Monday, February 28, 2011

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“Broadly Speaking: Romantic Speculative Fiction” Podcast

Recently, I had the honor of being invited to participate in a podcast hosted by Broad Universe member, author Rae Lori.

The title is Broadly Speaking: Romantic Speculative Fiction:

Welcome to the second Broadly Speaking edition of the Broad Pod. Broadly Speaking brings you interviews and insights from women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror - and all the realms in between. This month we're chatting about romantic speculative fiction with our host Rae Lori and our panelist of wonderful authors and SFR fans: Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express, K.S. "Kaz" Augustin, Cate Rowan.

I had a real blast with Rae Lori, K.S. Augustin, and Cate Rowan. We got into some great and really deep discussions about the joys and challenges of both science fiction romance and fantasy romance. I wanted to chat with them all night, it was that good.

I invite you to listen and then share your thoughts about the topics we discussed.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, February 27, 2011

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Is the PRISM “Futuristic” Category In Danger of Being Eliminated?

FF&P logoThe 2011 PRISM Contest for Published Authors is now open for submissions. I was surprised to learn today that there is a dearth of entries for the Futuristic and Time Travel/Steampunk categories. Well, I’m actually not that surprised about the lack of steampunk romance entries because there’s not that many books out there. Still, from the call for entries (copied below), it seems like the Futuristic category is in danger of being eliminated. (Thanks to author E.D. Walker for the alert.)

Wow, I wonder what’s happening? The contest is open to non-RWA, non-FF&P members. The fee of $35.00 doesn’t strike me as that much of a deterrent, but then again, we here in the U.S. aren’t quite over our economic slump. Are contest entries down because authors can’t afford it?

Or maybe there are hidden costs. Does anyone know if the winner *has* to show up in person to receive the award at the RWA national conference (this year’s 31st Annual Conference will be held June 28-July 1 in New York City)? Because, yeah, that’d be a reason many authors might not enter.

As my reading pile can attest to, there certainly hasn’t been a lack of science fiction romance published in 2010. And the PRISM is one of the highest profile awards for this subgenre. So if we do the math, um...




...and throw in a couple of these…





The result is…okay, so still scratching my head here. Isn’t the PRISM a player, or am I missing something?

I’m curious: How much of an impact does the PRISM award have on factors such as exposure and sales for the winning authors? Me, I’m reading science fiction romance regardless of who wins what, but I realize other readers sometimes base decisions on whether to take a chance on a new-to-them title/author on things like a contest award. Unfortunately, the decision won’t be made at all with SFR if it’s not even in the running.

What about you? Has the PRISM affected your purchase/reading decisions in any way?

Before I sign off, here is information about what the coordinators have announced regarding this year’s PRISM contest:

*Permission to forward gratefully given and encouraged*

The PRISM contest highlighting the best books of the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal genres will be closing soon (deadline March 19th).

However we need more YA!

And FUTURISTIC!

And EROTICA/ROMANTICA

And TIME TRAVEL/STEAMPUNK

If you have a YA, FU, E/R, or TT/SP book with a Fantasy, Futuristic, or
Paranormal theme - enter the Prism! Get some get great exposure for you and your book.

If you have a blog, how about letting other authors know about our contest.

Categories are: Dark Paranormal, Light Paranormal, Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel/Steampunk, Erotica/Romantica, Novella (between 20,00 and 40,00 words), and YOUNG ADULT.

E-books may be entered in a pdf format. Small press-published books are welcome, as long as they are non-vanity/non-subsidy as defined by RWA.

All finalists receive a certificate and pin; winners also receive a beautiful, crystal Prism award. Awards are presented during The Gathering at the RWA National Conference.

Again--the deadline for entries is March 19th, 2011.

For more information, visit the main contest site at http://www.romance-ffp.com/prism2011/ or email contest coordinators Liz Roadifer and Melissa Marelic at PrismContest@romance-ffp.com.


Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, February 24, 2011

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Watching THE ICE PIRATES: Like Being Dipped in Acid

The Ice Pirates PosterThe other night, I was down with a bad cold and had to take a break from being online. However, the night was young and I wasn’t tired enough to sleep. Having recently moved my DVD collection out of storage, I began rifling through it to find a film that wouldn’t require much brainpower. When I saw my unopened copy of THE ICE PIRATES (1984), I pounced.

I’d known about this film for years, but inexplicably, had never seen it. I knew nothing about the plot, nor had I seen the trailer. I had always assumed it was your basic action-adventure SF B movie. I mean, the title told me all I really needed to know, right?

This turned out to be one of the few times that a little foreknowledge would have been a good thing. THE ICE PIRATES is indeed action-adventure sci-fi—with a prominent romance to boot—but what I utterly failed to comprehend was that it’s also an out-and-out parody. Boy, did that ever make for an excruciating viewing experience.

Here’s the setup courtesy of Bad Movies.org:

It seems that in the future the galaxy has gone dry and water is the only thing of value. Jason leads the band of pirates that this movie focuses on. He and his men steal ice for a living. His right-hand man is Roscoe, a proud African-American pirate who is also the chief robot builder and technician. Together with the rest of the group, they launch daring raids against the wicked Templars, an arrogant and ruthless race of people from the planet Mithra, and their fleet of water hoarding ships. The Templars' aim is to stockpile all of the water for themselves to maintain power and control over all who inhabit the galaxy.

Jason and a few others from his group are taken prisoner after a botched raid on a Templar ice ship at the start of the film, but not before he attempts to kidnap Princess Karina to hold her for ransom. The rest of his crew manages to make it back to the Pirate Moon via their cool ship which is able to split into 3 separate sections (wouldn't the crew of the more modern Enterprise be jealous) and the recently freed Karina secretly sees an opportunity to make use of the captured pirates to her advantage. She needs them to help her find her father.


Did you catch that first line? Yep, the whole galaxy has gone dry. This fact is revealed in the first few seconds, but it didn’t make me laugh. It just made me mad. Unfortunately, it was the first of many such eye-rolling spoofs.

I’m not going to relive it alone, either. Here’s the trailer for your viewing pleasure, har har:



I know. I should have watched the trailer first.

