Thursday, March 31, 2011

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"Science Fiction—Undercover Fantasy?" Guest Blog by Tia Nevitt

Debut author and fantasy guru Tia Nevitt (THE SEVENFOLD SPELL) gamely exchanged guest blog posts with me when I approached her about my interest in writing An Ode To Science Fantasy. For your reading pleasure, she explores the scandalous (!) idea that science fiction, at its heart, is all fantasy, all the time.

Science Fiction--Undercover Fantasy?

2001: A Space OdysseyI’m of the opinion that science fiction is fantasy with delusions of grandeur.

Hey! Don’t throw things at me! I’m a science fiction fan! I say that in the best sense possible.

Although I am currently writing fairy tale retellings (The Sevenfold Spell, a racy reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, buy it now!), I first ventured into speculative fiction via science fiction and Arthur C. Clarke. My father had a worn-out copy of 2001 lying around, and one day, I picked it up and read it. To this date, this is the novel that I list as those with the best sense of wonder. (Don’t believe me? Here.) And as far as science fiction goes, it’s considered “hard”. Not as in with sharp edges or gritty characters, but it is based on “hard science”. (Well most of it. The monolith that was “full of stars” has never been observed in a scientific lab, so we must assume that Clarke dreamed it up.).

Back then, I was all, “I don’t read fantasy. I only read stuff that’s real. Or that could be real.” Yeah, right. That’s why I went and devoured 2010, which is even more speculative than 2001, and started Earth’s Children, with all its ancestral memories and shared consciousnesses.

My delusions of snobbery didn’t last long. By the time I was 22, I was a committed science fiction and fantasy reader.

About that time, I discovered Anne McCaffrey. It was a lesser-known novel called Crystal Singer. My husband (then, boyfriend) had it lying around and I picked it up and read it. I really didn’t like Killashandra much, but I loved the worldbuilding, and the special power based on musical ability. There was more of that sense of wonder again, this time in the ability to instantaneously communicate through these one-of-a-kind crystals. All based on hard science, but with that everpresent spark of fantasy. I’ve read it umpteen times.

Sentenced to PrismAnd then, Alan Dean Foster. A friend of mine hooked me up with many of his books. She urged me to read Sentenced to Prism. I was immediately put off by the punny title, so first I read some of his Humanx books. By then I was convinced, so I gave it a try. I couldn’t put it down. Here this guy went to this deadly planet inhabited by a silicon-based life-form, and doesn’t dare let his carbon-based self get exposed to the atmosphere. He has all this impressive protective gear, and it doesn’t last five minutes before it’s is compromised and the silicon-based life forms are closing in on him.

But then, something wonderful happens. It’s all fantasy. But it’s presented scientifically. And it’s a very satisfying read.

Every Star Trek movie made has some element of fantasy. In fact, the elements of fantasy are what made it so popular. The time travel. The mind melding. The various mental powers. My favorite episode was “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” The whole episode seems like a fantasy, but then in the end you discover that all the magic these people believed in was actually … science.

So, yeah. You can pick up a science fiction novel and convince yourself that you are reading something edumacated. That you are of an intellectual elite. That it’s more macho. But you may as well be reading Lord of the Rings, because at its heart, it’s all fantasy.

Join the club. We love ya!

About the author:

Tia Nevitt

Not even a stint in the military as an aircraft mechanic could erase Tia Nevitt’s love of fairy tales. To this day, she loves to read (and write) books that take her to another place, or another time, or both. Tia has also worked on an assembly line, as a computer programmer, a technical writer and a business analyst. When she’s not writing, she keeps a book blog called Debuts & Reviews, where she focuses on debut novels. She lives in the southeast with her husband and daughter.

THE SEVENFOLD SPELL is available from Carina Press.

The Sevenfold Spell

Connect with Tia Nevitt at the following sites:

* Website – http://www.tianevitt.com
* Blog – http://www.tianevitt.com/weblog
* Twitter – http://twitter.com/tianevitt
* Facebook Author Page – http://www.facebook.com/tia.nevitt.page
* Facebook Profile – http://www.facebook.com/tia.nevitt
* eHarlequin – http://community.eharlequin.com/users/tia-nevitt
* Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/tianevitt

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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Guest Blogging at Tia Nevitt's Blog

The Outback StarsI'm not a fan of black coffee, but in a lot of ways that's how I like my science fiction: straight up black. Regardless of the story's quality, going in I have the expectation that it will "feel" like science fiction and nothing else. Kind of a strange attitude, actually, when you consider that I'm a fantasy fan as well. And what about the fact that I always drink my coffee with cream--and sometimes sugar? (Espresso is the exception as I will drink that straight once in a while, and I have this cute little set of white espresso cups and saucers...but I digress).

It occurred to me one fine day that many of the "science fiction" stories I've enjoyed the most could be more accurately categorized as science fantasy. Too many to list, although in recent years, Sandra McDonald's THE OUTBACK STARS trilogy tops the, uh, list.

Occasionally, one encounters a bias against science fantasy because it's not "real" science fiction. This past February, John Scalzi nicely articulated the schism (in reference to films) in his post, Science Fiction vs. Science Fantasy.

Well, the naysayers can't stop me from either enjoying science fantasy or including it under the science fiction umbrella. Therefore, I invite you to visit the blog of author Tia Nevitt (formerly of Debuts & Reviews fame and now a debut author of the fantasy romance, THE SEVENFOLD SPELL) where I indulged in An Ode to Science Fantasy.

I thought Tia's joint would be an ideal location for the post given her expertise in speculative fiction, and particularly in fantasy. Even better is the fact that when I invited her to guest blog here at The Galaxy Express on a related topic, she was totally game. So stay tuned for her guest post, which will appear tomorrow night.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Winner of Kimber An's CRUSHED SUGAR

The winner of Kimber An's CRUSHED SUGAR is...Kaye! Congratulations! Please email me at sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com (subject line: Sugar) and I'll forward your contact info to the author.

Thanks so much to all who entered.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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Help! Need Sci-Fi Romance Audiobook Titles Asap!

A science fiction romance fan wrote me and asked about the availability of audiobooks in the subgenre. She needs them quickly because of a pending trip during which she'll need lots of reading material.

Searching for books at Audible and Podiobooks by genre produces limited results (where's a good metadata system when you need one? Grr.), and searching by author name is time consuming.

Aside from authors such as Linnea Sinclair and Lois McMaster Bujold, I remembered that Ella Drake's JAQ'S HARP and SILVER BOUND are available as audiobooks. I also found KS Augustin's IN ENEMY HANDS and THE MYSTERIOUS LADY LAW by Robert Appleton (which makes me wonder--are all of Carina Press' titles available as audiobooks?).

However, there must be more.

If you're a reader and/or author with knowledge of SFR audiobook titles, please hit me up in the comments! Links appreciated.

Thanks for your support.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, March 28, 2011

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Cover Exclusive: BLUE GALAXY (Carina Press) by Diane Dooley

Thanks to the generosity of debut author Diane Dooley and digital-first publisher Carina Press, I'm excited to share an exclusive unveiling of the author's science fiction romance novella BLUE GALAXY (May 9, 2011). And I do mean exclusive—even Carina Press hasn’t featured the cover on its site yet.

Ta-da!

Blue Galaxy

There’s no denying that this cover promises a science fiction romance. Despite the obvious fact that the portrayed hero is a model, I like the image chosen because he conveys a gritty feel (which is what the story blurb, featured below, promises readers about his character). His gaze is compelling enough that the cover would have worked equally well with him alone. I'm not getting a solid vibe on the heroine, but one could argue her pose lends her an air of mystery. Still, in terms of marketing and story transparency, the cover for BLUE GALAXY delivers. And, no man titty!

This cover also makes me wonder about a recent trend I’ve noticed, that of science fiction romance covers with a cool-blue tone. Not just with Carina covers like IN ENEMY HANDS (KS Augustin), either. Check out the covers (but hurry back!) for THE SLIPSTREAM CON (S. Reesa Herberth & Michelle Moore), THE FACILITATOR (Sahara Kelly), NAKED SIN (Brenda Williamson), TORN (K.D. King), and MECHMAN (L.J. Garland).

See what I mean? And now we can add BLUE GALAXY to the mix (although given the title, a bluish tone for the cover was practically a given). I wonder if there’s an unspoken consensus among digital/small press publishers that SFR in a space opera setting is best conveyed with an outer space feel. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a more solid trend, or if it’s just a design element that’s “in” at the moment.

