Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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Are Romance Heroines Forbidden to Kill the Villain?

Shadower

File this one under: Are you kidding me?

First, the set up: I recently finished Catherine Spangler’s SHADOWER. Before I begin my mini rant, I want to say that overall I enjoyed the story and had fun with its lighthearted space opera adventures. While certain elements left me raising my eyebrows, they weren’t enough to deter my enjoyment of the story. I’m definitely going to seek out SHIELDER and Ms. Spangler’s other science fiction romances.

That said, I read a passage in SHADOWER that blew my mind. I am going to quote it here, but it shouldn’t spoil anything since I’m not going to reveal what happened *after* this scene. However, let this serve as a minor spoiler alert in case you haven’t read the book.

SHADOWER has a villain, Galen, although he is a secondary character and not as significant a threat as the other collective-type villain, the “Controllers.” In the scene, the heroine, Moriah, is in a face-off with Galen. Cool space western goodness, right? My anticipation is spiking because the heroine’s got a phaser in her hand and I’ll get to see her kick some serious ass. I’ve even forgotten how two-dimensional Galen is because this moment is just too exciting for words.

Then this happens:

Galen aimed his rifle, but before she could raise her phaser and save herself, another blast knocked the rifle from his hands. With a snarl, Galen reached for the disruptor on his belt.

Moriah took cover, hurling herself into the edge of the woods and behind a tree. While she wanted to kill Galen, she didn’t know who was shooting at them. Safely out of the open, she readied her phaser.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy. Let’s review. After Galen’s rifle is knocked from his hand, he reaches for his disruptor. Therefore, he’s distracted. I mean, what an opening! But Moriah, despite having been depicted as a woman who is perfectly capable of defending herself, turns her back and runs for cover instead of taking advantage of Galen’s distraction and blasting his nasty evil arse all the way to the end of the universe.

Hmm…I guess Moriah forgot to attend the Han Solo School of Shoot ‘Em Up First, Ask Questions Later. Incoming fire notwithstanding, Moriah had a clear shot and she didn’t take it. I guarantee you, if the hero had been in her position, he would have shot Galen first before running for cover. Why, why, why was this glory denied to our poor Moriah?

Now, my beef isn’t directly tied to Catherine Spangler or even SHADOWER. This story is simply an example that highlighted more keenly one of my frustrations with romances in general. My frustration doubles when it’s an SFR kick ass heroine who isn’t allowed to kick ass in the same capacity as the hero. Note that the scene involved a face-off with guns, not fists. Technology leveled the playing field.

As I wrote this post, I tried to think of examples of science fiction romances where the heroine—on her own—defeated the villain (the main villain, not a minor character or one of the villain’s henchmen), regardless of means (e.g., gun, using space ship artillery, other weapons). Compared to, say, stories where the hero gets to kill the villain on his own (if they defeat the villain together, that’s a different story). For the life of me, I couldn’t think of any examples that immediately came to mind (key word being “immediately.” I will have to do some more research on the matter). Regardless, I think a moment like that would really stand out in my mind.

The above scene from SHADOWER made me wonder if the author made a deliberate attempt to steer the heroine away from having to end Galen’s life. And if so, why? To ensure the heroine remained a sympathetic character? In my mind, justice would have been served, so what does it matter who kills the villain? The hero wanted Galen dead, too, but it wasn’t as if the whole plot was structured around his thirst for vengeance. I sure was rooting for the heroine in this case.

On a related note, remember when Susan Grant shared with us that a scene in SUREBLOOD was changed to remove a reference to heroine Valeeya Blue striking a subordinate? Am I sensing a pattern here?

The idea of keeping SFR heroines “pure” as far as violence is concerned could be an issue more specific to mainstream print romances, because I’ve read SFR ebooks that push this boundary. But even so, this makes me wonder if some publishers and/or some authors think that in general, romance readers will rise up in arms (heh) if a heroine kills a villain in the name of justice. Maybe in the past that might have been true to an extent, but now? Can they safely assume readers haven’t changed at all since the romance market was born?

On the bright side, perhaps ebooks will allow more latitude for heroines in this regard, since the overall risk is less (financial risk, but also the risk of turning off readers).

Still, seems logical to me that if a heroine is of the kick ass variety, we should just let her do her job.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Sandra McDonald’s “THE STARS BLUE YONDER – Ode to Australia”

The Stars Blue Yonder

Sandra McDonald’s THE STARS BLUE YONDER (Tor) is now out in paperback. It’s the third book in her science fiction romance/military SF/science fantasy trilogy that began with THE OUTBACK STARS and continued with THE STARS DOWN UNDER. I really enjoyed this trilogy, especially so because of its hybrid nature. I could never predict where it was going. It will appeal to readers who like military sf, science fantasy, romance, and time travel. Also, say yes to this trilogy if you’re a fan of alien artifacts.

However, the only reason I even apply the word “trilogy” to this series is because of the current publishing distribution system of mainstream print books. These three books are really one big epic story. The first introduces the couple, the plot, and the setting, the second one is more of a “bridge” book, and the third ties all the plot threads together. The first book stands alone, but ultimately I felt that reading all three made for a much richer experience.

Not only does this trilogy focus on the adventures of the same couple throughout, but THE STARS BLUE YONDER is the most science fiction romance oriented of them all. It also has a riveting time travel element. You can read the story blurb at Amazon because I don’t want to risk spoilers in case anyone hasn’t read it yet but intends to. And yes, you do need to read the first two or you’ll be lost.

In addition to sharing the news of the paperback release, I also have a nifty trailer to show you courtesy of Sandra McDonald. I love this trailer not just because of the Space: 1999 references (Alan Carter, you’re money, baby), but also because there are lots of secret handshakes that you will only gleam if you’ve read the book.

Also, because THE STARS BLUE YONDER is heavily infused with Australian Aboriginal mythology, the trailer contains fun clips of Australian related movies and such. So without further ado, I’d like to present Sandra McDonald's “The Stars Blue Yonder – Ode to Australia”:



Read the author's announcement post (and watch the trailer again!) on her blog. To learn more about Sandra McDonald and her work, visit her site at www.sandramcdonald.com.

