Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The End Is Nigh! #amAWOL



It's the final week before my monsters finish school for the next seven weeks. Well, technically eldest is already done as she's spending this week doing work experience with me, 12yo has gone on a four day adventure holiday with the school, and youngest actually finishes tomorrow. Eep! Where did this year go?!
So I'm going to finish with a few updates. I'll try to post the chicks' progress here at Spacefreighters, but I'll also have posts going live every Wednesday at my cosplay blog HERE and some reviews at Critique de Book. The easiest way to catch them all is to follow my Twitter feed @pippajaygreen
Talking of cosplay, I was reminded at the weekend of an event which gave me my major boost to do most costumes - Star Wars Celebration Europe. It's been a whole year since I went, having made my 12yo his Hux outfit and meeting up with fellow fangirl and Brigader Patty Hammond, without whom I probably wouldn't have gone.

I can't believe it's been a year. You can revisit some of my posts HERE, Rogue One focus HERE, and more random photos HERE. In the meantime, we'll be attending Nor-Con in October, although it's looking  like I won't have a new cosplay for it as time is running out and I've yet to complete 12yo's.

Status Update
I'll get the bad news out the way first - Keir's Shadow will definitely not be releasing this year. Instead I will focus on releasing Reunion and Unexpected, and possibly Revived, so at least something will come out this year.

Chook Update
On Thursday last week, just as Mot and Splash turned one week old, I discovered a lump on Lavender and had to take her/him to the vets (or as hubs put it, take it for a 'chick up'). >.< Fortunately it just turned out to be a cyst and no further treatment is necessary other than keeping an eye on it. Meanwhile the chicks continue to grow and their feathers are coming out more and more each day. As of last week, I can tell that Mot, Lemon and Cuckoo will definitely be frizzles - their feathers curve outwards to make them look adorably scruffy.

From front to back: Lemon, Mille, Splash, Cuckoo, Lavender and
Mot with Mama Effie.

What's over there?! Left to right: Lemon, Mille and Mot investigate.

Worshipping at the drinker. Left to right:
Cuckoo, Lavender, Mille, Lemon and Splash
video
video

See ya!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Meet Luna the StarDog #MeetMyPet



Introductions are on the agenda today. I'd like you to meet Luna, the new pet-heroine from my upcoming release. This wonderful sketch was created by artist Nyssa Juneau and it beautifully captures the essence of this little, four-legged dynamo.

For those who've read StarDog, a story in the first Pets in Space collection and part of my Inherited Stars series, I have a surprise for you.

You've already met Luna!

In the original story--StarDog--where Katrina was the starring pet, this girl was known as StarPup. In fact, Luna is a genetic copy of Katrina. She'll soon have her own adventure that will be every bit as exciting and high stakes as the first.

So...is Luna a clone of Katrina? Not exactly. A genetic copy is different from a clone in that both animals were bio-engineered using the same genetic blueprint, rather than one animal being a genetic copy of the original "natural" animal. StarDogs don't exist in nature. To paraphrase one of the scientists from Jurassic World: StarDogs are designed, not bred.

Luna's owner, Ketsia, explains the purpose of StarDogs to her curious escort, Captain Jagger, in this way:
__________________________________________

From Courting Disaster: StarDog 2

“Where do StarDogs hail from?” he asked. “Never encountered one before.”

Despite his face being half-hidden by the visor, he seemed genuinely interested. “They hail from a talented bio-engineer.” Ketsia pressed her knuckles to the base of her helmet and eased it back to a more comfortable position. “They’re recombinant canine, weasel, mongoose, and feline DNA, created to serve as starship mascots and vermin exterminators.” Giving him a sly smile, the one expression visible to him below her faceshield, she added, “And as Network spies on Alliance ships, if the rumors are true.”

“Huh.” He shifted in his seat. “And how does an ambassador’s daughter come by such an animal?”

She affectionately stroked Luna’s soft fur. “She was a gift.”

“From a man friend?”

Ketsia sniffed. What, did he think men regularly showered her with exotic gifts?
__________________________________________

Like clones, even when genetically identical, StarDogs can have different markings because of environmental factors during incubation and development, so Luna doesn't look exactly like Katrina, who was mainly black and tan. She has loud splashes of white in her coat.

