Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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IDIOCRACY & The House of Representin

A few years ago, I saw a film scene I’ll never, ever forget. It appears in Mike Judge’s futuristic satire IDIOCRACY (2006). First, a little snippet about the film for those of you who haven’t seen it:

The film follows “Joe Bauers, an Army librarian, [who] is judged to be absolutely average in every regard, has no relatives, has no future, so he's chosen to be one of the two test subjects in a top-secret hibernation program. He and hooker Rita were to awaken in one year, but things go wrong and they wake up instead in 2505. By this time, stupid people have outbred intelligent people; the world is (barely) run by morons—and Joe and Rita are the smartest people in America.”

The scene that left its indelible mark upon me begins with a shot of a giant video screen with the glowing words “House of Representin” emblazoned across it. In IDIOCRACY, this illustrious phrase has become the new name for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The next thing we know, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho makes his grand entrance into the “House of Representin.” When I saw who had become president of the United States in 2505, I thought it was one of the most riotous and inspiring ideas for a character I’d ever seen, not to mention the most organic for the story being told.

Escort any children from the room before viewing this fine tribute to President Camacho:




What in the world, might you be asking, does a gun totin’ wrestler-turned-president have to do with science fiction romance?

Well, pull up a chair and one of Chef’s signature gelato desserts and I’ll tell you. Shortly after its release, IDIOCRACY was dubbed, "The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You To See."

The studio’s response to the dystopian black comedy has an eerie similarity to SFR: “Unsure of how to market the film after disastrous test screenings, Fox sat on the near-completed film for over a year, before finally giving it an unusually small release in only 6 markets (skipping over major markets such as New York City). The release was done with little to no marketing.” (Source: IMDb.com)

IDIOCRACY was only released in 125 theaters. The typical theatrical release for a studio like Fox is closer to 2500-3000. No small difference there. Apparently, 20th Century Fox had some kind of issue with a film involving anti-corporate themes. Years after its release, however, it became a cult hit.

When I heard the struggle about Mike Judge’s attempt to reach audiences with this film, it reminded me of the struggle of niche genres, and of science fiction romance in particular.

IDIOCRACY deals with another theme, which is “our responsibility for our shared future.” Despite such a positive underlying message, Fox still went to extreme lengths to suppress it. I don’t think science fiction romance is suppressed in exactly the same way, but low print runs, lack of marketing direction/support, and few releases has a flavor of that. Either SFR is a genre some publishers don't care to nurture, or they don't understand it. Hence, they generalize from their mindsets to readers'.

SFR is an extremely optimistic genre overall, so why would publishers have such an aversion? Well, we know the reasons, but the end result means good stories don’t get the exposure necessary for success. Therefore, publishers can point to the results and use them as an excuse to produce even fewer books. As a result, readers and authors alike have unique challenges in not only keeping SFR alive, but also raising its visibility.

In RT Book Review’s October 2009 feature on science fiction romance, author Linnea Sinclair (REBELS AND LOVERS) states, “We somehow have to build a fire. The publishing houses aren’t going to do it, so it has to be the readers.”

President Camacho, in his State of the Union address depicted in IDIOCRACY, announces he has a “three-point plan to fix everything.”

Coincidence? I think not.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 27, 2009

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Interview With Award Winning Author Leanna Renee Hieber & DARK NEST Giveaway!

Leanna Renee Hieber


Leanna Renee Hieber is the author of DARK NEST, a futuristic fantasy novella that won a 2009 Prism Award. First of all, how cool that a futuristic romance wins an award (this seems to be a trend recently). I mean, *we* know the genre is smokin’, but it’s great whenever validation comes our way. Second, Ms. Hieber beat out heavyweights such as Catherine Asaro and Jade Lee. Third, her novella was released by Crescent Moon Press, one of a handful of publishers who are bringing SFR stories from author’s hearts to your hands.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Leanna Renee Hieber about DARK NEST as well as her recently released debut novel THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER. For more information, you can visit her bio, blog, and read an excerpt of DARK NEST. Dear Author also recently hosted an interview with her.

Before delving into the interview, just ask yourself one question: Who…is…Persebunny?

Dark Nest LeannaThe Galaxy Express: DARK NEST won the 2009 Prism Award for best novella. Please tell us a little bit about the story, as well as the inspiration behind it.

Leanna Renee Hieber:

From the back cover:

“Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.”

I wrote it on a dare. I said I’d only write historicals and then a few writer friends, who included my dear Isabo Kelly, dared me to write a futuristic. I’m a huge Star Trek, Battlestar and Dr. Who geek, so it really flew from my fingertips with familiar conventions, it felt really natural and I’m really proud of it. Winning the Prism in the novella category was such an amazing honour, I still have to look at that beautiful statuette to make sure I didn’t imagine it. Winning the Prism the same year as that same dearest friend wins it in her category? (Isabo Kelly) Priceless.

TGE: What elements of DARK NEST would appeal to fans of science fiction romance?

LRH: The setting, the familiar conventions of space travel, and the way that psychic powers interact with the technology within these ships. Since we all love character driven-stories operating at high-velocity stakes, I think readers will find that in Dark Nest too, a lot happens in a very short amount of time, and an extremely heart-felt romance is put on quite the roller-coaster ride.

TGE: Please share a few of your favorite science fiction romance stories (books/films/television).

LRH: Linnea Sinclair, Stacey Klemstein and Isabo Kelly’s books. The entire Star Trek franchise. Battlestar Galactica (the new one). X-files – score for hot Mulder/Scully chemistry! And I’ve been a lifelong fan of Dr. Who - When Tom Baker was the Doctor he had this quirky and wonderful chemistry with his Companion, Romana, (Lala Ward). And in the recent redux of Dr. Who, Doctors 9 and 10 have this rich and wonderful relationship with Rose.

THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKERTGE: It took you “nine long years and countless rejection letters and revisions” to place your debut novel THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER with a publisher. First, congratulations! Second, what kept you persevering during that time?