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, September 27, 2010

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Sex in Science Fiction: Are They Doing It Right?

Alien Revealed

This week’s SF Signal’s 009 podcast is about “Sex in Science Fiction.” Given that science fiction romances frequently explore sex and sexuality in the context of relationships, I thought you would want to be part of this conversation.

The panelists were asked the following:

What is the role of sex in science fiction?

Authors Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin, to name just a few, have all had sex and sexuality in their stories in one way or another. Science fiction and fantasy is full of examples of blurred gender roles, cross-species sex, virtual sex - are these legitimate points to move the story forward or are they simply there to sensationalize the prose? What are some examples of sex in science fiction that, good or bad, still stick in your mind? What are some examples where you felt it was completely out of place?


To complement the podcast, debut science fiction romance author Lisa Paitz Spindler (PHASE SHIFT, Carina Press) wrote an eloquent article at SFR Brigade in which she asks What is the role of sex in Science Fiction and Science Fiction Romance?.

My favorite quote from Lisa’s article: “The brain really is the largest and most important sexual organ.” Which is basically another way of describing science fiction romance, heh heh heh.

Unfortunately, the women panelists that were invited to the podcast couldn't make it. So I thought we could balance it out here and at the SFR Brigade. If you (regardless of gender!) had been a panelist, how would you have answered the questions?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 26, 2010

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SFR News & Links Extra for September 2010

I've accumulated some news and links that can't wait until my monthly roundup. Here goes:

Free ebook time! Download a free copy of Susan Grant's THE STAR KING at Kobo. You'll have to create an account to download it, but it's free and easy. I downloaded a copy right before this post and got it without any problems. *Cue hyperactive TV commercial narrator's voice* This is a limited time offer, so act now!

Carina Press has started a forum where readers and authors can meet and greet. How cool is that? It gets better: Check out the "Carina Press Cosmic Cantina (Science Fiction) and Fantasy Foyer"!

Head on over there to see what I've been stirring up. :P

Verona St. James reviewed John Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR as part of her "Summer of SFR" series:

That said, if you like military SF with great world-building, engaging characters and a fabulous narrator, then definitely give this book a shot. I highly recommend it. :)

Hmmm...d'you think she liked it? ;)

At Author!Author!, Anne Mini had praise for the first page of Natalie Hatch's girl space pirate adventure, BREEDER:

A little praise to start out, however: Natalie’s book definitely has a great premise, an interesting protagonist in an interesting situation, facing a genuinely difficult conflict...As the pros say, though, it all depends upon the writing. As it happens, that writing is quite good...


Also, tomorrow I'll be linking to a podcast at SF Signal, which I think will be very interesting--so much so that I'm going to link to that in lieu of my regular post. So stay tuned...

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 23, 2010

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An Interview With GAMBIT Author Kim Knox

Gambit

Kim Knoxwrites SF and fantasy with a hard twist of romance.” She’s written lots of books—click here to view a list of her science fiction romance titles. Her latest science fiction romance is GAMBIT (Carina Press). When I learned about her new book, I thought, here is an author who has been consistently writing science fiction romance, and it’s about time I took a journey into her corner of the universe.

I must say, I got a thrill reading GAMBIT’S tags at Carina’s store, which are “Futuristic, Romance, Space Opera.” No “paranormal romance” anywhere in that equation, no siree! Sigh…I lurv me a good metadata. Readers know exactly what they’re getting, and with Kim Knox, they can expect high octane action, adventure, and hot romance.

The author graciously agreed to an interview so we could learn more about her body of work as well as her latest release. You’ll learn just how much she’s a customer herself of science fiction romance. But first, here’s the blurb for GAMBIT:

Captain Chae Beyon is a hustler, a mercenary pilot, a wounded woman who prefers her men to be easily thrown aside.

Daned Traern is a first-caste Ladaian bound by tradition and DNA to protect his race. He’s willing to align himself with the hot space captain if she’ll transport him home in time to ensure the right candidate is crowned—and thus prevent a bloody war.

Disguised as Chae’s sex toy, Daned is erotically bound to her through living gold, alien tech designed to increase pleasure. When he frees himself, their passion only increases…but succumbing to temptation will bind them together—permanently.

But there’s more at stake than their needs. As Chae is dragged into a world of insane princes and sentient stones, hired killers hound them across the quadrant.

And then, as only her lousy luck would have it, Chae must choose between the good of the galaxy and her own heart…

***

Gotta love those extraordinary heroines! Now for the main event, my interview with Kim Knox:

The Galaxy Express: Why do you write science fiction romance?

Kim Knox: I’ve always read science fiction, but I began to crave more, a greater depth to the characters, and I wanted an equal weight of romance and sex with my guns and spaceships. It was strange for me to allow myself –and my characters—to begin to care about each other as well as save the world and/or galaxy. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. Now I get to play with how all kinds of strange and wonderful scientific ideas impact on people’s relationships and generally give them hell. It’s fun 

7% and RisingTGE: What was the path to publication like for your first SFR?

KK: I was first published in contemporaries under another name. The lack of external conflict, of murder and mayhem, in the contemporaries I wrote pushed me back to my first love of science fiction and fantasy. As I said, I was nervous about adding romantic relationships and especially sex to SF/F. It was something that I’d never found in the books I’d read. Not to the degree I wanted, anyway.

It started slow with Nimue’s Price, a science fantasy set in fifth century Britain. I allowed my characters to have a strong attraction as well as battle their enemies. Their ending is more HFN – happy for now – and I wasn’t sure about listing it under a romance tag, so I really consider my first real SFR to be 7% and Rising.

That story started its life as an exercise for my MA course. Again I’d hinted at a possible relationship between the characters, but had felt uncomfortable pushing it further at the time. Writing Nimue’s Price gave me the confidence to play out Cahn and Roen’s story as I’d always wanted to. Plus I got to seriously mess with time travel and fracturing realities, which is always an added plus for me. Samhain Publishing contracted 7% and Rising and gave me a fantastic cover. They also let me keep my title, which I’m also very happy about.

