Friday, April 30, 2010

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Three SFR Titles Among Carina Press Launch Books

Recently, Carina Press revealed its lineup of launch authors and books. In addition to KS Augustin's IN ENEMY HANDS (click here for my previous coverage of the book), there are two erotic science fiction romances among the list.

The first is ALIEN REVEALED by Lilly Cain. Here is the premise, courtesy of the author's Web site:

Inarrii agent Alinna Gaerrii was tasked with observing the Starforce base on Earth. Crash landing her observation pod onto the human base was not part of her mission briefing. Neither was making m’ittar – mind contact – with Major David Brown, the human who discovered her amongst the wreckage.

David thinks she’s a human psychologist sent to evaluate his Special Forces team – but she soon invades his dreams. Through their intimate mental connection she allows him to express his forbidden physical desires.

Alinna delights in the sensory exploration and submits to David in mind and body. She grows excited by the prospect of a treaty with the humans and a potential life mate in David. But an attack from an unknown ship sends the base into chaos, and Alinna may be forced to reveal her lie: erasing all hope of a successful treaty, and driving David away forever…



The second is HUNTERS by Michelle Marquis and Lindsey Bayer. (Unfortunately, I forgot to ask anyone at Carina for a copy of the cover in time for this post, so all I have is a small image I grabbed from the author's site.)

Here's the premise:

Nothing haunts you like the one that got away.

Harmony Knox is one of the smartest and most successful bounty hunters in the galaxy. From the crowded cities of Pyrus Four to the jungles of AEssyria no one can match her record for excellence and success. That was until an alien brain-eater named Prime became her only failure and escaped her, landing her in an AEssyrian jail for a year.

Now Harmony is free and things between her and Prime are personal. Vowing to capture him once and for all, Harmony will stop at nothing to catch this skip and put an end to his criminal career forever.

Barracuda Tanner is a haunted, ruthless man who became a bounty hunter when all other professions failed him. Emotionally scarred by his two year enslavement as a Kirillian cage fighter, he is searching for that one person who could mend his troubled heart. When he teams up with Harmony to catch the hydrocore Prime, he finally finds the one thing he’d been missing all his life; love.


And again, here is the cover for KS Augustin's IN ENEMY HANDS:



Also, Carina is hosting daily giveaways as well as a grand prize one ("the entire collection of 38 digital launch titles") until the official launch day, which is June 7, 2010.

Edited to add: Courtesy of Ms. Augustin, here are the dates you can enter for a chance to win the SFR titles:

In Enemy Hands - KS Augustin - May 2
Alien Revealed - Lily Cain - May 16
Hunters - Michelle Marquis & Lindsey Bayer - May 21


So that's three SFR titles out of 38 launch titles total. Not a bad day for science fiction romance, eh?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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What Would You Miss In A Post-Apocalyptic World?

I recently finished TSUNAMI BLUE by Gayle Ann Williams, and it left me with a serious coffee craving. Well…I kind of already experience that on a daily basis, but reading the story, in which a series of catastrophic tsunamis have drowned much of Earth, made me appreciate how well I have it these days, living as I do in a…hmm…pre-pre-apocalyptic world?



In TSUNAMI BLUE, coffee is a commodity worth its weight in gold. Coffee growers can't cultivate it anymore (if they're not already dead), so survivors barter whatever packages of the caffeinated elixir they can scrounge (sometimes this means diving beneath the ocean’s surface to forage through underwater supermarkets! If you’re a coffee lover, can you blame them?).

Of course, the book featured a romance, action, and some nice gritty scenes, but I liked that it was a science fiction romance from which I could take away something meaty to mull over. Sometime all it takes is a single element in the story.



In TWIST by Colby Hodge, the heroine time travels to a period about a hundred years in the future. A plague has ravaged Earth’s population, and humans are hunted by [censored to avoid spoilers] predators. Everything we know as a nation’s infrastructure is gone. In the world of TWIST, you can’t drive a car (no gas), fly a plane (no fuel), or communicate electronically. Or by phone, for that matter. As I contemplated the impact of both a dwindling population and lack of infrastructure, I was seriously spooked. I never think of Earth as a lonely place to be, but it could happen.



DRIVEN by Eve Kenin takes place in a frozen futuristic wasteland. It’s gritty, it’s dangerous, it’s desolate. What would I miss? Too many things to count. Warm weather. Eating out at my favorite restaurant. Forget eating out—just making a trip to the grocery store for some boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. The simple things in life—gone, possibly, forever.

The above examples may seem trivial, but they symbolize my fear of the devastation we’d face in a post-apocalyptic world. I can only focus on the lack of materialistic things like a nice hot shower; otherwise I’d drive myself nuts imagining the true fear and loss associated with such an environmental disaster.

By the way, author Joss Ware also has a post-apocalyptic series out, so I’m sure that will set me to grieving over things I'd miss as well. I sure hope coffee’s still around, at least.*

What would you miss the most in a post-apocalyptic world?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

*Chai tea would work in a pinch.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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George Mann’s THE AFFINITY BRIDGE: A Steampunk Reincarnation of THE X-FILES?

For the past year or so, it seemed I couldn’t visit John DeNardo’s SFSignal without encountering a post about or related to THE AFFINITY BRIDGE, a newish steampunk mystery series by George Mann. Given that the book was a) steampunk and b) John seemed especially obsessed enthused about this series, I figured I really better read this book and see what all his the fuss was about.

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE kicks off “An ongoing series of steampunk mystery novels featuring the adventures of Sir Maurice Newbury, gentleman investigator for the crown, and his feisty assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes.”

I must say, John was on to something because this steampunk tale kicks some serious brass ass. It’s pure, unadulterated steampunk, but it’s also enormously entertaining. Lots of intrigue, action, and adventure. The steampunk elements are accessible for readers new to the genre, and the themes are meaningful yet not mind-bogglingly dense.

Now, THE AFFINITY BRIDGE isn’t science fiction romance. However, I wanted to bring this series to your attention because the author does introduce a very definite attraction between Newbury and Hobbes, one that’s evident from their first meeting. Hence, the title of this post: I do declare that THE AFFINITY BRIDGE is a steampunk version of THE X-FILES, and power to it for that very reason! I really hope Newbury and Hobbes fire up the sexual tension a la Mulder and Scully.

The two series are wildly different, yet the commonalities I detected had me in constant squee mode since I still miss the THE X-FILES “experience.” THE AFFINITY BRIDGE is a classic example of how an idea can be reinvented in a totally fresh way. Like THE X-FILES, the story begins at the beginning of a case and Newbury and Hobbes are brought together for the first time. I won’t go into spoilers, but the usual suspects abound such as the shadowy government conspiracies, paranormal/speculative phenomena, and of course, the promise of a romance.

And if someone were to make a film or television series about the adventures of Newbury and Hobbes OMG OMG PLEASE MAKE IT HAPPEN BECAUSE OMG I WOULD BE ITS BIGGEST FAN!

(I know what you’re saying, John—now who’s the one obsessed?!)

Anyway, if you’d like to learn more about THE AFFINITY BRIDGE, here’s the complete premise:

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by unfamiliar inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets. Clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in teh offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists.

But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. Queen Victoria is kept alive by a primitive life-support system while her agents Sir Maurice Newbury and his delectable assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, do battle with enemies of the crown, both physical and supernatural. Newbury and Hobbes are called in to investigate the wreckage of a crashed airship and its missing automaton pilot, whilst attempting to solve a string of strangulations attributed to a mysterious glowing policeman and dealing with a zombie plague that is ravaging the slums of the capital.

There's a good review of the book at SF Reviews. You can also check out George Mann’s free, downloadable Newbury & Hobbes short stories. And here’s information on the author’s next steampunk release, GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN (May 2010).


Have you read THE AFFINITY BRIDGE? Even if you hadn’t read it, would you want to see a steampunk version of THE X-FILES on television or in film?

