Friday, October 17, 2014

AUTHENTIC SETTINGS A CHALLENGE IN SFR

Hard to get a "real feel" for a place you can't get to.


One of the huge advantages of writing the kind of “hearth and home” science fiction romance I do is that I can send my hero and heroine to real places here on Earth.  That “grounds” my settings in a way that is impossible to do when I put them on a spaceship or alien planet.  I work hard to give my alien settings substance, but there’s just nothing like actually being there to give a scene authenticity.

I envy the RWA Kiss of Death (romantic suspense) chapter members their field trips at the national conference.  They always visit the coolest places in search of gritty realism for their novels—FBI headquarters, forensic labs, police shooting ranges.  Fellow 2012 Golden Heart® Firebird Heather Ashby, who writes military romance, is a U.S. Navy vet herself and still finds her way onto every ship she can to keep a sense of place.  Some people live in small towns—and write about small towns.  Some people know everything there is to know about New York City, and their novels reflect that intimate knowledge of the streets, back alleys and sky-high buildings of that city.

Those of us who write SFR tend to be science and space geeks from early childhood.  We seek out any opportunity, slim though it may be, to stand close to something, uh, space-y.  Field trips to an observatory, to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum or, if we’re lucky, to see a launch at Cape Canaveral bring squeals of delight.  But you have to admit, we have greater challenges finding a way to immerse ourselves in setting details for planets that exist only in our minds.

That’s why, in a way, I “cheat” by setting parts of my stories here on Earth.  (That’s true of the first two of my Interstellar Rescue series, at least.  The third book, Fools Rush In, is set entirely in space.)  It helps me as a writer, but I think it also helps the reader relate to the story.  If some of the places are familiar, then a reader new to SFR might have an easier time accepting the introduction of more alien places and ideas.  Of course, my ulterior motive is to hook these new readers and draw them in.  If they like the first two books in my series, then I’m hoping they’ll follow me into the more alien territory of the third book.

Meanwhile, outside forces are working independently to help me out.  Recently I discovered a website devoted to the history and culture of towns and counties along U.S. 219 through the Appalachians of West Virginia and southern Maryland (traveling219.com).  That highway is the back road my hero and heroine Ethan and Asia are forced to take to avoid the black ops kidnappers who are searching for them in Unchained Memory.  Now you can click on the link, and follow the route, learning about the history of the area as you read about places like Marlinton, where my lovers are holed up in a motel, or Elkins, toward the end of the route.

As my characters continue north, they enter the Adirondacks, specifically headed for a place called Big Moose Lake.  Yes, it really exists.  I’ve been there, as part of a road trip I took to follow their route.  I stayed at a bed and breakfast on the lake (in the book, they stay at his family lake house), in an area known for summer vacation homes. 

I had come up with both the route north and the location of the lake house simply by looking at a map.  I knew West Virginia, having family in the area, but the Adirondacks were new to me.  All I had to go on there was a long-ago trip to my husband’s family place in upstate New York.  Luckily I have a good mind for the details of setting and an even better imagination for using them.  When I got to Big Moose, it was as if I’d been there before.  All I can hope now is that my readers feel the same way.

The journey for Ethan and Asia begins in Nashville, Tennessee, where I grew up and still have both friends and roots.  Nashville is the starting place for the hero and heroine in my second novel, Trouble in Mind, too.  It just goes to show that even if we’re writing science fiction romance about aliens and spaceships and faraway planets, we’re still grounded in our own experience.  It helps if we can make that experience as rich and real for our readers as possible.

Cheers, Donna






Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pippa's Journal & The Dreaded 'Sales' Word

Mission Success - Hallow's Eve Tour

So my paranormal short released last week, and this week the tour is in progress. You can check out the tour stops below. And how's it been going?

Well, none of my books are ever a straight tearaway success. Something that is quoted a lot about being a successful author in a niche genre is that it's a marathon, not a sprint. I've spent four years building my platform and readership as a Skiffy Rommer...and at this late stage I'm now diversifying into paranormal, superheroes, YA... So I almost have to start again in terms of finding fans in those genres, particularly the YA.

One thing I can say for sure is setting Hallow's Eve up for pre-order certainly made release day a lot less stress for a self publisher, and I'd do it again. It left me free to pimp, and to update my blog and website for the new release, instead of tearing my hair out when things didn't work and feverishly checking to see if it was up.

