Thursday, December 30, 2010

Written on

The Ultimate in Tentacle Sex: Exotic Alien Appendages

Urotsukidoji mangaMy first encounter with exotic—and erotic—penile appendages was in the 1989 anime Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend (based on the 1986 manga). Urotsukidōji is a mix of erotica, humor, and supernatural horror. It’s loaded with not only tentacle sex, but also kinky penile appendages galore.

Years later, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a similar concept in Emma Holly’s erotic paranormal romance PRINCE OF ICE: A Tale of the Demon World. While the stories are vastly different, the demon lovers share unique physical attributes in that their penises can stimulate a woman’s body in all sorts of unusual ways (to put it mildly).

Which brings me to the present. All of the above came to the fore of my mind while reading TRUE BELIEVERS by Maria Zannini. It’s not a spoiler to share that the hero, Taelen, is as generously endowed as his forebears in this regard. He’s an alien, after all! But not to worry—Taelen has other physical characteristics that mark him as otherworldly.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of heroes with a li’l something extra in their pants (or whatever they happen to be wearing). It’s certainly exotic and titillating and once in a while I’m in the mood for that sort of fantasy. In TRUE BELIEVERS, the hero’s exotic penis was just one aspect of the story. But the concept works really well for erotic tales, too. :P

Seems that in the case of science fiction romance, extra special penises serve double duty: they are both a worldbuilding element and a way to make humanoid aliens sexy. Given reader expectations for the subgenre, I almost can’t imagine one without the other. But is the pairing absolutely required?

True BelieversIn TRUE BELIEVERS, heroine Rachel Cruz is a Nephilim, so as an otherwordly being she acclimates easily to Taeren’s alien biology (at least, that was my take), but what about a human heroine? How does an alien hero introduce that aspect of his sexuality? When would be the most appropriate time? How might they determine physical compatibility (assuming a multi-tasking penis hadn't been contrived simply for titillation’s sake)? I mean, would some of those extra tentacles even fit?!

I’ll admit, based on what I’ve encountered in my entertainment so far, I’m kinda curious to find out for real…!

But depicting an alien hero with extra tentacles or other accessories can be a challenge to pull off without resulting in a BARBARELLA type farce. Incidentally, I recently finished SLAVE (Book 1 of the Cat Star Chronicles) by Cheryl Brooks, and this story also features a hero with an exotic penis. In the beginning of that story, the heroine (a human from Earth) sees the hero’s unusual penis almost immediately as a result of his status as a naked slave. She finds it intriguing, but I attributed her almost blasé reaction to the story's lighthearted tone.

Also, SLAVE tended to fetishize the exotic alien hero trope, which meant there wasn't much more of a takeaway theme/social commentary/sci-fi concept. The hero was reduced to nothing more than his ability to pleasure the heroine (and by extension, the reader). Reading SLAVE left me awfully interested in reading a more serious treatment on the subject.

I’m sure penile enhancements of the alien kind aren’t for everyone, and I totally understand if you don't want to go there. Still, I’d like to know what your preferences are for alien SFR heroes when it comes to their sexual anatomy. Is this something you’d rather not worry about, or do you want every possible exotic detail an author can create? When is exotic too exotic? Conversely, are some of our alien SFR heroes not sexually exotic enough?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Written on

Angelia Sparrow’s Steampunk Romance SKY RAT Cover. This.

Sky Rat

SKY RAT, an erotic m/m steampunk romance novella by Angelia Sparrow, was released in July 2010 by Pink Petal Books (the link also takes you to an excerpt). I’m bummed I had somehow overlooked this title and thus didn’t blog about it sooner, particularly since the cover is two hundred ways of awesome. It was designed by cover artist and illustrator Christine Griffin.

I’ll get straight to the point: whom do I have to sleep with to get more steampunk romance covers like this? Especially for ebooks?

This cover really wowed me, mainly because it’s digitally illustrated. I’d been so resigned to cut-and-paste stock image covers that I did not expect a publisher to greenlight an actual work of art for an ebook. I’m sure it’s been done—I just haven’t come across many (good ones, that is) in science fiction romance.

I’m betting the heroes featured on the cover are dead ringers for the actual characters, and if so, how refreshing! The steampunk elements are present and also crystal clear (brass goggles! An airship!) without overwhelming the promised romance. And there’s just something about the composition that made my heart sing. It’s very cinematic.

I know, I know—who am I to start waxing poetic about science fiction romance covers? I learned some time ago to ignore the disconnect between the subgenre’s stories and their covers. Plus, genre details of an illustrated cover—especially for ebooks—might become lost when shrunk down to a thumbnail size.

Frankly, the cover for SKY RAT doesn’t make me any more or less inclined to read the book (but it’s on my virtual TBR pile anyway since it’s a steampunk romance, natch). The reason I’m excited about this cover is that the image lends both the subgenre and the individual book a visual “voice.” There’s no mistaking what it is and the quality is high (IMHO). Of course, my reaction is also purely subjective; your mileage may vary.

Since discovering the cover for SKY RAT, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I hope to read this novella soon so I can see if the lush packaging is representative of the story. I hope we see more covers like this, too.

If you want to know more about Christine Griffin, I found a 2009 interview with her. She’s done covers for a variety of authors and publishers and doubtless many of you have heard of her already. I daresay she’s outdone herself with the cover for SKY RAT.

