Friday, June 22, 2018

SFRB Recommends #82: Escape From Zulaire by Veronica Scott

Andi Markriss hasn’t exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn’t about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane’s say-so—no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.

Deverane was thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigned him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Suddenly his mission to protect this one woman has become more than just mere orders.

I shortened this excerpt, because I think the events are fun enough to discover on their own.

This novel takes place over a very short period of time, and the world of Zulaire springs to life quickly. Rich sensory detail makes the environments vivid. Scott sets up several intriguing cultures and factions that left me wanting to spend more time in Zulaire. 

The action and chase scenes are clear and well-paced. The baddies are creepy. The blend of action movie and intriguing worldbuilding is not one I find often.

This recommendation by Lee Koven.
Author/book site: Escape from Zulaire - Veronica Scott

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Empires by @egmanetti


by EG Manetti

The history of the world is marked by the rise and fall of empires, the climb to enlightenment followed by a crash into anarchy. Leading me to the question, what if that cycle continues forever? Like the phoenix, human society emerges from the ashes, flourishes, flies, and then implodes in a burst of fire?  What would the rise look like in a future millennium in a galaxy, far, far away?  These questions gave birth to the Twelve Systems Chronicles. 




Set in the society that emerged from the ashes of three centuries of warfare, The Twelve Systems revere honor, physical courage, and commercial success.  There are few taboos around sex and a great many around love. Race, gender, sexual orientation are matters of indifference, while genetics and social class define individual futures, and a handful of the super wealthy control the known the galaxy.  Because, at its core, the series is an epic romance, the heroine is imperiled, and the hero is wealthy, powerful, and dangerous.  Because I love world-building, intrigue, and flouting convention, Lilian is not as vulnerable as she first appears, the Twelve Systems are soon to be rocked by galaxy altering events, and Lucius may discover he is not quite the master-of-the universe he thought he was. Or maybe he is. 

In’Dtale has described the Twelve Systems Chronicles as ‘some of the very best in Science Fiction action and romance . . . Wow! This series just keeps getting better and better!  Ms. Manetti develops each character and plot line with such exquisite nuance that the journey of discovery is a delight to enjoy. . .  few are more deftly written or more excitingly addictive.  The worlds are intricate and realistic; the characters are both heroic and flawed. The star that shines brightest, however, is Lillian.’   For more the chronicles, check out the February 2018 feature article. http://magazine.indtale.com/magazine/2018/february/#?page=30 




I did not set out to author an epic series, but Lilian, Lucius, and the inhabitants of the Twelve Systems had other ideas. I planned the narrative to be single POV, Lilian’s.   Lucius was not having it, so now it’s multiple POVs.  I know how the adventure ends, and there will be a happily-ever-after because for all the world-building, intrigue, perils, battles, and challenges, it is a romance. 

All five volumes are available in e-book on multiple platforms, and the first volume, The Cartel, is perma-free.  Print versions are available through Amazon. Find links to your favorite bookseller here: http://egmanetti.com/the-twelve-systems-chronicles/.

»◊«

Her midsection tight with anxiety, Lilian scans the chamber for its occupant. Lilian registers a massive black enamel desk with an impressive techno array and a large scarlet leather chair. Her gaze finds the long scarlet leather couch facing a wall-sized reviewer, and the remainder of the sumptuous furnishings fades into the ether. Honor knows not fear. Honor endures. Honor . . .

A hidden door recesses, and a man walks through. His arresting aquiline features have a dark olive cast, his powerful form that moves with the confident grace of someone well familiar with the training facilities. His tunic shirt clings to a well-defined torso, jacket missing. Lucius Mercio is a tall man. Somehow, Lilian had not realized he would be so tall. Tall for a woman even in her low heels, she fits under his chin. Without shoes, she will barely reach his shoulders.

His Preeminence’s dark, deep-set eyes travel over Lilian, measuring and assessing. Honor acts as duty commands.

“You are Lilian.” The statement is made in coolly clipped tones as the long frame folds into a chair by the chrome and crystal conference table. He leans back with elbows resting on the chair arms, the long fingers steepled. Legs spread.

“Yes, milord.The ancient courtesy comes to Lilian’s lips more easily than she’d expected.
There is silence as milord examines her from beneath hooded lids. The strong features are impassive, intimidating.