Katrina from StarDog

Like Katrina, this little girl is also highly intelligent and has a few special skills she'll demonstrate in my upcoming release Courting Disaster: StarDog 2 which will be part of the exciting new Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 collection to be released October 10, 2017.

What happened after Operation Reset and the fall of the Ithian Alliance? Two of the characters from Inherit the Stars are about to find out when they set a collision course with disaster.

Captain Navene Jagger, commander of a mysterious, derelict starship, must pretend to be married to Ketsia Tayah, the woman he is escorting through a dangerous sector of space. As he deals with threats that might get them both killed, he's unaware of the talents of the StarDog at her side.

More about Embracing the Romance: Pets in Space 2

The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading SFR authors brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard Award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King for stories that will take you out of this world!

Featuring novellas by New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glenn Latner.

Can't wait? Not to worry. You can pre-order now at any of these booksellers:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble Nook

Googleplay

iBooks

Kobo


Hero Dogs

The authors of the collection are also very proud to announce that 10% of the first month's profits will go to Hero Dogs. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence. You can meet the Hero Dogs in training and read more about this wonderful program on the Hero Dogs site.

Join us on Social Media!

Can't wait for October? You're invited to join the authors for chat and news here:

We have some fun upcoming activities, events and giveaways you won't want to miss!

Like this one...


WIN an Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 Coloring Book featuring the pets from the stories. We are running a ‘contest’ from July 15th - August 22nd where everyone is a winner of our Embrace the Romance Coloring Book! Just click the link to enter.

Here's a special preorder preview of all the Pets in Space stars!




Want to say "hello" to Luna? Have a special pet of your own you want to tell us about? Please comment below.

Have a pet-tastic week!






Friday, July 14, 2017

FEEL THE LOVE, EXPAND THE MISSION



In this age of the Internet, we authors are well used to flogging our books on blog tours, in Facebook groups and in every virtual space we can invade. The days of the actual book tour are almost gone, the opportunities for meeting readers at book signings and book fairs being increasingly limited.

That’s why I still welcome those chances wherever I can conjure them, like at last weekend’s Shore Leave Science Fiction convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. This was my third year selling books in the Dealers’ Room at this con, the largest fan-run SF event in the country, now in its 39th year. Like always, the con was well-organized and well-attended, with some great guests from the SF entertainment and scientific worlds. But it seemed like the cosplay folks outdid themselves this year, with an ongoing parade of very innovative creations going by the table and competing in the Masquerade.
 
video

I was able to meet up with some friends who took my advice and chose Shore Leave as their first SF con experience ever. They had a ball, and I was able to see things from their newbie perspective all over again. That’s always fun. Since I’ve been doing this particular con since I was a fan fiction writer in the Nineties, I tend not to blink when the Klingon conga line goes by.

The hours were a little long without my daughter to help out at the table. (She’s expecting her first child in September, so no con for her this summer!) But I had my friend Stephanie of Red Fish Rue Fish as a neighbor at the next table to chat and cut up with, and neighbors on the other side that seemed to wear a different costume every five minutes. I had lots of return customers who came seeking the latest book in my Interstellar Rescue series. (I sold out of Fools Rush In !) and made some new friends, too. (I sold all of the “new cover” copies of Unchained Memory!) All in all, sales were good and worth the investment on the table.

The only problem is the long drive to Maryland (nine hours on a good day). DragonCon in Atlanta is much closer, and I recently met another writer who encouraged me to try it next year. I may add it to the schedule and see if it works as well as Shore Leave.

MISSION SUCCESS: THE CONTINUING MISSION

I was so glad to read blog partner Laurie’s news that she had made the difficult, but optimistic, decision to rededicate herself to her writing career. Not only because I would hate to think I was alone in this very lonely endeavor, but also because I strongly believe Laurie’s is a writing voice that should continue to be heard in the SFR world. Lord knows this is not an easy path to choose, and encouragement is not always to be found. But, as her fans showed in their reviews, people are out there reading and appreciating, and that does make it all worthwhile. (Events like Shore Leave, where you get to meet readers directly, can help bring that home, too.)

I recently finished Book Four in my Interstellar Rescue series, a book which technically did not have a contract from my agent/publisher. I was a little nervous to think she might not want to continue with this arrangement, which allows me all kinds of creative (and financial) freedom. But we concluded a new agreement that extends the arrangement with some tweaks, and I’m very happy. My terrific editor just signed on to do this book, too, so we’re officially in production with a goal of publishing by November, 2017. 