What do you think?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Written on

Gear Up for Cindy Spencer Pape’s Two Steampunk Romances

Author Cindy Spencer Pape recently informed me about her two forthcoming 2011 steampunk fantasy romances, one of which will be a free download! Right now I’m prioritizing steampunk romances that fall closer to the SF side, but I do so enjoy steampunk-supernatural mixes (e.g., THE OSIRIS RITUAL by George Mann; THE NARROWS by Alexander Irvine), and have put her books on my TBR list. I also figured some of you might be interested in learning about these titles, so here are the shiny details:

March 7: STEAM AND SORCERY: Gaslight Chronicles Book 1

Steam and SorcerySir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met—and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

April: PHOTOGRAPHS & PHANTOMS: a Gaslight Chronicles novella (this will be a free download)

Photographs & PhantomsBrighton, 1855: As a member of the Order of the Round Table, Kendall Lake is overqualified to be investigating strange phenomena at a seaside photography studio. But since the photographer is related to the Order’s most powerful sorcerer, Kendall reluctantly boards a dirigible to Brighton.

Amy Deland is haunted by a shadow that appears in some of her recent portraits. In each case, the subject died within days of the sitting. Does she have her grandmother’s gift of foresight, or has she somehow caused the deaths?

As Kendall and Amy search for answers, their investigation draws them together in a most improper way. But it seems the evil presence in the studio is determined to keep them apart…

***

Both of Cindy Spencer Pape’s titles will be released by Carina Press. Learn more about the author by visiting her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter (CindySPape).

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, December 27, 2010

Written on

SFR Holiday Blitz Winners!

Who are the lucky ones this year? Read on!

The winners of the SFR Holiday Blitz at the Galaxy Express are:

* JustPeachy36, who wins BORN OF NIGHT; BORN OF FIRE; BORN OF ICE by Sherrilyn Kenyon (print) and an e-copy of BOUND AMONG THE STARS by Jennifer Leeland & Mima.

And a signed copy of SONG OF SCARABEAUS by Sara Creasy goes to:

* Jen in Australia

* LouiseD in New Zealand

Congratulations! Winners, I’ll be contacting you soon for your mailing addresses.

I’d like to express my appreciation of everyone who entered. Thanks so much for visiting The Galaxy Express! Stick around, there's much more fun to come in 2011!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Written on

Guest Blogging at Book Smugglers!

SmugglivusHappy Holidays!

Today, I'm guest blogging for Smugglivus, a spectacular year-end event hosted by The Book Smugglers.

I cordially invite you to read 2010: A Science Fiction Romance Year in Review.

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Written on

Giveaway for Marcella Burnard's ENEMY WITHIN

Marcella BurnardReady to stock up on even more great SFR reading material for 2011?

Over at Alien Romances, Marcella Burnard (ENEMY WITHIN) is guest blogging about her "2010 top pick SFR reads."

She's also giving away *two* signed copies of ENEMY WITHIN. So what are you waiting for? Head on over, tell her your favorite SFR reads of 2010, and enter to win.

Good luck!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, December 20, 2010

Written on

Win Free Science Fiction Romance Books at the SFR Holiday Blitz

Edited to add: The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. See you again next year!

SFR Holiday Blitz

Welcome to the second annual SFR Holiday Blitz!

This year is even bigger and better since readers can enter for a chance to win a selection of over 50 free science fiction romance books. 33 authors and 15 bloggers have joined forces to give the gift of intergalactic adventure and romance.

Best of all, entering is easy: Just leave a comment. Then visit the other participating blogs, which are listed below for your convenience. Many of the blogs feature print & ebook prizes for readers around the globe, so be sure to visit them all.

The deadline to enter is midnight at EST on Sunday, December 26.

Wondering what you can win here at the Galaxy Express?

One winner will receive the following prizes:


Sherrilyn Kenyon


BORN OF NIGHT; BORN OF FIRE; BORN OF ICE by Sherrilyn Kenyon
(This prize is sponsored by The Galaxy Express. Limited to US & Canada residents.)

BOUND AMONG THE STARS

An e-copy of BOUND AMONG THE STARS by Jennifer Leeland & Mima

Two more winners will receive this prize:

EXCLUSIVE PRIZE FOR AUSTRALIAN & NEW ZEALAND RESIDENTS

SONG OF SCARABEAUS

SONG OF SCARABEAUS by Sara Creasy. I will pick TWO winners, each of whom will receive a signed print copy.

I will announce the winners on Monday, December 27 (but feel free to include your email address with your comment).

Below are links to the other participating blogs. From there, you can then jump to the next blog:

Spacefreighters Lounge

SFR Brigade


GeekMom

Lisa Paitz Spindler

Alien Romances

Enduring Romance

Smart Girls Love Sci Fi & Paranormal Romance

SciFi Guy

Dirty Sexy Books

Love Romance Passion

Panic in the Lingerie!

Queen of the Frozen North

vvB32 Reads

Corrina Lawson

Flying Whale Productions

Happy hunting!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Written on

The SFR Holiday Blitz is Coming!



Be sure to check back tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. EST for the second annual SFR blitz. This year, it's even bigger and better than ever with over 50 free books up for grabs! That includes both print and digital books; no matter which way you like 'em, we'll be serving them up your way (hold the pickle, hold the lettuce).

Don't dare miss your chance to score enough great SFR reading material to carry you into 2012!

