yours,

Heather

Sunday, March 29, 2009

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Building A Better Genre

Thanks to http://atom.smasher.org/construction/In “Building a Better Author” at Romancing The Blog, author Lori Devoti shares her expectation that her favorite authors stay within their chosen genre, as well as her expectations about what she wants her favorite authors to write within their chosen genre.

Write the same book, but different…Then there is the different part. If I love the dark and sexy, I expect that always. If it is a tortured hero that drew me to you, I want another one, and another one after that. But I don’t want the same book–so you better think of some way to twist around that plot and characters while still giving me the core book I desire.

Here’s the rest of the set-up:

At NINC last fall Lou Aronica spoke on what makes publishers choose an author to push. And one of the big things he said was doing something well that makes you stand out AND doing that thing over and over. Being consistent.

There’s no denying the benefits when it comes to author consistency and branding. But Ms. Devoti’s post made me realize that when it comes to science fiction romance, I’d embrace a variety of style/plot/characters from the authors who write it. Putting aside the issue of authors switching genres altogether, how essential is strict, publisher-enforced consistency for a burgeoning subgenre that could zing in about a million different directions at once?


Within science fiction romance, I expect authors to write whatever books they want. Apart from a clearly established series, or a set of books set within the same universe, if an author wants to follow her space opera adventure with a cyberpunk romance, I say go for it! Don’t hold back—play with different types of heroes, heroines, and secondary characters with each subsequent book. I expect variety as well as the unexpected, both within the stories and with each author’s new release. Perhaps it’s my SF roots showing, but it never occurred to me that authors should write anything other than what their muse dictates, even if that means a completely different type of story each time.

With agents as gatekeepers and publishers focused on the bestseller lists, I’m not surprised to hear about ideas for SFR novels that may never see the light of day if the authors are dependent upon the mainstream print publisher model for release and distribution. Neither, however, are trees in endless supply at the rate we’re going, so costs are also going to make many books prohibitive to produce, especially for niche markets.

“What makes publishers choose an author to push…” is a very informative statement, and I’m not debating the importance of consistency, or the reality of career survival…well, okay, I kinda am! But here’s the thing: As digital book sales increase and more ebooks become available over the next few decades, I’m wondering to what extent it will hold true that authors should largely stick to one type of plot/character/setting within a genre. In other words, traveling the route that Lori Devoti describes.

Multimedia venues will increase the opportunities for authors to make their books visible and personally connect with readers. Given that, will epublishers assume the same role of “pushing” an author as their mainstream print brethren? Do they do that now?

Do epublishers expect their authors to follow a model of consistency? Or is it optional? Regardless of the answer, does the need for them to follow that model hold equally true? Because if not, that bodes well for SFR authors who want to experiment with different SF subgenres, or venture into non-Western culture romance models, for instance.

Authors, don’t worry about writing every type of SFR novel under the sun. If the writing, plot and characters are consistently strong, the readers will come. Personally, I feel that just because an author writes a book with a dark, angst-ridden hero I enjoy, it doesn’t mean I’ll turn up my nose if the next hero is a goody-two shoes. In fact, I think I’d prefer it if each hero/heroine weren’t cut from the same cloth.

Is that another kind of branding—to deliver the unexpected, consistently?

Joyfully yours,

Heather


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HOPE'S FOLLY Winner

And the winner is...Sirayn! Congratulations, you've just won a copy of HOPE'S FOLLY by Linnea Sinclair. Please send your address to sfrgalaxy "at" gmail and your book will be in transit ASAP.

Thanks to everyone who entered! It's always a thrill to run the randomizer and see whose name pops up at the end. Stay tuned for future contests.

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, March 26, 2009

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HOPE’S FOLLY: Is it the Science Fiction Romance Breakout Novel?

HOPE’S FOLLY is science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair’s seventh book from publisher Bantam. Her writing career extends back over a decade—and that’s just regarding her “commercial genre fiction.” That’s an important distinction to make because rare is the author and/or book that becomes a success overnight.

I wasn’t looking for a science fiction romance breakout novel. At this point, I’ve simply been on the hunt for any SFR novel. Sure, I had been partial to the idea of a story featuring Admiral Philip Guthrie since his first appearance in Sinclair’s GABRIEL’S GHOST—especially since the author officially announced the project. But after finishing HOPE’S FOLLY, I realized that this book not only exceeded my expectations of a Linnea Sinclair book, it also contained myriad elements that would appeal to numerous romance readers, even those who had never read an SFR before.

This spoiler-free post is not a review or an endorsement of the book, nor do I intend to make a qualitative comparison to other SFR books (especially since you know how much I would love to read more steampunk romances and books featuring space pirate heroines).

Rather, I’m going to embark on a breakdown of several elements that are aligning to launch HOPE’S FOLLY as the potential breakout novel for science fiction romance. (And if I call it correctly, y’all owe me a bottle of Lashto brandy—each of you!)

I’m basing my assumption on the following factors:


Proposition #1: HOPE’S FOLLY has major cross-over appeal

This character driven story has a great balance of romance and political elements. It has the appeal of a forbidden romance while the mix of military SF and mystery provides even more layers of intrigue and excitement. HOPE’S FOLLY is also humorous in all the right places, thanks mostly to our man Guthrie.

Remember STAR TREK IV? Of course you do, because it was the highest grossing Star Trek film domestically. What made that film attractive to both fans and newcomers alike? Several factors: The accessible plot (the story takes place largely on Earth); the Star Trek elements were present without being ubiquitous; and the humor.

I think HOPE’S FOLLY does for science fiction romance what STAR TREK IV did for SF adventure films—it blends genres in such a way that readers will walk away feeling satisfied whether they come to the story from the SF or romance side of the equation. Romance readers take note: HOPE’S FOLLY is what one reviewer called “a personal romance-reading-changing experience.”

Proposition #2: HOPE’S FOLLY has a kick-ass title

Usually, I don’t get attached to titles, but in this case I think the title is quite evocative. It offers a nice bit of foreshadowing and ties in extremely well to the book’s plot and themes. Not only that, but I’m a sucker for really cool ship names in fiction—starships, ocean vessels, airships—it’s all good!