A few things riled me up like crazy. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the planet of unicorn-riding Amazons (they were pretty hot. The Amazons, I mean). It wasn’t the low-budget production because that I can overlook if the story’s at least half-way decent. It wasn’t the lampooning of seemingly every science fiction film in existence. Nor was it the craptastic special effects.

A big one is that the movie flaunts its rotten hide before a cast that includes a few really good actors: Robert Ulrich, Anjelica Houston, Ron Perlman, and John Carradine. I cry for them is all I can say.

Another item that really got my goat was the appearance of Bruce Vilanch, who played a dingbat nonsense character named Wendon. Sorry, not a fan of that schtick here. Once I hit that scene, I realized just how blatantly unfunny the film was. I’m not opposed to sci-fi parodies (hello, GALAXY QUEST). I’m opposed to badly executed parodies. THE ICE PIRATES tops the charts in that regard.

One quote from an Amazon review of the film got me thinking: All in all, only hard core cult movie fans will enjoy this unflushed toilet of a film.

I consider myself hardcore, but apparently even I have to draw the line somewhere.

Still, one element that I sincerely did like about THE ICE PIRATES was that the two main female characters—Princess Karina (Mary Crosby) and Maida (Anjelica Houston)—are actually equal in their respective abilities to the male characters. Karina has one scene of notable cunningness in which she outsmarts Jason, while Maida shines in a moment of sensational samurai swordplay (for a sub-par B-movie, that is). The movie exceeded my expectations regarding their roles and I can’t help but wonder if that was intentional or a happy accident? For a campy sci-fi parody that’s ridiculous in the extreme, I found a few of the scenes with their characters to be pretty subversive.

The film also contains a spoof-aricious love scene with outrageous double entendres that while not gut-busting, induced a reluctant chuckle or two from me.

One final reflection: I thought it was interesting that this sci-fi “comedy” is so unfunny it failed to alert me to the fact that I should adjust my expectations accordingly. In some ways, perhaps THE ICE PIRATES took itself a little too seriously.

Have you seen this film? Got any memorable memories to share about the experience?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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A Kick-Butt SFR Heroine Should Never Leave Home Without…

I get awful curious about which accessories are crucial for a kick-butt heroine in science fiction romance. She never knows what kind of obstacles the universe will throw her way, but day or night, it’s her job to be prepared. With that thought in mind, I queried a sample of authors with kick-butt heroines under their belts and asked them to complete the following statement:

A kick-butt science fiction romance heroine should never leave home without…

IN ENEMY HANDS


“her brain.”

- KS Augustin (IN ENEMY HANDS)

ALIEN TANGO


“Her big ol' purse stuffed with all the essentials: hairspray, a heavy pen, iPod (with headphones, speakers, and car adapter), cell phone, a bottle of hooch, and an Aerosmith t-shirt. Having a Glock helps, but is not necessary.”

- Gini Koch (ALIEN TANGO)

WICKED EMPRESS


“her toothbrush. Hey, when your whole body is a deadly weapon, you really don't need anything else. ;)”

- Anitra Lynn McLeod (WICKED EMPRESS)

GIRL GONE NOVA


“A kick-butt science fiction romance heroine should never leave home without…a gun, a drop gun, several knives, a couple of flash bangs, and her sense of humor. Witty repartee boosts the smack down factor when going whoop ass on a bad guy.”

- Pauline B. Jones (GIRL GONE NOVA)

ENEMY WITHIN


“the element of surprise on her side – and by ‘surprise’ I mean explosives. Carrying capacity for your body mass. High tech, low tech, triggers, detonators, all of it. Even a simple cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol then set ablaze has enough element of surprise factor to buy you precious seconds to haul your butt out of whatever fire you’ve been dragging it in.”

- Marcella Burnard (ENEMY WITHIN)

METAL REIGN


“A kick-butt science fiction romance heroine should never leave home without…her guns, extra clips, comms relay, magnetic boots, extraction harness, a spare environment suit, and lip gloss. Gotta look good while kicking the villain's butt!”


- Nathalie Gray (METAL REIGN)

JAQ’S HARP


“A kick-butt science fiction romance heroine should never leave home without…
her underwire bra. You never know when those wires can get you out of jam, pick a lock, strangle an opponent. It's multifunctional.”

- Ella Drake (JAQ’S HARP)

MAGNETISM


“A kick-butt science fiction romance heroine should never leave home without… her smart mouth. And snacks.”

- Kim Knox (MAGNETISM)

***

Now it's your turn. How would you complete the sentence?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, February 20, 2011

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The Best of Agent Z

Agent Z

Now that we’re getting closer to the release of Diane Dooley’s science fiction romance novella BLUE GALAXY (Carina Press), I thought it’d be fun to take a jaunt down memory lane and revisit a few of the adventures by her kick-ass alter ego, Agent Z.

For those of you unfamiliar with Agent Z, she's an intergalactic spy supreme who makes an appearance aboard this cosmic locomotive from time to time and blogs about her exploits. Especially when she needs money.

Not only has Agent Z never met a gargleblaster she didn’t like, she also knows what the word “seraglio” means. Whatever. (Not that I’m jealous or anything). She also has a penchant for skimpy outfits and—wait for it—tentacles. You know there’s a close connection in there somewhere because she spends an awful amount of time talking about how much she despises tentacles. (Calling Dr. Freud!)

Anyway, her adventures have attracted quite a bit of attention and are still getting play around the blogosphere now and then. Therefore, for your reading pleasure, here’s my rundown of the top five Agent Z posts:

5) Pimp My Hairdo

I need a change. I’m just so fed up! Ergo, I decided it was time for a new look. A fresh new hairstyle—that would cheer me up. But which style would be perfect for an intergalactic spy with a mild case of malaise? I decided to cast my hungry gaze toward our SF heroines for inspiration.


4) This Is Your Heroine Speaking
Hello there, writer types.

This is your heroine speaking and I have a few things I’d like to say to you. First of all – thanks! I would not be alive without you and please don’t think that I don’t appreciate it. Despite all the pain and angst and danger you put me through, it’s still better than never having lived at all.