On a side note, the good ship Galaxy Express will be powering down amongst the holidays while the Holiday Blitz is running strong. But I'll be back with a guest post at The Book Smugglers on Dec. 26 as part of their Smugglivus event. Mark it on your calendars and paint it on the walls.

See you tomorrow and good luck!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Written on

This Is So Weird

You may be familiar with the phrase that begins with “This (or that) is so…”, mostly in reference to something negative happening. Or a variation thereof. There’s an emphasis on the word “so.” As in “This is so not a good situation,” or “That is so not what I wanted.” I can’t remember where the phrasing originated from, but it’s been around for quite a few years now.

I’ve been encountering an interesting occurrence in the science fiction romances I’ve been reading over the past year or…so. Specifically, releases from various authors from about the past two years. Characters are using some variation on a “so” phrase, regardless of time period (e.g., near future, far future), culture, setting, occupation, or gender. The usage is not rampant enough that I’d call it a trend, but it’s not exactly uncommon, either.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s a fun type of phrasing and I don’t think twice about it when I hear it or see people using it online. But it’s low on the list of slang I expect to read in a science fiction romance. I’m not sure it’s been around long enough to be invisible. In other words, I worry that using a phrase involving that type of “so” can date a story.

This phrase has really been jumping out at me, which is why I wanted to blog about the phenomenon. It could just be that the sample of books I’ve been reading happen to contain the phrase, and maybe I won’t run across it again. Regardless, I found it rather interesting.

Have you encountered any slang in a future-set book that took you out of the story or made it seem dated?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Written on

On Reading SPACE JUNQUE by LK Rigel: A Self-published Science Fiction Romance

Space Junque

Much as I blog about seeking out science fiction romance in all kinds of places, I’ve never actually read a self-published book in the subgenre. (To qualify, I’m not counting authors who self-publish their back lists, or authors whose published work I’m familiar with.)

The main reason I’ve never sought any out is basically the risk that comes with self-published territory. I have plenty of published books to read, and I’d rather spend my time reading them instead of sifting through titles of potentially dubious quality (not to mention the financial cost of doing so). If a self-published book came recommended, that would be one thing, but at this point, given the general lack of gate keeping for self-published titles, the likelihood of finding something worth reading on my own seems minuscule.

Still, I’m not totally opposed to reading a self-published SFR. Which is why I felt intrigued when author LK Rigel sent me her SFR e-novella, SPACE JUNQUE.

I decided to give it a try. After all, the story was right here in front of me, presented for free. In fact, given the mysterious territory a self-published story represented, I started feeling rather giddy with anticipation. Would I find an undiscovered gem? A laugh riot camp-fest? Or cringe-inducing prose?

LK Rigel had sent me the story blurb. I skimmed it quickly and promptly put it out of my mind because I was determined to have no expectations going in (other than the fact that she described it as a science fiction romance).

I started the story and learned that she wrote well. Read some more and was intrigued by the worldbuilding. Read even further and liked the plot and characters. Then, what do you know—I reached the end!

The story as a whole entertained me. I liked the author’s voice and style. Part of the reason I kept reading is simply because I wanted to get the complete experience of reading a self-published SFR. It helped that LK Rigel could tell a story, but even if it had been horrible, I would have at least skimmed through to the end.

I felt the story could have used something more, however. Despite the fact that SPACE JUNQUE was edited by Anne Frasier, I felt as though the story's length shortchanged a number of elements—important elements, too, such as the romance, worldbuilding, and a few transition scenes. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Without going into spoilers, the romance could have used more development. As it stands, SPACE JUNQUE falls into the romantic SF category. I also would have liked to see Char, the heroine, take a more proactive role in the story (she does, however, exhibit one behavior that I would like to see more of in SFR. Only click on the following link if you don’t mind a SPOILER: Here’s what I’m talkin’ about.)

Additionally, the story veers into a science fantasy/paranormal hybrid. Which is fine except that I felt those elements needed more foreshadowing and/or set up.

My overall conclusion from this experience is that SPACE JUNQUE told me that the author has potential. The quality is high enough that I actually enjoyed it more than a traditionally published SFR I’d just finished a few days prior. I didn't expect that to happen with a self-published story. Now that I think about it, I did hope that the story would be on a par with traditionally published titles. And it is, especially if I factor in all the books I enjoyed that I also consider flawed in some way. Basically, SPACE JUNQUE strikes me as one of those “exception to the rule” situations.

Despite the elements that didn’t work for me, I’ll keep an eye out for LK Rigel’s next book in the series, SPIDERWORK (Visit Indie Paranormal Book Reviews to read a sneak peek of SPIDERWORK as well as to enter a contest for a chance to win an e-copy).

If you're interested in checking out SPACE JUNQUE, the author has it for a special holiday price of just .99 cents at Amazon, Smashwords, and B&N.

So tell me—have you ever read a self-published science fiction romance? If not, what would it take for you to try one?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Written on

What the *@$#%!: Cursing in Science Fiction Romance

Q*BertI love the idea of science fiction romance pushing boundaries, and it’d be fucking great if cursing could push the goddamn envelope once in a while. :) I mean real, good old fashioned honest-to-goodness cursing, too. No friks, fraks, frucking or whatever other euphemisms are out there (genuine attempts at worldbuilding aside as opposed to publisher standards imposed on authors).

o_O

You might be thinking something triggered this post, and you would be correct in that assumption. In an ebook I recently read from a digital publisher, the hero admonished a secondary character for cursing. Now, I understand why the hero did that. It was consistent with his character—a “good guy” hero—and the author used the “f” word in the story, so it’s not as though she was aversive to strong language. But it made me wonder if there's a common avoidance of swear words in the romance genre to the point of conspiracy.