Proposition #3: Linnea Sinclair is a “household name”

Linnea Sinclair is a well known author in the subgenre—and also an author with a strong marketing platform. While other authors have also been writing SFR for years, and even decades, few have Sinclair’s online visibility. Her consistency is the vital ingredient: Consistent product, consistent covers (especially with the new ones), and consistent presence.

Which leads to my next point: Publishers invest in an author’s career in the hopes that one of the books will become a hit/bestseller. Naturally, they want it to be the first one, but that doesn’t always happen. It’s not something that anyone can predict. But having read the story, I think Bantam has something here, if they only recognize it. Linnea Sinclair delivered a definitive SFR novel, and the fan response has been overwhelmingly positive.

With HOPE’S FOLLY, let’s hope (!) Bantam gave it a high enough print run and spends some marketing bucks to make it a viable contender.

Proposition # 4: The timing is ripe

Is HOPE’S FOLLY a perfect science fiction romance book? To that I’d say, what novel is? There is a drawback in that this story is a spin off from an earlier book, and the hero’s character arc technically begins two books back. But not every reader starts with the first book in a series, and HOPE’S FOLLY works fine as a standalone.

The main point here is that HOPE’S FOLLY could be the key to unlocking the potential of other SFR novels—not because it’s necessarily a great example of the subgenre (which I think it is), but because it's striking a chord at the right time. This book transcends individual author branding—it has the potential to help brand the entire subgenre, the importance being how Sinclair executed all of the romance and science fictional elements.

HOPE’S FOLLY possesses that indefinable “it” appeal.

Proposition #5: HOPE’S FOLLY is fun

Science fiction romance can and should comprise a variety of stories in a variety of settings with a variety of characters. But when it comes to attracting readers new to the subgenre, action-packed adventure with a dollop of humor is a bonus. Indeed, that factor might be preferable, because many readers enter the experience of a book for its sheer entertainment value.

The fun in HOPE’S FOLLY enhances both the romance and the SF elements. The relationship between Philip Guthrie and Rya Bennton is meaningful and warm but also playful. The linear, external plot has enough of a “comfort read” factor while also satisfying the vicarious thrill seeking needs of other readers. Finally, the worldbuilding details are complex without being complicated.

Want to know more? Here are some links:

Video interview series with Linnea Sinclair

HOPE’S FOLLY Reviews:

The Book Smugglers

The Good, The Bad The Unread

Spacefreighters’ Lounge

Darque Reviews

Frances Writes

All About Romance

Kathy’s Review Corner

Poisoned Rationality

And now for a surprise!

I’m giving away a copy of HOPE’S FOLLY to one lucky passenger! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment. The deadline for the drawing is 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 29, 2009 (contest limited to U.S. residents).

Now I turn the microphone over to you. What do you think are the elements of a breakout novel for science fiction romance?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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MOONSTRUCK a Nominee for RITA Award!

MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant was nominated for a RITA award.

Congratulations, Susan!

Now, if they could just grant science fiction romance its own category....









Here's a link to a recent podcast with the author.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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THE X-FILES Dossier: The Dana Scully Phenomenon

I went through what might best be referred to as my “Roswell” period about fifteen years ago. I read a variety of books, ogled a plethora of UFO photos, watched a cross section of documentaries, and fancied myself as an amateur Ufology scholar.

Looking back, amateurish was more like it, but I dug all of those aliens-among-us stories. Maybe it was a holdover from V.

Space lizard love or not, I feverishly believed in all the ensuing UFO hype. And part of me still holds out that someone, somewhere, will uncover or declassify real evidence demonstrating that space faring aliens have indeed visited Earth. (After all, do they have DVD box sets of THE PRISONER and MONTY PYTHON near Arcturus? I think not. They need Amazon, here on Earth.)

This UFO period more or less coincided with the start of that SF-Romance-Paranormal hybrid fest known as THE X-FILES. Given how seriously I was caught up in Ufology, as well as my love of SF, it’s no wonder I became a fan. It’s a classic show any way you look at it.

But every time I see the show’s intrepid hero Fox Mulder, I wonder why I don’t identify with him that strongly. He’s eccentric, charismatic, and thanks to David Duchovny, Mulder’s cute, too. (Don’t get me started on the Lone Gunman trio—rowwrrr!)

So what stood in the way of me identifying more fully with the show’s foundational character? Or more accurately…who?

Two words: Dana Scully.


The romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully is the stuff of legends, but there’s another aspect to their relationship that Chris Carter and Co. neglected to inform viewers about: I developed a serious fangirl crush on Agent Scully, one that lingers to this day. And while I don’t blame them, I hold them 100% responsible for my condition.

But why? How? Scully the Skeptic questioned everything Mulder threw at her, and in a vicarious way, it meant she was questioning my beliefs as well, as aligned as they were with Mulder’s viewpoint. I shouldn’t have identified with her so strongly. The affair was doomed, I tell you, doomed!

I have a few hypotheses, though. The first is that Scully, being an intelligent, savvy woman, made her impossible for me, also a woman, to resist her charms. (Of course, husband-o-mine and I began joking that after Mulder correctly solved a case for the 101st consecutive time, maybe Scully should start to buy into banshees and bogeymen.)

Another possibility of why I was lured to the Scully side is that she was played by the irresistible actor Gillian Anderson. In my opinion, she’s a far more accomplished thespian than Duchovny. Her ability to emote, and the sympathy she brought to Scully, lent her a magnetism that was mesmerizing to watch. I became more than a fan of Agent Scully—my crush extended to the actor as well.

Duchovny’s great as Mulder, but when I see him in another role…well, I usually see Mulder. Anderson’s different, however. She has a wider range. With her, I can indulge in more than Dana Scully for a while—THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, anyone? Heck, even while writing this post, I couldn’t resist poking around her official Web site for a few hours minutes.

Here’s a semi-recent Q&A with her last year at WonderCon in San Francisco, divulging what her favorite episode happens to be. (BTW, yours truly was there, front and center.)




During the panel, she was very candid about her good days and bad days in acting, and how it was much harder than she anticipated to pick up the character for the second movie after a 6-year hiatus. It’s a pity the sequel didn’t live up to expectations.