And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but there are one or two (OK, five!) things I have a little, itty-bitty problem with. Please bear with me and let me get this off my chest, then I’ll willingly go back to doing whatever you want me to do.


3) Gini Koch Interviews One & Two

Howdy, dear passengers of the Galaxy Express. I recently met with debut author, Gini Koch, and over an Intergalactic Gargleblaster (or seven) we bantered about writing, reading, drinking and being touched by aliens.


2) Hunger Games Vs. Battle Royale

To: Heather
From: Agent Z
Subject line: Don't get your panties in a wad

deftly avoids arrow; pulls taser gun from back pocket

Hold your horses there, Heather. While I loved the books I never claimed that they were works of startling originality. I didn’t claim that because, well, they’re not. The specific question is: did Collins rip off Battle Royale?


1) Mission to Planet Gor: I Ain’t Never Going There Again!

It had seemed like a simple enough mission: rescue a kidnapped princess and return her to her extremely wealthy family and adoring public. I knew that Planet Gor was a dangerous place, especially for women. I had read John Norman’s multi-volume account of the society and customs of Gor and thought I could handle it. I mean, I knew most of the women on the planet were slaves. I guess I thought I could fit in–you know, disguise myself and act subservient.


***

Ahhh…the mere thought of Agent Z getting all disguised and everything in her skimpy outfit sends a frisson of anticipation down my spine. First, I could wet her down with a nice bubbly gargleblaster. Then I’d wave a rubber tentacle around to—Hold on! Did I just say that out loud?

Exit, stage left….

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Friday, February 18, 2011

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Girls & Gals Love SF—So Give It To Them Already!

Rocket GirlsRemember when blogger Natalie Hatch blogged about YA SF aboard The Galaxy Express back in ’09 (Future Trend: YA Science Fiction)? The reason I mention her post is that Tansy Rayner Roberts started a conversation today along the same lines as Natalie’s piece.

In Girls in Spaceships, with a side order of robots, please, Ms. Roberts laments that

But… there just haven’t been enough spaceships. To be precise, not enough girls on spaceships. With robots….

…There’s a myth that girls aren’t interested in science fiction. It’s far more likely that this idea has come about because, in fact, science fiction has not always been that interested in girls. This post about “hard SF now with girl cooties” was very nicely timed, and those books have gone straight on to my To Read list.

Science fiction has been around a really long time. It needs new ideas, new blood and new waves in order to revitalise itself on a regular basis. The thing that still hasn’t been done to death, in fact has hardly really got started (yet) is the science fiction for and about teenage girls.


Now there’s an idea that bears repeating! How many times have we had that conversation here, both in terms of YA and science fiction romance? I suspect we’ll need to have it many more times as well, at least until the powers-that-be Get It (agents, editors, publishers, and booksellers, I’m looking at you).

Many, many girls, teens, and women of all ages enjoy science fiction and blends like SFR. Given all of the technological advances of the past century (not to mention the past five years), there will potentially be even more female fans of SF than in the past. Shouldn’t we be starting to think about the needs of these readers now?

YA science fiction offers so much for young readers. Entertainment, definitely, but the type that also engages them with social commentary about gender roles, technology, culture, ethnicity, and environmental issues. Then there’s the “sensawonder” it can inspire, especially in youth. We alienate young readers, especially girls, at our peril.

YA SF and science fiction romance—talk about a one-two punch to invigorate science fiction as a whole.

I leave you with this lovely bit from Hard SF, now WITH girl cooties! at Haikasoru, “the first imprint dedicated to bringing Japanese science fiction to America and beyond.”:

Science is for everyone, after all, as it increases our understanding of the universe in which we live, and as it can potentially be used to improve all our lives. Indeed, if we want science to improve our lives rather than destroy them, we’d all better have an interest in the field and its implications for policy, health, and the environment. That’s why hard SF needs to be written for a wide variety of readers, not just for the nerdcore hardcore of those men who are afraid of “girl cooties.” Publishing hard SF titles that can be reviewed and championed by Romantic Times is one reason why I love my job.


Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, February 17, 2011

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The DABWAHA Tournament Needs Science Fiction Romance

You might have heard that Dear Author and Smart Bitches sponsor the annual DABWAHA Tournament:

the DA BWAHA is a tournament of books where we put up a field of 64 books and you vote until there is one book, one champion. The contest is twofold. First, you must fill out a bracket identifying which book will win each round. Then you vote.


By playing, participants become eligible for a chance to win a huge number of prizes, with prizes awarded at each round of the tournament.

DABWAHA 2011 is gearing up for action. Galaxy Express passenger, author E.D. Walker (HEIR TO THE UNDERWORLD), alerted me to the fact that this year, readers can nominate books they think should be in the tournament. According to the DABWAHA site, "This year one book in each category will be nominated by the readers." In order to be eligible, the books must have been published in 2010.

You’ll notice that there are several categories for which SFR titles could actually be submitted:

* Young Adult Romance
* GLBT Romance
* Paranormal/SciFi Romance
* Novella-Length romance
* Crossover Fiction (Formerly known as Novel With Romantic Elements/NWRE)

I submitted my list of nominees in all of the above except YA (because I hadn’t read any YA last year other than THE HUNGER GAMES). My form was accepted with no problems even though I didn’t nominate books in the other categories (e.g., contemporary).

I’m hoping you can take a few minutes to submit the SFR titles you think are worthy to the tournament. Both print and digital titles are eligible. For print releases, you’ll need to enter the ISBN number. If you need to refresh your memory about many of the 2010 SFR releases, visit my 2010 Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup post.

If enough people submit, there’s a chance a science fiction romance could end up on the official ballot. Because as you know, it's an honor just to be nominated!

Thanks for your support.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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Guest Blogging At Dear Author About Extraordinary Heroines

Today at Dear Author, I'm blogging about extraordinary heroines in romance (and by extension, science fiction romance). In light of the fact that Hollywood has been highly reluctant to green light a WONDER WOMAN film of any kind, I've been wondering if there's a connection between that and the disappointingly low number of memorable, extraordinary heroines in romance. Is it just Hollywood studio executives that aren't ready for Wonder Woman caliber heroines, or are consumers in general reluctant to embrace them as well? And if so, why?

