Saturday, January 30, 2010

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SFR Linkfest for February, 2010

New Releases

SteamedSTEAMED – Katie MacAlister

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…

CYBOT AWAKENEDCYBOT AWAKENED – Melisse Aires

Sabralia lives a lonely but luxurious life in Emperor Sirn’s Harem, her only companion is her obedient servant, Qy, a cybot. Her life has largely been controlled by others, but when Sirn demands his Harem pleasure his Commanding Officers at a victory celebration, Sabralia makes a daring plan to hide to avoid rape by Sirn's men. The Palace is ambushed and her cybot gets her off world. The impossible has happened−Qy the gentle cybot becomes the man he once was, the warrior Kaistril. Pursued for valuable information, Sabralia is thrust into dangerous, unfamiliar situations where she must stand up to the challenges, or lose the man she loves.

EMBRACE THE NIGHT – Joss Ware

Everything they knew is gone.
From the raging fires, five men emerge with extraordinary new powers. They must learn how to survive this dark, ravaged world ... but they cannot do it alone.


Embrace The NightSimon Japp will never forget his violent past. But when civilization is all but destroyed, he sees his chance for redemption. Blessed with a strange "gift," he's determined to help the resistance against the Strangers, the mysterious force that stalks them at every turn. He can't afford to get distracted, even by the stunning, soft-spoken woman fighting by his side...

Sage Corrigan has learned to be careful where she places her trust. But she sees something good in Simon, even if he can't see it in himself. Posing as lovers to infiltrate a group key to their fight, they find that their staged affection soon develops into a desire that will leave them fighting for their lives in the night eternal...

IMPULSE POWER, Samhain Publishing Space Opera Anthology:

THE MYTHMAKERS – Robert Appleton

METAL REIGN – Nathalie Gray

HEARTS AND MINDS by J.C. Hay

To learn more about Samhain’s anthology stories, click here.

Also out from Samhain this month, HIGH OCTANE by Kathleen Scott:

Two hearts are never more than one dimension apart.

HIGH OCTANEA routine fuel run through one of the planet’s dimensional portals explodes in violence when Major Geneieve Lockhart’s Jumper team is hammered with an unprovoked attack. With her ship disabled and contact to mission control limited, Genie faces her worst nightmare—losing her crew on the blood-soaked floor of a foreign desert.
Help comes from an unlicensed freelance mercenary ship, piloted by a man she never thought she’d see again. Her AWOL ex-lover, Lt. Col. Dante Bowen.

Bowen knows answering Genie’s distress call puts his undercover mission to expose a governmental conspiracy at risk. But after faking his death six years ago, he owes her something. Ending up chained in her cargo hold for transport to his own court martial wasn’t the thanks-for-the-rescue he expected.

The bridges between them may be in ashes, but their desire burns as hot as ever. Even as Genie wonders what happened to Bowen’s code of honor, her body betrays her heart at every turn. The hostile race that attacked her ship, though, is coming back to finish them off. The only way to ensure freedom—on both sides of the dimensional divide—is to put her trust in the one man who betrayed it…

Warning: Contains action-packed dimensional travel, hot military wartime sex, betrayed lovers and evil, power-hungry bastards.

Whew, and I'm just getting started!

Author News, Posts, & Interviews

Embrace the Shadows presents an interview with Robin D. Owens.

Ann Aguirre unveils the cover for KILLBOX:

Killbox

Kick back with a big mug of space java and a thick notepad for Religion in Science Fiction Romance by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sarah A. Hoyt (DARKSHIP THIEVES) guest blogs at SFSignal: The Death of Science Fiction: It Ain’t Over Til The Fat Droid Sings. She speculates on why young folks seem to be aversive to reading science fiction. Here’s an excerpt that I think has relevance for science fiction romance:

There will always be a place where science is utterly proven and can be extrapolated along safe, almost sure lines - and that's fine. But it doesn't leave much place where people can dream. And people need to dream… I'm not saying that space opera and "looser" (softer usually means message-oriented) sf don't exist - Kevin J. Anderson and Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber and indeed any number of writers from Baen give this the lie. I'm saying it is neither as loose as in media, nor is there nearly as much of it as there should/could be. We're not only not going for all the market can bear, we're not touching the market out there.


Jess Granger posts chapter 25 of her *free* science fiction romance adventure ETHEL THE SPACE PIRATE!

Publisher news

Red Sage Publishing has a new look!

Listen in on the Carina Press Podcast with Angela James and Malle Vallik

Skiffy Rommer Fun

Discover if SFR by authors Angela Knight, Gena Showalter, and Deirdre Knight are for you courtesy of two posts at Spacefreighters’ Lounge: In Search of New Reads, Part I & Part II

Ella Drake (FIRESTORM ON E-TERRA)shares 13 things she enjoyed about Sarah A. Hoyt’s DARKSHIP THIEVES

Stuck for a title for your steampunk romance? Lisa Paitz Spindler brings on the Steampunk Manifesto Title Generator

This ‘n that

Two neat posts from Blog, Schmog: Linnea Sinclair: Romantic SF is not a contradiction in terms & The SciFi Military Paradigm (in which proprietor Bart addresses the question, “Why is the Navy the model for Science Fiction military, not the Air Force ?”).

Check out some kewl and little known facts about Superman’s main squeeze in Lois Lane, Super Heroine, Role Model, or…Sex Symbol? (via Bev’s Books)

In The Female Action Hero, Fantasy & SciFi Lovin’ News & Reviews asks, “But were these women really tough or merely ornamental?” (It’s an older post but totally worth visiting just for the smokin’ hot image of Sigourney Weaver from ALIEN)

Edited to add: So you can more easily look up information on new releases by year, I started a list on the right sidebar under "SFR Specials" for links to the new release roundup posts. Also, I added more authors to the left hand column under the "2010" heading, so check 'em out!

Got any hot science fiction romance news to share? Comment away!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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A Publishing Industry War Is Brewing: Amazon Vs. MacMillan

A big ugly storm is raging between Amazon and MacMillan. At stake are sales for MacMillan authors and readers' access to books.

Here are links to coverage of this dismaying turn of events:

Game On: Amazon Removes the Buy Button for All MacMillan Books

MacMillan Pens Open Letter to Authors and Agents

It's All About Timing
(Thanks to Mary F. for the link.)

Who's the Bully Here? (Jackie Kessler rounded up a number of links on the subject.)

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, January 28, 2010

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I’m In Love With A Traumatized Hero!

Agent ZHey Ho, Esteemed Passengers of The Galaxy Express. It’s been too long since I hitched a ride on this fine vessel. I was sent on a dangerous mission to the Triangulum Galaxy and, well, to cut a long story short—thanks for bailing me out, Heather!!

After missions, I usually return to my home base to be met by the pile of luverly books I had ordered before I left, and this time was no exception. I’d been through some traumatic events so I needed something really wonderful to distract me. Enter C.J Cherryh’s MERCHANTER'S LUCK.


MERCHANTER'S LUCK


The gal on the cover is Allison Reilly of the mighty starship, Dublin Again. She’s a great character, but Allison is not what has me all a-tingle. No, the truth is I’ve gone and fallen in love with the hero of this book, Sandor Kreja. Oh, my aching heart!

Sandor is a very different kind of hero. He’s not wealthy or powerful or strong or glamorous. In fact, when the reader first meets him, he is malnourished, in debt, scared and desperate. His first glimpse of Allison is the most happiness he’s known in a long, long time. He offers to buy her a drink, even though he’s broke. They spend the night together. She ships out the next day, so what does Sandor do? He takes off after her. In a broken down ship, with no crew, through solo jump after jump after jump, strapped into his chair with a pulsar unit to keep him awake, with food and water taped within reaching distance, alone except for the memories of that terrible day when his life and his psyche had been blown into a million shards. It’s an act of suicide. He’s attempting the impossible and putting his life in the hands of fate, all for one last chance, one impossible chance at love. How do you like them stakes?

I won’t offer any more spoilers. Suffice to say it’s a wonderful story, with loads of action, fascinating characters and all ilk of spaceships, villains and plot twists. If you’ve tried Cherryh before, and found her work too dense or wordy, then this book will change your mind. Her writing in this is as lean as Sandor’s emaciated body, while still as strong and graceful as Allison’s.

