Friday, March 23, 2018


This is not a rant about the major issues of the day. We here at Spacefreighters long ago agreed that this is not the proper forum for those kinds of screeds. And, besides, if I started down that road, I might just take a left and keep on driving.

No, this is just a venting of choler about a few minor annoyances that happened to MAKE ME CRAZY this week. Because I’m feeling particularly grumpy today. Like this guy:

There’s a hole in my bucket. I just read the last book in a beloved series by one of my very favorite authors. (No, I’m not going to name either the series or the author.) Ninety-percent of the book was just as thrilling and wonderful as the rest of the series. I didn’t want it to end, especially because this was the end of a long, delicious reading experience. But, dang it, the ending left a HUGE plot hole unresolved—and not in a way that indicated we’d learn what happened in a future book. Just, “Okay, and then these people make it home, and The End.” Wait. What?

Bad enough, but there’s worse. Shrugging off this disappointment, I start another book by a favorite author who shall remain nameless. A very famous author, I might add, and a best-selling book. Pretty soon I start noticing something is missing: most of the commas before the conjunction but. Not all of them, mind you, which might indicate some kind of conscious revolt against the Evil Conjunctive Comma! No, this looks like just plain old carelessness, like someone neglected to edit this book, or put “ignore all” on every compound sentence. Because I can assure you, my computer grammar function will remind me every time I forget to insert that damn comma before the word but in a sentence like this: “Sally loved him, but he had terrible grammar.”

Death to groundhogs. Yes, Punxutawney Phil warned us there would be six more weeks of winter. That was on February 2. It’s now March 22, which by my count means the stupid groundhog has overstayed his welcome by a week. We’ve just suffered through our fourth nor’easter in three weeks and another storm is due Sunday. Here in our little corner of Western North Carolina, we’ve been lucky; the storms have hit us only glancing blows. Everywhere else in the Eastern third of the nation people are ready to pull Phil out of his burrow and string him up. Yes, and next year, I insist on erecting a very large umbrella over his successor’s burrow.

What good is electricity if I don’t have Facebook? People may be digging themselves out of the next storm only to find they have lost their raison d’etre. Facebook is in deep trouble, the center of its own little storm of scandal after the discovery that data firm Cambridge Analytica sold information it gathered on some 50 million Facebook users to third parties without their knowledge. (No, really? I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked ! ) People are calling for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg’s head and (a little gleefully, I think) predicting the collapse of the social media giant. But if there has ever been anything that is too big to fail, Facebook qualifies. No other social media platform has anywhere near the reach that this original behemoth does.

But here’s the real reason all of this will blow over by next week: there is no such thing as privacy on Facebook and anyone who uses FB should know it. How many times have we been warned not to post anything we wouldn’t want our aged grandmothers to see? How many times do the cyber-experts have to say Social Media is Forever? Do you really think those ads for super-cute TREK tee-shirts just magically show up on your news feed? Or the click-bait posts about aliens/cats/conspiracy theories/extremist politics of all persuasions? Early on, I was inclined to think the Evil FB Gnomes themselves used a computer algorithm to sell ads and click bait. Now I can envision them as Russian cyber-spies and slimy firms with smart, catchy names like Cambridge Analytica (which is probably three hairy guys in wife-beaters sitting around a roomful of computers in a Motel 6 in Cambridge, Ohio). So much better.

And now for some GOOD news. Finalists in the 2017 Romance Writers of America RITA® (published works) and Golden Heart® (unpublished manuscripts) contests were announced last Wednesday. As three of us here at Spacefreighters know, the moment caused chaos, exhilaration, joy, heartbreak and misery in countless writing households around the world as the word went out. Finaling in either of those contests can be a highpoint in a writer’s career and a long-sought-after goal, regardless of whether the contest is actually won. So, bravo, all you finalists, whatever your category, and good luck to you when the winners are announced in July.

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What would an alien society look like?

Toreni, Chet, and Jirra
I'm sure you all know I'm working on the WIP – Mystery of the Ice Warriors. It's set firmly in the Manesai (Morgan Selwood) universe, so I have to make sure that I stick with that society's structure. While the Manesai are evolved humans, they are a little bit different from us. They have better eyesight and cat-like eyes. They're stronger, suppler – and they have a rigid class system.

There are basically four classes:

  • Mirka - These people are the leaders. Military command officers, presidents and senior politicians will be found in their ranks, as well as police.
  • Vesha - Vesha form the business class. Merchants, traders, layers, accountants and the like. Some of them are very wealthy.
  • Hasta - These are the technical people. Engineers, technicians, chemists, scientists, doctors.
  • Shuba - The working class. Laborers, foot soldiers, farmers.

