Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nice, ordinary guys deserve to fall in love, too



My third foray into the Dryden Universe was a little bit different. Maybe a lot different. The thing about writing a book with a romance arc is that when you get to the Happy Ever After ending, the basic ROMANCE plot is finished. That means you have to find another couple to meet and fall in love, while making sure it isn’t too quickly etc etc. I had to come up with new characters for this next Dryden book
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My modus operandi tends to be powerful alpha males, usually admirals, and strong women who can match them, but this time, it seemed to me that nice, ordinary guys deserved to fall in love, too. His name is Brent Walker. (Note to self: not every guy’s name has to start with B - I seem to have had a lot of them :) ) Brent is trying hard to make his way in the slightly dodgy, cut-throat world of small freight hauling. In some respects he’s a bit like Han Solo – rough on the outside, but basically a nice man. 

Now for the female main character. I wanted to work Admiral Ul-Mellor into the plot, but as a supporting character. So Tian Axmar is an Imperial agent, reporting to Admiral Ul-Mellor, who somehow involves Brent Walker in her undercover operation. Tian hires Brent and his elderly freighter to assist in her investigation of murders of Yrmaks and Humans, associated with a strange symbol left at the scene. Of course, since there’s a romance arc, they fall in love.

In that context, the Yrmaks had to be much more than two-dimensional nasty chaps. Tian and Brent would have to actually talk to them, work out why certain things happened as they did. To do that I’d have to make them much more real in my own mind, with their own culture, their own mythology and rituals, and their own reasons for doing things.

Describing Yrmak culture without having too much exposition was a challenge. I settled on revealing bits and pieces as Brent and Tian conduct their investigation. The extract is set in a local market. Looking for clues, Tian has a conversation with a Human stall holder who sells Yrmak souvenirs. He’s just tried to sell Tian a ritual knife she knows isn’t authentic.

"I'm Tian. Pleased to meet you. Tell me about the Rite of Ur Bazoon. Isn't that some sort of fertility thing?"
"No. It's a ceremony carried out when the young men are mature enough to go to war. They pledge themselves to the Great Mother by cutting their left claw with a knife like that one. Their blood drips into a bowl on the altar, then the High Priestess drinks the blood. After that, they're given their spears."
He knew what he was talking about, and his pronunciation of Ur Bazoon had been pretty good. But that dagger was no more authentic Yrmak than she was.
"Do you speak Yrmak?"
"I do. It was difficult, but I find their culture fascinating. A true matriarchy, with the females running things. It's hard to find out about anything interesting if you don't speak the language."
So very true.
"Is there anything in particular you're looking for? I have some beautiful pots, carvings." Austen put down the pot he held in his hand and picked up another. "Lovely carvings on this one. See?"
Tian stared at the jar he'd put down, dark green stone with what looked like a gold inscription. If she was any judge that was probably worth more than the rest of his collection put together. "Can I see that one?"
He picked up the piece and fondled it as though it were precious. "Beautiful, isn't it? It's not for sale. I… ah… only just got this one."
Stolen? "May I see it? Please? I'll be very careful."
"Well… okay." He placed the jar onto Tian's outstretched palm.
Heavy. Not pottery, this was deep green, flawless aventurine. The symbol on the lid had been carved, then the carving filled with gold. It was an eye surrounded by rays. She'd never seen the symbol before, but she suspected she knew what it was. "Where did you get this one?"
"Picked it up in an Yrmak's junk sale. Just came from there. The matriarch had died — that is, passed on to the Mother — and they were selling up her effects. Household goods and such."
"And they sold this?"
His eyelashes fluttered. "It was part of a job lot." He waved his hand at the counter behind him, where an assortment of jars and cheap jewelry stood next to the box. "I've been sorting it out."
There was a certain resemblance between this symbol and the other one she kept in her comm. Not the same, but resonant. "How much do you want for it?"
Austen stared at the jar, then at her, then back at the jar, his eyes widening for the barest instant. He shook his head. "It's not for sale." He tried an apologetic smile. "Sorry. I think I'll be keeping this one."
"Do you know what it means? This symbol?" Tian traced it with her finger.
"I don't think it means anything. Not everything does, does it? Look, it's nothing. Just a part of a female's dressing room. That's why it's so fancy." He almost snatched it from Tian and put it in his pocket. "It's pretty. I think the wife would like it."
He picked up another pot, the same size but made from green agate and with a silver design on the lid. "What about this one? Just ten credits."