Tour Schedule for Hallow's Eve

13thWinter Bayne Fairies, Imps and Sprites
15th - Going from Somebody to Nobody Three Little Things (story inspiration)
17thLiza O’Connor Red Hair Rocks
19thKristina Stutts How to make a Woman
20th - Layna Pimentel Review
21stCelia Breslin All Hallows’ Eve
22ndSonya Clark Interview
24thPatty Hammond Five Facts about Hallow’s Eve
25thParanormal Reads Review
27thLiana Brooks Hodge’s Spiced Elderberry Cordial
26th+27th – Paranormal Romantics Interview
30th - Mark of the Stars Five Facts about Witchcraft

One thing I rarely talk about (in public anyway) is my book sales. Well, other than to occasionally sob on the virtual shoulders of my friends and fellow authors when I have a bad month. Despite the internet, it's harder and harder to get your book noticed because there are soooo many others out there. Like over 10 million on Amazon alone. If you said ten titles per author, that's one million authors. ONE MILLION. How do you get heard out of that lot? I'm still trying to figure it out.

Another reason I don't mention sales figures is because I think it would be disrespectful to my publishers to reveal exact figures. It's like discussing what you get paid with your work colleagues and having them complain to the boss that so-and-so is on a better pay scheme. But one thing that I've seen as being a 'guaranteed' sales boost is more titles (of course, there's no such thing as guaranteed in business, but I'm talking in general terms of relatively). And I'm going to tell you that I think that is true.

Okay, so I'm not in multiple sales figures per day--that much I will tell you. But since Tethered released in July, and with Restless In Peaceville coming out in August, my sales have been steady to date. And they've been my best ever. I don't think I'm going to hit any best seller lists just yet (although Tethered has sat at #5 on my publisher's website for scifi romance since August, then jumped to #4 at the end of September), but steady sales are unusual for me in the two and a half years I've been published. So I am cautiously optimistic. I had another release just last week and the tour kicks off today (details below), and I still have two more to go for this year. It's been exhausting and I don't think I'd do it at this rate again. But it's given me a good range of titles in varying genres, lengths and prices which I hope will give me a broader appeal (scifi romance is still painfully niche). It'll be interesting to see how it goes come January 2015 when they're all out together. Plus I'm attending BristolCon in just over a week, to put myself 'out there' somewhere other than the internet.

No, I won't be giving you exact figures. But I will let you know if it causes any jumps or changes in sales. In the meantime you should check out Cary Caffrey's series on marketing at the Brigade blog (I'm going to confess I've not kept up to date with them myself because I'm so snowed under, but I'll be looking through them after BristolCon).

Happenings

Scream! For the Cure:

Last Friday the first goodie basket was auctioned off for this cancer charity event, and the next is up for display HERE (this time a HUGE bundle of erotic romance). Please consider stopping by and lending your support by sharing the event even if you can't contribute. I even bared my soul and told my own story HERE. I didn't expect talking about it to be quite so painful, but it's for a good cause.

BristolCon:

I am freaking out a bit, I'll admit. I'm not the world's most sociable person, so putting myself in front of strangers is a nerve-racking experience. Fortunately I will not be alone. I did a practice set up of my table (I'm sharing with the awesome Misa Buckley so I think I may have to budge up a bit) but here's what I have so far. If anyone has any advice or suggestions for me, I'd appreciate it! Just ten days to go. *gulp*


Romancing the Genre:

I have my monthly stint on RTG on Friday, this month talking about my near death experience. Come and found out what it was, and what went through my mind HERE.

NaNoWriMo is coming! I was supposed to spend this month planning, but between preparations for BristolCon, releasing Hallow's Eve, and all the usual little tasks I have around the interwebs and at home, I haven't done a whole lot. I tentatively sketched out a plot for the WDF sequel...and got sidetracked by a sequel to Tethered, a sequel to RIP, and trawling through some of my older WIPs that I really should finish off. So what am I doing for NaNo? Come back in November and find out - I might even know myself by then. O.O

In the meantime, I've being doing some work toward Keir. Specifically, a key tattoo on his stomach that is also mentioned elsewhere in the book...and in other related stories. OooooOOOOooooOOO! Yep, not telling you anything else. But these are the two current designs under consideration (the final design will also be going onto the Redemption series books). Which do you prefer?