As much as I love C.J. Cherryh, it’s Sandor who is my main obsession at the moment. I’m normally not much attracted to victims, but there was something about Sandor’s mixture of pain, vulnerability and hope that completely hooked me. He’s been through so much trauma that all I want to do is heal him—in any way I can. It’s not the motherly, nurturing type of healing I’m talking about, or maybe it is? I am confused by my reaction to this character.

What are your thoughts, fellow travelers, on the traumatized hero? Discuss amongst yourselves. I’ll be in my bunk—with Sandor.

Be seeing ya!

Agent Z.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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Tortured Heroes Vs. Villains

Got another issue for us to tangle with based on my reading of DANGEROUS MEN & ADVENTUROUS WOMEN (1992, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz) (the previous post is here). Another aspect that intrigued me centered on the authors’ revelation that one popular execution of a romance hero was to make him part hero, part villain. According to the various essays, this type of tortured hero starts off as a brooding, isolative, even dislikeable character, but learns to tap into his heroic side as a result of the heroine’s interventions.

I began reflecting on how the presence of a tortured hero (or heroine) might impact the presence of villains in science fiction romance. I’ve blogged about villains in this subgenre previously, but was still scratching my head over why they often get such short thrift. Now I think I’m beginning to understand why.

I recall encountering one SFR villain whose physical presence came across as so intangible and distant that I realized the author had made a decision at some point—perhaps unconsciously—that he/they/it was hardly germane to the story. But the hero—ah, he had all the makings of a great villain. So tortured and broody. Sardonic. Dangerous. I mean, it was no contest. What’s a villain to do?

After I finished DANGEROUS MEN & ADVENTUROUS WOMEN, I wondered if the devotion to the tortured, hybrid hero-villain decreased the chances of authors constructing villains who are equally compelling. If all the creative energy is going into the hero, what’s left for the villain? It makes sense, too, because having two tortured male characters would create redundancy. They’d end up canceling each other out.

Villains are a staple of science fiction stories, and I expect to encounter them in SFR on a fairly regular basis. I don’t want them to overshadow the romance, but a well-crafted villain introduces tension and raises the stakes for our protagonists. Now that I think about it, an example of how a villain can be balanced with the romance and science fictional elements is COUNTDOWN. Author Michelle Maddox incorporated her villain into the story in such a way that I had a good taste of him (!) without feeling that he stole the show.

If tortured heroes are sapping all the energy away from villains, how can authors address this imbalance? One way, of course, is to create a compelling “good guy” hero who squares off against the typical tortured villain. Not goody-two shoes, necessarily, more like strong but complicated. But what if the story demands a tortured hero?

Perhaps it’s the villain who needs reinventing. This could be done either in terms of the villain’s personality (e.g., disarmingly charming), or in the type of villain that’s created. I can overlook and even appreciate a two-dimensional villain IF he/she/it is cleverly constructed, executes at least one heinously villainous act during the story (shown, not told), or arrives in an unexpected form. Villains don't always have to be human. They could be mechanical in nature, or environmental.

Tortured heroes probably aren’t the only reason villains in science fiction romance aren’t fully developed in some stories, but I’m wondering if they’ve been a significant factor.

What do you think? If we change the way in which we envision them, what type of villain would be a good match for a tortured hero or heroine?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, January 24, 2010

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Romance Heroines of the Future

DANGEROUS MEN & ADVENTUROUS WOMEN Some of you may remember a previous post in which I discussed the appeal of the subversive heroine. Upon further reflection, I realized I hadn’t fully processed nor articulated my thoughts on the issue of heroines in science fiction romance and my expectations for them.

Hence, more questions arose, the main one being, will we ever see a fundamental shift in one of the dominant conceptual elements in romance—specifically, the pairing of a dark, dangerous (Alpha) hero and innocent heroine?

Given that the innocent heroine frequently has a reputation for being thinly crafted (in other words, the hero comes across as much more compelling), what does this historical pattern imply for science fiction romance? Will authors and readers ever embrace other templates—on a regular basis—when it comes to SFR?

With those questions in mind, I went exploring.

First stop: Bev’s Books, which featured posts about the issue from the perspectives of The Old “Placeholder Heroine” Myth and Placeholders and the Dual Perspective. After reading her discussions, I still had more questions, so Bev turned me on to DANGEROUS MEN & ADVENTUROUS WOMEN (1992), a collection of essays about the appeal of romance by a group of romance authors and edited by Jayne Ann Krentz. I read the book and pieces of the puzzle began falling into place.

A main point authors in this book reiterated throughout was the belief that, in essence, romances are about dangerous heroes and the heroines who tame them (hero basically defined as a man who is part hero, part villain. Heroine basically defined as sweet/innocent/pure/courageous). I realize much has changed since then (and am aware that the essays could not address the appeal of every single type of romance in existence), but there’s also the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

I want to zero in on the role of the heroine. In Laura Kinsale’s essay, she refers to “placeholding” as

“an objective involvement; the reader rides along with the character, having the same experiences, but accepting or rejecting the character’s actions, words, and emotions on the basis of her personal yardstick…When the writer does fail with the heroine, however, it is quite easy for the reader to disassociate herself from the character and continue to derive pleasure from the story by using the heroine as placeholder.”


Fast forward eighteen years later: In a comment responding to Bev’s Books’ placeholder post, Kinsale states
“in my essay I used the term placeholder to describe a FAILED heroine in a romance–ie, a heroine that the reader did NOT find admirable or interesting, who was Too Stupid To Live, and yet the reader keeps reading and even enjoys the book. My question there was WHY, and my answer was the sense that the reader could ride along with that character and think about how she herself would act in the failed heroine’s place.

I said in my essay that in a successful romance the reader will strongly identify with BOTH the hero and heroine.”


For the purpose of this post, I’m going with Kinsale’s failed heroine definition of a “placeholder heroine.” To piggyback on her statement, I believe the basic core of a romance is the relationship, not simply the heroine’s courageous ability to tame the hero. To me, that seems like only one way of executing a romance. I feel it’s important to emphasize this now because even though DANGEROUS MEN & ADVENTUROUS WOMEN was released in 1992, the beliefs therein are reflected in current books (especially paranormal romance) as well as beliefs about the market. For example, Mary Jo Putney writes:

It is much rarer to see the heroine saved by the love of a good man. It is possible to write a romance where the heroine is more tortured than the hero, and I have done so, but it is more difficult and probably less “romantic.” To make a tortured-heroine romance successful, the hero must be a compelling figure in his own right, not a passive foil for the heroine’s problems. While he is supportive and understanding, he must have a role beyond drying her tears or the story fails as a romance.”(p. 101)


So we have two possible scenarios—one with a failed heroine and one with a failed hero. Both can happen. More importantly, both can be avoided (easier said than done, to be sure). Readers can identify with heroes and heroines in stories simultaneously. But even if most authors and readers agree that a successful romance involves both a well-crafted hero and heroine regardless of who is taming whom, why is there such a preponderance of the dangerous hero-innocent-heroine dynamic?

Catherine Asaro AlphaI take extreme issue with the belief (not with Mary Jo Putney!) that tortured heroines make for “less romantic” stories. Especially since Catherine Asaro’s heroine Alpha from the book of the same name is one of my favorite tortured heroines. ALPHA was utterly romantic. Imho, the hero of the book was highly compelling and he was far from Hanky Boy Sidekick. Given the rise of urban fantasy, with its signature tortured protagonist who is frequently female, it seems to me UF answered the call from readers ready to evolve beyond the failed heroines of yore (many of which seem to fall into the innocent/Too Stupid To Live category).

I question why we don’t see more tortured heroines, and I have a high expectation to encounter them in science fiction romance. Here’s what appeals to me: tortured heroines with character arcs that demonstrate their willingness to embrace their capacity for love and nurturing—whatever form that love or nurturing might take. In the future, this could entail the heroine leading a military space fleet against invaders in order to save the hero. Said action would not emasculate the hero. At all. Rather, it makes the heroine That. Much. Cooler. I find the above scenario just as romantic as one in which the hero rescues the heroine. And the heroine doesn’t even have to be tortured. Just lose the innocence, because I’m not sure I buy its existence in the future (unless the story truly calls for it, in which case the author has some serious ‘splainin' to do).