Joyfully yours,

Heather
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Nat's Flash RT BookLover's Convention Updates (um...Updated 4/28!)

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Have you ever witnessed the sight of a French woman squeeing in glee, gesticulating and jumping in place? It scars you. That pretty much describes me about, ooh, 2 hours ago. Passengers on this here most awesome Galaxy Express, and gentle readers, I have achieved my mission to meet The One.

Did I get an autograph? Check!
Did I also get a hug? Oh, double-check that my lovelies!
But did you expect THIS?! I bet you didn't!

Linnea Sinclair is as lovely as she is fierce and funny. I think I'm in love. And she KNEW MY NAME! *faints*

Thank you to Sahara Kelly for the picture and for presenting me to The One.

I'm a happy SFR member.

Update: Here was the original...artistic shot I received, followed by the true Linnea and Nat! ;)

Shoes!


Linnea and Nat


This flash update was brought to you by Nathalie Gray, author, cover artist, chocoholic, and goof.
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Nat's Flash RT BookLover's Convention Updates

Well, I'm here in Columbus for what I call the Sweet RT Madness of Love. And I have to say, it's the nicest RT hotel to which I've been. It's HUGE. I haven't seen any SFR goodness so far, but rest assured that I have my scanning ray set to MELT-A-HOLE-THROUGH-TITANIUM-PLATING Level. My primary goal is to pester Linnea Sinclair for her autograph, and perhaps a photo with yours truly. I shall not rest until the intergalactic police drag me away!

This flash update was brought to you by Nathalie Gray, author, cover artist, chocoholic, and goof.

Monday, April 26, 2010

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BEYOND THE SHADOWS Release Party Starts Now!

Jess Granger is hosting a party to celebrate the release of her science fiction romance BEYOND THE SHADOWS! Visit her blog where you can enter to win prizes & free books!

Here's the schedule of events:

Day 1: Welcome to the party! Giveaways include a signed copy of Beyond the Shadows, and a signed copy of His Darkest Hunger by Juliana Stone

Day 2: Meet Cyn! Sit down for an interview with our hero, and see what makes him tick. Giveaways include a signed copy of Beyond the Shadows and a copy of Meant to Be by Denise A. Agnew

Day 3: Meet Yara! Have a little chat with our heroine, Yara. Giveaways include a signed copy of Beyond the Shadows and a copy of Born of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Day 4: Welcome to Azra! Read a little of the early history of Azra. Giveaways include a signed copy of Beyond the Shadows and a copy of Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch.

Day 5: Sidekick Central! Have fun learning about some of the inspiration for Bug and Tuz. Giveaways include a signed copy of Beyond the Shadows and a copy of Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams.

Day 6: The Background Boys! Learn a little about some of Cyn's sexy friends. Giveaways include a signed copy of Beyond the Shadows and a copy of Rebels and Lovers by Linnea Sinclair.


Congratulations, Ms. Granger!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, April 25, 2010

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The Art of the Gateway Protagonist in Steampunk Romance


Lord Foul's BaneThe idea of a gateway or portal transporting a protagonist to an alternate time/dimension is a common SF/F trope. Madeleine L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME, Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant chronicles, and John Norman’s Gor books come immediately to mind.

Now, when this "gateway" protagonist—usually a Westerner—is from the reader's contemporary time/culture (or close to it), it becomes a character with whom readers can easily identify and serves to help orient them to the exotic world the author has created. Readers process—and question—the new experiences right along with the protagonist.

That said, what are the chances of three books in the burgeoning steampunk romance subgenre featuring a “gateway” protagonist who time/dimension travels to the steampunk setting? Pretty high, actually! I read three books featuring a hero or heroine who inhabits the gateway role, but the stories couldn’t be any more different.

Katie MacAlister’s STEAMED is a lighthearted romp in which a lab accident transports hero Jack Fletcher to an alternate steampunk world. In Nathalie Gray’s gritty FULL STEAM AHEAD, heroine Laurel Benson-Desmarais unwittingly sails into a Bermuda-triangle like vortex only to face off with a steampunk Captain Harlock. And hero Colonel Braedon Carey from Pauline Baird Jones’ novella TANGLED IN TIME (December 2010) heads into steampunk territory after colliding with a mysterious object in an alien portal.

While I didn’t know about the shared commonality going into the stories, I can understand the advantages of doing so. Steampunk romance is a new subgenre. A gateway protagonist is one method of informing readers new to it about the world an author has created, and it can help convey descriptive detail without resorting to info dumps.

You won’t hear any complaints from me regarding the above gateway characters, which didn't strike me as planned in any way. The question is, will we encounter more of them in the next round of steampunk romances? What are the pros and cons of employing the technique for such a new subgenre?

SteamedUsing gateway characters means that authors have to show how they adjust (or not) to the exotic setting. How much time is devoted to this aspect depends on the story. In STEAMED, Jack is a big steampunk fan and therefore his adjustment is relatively quick and painless. FULL STEAM AHEAD’s Laurel has never even heard of steampunk, so her angst-ridden adjustment takes longer. Braedon relies heavily on his military background (e.g., he conducts a “situational awareness” assessment) in order to adapt to his new surroundings. Adjustment issues can be used to good effect, for example, when it leads to conflict between the hero and heroine (FULL STEAM AHEAD nailed this one).

But frankly, I’m torn about gateway protagonists and the time it takes to focus on adjustment issues in a steampunk romance. If too little time is taken, I have difficulty suspending disbelief. Too much and I worry there won’t be enough space left over for the romance, character development, and speculative elements.

Then there’s the issue of audience and reader expectation. If a reader is new to steampunk romance, then a gateway protagonist can help the reader adjust to the steampunk elements. It’d be a useful technique in stories that are heavy on the worldbuilding. But there are probably many readers new to steampunk romance—does that mean that every book should have a gateway protagonist? Is it something editors will look for when considering submissions at this stage of the game? Who are the stories for if not readers disposed to enjoy them?

Readers familiar with steampunk may find such a character redundant or be disappointed that either the hero or heroine is a contemporary character rather than originating from the steampunk world. And if the gateway character’s job to interpret the steampunk world is too transparent or hijacks the narrative, it can botch the story altogether.

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM Jackie ChanCase in point: THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008).

In a typical move by ivory tower executives, Hollywood mucked up what should have been a historical milestone in martial arts films, namely, the pairing of legendary film stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. How badly did the suits molest this project?

A discovery made by a kung fu obsessed American teen sends him on an adventure to China, where he joins up with a band of martial arts warriors in order to free the imprisoned Monkey King.


Did you catch the part about the “kung fu obsessed American teen”? That.

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM illustrates with unmatched aplomb how and why not to use a gateway protagonist. I am a diehard martial arts film fan (and hardly a stranger to the Monkey King), but I have zero interest in seeing this film. Instead of focusing on the exploits of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, the film moves the American teen’s coming-of-age tale front and center.

Yup. Smart way to alienate the fans (including Western ones) who have driven the surge in popularity of these films over the decades. Even Jackie Chan thought it was a dumb idea—and even said so before the movie was released!

Essentially, the studio tried to make a martial arts film for—wait for it—people who don't like martial arts films. Surprise, surprise...it didn't work. Non-fans didn't care (why should they?), and the fans mostly hated it (why shouldn't they?). This begs the obvious question: WHO was their target audience?

Forbidden Kingdom Fail


While I’m not saying authors should avoid using gateway protagonists in steampunk romance from now on or that I’d run screaming from them, I am saying please use them judiciously and craft them in such a way that I can't imagine the story going in any other direction.

Enough about kung fu obsessed American teens. What’s your opinion on gateway heroes/heroines in steampunk romance?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, April 24, 2010

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Susan Grant at Borders True Romance & Giveaway

This just in: Susan Grant (SUREBLOOD) is guest blogging today at the Borders True Romance blog. You can also enter for a chance to win a book!

Hurry over there now because the giveaway ends soon.

Joyfully yours,

Heather
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Winners of Ann Somerville's SOMATESTHESIA

The winners of Ann Somerville's SOMATESTHESIA are...