News

I finally have a definitive release date for my superhero romance! When Dark Falls will be out on the 21st November. You can check out the blurb and add it to your Goodreads TBR shelf HERE. Still loving that cover.


Ping Pong

Congrats to Donna on a safe move and a happily married daughter!

Friday, October 10, 2014

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN



I’m ba-a-a-ck!  I’m moved in.  My lovely daughter is married (and currently enjoying a well-deserved beach honeymoon in Cancun) and I’m free to return to my usual pursuits.  No more excuses! 







So, yes, I’m faced with this:






On the writing front, at least, I have edits to keep me from facing that eternally blinking cursor for a while.  The editor and I are polishing Trouble in Mind, as we get ready for its debut in mid-2015.  The third book in the Interstellar Rescue series, Fools Rush In, is in final draft stage.  I’m incorporating comments from my beta readers on that space opera noir that will be hitting the market in early 2016.  (Oh, and I should have a cover launch coming up for Unchained Memory soon.  Watch this space!)

But work will inevitably have to start back up on the fourth book in the series (tentative title Follow the Sun), and the short story I started a while back to generate interest in the series, “Saturday Night in Devils Holler”.  Yikes!  My brain feels rusty and slow.  Who are these people and what are they doing?  These notes make absolutely NO SENSE!

But it’s okay.  I got this.  Writing is what we do, right?

As I come back from my extended immersion in family affairs, it will be more difficult to reestablish all my social networking connections.  I’ve been unplugged from Facebook for at least a month and haven’t cruised my usual websites to comment in at least that long.  Folks who know me mostly as a frequent commenter or poster must be thinking I’ve dropped off the edge of the earth.  When they think of me at all.  That’s the problem with social networking.  If you aren’t present, you don’t exist.  I’ve got to re-create that presence and put some energy into it ASAP.

I’ll be spiffing up my website and creating a new author page on Facebook in the next few weeks.  It so happens my website host, GoDaddy, is offering a new deal for upgrading my website (unlimited pages and other goodies) that looks very attractive.  I also want to start my own YouTube channel.  Then I could interview authors, do readings, get my artsy friends to do graphics and do other fun things. (Yeah, that’s ambitious, but easier in my mind than Twitter.)

Now that I think about it, the next few months promise to be pretty exciting!

PING PONG

--Congrats, Pippa, and best wishes for another successful launch!  You are on fire, girl!  And don’t forget, everyone, today is the day for the Scream! for the Cure cancer auction charity event.  Click here for more information.

--Yay, Laurie, I’ll be coming to RT, too!  Can’t wait to experience all the fun for the first time with you and Barbara.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Release Day - Hallow's Eve #paranormal #romance

EXCERPT | GOODREADS
Available at... ARe
Amazon US | Amazon UK
Smashwords | B&N
Mission Success!

It's release day for Hallow's Eve, my sweet paranormal romance short! I've been waiting on this for a whole year, rather like my hero. Lol. This is my first holiday themed story, the first paranormal I wrote, and the first time I've used the pre-order option. Wow, that's a lot of firsts for what is my fourth self published title (fifth if you include my involvement in the Kindle edition of Tales from the SFR Brigade). So yes, I still had things to learn. I had major issues with formatting, to the point where the lovely Stephanie Pajonas had to bail me out by doing my conversions for me. I was surprised by the wait on Amazon for it to go live - Smashwords takes an awful lot of preparation, but if you do it right it goes through fairly quickly (two and a half hours prep, btw). All Romance eBooks is fiddly, but providing you have your formats for upload prepped beforehand, it only takes a few moments to upload and have it live (but you need an ISBN, which is why I had to do SW first). Amazon is the least work in uploading, but I had to wait nine hours before it was up. So I think in future I would load up the Amazon one first, then SW. And much to my surprise (considering how long it usually takes them to put up a book at all), B&N had it up for pre-order the day before release. That also makes pre-order worthwhile!

And does pre-order make a difference? Well, it's just as much obsessive watching of the number of pre-orders as it is the number of sales. I'm curious to see how much of an actual boost it might give me on release day (because Amazon runs on US time and I'm UK, I may not actually see a result until tomorrow). However, as a self publisher it takes out a HUGE amount of the stress involved getting a book live for a specific release date, and that makes it a bonus to me whatever way you look at it. Being able to upload even a few days before release means I can have buy links earlier to send out in a press release, and means I can spend the actual release day enjoying the release instead of feverishly trying to upload, rushing it and possibly making mistakes, and gives me time to check for errors as well as create a bit more pre-release buzz. As it is, with all the paperwork for the tour and two other releases sitting on my computer, not having to upload the day before the release saved me working right through the night to get it all done!