Interestingly, Joss Whedon is quoted as saying “But I don’t necessarily think we need a Wonder Woman movie per se. We need more female heroes. We need ‘wonder women’ movies.”

Hmm. Sounds like an entertaining idea, doubly so if one transports the idea of “wonder women” to romance heroines. So why don’t we encounter them more often? And of the ones that exist, why are their abilities told rather than shown in some cases (at least compared to the extraordinary romance heroes who get plenty of on-stage action)? Are they not extraordinary enough? Heck, no, of course they are. But are they too extraordinary? Does their very existence threaten the concept of the fantasy male lover?


I invite you to visit and share your thoughts on this topic.

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Sunday, February 13, 2011

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Can This Technically Flawed Cover Be Saved?

Given my tastes in niche entertainment, I’ve learned to overlook things like low budget special effects, grainy movie trailers, and poorly crafted book covers. Because if I hadn’t, I’d have missed some pretty awesome stories. However, sometimes I’m not as immune as I think I am.

Case in point: THE EMPIRE by Elizabeth Lang.

THE EMPIRE is published by IFWG Publishing, “a small press that specializes in speculative fiction.” Chief Editor Gerry Huntman alerted me about this title, sharing that the book contains both SF elements and romance. I thought, “Cool!” and clicked through the link to learn more about the book.

Upon seeing the cover, my reaction was along the lines of “Ah…ohh…uhhh…hoo boy…ehhh…ugh.”

The Empire Elizabeth Lang


Allow me to translate that for you. At first, I was like, “Wow, they nagged Sean Astin as the cover model for the hero!” See, I’m a big Sean Astin fan (even before LORD OF THE RINGS—you Goonies knoweth of what I speaketh) and an even bigger fan of his actor mom, Patty Duke. In fact, I bow before the everlasting glory of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW.

Ahem. Anyway, my second thought was that the space ship featured on the cover resembled a video game controller. Not a good sign since the blurb didn’t indicate that a videogame system existed anywhere in the story. And did someone photoshop a wig on that poor woman?

Here was a cover that clearly conveys science fiction romance elements (Couple! Starry backdrop! Starships!), yet the technical flaws were testing my immunity in ways I hadn’t anticipated. The cover for THE EMPIRE made me question what I truly want in SFR covers. Is it better to accurately represent the story, even if the end result is of questionable quality? Or is a simple approach more effective when one doesn’t have the resources of a Big Six publisher? Either way, readers might be lost.

I can overlook technical flaws in a variety of mediums (meaning I’ll at least start a story despite fugly visuals), but regardless of my personal opinion, first impression visuals are important to many consumers. Never mind the fact that one has to pay for the entertainment, so it’s reasonable to have high or medium-high expectations about the packaging.

Despite my apprehension about the cover’s technical flaws, Mr. Huntman kindly sent me a copy of the book for my perusal. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cover screams science fiction romance, but the blurb led me to expect more of a politically-driven saga.

Given all of these issues, I read THE EMPIRE with one goal in mind: to determine if the story delivers more than what the technical flaws of the cover indicate. In other words, is it unfair to judge this book by its cover?

Here's the premise: the story features an Empire that faces threats on two fronts: an invasion by the Andromedans, and a rebel faction from within its own territory. Caught in the middle is scientist Lt. Adrian Stannis, whose superiors try to force him to create an uber weapon that they want to unleash on both the alien invaders as well as the rebels. Adrian’s love interest is Kali, a telepath from a neighboring race that’s allied with the Empire. The core conflict arises from Adrian’s resistance to the Empire’s manipulations: Will he or won’t he succumb?

Elements that I felt were better than what the cover promised include:

* THE EMPIRE is definitely political in nature, but upon reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how character-driven it turned out to be.

* The prose. I was concerned it’d be a jumbled mess, but it was absolutely competent and had some nice description in places.

* The author has a good grasp of writing for the romance crowd when it came to scenes of emotional connection and intimacy.

* The setting was believable, if derivative in places.

* The sadistic tendencies of the Empire's powers-that-be surprised me, but in general I like surprises so I was able to roll with it. If you don’t like squickish torture scenes, you may want to steer clear.

* Two secondary characters stood out for me and they both had good dialogue.

* The author presented a multi-faceted villain. Villains like a “totalitarian society” can fall into the trap of two-dimensionality, but in this story, evil had a name, a face, and layered motives.

* There is a Happily For Now for the main couple. There’s also a secondary romance.

THE EMPIRE strikes me as romantic SF that’s heavy on the romantic elements. I would have liked for the romance between Adrian and Kali to have more of a set up, but it’s a flaw I’ve encountered in other stories as well. It’s not necessarily a deterrent, especially if you’re coming to this book from the SF side.

If I were to recommend this book to anyone, it’d be specifically to readers who are diehard Star Trek fans (e.g., Next Gen, DS9 more than the original series, actually) *and* fans of dystopian stories such as George Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. And I do mean diehard Star Trek fans, because THE EMPIRE features an ensemble cast and the story structure is such that every major character—and a few secondary ones—gets about equal stage time.

The reason I cite Star Trek is because those series are also highly character-driven (as opposed to plot driven). THE EMPIRE takes its time spinning the tale and is quite “talkie.” There are also constant POV switches throughout (sometimes within a paragraph). When the scenes and/or POV would switch, the transitions reminded me of watching Star Trek episodes where the viewer would follow different characters at different times during episodes.

You might also like this book if you’re into political mind games, which the author depicts in great detail. Also, I hereby pronounce Adrian the King of All Angst.

Is THE EMPIRE worth the price of admission?

U.S. readers can purchase the print version through IFWG for $19.99 ($23.99 for Canadian readers; $33.99 worldwide). However, there’s a much more budget-friendly Kindle version available for $5.00. Frankly, that’s the price I’d recommend paying when one factors in the cover as well as the story.

In addition to Elizabeth Lang’s Web site, you can also find her on Facebook.

What are your thoughts on accurate, yet technically flawed science fiction romance covers? Assuming small press publishers must always contend with a limited marketing budget, should they keep producing them, or take a simpler approach?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, February 10, 2011

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My Author Site

I’ve launched my author Web site, www.heathermassey.com.