And if so, I disagree with that. Strongly.

I should clarify that the avoidance seems to apply more to mainstream print books than to books from digital/small press publishers. There’s definitely an openness to strong language in some of the digital science fiction romances I’ve read. And I’m certainly not advocating gratuitous cursing. It really should be organic to the story. However, I suspect some authors would use more authentic terms if the standards among publishers were more flexible.

While reading the passage in question, I’ll admit part of me was like “Oh, c’mon!” because I had a difficult time believing a man would tell another man not to swear—at least in the situation described. These were ragtag characters on the fringes of society. I could buy it slightly more if a “good gal” heroine was trying to tame a hero who curses even though I’d be thinking she really ought to straighten out her priorities.

Will some people always be telling other people not to swear, no matter the time period? I’m not sure if I had such a strong reaction to the scene because I felt like there was a “cursing is wrong no matter what the situation” subtext, or because I didn’t buy that profanity would be such a big deal in the far future (during which the story is set). Maybe a little of both.

I understand that strong language offends some readers, and obviously swearing can be terribly hurtful and abusive behavior. But on the other hand, we're talking fiction here. Euphemisms, no matter how clever, lack the same punch of common curse words (some of which, like “damn,” have been around for what, centuries?). Sometimes I wonder about the point of using an alternate futuristic curse word when all it makes me think is, "Well, what the character is really saying is "f---."

Still, I think there is enough variety in SFR that readers can find stories that meet their comfort level. In other words, let’s enjoy stories that don’t contain strong language, and also embrace those that do.

What are your thoughts about cursing in science fiction romance? Do you mind if the hero and heroine swear? Do some words bother you more than others?

Authors, are there times when you wish you had more freedom regarding strong language? How much of a role does worldbuilding play? Is it an opportunity for creativity or a convenient way to avoid having characters use contemporary curse words (especially in the context of the romance genre, regarding books published by romance publishers)?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Written on

Will The Real Fantasy Romance Please Stand Up?

I like alternating between new releases and older titles. And by older, I mean science fiction romances from the mid-eighties to 2000, give or take a few years. Recently, I read CRYSTAL FIRE (1992) by Kathleen Morgan and LORD OF THE DARK SUN by Stobie Piel.

Now, both of these books have “Futuristic Romance” on the spine. Both were released by Dorchester Publishing, historically a big supporter of SFR. Both contain abundant material about which we could converse for hours, but I’m burning to discuss an issue that these books made particularly salient for me.

As I read the stories, I encountered the typical space opera elements like star ships and laser guns and galactic adventure. But then—BAM!—something odd happened on the way to the science fiction romance story.

In short, I got a distinct fantasy genre vibe while reading them. A lot of fantasy tropes kept popping up. The “quest’ story structure. Psychic abilities bordering on magic. Elevated dialogue that seemed straight out of a Tolkienesque saga. Humanoid characters that were basically human, but with pointy ears. Sentient gorillas and bat-like creatures (sorry, “lingbats”—and the creatures could speak!). Plus, an Elrond wannabe.

The list goes on. All the while, the characters are traveling in space ships and using futuristic technology. Frankly, I found it really difficult to reconcile the mash up of fantasy and SF styles. I went in with the expectation of a science fiction romance, and ultimately that is what the stories delivered, but on the way they shifted back and forth. LORD OF THE DARK SUN in particular seemed to want to be both fantasy romance and science fiction romance (and the author’s forward is very telling, because she shares that as a teenager, she read LORD OF THE RINGS “twenty-two times”).

As for the context in which these stories were published, my understanding is that at the time, the door was pretty firmly closed on fantasy romance (such a shame, too). How odd that the chance of getting an SFR published was better than that for fantasy romance! I would have thought it’d be the other way around. So it could be that the authors wrote an SFR when what they *really* wanted to write was fantasy romance. Fantasy romance undercover, as it were.

To clarify, I have no problem with stories that blend SF and fantasy. But I enjoy them most when it’s clear which genre is driving the story. Or when the worldbuilding accounts for certain elements. With CRYSTAL FIRE and LORD OF THE DARK SUN, that aspect was muddled. The combination was more of a stylistic, execution type thing as opposed to a hybrid genre. Also, I didn’t get the sense that the “fantasy” elements were organic to the setting. Talking bats is fine, but how did they get that way? Were they genetically engineered? The only information we’re given is that one of the human characters taught one of them to speak. Come again?

I’ve also been encountering this tendency in a few more recent releases. Not many, but the hint of a fantasy-steeped writing style crops up now and then. Sometimes it’s just in the dialogue; other times it’s a worldbuilding element. While I've not read RAVISHED BY A VIKING (Berkley Heat, January 2011) by Delilah Devlin (described as an erotic futuristic romance by RT Book Reviews), the excerpt I read gave me that fantasy romance vibe.

In the past, authors might have been denied publication of fantasy romances so strongly that the only way they could satisfy their Muses was by layering beloved tropes into science fiction romances. And I grieve for them if that’s the case, because it goes without saying that fantasy romance is a perfectly valid subgenre—and definitely worthy of publication. Unfortunately, at the time, the limits of mainstream print publishing and distribution all but squashed those authors’ dreams.