As long as the tortured, dangerous heroine is a sympathetic character, undergoes the same emotional transformation expected of her hero counterpart, demonstrates growth, and finds redemption, there’s no reason readers can’t accept such a character on a regular basis. Why they don’t probably has more to do with individual reading preferences, cultural dynamics, and the marketing of romance than the stories themselves.

To belabor the obvious, many SFR characters live in the future. There’s the rub. Perhaps one reason science fiction romance has had a challenging time discovering the sweet spot that would engender wider appeal is its progressive ideas (or at least the potential for them). I, for one, like to assume that in the SFR I read, a variety of social, political, and most of all technological changes will lead to a future in which women can more easily compete with men, protect themselves from male predators, and enjoy a higher level of equality than currently. In other words, it’s difficult to create a convincing case for a virgin heroine and/or the sheltered innocence a similar type of character would represent hundreds of years in the future. Not impossible, but it’s a scenario I’d question more often than not.

As much as possible, it would be great to encounter heroes and heroines who act as if they live in their future rather than a milieu which reflects the culture of the time the book was written, or romance conceptual elements perpetuated by the romance community. It’s not always possible to escape such constraints, but I’ll award an “A” for effort anytime.

Further reading:

Readerly Desires and Aspirations at Teach Me Tonight

Romantic Fiction as Popular Culture at Racy Romance Reviews

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, January 23, 2010

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Steampunky Links & More

I discovered a few SFR links to share with you this weekend. The first is a guest post by Sarah A. Hoyt (DARKSHIP THIEVES) at Flying Whale Productions. The SF/F author shares an anecdote about her first foray into romance and how it impacted her writing.

Author Nathalie Gray has both a new blog as well as an official title for her forthcoming erotic steampunk romance novel: FULL STEAM AHEAD. Look for it in March from Red Sage.

Also, Edittorrent has three yummy posts on steampunk. The first is a steampunk 101 post by guest blogger Alison McMahan.

The second post, Making It Matter, offers an inside peek into the development of Nathalie Gray's FULL STEAM AHEAD.

In the third post, Red Sage editor Alicia challenges writers to share their ideas for the ideal query pitch for a steampunk story. Assuming non-SF/F editors or agents aren't familiar with steampunk, she asks, "What will help you get a read from this editor/agent?"

Worldbuilding for Science Fiction Romance by Jacqueline Lichtenberg is chock full of information on crafting an SFR. Really good stuff and you could probably get ideas for about 10 or 11 novels just from her post!

Finally, I've updated my post on SFR releases for 2010.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, January 21, 2010

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I Want To Be A Space Freighter Captain When I Grow Up

Okay, true confession time: I don’t really want to be in charge of my own space freighter. Fraught with peril, that line of work. Hauling cargo this way and that throughout the known galaxy? Dealing with cranky dock personnel? Constantly worrying about theft and backbiting from competitors? No thank you. The hours suck and the pay sucks even worse. Even though it’s a dirty job, someone has to do it—which is why I so very much adore characters who are captains of one. This is especially true if it’s the heroine in a science fiction romance.


Unmasked C.J. Barry The Quest Susan Kearney Unclaimed Nathalie Gray


In the past six months, I read UNMASKED by C.J. Barry, UNCLAIMED by Nathalie Gray, and THE QUEST by Susan Kearney. I didn’t read them because of the heroine’s occupations; it simply turned out to be a happy coincidence. And recently I learned that the heroine of Linnea Sinclair’s forthcoming short story, Courting Trouble commands her own freighter. Each of the above stories prompted me to reflect on why I become so excited whenever I read about a heroine in that line of work.

First of all, who is she? A heroine space freighter captain is frequently an underdog character. That aspect probably holds the most appeal for me. She’s an invisible, underestimated member of society. She is often poor by the standards of her time, which means her ship usually needs repairs she can’t afford and she has to fight for valuable contracts tooth and nail. Trouble always seems to find her—or she makes trouble for herself by virtue of her sassy, brassy attitude.

This scrappy heroine is tough, independent, and stubborn almost to a fault. She’s also intimately familiar with the ins and outs of a space freighter, which speaks to her technical savvy. Since said freighter frequently breaks down, ingenuity is a key survival skill. I think the heroine space freighter captain is a close cousin to space pirates because she often skirts the law or comes dangerously close to doing so in order to survive. She strikes me as a real women in extraordinary circumstances.

To overcome her challenges, she has to think quickly and act even faster. Danger arrives in the form of pirates, evil corporations, and oh yeah, the hero. Scenes in which she scrambles about her ship to reinforce its defenses—or simply persuade the gosh darn hunk-a-junk to start—leave me in awe. Plus, she gets to wear cool tank tops ‘n stuff. I think I get excited about that aspect almost as much as the hero!

In my lifetime, I will never, never, ever, most definitely not ever have the pleasure of traveling aboard a starship. I will never know how to fix a hyperdrive engine or its equivalent (although should we reach such a level of technology, I wonder if fixing a starship engine would in effect translate to the equivalent of repairing a car engine of today. Still, the idea of tinkering with a space freighter sounds so much more exotic!).

It’s a thought that makes me feel sad, until I remember that I can accomplish such a feat—in science fiction romance. I think it’s why I never tire of reading about dilapidated space freighters and the heroines who love them. That, to me, is an indelibly sacred experience.

What about you? Are there any particular jobs of the future that fascinate you?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

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What's The Secret Of Johanna Lindsey’s WARRIOR’S WOMAN?

WARRIOR’S WOMANWARRIOR’S WOMAN by Johanna Lindsey is invariably one of the books mentioned whenever there’s a general discussion of science fiction romance. After all, it was among the first wave of books that blended romance with science fiction for the romance crowd. Figuring I was going to read it at some point, I avoided learning anything about the plot. When I found it in my local library recently, I realized I was in the mood to try it (that, and the fact that a little birdie told me how “shudderific” it was. Gawd, was I intrigued!).

Admittedly, I did not have high expectations for WARRIOR’S WOMAN in the sense that I did not anticipate discovering cerebral speculative concepts or edgy content. I figured the story might veer toward campy BARBARELLA-style antics; however, given its original release date, I did expect it to be closer in overall tone/style to Jayne Ann Krentz’s SWEET STARFIRE (and it might help for you to know that I’ve never read a Lindsey book before).

So I cracked the cover and began reading. It started out fine—kick-ass heroine Tedra De Arr is a government security agent and the opening scenes show her in action. Then there’s a coup and she has to go undercover in order to escape invaders bent on world domination. There were plenty of hints foreshadowing that the hero would be all kinds of raw masculine hawtness. I mean, what’s not to like?

The answer: One particular aspect that stopped me cold. To my utter disappointment, about fifteen or twenty pages into the book, I had to stop reading.

Why? The prose. Surprised the holy heck out of me, too. Mind you, this could very well be a subjective reaction on my part, but I found the prose clunky and obscure. “Dense” is the word that keeps coming to my mind, because I had difficulty envisioning exactly what was happening in various scenes. Occasionally, I had to re-read sentences two or three different times to understand the meaning. The author had strung the words together in such a way that for me resulted in a laborious reading experience. I’d never experienced anything like it in a mainstream print romance novel.

It’s a shame, because I was truly looking forward to reading this book. I’ve not finished every single science fiction romance I started, but usually what causes me to put a book down is if I become bored, even if the writing is good. What struck me about this reading experience is that WARRIOR’S WOMAN seemed to have a healthy helping of intriguing can-you-believe-she’s-going-there elements, but they were buried under prose which felt so awkwardly constructed to me that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Plus, I wanted to learn what all the fuss was about.

For comparison’s sake, I visited the author’s Web site and read an excerpt from another of her books. There must be something unique to WARRIOR’S WOMAN and/or my interface with it because the excerpt of that other book was much more streamlined and clear to me.

Maybe you can help me put WARRIOR’S WOMAN into perspective. If you’ve read it, what was your experience of the book? What elements in it captured your imagination? Is this book important to the SFR subgenre mainly because of its place in SFR history, or is there something else it accomplished? If you read it and didn’t care for it, why?

