Friday, February 16, 2018


For someone whose business is the future, I can be a bit of a Luddite, slow to adopt new technologies until they’ve proven their usefulness. I resisted Facebook and Twitter until dragged kicking and screaming onboard. I still carry a flip phone. And I had tried and given up Netflix a few years back, before binge watching was a thing.

But just recently I had a chance to rethink Netflix,and I was pleasantly surprised. For one thing the streaming service came without the fits and starts I expected here in my rural area. Anything I watch from my satellite on-demand service must always be downloaded, recorded and watched later because of buffering problems, but not so Netflix. All was smooth sailing, so I immediately became a binging fiend for the show I selected as my first Netflix affliction: Sense8

This SF series, created by Babylon 5 producer J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis (THE MATRIX), and starring Naveen Andrews (Lost) and Daryl Hannah (yes, that Daryl Hannah), follows eight characters in different parts of the world who are psychically linked. Before they can figure out why they are suddenly in each other’s heads, they find themselves pursued by an evil scientist and his corporate sponsors, who want only to exploit or destroy them.

In addition to the overall arc, each of the characters has his or her own fully-developed story—the gay actor in Robert Rodriguez-style action films in Mexico City; the German gangster in Berlin; the Indian biochemist in an arranged marriage to her boss in Mumbai; the Icelandic rock DJ grieving the loss of her husband and stillborn child in London; the Chicago cop who sees “ghosts;” the Nairobi bus driver who loves Jean-Claude Van Damme; the transgender computer whiz in San Francisco; the martial artist going to prison for her brother’s crimes in Seoul. Story segments are filmed separately in each of the key cities, giving the show a color and diversity not seen in many series. And an openness, too. This is not a series for viewers who may be shy about sex.

In one episode, a character is listening to an author speak at a book signing. He argues that today’s generation has access to information about the lives of hundreds of people around the world, whereas our parents knew about only a fraction of that number. Sense8 is a perfect example of the author’s point. Here are eight characters, living in eight completely different parts of the world, and I am able to follow their fictional lives in dramatic detail in my living room every night. What a wonder! Yes, the show itself is science fiction—these eight people can “head-hop” to visit each other wherever they live—but so can I! That’s what I love about it.

There is a scientific explanation for what is going on that allows these characters to be connected. I’m not sure yet whether I think it’s a good one or not. But I won’t spoil things for you if you plan to watch the series. I would only recommend that you do watch. It’s well worth giving up your Luddite ways to get this kind of return.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Getting your mojo back

While I was in the writing doldrums recently I came across a little piece from Holly Lisle, well known writing coach. I've got one of her books on how to plot, and I usually wheel it out when I start a new project, because it's chock full of great, practical suggestions to get the juices flowing. But at the time I was at the "why bother" stage.

It's a little course called "How to Find Your Fiction Writing Mojo"

It's aimed at newbies, really; people who think they want to write, but aren't sure what. Over 5 days, with an email each day, Holly encourages you (with a series of questions) to find out a bit more about yourself and what sort of stories you could write. It was a bit of fun – and I can tell you it turned out to be extremely accurate.

  •  What do I read – science fiction (Star Wars but also hard SF like Jack McDevitt), murder mysteries (Agatha Christie, Peter Robinson), a smattering of fantasy, and a few historicals.
  •  What don't I read – horror, dystopian, vampires, erotica
  • What settings do I like – space, space ships, Star Wars type planet-hopping

What do I actually write? Stories with happy endings, filled with space, spaceships, strong men and strong women to match them. There's usually a historical connection (theirs, not ours) and an element of mystery/crime/politics.

Holly asks a few other questions about you, the author, asking you to delve a little deeper into fears, failures, successes – the emotions that make your writing blaze with authenticity, regardless of setting.

I suppose this little 'course' gave me validation that I'm doing it right.

And now, back to the WIP.

In this book Toreni is one of the main POV characters. She's one of the big, powerful Shuba class who make up the elite marine corps in Fleet and take jobs as security guards and bodyguards outside Fleet. In her Fleet persona I imagine her like the picture at left. But I must add, in the book Toreni isn't African-American, and everyone in that part of the galaxy has dark skin, so she's not meant to be "token diverse". Toreni has met Alric, a man she worked with in the Crossmar Police service, and they're sharing a meal and a chat.

Alric leaned back. "I'll have a beer, thanks. What are you doing now? For a job?"

Toreni hid her hesitation by ordering two beers, the dark, bitter brew that squaddies from Fleet tended to enjoy. "I'm working on a small courier ship. Just two other crew. I do the usual security work. But I'm also ship's cook. I've just been over to Shripati's to stock up for a trip."

"You're the cook? I remember you saying you wanted to be a chef?"