Luckily, today is a different story. Fantasy romance and science fiction romance both have pretty much guaranteed homes among digital/small press publishers. I doubt authors need to resort to subterfuge to tell their fantasy romances anymore. But if they do, I at least hope they can make the effort invisible to me, especially as a reader steeped in both fantasy and science fiction.

By the way, if you’re interested in reading a true fantasy romance from back in the day, check out SILVERSWORD (1990) by Lindsay Randall. (Thanks to Jody Wallace for the link.)

Have you ever noticed this particular strain of fantasy-science fiction romance mash up? If so, what was your reaction?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Written on

Two Free Science Fiction Romances!

Like Clockwork

Pre-order Bonnie Dee's steampunk romance LIKE CLOCKWORK (Carina Press) for free! Use the coupon code CLOCKWORKFREE at Checkout. This is a limited time offer, so hurry!

Here's the story blurb:

Victoria's work with automatons has gained her renown and changed the face of London. But her concern that the clockworks are taking too many jobs away from humans, creating social unrest, is ignored. Given the ugly mood of the underclass, she fears more outbreaks of violence similar to the murder spree of the notorious Southwark Slasher.

Dash, unemployed thanks to the clockworks, has pledged fealty to The Brotherhood, a group determined to bring about the downfall of the automatons by any means necessary. His plan to kidnap Victoria goes awry when the unorthodox scientist pledges her assistance to their cause.

Despite their opposite social classes, a bond grows between them, and Victoria begins to feel emotions she never expected for the passionate Dash. But when the Slasher strikes close to home, Dash and Victoria realize that the boundaries of polite society are far from the only threat to their happiness...


Also, LK Rigel is offering a free digital copy of SPACE JUNQUE, her SFR novella (space opera) to the first five people who leave a comment at this post. There's only four copies left, so head on over. Look for my post on SPACE JUNQUE next week.

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Written on

Futuristic Sex Slaves: The Next Generation

Silver Bound

I had a really strong reaction to SILVER BOUND by Ella Drake. I mean, tense-in-my-gut strong. As a matter of fact, some elements in the story disturbed me quite a bit. And with writers such as (warning: link takes you to graphic images) Hideshi Hino under my belt, it takes a lot to disturb me. But in my case, being disturbed is a good thing, because I like being disturbed. It makes me think.

Allow me to explain.

To start, SILVER BOUND reminded me of Stephen R. Donaldson’s THE REAL STORY: The Gap into Conflict, (which I highly recommend if you haven’t already read it, but it’s not for the faint of heart). While Donaldson’s novel is space opera and has sex scenes, it’s not a romance. The three main characters are connected to each other in unexpected ways, however, which in part came to mind as I read SILVER BOUND.

But the main similarity between the two stories is that both heroines are subjected to a form of mind and body control. In THE REAL STORY, the heroine (Morn Hyland) is subjugated with a “zone implant” that, through the use of a remote, can cause changes in her biological functions. There are sex scenes involving her that are titillating (because at that point, she can control her body’s sensitivity), but also extremely disturbing because of how the implant has changed her and is used against her. Another interesting aspect is how she uses it to help herself.

In SILVER BOUND, the heroine, Jewel, goes through a similar procedure, called “silver tipping,” which involves nanotechnology. As a result, Jewel is transformed into a sex slave. That is the jumping point for the story.

Now, here’s the part that prompted my strong reaction: the silver-tipping was so detailed and compellingly described that I had difficulty reconciling it with the “erotic” side of the story. Because the “erotic” elements were so tied into the silver-tipping, I couldn’t give myself permission to enjoy them (the romance, no problem, because of spoilers I won’t go into here).

The inclusion of nanotechnology made it particularly intense for me. And the reason I put quotes around erotic is that I wonder, in retrospect, how erotic the sex scenes really were (at least in the beginning). Upon further reflection, I realized that SILVER BOUND is actually a very subversive take on the futuristic sex slave trope.

And what a trope it is, because many erotic science fiction romances use it. But I don’t think SILVER BOUND should be considered an erotic science fiction romance. Like with Morn from Stephen R. Donaldson’s THE REAL STORY, some of the sex scenes involving Jewel are disturbing because she’s a slave. What’s so erotic about that?

Fortunately, she’s paired with a hero who isn’t titillated by her status and taking advantage of her is the last thing on his mind. Sheriff Guy Trident is actually disturbed by her nano-induced state. All of which gives this story more depth than you might expect from a science fiction romance with spicy sex scenes.

If you’ve read SILVER BOUND, what are your thoughts on this aspect, or on the sex slave trope in general? Are we ready to take futuristic sex slaves to a new level?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Written on

Call for Submissions: Samhain Publishing's END OF DAYS Post-apocalyptic Romance Anthology

I think Samhain Publishing is going to single-handedly catapult science fiction romance into the mainstream with all the anthologies it keeps releasing! The latest is a call for an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic romance anthology to be released in 2012. Here are the details as stated on the Submissions page:

End of Days Anthology Call

2012: End of Days Anthology Call

The current Great Cycle, as the Mayas call it, is set to end on the winter solstice of 2012: December 21, 2012. Many people believe on that date the world will change and never be the same. Some predict terrible events resulting in the destruction of our world and some predict that it won’t necessarily end, but that humanity will enter a new era and massive changes in social consciousness may occur. Some even predict that humans and humanity may evolve spontaneously to a higher plane.