LRH: Oy. Thanks for the congratulations, it’s been a wild ride, but worth it. I’m a cross-genre gal, and Strangely Beautiful is a cross-genre series; a ghost-filled Gothic Victorian Fantasy / Paranormal Romance, with elements of Suspense, Light Horror and YA appeal. That’s what took it so long to sell. Industry professionals liked it, but didn’t know what to do with it or where to shelve it. What kept me going was being really stubborn and my writing buddies, particularly my dear Isabo Kelly, who told me I had a great story, it was just about finding the right house. Marianne Mancusi was another cheerleader who helped with reality checks and encouragement while out Goth-clubbing. When the manuscript landed at Dorchester, we all had a feeling about it. Dorchester is not afraid of risks or cross-genre initiatives, and it’s been the perfect home for Miss Percy. Did I mention being stubborn? Yeah, I mean it. It helps. 

TGE: You’re published with both Crescent Moon Press and Dorchester. What has it been like to go through the publishing process for your work? Any advice for aspiring authors?

LRH: I’m learning every day. The thing I knew least was the promotional side of things. I have pretty good PR instincts, and those have kicked into overdrive, although pacing myself is a constant struggle. I think what no one is ever prepared for is how much there is to do. Let alone write your next book. Advice on that front is that all publishers will do what they can for you, but realize that especially these days, and especially with independent publishers, everyone’s resources are limited, so do what you can and do what appeals to you. Be a sponge and be creative and see what other authors are doing and if you think their promotional strategies would work for you. The minute you start to really hate the PR part though, dial it back because you need all your energy, write some more, and try and find your right balance. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what your publisher is doing, where they’re sending review copies, etc. You have to do some promo and you have to simply get your book out there, there’s no way around it, but you also have to write your next book.

Also, I’ve had an awesome time with my editors. Enjoy that process, it can be really fun, a challenge, and you can truly watch yourself become a better writer. For me, coming from a theatre background, it’s like working with a director. You need those outside eyes. Editors are on your team, together you can make a good book a great book, and the better dynamic you have with them, the more fun you’ll have with this whole process.

TGE: What is Persebunny up to these days?

LRH: Being the cutest bunny ever, and with each passing week she gets more and more cuddly and affectionate. She was a rescued lab rabbit so unwinding and trusting her environment has been a process. She’s well-adjusted now. We bought her her own copy of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker to… digest. She’s already hard at work, she thinks it’s really good. In her tummy. There will be pictures. See, she thinks I named the character after her, rather than the other way around. My character of Percy is an orphaned albino, and Percy is just a nickname. So of course my adopted albino rabbit had to be nicknamed a “Percy” too.

TGE: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your writing or forthcoming projects?

LRH: Well I’m hard at work on the rest of the Strangely Beautiful series, editing the sequel (Due out May 2010) which will pick up exactly where the first book leaves off, with Percy and Alexi remaining in the main focus with greater insight into The Guard as well. I’m also working on a novella in the Strangely Beautiful world starring two of the Guard secondary characters, and somewhere in there I have to squeeze in the Dark Nest sequel; Dark Nest : Reckoning – but I can’t promise a release on that yet. In other words, I’m keeping busy.

Blessings and thanks for this opportunity!

Ms. Hieber, thanks for your time, and for your art.

And now for the giveaway!

Ms. Hieber has generously donated two copies of DARK NEST—one print, one digital—to be given away to two lucky passengers.

To enter, leave a comment for this post (contest limited to U.S. residents). The deadline to enter is 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 2009. Please specify whether you’d prefer a print or digital copy (otherwise, I will randomly select).

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Friday, September 25, 2009

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Steampunk & Cyberpunk Romances: Call For Submissions

This just in:

Editor Sasha Knight of Samhain Publishing recently tweeted that she's looking for steampunk & cyberpunk romances! She also stated that an anthology call is "coming soon."

If you want to follow Sasha Knight on Twitter, click here.

If you're looking to catch up on steampunk romance, here are a few places to get started:

Welcome to the Retro-future of Steampunk

Steampunk Romance Watch

The Case For Steampunk Romance

So Much Steampunk, So Little Time

Bring on the brass goggles and airships!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, September 24, 2009

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Kickin' It With The Natives

Samantha The Time MachineOne popular science fiction trope is the idea of characters from a technologically “advanced” culture making contact with characters from a relatively “primitive” culture.

In the pulp SF stories of yore, sometimes it’s a result of discovering a “lost world” replete with buxom, scantily clad cavewomen and dinosaurs (neither of which existed at the same time anyway—I mean, I’ve never seen cave paintings of buxom, scantily clad dinosaurs…have you?!). Other times, it occurs as a result of interstellar travel to other planets, where the natives are often humanoid. In the case of romance, this is often pretty dang convenient!

Science fiction romance is not immune, having its share of encounters of the primitive kind.

[Slight Spoilers Ahead]


Allred Close Encounters


I’m intrigued by the fact that several books released within the past couple of years involved encounters between the protagonists from advanced, space faring cultures and characters from primitive cultures: Katherine Allred’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, Jess Granger’s BEYOND THE RAIN, and Sandra McDonald’s THE OUTBACK STARS trilogy. Beyond that connection, there are no similarities between these books. Each encounter is executed differently, and in Allred’s book there’s even a big twist on the theme.

Reading the above books made me realize how much of a fascination we have with the juxtaposition of advanced and primitive cultures. Naturally, it begs the question of how does one define “advanced” and “primitive.” I’m sure that discussion could last for weeks.

Stars Blue Yonder


I had some thoughts on why SF, and by extension, SFR, frequently returns to the well of primitive cultures for stories:

* It reflects our fascination with our own past

* It explores the idea that returning to primitive ways is somehow threatening, or on the other hand, salvation (i.e., an appreciation of the simple things in life, or natural resources)

* It explores the idea that an advanced, space-faring culture interfering in any way with a more primitive culture could cause problems (e.g., STAR TREK’s prime directive, but the device is also used in other SF stories.)

* It’s a value judgment about the primitive culture, the technologically advanced culture, or both.