Ilona

Sweet Vernal Zephyr

Congratulations!

Winners, please email me at sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com to collect your prizes.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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The Story Of How Ellen Fisher’s NEVER LOVE A STRANGER Ended Up On The Kindle

Ellen Fisher, author of thirteen novels and novellas, wrote the time travel science fiction romance NEVER LOVE A STRANGER. When she contacted me about it, I was immediately intrigued. As you know, I often blog about the various ways readers can connect with science fiction romance stories. We can’t rely on just print books to satisfy our need. Digital alternatives are de rigueur these days.

Therefore, I was fascinated to learn that Ellen Fisher made NEVER LOVE A STRANGER available on the Kindle on April 14, 2010 (this book is technically a re-release; learn more at her announcement post). Since then, she’s established a baseline for sales: 16 copies as of 4/19/10. Lest you think cost is an issue, NEVER LOVE A STRANGER can be yours for the low, low price of $.99. In a recent post, Ms. Fisher noted that

Never Love a Stranger has made it to #33 on the Kindle time travel romance list, and #2 on the "hot new releases" list for that category. And yet its overall sales rank is only around 5200.

Together, I think we can help boost sales for this title. Assuming sales don’t suddenly come from any other source, we can track the impact of our collective effort as I’ll be checking back in with Ms. Fisher to see how sales progress.

Here are a few ideas:

*If you’re an SFR fan with a Kindle, you can purchase NEVER LOVE A STRANGER at Amazon for just $.99 cents. This price may not last long, so take advantage of this great bargain while you can.

*If, like me, you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read the book by downloading a free Kindle app for your PC.

*Hand sell this title to Kindle owners you know if they like SFR or are willing to give it a try (and $.99 is quite the financial incentive).

*We can blog and tweet about it.

*We can help other readers discover this book by tagging it at Amazon. The four main recommended tags are “science fiction romance,” “sfr,” “sci-fi romance,” and “paranormal romance.” And yes, I already tagged it.

*Over at the SFR Brigade, we’re pondering ways to amp up Amazon’s science fiction romance community. With the entire SFR subgenre at stake, no time like the present, eh?

Of course, it also helps to know a little about the book! I invited Ellen Fisher to participate in an interview both to learn more about the story as well as her experience with “Kindling” her book. First, here’s the story premise:

A hero like no other...

One seemingly ordinary evening, Annie Simpson finds an extremely gorgeous (and totally nude) man in her kitchen. When James tells her he’s an escaped criminal from the future, she figures he’s crazy. Before long Annie and James are running for their lives, and Annie’s falling for James in a big way. But now they have to find a way to change the future before fifty million people die...

You can read the excerpt here.

I usually skip or just skim reviews to avoid spoilers, but this one by Mrs. Giggles, excerpted on the author’s site, caught my eye:

"I have a good time reading this book… Ms Fisher surprises me. And I like being surprised, especially when the surprise is in the form of a story that is well-written, mostly well thought-out, has a credible science-fiction feel to it, and fun to boot." - Mrs. Giggles

And now for my interview with Ellen Fisher:

The Galaxy Express: Tell us about the inspiration behind NEVER LOVE A STRANGER.

Ellen Fisher: I actually can’t tell you too much about the inspiration behind it without giving away a huuuuuge spoiler. In fact, there’s an acknowledgement to a certain author in the book, but I had to put it at the end for the same reason. I was greatly influenced by that author, as well as a certain TV show, but if I tell you which ones you’ll know the big spoiler for my book. Let’s just say I had the idea of writing about a particular sort of hero, one that is quite a bit different from the ordinary romance hero. That was the main idea of the book, and everything else flowed from that.

I will say that STRANGER was a big departure for me. I started out my writing career as a historical romance novelist. I then tried my hand at contemporary romance with a lot of humor. Eventually I decided it would be fun to take my love for sci-fi and write a science fiction romance. I wanted to write something really unusual, and I hope I succeeded. STRANGER doesn’t fit too well into any category—its time travel occurs via time machine, so it’s not a typical time travel romance. Also, the characters don’t make it into the future until the second half of the book, so it’s not a typical futuristic, either.

TGE: What was the path to publication like?

EF: Not all that complicated, actually. My first romance, a historical set in colonial Virginia, was published by Bantam, but after that Bantam merged with Dell and cut some of its authors, which sadly included me. I spent several frustrating years trying to get New York to let me get back in. I shopped around a historical romance, and then a contemporary, with no success. But once I sold them to a small e-publisher, I sat down and wrote STRANGER.

I never seriously considered trying to sell it to a major publisher—not only was I pretty burned out on trying to sell to New York by that point, but I had heard that the few major publishers who would purchase time travel romances didn’t care for plotlines involving time machines. In fact, Dorchester actually had that in their submission guidelines, and still does: No time machines, please. If Dorchester, which handles a lot of futuristic and paranormal romance, didn’t want time machines in their romances, I figured I wasn’t going to sell this one to New York. So I sent it to my small press editor, and they accepted it. It was issued first as an ebook, and then as a paperback, although sadly it was one of their early paperbacks, and never got a lot of distribution in the stores.

TGE: Please describe what readers can expect from the story’s SF and romantic elements, but in the form of a recipe.

EF: Hee… that’s a tough one. Well, we have a time machine, agents from the future, a hero running for his life, and a failed revolution that resulted in the deaths of fifty million people. We have a heroine who falls for the hero before she finds out all his secrets-- and when she does discover those secrets, she’s pretty darn ticked off. We have lots of action, and several hot love scenes. So:

One extra-large hero who isn’t quite what he seems
One medium sized heroine
Two agents from the future
One best friend with baby and cat in tow
One time machine
Two trips through time

Stir, place it into the oven, and watch it explode... literally.

TGE: When James isn’t running around nude, what’s his outfit of choice?

EF: Jeans and a collared shirt. When he arrives, Annie attires him in her deceased husband’s clothes, but they don’t fit well, because James is a big guy and her husband was relatively short. The two of them go off to the mall, where they have their first encounter with the agent from the future who’s determined to kill James. But they still manage to get James clothes that fit!

TGE: Without going into spoilers, can you tell us a bit more about your heroine, Annie Simpson?

EF: Annie’s a widow. Her husband passed away a year before, and she’s still coming to terms with losing him. She’s backed away from her circle of friends, isolating herself, and only has one really close friend left, her college roommate Kay. Annie’s lonely and a little lost, and so perhaps a little more sympathetic to James’ plight than someone else might be. But as she tries to defend James from the people who want to kill him, she begins to realize she’s on the path to healing, and James helps her along that path. In fact, she and James help each other overcome past scars and move on.

TGE: You’ve recently re-released NEVER LOVE A STRANGER on the Kindle. What prompted you to pursue an alternative publishing model? What did that process entail?

EF: I got back the rights on STRANGER (and all my other books with that publisher) over a year ago, but at first I wasn’t terribly inclined to do much with them. I’ve been dealing with my own grieving process since my husband died a few years ago, as well as struggling with some health problems, but this year I finally decided to get my writing career back on track.

Unfortunately, no major publisher is likely to seriously consider previously issued romances, and even the e-publisher I’m still working with, Samhain, didn’t want to take a look at it—they’ve just got too much great new stuff to publish! I got my Kindle about six months ago, and I’d taken to hanging out on the Amazon boards, where I discovered “indie” publishing. It’s basically self-publishing, but unlike vanity publishing, Amazon charges nothing to upload your book, so it’s more or less risk free. I noticed that some authors were selling quite well, and decided it made sense to try uploading my backlist there.

It isn’t a complicated process. You upload an HTML document and a cover. I do email the document to myself on my Kindle first, thus converting it to Kindle format so I can check it for errors, and I always download and check the Kindle edition before I start promoting it. I’ve seen some indie books, and quite a few New York books, with strange and irritating formatting errors, but so far I haven’t had any problems with my own, thankfully. I make my own covers with stock photos (authors need to be aware that you have to pay for the license to use those photos) and Photoshop.