"That's… kind of on hold for the moment. But I practice on my friends. I'm getting pretty good. I'd say my noodles dish is just about as good as Pinnacles."

The beer arrived, well poured, with a small head oozing down the side of the glass. Alric raised his in salute. "To old friends."

She sipped.

He put his elbows on the table and leaned toward her. "Look, I'd love to have you back in the squad. You're experienced, you're honest. And you're a nice lady. I need a group leader."

Group leader. Time was she would have jumped at it. But that was before the universe wriggled and Jirra and Siena had come into her life. Along with Morgan Selwood and Vulsaur. She sipped some more beer, ran her fingers through her hair.

"I like your hair long," Alric said, his voice soft. The way he was looking at her didn't quite fit with an employment interview.

She shifted in her seat. It had been a long time since she and Tark… you couldn't call it making love. She didn't love him, he didn't love her. It was a matter of convenience, a roll in the sheets to work off some tension. Although that was hindsight talking. Back then, she'd been fairly besotted with Tark. He was a big, powerful man with a great body and an air of confidence about him, but looking back she saw his confidence was arrogance, and the glint in his eye, greed. Alric was confident, too, but without the swagger. He'd make a great senior sergeant.

"Thanks for the offer, but I don't think so. I'm happy where I am."

He frowned. Disappointed.

"But, hey, I'm flattered that you'd want me back. Thanks. It's made my day."

Back to the grindstone 😊

But maybe a lorikeet portrait. Just because it was Valentine's Day the other day.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

On Hiatus: The Great Chicken Run Build plus Valentine's Day #snippet #scifirom

It's half term here in the UK, so I'm taking some time out with the monsters (me and the boys are currently watching number five of the Harry Potter films as part of a week long HP marathon) while eldest is on a music workshop. Today is also Pancake Day - traditionally served with just lemon juice and sugar, but I daresay the monsters will be opting for the chocolate and icecream version. And later we have Black Panther!
In the meantime, the chicken run build is progressing. The run itself is built, though the proper roof isn't up yet, and we're still putting the new coop together.
Kala checking the foundation beam is properly aligned.

Hubs injured me with a spade - an almost traditional occurrence when we work together.

Foundations laid.

And the run is up.

But the girls still enjoy coming out into the garden.

Temperature indicator - the ice from two days ago still hasn't melted!

Not so little Firefly.

The coop coming together.

Valentine's Day Excerpt
While hubs and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day (we save it for our anniversary, especially as it's our 25th this year), I thought I'd share an old micro story featuring Keir being interviewed about the meaning of romance...

"Romantic?" Keir shakes his head and hands me a glass of red wine. "No. I would not say that I am romantic."

I take a sip and watch him from over the rim of the glass. The wine's good, but not as much as the company. I wouldn't mind him warming me up instead. I shake myself. "I'm sure Quin would say that you are." In fact she has--to me--in private. But why embarrass him?

He smiles, a little shyly, but the light in his eyes now I've said her name makes me feel seven shades of jealous. About five foot six and athletically built, he moves with an easy kind of grace. A narrow face, finely sculpted with high cheek bones. But those probably wouldn't be the first thing you'd notice. No. His blue skin is the most striking feature. A dark, dusky blue, like the sky just before full darkness falls. And the tatts! Wow. My eyes skim over them, which takes some time. He's covered in them! Tribal style, black runes and twisted symbols all down his arms and showing above the edges of his white vest. Even his face and neck are marked. I've heard he has them everywhere on his body. I'd love to know if that's true...

"What more did you need to know?"

I snap myself back to reality. So far he's told me about how idyllic life is on the string of tropical islands in this planet's temperate zone. I'd rather ask about the tatts, but that's not why I'm there. Humans living on Metraxi are a rare thing. A married couple spending their honeymoon there? Even more so. "What about your wedding vows?"

I've surprised him. Bright blue eyes fix on me. "My wedding vows? Why would you wish to know those?"

"That's normally pretty romanctic to people. I mean, you didn't exactly have a great first date. Meeting Quin in a dungeon."

He scowls fine black brows knitting. "No. But that is a moment I will never forget."

He settles himself in a wooden chair opposite and wraps his hands around the glass. Long, slender fingers. His hair is a mass of loose black curls that make me itch to run my hands through them.
"We used the Metraxian vows. The words in Universal matched what I felt in my heart."

"Would you tell them to me?"

He tugs a hand through his dark curls. I wonder if I've embarrassed him?

"The village chief, L'enko, asked me what I sought. I told him I wished to bind my life to Quin's." His gaze drifts into the distance. "I promised to share my life with her, in love and laughter, through tears and trials. To work by her side and dream in her arms. To love her until the end of our forever."

My throat tightens. "That's beautiful! And you say you aren't a romantic."