TGE: How many books have you published to date? What are a few of the common elements that readers can expect from your stories?

KK: I have 24 published to date, though three of those are contemporaries under my other name. There’s also a mix of fantasy and paranormal in with majority of SFR. I think what links them all is a hint of darkness, a fast pace and unexpected twists and turns. Also yummy heroes. But I may be biased on the last one.

Perfecting NaiaTGE: When you blogged about PERFECTING NAIA, you stated that “I wanted to play with my love of mythology – I’ve been reading a lot of Greek and Roman reference books lately – but making it SF too.” What are a few of your favorite mythology stories that have made it into your science fiction romance works?

KK: Some of the myths work into my not quite SFR stories. As in Emergence, a future set story that has mythological creatures, the mythoi, living with humans for two hundred years. Or Nimue’s Price, that has Merlin and Nimue in fifth century Britain having to deal with weapons of mass destruction.

When I blogged about Perfecting Naia, I was in the middle of splurge reading for another book. I rediscovered my fondness for the minotaur and his labyrinth, though I have to admit to seeing things from the minotaur’s point of view rather than Theseus’. I think that’s where the idea for Perfecting Naia originally came from…and it got increasingly more interesting from there.

Most other stories don’t have so obvious a start. I realised after I’d written it, that Flesh and Shadows, played with the idea of the Garden of Eden. It short of slapped me in the face and I didn’t know how I’d missed it with the snakes and the fruit and a heroine called Niamh… Sometimes I can’t see where an influence has come from until I’ve written the book. The way my brain works annoys me sometimes…

TGE: Please tell us about the inspiration for GAMBIT, your first release with Carina Press.

KK: My two boys love Star Wars. They can watch it ad nauseum. I can too, but I like to blame them! I was sitting through another airing of Return of the Jedi, with my brain half awake, when a thought hit me. What if Han Solo was Jabba the Hut’s pet wrapped in gold rather than Leia? I liked that thought a lot…though not necessarily Jabba as my heroine. So I kept the Han in his strips of now living, pleasure-giving gold and gave a woman the leash.

It changed and grew from there, but the idea of a hero, unashamed in little scraps of gold was the image that stayed with me.

TGE: You’ve created multiple worlds populated by a variety of characters. If you could have the career or job of any of your SFR characters, which one would you choose?

KK: Probably the safest would be Alena’s position in Unity. She’s an empress of an orbiting and shielded city. I think most of my heroines are in too dangerous a job for me to want to follow them. But I do envy them some of their heroes. Especially Jonathon Raegh from Warflesh… *cough *

TGE: Please describe a few of your favorite science fiction romance books, films, and/or television shows.

KK: I’m a fan of Linnea Sinclair, as I’ve said before, she was the one who showed me there was such a thing as science fiction romance. I’m also a complete fangirl of Nathalie Gray. I discovered her through one of her free reads on Ellora’s Cave, then inhaled her backlist. My current reading is a mix of Steampunk and SF and I’ve found an author I love. I’ve just raced through Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate trilogy…and now have to wait a year for the next book.

My TV favourites have to include Stargate -- in all its spin offs, Babylon 5 and especially Doctor Who. The programme probably started my obsession with time travel. One of my earliest memories is of being terrified by the spiders of Metebelis III. My imagination made up for the ropey special effects! And of course, I love the new series. The Master –especially when he’s blond – has a special place in my heart ;-)

Doctor Who

TGE: Do you have any advice for SFR authors looking to write for digital publishers?

KK: I don’t think my advice would differ between print or digital. It always has to be, write the best book you can. The bonus of digital publishers is that you can write a story of a much shorter length. That’s perfect for me, as I’m still learning to build my stamina to write more books over fifty thousand words.

TGE: What else can readers look forward to from you?

KK: I have Gambit coming out 20 September and a few days later on 23 September, Perfecting Naia is out from Ellora’s Cave. Both are SFR, though Perfection Naia definitely pushes more towards erotic romance.

And thank you for asking me for an interview, Heather.

Ms. Knox, thank you for your time, and for your art.

Kim Knox has been busy since GAMBIT’S release. She recently blogged at Carina Press:

Is Your Pleasure My Pleasure ;? A Gambit excerpt

In Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons ;, she blogs about her love of science fiction and SFR:

I love a fast paced SF story, be it a book, on television or in a film. Space guns and star ships and an awful lot of running up and down the corridors of orbiting space platforms… I think that may be Doctor Who again. What can I say? I watched it from a very young age.


To sample her work, check out her Free Reads page. And to cap it all off, here’s a 2009 interview the author did at Embrace The Shadows.

For further updates about Kim Knox and her books, visit her blog, and you can also follow her on Twitter (KimKnox).

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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Sapphire and Steel: A Creepy Kind of Love

Yo, Passengers. Just got back from a mission in which terrible things happened to bad people and I made an awful lot of money to spend on books and DVDs and new outfits. I was exhausted when I got back to home base and it was time to enjoy some creature comforts. Yep, I updated my Netflix list!

There’s nothing that I love more than a good old-fashioned rupture in the space-time continuum (well, except for maybe laser guns and dark chocolate and polish vodka and loads of other things, but I really, really do love space-time continuum ruptures an awful lot.) From whence came this strange and awful love? Well, Brits of a certain age may recognize the names of Sapphire and Steel, the stars of an old TV sci-fi show that aired in the U.K. from 1979 – 1982.

Take a look at the trailer:



Ah, gotta love low budget British TV.

Sapphire and Steel were a couple of interdimensional operatives who would be called on to go fix the ruptures in the corridor of Time itself. Watching it as a kid was, well...scary. These shows were seriously creepy. And I never understood what the hell was going on. Watching them many years later: well, they were still really creepy and I STILL couldn’t understand what was going on. Heavy on atmosphere, low on explanation, this had to be one of the strangest programs ever to air in the UK (and that’s saying something.)

Despite having to watch the show from a safe place behind the couch, the two stars were compulsively watchable.

Joanna Lumley (Sapphire) had just done a stint on The New Avengers playing Purdey - one of the original kick ass heroines. Nowadays she’s better known as Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous.