TGE: Would you release a book on the Kindle again? Do you have any advice for authors who might be considering “Kindling” their book(s)?

EF: I definitely would do this again. I’ve published four books on Kindle since February, and my sales have really surprised me. In two cases I’ve already sold many more copies than I did with the previous publisher—and that’s not a knock against that publisher; it’s simply that ebooks are really finally coming into their own, and there is a growing audience eager for good ebooks out there.

However, it’s not just a case of “slap your books up on Amazon and they will sell.” There are plenty of indie books on Amazon that don’t sell at all. Based on what I’ve read and observed, there seem to be three components of a good seller: Good cover, good sample, and low price.

My covers are of course not New York quality, or even as good as a nice small press would produce. But they are eye-catching and look good as thumbnails. This helps get readers to take a look. Once they go look at your description and any reviews you might have, hopefully they’ll download a sample. Amazon allows readers to download a fairly extensive sample of your book free of charge. It’s easy to tell within a page or two if a book is egregiously poor (some indie books are atrocious, while others are brilliant). A good sample sells; a bad sample does not encourage readers to download the full book.

And then there’s the price. If you’re an unknown, you are unlikely to sell if you charge mass market paperback prices. Most successful indies seem to price their books at $2.99 or below. My books are selling well at 99 cents. This isn’t a lot, of course, and I probably won’t get rich that way (not that I’ve ever gotten rich as an author!). But it does add up if you sell enough copies. Other indies have done well at $1.99 or $2.99. You just have to experiment till you find what works well for you and your genre. Also, once a book gets on the bestseller list for the genre, its sales tend to improve, because people are finding it just by surfing Amazon, so you’re visible to a bigger audience.

But it’s most important to have a good product. That’s key. You can put anything at all up on Amazon, from Pulitzer-quality writing to gibberish, but if it has a terrible cover and is poorly written, it’s just not going to sell. My books are selling pretty well, which I take as an indication that my covers and writing are strong enough to get people interested. The feedback from readers has generally been pretty positive, too.

TGE: Did the sales start happening immediately? Is there any Kindle-specific promotion involved or that you are going to consider? Or would you promote it like any other book, whether digital or print?

EF: The sales did not start happening immediately, no. In my first month, I sold a mere 27 downloads. That wasn’t surprising; I’d been out of publishing for three years or so, and I was far from a household name to begin with. But in the second month, my books were mentioned on a blog that features indie authors, and sales took off as readers noticed me. They haven’t really slowed down since, and I’m hoping they’ll grow as I get more books out there.

The interesting thing about indie publishing is that the sales curve isn’t like traditional publishing, or even small press publishing. Typically in traditional publishing, you get most of your sales up front, and within a few months they slow down, and eventually trickle off entirely. In indie publishing, the sales tend to start slowly, but then increase as word of mouth spreads. Once your sales rise, they often seem to remain fairly steady for a long time, too.

There are a gazillion books on Amazon, so it’s necessary to make yourself known to Kindle readers. There are Amazon forums where you can chat with Kindle readers and make yourself known to them. There are also the Kindleboard forums. You do want to be careful not to overpromote, however; the posters on the Amazon forums in particular are very sensitive about “spamming.” Subtlety is key. If you’re interested in Kindling, I suggest going to the Amazon boards and carefully studying them for a week or so before you post. Too many posts, or posts in the wrong places, can alienate readers.

TGE: What are your favorite science fiction romance books, films, and/or television shows?

EF: In books, I love Heinlein, Asimov, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Zenna Henderson, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Philip K. Dick... My favorite TV shows are Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and I’ve read a lot of novel tie-ins with those series. I enjoyed earlier Smallville, though calling it science fiction is perhaps being a bit generous. I love Supernatural and Merlin (which are more paranormal/fantasy, I suppose), and I like Kyle XY. In movies, I love most of the Star Trek movies, the originalStar Wars trilogy, Wall-E, District 9, and superhero flicks like Spiderman and X-Men.

TGE: Do you have news of any future projects that readers can look forward to?

EF: On the sci-fi romance front, in May I’ll be re-releasing my science fiction romance spoof, Farthest Space: The Wrath of Jan. I’m excited about this one because I got a professional artist to do the cover, and her pencil sketch for it is just amazing. I can’t wait to see the completed cover! I’m working on a Farthest Space sequel, too, which I hope I’ll have done in a couple of months.


[FARTHEST SPACE: THE WRATH OF JAN cover art by P.L. Nunn of BishonenWorks]

Ellen Fisher also described her return to publishing at Kristie Leigh Maguire’s blog.

Edited to add: Ms. Fisher's Kindle endeavor is mentioned in the Novelocity.net article Riding The Ebook Train.

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

Dear passengers, if you have any ideas about how to help spread the word about NEVER LOVE A STRANGER, please leave a comment. Then go forth and driveth sales. Thank you!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Coming Soon: Coyote Con, A Virtual Digital Author Conference


Drollerie Press is hosting Coyote Con, the “First Annual 31 Day Digital Author Conference,” to be held May 1-31, 2010. Best of all, it's free (registration is required and to attend Special Sessions you need to obtain a ticket, which you can get here.

I’ll be on two of the panels. The first is Science Fiction Romance Q&A (Special Session) on May 2 at 2 p.m. EST. I’ll be joining author Joely Sue Burkhart. Also, attendees can ask questions for author S.L. Viehl during the chat and Ms. Viehl will post the answers on her blog Paperback Writer.

On Saturday, May 8 at 11 p.m. EST, I’ll be on the Steampunk Romance panel (Special Session) with author Nathalie Gray (FULL STEAM AHEAD).

About the conference:

Coyote Con is a 31 day digital author conference. If you have an interest in any of our topics, you are welcome to attend. There is no cost to attend the con, but registration is required as space is limited. Registration will open next week.

We hope to provide topics on issues of race, sex, ability, religion and colonialism in fiction, and incorporate a non-western perspective to include a global audience. The chats will be scheduled each weekend at various times so that at least some sessions will be a good time for your time zone, wherever you are.

Each weekend (May 1 and 2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, 2010) authors, editors, and other interested parties will be talking about our topics, alone or in panels, in a text chat or audio/visual conference environment. In conjunction, Joely Sue Burkhart has organized a MayWriMo writing challenge, and there will be Word Wars in the chat rooms throughout the week.

Here is the complete schedule of events. Register for Coyote Con.

See you there!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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Interview With SOMATESTHESIA Author Ann Somerville & A Giveaway

Today is the release day for Ann Somerville’s SOMATESTHESIA! To help celebrate the release of this science fiction romance, Ms. Somerville has graciously donated two copies of her ebook for a giveaway. Plus, I had the wonderful chance to interview her so the inquisitive passengers of this cosmic locomotive can learn more about the story.

Having read her books INTERSTITIAL, ON WINGS, RISING, and REACHING HIGHER, I knew to expect unique settings and characters, compelling M/M romance, detailed worldbuilding, and satisfying social commentary. SOMATESTHESIA is no different. One aspect I particularly like is the near future setting because I don’t read enough and I’m always on the lookout for a good one. (Hmm, I don’t read enough because there aren’t that many).

And that title—"somatesthesia" put every other word in my vocabulary arsenal to shame! Yet one more reason I’m proud of being an SFR fan. The story will appeal to readers who enjoy emotionally repressed heroes or heroines such as Admiral Branden Kel-paten from GAMES OF COMMAND by Linnea Sinclair, Alpha from ALPHA by Catherine Asaro, Tarkin from HEAT by Ellie Marvel, and Brit Brander from MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant.

Here’s a bit about SOMATESTHESIA:

Sensual overload can be a tactical disadvantage.

Devlin Grace’s experience with child exploitation cases lands him a new assignment with the Special Crimes Investigators unit of the Federal Justice Agency, plus a new partner who could make the job tougher than expected. Connor Hutchens possesses incredible, scientifically enhanced senses…and zero social skills. Word on the street is that his last partner left under a cloud—and it was Connor’s fault.