If you’d like to know more, you could always read the book…

Eye of the Mother
A distant star explodes. The ripples of its passing will rock the Empire.

When fate throws Brent Walker and Tian Axmar together, it’s strictly a business arrangement. She’s an Imperial agent with a problem to solve, he’s a space jockey with an empty bank balance and a tramp freighter for hire.

Somebody’s murdering Yrmaks and Humans, and leaving a mysterious calling card. Somebody wants interspecies war. Tian hires Brent to help her investigate, delving into Yrmak customs and beliefs to understand what’s going on. It’s an increasingly dangerous game, with more than just lives at stake. Before it’s over Brent and Tian will be faced with choices which will change both of them forever.

Buy the book at Amazon B&N Kobo iBooks



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving thanks for readers

This fall, my debut sci-fi romance, GHOST PLANET, turned 5. As a big thank you to the SFR reading community, I'm offering it free for the first time ever. My talented cover artist even created a sweet anniversary badge just for the occasion. The sale ends today, so if you haven't yet read it, now is your chance!

At the same time, I have a Kindle countdown deal going on my other two sci-fi romances, THE OPHELIA PROPHECY and ECHO 8. It's a great time to stock up on reading material for your holiday season.

For all of those who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a lovely and safe holiday weekend. Below I'm sharing my family's favorite pumpkin pie recipe. I've never had one I liked better, and it's very easy. It was created by a friend of mine who blended a couple of her favorite recipes.

What can make this recipe even more special is taking the time to use real pumpkin. Pick up a sugar pumpkin (also called a pie pumpkin) at your local market. Halve it (and clean out seeds), and place the halves skin side up in a pyrex baking dish with some water in the bottom to keep it from drying out. Bake at 350 until tender (how long will depend on size). Then mash it with a fork and you are good to go! I do this part the day before Thanksgiving and store the pumpkin in the fridge until I'm ready to make the pie.



Lisa's Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin puree*
1 cup cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
3 eggs

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a deep-dish pie shell. Bake at 450 for 8 minutes, and then 325 for 40-45 minutes (until a knife inserted just off center comes out almost clean). Cool to room temperature, and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream (I use maple syrup)!

*NOTE: If you use fresh baked pumpkin, AND you plan to make the pie in a blender, you can just mash the pumpkin with a fork before putting it in the blender. If you plan to use a mixer to make the pie instead, you'll want to puree the fresh pumpkin first, or it will be a bit stringy. (The canned kind will be ready to go either way.)

I also shared this recipe in my newsletter, The Cozy Read, where every month I include recipes and other recommendations for creating cozy reading experiences. You can check out the newsletter and sign up here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks... #amwriting #scifi

...is a quote from Hans Christian Andersen (according to a quick Google. These days I'm always a little suspicious.). If I was ever asked what is the one thing I couldn't live without (other than coming back with the sensible answer of sustenance), it's music. I'm pretty much plugged into my mp3 player every hour of the day I'm alone, and can't go a day without music unless you want a seriously moody person on your hands. Lots of authors seem to find inspiration in music, make soundtracks for their books and characters, and I'm no different. My debut novel Keir owes much of its existence to the music of a certain Finnish rock band - The Rasmus - whose three albums at that time not only helped keep me sane during the writing process but heavily influenced the tone and character of the story. Justify is Keir's song most of all.

And on Sunday I got to see them perform live for the third time since I became a fan. Even more awesomely I got a close encounter with band member Eero who snuck out a fire exit while we were queueing. I managed actual words but tried to play it cool - I didn't think he wanted someone doing the whole fangirl thing at him (but damn it, I wish I'd asked for a photo. Not that anyone else would care - this is something I will always remember and be grateful for!).

The venue was quite small and cozy, and we had an excellent view (though my feeble camera lies about that). Not right at the front with the younger die hard fans, but on a second level balcony where no longshanks could get in front of me and block my view!


My phone also completely failed to save the video of their opening song, but luckily plenty of other people didn't have that problem, including my friend and fellow fan Irene Jones. Warning, there's a lot of strobe lighting and flash photography.


And of course they played the song they're most famous for.
The only problem with the cozy venue was lead singer Lauri was occasionally drowned out by his own fans singing. A shame because I love his voice, but I can't deny I wasn't singing along too. :P
But if you want to hear all the songs associated with Keir, go HERE to listen to my unofficial soundtrack and maybe play it as you read. :) Oh, plus a rare couple selfie taken outside King's Cross station (yes, THAT King's Cross station mentioned in the Harry Potter books).
Status Update
I've abandoned NaNoWriMo - it got me writing again, I have 10K on a new story and got my edits done. Aim achieved. At this stage I'm far too far behind to ever catch up so I will just keep pootling along with things.