Joanna Lumley

David McCallum (Steel) had once played Ilya Kuryakin, the mysterious Russian sidekick to The Man from U.N.C.L.E and he was also my first crush. He’s still going, too, playing Ducky Mallard on CSIS.

David McCallum

As Sapphire and Steel, their beauty and chemistry was one of the most watchable aspects of the show and, over time, a whole will-they-or-won’t-they vibe built up between the characters. Long before there was Mulder and Scully, there was Sapphire and Steel.

Sapphire and Steel

Sci-fi romance? In a weird Sapphire and Steel kind of way, I guess. They would stare at each other a lot, and they would stand very, very close gazing into each other’s eyes, rarely touching, but always looking like they wanted to. I, of course, was far too young to know anything about sexual tension. I just had the weird feeling I was looking at something I shouldn’t.

I can’t say it has stood the test of time too well. It was always too strange for television, but there are certain images from this show burned into my brain - a man without a face, a soldier who doesn’t know he’s dead, children orphaned by Time, and that enigmatic ending to the series, with Sapphire and Steele cast adrift in space forever as a punishment for who knows what.

If you’re interested, here’s a wee taste of the creepiness:



Did it ever show anywhere apart from the U.K? Does anyone know what the heck it was about?

And what’s on YOUR Netflix list?

Be seeing ya,

Agent Z.

Agent Z

Sunday, September 19, 2010

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Science Fiction Romance Friendly Review Sites

Enemy WithinThanks to Marcella Burnard (ENEMY WITHIN), we now have a list of review sites that will consider science fiction romance. Some are slanted toward romance; others toward science fiction. I grouped them in alphabetical order. I didn’t list specific contact names since most of the sites provide easy access to the information.

This list is for information purposes only. There are no guarantees of a review, and in some cases there is a very long waiting list. Check the comment thread of this TGE post to gleam a bit more information about some of the reviewers listed here.

If I missed anyone, please send me a link to your site and I will update the list.

A Buckeye Girl Reads
Affaire De Coeur
All About Romance
Alpha Reader
A Romance Review
A Writer’s Dream
Babbling About Books, And More
Bibliognome
Book Binge
Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama
Book Lovers Inc.
Book Mom
Barnes & Noble Review
Booklist (American Library Association)
Bookpage
Coffee Time Romance
Darkcargo
Dark Wyrm Reads
Dear Author
Debuts & Reviews
Dirty Sexy Books
Enduring Romance
Ex Libris
Fire Pages
Fresh Fiction
Geek Dad (Geek Mom)
Got Erotic Romance
Heart to Heart: The BN romance Blog
Impressions of a Reader…on romance & more!
I Smell Sheep
Jacqueline Lichtenberg at Alien Romances & Amazon
Janicu’s Book Blog
Library Journal
Literary Escapism
LoveLetter Magazine
Love Romance Passion
Lurv A La Mode
Mixed Book Bag
The Midwest Book Review
Mrs. Giggles
Night Owl Reviews
Panic in the Lingerie!
Paranormal Romance Reviews
Pearls Cast Before A McPig
Petit Fours and Hot Tamales
Publishers Weekly: Barbara Vey, Beyond Her Book
Publishers Weekly: Rose Fox, Genreville
Rex Robot Reviews
Romance: B(u)y The Book
Romance Junkies
RT Book Reviews
SciFi Chick
SciFi Guy
See Michelle Read
SF Signal
SF Site
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Smart Girls Love SciFi and Paranormal Romance
Spinecracker
Tempting Persephone
Tex Says (print ARCs and print books only)
The Cerebral Writer (one book per month)
The Book Smugglers
The Discriminating Fangirl
The Good, The Bad, and The Unread
The Romance Dish
The Season
Welcome to Larissa's Bookish Life
What Here Shall Miss…

Wow, this should keep us all busy for a while!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 16, 2010

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Serializing Science Fiction Romance—Hot Or Not?

Books on iPhoneOne aspect I find appealing about science fiction romance’s status as a niche subgenre is that there are opportunities to experiment with medium. I’ve blogged previously about expanding SFR to videogames, manga, and webcomics. But, another intriguing possibility is that of serialized stories.

The digital medium readily lends itself to segmenting stories for bite-sized consumption (think: cell phones), or offering readers the episodic adventures of an SFR couple. Given that widespread ownership of e-readers is still a few years away, it makes sense to deliver stories that readers can consume on-the-go or without incurring significant eye strain.

While it’s possible that a breakout book or series could catapult science fiction romance into a higher level of visibility, I believe that we need a variety of different approaches to increase the subgenre’s appeal. If we wait for one particular story or author to “make it” then I fear we are limiting ourselves by not tapping into all of the available resources.

But how strong is the interest for serialized science fiction romance?

Rather than answers, the above question begat questions within questions, namely:

* Who is the audience for serialized science fiction romance?

* Which publishers should authors target and/or pitch ideas for serialized stories?

* Are digital-first romance or SF publishers even interested in acquiring them?

* Would alternative publishing models/social networking sites like Textnovel, Scribd, Amazon Kindle’s Publishing Program, or Smashwords make it easier—and faster—to place serialized SFR into the hands of readers?

* What should the pricing structure be? What are readers willing to pay for individual chapters?

* Would a particular kind of story or characters work best?

* Would this medium actually be an effective way to target potential readers?

Then there is the question of how to adapt the story to the medium. Seems like there would be two basic ways to tell a serialized SFR story. One would be to divide a traditional story into short chapters or scenes and release each segment until it reaches the end. The second would be to create an ongoing series. Each chapter could be a standalone story, with the romance layered in as a subplot that grows in prominence as the series progresses. The series could end in a few short installments or continue for months or years.

Books on iPad

The reason I bring up the adaptation issue is that we are accustomed to reading stories in one complete package. This wasn’t always the case (e.g., penny dreadfuls), and as I learned in Charles Stross’ Why books are the length they are, how we read is closely tied to the technology and distribution systems at any given time. In other words, can we embrace the idea of “formless content”:

“formless content”: “Formless Content can be reflowed into different formats and not lose any intrinsic meaning. It's content divorced from layout. Most novels and works of non-fiction are Formless.”