Next, allow me to share the story blurb for Diane Dooley’s BLUE GALAXY:

Falling in love is easy; staying alive long enough to enjoy it just might be impossible.

Javan Rhodes, the hard-drinking, disreputable captain of space freighter The Kypris took a mission to save himself from hitting the bottom of the food chain. Transporting Sola, a beautiful young aristocrat, from Earth to an unknown destination on the outer rim of the colonies is lucrative, but also highly illegal.

As tough as it is to evade both the law and the lawless, the hardest part of the job is not falling in love with his irresistible cargo. But just as he decides that he will never be able to hand her over to the warlord she must marry, he discovers that Sola has been playing a very dangerous game – one that could not only cost them their lives, but could also affect the balance of power in an increasingly dangerous universe.

***

You know you want some! BLUE GALAXY is now available for pre-order at Amazon for the bargain basement price of just $2.39! And yes, I do believe that “Squee!” you heard right before this post went live was me as I pre-ordered a copy for my Kindle.

Here’s where you can find Diane Dooley:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diane-Dooley/146280878746604?sk=wall
Blog: http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/

She’ll also be a contributor to Carina Press’ CONTACT – Infinite Futures SF/SFR blog, so look for her posts there in the near future.

So, my fellow passengers, what do you think of the cover? Would you like to see more like it? Any thoughts on other possibilities for sci-fi romance covers, or need we look no further for our SFR cover formula?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Interview With THE SPIRAL PATH Author Lisa Paitz Spindler & A Giveaway

The Spiral PathI’m very excited to help celebrate the release of THE SPIRAL PATH, a science fiction romance novella from debut author Lisa Paitz Spindler. The author is a familiar face here as she’s been blogging about science fiction romance for many years now. I'm always hooked on her eloquent and insightful observations about the subgenre. At long last, she now joins the ranks of published sci-fi romance authors.

I was lucky enough to have read an eARC of THE SPIRAL PATH and initially blogged about one aspect of it in The Pure Awesomeness of Futuristic Military Uniforms. Other aspects of this space opera romance also fascinated me, such as the space pirate heroine, Lara Soto, the unique nature of the Chimerans, and the jaunts into alternate dimensions. Additionally, the story is full of action-adventure and political intrigue, not to mention starships, exotic matter, and a mysterious villainess. How many different ways can I say it? Hie thee hither and read THE SPIRAL PATH!

Now before we start the interview, I’d like to present information about her giveaway, which you can enter for a chance to win a copy of THE SPIRAL PATH and other cosmically cool prizes.

Here’s the lowdown:

“Out Of This World Blog Tour Giveaway”

As part of my Out Of This World Blog Tour, I’m giving away a copy of THE SPIRAL PATH and this Retro Saturn T-shirt to one lucky reader.

Everyone who enters will receive a door prize: The Spiral Path electronic trading cards depicting the four main characters in the story.
Click here to enter.

About the author:

Lisa Paitz Spindler is a science fiction author, web designer, and pop culture geek. Her debut space opera novella, THE SPIRAL PATH, will be released March 28,2011 from Carina Press. In addition to contributing book reviews and television recaps to SF Signal, she also maintains the Danger Gal Blog hosted by her alter ego, Danger Gal, whose stiletto heels are licensed weapons and whose ninja stars travel faster than light. Lisa, however, gets through each day on caffeine and science blogs. Lisa can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.


Now for my interview with Lisa Paitz Spindler:

The Galaxy Express: Please tell us about yourself. How long have you been a fan of science fiction romance? Describe how your interest in the subgenre evolved.

Lisa Paitz Spindler: I’ve been a fan of science fiction ever since I watched Star Trek with my dad and grandma and read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series with my mom. I’ve been a fan of science fiction romance ever since I discovered a certain scoundrel named Han Solo. Growing up, my parents definitely emphasized the importance of science and learning in general. We went to museums and were watching Discovery Channel-type shows before there was a Discovery Channel. I vividly remember watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series and being fascinated with how big the universe is. My mom has always been an avid romance reader and one day I started picking up her books in addition to all the others I was reading.

TGE: How would you explain the fundamental appeal of science fiction romance?

LPS: Character-driven science fiction uses science to explore human relationships all the time. The distinctions between science fiction and science fiction romance are just about where the emphasis of that exploration is placed. I’m absolutely fascinated with black holes, the formation of planets, elemental particles, and the potential for traveling vast distances, but I can learn about those topics in Scientific American. I read novels for the characters. Science fiction plays out the permutations on what we may become and how science might help or hinder that outcome. In science fiction romance, the science is the relationship and the relationship is the story. You can’t separate the two aspects.

TGE: You are one of the earliest sci-fi romance bloggers, for which I salute you. How long have you been advocating for the subgenre online?

LPS: According to my archive, my earliest blog post is from 2004. I guess I’ve been doing this a while! I remember attending a RWA chapter conference years ago – around 1999 probably – and pitching a science fiction romance only to be told by a pretty reputable agent that it just wouldn’t sell and I should move on. Good thing I’m stubborn. The subgenre is really starting to take off now and I think a huge part of that is the trend of character-driven stories in general being the norm in science fiction now. Romance has always been character-driven, so the two mesh well.

TGE: What seem to be the hot topics? Please share a few of your favorite blog posts you’ve done on science fiction romance.

LSP: The Artemis Unbound post that I wrote for The Galaxy Express’ first SFR Holiday Blitz I think is the best case I’ve ever made for science fiction romance. That article was sparked by some comments Athena Andreadis made about the second Star Wars trilogy and brought into focus why I read romance: strong heroines.

From very early on in my blog I wanted to highlight some of those great heroines and from that came the idea for my Danger Gal Friday profiles, which have always been very popular. The romance genre continuously re-invents itself, but at its core has always been the idea that a woman’s point of view is important, that her wants and needs are valid – something society still struggles with in real life. Now that the genre is merging with others like science fiction and horror we’re expanding that heroine’s repertoire to more than secretaries and teachers – we’re seeing women as starship captains, cyborgs, werewolf alphas and vampires. It’s like that bumper sticker: “Silly boys. Trucks are for girls.” It’s not only boys and men who want to escape to other worlds, whether that’s other planets or the supernatural. Silly boys, science fiction is for girls.

Other very popular posts on my blog have been the series of Thursday Thirteen articles I wrote on various science topics like quantum entanglement, black holes, space junk, nuclear fusion, and the Large Hadron Collider. The post “Thirteen Actors I’d Cast in a Black Dagger Brotherhood Mhovie” was extremely popular as well.

TGE: Who is Danger Gal?

LSP: DG’s stiletto heels are licensed weapons and her ninja stars travel faster than light. She won’t tell me much more than that, probably because then she’d have to kill me. All I know is you don’t mess with the Danger Gal. I’ve often wondered what’s behind those mirrorshades, and think the lady deserves her own comic book depicting her adventures. Maybe I’ll be able to pin her down for an interview sometime when she takes a break from giving 007 pointers.

Battlestar Galactica

TGE: You recently made your first sale to Carina Press for THE SPIRAL PATH, a science fiction romance novella—with space pirates! What was the inspiration for this story?

LSP: Even though I love to read and write all sorts of science fiction, I was introduced to the genre via Star Trek-esque space opera. I glommed onto both the original and re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series and have always been a Stargate fan (and Farscape and Lex and…). After working with no success on other projects, I needed one that I knew I could just relax with and enjoy. I never guessed it would be the first work of mine to be published, but it seems perfectly fitting. I’ve always found quantum physics fascinating and wanted to include some of those concepts as well. It was fun to twist the usual idea of traveling vast distances via faster than light travel by having the characters in THE SPIRAL PATH travel via wormholes to another dimension.

And space pirates! Aside from being just plain fun to write, I wanted to play with the notion of white hats and black hats. Lara Soto, my heroine, leaves her straight-and-narrow world behind and learns to steer the helm of her own life. The hero, Mitch Yoshida, makes the same journey -- he just takes a little longer to come around.

TGE: Describe three (non-spoiler) things readers can expect from the story.

LSP: THE SPIRAL PATH is a reunion story. Lara and Mitch were involved eleven years prior to when the story begins, but their relationship blew apart when the discrimination against Chimerans got too personal. Lara is a Chimeran – those born with a parent from each of the dimensions. Both sides see Chimerans more as tools than people, and when the Star Union buckled down on them, Lara started a mass exodus of her kind to forge a colony of their own. Her new world collides again with Mitch’s when her brother goes missing and they have to join forces to find him – and dredge up all of their issues once again. In addition to some fun science underpinnings and a moving love story, I hope readers will also enjoy reading about three strong women: Lara Soto, her second-in-command Camryn Rossa, and a third I think readers will find deliciously creepy.