Monday, November 20, 2017

On Approach #Thanksgiving #TheOuterPlanets

Since we're just T-minus three days and counting to a big holiday (can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving???), and since we didn't get anything up for Snippet Saturday this past weekend, I'll post a segment from The Outer Planets today.

The Outer Planets is an Inherited Stars Universe story, meaning it takes place in the same universe as Inherit the Stars, StarDog and Courting Disaster, but in a different timeline so doesn't share any of the familiar characters. In fact, the timeline it's set in is only a few decades from now.

I'm really not supposed to admit this, but The Outer Planets has been in the hopper for over 30 years. When the story originally began to take shape in my mind, the 2040s seemed like a very distant future. Not so much anymore.

This Near Future novel envisions a global economic collapse brought about by an environmental upheaval in the 2020's. That's looking a little less Fi and a lot more Sci than it did thirty years ago. It also deals with technology that seemed wildly fringe at the time it was originally penned, and now seems on the brink of happening...soon.

Here's a quick introduction to the story.

Blurb
What Lissa Bruce knows could kill her.

A female video reporter with an altered identity and a damning secret joins the crew of a research mission bound for Jupiter, only to find the past she wants to escape is already onboard.

Lieutenant Mitchell Coe, the loyal aide de camp to a murdered General–and Lissa’s late spouse–is the one man with the power to blow her cover…or salvage her heart. But after a series of malfunctions threatens the mission, Lissa suspects she’s not the only one aboard with a dangerous secret.

Scene Set-Up
Lissa Bruce is in a shuttle on approach to the NSS Robert Bradley--a planetary research vessel about to embark on a three-year mission to Jupiter. As the final member of the crew, she's a very late arrival.

Excerpt:

The staccato whine of a digital transmission interrupted her thoughts.

“Beginning final docking maneuvers,” the pilot said.

The shuttle’s retros fired, edging her closer to the mother ship’s extended docking arm. The ships wouldn’t link directly during docking, the potential for collision between two pressurized vessels deemed too high risk to be acceptable. The docking arm’s specialized shock system was engineered to absorb and cushion the brunt of most hard connections.

Most.

Lissa waited, holding her breath, hands braced against the armrests. A miscalculation on the pilot’s part could be catastrophic. There was little room for error in a vacuum.

The pilot’s hands played over his console, and the shuttle’s docking head locked on target. The retros pulsed twice more. Lissa’s seat rattled with vibration when the vessel connected.

“Captured,” the pilot announced, flipping a switch.

A ratcheting sound filled the cabin as the shuttle fused with the docking arm of the Bradley.

Destination Shuttle Five is locked and secure,” the pilot informed the Bradley docking crew. “Preparing to offload one passenger.” He left his console to assist her as the docking arm swung in a slow arc, bringing the starboard hatch of the shuttle broadside to the mouth of the airlock.

Lissa unbuckled her harness and stood, giving the pilot a quizzical look. “Destination Shuttle Five?”

“Yes, well, it was a major undertaking changing the ship’s name from Destination to Robert Bradley at the last moment. They overlooked a few minor details.” He unlocked the storage compartment near the exit hatch. “Like renaming the support vessels.”

A crooked smile pulled at Lissa’s lips. Good to know at least a few things had escaped Bobby’s brand.

The shuttle made a smooth union with the airlock and green lights activated on the cabin panel. “Dock integrity confirmed,” a voice said on the speaker.

Lissa gathered her two bags from the bin and moved to the hatch. Now for the tough part. Facing Daniel.

The pilot motioned to the com-con switch on the bulkhead to the right of the hatch. Lissa pressed it. “Crewmember Lissa Bruce, requesting permission to come aboard.”

She waited while soft space static played on the speakers.

“The NSS Robert Bradley welcomes you, Ms. Bruce,” a deep and familiar voice answered. “Permission granted.”

“That’s the old man himself,” the pilot whispered. “Captain Storing.”

“In the flesh,” Lissa acknowledged, squaring her shoulders and raising her chin. Daniel wasn’t going to make the most congenial greeting party, but she owed him her trust, her complete and unquestioning support. He had his own cross to bear in proving himself to both Mission Control and his crew.

The hatch hissed open. Lissa nodded her thanks to the pilot and carried her bags into the airlock. The rush of intermingling atmospheres brushed her face and lifted the hair off her shoulders, bringing a sad smile to her lips. So like a desert breeze on a cool spring day. Something she wouldn’t experience again for a long, long time.