Perhaps I’m better off experiencing WARRIOR’S WOMAN vicariously through your insights!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, January 17, 2010

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Exclusive Free Excerpt from Linnea Sinclair’s “Courting Trouble”

George R.R. Martin (A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE) and legendary SF/F anthology editor Gardner Dozois recently announced the table of contents for their anthology, SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH: Tales of Star-Crossed Love. This tome will feature stories blending fantasy, science fiction, and romance! And what a lineup! Check it out and tell me if anything in particular jumps out at you:

Jim Butcher "Love Hurts"
Jo Beverly "The Marrying Maid"
Carrie Vaughn "Rooftops"
M.L.N. Hanover "Hurt Me"
Cecelia Holland "Demon Lover"
Melinda M. Snodgrass "The Wayfarer's Advice"
Robin Hobb "Blue Boots"
Neil Gaiman "The Thing About Cassandra"
Marjorie M. Liu "After the Blood"
Jacqueline Carey "You and You Alone"
Lisa Tuttle "His Wolf"
Linnea Sinclair "Courting Trouble"
Mary Jo Putney "The Demon Dancer"
Tanith Lee "Under/Above the Water"
Peter S. Beagle "Kashkia"
Yasmine Galenorn "Man in the Mirror"
Diana Gabaldon "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows"

Did you catch it? Well, just in case you missed it (!), science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair (REBELS AND LOVERS) has contributed a story to SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH. Not only that, but she made an exclusive free excerpt available for the discerning passengers of this cosmic locomotive.

What a momentous occasion. Hats off to Sirs Martin and Dozois for their unapologetic inclusion of romance. As a fan of hybrid genre stories, I’m definitely rejoicing. And the anthology is a great way to bridge the ever-narrowing gap between SF/F and romance fans. (Hello, AVATAR!)

To read the free excerpt, just click here and download the PDF.

Thanks again to Linnea Sinclair for this opportunity to spread the SFR joy.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, January 14, 2010

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In Search of...Handicapped Heroines

Blade DancerEver in the pursuit of an intriguing science fiction romance, I’m always game for exploring the subgenres unique angles. Sometimes these angles are already being incorporated into stories, but occasionally they aren’t or not on a regular basis. Heroines with handicaps/disabilities is one such angle. Heroes with disabilities, whether physical or mental, seem to be much more common. But what about stories featuring heroines dealing with the same challenges? More on that later.

Given that we don’t yet know how physical and mental disabilities will be addressed in the future, both in terms of medical treatment/management and cultural attitudes toward them, I wonder about the different ways such a theme could be incorporated into SFR. I suppose there could be stories wherein our DNA is fine tuned to such an extent that biological impairments could be eliminated. Or perhaps medicine becomes so advanced that doctors can cure or regenerate any part of the human body in need of such treatment.

But would eliminating impairments make for an interesting science fiction romance? Or any speculative tale, for that matter. Never mind the fact that what science can do, nature can undo. We are bred to adapt. For example, even if science eliminated congenital blindness, might it resurface when its existence became crucial to the survival of our species?

During a recent exchange I had with TGE passenger Anne B., we were discussing how we’d both like to read a romance in which the heroine has a handicap. Our preference is for stories involving SF and/or fantasy, but we both agreed that any well-crafted story regardless of subgenre would be worth pursuing. But! As Anne astutely pointed out, the story would be more compelling if there weren’t any cop-outs. By cop outs, she clarified:

1) The heroine’s handicap is resolved/healed in some way prior to her HEA.

2) The handicap becomes a non-issue based on milieu (e.g., deafness in an environment where every non-deaf human has to wear earplugs to keep the local inhabitants from piercing human ear drums with their loud calls).

3) The couple is united by a magical, psychic, biological, etc. bond they have no control over. This bond tends to ensure the hero can’t have a satisfying relationship with the vast majority of otherwise eligible women.

4) The handicap turns out to be a side-effect of great magical or psychic power that enables the heroine to save the world or the country.

Turns out, heroines who win the hero despite their disabilities are on the rare side. Therefore, our search required assistance from an ally of epic proportions: Enter The League of Extraordinary Smart Bitches and Their Legions of Followers.

In GS: vs. STA: Handicapped Heroines, SB Sarah posed the challenge—and her army of romance fans answered the call. The thread swelled to many, many comments, and is a wealth of information on this topic. I took the liberty of culling most of the titles into a list, which I present for you below. I divided them into the broadest of broad categories, and have done my utmost to make sure each book is in the proper category. (However, I stopped short of an anal-retentive effort to place them in alphabetical order.)

So, if you’re interested in reading about romance heroines with disabilities--and why wouldn't you be--then today is your lucky day!

Paranormal/SF/F

SHADOW GAME—Christine Feehan (also has a blind pianiste in one of her Carpathian books)
BLADE DANCER—S.L.Viehl
THE FIRE KING—Marjorie Liu
MIDNIGHT RAIN—Holly Lisle
HAMMERED—Elizabeth Bear (Jenny Casey series)
SEX AND THE SINGLE VAMPIRE—Katie MacAlister
BROTHER TO DRAGONS, COMPANION TO OWLS—Jane Lindskold
GOD STALK, DARK OF THE MOON, SEEKER’S MASK, & TO RIDE A RATHORN—P.C. Hodgell
CODE OF CONDUCT, RULES OF CONFLICT, LAW OF SURVIAL, CONTACT IMMINENT, & ENDGAME—Kristin Smith
STRANGE BREW anthology (the Patricia Brigg story)
Tanya Huff’s Blood series
BEFORE THE CRADLE FALLS—James F. David
J.D. Robb’s DEATH series
Blue Champagne—John Varley
THE SHARING KNIFE series—Lois McMaster Bujold
EMBRACE THE NIGHT—Amanda Ashley
REMEMBER LOVE—Susan Plunkett
ONCE IN EVERY LIFE—Kristin Hannah
DARK LORD—Patricia Simpson
A CURIOUS AFFAIR—Melanie Jackson
THE SHIP WHO SANG—Anne McCaffrey
DREAMQUEST—Janet Miller
CAT OF A DIFFERENT COLOR—Dana Marie Bell (Halle Pumas)
Practically anything by Lois McMaster Bujold

Historical

ANNIE’S SONG, PHANTOM WALTZ—Catherine Anderson
RECKLESS—Amanda Quick
WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS—Carrie Lofty
CANDLE IN THE WINDOW—Christina Dodd
THE SPYMASTER’S LADY—Joanna Bourne
THE STRANGER’S SECRETS—Beth Williamson
THE GAMBLE—LaVyrle Spencer
DANCING WITH CLARA—Mary Balogh
FOOL FOR LOVE—Eloisa James
LORD ST. CLAIRE’S ANGEL—Donna Simpson
THE PARFIT KNIGHT—Juliet Blythe
RED ROSE & SILENT MELODY—Mary Balogh
HALFWAY TO HEAVEN—Susan Wiggs
SCANDAL BECOMES HER—Shirlee Busbee
To Kiss in the Shadows—Lynn Kurland(from the anthology TAPESTRY)
WINTERBOURNE—Susan Caroll
PROSPERO’S DAUGTHER—Nancy Butler
BLIND FORTUNE—Joanna Waugh
THE PERFECT BRIDE—Brenda Joyce
SWEET EVERLASTING—Patricia Gaffney
PROMISES LINGER—Sarah McCarty
HAZARD—Jo Beverly
HOMESPUN BRIDE—Jillian Hart
TO PLEASURE A PRINCE—Sabrina Jeffries
TOUCH ME—Jacquie d’Alessandro
THE EMERALD DREAM series—B.J. Hoff
THE DARKEST KNIGHT—Gayle Callen