TGE: When will it be released? Can you share an excerpt?

THE SPIRAL PATH will be available March 28, 2011 from Carina Press as well as other major online retailers. Following the interview is an excerpt from the opening scene when Lara’s ship, the C.S. Gryphon, is detained near Saturn’s Cassini Station just before launching into the wormhole.

TGE: What was the path to publication like?

LSP: Long. Never give up, never surrender.

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

LSP: My favorite science fiction romance novels combine the two genres on a fundamental level using each other's conventions to illuminate character more deeply. Right at the top of my list is anything by Catherine Asaro, specifically Primary Inversion. Other favorite authors include Joan Vinge, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Shinn, Susan Grant, and Linnea Sinclair. In TV, Farscape did such a great job combining science fiction and romance. I’m still sad that show is now more. I also loved all of the layers in Battlestar Galactica and Firefly and am definitely a fan of Warehouse 13 and Fringe. In movies, I’m looking forward to Suckerpunch and was drawn in by all the aspects of Avatar.

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

LSP: I’m currently working on the second book in THE SPIRAL PATH trilogy, with a romance between two starship captains: straight-shooter Camryn Rossa and the somewhat shadier Gabriel Rao.

I can be found at my own blog and from there I always let readers know where else I’ll be blogging. I can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, I’m a regular contributor to SFSignal.com with book reviews, TV recaps, and the weekly podcast produced in conjunction with The Functional Nerds.

EXCERPT:

The wormhole, what sailors called the Spiral Path, led to only one of the many dimensions in space-time. Unfortunately, Lara might not be crossing into any of them today.

“Gryphon, your launch slot has been denied,” said a voice from Cassini Command.

“Captain Soto, please report to the embark bay antechamber for inspection.”

“Inspection? What’s stuck up those Star Union asses now?” Camryn Rossa, Lara’s first officer for the past eleven years, locked down her station and unsnapped her restraints.

Lara leaned back in her command chair and clicked her nails on the arm. Those damned royal pains. All her permits were in order, immaculate even. The Gryphon’s manifest had been logged days ago. Star Union officials could be sticklers—especially out here at Cassini Station—but no one had ever denied her launch before. No one would dare threaten a Creed aristocrat, even one with a reputation as tarnished as hers. Plus, pissing off the Creed prime minister by detaining her daughter could destroy diplomatic relations, which meant the Union might have finally given up on peace.

Except, like the rest of her crew, Lara wasn’t just Creed, she was also half-Terran. In other words, a Chimeran—born of both dimensions. And neither Terra nor Creed trusted the Chimerans. They were unnatural, after all.

Lara’s stomach clenched and a cold sweat shivered on her skin. Maybe the Union was finally trying to make good on their threat to enslave her and her Chimeran crew. Maybe her days of freedom were over.

“Captain, are we going?” Cam stood statue-still and patient, gods bless her, hands clasped behind her back. Despite walking out of the Union Academy with her over a decade before, the woman had learned her lessons well. No way could Lara let her longtime friend down now.

Lara stood and smoothed the creases out of her leather jacket. Outside the viewport, Saturn’s rings floated behind its moon Titan. She glanced at her young navigator. “Chandra, you have the conn. If we don’t return in fifteen minutes, blow through that launch bay and rendezvous with the Centaur on Alpha Haven.”

The ensign swallowed and nodded but took her command seat without hesitation. “Yes, ma’am.”

Lara clenched her jaw. This was the boy’s third mission. If anything happened to Chandra, his uncle would kill her.

“Expecting trouble?” Cam fell into step beside her. “We’re not even transporting anything illegal this time. What’s Union’s diss?”

“I have no idea, but activate your wrist-sync.” Lara kept her gaze trained ahead and pushed her panic away. If the Union wanted a fight, she’d give them one, but not at the risk of her crew. She’d ceased following their orders a long time ago. “We’re stopping at the weapons locker on our way.”

***

Ms. Paitz Spindler, thanks for your time, and for your art. Looking forward to more stories in the SPIRAL PATH universe.

Now's a great time to enter the author’s contest for a chance to win a copy of THE SPIRAL PATH and other prizes—because every reader needs a little exotic matter in her life!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, March 26, 2011

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DARK NEST Winner

The winner of Leanna Renee Hieber's DARK NEST is...Lizsemkiu! Congratulations!

Please email your address to sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com. Subject line: Dark Nest winner.

Thanks so much to all who entered.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Friday, March 25, 2011

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Giveaway of Kimber An's CRUSHED SUGAR

Crushed SugarToday marks the release of CRUSHED SUGAR (Decadent Publishing) by YA author Kimber An. CRUSHED SUGAR is a prequel to her debut novel SUGAR RUSH. Perhaps Kimber an will get a science fiction romance published for me one day, but in the meantime, to celebrate the release she's here to give away an e-copy of CRUSHED SUGAR to a Galaxy Express passenger!

On her author site, Kimber An describes CRUSHED SUGAR thusly:

The most important thing to know about this story is that it is a PREQUEL to Sugar Rush, like Star Wars Attack of the Clones is a prequel to Star Wars A New Hope, the originally released movie of that franchise. I'm toe-jam compared to George Lucus, but I can tell you writing a prequel is scary. Crushed Sugar takes place over the course of two days in September *before* Sugar Rush, which is set in December and January. It's a much shorter tale of a faint heart, a fair maiden, and a blood-sucking dead guy.


And here's the blurb:

Ophelia’s had a wicked crush on Martin since they were kids, but she was always just his geeky little friend. Then, on the first day of her junior year, he’s suddenly and wildly attracted to her. She can’t imagine what’s changed, but shocking her small school’s social order fills her with vindication for insults suffered.

Ophelia meets Adrian right after and true love extinguishes the wicked crush. In secret, he gives her courage against a specter threat.

Tristan is pale and hungry, and draws Martin’s immediate ire. He knows things about Ophelia which she assumes are delusions brought on by an aggravated illness like her own, diabetes. When battle breaks out between his ancient race and new blood, even the courage of her secret love might be crushed.


To enter for a chance to win an e-copy of CRUSHED SUGAR, simply leave a comment describing your favorite thing you like to do with sugar. Available formats: PDF, HTML, LIT, PRC and EPub. The deadline to enter is midnight EST on Tuesday, March 29.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Breaking News: Sci-Fi Romance Takes 3 Golden Heart Finalist Slots

The calls went out today from RWA headquarters to contact finalists in the Golden Heart Awards, and science fiction romance took at least 3 of the 8 slots:

Laurie A. Green is a double finalist with her manuscripts P2PC and OUTER PLANETS!

Sharon Lynn Fisher finaled with her sci-fi/paranormal romance blend ECHO 8!

This news is sensational, superlative, and stupendous! Congratulations, Laurie and Sharon!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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15 Sci-Fi Romances Your Boyfriend Will Love

When Simon of Eat My Zombies blogged about “15 Sci-Fi Movies Your Girlfriend Will Love,” I thought, why should girlfriends have all the fun? There are lots of exciting adventures in science fiction romance for the discriminating boyfriend. As long as the tales include a number of guy-friendly elements, many would willingly give them a try.

Therefore, I compiled a list of 15 sci-fi romances that geek girlfriends can recommend to their geek boyfriends.

My picks, all released in the past five years, have a few aspects in common:

* tons of action-adventure
* kick-ass heroines that guys can relate to
* enhanced/superhuman characters such as cyborgs, cyphertechs, and chimerans
* tamer heat levels (with a few exceptions because guys like sex too, y’know)
* and finally, quite a few fall within the romantic SF category.

Hey, it’s all about meeting him halfway, right?