Blurb:

When love comes home...

Twelve months ago, Hal's world crashed and burned, taking the love of his life with it. He's waited all year for that one special night when the souls of the departed come home, hoping his candle will summon back one in particular to heal his broken heart. But the forbidden knowledge he's learned could call something far worse, and put more than his own soul at risk...

Giveaway:




a Rafflecopter giveaway

The official tour begins next Wednesday, but the international giveaway is already open and will run until the end of October. Enjoy!

A Writer's Space

Since Donna and Laurie have both shared their writing spaces...well, had to post mine. My first desk was here (and this is where Keir was written).


This is, however, the home computer, which I had to share with the other four members of the family, AND occupies one corner of what is our dining room and kids games room. Right now the computer isn't working and I've just cleared it of junk for the second time in a year - that empty desk space just invites people to dump stuff. Sigh. The nearby wall is also a gallery for my book covers, though I'm sadly well behind in updating it.


The new family computer is a laptop that is mine during school hours, but is also for homework use for the older two monsters. However, it has the advantage that my 'office' during the summer is this...


With winter coming, my 'desk' is my lap, and my 'office' either the living room sofa or my bed - the latter gets the benefit of what sunlight is available in the shorter days. I dream of a desk and office all to myself one day...

Happenings

Scream! For the Cure - the first auction for the cancer charity event takes place this Friday, and you can check out the awesome paranormal romance goodie bundle HERE (pssst, Hallow's Eve and Restless In Peaceville are both part of the package!)

Hallow's Eve tour - this kicks off next Wednesday and I'll post the schedule then.

BristolCon - I'm gearing up for my first convention as an author (and my first in more years than I care to admit to!). If you're at the con on the 25th, please stop by the dealers room and say hi to me and Misa!

Print release dates for Restless In Peaceville and Tethered. Last week my publishers Breathless Press and Lycaon Press announced a print release schedule. I'm excited to be able to reveal that two of my books (so far) will be coming out in print format. Restless will release on the 11th February and Tethered on the 3rd March. In these days of digital presses, and many small presses not offering print formats at all, I'm stoked about two books going to print. You still can't beat holding an actual paperback!

Upcoming releases - When Dark Falls (superhero romance) in November, No Angel (futuristic urban fantasy) in December, and my newly contracted YA dystopian romance Zombie Girl: Dead Awakened is set for late April 2015. As for Keir...sigh. I can't tell you. 2015 is the best I can promise for now. But the cover reveal for No Angel is now set for the 29th October!

Ping Pong

Laurie - envious of your visit to RT, but enjoy!
Donna - congrats on your settling in and on the wedding of your daughter. May they live long and prosper!
Sharon - congrats on juggling such a busy schedule.

Monday, October 6, 2014

RT Booklovers Convention...Here I Come!

MISSION SUCCESS
Laurie's Journal

This week's post will be short and sweet being that I'm juggling multiple writing and personal life priorities, but I wanted to announce that I've just signed up for the mid-May RT Booklovers Convention in Dallas, which will be my first RT evah! (Or in Rocky Horror speak...Virrrrgin!)

You can view the conference details on the RT Booklovers Convention site, or check in via Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/RTBookloversConvention

I'm excited about the event, but even more enthused that I'll also be meeting longtime critique partner, fellow CCer and general online cohort Barbara Elsborg, for the very first time. Barbara and I go back to the early days of my quest to pursue publishing in 2007. (She's long since accomplished her goal and now has some 30 novels and many short works published.) She's also a frequent patron here at Spacefreighters Lounge.

*waves to Barbara and slides a frothy Billins down the bar to her*

I've never been to Dallas other than a very short stint to a non-hub area where I spent all my time inside a (non-writers') conference hotel, so I hope to enjoy some sightseeing and general tourist geekery, too.

IN OTHER NEWS

I'm pushing forward for my January/February author debut with a SFR novelette, Farewell Andromeda--a story that takes place in the same universe as my coming full-length novel, which will be first in a new SFR series.