Heather Massey Web Site


Here are a few reasons to visit right now:

* You can download a free three-chapter excerpt of my forthcoming science fiction romance, ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE (Red Sage Publishing).

* You can download a free ebook: Heroes Are Forever is a short near-future science fiction romance. It's just under 2k and the heat level is "sweet."

* You can see what I look like (in full space pirate regalia—kidding!)

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

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Free SFR Ebook, SPACE: 1999 Giveaway, & Steampunk Romance Event

February is Steampunk "Romance and Erotica" month at Steampunk Scholar. If you'll recall, he featured a review of Nathalie Gray's FULL STEAM AHEAD and Gail Carriger's SOULLESS. Here's a snippet of the planned features:

My plans are always bigger than I can make happen, and while I wanted to look at the entire Steampunk Trilogy this month, I'll likely be focusing solely on "Walt and Emily." I'll take a look at Gail Carriger's Soulless again, revisiting it beyond review to ruminate on the elements of Austenian comedy she brings to the first two books in the Parasol Protectorate series. I'm going to review some erotica as well, including Ora Le Brocq's Steampunk Erotica and a few selections from Circlet press: Peter Tupper's The Innocent's Progress and Lionel Bramble's 1901: A Steam Odyssey. I'd like to get the chance to talk corsets, burlesque, and Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge! We may even bring up that steampunk chestnut, Katie MacAlister's Steamed as well.


Thanks to Christine Danse (ISLAND OF ICARUS) for the link.

Via CONTACT - Infinite Futures: Carina Press' free ebook Wednesday features a free download of Ella Drake's SILVER BOUND. Grab it while it's hot since the offer ends tonight, February 9, 2011, 11:59 p.m. EST.

Also at CONTACT - Infinite Futures, Lisa Paitz Spindler (THE SPIRAL PATH) does a Quantum Tango.

In other giveaway news, SF Signal has an "awesome prize pack to give away to 1 lucky SF Signal reader...it's a classic-SciFi-lover's dream: Space: 1999: The Complete Season One and The Prisoner: The Complete Series, both on Blu-ray disc!"

Go forth and get free stuff!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

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Lois McMaster Bujold’s LOVE & ROCKETS Introduction

Love & RocketsLois McMaster Bujold recently posted her introduction to DAW’s LOVE AND ROCKETS anthology (*waves to Mike B. who tipped me off*). Since she always writes/speaks about blends of science fiction and romance with such eloquence, my post today will serve as a gateway for her incredibly insightful comments.

Her piece is titled "SFR -- Not Just Science Fiction Research Anymore." Here’s her take on the core definition of science fiction romance:

So to my way of thinking, the ideal SF-romance crossover story would not be to drop the same-old-pattern down in front of a futuristic backdrop that might as well be plywood for all the difference it makes, but to actually explore what striking changes new technologies or other aspects of the world could make to the entire sexual negotiation. What new patterns of relationships might result? Who wins what, and how? It shouldn’t be so hard; we’ve seen it in our own world, worked examples with the impact of birth control and other technologies that have partially liberated women, and with them, men, from the patterns of the past.


Splendid, I say! We’d be hard pressed to find a more accurate way to encapsulate the subgenre. SFR simply tells the story at a point where change intersects with a blossoming romance. Solidifying a definition is key because it helps authors ground the stories they’re telling as well as gives us a lens through which to interpret them. The definition is almost intuitive, yet not at the same time, especially given how noisy marketing labels and even reader expectations attempt to pigeonhole the subgenre into one thing or another.

Ms. Bujold’s definition invites readers to create a new expectation, one they’ll need in order to obtain the most satisfaction from an SFR tale. The other reaction I had is that the definition also validates the idea that romance can be about more than just a relationship, and that SF can be about more than just technology. Cross-genre tales can work well when their goals are clear.

After you’ve read her post, come on back and tell me what you think.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, February 6, 2011

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Is Science Fiction Romance Going To Kollywood?

RobotEver since watching—and blogging—about LOVE STORY 2050, I haven’t been able to get that film out of my head. I’ve gone back and watched a few scenes again, and the opening music has been haunting me ever since that first fateful viewing. All of which made me realize I’m really hoping for another film like it, only much, much better.

Enter ENDHIRAN (2010), a.k.a. ROBOT. This Tamil film stars Indian megastar Rajinikanth and was dubbed into Hindi. As for the premise, the IMDB entry tells us that “A gifted scientist constructs an equally gifted robot, who sets out into the world for the first time with some unexpected and mind-blowing consequences.”

Keep in mind, this is not a "Bollywood" film, which usually signifies a "Bombay Hollywood" film shot in Hindi; instead, ENDHIRAN was shot in Tamil, which is mostly relegated to southern India. (Fun fact: "Kollywood" derives its name from mixing "Kodambakkam," a section of Chennai, with "Hollywood.") I mention this significant fact since ENDHIRAN is now the highest grossing Indian film of all time--despite having been shot in a language the minority of the population speaks.

Now, at first glance, this appears to be a straight SF film. But it isn't, really. There is a strong love interest added to the mix. Said love interest is played by Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World (1994). Coincidentally, Aishwarya Rai’s character is named Sana, which was also the name of the heroine in LOVE STORY 2050! Yes, I’m easily excitable like that.

Hmm, strong elements of science fiction + romance = topping the box office? Now where have I seen that equation before? Oh yes, I remember....! ;)

At any rate, I just have to share the two clips with you. Yes, they spoil much of the film, but believe me, that won't be a deterrent once you get your hands on the DVD. However, I must urge extreme caution. While ENDHIRAN is very different from LOVE STORY 2050, I’m not sure you’ll find it much better. Entertaining, on the other hand? Heck, yeah! This is the water cooler film of the year. But I feel obliged to issue a warning about it:

This film contains the ultimate in cartoon violence, derivative concepts from films such as THE MATRIX, TERMINATOR, and TRANSFORMERS, (not to mention Japanese monster movies), bizarre action scenes that defy every law of physics, an android boogie that puts Dancing with the Stars to shame, the android hero suavely defending his girl while out on a date, extreme roller skating, and visuals that will make you feel as though someone turned your brain inside out. In a good way.