I’ve tagged the books according to setting and/or notable elements. Here they are in alphabetical order by author:

GRIMSPACEAnn Aguirre (space opera; singularity SF).
THE MYTHMAKERSRobert Appleton (space opera; outlaws; alien artifact)
ALPHA - Catherine Asaro (near-future suspense; AI; androids)
IN ENEMY HANDSKS Augustin (hard SF space opera w/ erotic elements)
ENEMY WITHINMarcella Burnard (space opera; military SF)
SONG OF SCARABAEUSSara Creasy (cyberpunk & biopunk)
METAL REIGNNathalie Gray (space opera; badass aliens)
DARKSHIP THIEVESSarah A. Hoyt (space opera; genetic engineering)
GIRL GONE NOVAPauline Baird Jones (military SF; space opera)
THE HIDDEN WORLDSKristin Landon (singularity; space opera; nanotech)
DRIVENEve Kenin (post-apocalyptic)
TOUCHED BY AN ALIENGini Koch (comedic SF, think Men In Black)
GAMES OF COMMANDLinnea Sinclair (military SF; space opera; cyborg)
THE SPIRAL PATHLisa Paitz Spindler (military SF; superhuman; space pirates)
ENDLESS BLUEWen Spencer (military SF; superhuman/genetic engineering; alternate dimensions)

Feel free to add in your picks—there’s no reason we have to limit the list to just 15!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Blog Tour Dates For THE SPIRAL PATH Author Lisa Spaitz Spindler

The release date is fast approaching for Lisa Paitz Spindler's THE SPIRAL PATH. The author has launched a blog tour, and you can catch her at the following sites (list courtesy of Sci-Fi Fan Letter):

March 23 - Get Lost In A Story (Get Lost In Space)
March 25 - Tawny Weber
March 27 - Galaxy Express
March 28 - Sci-Fi Fan Letter & Manic Readers
March 29 - SF Signal & Carina Press Blog
March 30 - Supernatural Sisters
March 31 - Cindy Spencer Pape
She's also set to appear on a Functional Nerds podcast, date TBA.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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"Eight Day Contest" Hosted by T.C. Archer

I'm a little late posting about this event, but author T.C. Archer (SASHA'S CALLING; see my interview with the author here) is hosting an Eight Day Contest this week. The subject is the hot topic of reviews and what they mean for readers and authors. Visitors can enter for a chance to win several books. Here are the details, provided by the author:

REVIEWS: THE AUTHORS MOST FICKLE LOVER

Eight Day Contest from T. C. Archer

What’s a reader to do when reviews for an interesting book clash? How does an author deal with conflicting reviews?

Sunday March 20 thru Sunday March 27 we’ll be talking about how authors and readers deal with diametrically opposed reviews. Visit the contest thread on our blog for the details and to join in on the debate—and for the chance to win a book.

Four winners will receive their choice of one of four books:

Sasha’s Calling by T. C. Archer
The Pendulum: Legacy of the Celtic Brooch by Tarah Scott
Born Into Fire by KyAnn Waters and Tarah Scott
When a Rose Blooms by Tarah Scott

www.tcarcher.com

Want to know what we’ll be talking about each day of our contest? Here’s a preview.

DAY ONE
REVIEWS: THE AUTHOR’S MOST FICKLE LOVER

DAY TWO:
WHY ARE THE CHARACTERS HERE AT ALL? AND HOW DID THEY GET TOGETHER?

DAY THREE:
SEX: TOO SOON, TOO MUCH? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?

DAY FOUR:
JUST HOW GOOD WAS THE SEX—REALLY?

DAY FIVE:
LIGHTS, CAMEREA, ACTION!

DAY SIX:
WILL I CARE TOMORROW?

DAY SEVEN AND, AT LAST, THE CRÈAM D’ LA CRÈAM: THE BOOB CREAM

DAY EIGHT:
EPILOGUE

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE Giveaway & Interviews

I'm hanging out at Gini Koch's cosmic joint today where the ALIEN IN THE FAMILY author teleported me to her newly-constructed stadium on Alpha Centauri for the First Annual Killer Alligator Tournament, extolling the virtues of THE ICE PIRATES while I fought for my life with nothing but a shoelace interviewed me.

While there, you can enter for a chance to win one of two e-copies of my erotic sci-fi romance, ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE! Grab a gargleblaster from Chef on your way over.

I also did an interview last week with SFR author Lindsay Buroker (ENCRYPTED) at her blog E-Book Endeavors. We discussed the topics of sci-fi romance, digital publishing, and strategies for effective blogging.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Guest Blogging About Zombies at Dirty Sexy Books

Which type of zombie is scarier: supernatural zombies or science fiction zombies? In "Supernatural Zombies Vs. Science Fiction Zombies," that's the basic question I pose in my guest post today for blogger Rebecca Baumann of Dirty Sexy Books.

I'm a science fiction fan, but also a horror fan, and the vast types of zombie-licious fun available these days led me to wonder if one kind of zombie has an edge over the other. Even science fiction romance has its share of zombie characters, so if zombies are up your alley, I invite you to visit and cast your vote.

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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On Science Fiction Romance & The Short Form Revival

During the rise of ebooks and the technology that delivers them, there’s been a concurrent expansion regarding choice of story length. The digital medium offers incredible flexibility for story length, and many authors and publishers have been quick to capitalize on that advantage. No longer are we limited to buying print magazines for short stories, for example. The digital market is exploding with them as well as with novellas and, well, basically stories of every length imaginable. Needless to say, the short form is back and here to stay.

But can a short story or novella be too short, especially for a hybrid genre such as science fiction romance? Given the demand for a satisfying romance arc as well as detailed worldbuilding, are readers shortchanged by short stories or even novellas in SFR? Is there an ideal or recommended minimum length for these stories?

Jaq's HarpAt CONTACT – Infinite Futures, Ella Drake (JAQ’S HARP) recently blogged about “short fiction in the romance genre:”

I’ve gotten a range of feedback on my short stories. Much of the time, even when the reviews are positive, they say they want more of the world because in mine, I do quite a bit of world-building. I’m starting to wonder if world-building should be a little lighter in a short. I don’t know, though. Some of my favorite Scifi stories are short & packed with world-building. It’s a glimpse of a rich world that sets my imagination going.

I guess what I’m saying is there’s a balance between characterization/conflict/world-building that’s a difficult thing to do in a short story & still satisfy the romance reader. I think making sure the buyer knows the length is critically important, but I also think that balance is just as important, because short or not, the reader needs to feel like they got the entire story.


Her post touches upon a number of issues, and her discussion tied in with one of my recent LoveLetter magazine columns (“Does Length Matter in Science Fiction Romance?”) in which I shared that

I cut my science fiction/fantasy teeth on epic stories and series. Think The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Dune. I grew up believing that a written story had basically two forms—a novel or a short. In fact, the more I read novels, and the more they seemed to outnumber other formats, the less I thought I’d enjoy short stories or novellas. Science fiction abounds with terrific short stories, but did I seek them out? No, because I was blindsided by the limits of publishing’s distribution system at the time.


Pretty silly of me, eh? I’ve been enjoying my return to the short form, but I still wonder about the issue of length. Specifically, how much is story length in a digital medium impacted by the following factors:

* The demand for quick, or quicker, reads

* The demand for affordably priced ebooks

* The perceived value of the book in question

Those factors play a significant role, and also raise a question for me: To what extent are readers seeking out ebooks because of the increasing availability of shorter stories vs. because they’re ebooks, regardless of length?

In her post, Ella Drake also wondered if it’s easier to deliver an SF short story than a romance short story. Adding the two genres together seems to add exponentially to the challenge. As she noted in her post, “There just hasn’t been a reliable market for short stories in romance until digital pubs came along… But I also think short fiction isn’t quite as accepted as it is in the Lit and SciFi communities.”

All of which point to even more questions. How can science fiction romance best adapt to the revival of the short form? Is it a matter of going lite with certain elements, or does the scope of the story play an important role (perhaps this is part of the balance issue to which Ms. Drake alluded?)? I believe some stories lend themselves to a shorter form better than others (e.g., I would be head-over-heels surprised to read a short story that successfully pulls off an epic space war saga with a romance). Conversely, there are stories that scream out for a novel-length treatment.

What about SFR shorts/novellas that offer more generic worldbuilding in order to allot more word count to the romance? Some of them already exist—I know I’ve read my share of them. Frankly, I can suspend my disbelief as long as other elements deliver, like plot and characterization. Conversely, I’ve read shorts/novellas with unique worldbuilding, but also with characterization/plot that aren’t as strong. Which makes me think it’s not the length that’s at issue vs. a host of other factors like the scope of the story, execution, pacing, etc.

Still, the story itself has a say, doesn’t it? With ebooks having a potentially longer shelf life—not to mention a long tail—than print books, I don’t see why the short form necessarily has to dominate the ebook market. While challenges for novel-length ebooks definitely exist (e.g., many readers don’t have e-readers yet; prolific authors can write and sell more shorts than novels in a lesser amount of time; shorts and novellas are priced less than novel-length works), variety is good for the consumer.