"To me, it is not about trying to be romantic," he assures me, very serious. "It is about being honest in your feelings when you love and care for someone. Keeping a promise. Respecting them. If that is being romantic..." He shrugs. "Then perhaps I am."

An alarm beeps on my wrist module--notification that my transport is waiting. I finish the last of my wine. We're on a tight schedule, and much as I'd like to stay for a while, I can't. Being a travel agent isn't all fun. But at least I have an idea to sell Metraxi as a unique romantic getaway to my boss. It worked for Quin and Keir. And I think a wedding planner would kill for the privilege of selling ceremonies like theirs.

"Well, thanks for the info. It's been..." I give him another look over, and he lifts an eyebrow. It's then I remember that he's telepathic. Although I doubt he'd need to read my mind to know what I'm thinking. "...gratifying."

"I hope I have given you what you needed."

A blush burns my face. Information-wise, yes. Otherwise... I sigh. Quin's a lucky woman. I hate her just a little. No, I hate her a lot!

"Thanks. It's been helpful."

He escorts me to the door of the hut. The Metraxian village glows from lanterns filled with bright insects. For all Metraxi's advanced technology, the simple life appeals to them more. It's paradise. I can see why they stay. But now I need to get back to the office and sell the romance of Metraxi to the universe.
A demon waiting to die...
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary 'Blue Demon of Adalucien' waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can't explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?

Book One of the Redemption series and part of the Travellers Universe. Previously released by Lyrical Press Inc. 7th May 2012.
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
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Monday, February 12, 2018

#AmWriting - Updates, Ideas and a #Freebie

I thought it was high time I check in with a quick update on my writing and other news.

By the way...

Happy Early Valentine's Day!

StarDog: Last Chance to get it FREE!

Get it free on Instafreebie
My original Pets in Space 1 novelette, StarDog, will be ending this Wednesday, Valentine's Day, as an exclusive offering on Instafreebie. Since it's a prequel that ties to both my novel Inherit the Stars and my Pets in Space 2 novella, Courting Disaster, which even contains a direct reference to StarDog as "a longer story for another time," I wanted readers to have the option to experience the backstory of Taro and Adini--and Luna the StarDog--as bonus material for Courting Disaster.

USA TODAY bestseller Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 (which won a 2017 SFR Galaxy Award post mortem, by the way) is now history, so my plan to offer the novelette StarDog as a freebie until the original April end date has also changed.

Instafreebie allows your choice of downloading a .PDF, .mobi (Kindle) or epub files. You also have an option (not required) to sign up for my quarterly newsletter.

Until February 14th you can grab it right here:

As a writer, I'm particularly proud of StarDog and its role in expanding the Inherited Stars Series as well as some of the backstory of Inherit the Stars. Here's the newly expanded blurb:

Navigator Taro Shall's captain assigns him an unexpected mission–find a way to eradicate deadly vipers that have infested starship Calypso. He never expects to find the solution to his problem in the hands of Adini, a charming street vendor. But the bio-engineered StarDog he acquires turns out to be a galactic hot potato, and both Taro and Adini are soon fugitives on the run.
Adini Kemm can't deny her fascination for the honor-bound navigator, though his past and her present seem to null any chance at a shared future. Until her father's capture as a spy catapults both her and Taro into a desperate bid to save him...and straight into the clutches of a brewing insurrection.  

Crafting a Story that Meets its True Promise

For the last two blogs, I've been talking about my current WIP--The Shell and the Star. You can catch up here - An Evolving WIP: A WIP About Evolving - and here - Fin Fashion.

Recently, there was a challenge prompt put forth in a writers' support group:

"How many characters will you kill off today?"

Hmm, I thought, The Shell and the Star isn't a body count kind of story. It's a light SFR that's serenely romance-focused. I realized I had some deep doubts about the impact of this story, because the one thing I strive for in my work is to make readers think...about actions, consequences, decisions that are neither good nor evil but lie somewhere in the gray area where humanity seems to center itself.

This story is about two very different civilizations attempting to strengthen their interdependent bonds via the potential marriage of two individuals. But...

Oh wait!

It was more.

There are some pretty dire consequences at play in what I had been thinking of as a "sweet and fluffy" SFR. The disaster potential was real.

After some thought, I responded:

"More of an impending death in hand-to-hand combat. Underwater. With the survival of two civilizations in the balance."

It was one of those "sit back and say 'Whoa!'" moments. Light bulb! I was completely underselling this story in my head. And in doing so, I might also be completely under-writing it.

Now I'm moving forward with "impending death...survival of two civilizations" set on repeat in the echo chamber in my mind. My mission, and I did decide to accept it, is to ensure this WIP becomes all that it can be -- serene, romantic, eye-opening, heartbreaking, defiant, soul-mending, world-changing.

I've got my work cut out for me. Actually, I prefer it that way. :)

News on the Thoroughbred Front

A quick update on our horses.