Genetic engineering has made it impossible for people from the four classes to create offspring with a member of another class. Manesai culture is heavily based on the Indian caste system. But even if it wasn’t, point a finger at any part of the world and you’ll find classes, castes, restrictions on marriage and the like. The daughters of merchants would marry the sons of other merchants. Princes married princesses. Common serving men didn’t bother lusting after the daughter of the house. Although, in male dominated societies, men in authority thought nothing of having a bit on the side with the serving wench. Marriages were (and still are) very often arranged by the families. And folks, this is still, by and large, true. I have simply taken one small step further in my science fiction and had idealistic genetic scientists make matches between classes childless. A place for everyone and everyone in their place. That’s sure to make for a peaceful society. </sarcasm>

Since humans are essentially tribal and we love to belong to groups, each class has developed sub-classes. Shuba are the foot soldiers, but one group was deliberately modified to make them bigger, stronger, more fearless than the rest. They are the Fleet's elite troopers who also fill civilian roles as security police and body guards. Admiral Ravindra is a member of the Darya sub-class within the Mirka. It is an elite group which produces most Manesai admirals. And the children of admirals (of course) tend to marry the children of admirals.

My three Morgan's Misfits are Jirra, who is a Hasta ex-Fleet engineer, Chet, who is Mirka and was a detective, and Toreni, who is elite Shuba. Romila, who they rescue from a raid on her shop, is Vesha.

I suppose I'm looking at the boundaries between people of different classes. In Morgan's Choice, Ravindra falls for a (shock-horror) ALIEN. But that opened up other questions. What happens if a Mirka man falls for a Hasta woman? Or A Vesha woman for a Hasta man? Or if two people from the same class have incompatible interests? Or if an arranged marriage is not to the liking of the two parties to the marriage? It's an interesting exercise.

In Kuralon Rescue Jirra is being pursued by a bounty hunter, sent after her by her parents, for refusing to honor an arranged marriage. Jirra, who's Hasta, is in love with a Mirka officer. Mystery of the Ice Warriors will explore a little more of the star-crossed lovers theme.

It has been fun developing a history for these stories. I'll confess that some of the folklore in these made up stories is loosely based on real history, or myths and legends. The Mirka temple MAY have derived, at least a little, from the cult of Mithras. Here's a little excerpt, and then I'll get back to the book.

"What is this place?"
Sunil lifted his shoulder. "It's a temple."
"To what?"
"A Mirka temple. There are no gods, of course. Hardly anybody believes in things like that anymore. But the Mirka are warriors, first and foremost. This is a place to honor the dead and to gain one's courage. There's one on Mahanadi, still in use."
Of course. The Mirka temple on Khalas Island. She'd never been there. Women were discouraged. In the past they'd been forbidden. But she'd seen pictures of the interior, and she recognized the similarities. She ran her gloved hand over the altar, still polished smooth. "How old is this place?"
"It's hard to tell. But I think it goes back to the earliest settlement on this world. I spent a few days at the Central Library at Mahanadi trying to find out as much about this world as I could. It wasn’t always called Akhlut. That happened when everyone moved to the main town. From what I can piece together, the weather was much milder when the first people landed here, but weather being what it is, the climate changed. After I think about one hundred years this place in the mountains wasn’t tenable anymore. Akhlut is the name of an ice demon."
Romila nodded. "The cold drove them out."
"That’s right. And they've developed their own folklore. Ice witches that cause water to freeze, that sort of thing. And the ice warriors – the statues you sell – they keep the forces of cold at bay. But while the ice witches aren't real, as you can see, the ice warriors are. Or were."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Trilogy of Topics--Hawking, Water and PiSA3

Today, I have three different topics to blog about. It's been a busy week!

RIP Stephen Hawking

Renown scientist Stephen Hawking died the morning of March 13, 2018 in his Cambridge home. His death came some 55 years after he was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease (ALS) in 1963...and given two years to live. What he accomplished in all those "borrowed years" was nothing short of spectacular.

In that five-and-a-half decade span, he was confined to a wheelchair, lost his ability to speak, wrote 15 books -- including A Brief History of Time, which sold more than 10 million copies -- co-authored a series of children's books with his daughter, guest starred in television series including Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory and as an animated character in The Simpsons, married twice, had three children, and made inestimable contributions to science and physics.

I had the utmost respect for Dr. Hawking, and even wrote a mention of his name into one of my as yet unpublished novels. His loss is a huge blow to science and the universe.

You can read more on this Thursday blog by Greta van der Rol: Unintended Consequences

Rest with the Stars, Stephen Hawking.

The Shape of Water Mini-Review

I'm actually a little stunned by the general lack of buzz in the SFR community about a Science Fiction Romance film nominated for -- and receiving -- an Oscar for Best Picture (plus three other awards). So I had to wonder if the film was actually a true SFR, or if it had been given that tag by the misinformed. Did it really have the required HEA or HFN?