It is too disturbing to look at his face. Look over his head at the Five Warriors print on the far wall.
Lilian has lost her cartouche, her father, her honor, and her status as a warrior. She is all but destitute. 

She is not guilty of Remus Gariten’s crimes, only of carrying the foul criminal’s blood. It is an offense she can redeem with a three-year Trial by Ordeal. She will not regain all she has lost. Lilian will never again be a warrior. She will retain her life and the right of every inhabitant of the Twelve 
Systems to forge advancement in commerce through skill, determination, hard work, and ruthlessness.

“I will expect you at eighth bell each morning to report status and receive instruction.” The terse words and quiet tones express milord’s will, the expectation of complete obedience.

“Yes, milord.”

“All that occurs in this chamber is sealed to my security-privilege.” Lucius Mercio will have naught of his affairs revealed without his express consent.

“Yes, milord.” He has yet to touch her. In Lilian’s peripheral vision, the scarlet couch looms large.

“All that remains of your family are your mother and sister living here in the city.” It is a statement, although a question is implied.

The abrupt change in topic unbalances Lilian. It causes her to catch her breath and drop her eyes to her interrogator’s face. Her concern with the couch dissipates under the weight of greater concern.

“Yes, milord.” Did he notice the brief delay in her response? Focus on the Five Warriors.

“Have you doubt of your father’s guilt? Hold you any fanciful notion of cleansing the Gariten name and regaining warrior status?” The words are harsh.

Stunned by the question and its implications, Lilian again drops her gaze to milord, wondering if she has handed herself over to the deranged. What a ludicrous notion. Do not voice that. Milord’s gaze is unwavering, commanding. He requires something. What? An acknowledgment. Piracy, fraud, decadents dealing, illegal servitude, and lotteries—the list of crimes that sentenced Gariten to the Final Draught and Lilian to three years of indentured servitude is long, ugly, and undeniable. “There is no doubt, milord. Remus Gariten was guilty of every transgression of which he was convicted.”

And a great deal more.

“Come here, Lilian.” At the quiet command, Lilian’s heart lurches.

Here? Where here? Walk toward the seated man. Where to stop? In the end, Lilian is unable to force a step past the invisible plane defined by the edge of milord’s knees. Milord reaches out with one hand to grip her waist and tug her closer until her knees press against the edge of the chair, his legs on either side of her thighs. He will instruct you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Have You Written Too Much of a Good Thing? by @vscotttheauthor



 888

Have You Written Too Much of a Good Thing?
By Veronica Scott

I’ve been judging romance author contests again this year, for unpublished manuscripts, and I have a few thoughts based on common issues I’m seeing.

NOTE: I won’t discuss any specific entries I’ve seen in the contests and any examples I give here will be hypothetical, invented by me based on exposure to a ton of manuscripts, not from actual contest entries. 

A theme this year in what I consider to be problems is the issue of the author doing too much. 

What I mean by this falls into several buckets. First, many authors including myself do a lot of research. Even for our scifi romances set on other planets, we may research all kinds of topics from viruses to rare birds to extreme environments. The author ends up with a lot of arcane information that actually won’t ever appear in the plot but which undergirds the reality of the world and is intended to help the reader feel the authenticity. So far so good. Where it becomes a problem is when the author can’t help themselves and has a character or two spend inordinate amounts of time explaining why the xyzfisher birds of Planet Marvelous 6 have the unusual nesting habits they do and what their favorite plants are, which leads to a discussion of exobotany as well, for example. If the information doesn’t advance the story, trim it out (don’t delete it – word building is important – but don’t overwhelm us either)! If your characters are going to hide out in an xyzfisher nest, then ok, maybe you can provide a bit more relevant detail for us.

You know how a backstory infodump is a bad thing and stops the book’s momentum dead? Well so does a too detailed, shiny research-inspired infodump.