But, that doesn’t change the first four seasons of the TV show, which often had me counting the minutes until the next episode rolled around again. It always gave me a reason to stay in on Friday nights.

To me, the show broke ground. Scully wasn’t an accessory; she was an equal partner. Moreover, Duchovny came to rely on her for much more than just FBI procedurals. He became emotionally and psychologically dependent on her strength, wisdom, and ultimately, her love.

This camaraderie and trust help represent the best SFR can achieve. Despite all of the preternatural phenomena, the relationship felt real—not a mechanical device to move the plot(s) forward.

What do you think? What else could our present-day novels take away from this 90s hit?

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Sunday, March 22, 2009

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The Movers & Shakers in Science Fiction Romance

The title from one of The Rejecter’s recent posts, In These Harsh Economic Times, belies what is basically a hopeful message—that publishing is a “fairly stable industry in that people always want/need books.”

One commenter noted that “tough times are fruitful for bringing worthwhile material to market.”

Clearly, the author of that comment must have had science fiction romance on the brain! But another comment was difficult to miss:

“I’m repped by a top agent who sells an average of 200 books a year (herself, not counting the books her junior agents sell), and even she acknowledges that the pub industry is in the toilet right now. A bunch of deals she had inked in the fall got abruptly 'cancelled' in December, and publishers also starting canceling second and third books on multibook contracts she negotiated. Meanwhile, many of the editors she works with have stopped buying. She doesn’t expect things to loosen up for at least six months, if not longer.

But she says that it WILL loosen up, it’s just a matter of when.”

Ouch!


In Reading and Recharging, Sarah over at Smart Bitches shared that she “…spoke with some of the authors attending the PASIC conference this weekend, and from their stories, the tone of the industry was both grim and determined. Orders are down, sales are down, print runs are down… yet romance is not as dire as other sections of the publishing world.”

It occurred to me that when it comes to science fiction romance, we have the power to prepare for the when part ahead of time. Not only are there existing authors with books that have yet to reach the masses, but there are also the stories yet to be published—and written. If Lady Luck needs a little support, reinforcement, Red Bull, whatever, I believe there’s a way to make that happen.

Networking, and the information exchange that often accompanies it, is one way to ferret out possibilities that we might otherwise overlook.

Therefore, it behooves me to launch a virtual Rolodex, starting with the movers & shakers in science fiction romance.

The Agents

Although literary agents aren’t the only route to getting more SFR on the shelves, right now they are still the key when it comes to facilitating book deals that result in major distribution of the product. Many if not most aspiring SFR authors are on the lookout for a visionary agent willing to consider this subgenre.

Therefore, I’m presenting a list of agents who have sold SFR in the past several years, with the author name(s) in parentheses. (This list does not represent an endorsement of any agent, and research is the responsibility of the querying writer.)

* Kristin Nelson (Linnea Sinclair)

* Ethan Ellenberg (Susan Grant)

* Laura Bradford (Jess Granger, Ann Aguirre, Katherine Allred)

* Holly Root (Susan Kearney)

* Donald Maass (Kristin Landon)

* Jeff Kellogg (Sandra McDonald)

* The Knight Agency (Robin D. Owens, Michele Lang, Sara Reinke, Gena Showalter, Patti O’Shea)

* Eleanor Wood (Catherine Asaro)

* Dominick Abel (Claire Delacroix)

* Sha-Shana Crichton (Eve Kenin)

* Ginger Clark (Jordan Summers)

* Elaine English (Gail Dayton)

Other notes:

Laura Bradford also represents Stacey Klemstein, but the sale was for a YA novel.

Roberta Brown represents C.J. Barry, but hasn’t sold an SFR recently.

Kristin Nelson recently promoted her assistant Sara Megibow to Associate Literary Agent. In her announcement post, Ms. Megibow stated that SF&F “is probably my all time favorite genre.” Regarding romance, she writes, “I’m a romantic, so about any subgenre works for me (except inspirational) as long as the writing is superior and the characters are solid.”

Hmmm, let’s do the math!

That’s not an exhaustive list, but perhaps these agents are more willing to consider SFR submissions than others would be. And since these ladies and gents can’t represent every SFR author, it’s important to be on the lookout for new agents.

If anyone knows of any other agents with known SFR sales, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the list accordingly.

The Publishers

Bantam, Berkley, Ace, Eos, Tor, Baen, Dorchester…those are just a few of the mainstream print publishers who have released science fiction romance novels. Surprise, surprise: You need an agent for most of them (Tor, Baen, and Dorchester being exceptions).

But what’s happening with Dorchester’s Shomi line? I can’t find any information about future releases, and rumor has it that the line is having some problems. Will Dorchester continue to be a player in science fiction romance? That remains to be seen….

But don’t shelve that manuscript just yet! There’s a universe of opportunity in small press/epublishers.

Angela James, Executive Editor of Samhain Publishing, blogged last week about what type of submissions she and her team of editors are currently seeking in What (Samhain) editors want. THREE of the editors, including Ms. James, cited SF/futuristic romances among their interests.

In a word: Player.

Desert Breeze Publishing is another epublisher that accepts science fiction romance submissions. And then there’s the small press/epublishers who will consider m/m SFR.

Science fiction romance requires lots of nurturing right now, and lots of flexibility on the part of aspiring authors who want to break in. The reality is that small press/epublishers will be more amenable to these stories from new authors. Those are also the sources for more experimental SFR stories. And speaking of reality….

The Tight Market

You bet the tight market for SFR is a playah. For one thing, science fiction romance is not on everyone’s lips the way paranormal romance is. One glance at the agent list above makes it pretty clear how nigh impossible it is to land representation for this subgenre. Especially now. It could change in a few years. (Wait, did I just say years? Ugh. A bitter pill, but the likely prescription nonetheless.)

At the rate of one or two debut SFR authors/novels a year, we risk running even lower on our selection of new books to read—especially if you’re a reader who prefers print or who can’t quite afford an ereader just yet.

I can shout as loud as I like about SFR’s fantabulous nature, but that doesn’t change its niche genre status one iota. Or does it…?