Connor blames himself for losing his previous partner, and wants to do right by his new one. But Devlin confuses and frustrates him, and he struggles to cope with Devlin’s swift intelligence, quirky humor and teasing sexuality.

With the dangerous, perplexing case facing them, there’s no one Devlin would rather have at his back than Connor. But the longer they work together, the higher the sexual tension rises—until attraction boils over and puts everything at risk. Their careers, the children they’re trying to save—and any chance of lasting love.

Read the excerpt here.

Before we get to the giveaway, here is my exclusive interview with Ann Somerville:

The Galaxy Express: Please tell us the story behind the story of SOMATESTHESIA. What inspired the tale? What was the path to publication like?

Ann Somerville: I have no idea where this one came from, except the idea of people with special abilities fascinates me, because though in some ways it would be amazing to read minds or see better than normal people can with the naked eye, having such unusual powers would be fairly isolating. So I started to wonder what it would be like if someone who’d been designed to be a superman, physically, who’d been isolated because of his abilities and upbringing, met someone who was super-sociable. I’ve explored the idea before, notably in my free-to-read Darshian Tales, but I feel I’m a long way from exhausting my interest in the concept.

The path to publication was rocky. Though I knew the story was highly saleable, I was at a point where I wasn’t happy with Samhain, and none of the other epresses appealed. So I self-published on Lulu, where sales were pretty good for two months. At that point, a small gay press owner read the story and asked if he could publish it - I had very strong reservations about him personally (which sadly were justified) and about handing over my work to a publisher again, but a friend encouraged me to go for it as a way of breaking out of the romance market. Unfortunately, the entire thing collapsed just before the book was due to be released.

In the meantime, however, Samhain had been through some fairly major upheavals and staff changes, which made it easier for me to consider them again. So, having already decided I now didn’t care too much if this particular novel was published by someone else, and already having proved to myself that it was a book people would read and enjoy, I subbed it to Samhain, and to my delight, accepted it very quickly. My new editor, Tera Kleinfelter, is just a joy to work with - it helped that she thought the book was already very well edited so the editing process was pretty swift and easy from her side - and I’m happy with the result and the cover.

TGE: When I read about hero Connor Hutchens’ “scientifically enhanced senses,” it reminded me of Steve Austin from THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. That begs the question: How much did all of Connor’s enhancements cost?

AS: Oh, a lot :) But his father’s an immensely rich mad scientist, and makes a fortune out of selling the implants for which Connor acts as test subject and advertisement, so money’s no object.

TGE: If Connor Hutchens fought Steve Austin in a fight, who would win?

AS: If it was brute strength, Steve, because Connor only has enhanced senses, not physical strength. But if it was a beauty contest? Connor, no question - he’s definitely the prettiest :)

TGE: Based on the excerpt, it seems to me that even though Connor has enhanced senses, hero Devlin Grace possesses the higher “emotional IQ” of the two. Is that an accurate assessment? Without mentioning spoilers, what can readers expect from this romance?

AS: Devlin is definitely a more rounded and stable human being. Though he’s the product of a broken home, he has a strong and loving family behind him, and particularly a mother who supports and believes in him. Connor’s a twice adopted child and his father is a cold, highly intellectual man who believes praise makes his sons weak. So Connor lacks confidence in his likeability and attractiveness as a person, and takes the teasing and tough and tumble of a team environment to heart more than he should. Devlin is able to help him deal with that better than he has in the past.

But it’s not all one way. Connor is incredibly loyal, and intelligent, and capable of a lot of affection and joy, given the chance. So you see him grow in confidence, while Devlin learns how to temper his own fairly robust attitude to life and people to accommodate a very special man.

TGE: With many science fiction romances being set in space, it’s exciting to learn about one set in the near future—2042, to be exact. What kind of worldbuilding research was involved while writing SOMATESTHESIA?

AS: A lot of the research was done during my science degree, because climate change and the environmental impact of human activity was something I studied. I’ve always been interested in alternative energy, alternative ways of making stuff like plastic and so on, so it was just a matter of sitting down and thinking about how the aims of the present Obama administration regarding fuel independence would affect America. When I wrote this, the brief massive spike in oil prices had really changed consumer behaviour, so it was easy to extrapolate from there how a permanent shortage of oil would change the way we live. I wasn’t interested in a doomsday scenario because we know this is coming, and people are already planning for it, albeit not as fast as we could be. But I see how it will change all kind of things like the availability of imported foods (so coffee in this story is a luxury available only to the super rich) and cheap meat, and care ownership and so on. The story isn’t about post-peak oil - that’s just the background.

TGE: What’s your favorite science fictional element that you created for the story?

AS: Dunno if I ‘created’ it, but Devlin being able to share what Connor sees and hears through the heads-up display glasses was cool.

TGE: What are a few of your favorite science fiction romance books, films, or TV shows?

AS: Blade Runner. The Earthsea stories. Enemy mine. The Left Hand of Darkness. Torchwood.

I won’t mention Dr Who because that’s magic, not science fiction. And I’m not convinced that Star Wars is either good s/f or good romance. Luke should have ended up with Han :)

TGE: Is there anything else about SOMATESTHESIA you’d like to share?

AS: Well, I don’t like to boast, but the cure to cancer can be found on the footnotes to page 42 ;)

TGE: What can readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?

AS: More like my self-published Different Senses series which have romantic elements, but aren’t conventional romances. Strong plots and characters, dealing with serious issues. Oh, and the occasional sound thrashing!

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

Don't forget to visit Ann Somerville's Web site and blog for more information about her books.

Now for the giveaway! For a chance to win a digital copy of Ann Somerville’s SOMATESTHESIA, all you have to do is leave a comment for this post. Two winners will be picked! Discuss your favorite TORCHWOOD or SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN episode. Better yet, if scientists could equip your body with any kind of extraordinary enhancement, what would it be? The contest will run until 9 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 24, 2010.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, April 17, 2010

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A Carina Press Cover Exclusive! IN ENEMY HANDS by KS Augustin

IN ENEMY HANDS KS Augustin


IN ENEMY HANDS by KS Augustin is the science fiction romance that will be among the Carina Press launch titles in June, 2010. When Executive Editor Angela James asked if I’d be interested in premiering it on The Galaxy Express, my immediate reaction was “Where do I sign?!” My thanks, Ms. James, for this exciting opportunity.

The cover for IN ENEMY HANDS tells me that Carina Press knows and wants to attract the audience for SFR given the good balance of romance and science fictional elements in the image. Couple? Check. Starry, otherworldly landscape? Double check. Also, the hero and heroine’s composition conveys the gender equality that is frequently associated with science fiction romance these days.

This cover also drives home the fact that digital-first publishers/independent publishers can take more risks when it comes to niche subgenres, which I think is a very important take away lesson for readers and authors of SFR. It also reveals interesting differences between the digital and print book markets, at least where covers are concerned.

But back to IN ENEMY HANDS! For your reading pleasure, here is the newly unveiled cover copy for the story:

The Republic had taken everything from Moon—her research partner, her privacy, her illusions. They thought they had her under control. They were wrong.

Sirin, Moon’s new research partner, is a chemically enhanced math genius whose memory is erased every two days. He’s also a charming, fascinating man who is attracted to her anew after each memory loss cycle.

Escape from the regime that treats them like tools is impossible. There are too many walls around them, too many eyes watching. But when you’ve got nothing left to lose, running becomes the only option.

And there’s more—author KS Augustin pointed me to the excerpt available on her site. Read the prologue here! She also has free samples of her other work, which you can download here. Or you can read the free chapter excerpts right on her site.

About the author:
I am a child of the global South. In the past, I have run my own IT consultancy business, bookshop, gym, swimming pool business and martial arts school.