The pressure equalized, and the inner hatch popped. Lissa squinted when the Bradley’s interior lighting flooded the small chamber. In the glare stood an imposing man wearing full naval dress uniform and no trace of a smile.

Willing her legs forward, Lissa stepped onto the deck of Captain Daniel Storing’s ship. Behind her, the hatch to the docking bay closed with a clack, followed by a low rumble as the airlock depressurized.

Escape route sealed. Point of no return.

She looked into the commanding blue eyes of the man before her. The eyes of Zeus, as an awestricken friend had once described them. He studied her, neither relief nor anger evident in his gaze, his face molded into its usual professional scowl.

“Welcome aboard, Ms. Bruce.”

As a civilian, no salute was in order. “Thank you, Captain.”

He stepped forward to shake her hand, and she dropped her bags to the deck. His fair hair was cut in a standard military chop, though there’d been no gray at his temples the last time she’d seen him. She waited for his reaction to her new look. None came.

“It’s good to be onboard,” she said, cursing the slight quaver in her voice. So much for keeping emotions in check; Daniel knew her too well, and he wasn’t easily fooled. He must’ve known that stepping onto this ship was like walking into the jaws of hell—but a far safer hell than the one lying in wait for her back on Earth.
________________________________

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you a wonderful time with family, friends and wonderful food.

We truly have a lot to be thankful for this year, and we'll be taking some time to acknowledge how blessed we are with all the good things in life.

Over the upcoming long holiday weekend, I've committed to getting organized and gearing up to crank out my backlog of titles, so I won't be blogging on my regular day, next Monday, November 27th.

See you in two weeks!

Have a great holiday.

Friday, November 17, 2017

REBOOT LOTR? I DON'T THINK SO


And in the category of Things We Really Don’t Need To See comes this news of Amazon’s plan for a new streaming series based on Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. According to Charles Pulliam-Moore of geeky website i09Gizmodo, Amazon Studios and Warner Brothers announced in a press release this week that they have negotiated the rights for and are working on the new series with the Tolkien estate, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema (which produced the Peter Jackson films).

Those of you who follow this blog know I am a huge LOTR fan. I have been reading the trilogy every year or two since the age of 16, and I thought the Peter Jackson films could not have translated Tolkien’s fantastic world and characters to the screen any better. The casting alone was superb. Just think about that for a moment. Not one actor was miscast or less than perfect in the role. From Ian McKellan as Gandalf to Andy Serkis as Gollum, from Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, to Elijah Wood as Frodo.

Someone else cast as Aragorn? Um, no.
I can’t imagine that incredible feat being improved upon, much less finding the settings to match the magnificent New Zealand scenery Jackson used to stand for Middle-Earth. And to reproduce those cinematic production values? How much money and time are we talking about here?

Not enough, I suspect, to bring a series up to the standard Jackson set not so very long ago. But apparently Amazon is not fazed. In the streaming world, the stars have aligned in such a way as to make this reboot almost inevitable. Tolkien’s 91-year-old son Christopher recently resigned from his position as director of the author’s estate, loosening his tight hold on adaptations of his father’s works. At the same time, Game of Thrones has ended its long reign over television’s fantasy audience. This leaves a power vacuum Amazon Studios just can’t resist.

But why not fill that empty space with something completely new? There are any number of unexplored SF/fantasy worlds out there for the taking—McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, perhaps, or Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga or C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series, or I could go on pretty much endlessly. Save yourself some money, Amazon, and give your viewers something they haven’t experienced before. And, while you’re at it, give some deserving authors access.

For all the millions of words of analysis about how the upheaval of the publishing world has meant so much opportunity for so many more authors, the truth is still that only a tiny thimbleful of the vast output of those authors ever reaches a substantial audience. Especially for a “niche” subgenre like science fiction romance, readership is numbered in the thousands, if we’re lucky, not in the millions that would view something on television. We could use a bigger platform. So, Amazon, why not seek out new stories among the many that exist, rather than fighting to be the next one to recycle Tolkien’s time-honored, but well-worn tale.

Cheers, Donna

Information for this post taken from “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Son Resigns as Director of Tolkien Estate, Ending Decades of Tightly Controlled Adaptations,” by Beth Elderkin, oneringnet, November, 15, 2017.




*Next week I'll be enjoying Thanksgiving with my family, so there will be no post on Friday. Have a Happy Turkey Day!

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.