Experience the bliss that is ENDHIRAN:

(the first clip contains the most romance-y elements)





Honestly, who wouldn’t love a hero that can not only communicate with mosquitoes, but oh-so-tenderly swipes the little buggers from your cheek before they can suck out all of your blood?

Learn more about Rajinikanth, the man superman behind ENDHIRAN, in this Slate article (via a comment at SF Signal).

Was it good for you?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Written on

Winner of Toni LoTempio's MY SUPERHERO SISTER

The winner of Toni LoTempio's MY SUPERHERO SISTER is...

Mike!

Mike, please email me at sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com (subject line: Superhero winner), and I will forward your email to the author.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, February 3, 2011

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A Really Swell YA SFR: Toni LoTempio’s MY SUPERHERO SISTER

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an opportunity to read an early draft of Toni LoTempio’s MY SUPERHERO SISTER. Well okay, it wasn’t all that long ago or very far away, but it seems like I’ve been waiting forever for this book to hit the shelves. Eventually, it did hit the shelves, but not the kind I was expecting.

I’d met Toni online and (in the interest of full disclosure) we became friends. When I learned she was working on a story called MY SUPERHERO SISTER, I was immediately hooked. The catchy title alone tells you exactly what the story’s about without giving anything away. I was intrigued enough to read the manuscript when she asked if I could give her some feedback.

I had a lot of fun reading Toni’s story. While I wasn’t the target audience, the premise, tone and setting had a huge retro SF B-movie appeal for me. Plus, there’s a romantic subplot. Despite having read an early draft, I couldn’t get the story out of my mind. Here’s a book that deserves to be published, I thought.

As the months (and months, and months) passed, I kept waiting and hoping for MY SUPERHERO SISTER to get published. I’m sure Toni did, too, LOL! But Toni started shopping the manuscript around at a time when the publishing industry was entering dangerous waters. On the other hand, the rise of the digital market was just around the corner.

Long story short, Toni then revealed to me that after much effort and many obstacles, she decided to e-self-publish the book. Since the topic of YA science fiction romance occasionally crops up on this blog (and Beth Revis’ ACROSS THE UNIVERSE will probably make for an interesting discussion at some point ), I seized the chance to invite Toni LoTempio for an interview so we can learn more about her book. MY SUPERHERO SISTER may not sport the hippest cover ever, but it’s a great introduction to science fiction romance for young readers. Especially girls with penchants for comics and superheroes—boo-yah!

My Superhero Sister

Following the interview is a giveaway of her book. But first, here’s the story blurb:

Holly Hamilton has always been jealous of the way everything—from good grades to boyfriends—seems to come easily to her older sister, Ellen. It's tough living in the shadow of her sister's cape, especially since Ellen’s a super heroine!

Ellen, a.k.a. Suprema, has assumed their retired father’s role as Century City's reigning superhero, balancing school and super-duties with remarkable ease. An ordinary human like their mother, Holly struggles to get through English class without mishap, not to mention those Cheer Squad tryouts.

The girls learn their father’s old nemesis, Anti-Hero, has escaped from his Space Prison. When teen superhero extraordinaire Magna Boy appears on the scene, Holly and Ellen start competing for his attention. But is he friend or foe? And does he have a connection to Anti-Hero?

Holly uncovers Anti-Hero’s dastardly plot, but before she can warn Suprema, Anti-Hero strikes and captures Suprema and Magna Boy. With Earth’s future at stake, what chance does ordinary Holly have against the most dangerous villain in the world?

Now for my interview with Toni LoTempio:

The Galaxy Express: What’s the basic premise of MY SUPERHERO SISTER?

TL: It’s a sweet coming of age story about a fifteen year old girl who’s a bit jealous of her sister, who’s perfect in every single way – and who’s also a superhero! Holly’s a normal girl, but it seems to her that supersis excels in everything – and just once, she’d like to come out on top.

TGE: Who is the audience for the story?

TL: I geared it toward a MG/YA audience. I think anyone from 10-18 will really like it – and some adults might, too. :)

TGE: Where did you get the idea for this book?

TL: I’ve been a huge fan of superheroes since I was a little girl. I think I had one of the largest DC comics collections in New York (when we moved to Jersey my mother threw most of them out – that’s another sad, sad, tale) I loved Superman, Batman, and the like, and after I saw the movie, MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND, I wanted to do a book about a superhero. I started out making it an adult read, but when the story started writing itself it seemed a better fit for the YA audience.

TGE: What sets MY SUPERHERO SISTER apart from other books in the genre?

TL: The underlying message of coming of age – and the sibling rivalry between Holly and Ellen, her super-sister. Most superhero books I’ve seen focus mainly on saving the world – this is about a girl realizing her own self-worth.

TGE: What superhero films would make good companion pieces for this book?

TL: X-Men, Spiderman, The Incredibles, Superman, Batman, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Fantastic Four, Sky High – to name a few LOL.

TGE: Why did you decide to self-publish this book?

TL: Three years ago I had an agent who helped me revise the ms, then promised to send it out, but – nothing. Eventually I fired the agent and shelved the book, but after a friend of mine had great success self-pubbing her fantasy paranormal, she talked me into putting some of my manuscripts up. My other indie, NO REST FOR THE WICCA, is an adult paranormal romance.

TGE: If you could be a superhero, what power would you choose?

TL: Definitely flying! I’ve always wanted to soar through the clouds!

TGE: Can you share a brief excerpt?

“So far, you’ve managed to squeak by in my class with a C average,” Ms. Proctor smirked. “I know you can do work far above a C, Ms. Hamilton. I think you just don’t apply yourself. Perhaps receiving a failing grade and not being able to be a cheerleader will supply the push you need to get those grades of yours up.”

She leaned over, so close our noses almost touched. “You want to get into a good college, don’t you? Well, then, it’s time you started utilizing that brain of yours.” She flashed me an especially evil grin. “Like your sister.”

My tongue snaked out to moisten my lips. “I don’t mean to contradict you, Ms. Proctor, but I would like to set the record straight on one thing.”