Progress report: Both works will be going out to editors in mid-October.

If you missed my big announcement in a past post, you can view it and get a sneak peek at the series and opening chapter of the first novel here:

Announcing Launch of a New SFR Series

I'm considering putting the cover for my first novel out to competition through 99designs. I've a vague idea for an image concept, but I'll leave it up to a variety of talented graphic artists to interpret my idea or create their own design that will capture the epic feel and scope of the work.

Fellow Spacefreighter Sharon Lynn Fisher went this route for one of her novels and I fell in love with the cover she ended up selecting for the first installment of her erotic short story series. Check it. Garden Rules cover design.

PING PONG

Congrats to Donna on a successful move and for her daughter's marriage this weekend. She wrote a lovely blog post about the event on Friday: Every Bride Needs a Hero

And three cheers to Pippa for her latest cover reveal, Rafflecopter giveaway and Scream! For the Cure charity event. Read all the details here: Make a Halloween Wish Title and Cover Reveal

Kudos to Sharon for continuing to juggle two very successful careers as both a RITA-Award nominated published author and a professional editor for SilkWords. Sharon's next SFR from TOR will be out in February! In case you missed it, here's the past news: Echo 8 Release Date: February 3 

And don't miss this! Sharon's first SFR novel from TOR, Ghost Planet, is now up for a drawing on Goodreads! Halloween is the drawing deadline.

Ghost Planet was both a RWA Golden Heart finalist and a RITA finalist for Best First Book!

Good Reads Giveaway: Ghost Planet

Are you planning to attend the Dallas RT in May? Please comment and let me know. I'd love to meet you there!

Have a great week!

Friday, October 3, 2014

EVERY BRIDE NEEDS A HERO



My youngest daughter is getting married this weekend. As modern brides are wont to do, she found her future husband on her own, thank you very much, and did quite well. 
 
But if her father and I had had to search the ends of the earth for a mate for her, I imagine the process would have been much like creating a hero for the heroine in one of my novels.  For my smart, sassy, kickass, yet vulnerable, woman, I’d have to have a man who provided all the right qualities:

--Respect.  Sometimes heroes must learn this lesson the hard way, as the heroines teach them how they need to be treated.  Memorable sparring scenes—Don Alejandro de la Vega (Zorro) and the beautiful Elena with swords, the characters played by Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT with witticisms and body language—are made of this educational process.  My heroines—all of them-- are very good at this.

--Loyalty.  He must choose her above all others and be dedicated to her through all the obstacles life throws in their way.  Aragorn waited decades for the chance to be with Arwen.  I can’t imagine him partying with any of the tavern wenches on the Northern borders while he was separated from his true love.

--Dependability.  If Jim Kirk’s crew was surrounded by Klingons, you could depend on him to find a way to save them.  If my heroine is stranded on a dark road late at night, her hero better be there in a flash to pick her up—every time.  That implies he has a working vehicle, a phone and a paycheck—or the galactic equivalent.

--Humor.  A hero who can’t laugh at himself—or the crazy world we live in—just isn’t much fun, either to read about or to live with.  You have to love Captain Mal’s sardonic humor in the face of gloom, or Han Solo’s grumpy one-liners.  My heroine needs a guy who can make her laugh.

--Broad shoulders.  Most times you can laugh, but sometimes even the strongest heroine just has to cry.  That’s when a heroine needs a guy with a sensitive side, who will be supportive and “there” for her.  Jamie Fraser can swing a claymore with the best of them, but Claire loves him (as do the rest of us!) because he never fails to tune in to her emotions.  He lends her his strength when she needs it, so she can be there for him, too.

--Passion.  Lest our hero begin to sound too much like a Golden Retriever, we must add this final quality.  The word conjures images of, well, stuff moms are not supposed to think about in connection with their daughters, but passion encompasses much more than just the physical aspects of love. Think of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood climbing to Maid Marian’s window to profess his love.  He’s enthusiastic, athletic, full of energy and life.  He loves this woman!  He wants the world to know it, though that would get them both thrown in a dungeon.  Will you take this woman?  Hell, yeah! That’s what I want for my heroine.

Lucky for my daughter, she has managed to find a hero with all of these qualities.  She couldn’t have done better if I had written him myself.  So here’s to Jessie and Tyler, the hero and heroine of this story of true love, and their happily ever after.








Cheers, Donna