Mystery Enterprise X

Remember Racer X in MACH GO GO GO (a.k.a SPEED RACER)? Er, okay, maybe you don’t, but Racer X worked tirelessly behind the scenes to not only protect Speed from nefarious villains, but also help him win races.

Well, science fiction romance has its very own Racer X, whose secret identity will soon be revealed…!

And then there's Curious George

This is George. He was a good little monkey, and always very curious. He heard about the challenges facing science fiction romance from his friend, The Man in the Yellow Hat.

George was curious. Could he help?

Well...probably not (unless getting more SFR published involves bouncing some balls or appropriating strangers' hats). But, it’s the thought that counts, George! Grab a banana on us anyway.

In the meantime, George didn't corner the market on curiosity. If you’re an author (aspiring or published) with a hot tip to share, hit me up!

If you’re a reader, please share some SFR titles you’ve purchased recently. We could all use the good news.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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A Stopover at Romancing The Blog

I'm guest blogging at Romancing The Blog today--come join me!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, March 19, 2009

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The Dancing Pregnant Woman in a Blue Dress

Yes, you read that headline right! (More on that later.)

From about the age of twelve, I watched a lot of anime. Not enough to fry my brain (well, after this post you might have a different opinion), but enough that the Japanese imports, retooled for my “sensitive” American sensibilities, left their indelible mark upon my personality.

During high school, I watched about an hour a day of my favorite shows (it’s important to note that this was ABCV, i.e., the Age Before Cheap VCRs). On top of that, I often spent time flipping through roman albums, followed by plastering posters upon my bedroom walls and arranging other assorted anime trappings. I even have a photo preserving those halcyon days: The picture is of me and my husband (then boyfriend) holding hands, surrounded by all of this eye-popping anime paraphernalia. It’s really quite endearing nerdy.

Whenever possible, I browsed the shelves of many an SF emporium, as I’ve blogged about previously. This hobby continued well into my twenties, although intermittently at times because of college, grad school, jobs—the usual suspects. As a result, my mind must have warehoused an insane amount of images, because I started having these bizarre fangirl dreams.

The dreams, which happened periodically for many years, typically took one of two directions.


One set of dreams usually involved what I can only describe as dreaming in animation, akin to the style of the anime shows I watched. The colors were always startlingly vivid, and there were repeated instances of lucid dreaming, where I’d rewind and play a particular scene over a time or two. Or three.

These dreams felt similar to the experience of writing fan fiction. I was an observer/director of the story unfolding before me.

Because the shows I enjoyed involved lots of starships, I’d often imagine being aboard one, gazing out into a multicolored vista of stars that didn’t resemble anything close to the known universe. But boy, was it ever beautiful.

The beauty came not only from the eye candy before me, but also the emotions going through me. I remember experiencing a sense of exquisite satisfaction, as though I had merged with my favorite shows and become one with them. Whether the stories made sense or not didn’t matter. I was in a cocoon of animated bliss, generated by what kind of deep seated longing Buddha-only-knows.

And the dancing pregnant woman in a blue dress…? That was a dream I had about my favorite heroine at the time (well, of all time), a willowy blonde who was never pregnant in the show, but she did wear a long, flowing blue dress in one episode. But oh, that dance…. Remember when Elaine from Seinfeld does that whacked out “dry heave” dance? That just about sums it up.

And no, I wasn’t pregnant at the time (although now that I have experienced pregnancy, I understand just how much of a logistical nightmare that dance actually was).

The other type of dream I’ve had over the years involved various trips to dream comic book stories, my main source for anime collectibles in waking life. (Oddly enough, I never had this type of dream about an SF convention. Go figure.)

The dream would begin with me wending my way through my childhood town even though that place never had such a store while I lived there.

The cool part about these dreams is that they would frequently involve my “discovery” of a new store. I remember not so much walking as gliding my way through each one. Sometimes there were other customers, sometimes not. I would then eagerly rummage through various bins and shelves or otherwise wander around completely dazzled.

Many times, I imagined I found a new roman album (again, from my favorite shows), and somehow I even gazed upon numerous illustrations as I turned each page. Most likely these images were cobbled together from ones I had already seen during waking life, but whether I dream-manufactured them or was simply recalling existing images, the experience gave me quite a high.

The decided downer about these dreams is that they almost always ended before I could buy anything. There was one exception, but that’s it. I don’t remember what I “purchased” however. I’m pretty sure these dreams represent the fact that I had neither the funds nor the access to feed my anime hobby to any great extent. The dreams always fell short of true wish fulfillment.

But they were fun—while they lasted. So that’s the story of how I used to sublimate my love of SF and romance.

Now I have this blog ;-).

Have an unusual science fiction romance fan experience you’d like to share? Inquiring minds want to know!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Written on

I Was STARJACKED!

Honestly, what woman doesn’t crave a life of danger, facing off with destiny aboard a too-cool-for-skool space junk?

I’ve blogged about space pirate heroines previously, but figured I’d have to wait until Susan Grant’s next book to get my fix. Well, thank goodness for vigilant authors! Karin Shah alerted me about her recent debut science fiction romance STARJACKED (Samhain Publishing). Otherwise, I might have been floundering in space pirate heroine purgatory for a lot longer.

How lucky can a girl get? I ask for a story about such a character and Karin Shah delivered! Coincidence? Sure, just keep telling yourself that. ;-)

On a more serious note, space pirating is a very deadly business. I’m thrilled when I encounter stories that make an effort to portray these characters with at least a modicum of realism, because it’d be so easy to cross the line into swashbuckling superficiality. The more tortured they are, the better, and tortured is space pirate Tia Sen’s middle name.


Check out the blurb of STARJACKED from the author’s Web site:

In the lawless fringes of deep space, pirate Tia Sen inspires both respect and fear. She has a rep for being hard as plascrete, tough as Amalan leather, and as strong as she is beautiful, but she has a secret. For years she has courted death, freeing children captured during raids. When she rescues a brave mechanic from a nearly fatal beating, she risks more than just her heart.

Emotionally scarred by the murders of his wife and unborn child, Rork Al’Ren wants nothing more than to eradicate every bit of pirate scum in the galaxy. But when his undercover mission goes sour, he finds himself Tia’s personal slave and falling in love with the very person he’s sworn to destroy.