Both eyebrows shot straight up to form a perfect V in the middle of her unusually high forehead. “Oh, really? What might that be?”

I cleared my throat. “I just want to state for the record that I’ve got my own personality—my sister has hers. I don’t think always being compared to her is fair.”

Ms. Proctor regarded me in silence for a few minutes, then the corners of her thin, colorless lips twitched. “No one said life was fair.” She held out her hand. “May I see that binder?”

I clutched it tightly against my chest. “Ah--can’t you just take my word for it?”

The set of her jaw was answer enough. “The binder, Ms. Hamilton, if you please.”

Reluctantly, I placed it in Proctor’s outstretched hand.

“Thank you. Now, let’s see if you had any original thoughts on your English reading assignment, or if you depended on Cliff Notes to do your work for you—goodness!”

A sharp wind gusted through the open window just behind Ms. Proctor’s left shoulder. The jet stream scattered papers helter-skelter, and blew with such force it pushed some kids standing against the far wall down to the floor. Faster than lightning, it plucked the binder from Proctor’s hand and in a whirling motion sent it spinning across the room. Backpacks, pencils, and one boy’s camera sailed up into the air from the force of the wind. Everyone started shouting at once, trying to be heard above its howling:

“What’s happening?”

“Where did this come from?”

“It’s a twister.”

As the gale subsided, everyone crowded at the window. Indeed, the tip of a whirling dervish could be seen disappearing over the crest of the hill.

“Wow,” breathed one tall sophomore. “Never seen anything like that before.”

“No,” agreed another. “Cool and scary, all at the same time.”

As my eyes narrowed with sudden suspicion, Ms. Proctor leaned against the wall. “That was close,” she said. “We’re lucky there wasn’t more damage. Now, if you will excuse me—“

She lumbered across the room, presumably in search of my binder, and I heard a loud hiss come from under the windowsill. I glanced around and, seeing that no one paid any attention to me, I poked my head outside.

Ellen brushed some dirt and grass from her skirt. Clutched in one hand was my binder.

“Don’t tell me,” I said. “That whirligig was you, wasn’t it?”

Ellen just smiled and pushed the binder into my hand.

“Give Miss Proctor this one, won’t you?” she said with a wink. “And from now on, do your assignments on time.”

Then she was gone, another blur.

I gave the binder a drop-kick into a far corner of the room, then shuffled back to my seat. I watched till Proctor found it, cradling it to her chest like it was gold or something precious over to one corner to read. I busied myself with the rest of my Algebra homework. A half-hour later when the bell rang for the next class, she hurried over to me, binder in hand. .

“I must apologize, Ms. Hamilton,” she said softly. “That was actually the best review of Silas Marner I’ve read in quite awhile. You must have really loved that book.”

“Oh,” I said as I slipped the binder back in my backpack, “I did. I really did. I can honestly say writing that piece was a—a moving experience.” Good old Ellen comes through again.

“Well…” Proctor paused, clearly floundering about for words. I was vastly amused. I’d never seen the teacher at a loss for words before. “Possibly I was wrong about you, Ms. Hamilton. We’ll just see what you do with the next report.”

“Yes, thank you, Ms. Proctor.”

I turned and hurried from the auditorium, hoping that the next report due wouldn’t be on Gone with the Wind.

***

TGE: Where can readers buy MY SUPERHERO SISTER?

TL: It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords for $1.99.

TGE: How can readers contact you?

TL: I love hearing from readers! They can email me at superherosister “at” yahoo.com, visit my website at www.freewebs.com/toni1953, or visit my cat’s blog at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com.

Toni, thanks for your time, and for your art.

Giveaway time!

Courtesy of the author, I’m giving away a digital copy of MY SUPERHERO SISTER to one lucky passenger! Edited to add: The winner will receive a Smashwords coupon to download the book in the desired format.

To enter, tell me the name of your favorite superhero in the comments.

More ways to win: If you blog and/or tweet about the contest, copy and paste the link from your announcement(s) in the comments and I’ll give you an extra chance to win for each one.

The deadline to enter is 6 pm on Sunday, February 6, 2011. I’ll announce the winner Sunday night.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Written on

SFR News & Links for February 2011

New releases

Midnight's ShadowMIDNIGHT’S SHADOW (Book 2 of the Star Runner Saga) – Sara Brookes

It’s been months since the traumatic and life-altering events on Sulis. Wallace hasn’t been the same and Taran has spent her nights in an empty bed. When a stranger offers her the opportunity to pilot the extraordinary Spyridon—Taran refuses. There’s too much emotional turmoil in her life right now and the less complications, the better.

But Wallace has other ideas and seizes the opportunity without her knowledge. He deliberately sacrifices the one thing Taran loves unconditionally—Eidolon.
Now Taran finds herself captain of a starship that legend paints as haunted. Nothing is as it seems on a ship that appears to have a mind of its own. Forced to accept the consequences before her, Taran will have to put her faith in a man she doesn’t trust as she tries to win back the love of the man she does.

Jaq's HarpJAQ’S HARP – Ella Drake

“Futuristic Romance/Twisted Fairytale/Biopunk -- Short (ebook)”
In a world of floating islands and bio-engineered beans, the bad guys are taken down by agents of the Mother organization—agents like Jacqueline “Jaq” Robinson. Instead of accepting her next routine assignment, she sets out on a mission of her own—to destroy Giant Corp, the company responsible for her sister’s wasting illness. Jaq must steal her cure from Giant’s headquarters high above the city…even though she’ll be brought face-to-face with Harper English, the man who left her to go deep undercover at Giant.

For Harp, Jaq had been a distraction the mercenary thought he couldn’t afford. But once he sees her again, Harp knows he’s made a mistake. Even though she vowed he won’t have her again, it’s clear they still have a powerful attraction. Harp’s determined to get a second chance with Jaq—if they can escape Giant Corp and get back to solid ground in one piece…

Read an excerpt
.

Romance of My Dreams Vol. 2ROMANCE OF MY DREAMS II (anthology) – Includes SFR short “Comfort Zone” by Pauline Baird Jones

Marrying a man she'd met once was a bad idea. When the guy was ET it was insane—even if they were anatomically compatible. He and his world weren't just outside her comfort zone, they were outside her comfort universe. And if he didn't have amazing green eyes, saving her father's career might not have been enough to get her through the wedding...