Indeed it did!

Was it a satisfying romance that I could connect to on a very deep level?

Sadly, no.

Upon viewing the film, I'm sorry to say I wasn't entirely thrilled with the story. Although the relationship was sweet and included a couple of sexytimes scenes -- implied or otherwise -- I think it lacked any true chemistry between the mute female lead, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) and the River God/river monster hero (Doug Jones), who's origins in nature and/or science were never explained.

Pluses were the richly detailed very late 50s/early 60s setting, a lavishly noir art-deco-in-decline that provided a wonderful, moody backdrop. But I think it tried too hard to make certain statements, which only served to turn some of the characters, one in particular, into a comic book caricatures. The villain was sadly one-dimensional and completely unsympathetic instead of being portrayed as a well-rounded antagonist with understandable drives and goals. One particular sex scene involving the villain seemed unnecessary and gratuitous, introducing a trivial, implied thread that the film failed to carry through on.

I also thought the reaction of the heroine's close friend, Zelda, to the discovery about her unusual sex life was way too understated and a bit unbelievable. It seemed such a monumental revelation warranted more than just a low chuckle and joking retort, and the abilities of outstanding actress Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) were certainly wasted in this scene.

So sadly, The Shape of Water is not, in my humble opinion, going to be another Avatar in terms of defining what great SFR can be to the general public. It's probably worth a watch, but don't expect it to shake your universe.

I can't comment on the book as I haven't read it, but may check it out to see if it delivers a better emotional experience than the movie.

My rating: Not a definite "Go," but more of a "Watch it if you have time and are so inclined."

P.S. Can I also add that a much better use of your viewing time might be to see the deeply moving Only the Brave -- a thought-provoking and inspiring motion picture (though not SFR or a romance) -- which I blogged about at length last week.

Pets in Space 3 in Coming!

On Friday, the first big announcement of 2018 from the Pets in Space 3 team came out on the SFR Brigade blog. You can read the full announcement by clicking the link in the last sentence, but I wanted to focus on a few exciting tidbits.

First of all, the title! The 2018 edition will be titled:

Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3

The Pets in Space 3 collection will feature eleven authors (one less than last year but two more than the original anthology), and several are new to the PISA projects. Among them, you may recognize some well-known names in Science Fiction Romance. Here's the 2018 roster:

 S.E. Smith
Anna Hackett
Ruby Lionsdrake
Veronica Scott
Pauline Baird Jones
Carol Van Natta
Tiffany Roberts
Alexis Glynn Latner
E D Walker
JC Hay
Kyndra Hatch
The authors in bold text are first time contributors to a Pets in Space collection. Only four of the authors, S. E. Smith, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones and Alexis Glynn Latner will be veterans of all three releases.

The anthology will again support the wonderful by donating 10% of the first month's profits to the organization. In the last two years, the PISA collections (which I did take part in) have donated $4,400 to the charity! Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and provides them free of charge to U.S. Veterans. (My special project during the 2016 and 2017 Pets in Space editions was in "adopting" one of these dogs, Hero Dog Mitch, and making separate contributions to his training. Mitch successfully graduated the program on November 5, 2017 and was paired with a U.S. Coast Guard veteran.)

But there's one more thing I wanted to tell you about. Right now, the group is offering a FREE coloring book as a thank you for subscribing to their newsletter. This link to the subscription page will also take you to the Pet in Space website which has more information about the anthology.

In closing, I want to mention that it's almost that day again -- the annual announcement of the RITA and Golden Heart Finalists for 2018.

This is a major event for hundreds of aspiring and published authors when they anxiously await the phone call or email telling them they are a finalist, and have a shot at one of the two most prestigious awards in the Romance industry.

I remember a couple of years where I took the day off from work, cleared my schedule and waited, ears tuned to the phone for "the call" to come in. Happily, I got those calls in two out of three years I entered -- and twice in 2011! -- and they each began a whirlwind, runaway-train experience known as the Golden Heart Awards, and the formation of my two GH classes--the 2011 Starcatchers and the 2012 Firebirds. I'll never forget those crazy, heady times!

From the RWA website:

March 21, 2018
E-mails and phone calls to notify finalists will commence.
Release of official finalist list on RWA's website by 2 p.m. CT.

If you're entered this year--good for you, best wishes, much luck!

And finally, today marks a big anniversary! It's hard to believe the SFR Brigade is now eight years old! When I originally started the group, I was hoping there were at least 50 other writers and authors of science fiction romance out there. In the first 30 days we acquired over 100 members!

Today, the Facebook group numbers over 1,230 members and the Fanpage has over 1,700 likes. The spirit of the Brigade seems alive and well. Happy Eighth Anniversary, Brigaders.

Have a great announcement and anniversary week!

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.