But Rork doesn’t have the luxury of love, a powerful new weapon threatens the stability of the universe and if he can’t convince Tia to surrender it, the Union of Planets will be overwhelmed and war will rock the galaxy.


After reading STARJACKED, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karin Shah about her book. Her efforts to place this tale into your virtual hands is very inspiring—and she also weighs in on the all important debate over Hooks vs. Eyepatches!

Sally forth, mateys!

The Galaxy Express: How did STARJACKED evolve?

Karin Shah: Starjacked is the sequel to my first ever completed manuscript which I now call STARSTRUCK, but was once upon a time called, NOT WORDS ALONE. (What can I say? I started reading romance in the eighties.) Rork had a small, but pivotal appearance in STARSTRUCK. He was all the things I like in a hero, emotionally wounded, tough, in control, and completely alone. I fell in love with him and wanted to write his story.

TGE: Female space pirates in science fiction romance are rare. What inspired you to create Tia Sen, as opposed to the typical route of making the hero a pirate?

KS: Since STARJACKED (at that time BY LOVE TRANSFORMED—eighties remember) was Rork’s story and I knew he hated pirates, what could be more cruel than to make him the personal slave of a beautiful pirate? (I love him, but we always hurt the ones we love, especially if “we” want to write a good story.)

But Tia had her own story to tell. The world thinks she’s mad, bad and dangerous to know, (and she is) but she has also been saving children from a life of slavery since she was little more than a child herself. Raised by a brutal father who values her only for the booty she brings in, she has little reason to feel lovable, but the same need for love we all have.

TGE: Please tell us about your path to publication. What were some of the challenges? The high points?

KS: It took me almost ten years to get published. Of course, about six years ago I had children and that slowed me down, as well. Having time to write is a big challenge. Self-doubt is the biggest. A few years ago, I won a contest with a paranormal and the editor who requested my manuscript seemed very excited about it. I was sure at that time that this was it, but as it happens, she passed me on to another editor at that publishing house and I never, despite calling and emailing, received even a rejection letter. I can bounce back from rejection, but being in limbo is hell. That was my lowest point.

The highest was getting the email from my editor at Samhain saying she wanted to offer me a contract. I was very fortunate because she had already rejected STARJACKED, but when she did, she asked for some revisions, I did the revisions and re-submitted and you know the rest.

TGE: Which is more badass, eyepatch or hook?

KS: Eyepatch definitely.

TGE: Who are some of your favorite pirates, from either books or film/television?

I love Dax from THE SKYPIRATE BY Justine Dare. He fights to help his people, while at the same time believing he can never go home. From movies, I like Orlando Bloom’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. I guess I like heroes who are forced to the wrong side of the law. I have a soft-spot for the good-hearted thief as well. Jacques in Robin D. Owens HEART THIEF is one of my favorites.

TGE: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

KS: Write, Write, Write, Revise, Read, Read, Read, Submit, Submit, Submit. It seems simple, but writing is something you must do constantly to be good at. Writers also have a tendency to fall in love with revision, but resist it. Revision is important, but some writers end up re-working the same manuscript for years. Move on. Read in your genre, you must know your market. And submit your baby and go on to the next one.

TGE: What stories can readers expect from you in the future?

KS: In STARSTRUCK (which will hopefully find a home at Samhain once I’m done revising it), to avenge the enslavement of her people, Queen Amara of Rijya vows to do anything to destroy the house of Sangre—even becoming Prince Grale’s bed slave. But Grale isn’t what he seems, and Amara soon finds her mission—and her heart—in danger.

I also write paranormal and fantasy, but those manuscripts are still looking for homes. Thanks for letting me share!


For more information about Karin Shah and her work, walk the plank to her Web site. You can then view the book trailer for STARJACKED here, and read her article on writing & worldbuilding at Star Crossed Romance.

Ms. Shah, thanks for your art!

If anyone has any questions for the author, ask away! She's aboard to answer them!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, March 15, 2009

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List of DRM-Free Publishers (UPDATED 1-16-11)

Last week, Smart Bitches presented an impassioned post about why DRM is “Driving Readers Mad” in DRM-Free For You and Me.

I feel her frustration. Readers want to buy books (thus supporting authors), and their attempts seem to be constantly thwarted by no small amount of DRM related blockades and fear mongering.

I feel compelled to point out that being anti-DRM does not equal condoning piracy. That kind of logicfail has to go out the window (and down the street, and off the face of the Earth).



Quite a few authors who combine SF and romance write for epublishers/small presses, and investing in their efforts is one way to keep the subgenre going. And if these companies foster a DRM-free environment, that’s all the more reason to patronize them.

So please support your favorite epublisher/small press by buying direct when possible, because as author Kristen Saell (CROSSING SWORDS) noted in the discussion at the SB post, “The author usually gets a bigger cut, too, which is a bonus.”

In her post, Sarah mentions a number of epublishers/small presses who provide ebooks DRM-free. In the comments, visitors contributed to the list as well. All of that inspired me to comb through it all to compile an easy-access list.

If you’re a blogger, my hope is that you’ll pick up this list and spread the word. I’ve included a window of all the links and text at the bottom of this post for easy copying.

DRM-free Publishers (Updated: January 16, 2011)

Angry Robot Books
Carina Press
Smashwords
DLP Books
eBooks Just Published
Amber Quill
Changeling Press, LLC
Cobblestone Press
Dreamspinner Press
Drollerie Press
Ellora’s Cave
Liquid Silver Books
LooseID
Lyrical Press
MLR Press
Pink Petal Books
Samhain Publishing
Torquere Press
TotaleBound
Honorable mention: Baen Free Library

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Pass 'em on!

Here are more, as taken from the comments to this post over at Dear Author.