BLAZE OF GLORY (print release) - Sheryl Nantus

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

When Earth comes under attack, suddenly the show becomes deadly real. Unable to deal with a real alien, the "supers" are falling in droves. Millions of innocent civilians are going to die unless Jo can cobble together a team from among the fake heroes and villains the Agency enslaved. Including Hunter, who not only promises to show her how to deactivate the implants, but seems to know more than he should about how the mysterious Agency operates. Forcing a rag-tag bunch of former enemies to work together is the least of Jo's problems. The trick is determining if Hunter is friend or foe--and becoming the hero everyone thought she was before the world is destroyed for real.

Read an excerpt.

Blaze of Glory

***

I’m still on the hunt for 2011 SFR releases, so if you know of any that I can add to my 2011 Science Fiction Romance New Release Roundup, stop by and leave a comment or email me at sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com. I also added that post to my sidebar on the right for easy reference.

Forthcoming SFR releases

Zoe Archer (THE BLADES OF THE ROSE) sold an SFR to Carina Press:

And my eyes are on the stars as I get ready for the April 2011 release of my sci-fi romance, COLLISION COURSE.

Speaking of sci-fi romance, here’s a very cool fact: my husband is Nico Rosso, the sci-fi romance author! We definitely keep romance alive in our relationship. If you love sexy space commandos and kick-ass women, be sure to pick up a copy of TAKEN TO THE LIMIT.


Here’s the story blurb:

A galactic war is being fought between the corporate giant PRAXIS and the small but dedicated forces of the 8th Wing. Against this backdrop of interstellar conflict, courageous men and tough women will discover passion as infinite as the stars.


Very good news that a mainstream print author is indulging in her SFR side with a digital-first publisher!

Author sightings

Alien TangoDAW Books features an interview with author Gini Koch (ALIEN TANGO). (via SF Signal). On story ideas:

Gini: I get most of my story ideas from either my dreams or from rock music. I know, shocker, right? Like you, I write under more than one name, so there’s no idea that can’t be considered. Touched by an Alien came from a dream, a short, dark, noir-ish dream. Basically, I thought I was going to write a dark, noir-ish short story. Kitty’s voice took over, and I allowed it free rein, and pretty soon I had a novel length, humorous, science fiction romance on my hands.


SF author Jeffrey Carver guest blogs at Star-Crossed Romance. (ETERNITY’S END is book is on my TBR ebook pile as I was tipped off that the story has romantic elements. The book was also a finalist in the Nebula Awards.)

I love that Mr. Carver is invested in SF and romance types getting along:

I'm a little off my beaten path here, so forgive me if I sit in the wrong chair or something. You see, I'm generally considered a writer of hard SF or sometimes space opera, not a romance writer or even a science fiction romance writer. That notwithstanding, I thought it might be fun to see what interests I have in common with you romance types, rather than focus on the differences.


Lisa Paitz Spindler (THE SPIRAL PATH) recently unveiled her shiny new Web site.

A.R. Norris blogs about Romantic Settings Off World at Jillian Chantel’s joint (via SFR Brigade):

Romantic moments happen sometimes by the character’s own planning and design, or they happened by chance or fate. Romance scenes in science fiction are very similar to regular genre scenes, only the location is literally out of this world and adds a little dash of “Other” to it all. Where anything is possible and anyone can find anything…including true love.


A.R. Norris’ debut SFR novel DUTY AND DEVOTION releases June 15th 2011 from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Ultimate Duty

Back at Adventures of a Sci-Fi Writer, A.R. Norris interviews Marva Dasef about her science fiction romance ULTIMATE DUTY. Following the interview is an excerpt of the author’s book.

“the nipple poke”

Ranker ranks “the hottest women who have ever played a girlfriend, wife or random hook-up of a superhero in a film or TV show…” in The 25 Hottest Love Interests from Superhero Movies and TV. Check it out to discover more about “the nipple poke.” (Hint: it’s probably more than you wanted to know.)

And now for something completely different: Laurie A. Green has a great post at Spacefreighters Lounge about the makings of an SFR writer called The Tomboys of Romance:

I also noticed that SFR writers often tended to be the more adventurous females as children. We were the tree-climbers, the sole girl on the soccer field at recess, the ones who experimented with motorcycles, fast horses, martial arts or surfing, while our peers were content to dabble in lipstick colors and new hairstyles. We were aspiring Amelia Earharts, Annie Oakleys and Sally Rides.


Call for submissions

Pauline Baird Jones tipped me off about a short story anthology call for submissions from Spencer Hill Press. The anthology premise sounded fun and I thought it might be a way to slip readers more science fiction romance if you’re so inclined to whip up a tale, heh heh heh:

Call for Submissions for UnCONventional
(a short story anthology)

We're looking for stories that take place at fantasy/sci-fi conventions or other gatherings in which the convention/conference itself is just the cover for something supernatural or fantastic. Imagine time travelers using a steampunk con to cover their attempt to open a portal to return to their own times, werewolves holding a beauty pageant at a dog show, or vampires holding a treaty summit at Dragon*Con.

Suggested Length: 3,000-7,000 words. Up to 10,000 words is possible, but it will be a HARD sell.

Due Date: July 1st, 2011

Editors: Kate Kaynak and Trisha Wooldridge

Submission Guidelines: Please email your submissions to us at: editor@SpencerHillPress.com.

Put your story into the BODY of the email (no attachments, please!) and put "UnCONventional" in your subject line along with the title of your story.

Legalese: We can only accept previously unpublished stories. Please do not used licensed characters or any trademarked or copyright-protected material without written permission in advance of submission (This is NOT the place for fanfic). Contributor compensation will include a $10 advance paid upon publication, a contributor copy of the paper version, a royalty percentage split between all contributors, and, of course, bragging rights. Stories should be appropriate for adult and teen readers (age 14 and up); please, no explicit sex or graphic violence!


Now I turn the mike over to you. Got any SFR news or links to share?

Joyfully yours,

Heather