—“Books in the Age of the iPad” by Craig Mod

So the question is this: are we willing to read stories differently nowadays? Can we/do we want to delay our gratification? The irony is that even though we are accustomed to having complete novels/novellas at our disposal, we don’t always read them in one sitting. So what’s really the difference between a novel that’s a complete package vs. one that’s divided into smaller bits?

Key question: would tapping into an alternate medium in the form of serialized chapters or stories place science fiction romance on the radar of readers who otherwise wouldn’t have even given it a second glance?

There are definitely advantages to serializing SFR. Readers could purchase installments at low prices, such as .50 cents or even less depending on the overall story length. This limits the risk, especially if a reader discovers she doesn’t care for the story. Authors and/or publishers benefit since the complete story or series could be eventually bundled into a single ebook, creating an additional way to monetize the story. And it should go without saying that the first installment can be offered for free as a way to entice readers to give a story a try.

But is it premature to be considering serialized science fiction romance? Realistically, should we wait for established authors to take the plunge and have success before debut authors can consider such an investment of time and effort (because I highly doubt any kind of advance will be involved)?

I’m ready to hear your thoughts.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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“They Came To Talk”

I used to watch 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN pretty regularly.

One particular episode has stayed with me since this series ran in the 1990s, specifically the one titled “Ab-Dick-ted.” The most hilarious part of the episode comes when teenage alien Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), in an attempt to impress his human girlfriend, agrees to watch a movie called THEY CAME TO TALK. (The segment is posted at Youtube if you want to relive the scene the way I did while writing this post. Fast forward to 6:49).

Steel Magnolias PosterAnyway, Tommy just kills when he requests the tickets to this fictional film, as well as when he reassures his girlfriend by stating, “Anne Bancroft, Olympia Dukakis, and Holly Hunter…what teenage boy wouldn’t want to see this movie?”

I watched this episode with my husband—also an SF fan—and years later “They Came To Talk” is still a running joke between us. It’s not like I have anything against films involving women talking as a plot--except when they’re boring.

The reason this 3rd ROCK episode has been on my mind lately is because I’m reading three—count ‘em, three—science fiction romances in which the basic plotline so far is this: Hero meets heroine, hero and heroine travel aboard a starship, conversation and sexual tension ensues.

Now, this is hardly the first time I’ve encountered this trope. In fact, with space opera type stories, it’s difficult to avoid reading scenes where the hero and heroine spend time getting to know one another while traipsing across the galaxy from point A to point B. In a story where the plot is the relationship, this technique is an easy way to force the hero and heroine into dealing with each other. They can’t just walk out the nearest airlock. (As an aside, it also seems to be a common trope in historical romances when the h/h are aboard a sailing ship).

But is this technique too easy?

I have mixed feelings about this approach. On the one hand, whenever a hero and heroine are aboard a starship, I really can’t complain. I like reading about the shipboard details particular to that story. Frequently, either the hero or heroine is the captain, and one or both have an interesting occupation. This strategy also provides the requisite sexual tension, especially given the tight spaces one often finds aboard a standard fictional starship.

On the other hand, sometimes a story veers into “They Came To Talk” territory. As an SF fan, I couldn’t help but relate to Tommy’s misgivings about watching such a film. Except for those occasional instances when I need a change of pace, I usually gravitate towards SF/F/horror films. I want high stakes, action, and intense conflict much of the time. Plunking a hero and heroine in a space ship for endless chapters doesn’t always meet my need for the excitement of an external plot. Never mind the fact that sometimes an existing external plot is pushed aside so the heroine can obsess over the hero’s eye color.

I find that a story involving a hero and heroine confined to a ship works best when there’s lots and lots of conflict between them. Doesn’t have to be physical conflict. Any kind will do. But there are stories where the focus is relentlessly on the mental lusting or superficial concerns, which makes for a very muted type of conflict (or the conflict is too easily resolved).

If I’m reading a story involving “They Came To Talk” science fiction romance, my hope is that even as the hero and heroine lust after each other, they are still heavily at odds with one another.

Is that too much to ask?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, September 13, 2010

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Donna S. Frelick Wins TARA Contest With Sci-Fi Romance UNCHAINED MEMORY

This sweet news just in, courtesy of Spacefreighters Lounge:

Donna S. Frelick has won the TARA Contest Paranormal category with her awesome Science Fiction Romance manuscript, Unchained Memory.

Congratulations, Donna! To learn more about the story, visit her site at Donna S. Frelick.com.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 12, 2010

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Spies Like Us: An Agent Z. Rant

Agent Z

You know, I’m a tough kind of gal. I have to be, you see, in my line of work. Protecting the little people from big bad aliens, intergalactic conglomerates, and evil overlords is what I do. Now, I may not be a soldier or a princess or (rolls eyes at Heather) a space pirate, but us intergalactic spies do a dangerous and thankless job.

SO WHY THE HELL AREN’T I A SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE HEROINE??? HUH??? HUH???

OK, so maybe I sleep around a bit, have a potty mouth, dress trashy and drink too much, but so what? No one’s perfect. I’ve been told I have a hard heart of gold hiding behind this steel-reinforced, but still sexy, corset. I got nice teeth. I can giggle girlishly when I need to. All it would take is the right man to kill my other suitors, make me quiver, make me laugh, and get me the hell out of this corset.

Hell, I’d settle for a romance novel about any intergalactic spy. It doesn’t have to be me (but it sure better not be that beyotch Agent DD. I hate her) It would be a heck of a novel, engorged with sex and violence and lots and lots of sneaking around doing derring-do type of things in a variety of exotic settings (just don’t make me go back to Gor.).

C’mon, science fiction romance writers. Take me on! I’m more than willing to have my rough edges filed off (as long as they’re still there when I need ‘em.) Don’t we all need a heroine we can believe in? Believe me - I’m your gal!

So what are you waiting for? Git writing! Here - I’ll even give you the opening:

Agent Z. stretched luxuriously, before kicking Han Solo out of her bed.

“You’d better get back to that bossy little wife of yours before she finds out you’re missing.”