It just goes to show that our original Mission Success was not a short-term objective, but a long-term plan—a Five-Year Mission and beyond. And for that we—and our readers—are  all systems GO!

Cheers, Donna


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Busy #amwriting

I'm on a roll with the new book, dear readers, so I'm in a happy place. Apologies, but for now, I'm just going to share a bit of my other persona - photographer. Enjoy the pretties.

A bat fish breaking the surface. The people feed these guys, so they come close to the boat for food.

A pelican coming in to land. Takes them a while to stop

A rainbow lorikeet keeping its eye on where it's going to land

I LOVE ospreys. This one is taking off from a tidal pool. Look at those wings.

I love whales, too. This one's coming up next to the boat for a look at the people. It's a humpback.



I have a portfolio at Dreamstime if you'd like to see more. Thanks for stopping by. And now, it's back to the writing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Updates and Upcoming #amediting #scifirom

Almost two weeks into July, and the summer break for my monsters is fast approaching, with the usual increase in and around school events. My eldest began her first week of work experience yesterday, which means me playing taxi to her place of work, as well as attending various school meetings, arranging a couple of sleepovers for youngest, and packing for 12yo's adventure holiday next week. 
Somehow around that I have to work and get things set up to run for the seven weeks I'm 'away' from social media. Generally I set up some snippets to cover my absence, but I don't think I'm going to do that this year. For one, I don't think yet more reruns of my current books are going to be particularly interesting to those who already know them. The second is I just don't think I'm going to get time! Thanks to Hootsuite now demanding payment for more than ten scheduled posts (apparently it varies from user to user, but I got just ten) I'm already having to use both Facebook page scheduling and Tweetdeck to automatically run posts. I need to rename my Tumblr cosplay blog and finish scheduling posts for it and set up an RSS feed from that to its own specific Twitter account (@TheIGSeamstress). I've already got three new book reviews scheduled to go from Critique de Book, and all the current ones will rerun over the holiday to keep my FB page active. That's going to be quite enough work! And of course there's the chicks...
So today's post is really going to be a bunch of updates, and lots of chick pics. Admit it, you're only here for the last. :P

Status Updates
I'm still working through the first round of edits for Unexpected but am completely confident of having those completed by the July 14th deadline. It's been a bit of light relief working on something that doesn't need quite such intensive work after essentially having to rewrite Keir's Shadow over the last few weeks.
Talking of which, Keir's Shadow came back from analysis (very) late last night. There's good news and bad news. The good is it doesn't suck as bad as I feared. The bad is my editor wants the book that needs to come before Keir's Shadow but after Keir's Fall. I guess I kind of knew that was coming, having felt there was something deeply unfinished about Shadow and having started to write that 'missing' story last year. My subconscious clearly knew. The problem is that story has barely begun and at my current rate I can't see it being written this year, let alone ready for publication. Y'all weren't holding your breath on getting Keir's Shadow this year...were you? >.< I suppose at least now I have a viable project for NaNoWriMo...
The other bit of good news is I'll probably now be able to reuse a discarded book title - the original name for Keir's Fall no less - which makes me a little bit happy. I hate giving up on a good title.
In the meantime, I guess I have even more incentive to finish edits on Reunion and possibly Revived so that I put something out this year. However, there are things going on behind the scenes that could have major effects on further publications, so I'm just going to keep going and see what happens. I'm sorry I can't be more specific.

Chook Update
My girls have been enjoying the sun and the garden, although they're fascinated by what's going on in the other coop with Effie, much to Effie's irritation. Both Kyru and Pitch keep going to investigate, which makes Effie growl a lot. Yes, chooks can growl (and purr). I just haven't been able to video it.
Scoop sunbathing
Pitch playing at being a lap chicken.
She refused to believe I didn't have food.
Chook invasion!
And now the pictures you really want - the chicks! They're four and five days old, and already growing in their wing feathers. They all ventured out of the nest box for the first time yesterday - the day before only three of them were feeling that brave - and are foraging for themselves, though Effie is being a perfect mum by calling them to her when she finds food and breaking up anything too big for them. They've also mastered their feet and balance a bit better, and can certainly move at a pace now!
Front: Cuckoo, with Lemon behind, then left to right at the back
are Lavender, Mot, and Splash.

The gang's all here! Left to right: Mille, Lemon, Splash, Lavender, Cuckoo and Mot.