Contemporary

MOUTH TO MOUTH—Erin McCarthy
FEARLESS—Diana Palmer
TEA FOR THREE—Anne Douglas
PALOMINO—Danielle Steele
A LITTLE BIT PREGNANT—Susan Mallery
INTO THE FIRE—Suzanne Brockmann
A MAN LIKE MAC—Fay Robinson
A PRINCE FOR JENNY—Peggy Webb
NIGHT INTO DAY & STAR SONG—Sandra Canfield
A ROSE AT MIDNIGHT—Anne Stuart
SAMANTHA’S COWBOY—Marin Thomas
STEVE’S STORY—Jess Dee
LET ME IN—Donna Kauffman
THE NEKKID TRUTH—Nicole Camden (from BIG GUNS OUT OF UNIFORM)
AN ACCIDENTAL WOMAN—Barbara Delinsky
DRAW DOWN THE MOON & SHELTERING BRIDGES—Bobby Hutchinson
LISTEN TO THE CHILD—Caroline McSparren
MAKE ME A MIRACLE—Ruth Glick
THE MARRIAGE MIRACLE—Liz Fielding
One of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series features a blind heroine)
THE IVORY CANE—Janet Dailey
HIRED: CINDERELLA CHEF—Myrna McKenzie
SECOND CHANCE HERO—Justine Davis
NIGHTSHADES AND ORCHIDS—Kelly Walsh
SISTERS FOUND—Joan Johnston
BLACKMAILED INTO MARRIAGE—Lucy Monroe
UNSPEAKABLE & ABOVE AND BEYOND—Sandra Brown
DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT—Raeanne Thane
OUT OF THE BLUE—Sally Mandel
RIDE A STORM—Quinn Wilder
HOME BEFORE DARK—Susan Wiggs
A SOLDIER’S HEART—Kathleen Korbel

Other

PREIOUS BANE—Mary Webb (first published in 1924)
ONLY LOVE—Susan Sallis (YA, non HEA, bittersweet ending)
CHILD OF THE PROPHECY (3rd book in the historical fantasy series Sevenwaters)—Juliet Marillier

For more titles, check out All About Romance’s listing for heroes and heroine’s with disabilities here and here.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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Spotlight On Desert Breeze Publishing

Desert Breeze Publishing


Almost as exciting as the thrill of discovering a new science fiction romance is the discovery of a publisher that releases books in the sub-genre.

Enter Desert Breeze Publishing, which opened its doors at the tail end of 2008. I first blogged about Desert Breeze in December 2008. The company publishes romance ebooks in multiple sub-genres. What distinguishes Desert Breeze from other digital romance publishers is its decision to exclude erotica and erotic romances from its offerings (and authors of GLBT/multiple partners/BDSM romances should look elsewhere).

It’s an interesting niche to exploit, and of course the fact that the company has been actively seeking science fiction romance stories piqued my curiosity from the start. However, as a new publisher, Desert Breeze also has much to prove to both readers and authors. When Skiffy Rommer Natalie Hatch alerted me about this interview, I decided there’s no time like the present to blog about the publisher in more detail.

While giving the company’s Web site a closer look, I discovered that the information raised some questions for me. In light of that, I contacted owner and Editor-in-Chief Gail Delaney (author of THE PHOENIX REBELLION) and asked her to make the case as to why aspiring and established science fiction romance authors should submit their works to Desert Breeze Publishing, and why readers should purchase its titles.

The Galaxy Express: Desert Breeze has expressed a strong interest in acquiring science fiction romance titles. Are there any specific story elements or types you’d like to see (e.g., space opera, post-apocalyptic, steampunk, superhuman, etc.)? Are there any overused tropes or clich├ęs you’d like to avoid encountering in manuscript submissions (from either the SF or romance side)?

Gail Delaney: I am a firm believer that to truly give justice to science fiction, you need to do it on a grand scale – either a novel of substantial length or better yet, a series. I love space operas and post-apocalyptic themes. I haven't read much steampunk myself, but that being said, I'm not opposed to being 'won over' by the right submission. I want to see science fiction that has been clearly thought out, researched to the extent that the science and the story are plausible, and I want strong character-driven storylines.

As far as things I don't want to see…

Science fiction isn't about how bizarre or 'out there' you can make your settings or cast of characters. It's about well developed storylines and elegant story arcs that draw the reader into the book. Not – and no pun intended – to alienate them by making the setting so bizarre they can't get past it to enjoy the book.

I also don't want zoomorphism when the author creates their alien races. Making a man look like a cat, or a dog, or a lizard doesn't convince me they're alien. However, if you provide a humanoid-type race that has branched off to some other evolutionary branch than humans that provide them with psychic abilities beyond the capability of humankind – that I can accept. Or different physical traits due to different environmental influences. That I can see as well. But just adding animal characteristics isn't appealing to me.

On the romance side, my greatest pet peeve is the 'misunderstanding' as a ploy to keep two characters apart. If half a book of angst could have been solved by one character asking the other a simple question… or by clarifying a point… but they don't… that I just find frustrating as a reader.

At Desert Breeze, we're also looking for books that focus on the development of the relationship between the characters. I don't want their growing relationship to be solely based on their physical need for each other. There is no doubt that physical attraction is a necessity when building a romance – but it shouldn't be the sole focus.

TGE: Please name a few of your favorite science fiction romance titles. What is it about these stories that appeal to you?

GD: I'm going back a few years, but I really enjoyed the 2176 Series of books, which were written by several different authors in the genre, including Susan Grant, Liz Maverick, Patti O'Shea and Kathleen Nance. I enjoy novels that explore the potential of our future as the human race should certain twists occur in history. The 2176 series does a very good job of doing that.

I also generally enjoy Linnea Sinclair. She writes intriguing science fiction with a nice balance of romance.

I also enjoy the Underground series by Esther Mitchell. Her stories are gritty with an edge that keeps me completely enthralled. I also like the way the relationship between her characters don't begin and end with any given book – but they are allowed to grow and change, sometimes almost to the point of breaking, through the course of the series.

TGE: Please tell us about your editing background.

GD: I began just as a critique partner for several other authors many years ago. I've studied creative writing and English, so I was able to help my peers with several aspects of their writing – including structural changes such as passive voice etc, to make their writing stronger.

After becoming published myself, I was offered a position as a staff editor for a publishing company. After several months working as a general staff editor, I was promoted to Executive Editor and Acquisitions Editor (Specifically for the science fiction and futuristic lines). Unfortunately, my time in that position ended abruptly when the publishing company unexpectedly closed and filed bankruptcy.

Now, I wear several hats… including Editor-In-Chief and Acquisitions Editor. I've been told by more than one author that I edit their books like no other editor they've ever had. I don't believe that editing ends with fixing typos or bad grammar. Editing a book involves buffing and polishing that book to a fine shine.

TGE: How would you describe the Desert Breeze Publishing brand?

GD: It wasn't the tagline we originally began with, but over the months I've begun to use this phrase more and more… 'Desert Breeze Publishing… classic romance in not so classic settings'.

In the last few years, the concept of 'romance' has evolved into highly explicit, highly erotic tales of how quickly and how often two (or more) characters can get into bed. And I'm not about to argue the popularity of these novels. But, we want to offer books that are character-driven stories of the growth of two people – together – as they fall in love and build something better with two. Sometimes, they're werewolves. Sometimes, they're vampires. Sometimes, they're aliens from a planet not so different from Earth. Sometimes, they're just regular people. Thus the 'not so classic' part of our statement.

TGE: What is your specific plan regarding harnessing social media resources to raise the visibility of your brand online? In other words, how will science fiction romance readers and authors know where to find Desert Breeze Publishing? Please provide specific examples of the tools that you have already used. Feel free to provide existing links demonstrating the company’s online presence.

GD: One of the biggest challenges in using social media is determining what really works, and what doesn't. What once worked, what's working now, and staying on the lookout for potential resources in the future.

For instance, Yahoo Groups is a dying beast. It's great for us to use to keep in contact with our authors, but as a promotional tool, it has lost its effectiveness. MySpace provides a spot for people to look… but it's not successfully interactive. The current 'winner' is Facebook because of the ease of use and ability to interact actively with our 'fans' and readers. (Desert Breeze Facebook page)

We are always seeking potential places to attract readers, and do not limit ourselves to online media to do so. We are currently looking into some print magazines for the genre – specifically science fiction – and hope to have some print ads in the future.

TGE: In general, how much marketing and promotion do you expect authors to execute?