Inherit the Stars (named for my novel and better known as Stars) was scanned clear of her leg injury due to a walker accident last fall. She has now returned to training, and depending on her progress, may make her first start at Sunland Park later this spring.

Since she's now a 3YO who has not yet acquired any racing experience, the chances of her making it into the Sunland Derby--a Kentucky Derby qualifying race--is now probably outside the realm of possibility.

We won't have a handle on her true potential for awhile yet, and since we now understand her regally-bred sire's offspring have apparently been very hard to train, we're relying on our instincts that Stars seems to be the exception to the rule. Our first priority will be her welfare and suitability to the track. If she doesn't show the necessary potential and the aptitude to do well, we'll bring her home.

I'll post future updates on her progress.

Meanwhile, here's a portrait that we had done of Stars as a young 2YO. It beautifully captures her grey-patch face (which we hope indicates she'll eventually turn into a lovely dapple grey like her superstar granddam, Stellar Jayne). The artist--Sakori Customs--did a wonderful job and even added horseshoes. Sakori also did our portraits of Blazing Away and Blazing Bartok, Echo Eight and Soulful (click the names to go to the blogs that have those photos).

We're very pleased with how Stars' portrait turned out. Artist's photos are used by permission.

Our other big news is that as of the first of February we acquired half ownership in a Kentucky-bred 4YO race mare, Endless Thyme. "Thyme" is a daughter of the late, phenomenal Kentucky-based sire Yes It's True, with her dam, second dam and third dam all being stakes winners or stakes placed racehorses, and the best performer of each successive generation.

Thyme is also a half-sister to stakes horse Allaboutcaroline, who won her debut and two other races, going on to place in the Victoria and Fort Monmouth stakes. She earned over $120,000.

On the track, Endless Thyme won three races as a 3YO last year, including an April 2017 race at Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby) and back-to-back wins in July and August--including a 5-3/4 length victory--at Belterra Park.

Our trainer acquired her at the Keeneland January sale in Kentucky last month, and offered us the
opportunity to buy into the partnership.

We hope that her pedigree, proven sprinting ability and wins against Kentucky competition bode well for her ability to successfully compete in the Southwest.

If all goes well, we hope to add Thyme to our broodmare band at some point in the future after her racing career concludes.

And that's it for my writing and fun news updates.

Have a great week!

Friday, February 9, 2018


Here in the mountains of Western North Carolina it’s still the dead of winter. The wind blows cold across the ridge, rattling dead branches and ruffling yellowed grasses. A few dry beans remain in the bottom of the jar, collected every time there was a foggy morning in August, each one a harbinger of snow before winter is out. What gravel there was on Snowbird Road, our connection to the outside world, is buried under four inches of slippery muck, which freezes into ruts when the temperature drops and thaws again into a muddy mess when the sun hits it.

Despite Paxutauny Phil’s dire prediction of six more weeks of this, there are already signs of spring. Yesterday, a flock of robins covered my back yard, digging for sustenance in the semi-frozen earth. Certain slender young red oaks have begun to blush slightly ruddy against the hillsides, not exactly budding, but somehow preparing for a change. And the birds, silent since late September, have begun to sing in the thin sunshine.

Winter, soon to be spring. And the book I just wrote, planning to release in November, is set in winter. Only now, due to circumstances beyond my control, Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Book 4, will be released in spring—April 10, to be exact. All my lovely descriptions of snow in the mountains, of bare branches and icicles and bitter winds, will be completely wasted on readers basking in the sun at the beach. Arrggh! 

I suppose I could do a quick rewrite to change all the weather-related setting stuff. But I would invariably miss something in the rush to re-do the manuscript, which has been edited and formatted already. Besides, believe it or not, I already changed the setting once, early on, realizing when the original release date would put the book.

Those of you who set your books completely onboard starships are sniggering right now. No seasons to worry about for you! And, if you set your book on some other planet, who knows what their seasons are like, right? Yeah, I get it, it’s my fault if I set a large part of my books on Earth. Seasons come with the territory.

The question becomes how much readers really care about the predominant season they’re reading about. I’m re-reading Diana Galbadon’s excellent Outlander  series, and her descriptions are so detailed you could never lose track of what time of year you’re in. Beautiful—and accurate—lists of bird calls and wildflowers and weather patterns. Then, again, she covers an entire year within the span of a few chapters, so you can’t get too attached to a particular season, no matter how beguiling. The setting is important—whether it’s Scotland, the West Indies or North Carolina—but the plot and the characters are so compelling that you just have to keep reading.

I have to hope that will be the case for Not Fade Away, too. Otherwise, my readers will be forced to crank up the air conditioner and pull down the shades in the warm months to set the proper wintry mood.

Cheers, Donna

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.