Samhain Publishing invites you to step into the future when Earth as we know it no longer exists. But the End of Days doesn’t mean an end to hope and heroes and, most importantly, love and happiness. Will the world end with a bang or will humanity be changed for the better? Only you can decide.

Samhain Publishing is seeking submissions for their November 2011 End of Days themed anthology. Stories can be of any genre or heat level, and submissions are open to M/F, M/M, or multiples thereof, but all submissions must feature either an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic theme (or both) as integral to the story. Submissions should be 20,000 to 30,000 words in length. All stories must end with a happy ever after for the hero and heroine. Yes, a HEA in an apocalyptic story – don’t you just love the contrast?

Submissions are open to all authors previously published with Samhain as well as authors aspiring to publish with Samhain. Submissions must be new material; previously published material will not be considered. Additionally, manuscripts previously submitted, whether individually or for past anthologies, will not be considered either. Please be aware that manuscripts submitted to this anthology cannot be resubmitted at a later date unless by invitation from an editor. However, submissions with merit for possible publication at Samhain are and will be passed to interested Samhain editors even if not chosen for the End of Days anthology.

Chosen manuscripts will be published as separate ebooks under their individual titles in November 2011 but will be combined as one print title for Fall 2012 print release.

To submit a manuscript for consideration please include the full manuscript (of 20,000 to 30,000 words) with a comprehensive 2-3 page synopsis in addition to a letter of introduction/query letter which details the genre, heat level and story length. Full manuscripts are required.

As well, when you send your manuscript, please be sure to use the naming convention Title_EndofDays_MS and Title_EndofDays_Synopsis. This will ensure that your submission doesn’t get missed in the many submissions we receive, and makes it easy for me to find in my ebook reader.

Submissions are open until March 1, 2011 and final decision will be made by April 15, 2011.

Submissions and questions can be directed to Bethany Morgan at editor@samhainpublishing.com. Please put End of Days Anthology in the subject line.


(Thanks to Ella Drake (SILVER BOUND) for the link)

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Written on

Cover Love For Lisa Paitz Spindler's THE SPIRAL PATH

Debut science fiction romance author Lisa Paitz Spindler recently unveiled the cover for THE SPIRAL PATH, her forthcoming book from Carina Press (March 28, 2011). Isn't she a beauty?

The Spiral Path

Once again, we have Frauke Spanuth from Croco Designs to thank for putting together the genre elements in such a way that they can only broaden the appeal for science fiction romance.

Now I *really* can't wait to read this story. Ms. Spindler also revealed the official blurb at her site, so check it out!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Written on

An Interview With Anitra Lynn McLeod, Author of THIEF

Thief

The Wild West meets space adventure--Anitra Lynn McLeod’s Thief is rip-roaring, sexy fun!
—Susan Grant, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Warrior

Count me in! Anitra Lynn McLeod’s THIEF (Samhain Publishing) released in November, so I invited the author aboard to tell us more about her rip-roaring, sexy science fiction romance tale. In this book, you’ll find thieves and pleasure robots and salvage vessels, oh my! (To refresh your memory, click here for story blurb, and read an excerpt here.)

Now for the main course:

The Galaxy Express: Of all the niche subgenres in the universe, you chose to write THIEF, a science fiction romance. Tell us what inspired you to take such a risk.

Anitra Lynn McLeod: I was high on paint fumes, I think. :) Actually, I’ve always loved Susan Grant’s work. She incorporates romance, aviation, and space but I know very little about aviation; however, I do know a lot about space and the west. I am also a huge fan of Firefly, by Joss Whedon. Many reviewers are comparing Thief to that TV show, which is wonderful.

TGE: If you were sitting on an airplane next to a reader new to science fiction romance, how would you describe the story to her/him?

ALM: Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century meets the Wild, Wild West.

TGE: I’m entering your universe in THIEF for the first time. What are some basic travel tips I should know?

ALM: There are no clear rules about good and evil. For example, in the old TV westerns the bad guy always wore a black hat, which made him easy to spot and despise. On the Fringe, there are no easy black and white ways of determining who is good, and who is evil; there are many shades of gray.

TGE: Do any of the characters use fun gadgets?

ALM: There is a blend of very old technology, like an electric fence in one book, and very advanced technology, like pleasure robots. I don’t want to be more detailed than that. ;)

TGE: What can you tell us about the heat level in THIEF?

ALM: The sexual tension is very high as Jace has been celibate for a decade; however, there are only two sex scenes that are much softer than what I write for my Onic Empire series. The Onic Empire is erotic futuristic romance where the Fringe is sensual futuristic romance. Also, the Fringe series is strictly m/f with a HEA ending. Some of the planned books will have higher heat levels, but not anything near the erotic territory I will explore in the Onic Empire.

TGE: Silly question time: According to the blurb, the heroine’s name is Kraft. Does she know any kick-ass macaroni and cheese recipes?

ALM: Kraft would know how to make a mac and cheese dish that would give Gordon Ramsey an oral orgasm! ;) Actually, Kraft in German means power or strength. That is what she is named for, not the American food company, ya silly! :)

TGE: THIEF has an unusual yet striking cover, not only for Samhain, but also for science fiction romance in general. What do you hope readers will take away from the image?