GD: It once was an accepted myth that once the author put pen to ink on a contract, the publisher would take it from there. And perhaps once upon a time that was true, but even in 'traditional' publishing, that is no longer the case. Authors need to make themselves visible, and since people have become so intricately linked to the Internet, they expect to be able to connect on some personal level with authors.

My minimum requirement is a well planned, executed and maintained web site. An ebook author MUST have an online presence with a website. Beyond that, I strongly recommend social media such as Facebook, Twitter and/or a blog. Some of my authors have begun doing monthly newsletters with great success.

Another great way to promote is to cross-promote. Organic advertising. Interview another author on your blog. You link to them and they link to you. Post comments at blogs. Follow authors. The more you're out there, the more people see you.

I do not expect my authors to put out large chunks of money for advertising and promotion. The truth is that very few people – whether in ebooks or traditional publishing – make a lot of money as an author. There are avenues and resources to be used for promotion that won't break the bank.

We are very communicative with our authors, and encourage them to share with their peers anything they may find that works for them. Or new resources they've discovered. The best way to learn in this business is to learn from each other.

TGE: In the FAQs, Desert Breeze states that “we do not consider the terms of the contract negotiable. No changes will be made to any contract clauses.” Why is that? I was surprised to read that, especially in light of the fact that other well-known digital publishers are open to negotiation on at least some of the terms.

GD: Just as there are some companies that will negotiate their contract, there is probably a comparable amount that will not. Our business model at this time – as a newer company – is to be consistent with our contract for all our authors. The only time our contract is changed is when we contract an author who has representation with an agent simply because certain stipulations must be made to allow them to meet their contractual obligations to their agents.

I do not make decisions regarding the running of my company based on what others do, I base it on what is best for us and for our authors. As an author first, I view everything I do from both sides of the table. How would I feel about this decision as an author? How is it beneficial to me as an author and as a business owner?

Have I had authors choose not to sign with us because of my firm stance on this? Yes. But in truth, the number is miniscule in comparison to the authors who have chosen to be with us because of our philosophies and benefits as a whole. When we developed our contract, we applied that same philosophy. Every point is designed to benefit everyone involved. And while I won't change the wording, I will discuss our decision to have a certain point applied to the contract with any author offered a contract.

TGE: Regarding royalties, the FAQ states that “All books sold via our storefront will pay the author 35% of net…” Why net and not a percentage of the original cover price?

GD: This comes down to number crunching and the fact that different third party distributors take different sized pieces of the pie. In the case of the particular percentage you quote, this is applicable to all sales from our storefront. In this case, net IS gross. We don't have to give anyone else any part of that book sale. So, if your book sells for $5.99 at our storefront, Desert Breeze 'nets' $5.99 and you get 35% of that.

When we sell books at another site – just as an example, let's say Books on Board – the book sells for the same price to the reader. But BoB takes a 50% commission on each book sold… which means that Desert Breeze Publishing receives $3.00 rather than $5.99. We pay 40% of that $3.00 to our authors. The compromise we offer with the net being lower here is that the author gets more of that particular piece of pie we're left with. 40% versus 35%.

The truth of it is that we – and other publishers – are businesses. While we all – publishers and authors included – would love to be rolling in the dough, the reality of it is that we have to find a balance that keeps us running. If we can't run, no one sells books. 

TGE: On the Submissions page, you state that you are not seeking novellas or shorts at this time. Why not? Are you going to consider releasing any science fiction romance anthologies in the future?

GD: This is actually going to change in the future. As of right now, I've stopped reviewing submissions for a short time. We are solidly scheduled through all of 2010. When I open submissions again – some time around July of 2010 – I am going to open up options for novellas. Science fiction anthologies will be themed, and for now, I am doing them on a by invitation basis. In fact, we will have an anthology titled Borealis that will release in October 2010.

TGE: Have you released any science fiction romance titles yet? If so, please tell us about them. Are there any forthcoming titles?

GD: As of January 2010, we are actively releasing two science fiction series. The first is the Chronicles of Kassouk series written by Vijaya Schartz. The first book, White Tiger, was released in August of 2009 and the second book in the series, Red Leopard, will release in April of 2010. Kassouk is set on a far away planet where Humans have colonized, but we aren't recognizable as the human society that left Earth… and we are now governed by an alien race known as the Godds.

I have also re-released a futuristic series I wrote with another publisher (the publisher who I mentioned earlier that filed bankruptcy). The series name is The Phoenix Rebellion and is mostly on Earth in our not too distant future.

P.I. Barrington is writing a near-future/suspense series called Future Imperfect set on Earth in the near future. The first book, Crucifying Angel, is available now and has received some truly wonderful critical acclaim, and the second book, Miraculous Deception, will release in June of 2010.

Coming in 2010 is a series by Jennifer Hartz called Future Savior that will release throughout 2010, 2011 into 2012 and has a strong fantasy/Christian theme that we are very excited about releasing.

As I mentioned, we are solidly booked for 2010 but as we open submissions again I would love to see us have a science fiction romance release nearly every month.

TGE: Is there anything else about Desert Breeze Publishing that you would like to share?

GD: Goodness, I fell like I've rambled on quite enough. :)

Thank you so much for having me, and for opening your blog up for this interview. I invite anyone who has any questions or would like to know anything at all to feel free and email me at EditorInChief@DesertBreezePublishing.com

Ms. Delaney, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Additional Information about Desert Breeze Publishing

Desert Breeze Blog
Desert Breeze on MySpace
Desert Breeze on Facebook
Desert Breeze Connections Yahoo group

An Interview with Desert Breeze Publishing

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, January 11, 2010

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GIRL GONE NOVA Contest

Author Pauline B. Jones (THE KEY) wrote her second science fiction romance, GIRL GONE NOVA (April 2010). Not only that, but she has a forthcoming steampunk romance novella as well!

Read on for more information about GIRL GONE NOVA...and the contests!

About the story:

"Doc--Delilah Oliver Clementyne’s—orders are simple: do the impossible and do it fast. A genius/bad ass, she does the impossible on a regular basis. But this time the impossible is complicated by an imminent war between the Earth expedition to the Garradian Galaxy and the Gadi, an encounter with some wife-hunting aliens, and not one but two bands of time travelers.

She could handle all that, but her biggest challenge—and the reason the impossible might be not possible this time—is that she’s fallen in love.

Wrong time, wrong man, wrong everything. So why does it feel so right?"

Click here to read the excerpt.

To celebrate the release of GIRL GONE NOVA, Pauline B. Jones is giving away a prize a month until April. Details excerpted from the “Contests” post at Author Island:

"To be entered to win, just visit www.perilouspauline.com and email Pauline with your favorite item from her Adventures in Reading section (in her navigation bar).

Email your answer to pauline@paulinebjones.com along with your name and address and put GIRL GONE NOVA COUNTDOWN in the subject line!

Check back in February for a new question and prize!"

Also, the author is having a contest for her as-yet-unnamed forthcoming steampunk romance novella. Help her come up with a title and you will be entered to win a shiny steampunk necklace! Details to enter this free contest are here. The deadline to enter is January 31, 2010.

For more information about the author and her work, you can read an interview I conducted with her in 2008 for my Catch A Rising Star feature.

Congratulations, Ms. Jones!

Joyfully yours,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

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“What’s Magma?” & Avoiding Speaking Down to Your Audience

Tommy Lee JonesThe quote in the post title refers to a line from VOLCANO, a 1997 film about—you guessed it, a volcano. When the titular terror threatens the city of Los Angeles, Emergency Management Director Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) teams up with geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) to prevent a catastrophe of Epic! Proportions!

But it wasn’t the film’s cheesetastic plot that left an indelible impression on me. No, that honor goes to the line uttered by Roark shortly after he meets Dr. Barnes. While the good doctor is providing him a basic—and I do mean basic—overview of how volcanoes work, she uses the word “magma.”

Roark’s response? All together now, “What’s magma?”

To which I responded, WTF?

A little part of my bran died when I heard that line. Not only did Tommy Lee Jones appear painfully embarrassed and bored while reciting it, but clearly the screenwriters assumed audiences had an IQ about as low as, well, magma. They certainly defied credulity by indicating their protagonist had never heard of it. Wince-worthy, to say the least. I’ve remembered this line for so long and with such clarity because it made me realize that while it’s important to avoid losing a viewer or reader with complicated technobabble, artists occasionally take such a technique to extremes.