Left to right: Lavender, Mot, Splash, and Mille
                                        video
Lemon was the first chick out, but Effie's intense dust bathing set her running!
video
Peekaboo!

And I found an unexpected visitor in our hallway this morning!

We encountered this chap on the way to one of the numerous school meetings.
Meet a British hedgehog, if you aren't familiar with it.
It's weird to think that by this time next week, the chicks should have lost most of their fluff in favour of their adult feathers, though they won't be fully grown for another six weeks on top of that. I will try to keep you posted on their progress over the holidays because they will change that fast.
There are more chick pics posted on Twitter @pippajaygreen if you would like instant updates.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat

Well, it's been quite a weekend! And in more ways than one.

First a report on our horse breeding endeavors.

For the first time, two colts we bred were entered in the same race, an allowance race at the Downs at Albuquerque, right near our home turf. It was the first time these two had been at the same track together, much less in the same race. But it wasn't looking like a great scenario for either.


Blazing Away, or Zinger as we call him, was coming off a crushing defeat in a stakes race at SunRay Park where he ran next to last. It was only the second time in his career he'd not lit the board, and it didn't bode well for his future career.

Blazing Away

Echo Eight (who is, by the way, named in honor of one of Sharon's novels) was coming off a seven-month lay-up (rest) and had never run at this track. In addition, he had a new trainer and a new jockey. Although he'd had a couple of recent workouts that looked promising, they were run on a different track. The cards were really stacked against a strong performance, in spite of him winning his last race way back in November.

Echo Eight
The handicappers didn't think much of either of them. They were initially 15-1 and 20-1, the longshots of the field. Granted, they were up against some very talented horses, including Ghost Pro, a grey who everyone expected to win it big.

Funny thing about expectations...

When the gate opened Echo Eight came out like a rocket. He went straight to the front, had a challenger come within a neck, and powered up another gear leaving him behind by daylight. Meanwhile, whoever was running the megatron apparently was so convinced of Ghost Pro's abilities, they showed Ghost Pro in the lead instead of Echo. Ghost Pro was second to last at that point, languishing at the back of the field along with Blazing Away.

In fact, Echo Eight shot through the first quarter mile in 21.96 seconds. To put that in perspective, the first quarter of this year's Kentucky Derby was run in 22.70 seconds!

Echo held the lead into the turn, through the turn, and started into the stretch...but Blazing Away was already starting to make his move, splitting two rivals, he turned on the afterburners and was coming on like an express train.

Blazing Away caught Echo Eight in the stretch, and for one heart-pounding, eye-widening moment, we thought they were going to "hook" and engage in a stretch duel right down to the wire. For several seconds they ran neck-and-neck, stride-for-stride and our dream of a one-two finish looked like it was about to materialize right before our eyes. Talk about a best case scenario!

And then Echo ran out of gas. And Blazing Away kicked into yet another gear and started pulling away.

Blazing Away kicking clear. Ghost Pro (the grey) in second, Echo is third.

Ghost Pro finally made his move, but he couldn't catch Blazing Away who was still accelerating four lengths in the lead while the other horses tired. He won it by 4-3/4 lengths to the sound of a roaring crowd. And Echo was passed by several other horses to finish 5th. :(


Blazing Away -- All Alone at the Wire

What a moment. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat for sure.

If you'd like to see the actual race, the video is up on the Bloodhorse site, here:

Downs at Albuquerque, Race 6, 07-08-17

With our niece, Crystal,
and grand nephew, Jaxson.
After a quick check to be sure both horses returned in good shape, we had yet another thrill coming. We were invited into the winners circle by the owner to get our pictures taken with Blazing Away. It's the first time since the mid-1980s we'd been in a win photo with a horse we bred or raced, because we weren't able to be present for any of the other wins. Long time coming indeed. And better yet, our great nephew, Jaxson, also joined us in the photo. He had quite a first introduction to racing!

But we were to have yet another magic moment. Justin Evans, the trainer of our filly "Star," had three horses in the next big race, the Budweiser Special Stakes, including his superstar Redneck Humor, who has been undefeated in 2017 including five consecutive stakes wins, and has been called "the best in the Southwest." Not only did Redneck Humor battle from behind to a brilliant win, but Justin's other two horses took second and third.