Even if authors overcome the challenge of executing their prose differently for short stories/novellas, the reader plays a role as well. Are romance readers in particular ready to adjust their expectations? Are we prepared to accept more “Happily For Now” endings in short stories/novellas? (*raising my hand*). Additionally, there might be other compromises/changes we’re willing to accept.

What are your thoughts on story length in SFR? Do you have a preference for shorts/novellas, novels, or both? In general, do you think shorts/novellas deliver both the romance and sci-fi elements in equal measure, or is there room for improvement?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, March 20, 2011

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DARK NEST Giveaway & Exclusive Excerpt from Leanna Renee Hieber’s DARK NEST: RECKONING

And so we come full circle: When we last met author Leanna Renee Hieber during my interview with her, she was hot off a 2009 Prism Award win for DARK NEST, her futuristic fantasy novella.

Now, she’s back aboard (yay!) with news of DARK NEST: RECKONING, the sequel. To help celebrate the release, Leanna Renee Hieber is giving away a signed, print copy of the first novella, DARK NEST (contest limited to U.S. residents). To enter, simply leave a comment for this post. The deadline to enter is Thursday, March 24 at 6 pm EST.

So that you could learn more about this novella duo, I have a message from the author as well as an exclusive excerpt from DARK NEST: RECKONING.

May I present the author in her own words:

Why I continued with a second Dark Nest novella:

I’m a Historical Fantasy/Paranormal author. I’ve never claimed otherwise. But when author and best bud Isabo Kelly dared me to write a futuristic novella some years back, well, I love a good challenge. A Star Trek TNG, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who fanatic, it wasn’t a far cry for me to invent and fall in love with a futuristic world, and so I knew when I wrote Dark Nest that there were more facets to the story than I could tell in that novella format.

When Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award in the novella category, I was further emboldened to make good on my promise to Crescent Moon Press and deliver the other side of the story that had been rolling around in my mind- even though I was neck deep in two deadlines for my Strangely Beautiful and new Magic Most Foul series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy / Paranormal novels.

I’m glad I did, despite my difficult deadlines. I knew the Homeworld resistance had its own vital tale to tell, as well as providing a bit of closure on the genocide itself from a different heroine / hero perspective. These different perspectives are why the novellas couldn’t combine into one larger piece. I had an incredible time chewing on themes of tolerance, the difficulties of revenge, and the importance of hope and love at all costs. I hope you enjoy.

Blessings,
Leanna Renee Hieber

www.leannareneehieber.com
www.twitter.leannarenee
FB: http://tinyurl.com/lrhfbfan
Blog: http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com


Here are the blurbs for both stories:

Dark NestDARK NEST (Crescent Moon Press)

Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct "Nests".

Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there's something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.


Read the excerpt.

Dark Nest: ReckoningDARK NEST: RECKONING (Crescent Moon Press)

Captain Temesia Elysse has just steered her ship through almost certain death. With the help of her gifted crew, the Dark Nest has survived. Her newly evolved psychic people are targets of Homeworld genocide. Hundreds have been killed aboard the Light Nest.

Back on Homeworld soil, her people are being hunted and she knows her lover may be dead, the gifted teacher Taryn Wolfe. It will take all Captain Elysse’s restraint, with vast new psychic powers available to her and her people, not to let anger get ahead of them.

But there must be a rescue mission for those still alive. There must be justice. There will be a reckoning. And the Homeworld council has no idea their persecuted victims are alive, or just how powerful they’ve become.


Read the excerpt.

And now for the exclusive excerpt from DARK NEST: RECKONING:

From DARK NEST: RECKONING by Leanna Renee Hieber ©2011

CHAPTER THREE

When tense, Captain Elysse sought physical release and had no qualms leaving the deck in the capable hands of her XO, Tseng. At eighteen years of age, he was an absurdly young man for such a post, but he was a certified genius with shockingly adept social skills. All she had to do was motion to him and she was off.

She knew every inch of the ship. She’d lost track of how many times she walked to ease her tension. With a growing shame and horror, she wondered if she’d always known it would come to this, recognized the fears Brodin and Taryn had so ardently kept from her.

As she walked, her booted footfalls satisfyingly firm and echoing along the smooth blue-steel corridors, the sturdy hem of her garment brushing the leggings fitted around her solid hips- she hadn’t much use for elaborate robes. Instead she chose dark tunics and sashes pinned with a winged insignia that denoted her as captain. She reached out her hand to caress bits of Gothic tracery and allowed memories to take their gripping stronghold.

Temesia thought back to the first day Brodin had invited her to come tour the framework of the ship in the hangar. It was huge, silver, vast, Gothic, awe-inspiring and gorgeous. A shining blue-grey skeleton of a cathedral. Ancient and new, bulkily graceful and entirely impractical.

She laughed out loud. It was so absurdly wonderful. The Homeworld had encouraged them to raise absurd amounts of money within their own population, encouraging them to be limitless. “Build the ship you envision for your future,” they said optimistically. Ironic that there was a crypt in the base level–as the Homeworld envisioned it to become their grave.

She remembered standing there, staring, a grin on her face, as hundreds of Dark Nest candidates and high level students milled about, engineers and artists, visionaries and prophets. There was such excitement and joy as they created a temple to themselves, their art, their personalities and spirits. They could never have imagined, then, that it would become a divisive tool. It was a work of art. They’d never envisioned it would be pitted against the Light Nest and their PA friends within.

“So,” Brodin had said casually. “What do you think?”

“She’s something else,” Temesia replied.

“That’s what I say,” came a voice from behind.

She turned her head to see Taryn Wolfe smiling at her. Had Brodin invited him too? Of course. They were study partners, why wouldn’t he be invited? Surely Brodin knew that she and Taryn had begun to be more than just studying partners… Brodin was as infamous a match-maker as he was a genius professor.

“Oh, I’m sorry, professor.” Taryn grinned at Brodin. “Were you talking about the ship?”

Temesia turned back to face the ship, hoping to replace the grin on her face with something more professional. How was it that the man could say all the right things, cute and suave all at the same time? It was uncanny. Put him and Kristov in a room together and it was plain terrifying. Those two could’ve had worlds of women at their feet. Instead, Kristov only had eyes for Ariadne and Taryn only had eyes for-

“What would you say if she were yours?” Brodin asked Temesia, gesturing to the ship.

“I’d say I was the luckiest man in the world,” Taryn replied, staring at Temesia. “Oh, we’re still talking about this ship?”

Temesia bit her lip and her cheeks warmed as suddenly the gorgeous gothic shell paled in comparison to the blue-grey sparkle of her partner’s eyes-a color that matched the ship. It was all of a piece. Everything fit.

“While I think you’re a smashing couple,” Brodin chuckled, “I was asking Miss Elysse what she would think of this grand vessel being under her command?”

She wasn’t shocked by this possibility, but registered it with a great and dawning weight. She’d known she was being preened for leadership, just not in what capacity. Captaining a ship was more daunting than it was exciting. But if she was ever going to be the leader she was expected to be, she needed to show it.

Turning to Brodin, she set her jaw in determination. “It would be my greatest honor, sir. A ship of its like has never existed.”

Brodin turned to it with pride. “Nor will it ever.” He turned back to Temesia. “So keep that in mind, Miss Elysse, and try on the word ‘captain’ for size. Do everything possible to make sure it fits.” He turned to Taryn. “And you. You we must discuss. I beg your leave, Miss Elysse. May I suggest you take a closer look? I believe it is a house of worship you ought to know intimately.”

Before Taryn could comment on knowing things intimately, he was led away by Brodin. But he kept his gaze on Temesia until the last, telling her what she’d known from their first conversation. She was the one for him.

She turned again to the ship, looking from one beautiful thing to another, bit her lip, and knew this was the ship for her.

Temesia came back to the present reality of a people in danger, her world no longer quite so beautiful and clear, but her duty never so focused. As she took the “ambulatory” path back towards the deck, fashioned to be like the circular walk along interior chapels in a cathedral, she glanced out a narrow, lancet window at the glowing blue-green sphere looming large ahead.

The reason for the PA Nest travel, as had first been presented by Homeworld council, was two-fold: to examine comprehensive data concerning the PA mind and physiology in space, and second, to search for a new planet to replace the barren, burning Homeworld. It had been made into the most noble and sensible of pursuits and every month they’d sent their findings dutifully home. Except this month.