So far in my life, I have been a corporate trainer, lecturer, satirist, martial arts instructor, project manager, political essayist, small business owner and am now proud to call myself a fiction writer. Together with my husband, we have lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. We adore our two children and tolerate as necessary evils our two grumpy, fur-shedding cats.

You can learn more about KS Augustin by visiting her blog. There, you can find a series of interviews with some Broad Universe SFR authors, including Pauline Baird Jones, Brenna Lyons, and Jaleta Clegg (that noise you hear is the sound of our collective TBR piles expanding).

Recently, KS Augustin interviewed her editor, Michael Banks, at the Carina Press blog.

Congratulations, Ms. Augustin, on your sale of IN ENEMY HANDS!

So, my adventurous passengers, tell me what you think about the cover for IN ENEMY HANDS.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Steampunk Romance, A Trilogy Giveaway, And More

I'm blogging about steampunk romance today at The Book Smugglers as part of their Steampunk Appreciation Week special: Steampunk Romance: Love, Gadgets, & Themes

Susan Grant is celebrating this month's re-release of her Star trilogy with a contest. Click here to enter for a chance to win "a set of the original copies, autographed." It's "A rare chance to own these books with the original covers!"

Look for the newly minted books April 27.



From the frozen north, Cathy Pegau brings us Five Reasons To Read Kristin Landon's Hidden Worlds Trilogy.

Via SFR Brigade:

"There are two new agents at the L. Perkins Agency that look like strong possibilities for SFR...." Click here for more information.

At FF&P, Linnea Sinclair announces a forthcoming workshop: Prune Your Prose: This Means You!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, April 15, 2010

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Steampunk Romance Watch

Yes, it’s that time again! Time to scour the virtual Victorian globe in search of steampunk romance sightings. I am still in awe of being in a position to not only witness the birth of a new subgenre, but also track its course. What is the current position of steampunk romance, you ask? Don your brass goggles and take a look:

Katie MacAlister’s STEAMED and Nathalie Gray’s FULL STEAM AHEAD are now available. Alongside Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART, I do believe we are witnessing the first official wave of steampunk romances. (Have I read them all? Yes!) Lucky for us, more are on the way:

In August 2010, you'll be able to read Meljean Brook's "Here There Be Monsters," her first story in the Iron Seas series. It's part of the BURNING UP anthology. Click here to read the excerpt.

Following that, Meljean Brook's steampunk romance THE IRON DUKE will hit shelves in October 2010. Here's the story description:

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power — and fear — of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

Mina can’t afford his interest, however. Horde blood runs through her veins, and despite the nanotech enhancing her body, she barely scratches out a living in London society. Becoming Rhys’s lover would destroy both her career and her family, yet the investigation prevents her from avoiding him…and the Iron Duke’s ruthless pursuit makes him difficult to resist.

But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans — and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.

****

Speaking of Meljean Brook, have you seen the cover for THE IRON DUKE? Well, maybe not, but you can get a sense of it at the author’s site here. Have I seen it? Well, that’s for me to know and for you to find out, muwahahaha! But even based on the teaser at the author’s site, you can tell the art department is giving the steampunk elements a lot of brassy love.

Next on board the steampunk romance airship is TANGLED IN TIME, a steampunk romance novella by Pauline Baird Jones. Look for it in December, 2010. Here’s the story description:

Colonel Carey (from The Key and Girl Gone Nova) takes a test "flight" through the Garradian time-space portal, but an unexpected impact lands him somewhere and some when. As he attempts to get to Area 51, he crosses paths with Miss Olivia Carstairs, who could be Mary Poppins' twin sister. Or maybe her cousin. Olivia's got a transmogrification machine powered by steam and something more, and a mouth he'd like to kiss like it was his job. Can he get them both to safety before the buzzard eats them or she shoots him with her derringer?

Thanks to the author, I’m reading it right now! But fear not—you can glom the excerpt here.

Remember when I blogged about the allure of the western steampunk romance? Sheryl Nantus will deliver with her forthcoming ebook, WILD CARDS AND IRON HORSES (August, 2010, Samhain Publishing).

Here’s the story description:

During the recent Civil War, a soldier risked his life to save
Jonathan Handleston—and lost. With the help of an advanced
metal brace on his crippled hand, Jon now travels from one poker
tournament to the next, determined to earn enough money to
repay the man’s debt.

Prosperity Ridge is supposed to be the last stop on his quest, but
his brace is broken and he needs an engineer to repair the
delicate mechanisms. The only one available is Samantha
Weatherly, a beautiful anomaly in a world ruled by men.

Sam is no fool. Jon is no different from any other gambler—except
for his amazing prosthetic. Despite a demanding project to win a
critical contract to develop an iron horse, she succumbs to the
lure of working on the delicate mechanisms. And working with the
handsome Englishman.

Like a spring being coiled, Samantha and Jon are inexorably
drawn together. Sam begins to realize honor wears many faces,
and she becomes the light at the end of Jon’s journey to
redemption. The only monkey wrench is Victor, a rival gambler
who will stop at nothing to make sure Jon misses the tournament.
Even destroy Jon and Sam’s lives.

****

I also discovered another recent release, CLOCKWORKS AND CORSETS by Regina Riley. It’s an erotic steampunk romance novella available from Lyrical Press (a publisher that has been actively seeking such stories).

About the story:

Clockwork, steam and secrets power a passionate adventure in the skies.
Everybody's looking for something.

Captain Rose Madigan of the airship The Merry Widow is looking for a paying job for her all-female crew. Gabriella Upstairs, her newest recruit, is looking for a reason to be glad she's on board. And Madam Ruby of the Red House Bordello is looking for the secret laboratory of a missing mad scientist--and is willing to hire the airship. When they find the lab and its single occupant, Atom Loquacious, danger and passion start steaming up.

Everybody's got a secret.

Captain Rose is secretly too ethical to complete this job. Gabriella's secretly attracted to Atom. Madam Ruby's secretly hungry for power. And the secret Atom is hiding might just threaten the lives of everyone on board.

Read an excerpt of CLOCKWORKS AND CORSETS here.

Steampunk Romance News & Coverage

The Book Smugglers has another Steampunk Appreciation Week currently underway. Check out all the extensive book reviews and genre coverage because It. Is. Amazing. This Saturday, I’ll be blogging there about, um…what is it called again? Oh yeah, steampunk romance! Meljean Brook (THE IRON DUKE) will also be guest blogging.

Steampunk romance is garnering even more lovely coverage courtesy of Germany's Loveletter magazine. The six-page spread this month includes not only my in-depth column on the subgenre, but also interviews with authors Meljean Brook, Dru Pagliassotti, and Nathalie Gray. My gosh, is there anywhere in the world readers aren’t talking about it?!

At Running With Quills, Jayne Explores Steampunk Romance.

Where to submit your steampunk romance

Also, there’s still time (barely) to polish up your steampunk romance novella and submit it to Samhain Publishing for its forthcoming steampunk romance anthology. Submissions are open until April 30, 2010, and a final decision will be made by May 31, 2010.

Three Carina Press editors are actively seeking steampunk & steampunk romance, specifically Michael Banks, Laura Anne Gilman, and Rhonda Stapleton. Authors, please hurry with your submissions—right now I have nothing new in steampunk romance to read until August—wahh!

I have a few other steampunk romance posts planned for the very near future, but in the meantime, do you have any steampunk romance news you’d like to share? Know of any particular steampunk romances you’d like to read about?

Let’s ride the wave!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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Cover Exclusive! DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR by R. Garland Gray

My dear passengers, feast your eyes on this most excellent cover for DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR, the third book in R. Garland Gray's Darkscape series. I’m thrilled to be on the receiving end of another science fiction romance cover exclusive. Many thanks to the author and her team at Medallion Press for this advanced peek.


DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR


And my, what a cover! This cover excites me for several reasons. First, I think Medallion Press has done a great job branding the author and this series. Second, when I saw the composition of the couple, I felt that it clearly conveyed the romance aspect of the story. Third, the starry background communicates the science fictional aspects without being overtly SF, while the crystal held by the heroine tops it all off with a bit of mystery. Fourth, the deep, rich red coloring promises readers that they will find passion in the story. Fifth, the cover models look great—not just because of their beauty, but because their facial expressions come across as genuine. ‘Course, it sure helps that the hero is smokin’ hot in that uniform!

The image for FIRST HEIR is very close to an ideal science fiction romance cover, at least for me. While there have been some lovely covers in the subgenre, few have a quintessential science fiction romance “feel”—at least in terms of both reader and marketing needs. The best known exception, of course, has been the redesigned covers for Linnea Sinclair’s books, which feature couples against various galactic landscapes. If more covers looked like those or this one for FIRST HEIR, I think current and new readers alike would be able to easily identify the books as SFR.

My only quibble is that I would have liked to see the heroine on an equal par, visually, with the hero. But given she’s holding a crystal, I can see how that might have been difficult to achieve.

I know I’ve been blogging about covers quite a bit recently, but with good reason. It’s probably the most crucial marketing tool in a book's arsenal. I believe the cover for DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR is a definitive step in the right direction. And next week, I’ll be unveiling yet another cover exclusive that tells me SFR and covers are at the start of a beautiful friendship….

Related posts:

Interview With R. Garland Gray

The Science Fiction Romance That Harlequin Doesn’t Want You To Know About

Man Titty Does Not Compute

Cover Revealed For Enemy Within

Cover Exclusive: FULL STEAM AHEAD by Nathalie Gray

Scruffy Lookin’ Nerf-Herders (via Kimber An at SFR Brigade)

And last but not least, I'm covering the topic of SFR covers in my next LoveLetter column, "The Cover Conundrum" (May).

So...tell me what you think about the cover for DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, April 12, 2010

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Blogging at SFR Brigade

At SFR Brigade, I'm making the argument that the current publishing upheavals (read=Agency model) are actually a good thing for science fiction romance. Find out how in Ebooks & Science Fiction Romance: A Match Made in Digital Heaven.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, April 11, 2010

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The (Shifting) Line Between Romantic SF and Science Fiction Romance

Sometimes it’s easy to spot the difference between romantic science fiction and science fiction romance. If you can remove the romance without affecting the plot, then it’s romantic SF. It even boils down to the physical word count, in the sense that the majority of text is devoted to the external plot or worldbuilding, and the story doesn’t spend nearly as much time on the development of the romance.

Other times, it’s not as easy to measure when romantic SF crosses over into science fiction romance territory. In this case, reader subjectivity plays a significant role. I, for one, am highly guilty of interpreting the presence of a romance in romantic SF as much more predominant in a story than it actually is, if one measures it based on the ratio of romance to external plot. The issue is important when it comes to both defining science fiction romance as well as making reading recommendations. There are some SFR books on which we can all agree; others might lead to a healthy debate over where to draw the line.

Saranne Dawson GreenfireI’ve been mulling over this issue after two conversations I had recently, one with a reader and one with an author. The reader observed that some books seem to be romantic SF stories masquerading as romances (Saranne Dawson’s GREENFIRE was cited as one example). In part, that had to do with the book’s physical package (e.g., its spine read “romance,” and it had a clinch cover with futuristic motifs). GREENFIRE was packaged as SFR but the story didn’t meet the reader’s expectations for a romance.

My conversation with the author involved a discussion about worldbuilding, and it made me wonder about the prose differences between SFR released by SF imprints and those released by romance imprints. In other words, do SFR stories with “SF” on the spine contain “code” (meaning descriptive language) that differs from the “code” found in books with “romance” on the spine? And is it the code differences that make it more challenging to spot an SFR from science fiction publishers? Does it seem as though some books are masquerading as SFR because the code is different? Do there have to be code differences across the board, all of the time, as long as the romance isn’t merely a subplot?

So there are several issues afoot: packaging, descriptive language, reader expectation, and reader perception.

Blade DancerI’d like to briefly discuss two books that prompted me to reflect further on the topic. The first is BLADE DANCER by S.L. Viehl. Ms. Viehl alerted me about her book when I ran my feature In Search of…Handicapped Heroines. She was also kind enough to send me a copy. I enjoyed it very much, and not just for the fact that the heroine dealt with a physical disability. But having read it, I feel that it falls firmly under the romantic SF category. In large part, this is because the story features an ensemble of characters, one of whom is the hero, who join the heroine on her quest. That aspect alone dictated that less “screen time” be allotted to the development of the romance. So with BLADE DANCER, it was easy to make the distinction. (For what it’s worth, the romance has a clear beginning, middle, and HEA).

The second book I read was DARKSHIP THIEVES by Sarah H. Hoyt (who was also kind enough to send me her book. I tell you, it was a very good month!). DARKSHIP THIEVES is a very entertaining book and I consider it a science fiction romance. Your mileage may vary, but here’s what led me to that conclusion:

One factor is the story’s structure: Girl meets boy; girl loses boy; girl gets boy back. I’ll let you read it yourself for the details, but suffice it to say that I’ve seen the particular plot structure of DARKSHIP THIEVES in SFR stories released by romance publishers. Not only that, but the hero and heroine have their first encounter on page 21 and are together for much of the story. Even though they are separated for a time, the heroine’s subsequent actions are all about her love for the hero.

However, there were a few differences between this book and SFR released by romance publishers. One is that much more space was allotted to worldbuilding than sex scenes and sexual tension. The sexual tension existed, but not as much as there was in, say, C.J. Barry’s UNMASKED. In fact, the bedroom door is closed in DARKSHIP THIEVES.

Another difference was how Ms. Hoyt executed the romance development. I found it to be more action oriented than introspective, especially since the hero and heroine engage in both verbal and physical conflict right off the bat. Given their personalities, background, and ages (both are young adults), I felt that I couldn’t possibly have expected them to express romantic feelings or process them like their older adult counterparts (say, heroes and heroines in their thirties). So the romance was there, but it was executed differently. For example, the hero and heroine perform various actions to help/save each other, and that is where you experience the romance. Another, non-spoiler example is the violin scenes involving the heroine, but that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Where do you think the line is between romantic SF and SFR? What about descriptive language—is there room in science fiction romance for a variety of approaches? Does a lack of periodic introspection, overt sexual tension, or multiple sex scenes make it difficult to spot the romance aspects? Have you read any books that defy a distinct categorization?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, April 10, 2010

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Agent Z's Latest Adventure In...Horror

And now for something completely different:

Agent Z, TGE's resident guest blogger and intergalactic spy extraordinaire, has published another horror short story using one of her many pseudonyms. After Happily Every After by Diane Dooley can be read for free at SNM Horror Magazine.

It may be super short, but it packs a wallop. Or should I say, a steak knife? (Either way, this tale is not for the faint of heart.)

Her first horror short, A Taste of Revenge, was published with Dog Oil Press.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Written on

Winner of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN by Gini Koch

We have a winner for Gini Koch's TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN. Congratulations to...Cathy in AK!

Cathy, please send your name & address to sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com

Thanks to everyone who entered. And stay tuned, because I have another giveaway planned for later this month!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Written on

Science Fiction Romance News & Links For April, 2010

New Releases

LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARK – D.L. Jackson

Evolution never happened so fast.

LAST FLIGHT OF THE ARKTwelve hours outside of Terra II, Colonel Kaleb Titan, a molecular geneticist and commander of the Ark, faces a life or death choice that could change the fate of mankind.

The Genesis I, aka the Ark, travels with a hold full of wildlife and three crew members. When a wolf bite and genetically-altering gamma radiation transform Kaleb, he notices his senses have been heightened, his libido has gone haywire and he can’t keep his hands off his crew. Worse yet, they don't seem inclined to stop him.

When their sister ship, the Genesis II arrives early, Kaleb’s problems compound. As soon as the command crew of the Genesis II boards, one whiff tells Kaleb they’re not from Earth or who they appear to be.