Justin invited us to join him in the winners circle and we had our picture taken for a second time that night and got to hang out nearby while he and the jockey were interviewed by the media.

So while we're on the subject of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...

I've Made a Decision

I haven't been talking about books or writing much on the blog these last six weeks. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I needed to take a hiatus...but in truth it was more than that. I needed to step away and make a decision whether to continue publishing or to end to my career.

Why? Let me explain what brought me to this point.

Inherit the Stars link
Five years ago, I was at the top of my game as a pre-published author. I had finaled three times in the prestigious RWA Golden Heart Awards. I had won contests from coast to coast with all three of my completed novels and I had just acquired an agent. At our Golden Network retreat in 2012, the theme was "The future's so bright, we gotta wear shades" and boy, was I feeling it!

It was like being on the crest of a wave.

Then the reality of being a science fiction romance author set in. My agent shopped my novel, Inherit the Stars, to all the big publishers. Again and again, the feedback was that although my voice and story-telling abilities were strong, they couldn't successfully market a SFR...but if I ever decided to write something in another genre, please submit.

Well, I didn't want to write in another genre. Science Fiction Romance is, and has always been, my passion. So my agent and I forged on. I co-published my first novel Inherit the Stars via my agent early in 2015. In spite of being named by LibraryJournal.com as one of the Best Books of 2015 in E-Originals, winning the 2016 Carolyn Readers Choice Award, getting some fantastic reviews, and my best (but apparently failed) efforts to "get it out there," it didn't really sell well. In fact, I didn't even cover my expenses in 2015. I was one tiny little voice in a throng of authors all shouting, "Hey! Take a look at this!" And I wasn't being heard.

With the release of Pets in Space last October I got a little bit of the sweet taste of success. The collection sold well and my story, StarDog, was well-received. Because it was related to Inherit the Stars, my novel started selling, as well as Farewell Andromeda, a novelette in a different era of the same series. But as soon as Pets in Space went off sale, my book sales dried up too. I at least covered my expenses in 2016, but my agent and I both realized at that point that it was time to end our partnership. We cancelled our contract very amicably on December 31, 2016.

And then I was on my own. With one novel and two novelettes published and a second novel that was in editing hell, I had to stop and reassess my time investment in publishing novels vs. my return, and my failure to gain a substantial readership.

I was honestly ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. The upcoming Courting Disaster: StarDog2 in the second Pets in Space collection would be my last published work. And then, on a whim of nostalgia, I went back through some of my reviews and read what fans had written about my work.

And that changed everything.

I don't have a very large readership (let's be honest and call it what it is--smallish) but almost everyone who left a review wrote wonderful, glowing, supportive, encouraging words. I got a little misty-eyed re-visiting them, and then, as God and fate apparently decided to throw in their two cents, one of my favorite songs from Nashville came up on my iPod.

Let me explain the story behind it, and why it spoke to me.

This song was sung by Gunnar (Sam Palladio) to Scarlet (Clare Bowen). The two had formerly been a couple and Gunnar had helped launch Scarlet's career as a singer. Although she had some initial success and was a rising star in Nashville's country music scene, she ultimately had a bad stumble and couldn't take the sting of defeat. She decided to give it all up, leave Nashville and return to her small home town in Mississippi. But before she leaves, Gunnar asks if he can sing her a song he wrote. The song is titled: "It Ain't Yours to Throw Away."


 
 
Swayed by his words, Scarlet decides not to leave and to give it another shot. Later, her star begins to rise once again.
 
But there's a bit more to the story. When ABC cancelled Nashville after it's fourth season, it was the fans who rallied in what amounted to a Twitter takeover, and on the evening of the final episode they managed to trend #SaveNashville and it lasted for days. I proudly took part in that blitz. One of the songs that was tweeted again and again was "It Ain't Yours to Throw Away." The message was clear. Nashville didn't belong to the network, it belonged to the fans, and the fans didn't want to let it go.
 
ABC didn't hear us. But County Music Television did. The result was that Nashville is now in its fifth season and is scheduled for a sixth. On CMT.
 
In both cases, the fans made all the difference, though they may not always realize how much influence they can wield and how much magic they can create.
 
So yes, this weekend I made a decision. I'm back. I'm going to give it another shot. Because it's what I love and what I seem to have a God-given talent for. And reading those reviews again made me believe it's worth another try.
 
Thank you, readers. You're the best.
 
See you next week. Have a good one.