Han fell to his knees in front of her.

“No, Z. Please! Don’t send me away!”

“Fix me a drink before you go, Solo. And don’t make me shoot you...again.”


Be seeing ya!

Agent Z.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

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Natalie Hatch Wins Big For BREEDER, Her YA Girl Space Pirate Story

I’d like to share some exciting news today. I recently discovered that Galaxy Express passenger Natalie Hatch won in the Young Adult category of the Children's and Young Adult authors contest with BREEDER, her girl space pirate novel. Congratulations, Natalie!

I had the honor of reading an early draft of the manuscript, and boy was it ever impressive even at that stage. I normally don’t delve into YA these days, but I couldn’t resist the chance to read a grrrl space pirate tale. The story has action, adventure, romance, and groovy space whales (you’ll just have to read it for yourself to discover why). The heroine really knows her way around tools, and the worldbuilding details regarding the repairs she did really drew me into her character. The hero was noble, and the villain truly heinous.

As if the contest win wasn’t awesome enough, the manuscript is in the hands of two major mainstream print publishers and an agent. It’ll be so cool seeing this book hit the shelves. Fingers crossed for you, Natalie!

To learn more about Natalie Hatch’s win, read her announcement post at her blog, What Time Is It Again?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, September 9, 2010

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Cover Exclusive: Ella Drake’s SILVER BOUND

Ella Drake’s forthcoming science fiction romance SILVER BOUND from Carina Press will hit the virtual shelves November 22, 2010. Thanks to the author and publisher's generosity, my passengers have access to the official unveiling of the cover right now! Feast your eyes:

Silver Bound

There’s the couple against a starry background! Good call. If we can’t have starships or other tech, at least stars and a planet help orient the potential reader to the setting. The cacti tell you it’s a space western, although I’d be surprised to discover that there are really cacti in the story. But maybe, just maybe, the cacti launch killer spores that transform into mutant space monsters. Kidding.

Back to the cover. To me, the color is warm and inviting. The stars echo the silver mentioned in the title, which is a nice touch. The couple’s pose promises a sensual love story (but I wouldn’t have complained in the least if the hero, who is a sheriff, wore a uniform. Picky, picky, I know. Although, it appears as though he might be wearing a holster.).

Overall, this is a solid step toward branding science fiction as a whole, at least as far as covers are concerned. What this cover says to me is that Carina Press embraces the hybrid story elements. Because it's an ebook, they can afford to target the niche audience. But the visuals have plenty of cross-over appeal as well.

And that’s not all, folks: Head on over to the Ella Drake’s site to read the newly revealed story blurb and excerpt!

Now that you’re back, what do you think about the latest addition to our current batch of SFR covers?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Enter An Unusual Contest At Dear Author To Win A Copy Of Susan Grant's SUREBLOOD

Earlier today, Dear Author posted a review of Susan Grant's SUREBLOOD, which is chock full of space pirate adventure. The reviewer, however, wasn't a particular fan of the heroine, stating, "Val made me want to throw up."

o_O

Susan Grant thought the line was so memorable and funny that she wants to see more. If you can top the reviewer's line with something even more outrageous, you'll be entered to win a copy of SUREBLOOD! See the comments for more details.

Who knew space pirates could be so much fun?!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

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Nathalie Gray’s METAL REIGN Hits The Sweet Spot

Metal Reign

METAL REIGN by Nathalie Gray is one of three stories in Samhain Publishing’s IMPULSE POWER space opera anthology. This author is known for her high octane science fiction and paranormal romance stories that feature intense heroes and heroines. She’s a multi-published author, and oh, yes—most of her books fall under the erotic romance umbrella.

And if your eyes just glazed over at the mention of “erotic romance,” stay with me for just a moment.

Would you be surprised to learn that as far as heat level is concerned, METAL REIGN falls in the “sweet” category? Yes, it does! Can you believe it? The bedroom door is 100% closed (technically, the story takes place before the couple even goes anywhere near a bedroom). METAL REIGN is an SFR from a digital publisher known for its erotic romance selection, and whose covers veer toward dark and sultry (and not unexpectedly, the one for this ebook is no exception).

I was so surprised I read it twice. It also helps that the story has fun characters (the heroine is a starship captain! The hero is a cook!), lots of action, solid worldbuilding, and crackling dialogue. I realize ebooks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there are some stories worth crossing the divide for. Take a moment to read an excerpt.

We’ve discussed heat level in science fiction romance previously, and in particular whether there’s room for stories that close the bedroom door. (It’s also the topic of my forthcoming LoveLetter column.) METAL REIGN prompted me to revisit it for a few reasons.

One is that given the limited number of SFR print releases, and conversely, the higher number of erotic science fiction romance releases, the chances of finding a sweet SFR is rather small. So if you’re looking for sweet, METAL REIGN might be up your alley, especially if you enjoy space opera (and doubly so if you’re a fan of the ALIEN film franchise).

The second reason is that for those of us who enjoy science fiction romances of all heat levels, the main path to having more choices is to purchase the stories. Sales numbers is the only way publishers know that readers want stories like METAL REIGN. At $3.50, buying a story such as this won’t break the bank. And at 52 pages, it’s a fast-paced read.

A third reason I wanted to blog about this story was that it underscores the importance of word-of-mouth and tagging for a niche subgenre like science fiction romance. If a reader visits Samhain’s site, at first glance it appears that the only books they offer are erotic romances. But METAL REIGN demonstrates that some digital publishers are willing to take a risk with not only a niche subgenre, but also with heat level. Wading through the mass of erotic romance titles to find such exceptions, however, poses quite a challenge.

Which, of course, is a big reason I started blogging about SFR in the first place.

How refreshing, also, that an author can take a chance and write a book that varies from her past ones in such a significant way—without having to resort to a pseudonym to do so. Anecdotal stories I’ve read tell me that mainstream print authors don’t usually have the same flexibility (understandably so, given the higher production and distribution costs).

Hmm…yet another reason that science fiction romance could thrive in the digital market.