A variation on this is the inclusion of a nice scene that’s really kind of pointless on the overall plot when you stand back from the book, but which allows the author to showcase a whole bunch of research. I wish I could share the last two examples of this that I saw but alas, I promised no real examples. The scenes were well written, polished gems and carried the reader along…for a while, until I said, wait a minute, why the heck am I so deep into the step-by-step technique for creating gilded ceramic seashells (made up example) when all that’s really needed is a one or two sentence mention that the hero has a couple on the shelf in his spaceship’s control chamber??? If these gilded knickknacks are actually going to be a plot point – the heroine throws them at him in a fit of pique or ransoms him from evil aliens using them or something – then GREAT, but again, no need for a long drawn out scene starting with the gathering of the right river sand with the appropriate silica content…

If you’ve developed 500 years of history for your complicated fantasy or scifi world and drawn the maps and traced the genealogy, okayyyy…but please don’t start the book with that. Unless you’re Tolkien or Asimov, I guess. Save it for a guest blog post, a ‘deleted extra’ for the newsletter or an author’s note on your blog…anywhere but that precious real estate of the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, where some readers are going to sample the book, yawn over the dry and meaningless-to-them-at-this-stage history lesson and go away without one clicking because they never got a taste of the real story your blurb promised. The odds are good they won’t be back for your next book either.

The second place an author can do too much of a good thing is with the extra touches. Introducing us to every resident of the colony and their phobias, pets and backstories as the heroine strolls from the spaceport to the bazaar in the first chapter, for example. Who does she actually need to interact with, that we need to remember? Make those few people ‘real’ for the reader with the names and a relevant detail or two.

The times I’ve seen this kind of thing done recently (in more than one unpubbed manuscript, of varying genres) I kid you not – there were pages of this type of encounter and the mind boggled. Well, this reader’s mind boggled anyway. As with everything, your mileage may vary.

The third category of too much of a good thing is a scene that you the author are loving writing and have so many more cool, nifty ideas to add into that one scene that you just keep going and going and going…um, what was the plot of the book itself again? Why have we now spent fifty pages in Esmeranne’s back yard fighting off an endless horde of alien mercenaries, each with his/her/its moment in the twin suns, complete with unique weapon and method of fighting? Unless you’re going to be selling action figures online, maybe trim back to two or three key bad guys, let her beat them or they capture her after a nicely choreographed fight scene and let’s move along.

Have I ever done any of the above? Oh undoubtedly! I especially have to resist being a walking treasure trove of ancient Egyptian lore and not inserting ALL of it into my books because it is so freaking COOL and I know you’d love to know all of it too. Wouldn’t you? (Peers hopefully into the computer screen waiting for permission to start the data dump…) Okay, maybe not then.

I do realize that there are readers who relish more in depth world building and sharing of infinite details than I personally do. What I try to caution against in my contest feedback is getting carried away with the sheer joy of having created all these nifty things/names/words/scenes and allowing them to overwhelm your book’s momentum, especially in the crucial first few chapters. The reader is there for the story you promised in the blurb, with the main characters facing difficult times and decisions, with high stakes.

Don’t give in to the temptation to add too much other fun stuff and cause the actual story (and the hero and heroine) to go drifting away from the reader’s attention.

888
 



Veronica Scott is a USA Today Best Selling Author, whose most recent book is JADRIAN: A Badari Warriors SciFi Romance, with genetically engineered warriors of the future and the human women who love them…

“SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories. 

Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!

She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”


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JADRIAN Blurb and Buy Links: 

Taura Dancer has been pushed to her limits by alien torturers known as the Khagrish and is ready to die when suddenly the lab where she’s held as a prisoner is taken down by an armed force of soldiers.

The man who rescues her from a burning cell block is Jadrian of the Badari, a genetically engineered alien warrior with as many reasons to hate the Khagrish as Taura has. This set of shared past experiences and the circumstances of her rescue create an unusual bond between them.

Safe in the hidden base where Jadrian and his pack take her, Taura struggles to regain her lost memories and overcome constant flashbacks during which she lashes out at all who come near. Only Jadrian can recall her from the abyss of her visions and hallucinations.

As the war against the Khagrish continues, it becomes increasingly critical to find out who she really is and how she can help in the fight. Until she can control her terrors and trust her own impulses, Taura’s too afraid to pursue the promise of happiness a life with Jadrian as her mate might offer.

When he’s captured by the dreaded enemy, will she step forward to help save him, or will she remain a prisoner of her past?

Amazon     B&N    Kobo      Google  iBooks


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Not Fade Away Puts Heroine On The Edge by @DonnaSFrelick


Hi, I’m Donna S. Frelick, and for those of you who don’t know me, I write Romance at the Edge of Space and Time, most notably the Interstellar Rescue series of SFR novels. 