* In the case of romance, it’s a way to explore how a relationship between characters from each culture would unfold.

Beyond The Rain


I’m sure there are more. What’s your take? Know of any other books or films that feature these types of encounters? When does it work well, and when does it fall short of good speculative fiction/romance?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches

I came across The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches recently. It was so much fun I had to share. As I perused the list, I found myself laughing (at myself) because while I recognized so many of the clichés I don’t always question them. Sometimes it’s because when it comes to niche genres, beggars can’t be choosers. Other times I’m willing to suspend my disbelief beyond the call of duty.

But I could definitely question some of them more often. Many of the clichés listed are the result of lazy worldbuilding or poor execution. On the other hand, there are those that can be recycled and still deliver quality stories.

The following either had me chuckling with delight or made me go “Hmm….”:


Star Trek Fight


* Dueling characters who have access to advanced, futuristic weaponry, will eventually resort to using simple primitive weapons or means (stake, knife, blunt intstrument [sic], cauldron of hot liquid, etc) to finally defeat their enemy.

* The Captain of the protagonist ship is never a mutant, alien or non-standard human stock, even when the culture on board the ship is multi-cultural and has mutants, aliens or non-standard human stock.

* The Good Guys are always human, while The Bad Guys are never anything but the most inhuman and / or disgusting species availible.[sic]

* Women who are small-breasted, uncurvy or otherwise "not feminine" are never important.

* An entire world of peaceniks and pacifists who have absolutely no military or planetary defenses of any kind.

* If the heroine and hero initially hate each other, they will become best of friends and lovers. Resistance is futile.

* Villainesses are either elderly battleaxes or promiscuous young temptresses.

* The main male character romances many different women before settling on the main female character, even though she has been available all along.

* Enitre[sic] planets are used as rubbish tips. Recycling has disappeared in the future.

* The engines of a space-bound ships are always needlessly located at the aft section of the craft

* Even in the 50th century, after Faster Than Light Travel and A.I. have become common technology, it doesn't seem to be possible to get a radio to work on a spaceship : radio transmission is always filled with static, screeches and sound distorsions, especially if it's a SOS or a warning message.

* However far the into the future a story is set, and however advanced the civilizations are, all space vessels in the era lack simple circuit breakers. An energy beam attack or sudden energy surge therefore causes computers on the ship to explode, usually only on the bridge, killing or incapacitating at least one character.

Which ones made you laugh? Which ones annoyed you or caused you to reflect? Which ones do you still enjoy reading, or in the case of authors, using?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 20, 2009

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Title Wars

Anne BonnyIn RT BOOK REVIEWS’ October 2009 feature on science fiction romance, this quote by author Susan Grant made my jaw hit the floor so hard it woke up in China:

“For my space pirate book, I’m not allowed to use either ‘space’ or ‘pirate’ in the title…because marketers say books with those titles don’t sell.”

While attempting to rein in my abject horror over this outrageous state of affairs, I did a little Googling and came up with an interview AAR had with some Avon editors. This bit in particular caught my eye:

Staffer Lynn S. asked, “I know it varies from house to house, but is there a formula for titles that authors and publishers use? Secondly, how important is a title when it comes to book sales?”

Lynn notes that “…while I did not hear back from Ms. Macro on this one, I was informed by Avon that, ‘It's no secret that certain words in the title (or rather English "titles" in the title) will make an author sell more copies. I think readers like to read about dukes. And there are words that just never work in a romance title.’”

“Words that just never work in a romance title”? What kind of marketing conspiracy is this?

I can understand avoiding some words in a title like, oh, I don’t know, “baba ganoush” comes to mind, but holymarymotherofgod, a publisher releases a book with space pirates and won’t allow “space” or “pirate” in the title? Granted, not every book with space pirates has to or should have those words in the title, but let me tell you something:

Women who love science fiction romance are legion. We cut your hair. We clean your teeth. We sell you insurance. We work at NASA. We teach in your schools. You can find us at hundreds of genre conventions a year across the United States, and probably abroad as well. We congregate online in countless SF and romance forums. We grew up on STAR TREK, STAR WARS, and all their incarnations.

We are exactly the type of readers who will pick up a book because it has “space” (or “cosmic whatever”) and/or “pirate” in the title. To me, at least, space pirates or some variation therof is inherently romantic. Why would a publisher want to throw all of those sales away? Yes, a romance publisher needs to target romance readers, but there’s a limit to which you can target a general audience with a niche product. When it comes to science fiction romance, I think they might be looking for readers in the wrong places.

Is the use of “space” or “pirates” in an SFR title the cause of poor sales or is it merely correlative? Big difference there. How can you measure such a thing? Even a poorly written book with an outlandish title can do well with the right marketing. Not usually, but it can happen. But even if a good book with “space pirates” in the title tanks, it’s not just because of the title. Maybe there wasn’t enough of a marketing strategy in place, or the publisher didn't print enough copies. Maybe the timing was off.

By the way, can someone please point me to the romance books that had “space pirate” in the title and the hard facts behind their reportedly poor sales? I don’t claim to know every SFR in existence, but I have yet to even come across one titled with those words.

Also, do historical romances with the word “pirate” in the title also do poorly? I wasn’t aware they did so badly. Seriously, if Ms. Grant wanted to name her book “Seducing The Space Pirate,” would marketing allow it?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Grumpily yours,

Heather

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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Laurie Green Wins First Place For SFR Manuscript

Breaking News!

Congratulations to Laurie Green whose SFR manuscript P2PC won first place in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category of the 2009 SouthWest Writers' contest!

Way to go, Laurie!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, September 17, 2009

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Where to Submit Science Fiction Romance: Part II, Digital/Small Press Publishers

Now that I’ve blogged about print publishers, I’ve compiled a list of digital/small press publishers that will consider non-erotic SFR (stories with heat levels ranging from sweet to borderline erotic). I chose to include the better known companies in the romance community whose backgrounds authors can easily research online. These days, with an ever-shifting publishing landscape, it seems that aspiring authors have a better chance of landing a lucrative NY contract if they demonstrate solid sales with a small press/digital publisher first.