When directives were coming from the Homeworld spewing propaganda to turn the Nests upon themselves, when Kristov survived an assassination attempt, Temesia had began to wonder if the planet ahead shouldn’t be their new home instead. Separate. Just what the Homeworld wanted, save for one detail, there were hundreds more of them alive than the Homeworld had intended.

They moved towards this new planet with the general agreement that they could not go home again. Not unless they wanted a fight. Temesia wanted one and she was sure she wasn’t alone. But the fact was she hadn’t brought up the tricky subject of abject revenge for a vote.

Though with their burgeoning powers they could likely wreak mighty and satisfying havoc, she wasn’t about to let anyone vote for it. At the end of the day, revenge wasn’t her first priority. Life was.

If the Training School had indeed been hit as Kristov glimpsed in the Great Well of truth, she would make sure some sort of mission would return to gather whatever lives they could. And hopefully whatever Kristov had in mind would scratch the particular itch for a reckoning and still keep them true to their empathic truths.

Along this ambulatory walk were statues, erected by votes from the Dark Nest populous. They were historical figures, religious figures, famous philosophers or artists. Patron saints, as it were.

Temesia found it a comforting irony that she’d paused before an ancient god, Krishna, cast in the same blue-grey steel of the whole ship, his body graceful and active, arms poised, eyes focused. “That’s right Homeworld,” she muttered, thirsting to learn about Kristov’s inventive way to settle a score. “Karma’s a bitch.”

***

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, March 17, 2011

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An Evening in the Life of The Galaxy Express

Spice 'n' SolaceI needed a kick in the pants this week because I’ve gotten a bit behind. Therefore, I decided that one way of providing myself the needed structure would be to casually chronicle my various blog tasks during the course of a couple of evenings and then blog about it.

I didn’t note the specific times, but both evenings I began around 7:45/8 pm and ended a few hours later. The list doesn’t represent every single thing I did, nor did I track how long it took me to accomplish each task. Sometimes I’d start one thing and that would blossom into several others. In the end, I probably only accomplished about half of what I wanted to do. I had fun doing everything, though!

Evening #1

Drank a mug of Bigelow Vanilla Chai Tea with a splash of milk.

Finished an upcoming guest post for Dirty Sexy Books.

Tagged 17 science fiction romance books on Amazon.

Ate some vanilla ice cream (left over from my mom’s recent visit).

Blog hopped. Read and left comments on the following posts:

The Trusty - What? Did You Say? by Kaye Manro
SciFi Potpourri at Smart Girls Love SciFi & Paranormal Romance

Contact – Infinite Futures:
SFM: Science Fiction Music by Robert Appleton
Spice ‘n’ Solace Is Out! By K.C. Burns
When Do I Get My Own Flashy-Thing-Memory-Messer-Upper? By Lisa Paitz Spindler

The Slipstream ConDaughter woke up and needed to pee. While waiting for her to fall back asleep (love the book light on my Kindle!), read about a half hour’s worth of eARC of THE SLIPSTREAM CON (Samhain Publishing) by S. Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore. Realized it’s actually my first ménage SFR.

Scheduled a post for next week.

Sent off guest post for Dirty Sexy Books circa midnight and went to bed.

Evening #2
Drank big mug of Market Pantry green tea and snacked on half a cup of Great Value Indulgence trailer mix (the butterscotch chips really pull it together).

Responded to blog-related emails.

Tied up details of a future guest post.

Updated my general to-do list.

Read 15 Sci-Fi Movies Your Girlfriend Will Love at Eat My Zombies. Calculated that I’d seen 13 out of the 15 films listed (not bad!) and made a mental note to watch the other two. Pondering about posting a piece titled “15 Sci-Fi Romances Your Boyfriend Will Love.”

The Adjustment Bureau

Made plans to go see THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU this weekend. Me, at the local Regal theatre, 7:55 pm on Sunday. If you’ll recall from one of my previous posts, this film has been heavily hyped as science fiction romance. (If you've seen it, please save me from any spoilers!)

Caught up with Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s Star Trek/Loveboat Mashup and Soulmates Part V at Alien Romances. Reading her post prompted me to speculate about how SFR ebooks and the few mainstream SFR print releases can harness the marketing mojo of the Big Six publishers on a shoestring budget. Because even the SFR stories with the widest mainstream appeal won’t be read if no one knows about them.

Long overdue update: I added more 21 authors with SFR books to the sidebar.

Downloaded a free digital copy of Elysa Hendricks’ GEMINI MOON from Amazon.

Uploaded this post.

And that’s a wrap.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, March 13, 2011

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"The Scene" From ENEMY WITHIN By Marcella Burnard

Enemy WithinSPOILER ALERT! THIS POST CONTAINS A MAJOR SPOILER ALERT of ENEMY WITHIN by Marcella Burnard. This post is best enjoyed if you’ve already read her book. During the course of my post, I also refer to scenes of graphic violence within the story.

While it pains me to be writing a post containing a spoiler alert, it would pain me more not to blog about “the scene” in ENEMY WITHIN. If you’ve read the book, you know which one I’m referring to. Even so, I will refrain from providing too much detail in case anyone decides to read this post before the book.

Ready?

Here we go.

First, the set up. The heroine is Ari Idylle, a military space captain in a galaxy far, far away. After being captured, imprisoned, and tortured by a non-humanoid race known as the Chekydran (think: smaller, meaner versions of Jabba the Hut), Ari is released for reasons unknown.

At the start of the story, a barely-recovered Ari has been assigned to work with her scientist father. The adventure begins when a band of pirates led by hero Cullin Seaghdh hijacks the ship.

Lots of other stuff happens.

In the final scenes, Ari must once again return to the clutches of the Chekydran, specifically, her former nemesis Hicci. And yes, there’s a reason she takes this mission instead of the hero. The plot races toward a face-off between Ari and Hicci. This is where things get verrrrrrry interesting.

During the face-off, Hicci sexually assaults Ari. However, because he’s non-humanoid, the attack has a different angle than would be the case if a physically compatible humanoid had been the perpetrator. I won’t go into further details except to say that Hicci’s behavior parallels that of a rapist.

I found this scene thought-provoking for several reasons. First, I’m a fan of stories where a heroine undergoes brutal physical assault during the course of her mission, especially since her role is to save the galaxy and, by extension, the hero. Scenes like this raise the stakes considerably. A heroine playing this role feels fresh to me (as opposed to the hero taking charge when things get super tough) and also empowering.

Another detail that got me thinking was the nature of the assault itself. Ms. Burnard doesn’t go into every last detail; rather, she adds a touch of detail here and there in order that the reader’s imagination takes care of the rest. Still, readers witness a very intrusive sexual assault. Of particular interest to Hicci is Ari’s blood. Her blood seems as attractive to him as breasts or other intimate parts would be to a humanoid male.

I should also add that the Chekydran have been tinkering with the biology of their enslaved humanoid adversaries. Based on my reading, the Chekydran know a lot more about humanoids than humanoids know about them (probably because according to the story they’d captured and studied so many). Of the three races in the story, the Chekydran were the most “alien,” at least from this human’s perspective.

As a result, I began wondering some more about this scene. Because of the vast differences in the genetic makeup of the two races, to what extent could an alien race composed of tentacles and other slimy parts find any part of a human/humanoid attractive? On the other hand, was this like some sort of sexual fetish? Would it be possible, say, for a human to develop a fetish for insects? Never say never, as they...say.

Clearly, Hicci wasn’t just getting off on the physical contact. He relished the power and control he had over Ari at that point. But his physical enjoyment of the act was very palpable.

In some ways, because Hicci was non-humanoid, I felt a little distanced from the horrific nature of his act. It could be that his alien nature lent the scene a level of unreality (i.e., “This could never happen to me”). Another possibility is that I hadn’t adjusted my expectations enough to absorb the idea that his sexual assaults were on a par with his combative ones (because he beats her, too, and I bought that aspect hook, line, and sinker).

Furthermore, while the scene was intriguingly disturbing, it prompted me to speculate about how I would have felt if Ari had been raped by a physically compatible humanoid (and as in the story, after her relationship with the hero had been firmly established).

Would I have been comfortable encountering that type of torture in a science fiction romance? My answer is that I would, but I’d have the expectation that there’d be a whole lotta healing and comforting happening once the heroine was back with the hero, or at least the promise of such by the story’s end. Rape is an envelope-pusher, so a good execution would be key.