Now, you might think that “edge” would mean the far boundaries of the deep galaxy, where so much of space adventure happens—distant planets, uncharted systems, wormholes to nowhere you’d want to be. And, yes, some of what I write takes my readers to those parts unknown. In Fools Rush In, the third novel in my stand-alone series, (and a 2016 SFR Galaxy Award winner), my characters spend all their time on that final frontier, a familiar one for fans of space opera.

But there is another kind of boundary at which different worlds may meet. On one side of this invisible frontier, the world we think we know seems familiar and “normal.” We go to our jobs, we live our lives and the future seems predictable. 

On the other side of that boundary, what I call “the edge of space and time,” what Rod Serling called “The Twilight Zone,” what others might have called “The Fringe,” contemporary SFR, or material for “The X Files,” the world is turned upside down. Aliens are real. Earth is a backwater, unaware a battle rages in the stars overhead. Between interstellar slavers and those who would end the evil trade. Between those who would exploit Earth and those who would save it.

The heroine of my latest novel, home care nurse Charlie McIntyre, crosses that invisible boundary without knowing it when she takes on a new client and his handsome son. Here’s the blurb for Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4, launching June 12.

Earth shielded his secrets--
Until her love unlocked his heart.

Rescue agent Rafe Gordon is human, though Earth has never been his home. But when his legendary father Del becomes the target of alien assassins, Rafe must hide the dementia-debilitated hero in the small mountain town where the old man was born—Masey, North Carolina, USA, Earth.

Home care nurse Charlie McIntyre and her therapy dog, Happy, have never had such challenging clients before. Del’s otherworldly “episodes” are not explained by his diagnosis, making Charlie question everything about her mysterious charge and his dangerously attractive son. Rafe has the answers she needs, but Charlie will have to break through his wall of secrets to get them.

As the heat rises between Charlie and Rafe, the deadly alien hunters circle closer. The light they seek to extinguish flickers in the gloom of Del’s fading mind—the memory of a planet-killer that threatens to enslave the galaxy.

 This excerpt from Not Fade Away shows a moment when Charlie begins to realize she may be standing on that edge—one she never knew was there before.

Above them the sky was full of stars, the cross-section of the Milky Way slashing through the diamond-studded dome overhead. There was no moon tonight to detract from this heart-stopping view of the heavens; no lights from nearby towns; no fire built against the cold. It might be just the two of them, the only humans on Earth, looking up at that magnificent display of creative power.
“It’s beautiful up here. Quiet.” Though Rafe’s voice was nothing more than a soft murmur, it seemed loud in that place. 
“Mmm.” It was a while before Charlie said what she said next. “Just think of all those stars. Maybe all those other worlds circling them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go there? To see what’s out there in all that wide space? What would it be like?”
Beside her, Rafe tensed. “Don’t you imagine long ago the tribal people in Africa stood on the western shore and looked across the ocean wondering what was on the other side before the slavers came for them? Be careful what you wish for.”
She sat up to look at him. Even in the darkness she could see his features had hardened, his jaw clenching, his lips compressing as in pain.
“Well, that was quite a jump.” She tried to keep her tone light. “What are you talking about?”
“There’s a scientist—Stephen Hawking—ever heard of him?” When she nodded, he went on. “He said once that you should pray Earth never does encounter alien beings. They will almost certainly be more advanced than you and out to do you harm.”
She noted the use of “you,” not “we” or “us.” Her pulse kicked up, and she shivered inside her warm jacket. Had she spent the evening with some kind of UFO nut?
She smiled, trying to distract him. “You sound like you have direct experience, Klaatu.”
He didn’t smile back. “Don’t need experience to agree with the guy. Maybe I just don’t like the idea of something snatching us up off this sweet little planet.”
 “But there could be good aliens, couldn’t there?” She was optimistic enough to believe it. Of course, there would be differences in alien civilizations—of culture and language. Of technology. Of biology, certainly. But there would always be good and evil, in any society. “Like E.T. Or Superman?”
His brows came together in a frown. “Not the kind of aliens I’m talking about. I don’t think.”


Donna S. Frelick has been a journalist, a Peace Corps Volunteer and an author of STAR TREK fan fiction. She was an RWA® Golden Heart® Double Finalist in 2012 for the first two novels in her contemporary SFR Interstellar Rescue series, and a 2016 SFR Galaxy Award Winner for the third book in the series, Fools Rush In.
Find her at http://donnasfrelick.com; blogging at http://spacefreighters.blogspot.com; on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DonnaSFrelickAuthor and on Twitter @DonnaSFrelick.



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