While doing research for this list, I eliminated publishers if it wasn’t clear that they’d be interested in SFR submissions. For example, if the submission guidelines called for romance but specifically stated no science fiction or weren't clear that all sub-genres of romance would be considered, I didn't include them. However, if folks out there think I’ve missed any, please leave a comment with the information. If said information is reflected in the publisher's guidelines I will add it to the list.

When there was extra information or tidbits to include, I did. (For the record, this list is a guide, not an endorsement.)

Best of all, with digital publishers, no agent needed! Get in while the going’s good:

Carina Press

Carina Press is a digital-only publisher (and a division of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.). Carina is actively seeking science fiction romance (including steampunk!). Its philosophy is "no great story should go untold!"

For updates, visit the Carina Press blog.

Submission Guidelines


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Cerridwen Press (A division of Jasmine-Jade, which also owns Ellora’s Cave)

For more information, check out Redlines and Deadlines, the blog run by the Ellora’s Cave editors.

Submission guidelines

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Crescent Moon Press

SFR factoid: CMP released Leanna Renee Hieber's futuristic novella, DARK NEST, which won the 2009 RWA FF&P Prism Award.

Submission guidelines


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Desert Breeze Publishing

Relatively new, but Desert Breeze is actively seeking SFR. To wit: “Have you written an epic science fiction or futuristic book series? A Space Opera? Or even a single title novel of the genre?”

Submission guidelines

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Drollerie Press


SFR should probably be submitted to Drollerie’s Quadrivium imprint.

Submission guidelines

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Eirelander Publishing

Eirelander will open its doors in October 2009. Thanks to TGE regular Rae Lori for the info. According to Ms. Lori, "Eirelander Publishing is a small press with the owner having lots of experience in publishing...They have two current SF lines they're looking to acquire for "Unto Tomorrow" and "Legacy 2150""

Publishes work by: Rae Lori (A FEAST OF SHADOWS)

Submission guidelines

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Eternal Press

Submission guidelines

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Liquid Silver Books


While primarily a publisher of erotic romance, Liquid Silver editors consider three different heat levels. Some SFR authors may be interested to know about the Sterling Level:

* "Sweeter" erotic romance
* Allow for emotional buildup leading to culmination of relationship sex
* Longer sensual tension/slower developed heat
* M/F only
* HEA
* Descriptive sex

Skiffy Rommer Dawn Jackson recently sold her first novel to Liquid Silver, a futuristic romance called SLIPPING THE PAST. You can read a short excerpt here.

Submission guidelines

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Lyrical Press

From the Web site: “Lyrical Press, Inc. is a New York based small press owned by the husband and wife team of Frank and Renee Rocco.” They are “actively seeking erotica and romance and paranormal sub-genres.” They’re also interested in acquiring steampunk romance!

Submission guidelines

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Mundania Press


According to its submission guidelines, “Currently, our catalogue is full through 2011 with science fiction and fantasy, so at this time we aren’t looking for either of those genres…Presently, we are actively looking for unpublished quality manuscripts in the genres of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, horror, and steampunk.”

How steampunk doesn’t qualify as SF or fantasy, I’m not sure, but there you are.

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Red Sage

I’m including Red Sage here because “At present, we start almost all of our new authors in the Red Sage Presents line of e-books.” While Red Sage publishes primarily erotic romance, its editors will consider “ultra-sensual” SFR.

I interviewed Managing Editor Theresa Stevens in my post The Red Sage Wonder. I also profiled and interviewed Red Sage author (and TGE regular!) Nathalie Gray.

Get *free* nuts & bolts editorial advice at Edittorrent, run by editors Alicia Rasley and Theresa Stevens.

Publishes work by: Nathalie Gray, Ellie Marvel

Follow Theresa Stevens on Twitter

Submission guidelines


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Samhain Publishing

My features on Samhain will provide you with links galore to learn more information: Samhain Publishing; An interview with former Executive Editor Angela James (includes list of Samhain authors who have blended SF and romance); an interview with editor Sasha Knight.

Follow Samhain on Twitter

Submission guidelines

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Whiskey Creek Press


Whiskey Creek is “…especially interested in all genres of romance, science fiction, and fantasy.”

Submission guidelines

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Uncial Press

Submission guidelines

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Other:

Wisewomen Anthology (Given that it’s “an annual anthology series of science fiction featuring powerful and remarkable women,” there might be an opportunity for SFR stories. Thanks to Lisa Paitz Spindler for the link.)

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Digital publishing resources


EPIC
- Electronically Published Internet Connection.
RWA’s Electronic and Small Press Authors’ Network (ESPAN)
Digital Publishing: Looking at the Business Model
Series of epublishing articles by Angela James

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Written on

Where to Submit Science Fiction Romance: Part I, Print Publishers

Here and there, I’ve mentioned or linked to publishers that are open to considering science fiction romance submissions. Then the proverbial light bulb went off, and I realized I needed to do a post about it. (Thanks to TGE passenger Ozambersand who pitched me the same idea and got my butt in gear.)

This post concerns major, mainstream print publishers if that is your goal. Obviously, with a genre as niche as SFR, you have an edge if you’re agented. With the exception of Dorchester’s (now defunct) Shomi Writing Contest, I haven’t heard (recently) about unagented authors landing a contract for an SFR with a mainstream print publisher. From anecdotes I’ve read, it helps to schmooze with editors at conferences and wow them with your manuscript—sometimes that connection leads to an agent.

Needless to say, the competition right now is fierce. The stats are staggering: Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary Agency blogged that in 2009 she signed six clients “out of roughly 1,500 queries.” Yikes.

Regardless, it certainly helps to know which publishers to target.

The list I compiled below represents the print publishers I know about who have recently released SFR titles, and who seem committed to doing so in the future. It's not meant to be comprehensive, but even so, there may be more of note. Do please let me know—if you’re in the know—so I can update the list. For those publishers who accept unagented submissions, I’ve linked to their submission guidelines.