What about you, my fine passengers? Are you looking for a "sweet" heat level in science fiction romance? If you haven't yet read an ebook, would you venture beyond print to read such stories?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, September 5, 2010

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The Worlds of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson: STINGRAY

Stingray

"Stand by for action! We are about to launch Stingray! Anything can happen in the next half hour!"

The above announcement kicked off each episode of STINGRAY, one of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s superlative Supermarionation masterpieces. This show has been on my mind ever since…well, since as long as I’ve been a fan, but especially so after reading the Parallel Universe guest post by Dirty Sexy Books’ Rebecca Baumann in which she wrote:

Space exploration captures our collective imagination, but I think we’re ignoring an equally cool frontier – the oceans. Movies like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Abyss do a fabulous job of showcasing how the ocean is every bit as strange, wondrous, and dangerous as space. I enjoy stories that touch on this idea that our future may not be up there, but down below.

Let me tell you—when I read that passage, everything I love about STINGRAY rose up from my memory and hit me with the force of a tidal wave. On its surface, STINGRAY is a children’s show about a pimped up submarine embarking on fantastic undersea adventures. But if you peel back the layers, the show reveals the nascent stages of a futuristic, ocean-based science fiction romance.

Here’s the lowdown:

STINGRAY specs:

*Ran from 1964-65
*39 episodes
*Originally televised in the UK and then syndicated in the U.S.
*First Supermarionation and British show filmed in color
*First Supermarionation show to feature puppets with interchangeable heads for different expressions

About the submarine:

Stingray, a highly sophisticated combat submarine built for speed and manoeuvrability, is the flagship of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP), a 21st Century security organisation based at Marineville in the year 2065. She is capable of speeds of up to 600 knots and advanced pressure compensators allow her to submerge to depths of over 36,000 feet, which permits cruising to the bottom of any part of any ocean in the world.

The players:

Captain Troy Tempest: Pilot of Stingray; Alpha hero in the extreme.

Troy Tempest

Lieutenant George Lee "Phones" Sheridan: Stingray navigator and Troy’s yes man sidekick.

Phones

Commander Sam Shore: Gruff, hoverchair-bound commander of Marineville; father of…

Commander Shore

Lieutenant Atlanta Shore: WASP communications officer who carries a torch for Troy Tempest.

Atlanta Shore

Marina: Mermaid-type humanoid who joins the Stingray crew. She’s also a former sex slave of…

Marina

King Titan: Ruler of the Aquaphibians, a submarine warrior race that lives in the underwater city of Titanica.

King Titan

So how does all of that add up to science fiction romance? STINGRAY is about the adventures of Troy Tempest and his colleagues as they patrol the ocean depths in a futuristic submarine capable of like, totally amazing feats. They encounter a variety of undersea races, but their main nemesis is King Titan, an all around bad egg whose goal is to destroy Marineville and Stingray. Believe me, those Aquaphibians are downright creepy. You don't want them bugging their eyes at you.

And here’s the kicker: STINGRAY features a love triangle between Troy Tempest, Atlanta, and Marina. Marina has the hots for Troy, but after Marina rescues him from the clutches of King Titan, Troy finds himself smitten by the enigmatic beauty. Marina is mute, so Troy has no way of knowing how she truly feels about him. In truth, Troy’s kind of a player—an ass, really—because he leads both women on.

Oh, and I could go on about how surprised I was to discover not only a romantic thread in this series, but a little bit of sexual tension as well. Not overtly, mind you, but in the way the writers clearly wrote some of the scenes above the heads of children. This is most evident during the show’s “closing credits, where Troy sings "Aqua Marina" (a song reflecting his romantic feelings for Marina) whilst Atlanta gazes wistfully at Troy's photograph.

Allow me to demonstrate:



Did you catch the line, “Marina/What are these strange enchantments that start whenever you’re near?” Whoa...sounds like a euphemism for Troy's arousal to me.

For more STINGRAY romance, explosions, and hip 60s fashion, now watch “The Stingray Megamix featuring Aqua Marina from Power Themes 90”:



Don’t you just want to rush out and glom all 39 episodes of STINGRAY right this very second? I know I’m ready to relive the joys (and retro laughs) this series has to offer. But before you go, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to end with STINGRAY. I would love, love, LOVE to read or watch a science fiction romance with an ocean-based setting. Near-future, far future, submarines, underwater cities, badass steampunk kraken, you name it. Science fiction romance has loads of potential to branch off in that kind of direction. Perhaps I should clarify further: STINGRAY is one experience I’m looking to have again. And again.

In short, I’m standing by for the action.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Related post:

Fireball XL5
Firefighters In Space? Bring It On!
All Your Beta Are Belong To Us

Thursday, September 2, 2010

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SFR News & Links for September 2010

New releases

KILLBOX – Ann Aguirre

Talk is cheap when lives are in jeopardy

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

Read an excerpt here.

REBEL – Claire Delacroix

The Eyes of the Republic Are Everywhere...

Having sacrificed his wings in a bid save humanity, fallen angel Armand has a bold plan to assassinate Presidential candidate Maximilian Blackstone. When things go awry and his partner Baruch is gravely injured, Armand fears that he will fail in his task and forever lose the chance to rejoin the angels in Heaven.

Theodora is a wraith, a woman who officially doesn't exist. She lives in the shadows, taking risks to earn the bounty placed on dangerous assassinations - bounty that buys the chance at a new life for those she loves. Captured when her latest hit goes horribly wrong, Theodora finds herself the prisoner of a strong, arrogant stranger.

Soon enough, these two solitary souls find their missions-and their hearts-entwined. But in their desperate attempt to save the world, will they be able to save each other?

Read an excerpt here.

Aw, just two this month? Bummer. Fortunately, there are a few forthcoming and re-release titles in the works!

Forthcoming

Author Maria Zannini has sold a science fiction romance to Carina Press! TRUE BELIEVERS is scheduled for an October 18 release. Here’s the lovely and very SFR-infused cover:



And the story blurb:

Mix one cynical immortal and one true believer and throw them into the biggest alien-hunt the world has never known.

Rachel Cruz is a Nephilim masquerading as an archeologist and she's stuck with an alien who believes she can lead him to his ancestral gods.