When he discovers that they’ve kept the Genesis II’s crew of over two thousand alive, he begins to believe their reasons may be far more ominous than anyone could have imagined. However, he also discovers what’s holding them back. The hijackers seem to be allergic to canines.

Now they're forced to employ biological warfare against their own, but will it be enough to save humanity?

Girl Gone NovaHistory is about to repeat and only one species will survive.

GIRL GONE NOVA – Pauline B. Jones

Doc—Delilah Oliver Clementyne’s—orders are simple: do the impossible and do it yesterday. 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.

The only way it could get worse? If the heart she didn’t know she had starts beating for the wrong guy…

TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN – Gini Koch

How can a sexy marketing manager join forces with an Alpha Centauri male in Armani to save the planet--using hairspray, a Mont Blanc pen, and rock n’ roll?

Easy…

She’s Touched by an Alien


Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt steps into the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute turned ugly. And it only gets uglier when the man turns into a winged monster, straight out of a grade-Z horror movie, and goes on a killing spree. Though Kitty should probably run away, she springs into action to take the monster down.

In the middle of the chaos a handsome hunk named Jeff Martini appears, sent by the “agency” to perform crowd control. He’s Kitty’s kind of guy, no matter what planet he’s from. And from now on, for Kitty, things are going to be sexy, dangerous, wild, and out of this world.

BLAZE OF GLORY – Sheryl Nantus

Saving the world is easy for a superhero—unless you’re a fraud.

Blaze of GloryJo Tanis is a superhero, fighting evil on the city streets, using her ability to feed off electromagnetic energy and fire off charges—and it’s all just a show. The Agency captures her and others like her when their powers begin to manifest, pitting them against each other in staged, gladiatorial fights. An explosive implant on the back of her neck assures she’ll keep right on smiling for the camera and beating up the bad guys.

When Earth comes under attack, suddenly the show becomes deadly real. Unable to deal with a real alien, the “supers” are falling in droves. Millions of innocent civilians are going to die…unless Jo can cobble together a team from among the fake heroes and villains the Agency enslaved. Including Hunter, who not only promises to show her how to deactivate the implants, but seems to know more than he should about how the mysterious Agency operates.

Forcing a rag-tag bunch of former enemies to work together is the least of Jo’s problems. The trick is determining if Hunter is friend or foe—and becoming the hero everyone thought she was before the world is destroyed for real.

SOMATESTHESIA – Ann Somerville

Sensual overload can be a tactical disadvantage.

SOMATESTHESIADevlin Grace’s experience with child exploitation cases lands him a new assignment with the Special Crimes Investigators unit of the Federal Justice Agency, plus a new partner who could make the job tougher than expected. Connor Hutchens possesses incredible, scientifically enhanced senses…and zero social skills. Word on the street is that his last partner left under a cloud—and it was Connor’s fault.

Connor blames himself for losing his previous partner, and wants to do right by his new one. But Devlin confuses and frustrates him, and he struggles to cope with Devlin’s swift intelligence, quirky humor and teasing sexuality.

With the dangerous, perplexing case facing them, there’s no one Devlin would rather have at his back than Connor. But the longer they work together, the higher the sexual tension rises—until attraction boils over and puts everything at risk. Their careers, the children they’re trying to save—and any chance of lasting love.

TSUNAMI BLUE – Gayle Ann Williams

No safe harbor

With her badass rain boots, her faithful dog, and the ability to predict the monster tsunamis that have reduced the US to a series of islands, Kathryn O’Malley isn’t afraid of much. Cut off from all society, she takes to the airwaves as Tsunami Blue, hoping to save something of humanity as the world around her crumbles. But Blue should be afraid—because her message reaches the wrong ears.

Now she’s the target of ruthless pirates known as Runners who want to use her special talents for their own profiteering—as soon as they can find her. Blue’s only shot at survival lies with the naked stranger who washes up on her rocky beach. A man who might just be working for Runners himself. Torn between suspicion and attraction, the two will have to navigate a surging tide of danger and deceit if they hope to stay alive.
Now for the rest:

Industry

Congratulations to Sharon Lynn Fisher (GHOST PLANET), who has signed with agent Robin Rue of Writers House. In this interview, she discusses the journey of becoming a Golden Heart finalist a second time.

Congratulations to J.L. Wilson who won an EPIC award for her time travel romance ENDURANCE (Cerridwen Press). The two other finalists were:

* IMMERSED by Liz CravenSamhain Publishing, Ltd.
* LADY OF THE STARS by Linda BancheThe Wild Rose Press

And author Rowena Cherry (KNIGHT’S FORK) won the “Friend of E-Publishing Award”! Way to go, Ms. Cherry!

The full list of EPIC award finalists and winners is here.

The cover of the forthcoming SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH anthology has been announced. Linnea Sinclair blogs about it here.

At A Writer’s Dream, Rae Lori posts a roundup of articles about “the juicy Amazon/Apple/Publisher smackdown business” as well as those exploring “how digital is changing the face of the industry” in Linkety Split - The Publishing & SFR Edition

As of April 5, 2010, the SFR Brigade has hit the 50 member mark! If you’re an SFR writer, join now.

SFR Book Giveaways!

BLAZE OF GLORY by Sheryl Nantus: Click here for details (Hurry! Contest ends today).

TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN by Gini Koch. Click here for details.

Via SFSignal:

Gini Koch weighs in on The Best Aliens in Science Fiction in her first Mind Meld discussion.

Two esteemed SF authors who incorporated romance into their stories are featured in this “Classic Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton Interview.” Even cooler is this audio interview with Leigh Brackett from 1975!

Sexual Politics, Farscape, and Stuff by Joel Shepherd has an SFR-relevant observation about sexuality, feminism, and SF/F female characters:

I was thinking about this watching DVDs of Farscape, and reflecting that the character of Chiana (played by Gigi Edgley) was unlike almost anything you’ll see on TV — a ‘loose woman’ prone to seducing anything male just for fun, but who is also tough, smart, likable and is given some of the show’s best one liners. And the fact that it’s so rare that this type of character should be likable and even heroic is pretty sad, because it shows that popular culture still has a problem with female sexuality, with women who are overtly sexual in any way still insulted and disrespected, or otherwise treated as though they are no more than the sum of their sexual parts, while male characters are held to an entirely different standard.


The above reminded me of the previous discussions we’ve had here regarding extraordinary heroines. If they are so rare in SF/F, then all the more reason science fiction romance can carve out a niche for itself by making a home for such characters.

For Writers

There’s a Mundane SFR story here, I just know it! Via Kimber An (Enduring Romance) comes this link to an article about “China’s New Requirement for Women in Space: Married with Children.” Deep stuff.

Gini Koch discusses her writing process in How They Do It over at The Other Side of the Story.

Here’s an article with really cool specifics on How To Write Action SF.

Check out SCI-FI 101 for all of your research and worldbuilding needs, courtesy of Spacefreighters Lounge.


Clare Dargin
invites you to join her Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance writers webring and Futuristic Romance Writers webring. According to Clare, “We are open to fans and writers alike! Come join us as we celebrate science fiction and fantasy! Books, short stories, published not published, hobbies within scifi and fantasy alike!
It's a big universe out there and it can awful lonely!”

Get your space pirate on

File this one under OMG I CAN HARDLY BREATHE! Check out this promo poster for the new Captain Harlock film. The article shares that “Japan’s Toei Animation plans to release the CG Captain Harlock movie in 2012.” That poster should give you a pretty clear idea about why I lurve the space pirate action so much!

Galaxy Express Shtuff

I’ve updated my 2010 Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup with more titles, so check ‘em out!

Talk about a cool niche to exploit: The Kindle Blog Report reviews…blogs available on The Kindle! The blog recently featured a positive review of The Galaxy Express. Thank you, Ms. Cairo! (And do check out her blog Winged Victory: A Women in Aviation Webzine. Très cool.)

Now I turn the mike over to you, all-knowing passengers. Have any science fiction romance news of your own to share?

Joyfully yours,

Heather