(Be aware, this list serves as a guide, not an endorsement.)

Ace/Roc

Heavyweight Ace/Roc primarily publishes traditional SF/F, but on occasion will release romantic SF.

Editor: Anne Sowards. Wants steampunk. (Follow her on Twitter.)

Publishes work by: Ann Aguirre, Kristin Landon

You probably are better off trying to get an agent first, but if you can’t wait, here are the submission guidelines.

Baen

According to the FAQ, Baen publishes “only science fiction and fantasy.” Yet they’ve got an impressive roster of authors who include romantic elements in their books.

Publishes works by: Catherine Asaro, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Wen Spencer

Submission guidelines. (While they accept electronic submissions (!), read them VERY carefully. They have very specific requirements.)

Bantam Dell (A division of Random House)

Another player in the Big League SF/F publishers. You need an agent.

Editor: Anne Groell

Publishes work by: Linnea Sinclair.

Berkeley/Jove (A division of Penguin)

Yada, yada, big-time publisher. You need an agent.

Publishes work by Jess Granger, Jayne Castle, Sharon Shinn, Meljean Brook, Lauren Dane, J.D. Robb, Nalini Singh, S.L. Viehl

Dorchester

As the oldest independent mass market publisher in the U.S., Dorchester has a long history of publishing SFR/futuristic romances. While their SHOMI imprint is now defunct, they are still considering the genre. This is an ideal place to start for aspiring authors looking to break into print.

Editors: Chris Keeslar, Leah Hultenschmidt (For more information, visit their editorial blog, Romantic Reads.)

Publishes works by Eve Kenin, Colby Hodge, Gayle Ann Williams

Submission guidelines (They’re now accepting general submissions via email!)

EOS (an imprint of Harper Collins)

You need an agent.

Publishes work by: Katherine Allred

Grand Central Publishing

You need an agent.

Publishes works by: Susan Kearney

HQN (An imprint of Harlequin)

You need an agent.

Publishes work by: Susan Grant

Medallion Press

SFR would be released in Medallion's Jewel Imprints (Amethyst)

Submission guidelines

Sourcebooks

"we consider all subgenres"

Submission guidelines

Tor

Editor Heather Osborn has mentioned her interest in acquiring futuristic romance. You can follow her on Twitter.

Publishes work by: Claire Delaroix, Sandra McDonald, Jordan Summers, Gail Dayton

Submission guidelines

I hope this is helpful to you. In my next post, I’ll provide a handy-dandy list of digital/small press publishers seeking science fiction romance. Join me then!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 13, 2009

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RT Book Reviews’ Feature on Science Fiction Romance

RT Book ReviewsRT Book Reviews is spotlighting science fiction romance in its October 2009 issue!

*happy dance*

Now that I have a copy in my greedy little hands, I simply must blog about it, darlings. The title of the piece is “SCI-FI Romance: Star-crossed Lovers Are Waiting For Readers.” I love the message of that title. For me, it implies that SFR heroes and heroines are more than just words on a page. They are people with a need, and that need is to entertain.

Before I share my general impressions about the feature, I want to acknowledge all of the hard work that RT’s staff put into it (really, though, when don’t they work hard?). They went above and beyond, and I thank them for supporting a genre I like to think is a hidden gem. RT has helped brush off the soil to uncover the sparkle beneath.

They gathered a great group of authors who contributed quotes for the article. Not just authors, either: I had the immense pleasure of contributing to the feature as well. I’m humbled and excited to be included alongside authors whose books have given me many hours of reading pleasure.

So what’s this fantabulous feature like?

The cover

The headline reads, “Is SCI-FI romance ready to blast off?” Well, featured cover author Hank Phillippi Ryan’s 100 mega-watt smile tells us she couldn’t appear more excited about the possibility, so I guess the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Very cool that the headline is at the top—right beneath the magazine’s name. What an honor.

The layout

The first thing that struck me was the color scheme. Normally I gravitate toward dark colors when it comes to anything science fictional, but I thought the art director’s mix of yellow, red, and blue gave the feature a lot of warmth. The font was a neat combo of block and cursive lettering to reflect the hybrid nature of science fiction romance. There’s also a cool heart-thingie that makes me think Olivia Newton John is going to materialize any moment and belt out a rendition of “Xanadu.” (That song is classic, I tell you. Classic!)

The main article

It’s a four page spread! Color me bedazzled. I’m not going to quote anything—I’ll wait for anyone who’s read it to comment here and share thoughts. Never mind the fact that the feature has given me blog fodder for months!

That said, I thought feature author Stephanie Klose offered a marvelous take on the genre’s current state. She also pulled the quotes together in a very cohesive way. It reads as though all the authors were having a face to face discussion about the genre—the quotes were that in tune with each other. I mean, the article makes me want to go read a science fiction romance right now!

The sidebar features

There are three other mini-features. The first is “The SCI-FI Trilogy of Love” by Faygie Levy which covers the trilogies by authors Sandra McDonald (THE OUTBACK STARS) and Kristin Landon (THE HIDDEN WORLDS). My first reaction was “What a great idea!” and my second was “D’oh!” Wouldn’t you know it: I’ve been blogging about both of these trilogies for months, but never in the same post. RT had my back, thank goodness.

Lost in SpaceThe second mini-feature is “Where to Start?” and it’s a list of books I recommended for readers new to the genre. It was a difficult choice to make because there are many good places to start. Can you imagine my pain in the future when there’ll be a hundred new SFR titles every month?

The third was a piece titled “If you like, then you’ll love: Science Fiction Romance” by Stacey Agdern. Pretty inspired, let me tell you—Ms. Agdern juxtaposed SFR authors with those writing other genres that contain similar styles/plots/characters. So, for example....

Better yet, scope out the feature for yourself and tell me what you think.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Postus Scriptus: What, you haven't read it yet? No problem. I'll wait! It's in stores now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

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Guest Blogging at Borders True Romance

Today I'm guest blogging at the Borders True Romance Blog. I invite you to read Insights into Science Fiction Romance. More importantly, I'd love for you to share your insights about SFR as well as your favorite stories with readers who may be new to the genre.