Souless Gail CarrigerMy longtime sordid affair with “What’s magma?” became relevant for me again after finishing Gail Carriger’s SOULLESS (which is straight up paranormal romance with steampunk elements). Her book prompted me to reflect about the learning curve issue when I encountered historical terms with which I was unfamiliar.

I had difficulty wrapping my mind around some of the clothing descriptions (even with historical romances under my belt). “What’s magma?” Tommy Lee Curtis asks. Well I’ll see your magma and raise you a “What the heck is a gaiter?”

But the steampunk and paranormal elements? A cinch.

[Slight Spoiler Alert!] I had no trouble envisioning the author’s automaton character. (As an aside, she merged elements of both golems* and automatons which made me go, hmm based on previous knowledge, but your mileage may vary.) [End Slight Spoiler Alert] And of course, I immediately grasped the “Babbage engine” reference pretty much with both mental hands tied behind my back. I even noticed elements of HELLBOY in the story (e.g., HELLBOY’s “Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) compared to SOULLESS’ “Bureau of Unnatural Registry” (BUR)). This is not to say that I think Ms. Carriger intentionally swiped the idea; rather, that I brought to the book a certain subset of knowledge that considerably shortened my learning curve regarding the paranormal and steampunk elements.

That said, I appreciated that the author didn’t spell out all the clothing references via inane "As you know, Bob..." dialogue and I certainly didn’t expect her to do so. When reading, I believe that part of my job is to either look up an unfamiliar term and/or read more tales in the genre to increase my knowledge of such elements. For me, learning something new is one of the enjoyable aspects of reading.

Works like SOULLESS remind me that while the learning curve in science fiction romance is there, it’s not any more difficult than learning the social minutiae of Victorian culture or dress. For that reason, I’d encourage new readers to embrace the learning curve in SFR. Especially in hybrid genres, two or more learning curves may even exist. They aren't always limited to the science fictional elements, either. As long as authors make the material accessible without "magma-tizing" the content, I'm happy.

What’s your perspective on the learning curve in science fiction romance, especially compared to other sub-genres of romance?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Postus Scriptus If you like golems and steampunk, I heartily recommend Alexander C. Irvine’s THE NARROWS.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

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Steampunk Workshop Hosted by Romance Divas

steampunk romance

Mark your cosmic calendars! Romance Divas will be hosting a Steampunk Workshop January 21-23, 2010. Check out the author lineup:

Zoe Archer
Meljean Brook
Gail Carriger
Sarah A. Hoyt
Katie MacAlister
Dru Pagliassotti

The workshop will be held at the Romance Divas Forum. You will need to register, but it's free. (Thanks to Melisse Aires for the link.)

Joyfully yours,

Heather
Written on

Grab 'em While They're Hot: Three New E-books from Samhain

HAPPY SNAK Nicole KimberlingHermaphroditic aliens. Sexy political bedfellows. Time traveling rock stars.

You can find all of these and more in three of Samhain Publishing's latest erotic science fiction romance releases:

HAPPY SNAK by Nicole Kimberling

Genre: Fantasy-SciFi
ISBN: 978-1-60504-849-9
Length: Novel
Price: 5.50
Publication Date: December 22, 2009
Cover art by Kanaxa

A little uncivil disobedience is good for the soul…

Gaia Jones is on A-Ki space station for one reason, and it’s not to ogle the hermaphroditic aliens. She’s out to make a name for herself and her line of intoxicating human snacks. Not easy in A-Ki’s tightly controlled society. Her task gets even more delicate when she rushes to the aid of a dying alien—and finds herself the unwilling guardian of a shunned alien ghost named Kenjan. And the new owner of his slave.

The danger mounts when Kenjan’s grieving lover, the powerful leader of the Kishocha, offers her a dream and a nightmare rolled into one: a new store all her own with a strange double purpose—half snack bar, half shrine. The catch? She must spend the rest of her life there, tending Kenjan the Heretic’s ghost. Or the entire station will be destroyed.

There’s only one way to gain both her freedom and justice for Kenjan—teach both the powerful government elite and the Kishocha theocracy a lesson in uncivil disobedience…

Warning: This book contains excessive consumption of clams and clam-based snacks. Also, gratuitous abuse of orange dye, as well as summary decapitation, forbidden love, alien sex and one beloved hamster named Microbe.

FOUR PLAY Shelli StevensFOUR PLAY by Shelli Stevens

Genre: Romantic SciFi-Futuristic, Red Hots!
ISBN: 978-1-60504-878-9
Length: Novella
Price: 3.50
Publication Date: January 19, 2010
Cover art by Natalie Winters

Duty required she choose one life mate. Her heart wants all three.

Mikayla knew this day was coming. News has come down from the planetary elders—now that she’s twenty-five, the law requires she pick her lifemate. She may be the planetary secretary, but when it comes to trying out potential mates, she’s inexperienced and nervous.

She only needs one man with whom she can trust her life. Luckily she knows three—all friends since childhood. Even if they’re not thrilled to be her potential lifemate, it’s the only way she can get through this process.

Mikayla couldn’t be more wrong about Cedric, Kyle, and Brett. They’re eager, yet resentful about the situation. Each one would kill to claim her, but they’re not too happy about having to risk their friendship to win her love. Yet, one by one, they set out to do just that.

Mikayla is stunned to learn all three men drive her mad with desire—and make her feel cherished. Loved. Choosing one seems impossible, until the one man she doesn’t want forces her hand…

Warning: This book contains one female being thoroughly tempted by three very different males—sometimes at the same time! It contains m/m and m/f/m/m scenes, rough lovin’, gentle lovin’, and all of the above lovin’.

Black Legacy Juliana StoneBlack Legacy by Juliana Stone

Genre: Romantic SciFi-Futuristic, Romantic Time Travel
ISBN: 978-1-60504-888-8
Length: Short Story
Price: 2.50
Publication Date: February 2, 2010
Cover art by Natalie Winters

She’ll make sure he survives the night…even if it costs her heart.

Black Opals, Book 1

Frankie Black is a woman in need of a mission. For a Black Opal—a warrior woman who shifts backward or forward through time in order to, well, save the world—the last six months of downtime have left her bored. Restless. And with a feeling that something is about to hit the fan.

Finally, an assignment: save the life of Dekkar James, an infamous rock god living three hundred years in the past. Tattooed, ruggedly handsome and perfectly imperfect, one look at him and it’s as if her sleeping body springs to life.
One minute Dekkar is having the most mind-blowing sex of his life. The next, goons are breaking down his door, and he’s on the run with a woman who turns from lover to warrior in the blink of an eye.

Dealing with the New Order, operatives who manipulate time without regard for the consequences, is nothing new for Frankie. But this time their tactics have a more personal edge—they’ve found a way to seek out the Opals’ predestined mates.
Unless she can save Dekkar’s life, her future will be the first casualty in a battle for the fate of humankind.

Warning: Contains one hot dude with tattoos, a woman who won’t take no for an answer, steamy sex, an ancient Harley and a little bit of time travel.

Thanks to Marty for the heads up!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

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Who are the DARKSHIP THIEVES?

DARKSHIP THIEVESOn January 5, Baen Books released Sarah A. Hoyt’s DARKSHIP THIEVES. I’m excited to share that this book is a science fiction romance, albeit one that’s slightly undercover. The author presents a fascinating and at times mind-boggling account about the book’s path to publication. Her journey reveals how important timing—and persistence—can be when it comes to submitting projects like SFR.

What did I mean by undercover? Check out the basic premise of DARKSHIP THIEVES from the publisher's site:

"Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. Never had any interest in finding out the truth about the DarkShips. You always get what you don’t ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father’s space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger—who turned out to be one of her father’s bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help. But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime—if she managed to survive . . . ."

But as intriguing as this marketing copy sounds, there’s nothing in it to suggest science fiction romance, or even romantic SF. Huh!