AML: That Kanaxa is one of the most talented cover artists on the scene today! :) She did some bookmarks for me and again, she went outside the box. If people want one please send a regular sized SASE to me at:

Anitra Lynn McLeod
PO Box 16631
Salt Lake City UT 84116-0631

Even though the vision is hers, what I hope they see is the vast darkness of space and the lone man facing that emptiness with the most intense eyes. Yes, he’s a thief, but again, we go back to those shades of gray; Jace may be a thief, but he is an honorable thief.

Sinful HarvestTGE: What can readers look forward to from you in the future? Where can they find you?

ALM: More insanity. I can’t do anything without having a giggle. What they can expect is two series running simultaneously. Here is the line up for the next year:

Thief, Fringe book one, 11/2/10
Sinful Harvest, Onic Empire book three, 1/25/11
Wicked Empress, Onic Empire book four, 3/1/11
Overlord, Fringe book two, 5/1/11
Dark Empress, Onic Empire book five, 09/06/11

Readers can connect to me in multiple ways:

www.AnitraMcLeod.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anitra-Lynn-McLeod/323123001356

The above is my pro page. Please “like” it as that is where I post all my contests.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000672143257


This is my personal page where I can comment on your stuff too. I’m not all about promo here--mostly I use this page as a social outlet. I love to talk and flirt with other writers and readers. :)

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2941193.Anitra_Lynn_McLeod


I’m really behind on posting my vast collection of books. Probably never will catch up. But I do run contests from here so this is a good place to link to me.

@AnitraMcLeod


This is my twitter, which I’ve used ten times. I don’t quite get it yet. I use Facebook the most.

They can also email me. There is a form on my page because I don’t want those nasty spam bots to get it.

Thank you, Heather, for a fun interview!

Ms. McLeod, thanks so much for your time, and for your art.

Interested readers can peruse a review of THIEF at Bitten by Paranormal Romance. There’s also an interview with Anitra Lynn McLeod there and you can also read her guest post.

Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Written on

Is There A Market For Offbeat SFR?

Steamside Chronicles

I’m all for reading science fiction romances that are quirky, weird, experimental, or offbeat. Not many strictly fall under this category (Joyce Ellen Armond’s free short “Burned and Burning” is one; Ann Aguirre’s free short “Still We Live” is another), but I know I’d definitely continue to seek them out. I can suspend my disbelief for many things, and I won’t dismiss a story or stop reading if at least one or two major elements (e.g., characterization, setting) hold my interest.

My only concern about such stories is plot. I’m a big plot gal, and if I’m going to read an experimental SFR I’d prefer it have a plot I can sink my teeth into. But sometimes the nature of an offbeat story is that the plot isn’t always the main point.

The other question is if these types of stories would actually sell. Talk about a niche lover’s niche!

What prompted these thoughts is STEAMSIDE CHRONICLES (Decadent Publishing) by Ciar Cullen. This novella is definitely an eclectic blend of genres. Thanks to my shiny new Kindle, I finally caught up with it. The story is a challenge to classify, but that’s one aspect I liked about it.

The story’s setting is pretty much straight Victorian. Despite the title, I actually found the steampunk elements to be sparse. There are so few (IMHO) that I actually would not include this in the steampunk genre (although I am only one reader—others may feel differently). My take? STEAMSIDE CHRONICLES is historical science fantasy time travel with paranormal and romantic elements. Whew!

The premise is intriguing: a strange force transports the heroine to New York in 1890, specifically a locale known as “Steamside.” The story focuses on her attempt to learn where she is, and why.

Without going into spoilers, there’s lots of quirkiness in this tale. The main characters speak in a Buffy-esque dialogue, which means lots of contemporary pop culture references. When not infiltrating Victorian society, they wear a mashup of goth & steampunk-inspired costumes.

There’s a romance with a well-defined arc, but I didn’t feel as though it was the driving force of the story. The secondary characters are colorful. There’s also some action-adventure toward the end in an exotic country. Oh, and I mustn't forget to mention the apparitions, strange visions, and occasional airship sighting. The only thing missing is the kitchen sink, har har.

While some of the elements in STEAMSIDE CHRONICLES didn’t work for me, they may well work for other readers. And vice versa. Regardless of whatever I found lacking, I applaud the author for taking the risks she did. I’d rather read something that takes risks and is flawed rather than a mediocre story.

While I’d give experimental SFR a try in a heartbeat, I also understand if few wish to write them. They might not be the most strategic way to grow the subgenre, but they’d definitely enhance it.

Do you have a taste for offbeat SFR? If so, what’s your criteria for a good story?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Written on

Passionate Reads' Free E-Reader Giveaway (Choose From Nook or Kindle!)

Author Erica Anderson (THE ANTAREN AFFAIR) tipped me off about an e-reader giveaway being hosted by Passionate Reads (of which she is a member):

Holy smokes! Can you believe December is already upon us? Christmas will be here in no time, so to help you celebrate the holiday season, the Passionate Reads Authors have decided to team up and offer our readers–or future readers!–a fantabulous holiday contest.

Since most of us here at Passionate Reads are mainly e-published authors, we thought what better way to say thank you than giving away a brand-spanking-new eReader!


The winner gets to choose between a Nook and a Kindle. Click here for details on how to enter.

I love my Kindle and can't recommend the e-reading experience enough. Plus, with the SFR Holiday Blitz approaching, you'll want to snag an e-reader to glom all the ebooks you'll win. Because you've got good taste like that. :)

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Written on

SFR News & Links for December 2010

Wow, this is the last official science fiction romance roundup for 2010! It’s been a great ride this past year, and thanks for coming along with me.