I'm excited to participate in the Borders True Romance Blog, one hosted by Sue Grimshaw and helmed by the passionate ladies behind Smart Bitches and Dear Author. They feature lots of authors and book giveaways, so if you love romance it's definitely worth the visit.

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, September 10, 2009

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Linkfest Addendum

Agent Z, TGE regular and intergalactic spy extraordinaire, recently had a horror short story published with Dog Oil Press under one of her many pseudonyms. A Taste of Revenge is free and wickedly subversive (consider yourself warned!). Congratulations, Z!

Book Bloggers Appreciation Award


Thanks and a big ol’ hug to everyone who nominated The Galaxy Express for the Book Bloggers Appreciation Award. My blog has been short listed in the Best Speculative Fiction category.

I’m in great company—Bibliophile Stalker, Dribble of Ink, Scifiguy.ca, and The Book Zombie. A complete list of the nominees is here.

The BBAW Voting Booth is open until Saturday September 12 at 11:59 PM EST. Sally forth and vote for your favorite book bloggers!

In other news, Skiffy Rommer Donna S. Frelick has launched her Web site.

Tomorrow, I’m guest blogging at Borders True Romance Blog. Thanks again to Dear Author, Smart Bitches, and host Sue Grimshaw for this fun opportunity to share the science fiction romance love. I’ll post a direct link as soon as it’s up.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

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Rest in Peace, Quartet Press

Quartet Press has closed its doors.

Let's hope that somewhere, sometime, another door opens...


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My Interview at Dirty Sexy Books

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rebecca who runs the romance review blog Dirty Sexy Books. In October, DSB's Book Club will spotlight science fiction romance.

Rebecca asked great questions about science fiction romance's origins, covers, and readers. She really rolled out the red carpet, so I invite you to disembark and check out Science Fiction Romance for Dummies.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

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5 Ways Digital Publishers Could Increase Science Fiction Romance Sales

A few months back at Dear Author, Jane wrote that, “Because digital publishing is seeking legitimacy with readers, writers, and others, it needs to step up its game.”

Digital publishers, like the small print presses before them, are leaders when it comes to taking risks. Erotica, m/m stories, and paranormal romances are big examples of the risks digital publishers have been taking over the past two decades.

I’d like to see digital publishers grow even further. Erotica can always be their bread and butter, but it seems to me this is a time ripe for actively pushing non-erotic romances—like science fiction romance!

Given that editors from digital publishers often blog and tweet about wanting more SFR/futuristic romances, I’d like to brainstorm ways they could maximize this match to everyone’s advantage.


1. Use more genre-friendly covers.

Jane wrote, “Books from digital publishers must have good, tasteful covers.”

If you want to attract more customers outside of the erotic romance fan base, especially for SFR that’s on the sweet side, what about designing covers that reflect such stories? They don’t have to burst with starships and exotically rendered worlds so much as appear distinct from images that are pure erotica.

2. Make non-erotic romance ebooks easy to find.

Ideally, your Web site should have a non-cluttered, easy-to-navigate design for purchases. Just as importantly, if you publish both erotic romance and non-erotic romance, the site should make non-erotic romances like SFR easy to find. Readers can’t support these stories with their pocketbooks if they can’t locate them. The “one-erotic romance cover fits all” mentality makes for a confusing search.

3. Take more risks with content.

Regarding ebook content, Jane wrote that “The genres and tropes can be (but are not always) wildly innovative.”

Guess what?! Science fiction romance lends itself heartily to innovation: Strange! New! Worlds! This is an example of an area where ebooks can meet that need. I know editors are asking for SFR/futuristic romances of all heat levels, which is great, but how innovative do they want the stories to be? That’s a question it might help to answer so authors thinking of submitting projects can be clear.

Let’s examine the “but are not always” part of the above observation in a little more detail. What’s more of a risk for a digital romance publisher—an m/m SFR or one with a heterosexual couple that involves an anti-heroine? I’d wager it’s the anti-heroine option. The line between readers who enjoy m/m and those who don’t is pretty distinct. But romance readers could react either way to an anti-heroine, or any other element that defies expectations of gender roles or varies from a traditional romance. Which makes it less of a sure sale no matter how great the story.

Mainstream print publishers offer plenty of traditional romances. Therefore, I suggest taking a different path once in a while—or lots of times—by tossing tropes down the toilet. Take on authors who write stories like Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA. Such an irony, isn’t it, that the heroine’s name is Alpha! And yet the book is a great example of SFR that pushes boundaries without wandering too far off the beaten path. And speaking of Alpha, can we have lots of variation among heroes, pretty please?

4. Be very specific in submission guidelines.

When it comes to SFR/futuristic romances, the possibilities are endless. Almost too endless (not that I’m complaining!). As an editor, cyborgs are your favorite, not post-apocalyptic settings. But all you receive are stories with a post-apocalyptic settings. Waste of everyone’s time, right? Or maybe you prefer a certain type of hero or heroine. Authors of SFR would better understand what you seek if the guidelines had very specific information about your tastes. Blogging/tweeting about it is strategic, but the information should also be in the submission guidelines.

Speaking of guidelines, I also think a tiered submission process would be helpful so authors, especially aspiring ones, have clear expectations about what to expect. Red Sage has a good example.

5. Nurture writers with potential.

Aspiring authors are usually fans of the genre in which they write, and this is definitely the case with science fiction romance. They are also a significant source of promotion and word of mouth.

If aspiring SFR authors show potential, even if you have to pass on their projects, consider giving out more revise and resubmit options. Or an invitation to submit future projects—anything that will challenge them to deliver a better match the next time. Your accessibility is an area where you can compete with print publishers for undiscovered talent. Why not become a mentor now and then?

Consider creating a Web page just for aspiring authors, with content aimed at providing information about digital publishing, helping them improve their craft, and whatever else they need to know to better target their stories for your company.