But then my brain went in yet another direction (I did say that Ari’s torture scene was thought-provoking!): What if the hero of ENEMY WITHIN was sexually assaulted by Hicci? After all, Ari’s gender didn’t seem to have anything to do with Hicci’s attraction (in other words, Ari herself was the target). That was my interpretation, at any rate. This story could have placed Cullin in the torture scene face-off. Or let’s consider a different story entirely that included that kind of assault. What would my reaction have been to that?

I’m betting I would read that story.

If you’ve read ENEMY WITHIN, what did you think of Ari’s torture scene? If non-humanoid aliens sexually assaulted humans/humanoids in the course of a story, would it matter to you whether it was the hero or heroine? Why or why not?

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Pauline B. Jones Wins 2011 Epic Award for GIRL GONE NOVA

AReCafe reported on the unofficial list of winners of the 2011 Epic eBook Awards, one of which includes Pauline Baird Jones for her science fiction romance, GIRL GONE NOVA (L&L Dreamspell)! Congratulations, Ms. Jones!

The winner for the erotic sci-fi romance is Linda Mooney for LORD OF THUNDER, Book 1 of her Lord Of Thunder Series (Whiskey Creek Press). Way to go, Ms. Mooney!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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I'm Interviewed at Spacefreighters Lounge & SFR Brigade

Double whammy time!

Want to know a few behind-the-scenes tidbits about my foray into author-land with ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE? Then I invite you to join my Book Launch at the SFR Brigade.

Also, Laurie Green of Spacefreighters Lounge interviewed me about my newly evolved author role. If you leave a comment there, you'll be entered for a chance to win an e-copy of my book.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, March 12, 2011

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Guest Blogging at Guide to Literary Agents Blog

I'm guest blogging at the Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents blog on the topic of "E-publishing and the Entrepreneurial Author." I discussed the allure and advantage of digital publishing, especially for authors writing stories in niche genre categories:

Digital publishing is especially attractive for authors who write in niche subgenres, say, science fiction romance. E-publishers eagerly seek out these kinds of niche stories because their goal is to meet the needs of readers left out in the cold by traditional publishers. In 2010, the number of science fiction romance ebooks from royalty paying digital/small press publishers easily matched if not outnumbered the mainstream print releases (that I’m aware of). 2011 seems to be following a similar path.


As we all know, this path is also fraught with challenges and I touch upon those as well.

You can also enter for a chance to win my erotic sci-fi romance, ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE. Just leave a comment at my guest post.

Blog maestro Chuck Sambuchino features a multitude of author and agent interviews as well as industry news and tips. The Guide to Literary Agents blog is a great resource if you're on an agent hunt.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Sci Fi Saturday Night Interviews Toni LoTempio (MY SUPERHERO SISTER)

Toni LoTempio (MY SUPERHERO SISTER) will be a featured guest tonight on Sci Fi Saturday Night’s TalkCast. The show airs live from 8-9 pm EST.

The podcast will be posted to SFSN shortly after the recording.

If you missed my interview with Toni LoTempio about her really swell YA SFR, click here.

Happy listening!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Friday, March 11, 2011

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Spacefreighters Lounge Celebrates Milestone With Multi-Prize Giveaway

Spacefreighters Lounge--one of the core science fiction romance blogs with the staying power of Hercules--is celebrating its 25,000th hit with a Pick Your Prize giveaway to be chosen from the blog's followers.

Spacefreighters Lounge has been fighting the good fight for SFR for a long time and I'm so happy for their success!

There are lots of fun prizes being offered, ranging from books to DVDs to T-shirts. Head over soon, because the giveaway ends on Sunday, March 13 at midnight.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, March 10, 2011

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Guest Blogging at The Biopunk Reader

Is biopunk one of the new contenders in science fiction romance? I do believe the answer to that question is a resounding "Yes!"

The Biopunk Reader is a new blog devoted exclusively to this amazingly versatile subgenre. Here's a little background about the endeavor:

The Biopunk Reader is dedicated to exploring the often-overlooked science fiction subgenre of biopunk. What would our future (or past) look like seen through orange cat eyes? How differently would it run on bacterial computers? Where could we travel on buses that walk?

For more information, read the blog's Statement of Intent, or check out Wikipedia's short (but sweet) section on the biopunk subgenre.


The Biopunk Reader is the brainchild of author Christine Danse (ISLAND OF ICARUS) and Leah Dearborn, "...a Boston-based journalism student and occasional contributor to Steampunk Magazine."

When Ms. Danse invited me to contribute a post, I jumped at the chance to share my own Encounters of the Biopunk Kind. I made some interesting discoveries along the way, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about biopunk, beanstalks, and magnetron wave satellites.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

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Breaking News: Sharon Lynn Fisher Sells GHOST PLANET To Tor

I'm very excited to share the news that Sharon Lynn Fisher sold her science fiction romance, GHOST PLANET!

Sharon has been in the aspiring author trenches for a long time, and her success is well-deserved. Buzz about her book had been building long before the sale, and I'm looking forward very much to reading it.

Here's the official announcement, courtesy of the author and her agent, Robin Rue of Writers House:

Ghost Planet (2009, 2010 Golden Heart finalist manuscript) by Sharon Lynn Fisher to Macmillan/Tor in a 2-book deal.


Please join me in wishing Sharon a hearty congratulation!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

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SFR News & Links: METALLIC ATTRACTION Is in the House!

All Romance Ebooks has launched ARe Café, a new forum and interactive community for book lovers. The site is chock full of features and other goodies such as eBook Tips, book Videos, and Featured Authors. If you click on “Blog Bytes” you’ll have access to a wide variety of posts from various book blogs (including this one!). I’ve added ARe Café to my blog roll under Romance Reviews, News, etc. for easy access.

The Mysterious Lady LawBehold this squee-worthy news: More science fiction romance is in the pipeline. Robert Appleton (THE MYSTERIOUS LADY LAW) alerted me that he has three more books coming out from Carina Press. Here’s the scoop:

SPARKS IN COSMIC DUST (novel, 87,000 words) - a SF adventure with strong romantic elements. (September 2011)

ALIEN VELOCITY (novella reprint, 36,000 words, EPIC Award nominee) - SF action/adventure (2012).

PREHISTORIC CLOCK (short novel, 47,000 words) - Steampunk adventure with romantic elements...and dinosaurs. (Release date TBA)

Go, Robert!

Catch a wave to another dimension: Lisa Paitz Spindler revealed her shiny new book trailer for THE SPIRAL PATH. The music alone will give you some seriously good goosebumps.

Mistletoe, sleigh rides, and...brass goggles? Carina Press recently posted a Steampunk Holiday Submissions Call:

Carina is looking for steampunk novellas with a winter or winter holiday theme, to be published digitally both individually and as a collection in December 2011. The novellas should be from 18,000 to 35,000 words and feature steampunk elements as integral to the novella. The stories do not need to be romance, or even have romance elements, but can be straight steampunk, or steampunk with romantic elements, and can also feature elements of mystery, thriller, horror or other sub-genres. Additionally, there is no set heat level for these stories, so they can have no sex, or be ultra-sexy, or anything in between.


Courtesy of Smart Bitches comes the news that Avon Launches Avon Impulse Digital-First Imprint:

Word allegedly leaked earlier today from agent Jenny Bent, who tweeted about it, but seems to have deleted the tweet itself. Those who copied and pasted with lightning-quick fingers report Bent as saying, “Avon launches Avon Impulse, original e-book publishing. Agented or unagented, Contemporary, Fantasy, Futuristic, Ghost, Gothic, Historical, Magical, Time Travel, Western, Shifter, Small Town, Steampunk, Suspense, Vampire (and others)”.

No word on whether the digital books produced by this new imprint will be available for more than 26 checkouts at your local public library, or whether they will have DRM (Aw, darn, they will), but it is telling that another major publisher has recognized the validity and possibility of the digital business model. I wish HarperCollins’ other digital policies were as forward thinking, but I also think that this is a step in a possibly positive direction for digital book readers.


Visit Avon Impulse for submission guidelines & FAQ.

And finally, if the following doesn’t get you excited about science fiction romance, I don’t know what will:

“From Jeffrey Lau, visionary director of Chinese Odyssey and the producer of Kung Fu Hustle comes an unexpected Sci-Fi love story.”

Witness the surreal glory of METALLIC ATTRACTION: KUNGFU CYBORG (2009):



Seriously, as soon as I can get my hands on this baby I’ll watch it and return with a full report. I love me some Korean science fiction romance!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, March 7, 2011

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Winners of ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE

El Randomizer has spoken: The winners of ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE are...