New releases

Alien Tango

ALIEN TANGO – Gini Koch

More aliens. More intrigue. More Kitty.

For Katherine "Kitty" Katt, Alien Super-Being Exterminator, anti-alien conspiracies, threats from outer space, and a couple of killer alligators are all in a day's work, but internal alien conspiracies bring a new meaning to the terms chaos and confusion.

Tangled in Time

TANGLED IN TIME – Pauline Baird Jones

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 a mouth he'd like to kiss like it was his job. Can he convince her to join forces before she shoots him with her derringer?

Read an excerpt.

EVIE'S GIFT PJ Schnyder

EVIE’S GIFT – PJ Schnyder

Evie traveled with her brother to find a sponsor for her first season in London. She’s finding much more than she intended, including an enemy submarine bent on destroying the airship carrying them across the ocean and a conspirator responsible for sabotage.

She ought to focus on becoming a proper lady by English standards. Her passion pushes her towards the engineering and design of mechanicals. In this Christmas season, will she keep her particular gift a secret?

LOVE AND ROCKETS


LOVE AND ROCKETS
(SFR anthology) – Edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes (DAW Books)

Description:

Space...the final frontier. Or is it? Many say there's no frontier more forbidding than a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. But what if one's a human, and the other's an alien? Here is an original collection of space opera stories where authors take love (unrequited or not), on a spaceship, space station, or planetary colony, and add enough drama, confusion and mayhem to ensure that the path to true love-or short-term infatuation-is seldom free of obstacles.

Recent release I learned about recently :)

STRANGE LITTLE BAND

Authors Nancy Brauer and Vanessa Brooks have written a science fiction romance titled STRANGE LITTLE BAND (Triptych LLC) that was released in October 2010. I’m intrigued by the cover’s promise of a multicultural romance as well as a possible near-future/contemporary setting.

Here’s the premise:

Addison and Shane, two self-centered psychics, work for the cut-throat Triptych Corporation. Their insular, comfortable lives are disrupted when, due to Triptych's machinations, they become unlikely parents. How can they raise a child when they can't trust each other?


The first four chapters are available for free downloading at Smashwords (choose from PDF, Kindle, and ePub). To learn more about the book, visit the authors’ Strange Little Band Web site.

Forthcoming releases

Move over, Darth. Gini Koch is about to take over the universe: DAW bought the next two books in her SFR series. ALIEN DIPLOMACY and ALIEN VS ALIEN will hit the shelves in 2011 (most likely an April/Winter schedule).

Also, look for my Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup in January 2011!

Blog Events

The Galaxy Express is gearing up for the second annual SFR Holiday Blitz, which will kick off December 20, 2010. With mucho bloggers and giveaways, this year is going to be even bigger and better than last year.

Don’t miss Smugglivus 2010 at The Book Smugglers! You can also start with the Introduction and Week 1 Schedule. I’ll be guest blogging for this superlative event on December 26.

To celebrate the holiday season, romance publisher Red Sage is hosting a contest. One winner will walk away with a “prize pack”—all for the price of a comment on any Red Sage blog post between December 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010. (Maree Anderson’s science fiction romance FROM THE ASHES is one of the prizes). Visit Rock Around December with Red Sage for more details.

Industry

Via SFR Brigade comes news of Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC, a new epublisher that seems like a strong possibility for science fiction romance stories—especially those that are ethnically diverse:

Mocha Memoirs is a new e-publishing venture focused on speculative fiction. Editor/publisher Nicole Givens Kurtz is actively seeking science fiction, fantasy and romance speculative fiction titles. She’s interested in interracial romance, space opera, steampunk, cyberpunk, science fiction and fantasy romance from 8000 words and up.


Upon visiting the Web site, I discovered this in the sidebar:

November's Romance Flavor of the Month:
Moonbeams & Stardust: Halo's Heart by RaeLynn Blue
Genre: Interracial Science Fiction Erotic Romance


Way to exploit a niche!

Cannibalism—of the writerly kind

In Shhh! Don’t Tell My Friends, Diane Dooley (BLUE GALAXY) spills a big trade secret: “Writers are disgustingly cannibalistic creatures.”

Steampunk romance

Dirty Sexy Books reviews THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brooks. She rates it 4.5 stars and calls it “Damn Close to Perfection.”

Read “Tick-Tock, Mr. Darcy,” a free steampunk romance short by Tonia Brown (CLOCKWORKS AND CORSETS) at vvB32 Reads.

Pauline Baird Jones (TANGLED IN TIME) blogs about steampunk at Literary Escapism.

Read an interview with PJ Schnyder (EVIE’S GIFT) At Demon Lover’s Books & More. You can also read a review there of her book HEART’S SENTINEL, which the reviewer describes as “…a shape shifter novel with a touch of sci-fi mixed in.”

eBook gifting

Awesome news for ebook lovers: Now you can gift an ebook to anyone with an email address. Learn more in Kobo Beats Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony To eBook Gifting.

Nobody does it better

Not to be outdone ;), Sci Fi Guy posts Science Fiction & SFR Releases for December 2010.

Yamato Forever

This film is about as science fiction romance as it gets. Here are the first two minutes of the live action SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (it just hit the theaters in Japan on December 1):



Now I turn the mike over to you. Got any science fiction romance news or links to share? Let’s end the year with a bang!

Joyfully yours,

Heather