Lure writers with what you can offer them since an advance isn’t an option. For example, in addition to the higher royalty rate, you offer more creative freedom; you’re working with them to place content in new, evolving mediums with huge growth potential; and you’re involved in the online communities working together to promote the genre.

In short, your grass has to look a lot greener. There may be writers seeking agents who have fabulous books, but because of fierce competition, little chance of landing a big print contract—why not actively woo them? If you create an SFR imprint, for example, they might be more willing to add epublishers to their submission lists.

Well, I could go on…but I’d rather hear about the ideas of my superfab passengers. Hit me up!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 6, 2009

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When Should the Hero & Heroine Meet?

I recently came across this blog post at Edittorrent, by Red Sage Publishing Senior Editor Alicia Rasley, regarding submitting & revisions.

Many of her points and advice are worth a look-see, especially for authors thinking of submitting their erotic futuristic romance or “ultra-sensual” SFR to Red Sage. This in particular caught my eye:

For instance, we publish a lot of speculative fiction--sf and paranormal. But it's erotica too, or primarily. Lots of sf romance can be modified or intensified to work for us, and when we get a story like that, we suggest the revisions which will make it more right for us. (No, we are not going to publish something wonderful but not right for us. That's reality.) It is not an intrusion on author authority to suggest the changes that will make the story more erotica and less standard sf.

I was at a conference once, on a panel about Beginnings, and I made a big point that I didn't want three chapters of worldbuilding before the romance gets going, that the setting information should be developed in with the story. A science fiction editor was also on the panel, and she laughed and said she DID want three chapters of worldbuilding, because that's what her readers were looking for.


The anecdote about worldbuilding vs. romance struck me as one of the conundrums of science fiction romance. However, I think we’d all agree that a good SFR doesn’t necessarily need three chapters of worldbuilding. Personally, I wouldn’t complain if it were there, but other readers might get antsy if the romance doesn’t start in the first chapter—or even the first scene.

More so than worldbuilding, the observation above made me wonder about that first meeting between hero and heroine. Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA and Wen Spencer’s ENDLESS BLUE both feature romances, but the couples don’t meet until a few chapters into each book. Made me wonder how much of a deal breaker that kind of structure is for some readers, no matter how splendid the romance. And yet there are romances of varying genres wherein the h/h meet in the first chapter, but are apart until the Happily Ever After. Is there really that much of a difference?

With that in mind, I’d like to open this up to discussion. Here are my questions:

For science fiction romance, how crucial is it for you that the hero and heroine meet in the first chapter? (I’m assuming, of course, that even if they haven’t met, the reader is spending time with either the hero or the heroine until then).

To what extent should authors follow their muses vs. craft stories according to market demands regarding that first meeting?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 3, 2009

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SFR Linkfest for September 2009

Susan Kearney LucanNew Releases

Susan Kearney’s LUCAN will be available this month from Grand Central Publishing. I normally don’t pay much attention to covers, but I think the one for this book is actually quite tasteful. Or maybe it’s just because I think the cover model is hawt. Check out the premise:

THEIR LOVE IS FORBIDDEN
Healer and high priestess of her people, Lady Cael is fated to life without a mate. But a mysterious explorer named Lucan Rourke doesn’t know her secrets, and his touch makes her crave a future that her extraordinary birthright has forbidden her...

BUT DANGER IS NO MATCH FOR DESIRE
Lucan has just one mission on Pendragon: to find the mythical Holy Grail, Earth’s only hope for survival. His powerful attraction to Cael is a distraction he can’t afford, unless he convinces her to join forces with him. Yet working so closely together only heightens their passion...even when the terrifying truth of Cael’s heritage threatens to shatter Lucan’s every belief—and the galaxy itself.

Read the prologue here.

More news below the cut....

Forthcoming books

From Susan Grant’s hot sheet:

May 2010 The Star Trilogy—Rerelease! New covers, new low price, and all at once: The Star King, The Star Prince, and The Star Princess. For new readers, it's a great way to get familiar with my earlier books. For collectors--alert, alert, these will be repackaged for the '10 release, so the older versions out there will soon become Hard To Find.

August 2010 SUREBLOOD: A Tale of the Borderlands. This is my long-awaited space pirate story and #3 in the Borderlands series.


Woot! More heroine space pirate action!

Linnea Sinclair’s forthcoming release is in the works. REBELS AND LOVERS (working title) is the next adventure in her Dock Five Universe.

RT Book Reviews does it again

SCI-FI ROMANCE: Authors make a convincing case for why this blend of two hot genres is truly the best of both worlds.”

Science fiction romance is money, baby. Thanks, RT! (Needless to say, I’ll be blogging about the feature soon.)

Authors blogging

Jess Granger discusses secondary characters at Sandra’s Goings-On.

At Alien Romances, Margaret Carter discusses The Business Model of E-Publishing.

Ann Aguirre demystifies the process of writing a synopsis in Dispelling Popular Fallacy.

Skiffy Rommer action

Sharon Lynn Fisher (GHOST PLANET) will be guest blogging at Silk & Shadows on The Golden Heart, The Void, and My Hussy Muse. Also, she posted what contest judges had to say about GHOST PLANET.

Lisa Paitz Spindler has Two New Book Reviews Available At SFSignal.

Aspiring author Donna Frelick guest blogs at Spacefreighters' Lounge. Welcome aboard, Donna!

Book Club Spotlight on Science Fiction Romance

How exciting is this? Romance blog Dirty Sexy Books will be spotlighting SFR in October for their Book Club. Site mistress Rebecca informed me that from Aug 31 - Sep 7 they accept book nominations. Voting is from Sep 7 - 13. She added “members then have about five weeks to get and read the book.”

Rebecca kicked off the spotlight with She Thinks My Tractor Beam is Sexy! (!) Stay tuned for more details.

Because you can never have enough steampunk romance in your life

Author Ciar Cullen has launched The Steampunk Romance Society for authors and aspiring authors penning such tales: “…this spot is more for authors working in the genre to chat about their works, styles, new markets, etc. Readers are welcome too, of course.”