Ava

Misa

Congratulations! Winners, please contact me at sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com to claim your prizes. Subject line: Space

Thanks very much to everyone who entered. I have more giveaways planned in the near future, so stay tuned.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, March 6, 2011

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"What If Erotic Sci-Fi Romance Gave You Mind-Blowing Orgasms *and* Deep Thoughts?"

Once in a while, I come across laments online about how it's difficult to find good erotic romances. My reaction to this is two-fold: First, my reading experience has shown me that erotic sci-fi romances are a reliable source of stories that explore concepts of sexuality and romance in alternate settings that go beyond the titillation factor. Second, I think erotic sci-fi romance can do better. These stories have the potential to carve out new territory regarding the pairing of hawt sex and skiffy elements. And if that's the case, what's holding them back? Why not shoot for erotic sci-fi that provokes Deep Thoughts?

So when author Kaye Manro (FORBIDDEN DESTINY) invited me to guest blog, I jumped at the chance to delve into the topic. In What if Erotic Sci-Fi Romance Gave You Mind-Blowing Orgasms *and* Deep Thoughts, I make the case that

Erotic sci-fi romance stories can scorch like supernovas, but they can also embrace “fantasies of political agency” as bracingly as their non-erotic counterparts.


Head on over and tell me what you think!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

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Danger Gal Friday's Newest Addition: Raquel Donovan

Author & science fiction romance blogger Lisa Paitz Spindler (THE SPIRAL PATH) recently profiled my space pirate heroine in Danger Gal Friday: Raquel Donovan. What made me giddy with excitement was not just the honor of having Raquel featured in Lisa's long running series about notable heroines, but also her eloquent observations about science fiction romance heroines in general. Here's an appetizer:

In the past five years I’ve seen the tide turning, however, and I really hope we continue to see a wider range of heroines. I have nothing against the girl-next-door and her out-of-this-world vampire/alien boyfriend story line, but prefer this character type be part of a larger spectrum and not the only offering. After all, when the hero is the bad boy in need of redemption, it’s the heroine who carries out that redemption, so I don’t see this role as passive. To quote Teresa Medeiros “[P]robably the most subversive thing we dare to do is to make the woman the hero of her own story.”


Increasingly, science fiction romance is making a name for itself as a heroine-centric subgenre. The heroine isn't defined by the hero or by her ability to tame the hero; she's a well-developed character in her own right. She doesn't have to apologize for who she is and what she does; neither does she have to give up her job as star ship captain/mercenary/rebel, etc. in order to earn true love. This brand of heroine is also the hero's equal in terms of talent, brains, and command of technology.

With heroines who are just as fascinating and swoon-worthy as heroes in science fiction romance, authors create a dynamic that invites us to celebrate the two lovers as a whole instead of just the sum of their parts. Now that's what I call romantic!

Joyfully yours,

Heather


Thursday, March 3, 2011

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5 Reasons To Avoid Heather Massey’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE

Once Upon a Time in SpaceYes, you read that right!

This post is a public service announcement for my science fiction romance ebook, ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE (Red Sage Publishing)—now out and in the wild. I thought I’d compile a list of reasons *not* to read my story. Why? Because the truth is that even among science fiction romance fans, taste varies widely.

Think of this as the ultimate, spoiler-free tag post. To familiarize yourself with the story, read the blurb and/or the free three-chapter excerpt here.

And because I’m a firm believer in that no SFR reader should walk away empty handed, I also provide book recommendations that might help you find the type of story you are seeking.

Ready? Here you go:


5. High concept space opera isn’t your cup of space java

ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE fires on all the action/fun/love cylinders.

It's basically about a futuristic Christopher Columbus in space—with a romance. How much higher can the concept go? The kernel of this story was basically me envisioning the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria flying around the galaxy. But I couldn’t stop there. Mix in one sultry space pirate, and you get loads of space western-style face-offs.

The story is packed with pulpy space opera adventure, but without the dated prose. This also means that the story contains homages to some of the great vintage SF I’ve enjoyed over the years. Oh yeah—there are themes and other Serious Stuff, but think of it in terms of Flash Gordon teaching the class vs. Albert Einstein.

If you want characters standing around talking and explaining things...and talking some more...and then explaining some more—well, this is not for you. Think pacing more along the lines of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (in space), not THEY CAME TO TALK.

Another reason you may want to avoid this book is that technically, it should be classified as a science fantasy romance. You won’t find any dragons or wizards, but there are elements whose scientific explanations are so off the charts I couldn’t include them. In other words, more “Wavehandium” than hard SF elements here.

Alternate reading: Stories that blend hard/plausible SF and romance include THE PHOENIX CODE (Catherine Asaro); IN ENEMY HANDS (KS Augustin); and THE HIDDEN WORLDS (Kristin Landon).

4. You’re just not that into erotic romance

Regarding heat level, ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE is erotic science fiction romance. The hero and heroine, Nick and Raquel, are insanely attracted to one another. In fact, if they act on their attraction (which they do, natch), the whole mission is threatened. Needless to say, lots of high stakes rear their heads as a result of Nick and Raquel’s biological urges.

They don’t meet in the first chapter, or even the second one, but the story delivers a level of sexual tension and erotic scenes that readers have come to expect from Red Sage. Of course, I made sure the story had other important elements, like a plot, character arcs, and nifty worldbuilding details, but don’t let that fool you. Nick and Raquel are hot, hot, hot for each other and aren’t afraid to let the reader know it.

The kicker is that the erotic scenes further develop the relationship and move the plot forward. But definitely avoid this one if that’s not your…scene.

Alternate reading: Science fiction romances on the sweet side include DARKSHIP THIEVES (Sara A. Hoyt), METAL REIGN (Nathalie Gray), and GIRL GONE NOVA (Pauline B. Jones).

3. You think all space pirates belong in the "Aye, me Aldebaran matey!" category

Just because I’m a raging space pirate-aholic doesn’t mean everyone else has to like them. Therefore, I should warn you that ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE has lots of space pirate action. None of the characters are going around saying "Arrgghhh!," walking on peg legs, and talking to robotic parrots, but they do engage in such space pirate pastimes as hijacking starships, looting, and killing.

That would be campy; this book isn't.

They do swear, carry dangerous guns, and look unbelievably hot while so engaged. In fact, the heroine wears a sleek black eye patch. But if you don’t go for that kind of fantasy, feel free to pass this one over.

Alternate reading: For plenty of non-pirate science fiction romance action, check out CLOSE CONTACT (Katherine Allred), CONTACT (Susan Grant), SOMATESTHESIA (Ann Somerville), and TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN (Gini Koch).

2. You want just the romance—no action

ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE is about 50-50 as far as the SF-romance ratio goes. It will appeal to readers who enjoy external plots that feature treacherous obstacles the hero and heroine must overcome on the cosmic road to romance. Incorporating an external plot also meant that I took all of the conflict, both internal and external, to intense levels.

However, if you prefer quieter, more character-driven stories that focus more on the inner emotional journeys of the hero and/or heroine, then my story may not be for you.

Again, I'll use the word "intense" to describe this—and I do not do that lightly.

Alternate reading: SILVER METAL LOVER (Tanith Lee); ISLAND OF ICARUS (Christine Danse); and Robin D. Owen’s Heart Book series.

1. Anti-heroines make you run for the nearest asteroid belt

Regarding my space pirate heroine Raquel, I’ll tell you straight up: She’s ruthless. Determined. She doesn't wag her finger at someone...and then feel bad about it later. She’s what we here aboard The Galaxy Express like to call an extraordinary heroine. An anti-heroine to be precise, which means she has one redeeming quality. To find out what that is, of course, you’ll have to read the book.

But proceed at your peril if you have difficulty consenting to anti-heroines. There is some heavy trope inversion here. I made sure Raquel fit the description to a “t.” Then there are her actions—she doesn’t just talk or reflect about doing bad, dangerous things. She actually does them. Her path to redemption is a fierce one.

Alternative reading: For a taste of compelling “good gal” heroines, peruse BEYOND THE RAIN (Jess Granger), GABRIEL’S GHOST (Linnea Sinclair), and THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN (Isabo Kelly).

All of that said, are you up for ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE? Do you like action and romance? Tales dripping with sex and revenge...? What about robot parrots? (OK, skip that last one.)

If so, I have two e-copies to give away. To enter, simply leave a comment. The deadline to enter is midnight EST on Sunday, March 6. And again, you can sample the first three chapters here on your Kindle, Nook, PC, etc.--gratis.

Joyfully yours,

Heather