Now even if I had perused the book’s information at Baen’s site, I would have overlooked it as far as this blog is concerned. It’s only because of word of mouth that the author brought her book to my attention. Thank goodness for that, or I would have missed the chance to enjoy and blog about a new SFR release for who knows how long.

While describing the book, Sarah A. Hoyt shares that “If you like non-military space opera with a strong female main character who doesn't roll over at the first sign of trouble, you'll love Athena!” The author guest blogged about the book and revealed that DARKSHIP THIEVES “…features the world’s weirdest love declaration…”

Wow, where do I sign up?!

You can read the first three chapters of DARKSHIP THIEVES for free. Here’s a list of places you can order the book online, as provided by Baen Books.

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

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SF/F Romance Gets Its Own Category in the Golden Quill Contest

Attention published authors!

I got a hot tip about a published authors' contest from Skiffy Rommer Mary Fitzpatrick. GOLDEN QUILL, an award bequeathed by the Desert Rose RWA of Phoenix, AZ, seeks entries of published books in multiple romance genres including science fiction romance. This is for books published in 2009. The great thing about this contest is that there is a separate category called "Fantasy/Science Fiction/Futuristic."

Not that there's anything wrong with paranormal :P, but the more contests that provide a clearer delineation between subgenres, the better.

You can read the contest guidelines for more information. And there's no time to submit like the present, because the deadline is January 15, 2010!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


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Calling All Authors

Guten TagWhen I started The Galaxy Express, I did so with the understanding that I would need to be proactive in unearthing as many science fiction romance books as possible. I made a commitment to spending time every week seeking out new life and new civilizations the latest news and events in the subgenre. The challenge and thrill of discovery is a tremendously fun part of the process.

I love to hear about forthcoming science fiction romance books even before the ink on the contract is dry. I’ve been learning how beneficial it is to unearth this news as soon as possible. With a subgenre as niche as SFR, such information is crucial to its survival. I envision this blog as a way of connecting readers with the flavors of stories they enjoy the most. The more books readers know about, the more they can support the artists who create them.

To obtain the necessary information, I visit numerous sites on a regular basis. However, I can’t reach them all every week. Scandalous, I know. So what’s a blogger to do?

We all know that blatant promotion in the comment section is a drag, but here at TGE I’m actively seeking new books in the science fiction romance genre, so I appreciate authors who are proactive about providing the information where appropriate. If you’re conducting a promotion for your SFR, I’m all ears. Have a new cover to share, or you’ve just revamped your Web site? Bring it on!

The Galaxy Express is a niche blog for a niche subgenre. But it’s also a part of a larger science fiction romance community of readers, authors, editors, and publishers. The more we know—and the earlier we know—the more we can spread the buzz buzz buzz.

I’ll admit to being perplexed at times when authors don’t take advantage of promotional opportunities whose only costs are time and imagination. Authors are busy people—absolutely understood. And there are life circumstances that prohibit promotion at times. But in an age of publishing industry upheaval, fierce competition, and little publicity support from publishers, online communities will play an increasingly important role in connecting authors directly with readers.

All I’m trying to say is, if you have any news related to your SFR books, contact me at any stage in the process at sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com. If you bring the news directly to me, I can act on it faster than if you depend on me to make the rounds. To the authors, readers, bloggers, and editors who have been doing this already, I thank you.

Remember, during my monthly “SFR Linkfest,” anyone is welcome to post SFR news, links, and current events in the comment section. I will do my best to get the information out there. I can’t promise the moon, but when possible it may show up in venues in addition to The Galaxy Express (Hello, Loveletter! Hello, Tor.com!).

Why, feel free to hit me up right now!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, January 3, 2010

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An Oldie But A Goodie: JARAN by Kate Elliott

Jaran Kate ElliottOne aspect of science fiction romance that I find both enjoyable and challenging is that it has a tendency to take on a different form at times—you know, kind of like a Transformer (my favorite one is Soundwave if you must know. Remember the cadence of his computerized voice when he uttered the line, “Laserbeak, transform!”? Too cool for skool, that robot). Anyway, such permutations involve several factors such as the time period in which the book is written, the individual author’s style, and the sub-genre’s hybrid nature.

Some time ago, I’d learned that quite a few readers placed Kate Elliott’s JARAN under the science fiction romance umbrella. So when I had some birthday dinero burning a hole in my pocket, I bought JARAN to read and discover the adventures therein. Now that I’ve finished it, I’d like to highlight a few bits of the story’s personality so the fine passengers of this locomotive who haven’t read it can decide if it’s a book they’d like to try. Here’s a minimalist description of the story.

I will endeavor to keep this post spoiler free.

JARAN was originally published in 1992. According to the author’s introduction in the 2002 tenth anniversary edition (the version I read), she wrote the first draft of the story from 1980-81. In the decade that followed, the manuscript went through “seven major revisions.” While I knew nothing about the story going in (I even avoided the back cover copy), I’m glad I read the introduction because it helped shape my expectations for the story. After having read a slew of recently released books, I had to re-orient myself to both a new-to-me author as well as the style of an SF book written nearly thirty years ago.

The version I read is 494 pages long. It’s epic in length and pacing, but not so much in scope. The reason I conclude that is because the majority of the story is narrated from the heroine’s POV. To me, JARAN felt like a heroine-centric coming-of-age tale with a singular focus on the point in her life when she develops a relationship with the hero. In other words, the romance in this book does quite a bit of heavy lifting. The length allowed for nearly equal development of both the romance and the external plot—or rather subplots as it’s difficult to pinpoint any one of them as more important than the other.

Another aspect of the book I found interesting is that, stylistically, it read like a fantasy much of the time. This is because there’s a quest involved in a low tech setting, and the execution uses many fantasy tropes (not a bad thing unless you just don’t feel like fantasy at the moment). If you’re coming to SFR from a strictly fantasy reading background, then JARAN is a great place to start. Also, if you love fantasy romance, then you’ll probably enjoy it as well.

The high tech science fictional elements serve to bracket the coming-of-age story more than anything else. Let me put it this way: If you’ve always been fascinated by Star Trek’s Prime Directive, then JARAN explores that theme in an interesting way. I enjoyed learning how it significantly impacted the romance.

JARAN is a very character-driven story, almost to the exclusion of other elements at times. Even when the heroine, Tess Soerensen, wasn’t with the hero, she was often thinking about him or discussing him with other people. Speaking of the hero, Ilya Bakhtiian is an intriguing example of a non-jerk Alpha hero. He’s intelligent, a warrior, and driven to lead. He’s also arrogant and ruthless, but the author provides clear motivation and gives the reader a direct window to the forces that shaped his personality. The romance in this book is between two mature, deeply contemplative people. Incidentally, all of the lovemaking scenes occur behind closed doors.

Slight, non-major spoiler if you have certain expectations for a heroine’s physical relations: Prior to realizing her true feelings for Ilya, Tess has a few healthy sexual relations with two other men. This is, after all, the future, but it’s also a normal component of the culture in which she’s immersed at the time.

Also, JARAN is the first in a series. It works as a stand alone, especially as far as the romance is concerned (some might consider it a Happily For Now). However, if you’re a plot gal or guy, there is one thread left unfinished (a political one that’s a set up for the next book). I wasn’t frustrated by it, but your mileage may vary.

Overall, the mix of SF and romance in JARAN met my expectations for the sub-genre. It holds up very well, and I was intrigued by how Kate Elliott executed and merged the romance and science fictional elements. I definitely recommend it if you're in the mood for a science fiction romance classic.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, January 2, 2010

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Win Jess Granger's BEYOND THE RAIN & SFR Submission Opportunities

Over at The Bradford Bunch, Jess Granger is hosting a free contest to win either a signed copy of her debut novel BEYOND THE RAIN, or a sneak peek at an exclusive excerpt of her forthcoming release, BEYOND THE SHADOWS (May, 2010).

Hurry, the contest ends January 4. To enter, all you need to do is ask her a question. Have some fun with it!

I also have two science fiction romance submission opportunities to tell you about, courtesy of Skiffy Rommer Lisa Paitz Spindler who found them on S.L.Viehl's blog Paperback Writer.

Here they are:

Absolute Xpress submission guidelines

Wily Writers submission guidelines

Joyfully yours,

Heather