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

The Galaxy Express was nominated for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award. I was notified that I’d been nominated in the Best Speculative Fiction Blog and Best Community Builder categories. Thanks to the person(s) responsible for nominating TGE!

The Second Annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will take place from September 14 - 18.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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Steampunk Articles and Free Reads!

Cherie Priest BONESHAKERIsn’t the cover of Cherie Priest’s BONESHAKER just phenomenal? Look for it in September 2009 (excerpt here).

Looking to glom a trunk-full of steampunk stories? The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review site offers So Much Steampunk, So Little Time.

And there’s more…full steam ahead!

Ciar Cullen wants to know…Are you writing a Steampunk? Check out the comment section for authors who have written or who are working on steampunk projects.

Realms of the Raven breaks it down in Punk me this! Writing a “punk” genre….

In Time to do the Book News, Dirty Sexy Books notes that “…lately I’ve been hearing talk of ‘steampunk’ novels…”

Available now: The “Penny Dreadful” For Your IPhone. Parts o1-4 of STEAMPUNK TALES is being offered for free, so check it out! (Thanks to Ciar Cullen for the link.)

Authors, Quartet Press actually lists “steampunk” in their submission guidelines!

And in case you missed it, here’s a link to my earlier Steampunk Romance Watch.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Interview with Katie MacAlister, Author of STEAMED

Katie MacAlister SteamedIs this a great time to be alive, or what? STEAMED (February 2010) is the first in a series of steampunk romances from bestselling author Katie MacAlister. Here’s a bit about the story:

Jack Fletcher's heart is about to get punked.

Computer technician Jack Fletcher is no hero, despite his unwelcome reputation as one. In fact, he's just been the victim of bizarre circumstances. Like now. His sister happens to disturb one of his nanoelectromechanical system experiments, and now they aren't where they're supposed to be. In fact, they're not sure where they are when…

…they wake up to see a woman with the reddest hair Jack has ever seen-and a gun. Octavia Pye is an Aerocorps captain with a whole lot of secrets, and she's not about to see her maiden voyage ruined by stowaways. But the sparks flying between her and Jack just may cause her airship to combust and ignite a passion that will forever change the world as she knows it...


I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. MacAlister about STEAMED and the process of writing it. Read on to learn what super-heated aether, Nikola Tesla, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN have in common.

The Galaxy Express: What inspired you to write a steampunk romance?

Katie MacAlister: Sometime early last year I had an itchy feeling that translated into a desire to write something new, something different, something that was going to knock readers’ collective socks off. I mulled over my choices, and wasn’t happy with any of them. One day I was talking with my editor about this itchy feeling, and a word suddenly glowed with blinding brilliance in what passes for my brain—steampunk. As a life-long history and science buff, I knew that steampunk would fit well with my character and voice, and to make it a romance? Oh, that was sheer bliss.

I took a look around, saw that there was little steampunk being published, and even less in romance, and knew I was onto something fresh and new that would hopefully excite readers as much as it did me.

TGE: Please describe a few of the infernal devices readers can look forward t o encountering in STEAMED.

KM: The heroine of this new series, Octavia Pye, is a captain of a somewhat small and outdated airship named Tesla (because what would steampunk be without a Tesla somewhere?). She wields a gun that shoots super-heated aether, rides in both normal horse-drawn carriages, and steam-powered carriages, and has been known to turn her hand to the automatic navigator, a clockwork device that keeps the Tesla on course.

TGE: Who wears the brass goggles in the relationship, Jack or Octavia?

KM: Jack, definitely Jack. Octavia doesn’t understand his fascination with them at all, because to her, they are a mundane item necessary when one is checking the boilers. Jack, however...well, Jack is from our reality, and a big fan of steampunk, so when he finds himself in Octavia’s world, it’s a dream come true. He’s like a kid in a clockwork candy shop.

TGE: What kind of challenges did you face integrating a romance with steampunk worldbuilding?

KM: Honest? Nothing special. It’s the same as writing a convincing romance in any world. The same sorts of concerns come up—are the characters meshing, does their romance seem reasonable based on their characters, do their emotions go on an emotional journey that ends up with them falling in love, etc. The steampunk aspect of the story just enhances the relationship, giving it a unique flavor, and lending the characters a realistic background, even if the world itself is an alternate view of reality.

TGE: What are some of your favorite steampunk books/films?

KM: I haven’t read much modern steampunk that I’m wild about, other than the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels, which is one reason why I wanted to make my own version of it. Older works are another matter—I’m a huge fan of a lot of the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century “scientific romances” of Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and of course, the grand master of all things steampunk, Jules Verne.

Films...my favorite would have to be the screen version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. To me, that movie embodies all the tongue-in-cheek fun there is to be had in steampunk.

TGE: Can you share any details about your steampunk novella work-in-progress?

KM: Since the novella will be released a month before Steamed, I wrestled with just what I was going to write that wouldn’t spoil the story for readers. Eventually, I settled on telling the story of how Octavia’s foster parents met. It has bearing on both Steamed and subsequent books in the series, so I think it will be a good way for readers to dip their toes into my steampunk world.

TGE: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about STEAMED?

KM: One of the questions I get with frequency is when I will be writing another contemporary book. Even though Steamed is a steampunk book, and obviously has historical elements into it, it also has a very contemporary feel in that the hero, Jack, is a very modern guy. Jack and Octavia share the narrating duties, so I hope that readers will feel like they experience both Octavia’s world, with all its steampunk fabulousness, and Jack’s modern take on that. It’s contemporary, it’s historical, and it’s steampunk—there’re just all sorts of layers to it that I had great fun writing. I’ve also got a major crush on Jack, but we won’t go into that...

Thanks, Ms. MacAlister! It was exciting to learn more about your book.

And, don’t forget to visit Dear Author as I guest blog about The Case For Steampunk Romance.

Next up, steampunk news, articles, and free reads!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Steampunk Romance Day!

Today at Dear Author, I’m making The Case For Steampunk Romance. Please join me!

Next up, an interview with Katie MacAlister, author of the forthcoming steampunk romance, STEAMED!

Joyfully yours,

Heather