Mojocastle Press
Wings ePress
Bold Strokes Books
Lethe Press Books
Phaze Books
Ravenous Romance
Linden Bay Romance
eXcessica Publishing
Literary Road
Resplendence Publishing
Siren Bookstrand
eXtasy Books
Eternal Press
Noble Romance Publishing
Blade Publishing
Carnal Desires Publishing
Write Words, Inc
Whispers Publishing
LBF Books
Tease Publishing
Rogue Phoenix Press
Champagne Books
Freya’s Bower
loveyoudivine Alterotica
Carnal Desires Publishing
Red Sage Publishing
Wild Rose Press
White Rose Publishing


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Joyfully yours,

Heather


Written on

More Site Changes

And the improvements keep rolling on…!

I coerced, cajoled, charmed (there we go!) Mr. Engineer into having one more 300-style showdown with the site code:

* Now you can enjoy embedded comments, all complete with a twist of lemon.

* Wondering how the Galaxy Express would look in Japanese? Well, wonder no more as the ship now has its own full-time translator. (Klingonese wasn’t offered though. Bummer, huh?)

* Longer posts will now be expandable with a “read more” link. Not only will this help with general aesthetics, but it will keep the comments section snuggled up cozily against the posts, too—always a good thing.

Finally, I’m now on Twitter. If you’re there, hit me up at twitter.com/ThGalaxyExpress. (Apparently, the first “E” struck a wayward beam as I docked in their minuscule station. Ah, well.)

Hope you enjoy the new look. These changes should keep the ship, er…shipshape…for the foreseeable future. And as always, my dear passengers, if there’s anything I can do to make your journey more pleasant, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Be aware that due to popular demand (Chef asked), I’m still trying to book Armi & Danny for an onboard blowout concert soon…! ;)

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Written on

Let’s Get Physical

Shh! Don’t tell my husband, but I once fantasized about having “sex” with Miles Vorkosigan.

As many of you know, Miles faces a number of physical challenges, one of them being that he’s of short stature. Yet he’s a charismatic and sympathetic character in the extreme. So when I read about him reflecting that a woman in whom he’s interested would be repulsed by his body during sex, I found myself thinking, well screw her, Miles. I’ll be with you!

Then the experience happened again yesterday when I saw the film WATCHMEN. I had fallen hard for the superhero character Nite Owl when I first read the story. At the time the tale takes place, he’s past his prime and out of shape—“an impotent, middle-aged Clark Kent.” Even so, he’s such a warm and compelling character that during one of his scenes in the film, I wanted to rub my hands all over his sexy paunch. (Luckily, I managed to pull my hands back before anyone noticed my excitement. Kidding.)

I’ve had similar daydreams about other physically flawed heroes. However, these fantasies (no worries—I’ll spare you the details!) weren’t so much fantasies about becoming intimate with their bodies as they were fantasies about becoming intimate with their personalities. I love the challenge that ensues when a character forces me to question my cultural assumptions about beauty, physical strength, and sexual prowess. I like to think I’m a more sensitive person for the insights I’ve gained.




But oh golly, I can’t deny the appeal of what’d it be like to lay my hands on a hardbody hero, either. Fantasies with those characters (I swear, this isn’t a hobby of mine or anything. Couple times a day, tops) provide escapism in a different sense. Romances offer so many (Westernized) ideal hero body types that it’s impossible for me to resist at times, despite my actual experiences to the contrary.

Science fiction romances have and, I hope, continue to offer readers both kinds of heroes, the physically impaired and the physically flawless. And I hope to encounter more of this type of variety among heroines. In both the current and the previous SFR book I’ve read just this month, both heroines had extensive scarring of some nature. I find those details not only intriguing but also attractive and appealing. A couple of books before that, the heroines were presented, physically, as practically perfect in every way.

I’m wondering if the pairing of romance with SF skews toward heroes and heroines with physical ailments/impairments/otherness (e.g., cybernetic implants). Or maybe that element is not all that unique compared to other romance subgenres. What do you think?

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

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10 Ways To Do An End Run Around Literary Agents

Football Diagram


In publishing, agents are the gatekeepers, not the trendsetters. Gatekeeping is a valuable service for publishers, and it encourages authors to be on their game with marketable concepts, strong writing, and grab ‘em by the horns query letters.

I’m not disputing that agents have their role to play. Goodness knows they’ve supported their share of quirky or daring books. But when it comes to niche genres, even agents don’t have it easy. Breaking into publishing, or for established authors attempting to break into a new market is tough—even in a strong economy.

When I hear about perfectly publishable science fiction romance manuscripts getting rejected, I’m very disheartened. But it makes me realize that agents aren’t always the way to go. They are deluged with submissions, and their current clients need to take top priority—especially the ones earning out. Not only that, but SFR’s niche market status combined with these trying economic times don't exactly make for a perfect combination.

This status can (and hopefully will) change soon, but it's going to take a whole lotta elbow grease.

In the meantime, what’s an aspiring science fiction romance author to do? How can she avoid being tackled by those literary linebackers? In no particular order, here are some strong possibilities:

1) Run—don’t walk—directly to publishers

The number of mainstream print publishers that will accept unagented SFR submissions is few, but there are many more small presses/epublishers who do. Small press/epublishers are among the staunchest supporters of niche genres. And with the rise of ebooks, getting a book into print isn’t the Holy Grail it used to be.

Samhain Publishing will consider science fiction romance submissions (Executive Editor Angela James is also seeking a good steampunk with a romance). I've blogged about Desert Breeze Publishing, Blind Eye Books, and Torquere Press. I’m sure there are others, and I invite any small press editors interested in acquiring (non-erotica) blends of SF and romance to comment about their submission needs.

Linnea Sinclair started out with small presses. You can also follow the work of authors such as Pauline Baird Jones (THE KEY) to learn more about their experiences.

2) Create a platform

Before you submit to publishers, however, one key strategy is to demonstrate that you are delivering not only a manuscript, but guaranteed sales, too.

In The Kindle Revolution, Marion Maneker asks, “What does translate into sales? A direct connection to the reader. That comes from publicity or word of mouth. What publishers pay for when they pursue the high-risk strategy is access to publicity—fame in one of its many forms or something sensational—or their sense that a book will tap into a kind of social currency.”

She goes on to write, “Theoretically, the Kindle will give writers greater access to the public… These books suggest a truly Darwinian future for the book business. With the Kindle, a plucky writer can publish and promote her own work at very little cost beyond time and determination [emphasis mine]. Once she proves her appeal with a sufficiently impressive rate of sale, she’ll merit having her words printed on paper and distributed. Everyone benefits from the efficiency.” (Thanks to agent (!) Nathan Bransford for the link).