Black Ops wants to find these gods too. They want them dead.


Congratulations, Maria!

And, of course, I recently blogged about Lisa Paitz Spindler's sale of an SFR to Carina Press. I have news of yet another SFR sale made by a Galaxy Express passenger, which I hope to be able to announce soon. I think we're on a roll!

Re-releases

Science fiction romance author Autumn Dawn is releasing SOLAR FLARE, the third book in her Sparks series (WHEN SPARKS FLY; NO WORDS ALONE), on Smashwords and Amazon. Can’t beat the $2.99 price.

Here’s the story blurb:

Slow burn.

Azor agreed to take Brandy off planet to avoid a scandal, never knowing they’d ignite a white hot passion of their own. Sassy, sexy, Brandy makes him burn. If the hostile aliens don’t kill him, his companion just might.

Hunted by a shape shifting assassin, fighting an infection that's killing her, he knows that time is short. Can he reach her distant family before time runs out?

***

Visit the author’s blog for the latest updates.

Katherine Eliska Kimbrel is re-releasing her SFR FIRES OF NUALA through Book View Café (slated for September per her blog). Here’s the story blurb:

For more than 150 years, she has traveled the Seven Systems, slipping in and out of Cold Sleep. She is a free-trader, the aristocracy of con artists, able to fleece the dishonest with their own greed.

The woman is known as Silver, when she is named at all –- and she may be the finest free-trader living. But even she is not prepared for the reality of Nuala, planet of deadly radiation levels, humans who heal by touch, and the rarest platinum group metal in the known galaxy. Eighty percent of the citizens are sterile, and the wealthy send their children out to seek mates and find others willing to expand the planetary gene pool. A Nualan can smell a lie at fifty paces. Truth, honor – and their children – are everything to the people of Nuala.

On Nuala, for the first time, Silver will be forced to use her real name –- Darame Daviddottir – and she will walk the thinnest line between truth and lie of her long and varied career.

The scam she’s come to join has just been blown to the skies, along with the throne lines of three separate sovereign nations. Now Darame has just one decision -– which group of Nualans will she support in the days to come? Mere chance threw her into the camp of the Atares, leaders of the largest clan on Nuala. Will she help them? Thwart them? Wait for the dust to settle?

The tipping point may have already occurred. Turns out she’s mentioned in Nualan religious prophecy, and has caught the eye of the last adult male of a throne line. Sheel Atare is a “hot” healer, able to close ripped flesh and draw fever with a touch. A reclusive professor and medical doctor, unprepared to rule, Sheel Atare needs all the allies he can get.

Even allies who may be connected to those who brought down his house.


(Cover by Don Dixon)

(Thanks to Galaxy Express passenger B. for the info.)

Steampunk Romance

Squee! The release time is nigh. For now, here’s a look at the cover for Meljean Brook’s THE IRON DUKE (October 5, 2010):



Interesting mix of steampunk and man titty. What, steampunk ain’t enough to sell books?! :-P What do you think about this cover?

Author interviews

Erica Anderson (THE ANTAREN AFFAIR) was interviewed at the SFR Brigade.

Cool short story contest

All Romance Ebooks is hosting the Just One Bite Short Story Contest. The reason I hope SFR authors consider this unique opportunity is because they will consider “any story in the paranormal genre.” This is one instance when lumping SFR in with horror-based paranormal tales works in our favor. Oh, I am so evil. Evil, I tell you.

Readers will vote for their favorite stories from among 32 finalists. There are prizes, too:

Readers will vote for their favorite short stories during 5 rounds of voting with the field being narrowed at the end of each round. The first prize winner will receive $1000 US. The second prize winner will receive an iPod Touch. The third prize winner will receive a $100 eBook Bucks Gift Certificate redeemable either at AllRomance.com or OmniLit.com.


Here are the complete submission guidelines. They are seeking short short stories:

Each title must be an original, never before published paranormal romance work between 2,500 and 3,000 words and will be marketed exclusively by All Romance. After the contest, the works may be bundled or distributed individually by All Romance via our Free Read program…Submissions will be accepted between September 1 and September 28, 2010.


And if you win with a science fiction romance, please do tell me so I can read your story!

(Via SFR Brigade)

Submitting your SFR

As of this posting, it looks like L&L Dreamspell has more openings for its steampunk e-anthology. Might be an opportunity for steampunk romance authors.

The SFR Brigade showcases Desert Breeze Publishing, a publisher very much open to science fiction romance submissions.

Better late than never

I had the honor of being included in last week’s Mind Meld at SF Signal. The question was “What are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy settings and why?” It’s possibly the only place where Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series and Gerry Anderson’s THUNDERBIRDS make a joint appearance. *big grin*

Now I turn the mike over to you: Have any SFR news or links to share?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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Breaking News: Lisa Paitz Spindler Sells SFR to Carina Press!

Lisa Paitz Spindler, a.k.a. Danger Gal, has been a longtime fan and advocate for science fiction romance, which makes the news of her SFR novella sale to Carina Press all the more wonderful. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been tirelessly blogging about science fiction romance at her own site. She’s also engaged other readers about the subgenre in a variety of online forums.

Now she can add debut author to her already impressive credentials. According to her announcement post, PHASE SHIFT (working title) will be a Carina Press Spring 2011 release. Here’s the story blurb:

Starship Captain LARA SOTO left love-of-her-life Commodore MICHIO “MITCH” YOSHIDA eleven years ago when the Star Union forced all of her kind into mandatory military service — and he didn’t take her side. Lara’s kind are Chimerans, those born with a parent from each of the known parallel dimensions: Terra and Creed. When Terra’s S.U.S. Interlace goes missing with Lara’s brother on board, she must put aside the pain of betrayal and team up with Mitch to find him.

And did I mention the story features space pirates? Well, you all know how I feel about them.

Visit Lisa Paitz Spindler’s Facebook page to learn more about this exciting news as well as to join her mailing list. You can also find her hanging out at SF Signal where she has a gig as a reviewer.

Please join me in wishing Lisa a very hearty congratulations!

Joyfully yours,

Heather