The days when a platform was only for nonfiction authors have gone the way of the dinosaurs. A platform isn’t the only factor that could gain you that prized publishing contract, but it can help build an audience of potential readers and built-in sales.

If you can’t establish a platform, or don’t have a professional background to tout, take a page from Kimber An and become actively involved in the SFR community. Visit blogs on a daily/weekly basis and contribute in a meaningful way to discussions. (One place to start is my blogroll.)

Take advantage of sites that offer guest blog opportunities. Romancing The Blog has an Open Blog Night every Sunday, and I think it’s an underutilized resource. But these days, it’s not enough to just run your own blog. Lisa Paitz Spindler is active at Writers At Play, and she also started doing reviews at SFSignal.

Mary Fitzpatrick, who runs Flying Whale Productions, contributes reviews to Enduring Romance, and I’ve lost track of how many blogs Kimber An has going (and I still think her Young Adult Science Fiction blog is a stroke of brilliance—especially since agent Ginger Clark shared that she’s seeking YA military SF in a recent interview.)

The bottomline: However you achieve this goal, make your name a household brand because editors will be more likely to pay attention to names they recognize.

3) Show them the money!

Agents are watching and waiting to see what happens with the ebook market. Last year, I remember reading a comment by Nathan Bransford that agents don’t consider ebooks a significant publishing credential, yet every other day now it seems he posts items related to the ebook market. Check out this quote:

“If you’re an enterprising author there is a world of opportunity out there. Never before have we had a book publishing world where truly anyone could publish and potentially find their readers…I suspect soon there will be even more opportunities for collectives and online communities to boost sales [emphasis mine], build brands, and become real players in publishing.”

That tells me that agents will pounce when enough $$$ abounds, but they aren’t pouncing en masse just yet. And did you know that agent Deidre Knight, who runs The Knight Agency, has placed two projects with Samhain Publishing? What does that tell you? She smelled an opportunity—and you should, too.

So consider building a backlist with a reputable epublisher—where you do not need an agent to submit—before agents become the gatekeepers of the ebook market too. Breaking into epublishing is not necessarily as easy as the same process with a mainstream print publisher, but it’s a lot easier now than it will be in five years...maybe less.

4) To market, to market

I read recently that 500 is the approximate number of ebooks an author needs to sell in order for her epublisher to break even and/or start making money. That’s a lot less than the 35,000 plus units you’d need to move for a print book. And the likelihood of you getting a print run that will enable your book to hit a bestseller list is slim to none, no matter how great your book or how spectacular the promotion you do. It’s a crap shoot, basically. Agents know this, which is why they must continue to cultivate advances.

But agent Jessica Faust of Bookends, LLC made a forecast: “What I foresee in e-publishing as well as traditional publishing is a greater need for ebooks. I think more people will buy books electronically and read them that way.” Smart lady!

So why not take control of your sales right now? Be large and in charge. Choose an epublisher over a mainstream print publisher. Yes, there’s little to no advance that route, but how likely is it that an agent will command an advance large enough to comfortably outweigh the costs you’ll incur for promoting the book? Not too likely, I’d imagine (bell curve and all that jazz).

You will still incur the demands of promotion with an ebook, of course, but since you’re going to do the same amount of work as if you had a print book, why not reap more of the profit, and in half the time?

5) A rose by any other name….

Much as I prefer that writers follow their Muses, the cold hard reality is that the market often dictates what types of stories are accepted. The “science fiction” in science fiction romance still makes some readers skittish, despite the availability of stories with very accessible speculative elements.

Consider writing SFR with paranormal or fantasy elements, and then when you submit it, label it a fantasy romance or paranormal romance. In the field of psychology, therapists call this a “reframe.” It can work wonders. When querying those publishers, use it to your advantage.

Here are a few possibilities: Write a steampunk and call it a paranormal historical romance. Or delve into m/m SF. A few publishers like SF on the literary side, so consider that angle. The goal is to get your foot in the door. Take a page from The Man With No Name: Clint Eastwood used to alternate between commercial projects and the films of his heart.

6) Write a darn good book

Because of their busy schedules, editors will often give you less than a page’s worth of attention when reviewing your submission, so make the opening count. Sharpen that hook. Polish that query. Keep submitting and be ready when opportunity knocks.

7) Contests

Enter your SFR manuscript(s) in contests—it worked for Jess Granger (BEYOND THE RAIN, August 2009).

8) Vis a vis communication

Networking online is good, but making connections at conferences and conventions, if your budget allows, is even better. Face time with editors will give you an edge.

9) Create demand a feeding frenzy.


Support your favorite authors by buying new. Purchase HOPE’S FOLLY, THE WARLORD’S DAUGHTER, NEW BLOOD, STARJACKED, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, KNIGHT’S FORK, or any of the other forthcoming science fiction romances.

Blog or comment about your favorite SFR books whenever an opportunity presents itself. More important than doing reviews is spreading good word of mouth.

The better the sales, the more likely publishers will consider adding additional SFR books to their lists.

10) And...?

This slot is for you, my ingenious passengers. What’s your game plan?

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Monday, March 9, 2009

Written on

Giveaways Galore and Mucho Free Books!

It’s a great time to read science fiction romance! This week there are all sorts of free contests to enter. Read on for details:

* At Beyond Her Book, Barbara Vey is celebrating her second anniversary, and she’s hosting a spectacular celebration all this week. Today’s focus is on SFF/Paranormal/Horror/Urban Fantasy, and just by commenting, you can enter to win prizes.

I’ve donated six books, and check out the authors who are also giving away SFR books & prizes: Rowena Cherry, Karin Shah, Linnea Sinclair, Ann Aguirre, Michelle Pillow, Robin D. Owens, Maria Zannini, Liz Kreger, and Stacey Klemstein.

But...that’s not all! Barbara is also giving away a $150.00 gift certificate for Amazon to one lucky person at the end of the week, courtesy of Publishers Weekly.

The party is in full swing now. Here’s the link: 2nd Anniversary Bash – Day 1

* Act fast! I’m not sure of the deadline for this contest, but Linnea Sinclair is giving away two books over at Romance Bandits. Check the comments for full details. Linnea is giving away a copy of both FINDERS KEEPERS and her latest release HOPE’S FOLLY.

Sinclair stipulated that:

“FINDERS will go to someone who’s NOT READ SFR but is willing to try.”

“FOLLY will go to someone who’s read GABRIEL’S and SHADES but hasn't bought FOLLY yet.”

* Right now, Gail Dayton is hosting a giveaway of her steampunk novel NEW BLOOD at To Be Read—So Many Authors, So Little Time.

* And there’s plenty of steampunk goodness to go around! Nathalie Gray will give away one copy of her e-novella MECHANICAL ROSE!

To enter your name, simply email her at mail “at” nathaliegray.com. Type “Mechanical Rose” in the subject line. The deadline to enter this contest is 8:00 pm, EST, on Sunday, March 15. But there's no need to beware these Ides of March--international entries are welcome!

* Finally, in light of Lexcycle Sponsors Read An E-Book Week, author Rae Lori is making her illustrated science fantasy romance novel THE EYE OF ALLORIA available as a free download. (It’s also available on the Stanza reader.)

Start entering and enjoy!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Written on

Steampunk Romance Watch

It’s been a mere six months since The Galaxy Express proposed that Steampunk is the New Black. Based on the hundreds of hits generated by that post, I wasn’t alone in that cogitation.

And the steampunk resurgence is not just for SF (I’m looking at you, GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN). Steampunk romance has been ripe for the picking for some time. Frankly, I’m shocked it hasn’t happened before now, given the perpetual popularity of historical romances. Wouldn’t you just die for a Western steampunk romance?!

Want to know more?

For a great overview of steampunk, I highly recommend the STEAMPUNK anthology, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. Not only does it include a great collection of stories, but also a thoughtful introduction by Jess Nevins titled “The 19th-Century Roots of Steampunk.”

In the essay, Nevins points out that there is often conflation between an Edisonade type story, with its reputation for action/adventure and stylish trappings such as brass goggles, airships, and automatons, and steampunk, which can also include those elements. However, a core difference is that steampunk is “an argument with the science fiction of previous generations” (p.8).

I mention this as a friendly reminder to authors new to the subgenre to be clear about what you’re writing, and for readers to understand what you’re paying for. A steampunk romance has the potential to explore some very dark, subversive territory, or it can be a yarn of sheer old fashioned Victorian gaiety.

Are both possible in one novel? I’m sure we’ll discover that soon!

The March 2009 issue of Romantic Times BOOKreviews included Trendwatch: Steampunk, an article about, well, you guessed it—steampunk. The article featured information about new releases and forthcoming novels combining steampunk & romance.

Then along came Ciara Stewart’s post It’s Coming: Steampunk Romance.

Naturally, I couldn’t resist the call, so here’s a rundown about what’s in the steaming pipeline:

Gail Dayton’s NEW BLOOD is out now! Read an excerpt here. This week she's hosting a giveaway at To Be Read—So Many Authors, So Little Time. Avail yourself of the Smart Bitches review of NEW BLOOD while you’re waiting.


Wicked Gentlemen


Ginn Hale graced the scene with her debut novel WICKED GENTLEMEN. She’s currently working on the sequel, LORD FOSTER’S DEVILS.

Nathalie Gray is writing PISTOLS, CORSETS, AND FLYING PRIVATEERS. I thought her novella MECHANICAL ROSE was a blast. Agents and editors, don’t trip over each other while rushing to offer this rising star a contract.

Meljean Brook is contracted for “a new steampunk romance series called the Iron Seas” (THE IRON DUKE, THE INVISIBLE CITY).

Katie MacAlister announced her new steampunk series that will debut in February 2010.

Caitlin Kittredge sold “a YA series that’s a trilogy of steampunk fantasy called The Iron Codex, which is forthcoming in 2010.”

Meredith Holmes revealed in this interview that she has “a Steampunk romance in the works….”

Ciar Cullen posted on her Web site that her current work in progress is a novel that will be “the first in a series called Steamside Chronicles.”

Oh my lord, I’m about to swoon. I know—let’s all Slip Into Something Victorian! Is there anyone I missed? Share your news in the comments!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Saturday, March 7, 2009

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WATCHMEN Link-O-Rama!

To celebrate the release of Zack Snyder’s film WATCHMEN this weekend—based on the seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons—I’ve rounded up a collection of links that even Rorschach would grudgingly approve.

For those who missed it, here’s my weeklong (and spoiler free) series on the book. It’s not a review per se, but rather it provides some helpful info on what led up to the groundbreaking book and what publishers/editors could—and should—take away from it:

“QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES,” Part I

“QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES,” Part II


“QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES,” Part III

The author himself on the book:



(Warning: Contains a very slight spoiler near the end.)


From SFSignal:

Worthwhile Watchmen Tidbits
New Watchmen Trailer
Review: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Full Watchmen Comic Con 2008 Panel
Watchmen Kubricks
Free Watchmen Videogame Online
Saturday Morning Watchmen

From Geeks of Doom:

What Would Fox’s Alan Moore-Approved ‘Watchmen’ Look Like?

‘Watchmen’: New Images, ‘Black Freighter’ DVD & Blu-ray Details
Final ‘Watchmen’ Poster Revealed
‘Watchmen’ Movie Photos Vs. Comic Art
‘Watchmen’ Theatrical Run Time Cut; DVD Expanded
First Look: ‘Watchmen’ Characters

From Tor.com:

Rorschach Test [Spoiler Alert]
Review: Watchmen
Behold: Tales of the Black Freighter!
Picking on Costumed Heroes: The Watchmen Portraits
The New Frontiersman Comes Alive
Dave Gibbons Q&A

Finally, for those who only picked up the book in anticipation of the movie, what are your thoughts on it? I know for some of you, it may have served as your introduction to graphic novels. (But please remember boys and girls, let's keep any comments spoiler free as many haven’t seen the film or read the book yet. Hurm.)


Joyfully yours,

Heather