Sunday, July 31, 2011

Welcome To Our Newest Members

Please give our newest members a warm welcome to the ranks of the SFR Brigade!

Colette Duke

Imogene Nix

Isis Rushdan

PJ von Detweiler

Tyree Connor

Show your support and click the links above to visit their web sites.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Redefining the Brass Ring For Science Fiction Romance

Buzzzzzz. I’m going to stir up the proverbial hornet’s nest a bit here, so buyer beware!

Would you rather be a Big Fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?

Big fish make a big splash (you know, when doing their fishy acrobatics or whatever). That’s how I envision science fiction romance making a name for itself in the digital market.

Here’s why:

With many agents currently re-evaluating their role in the publishing process and authors seemingly being dropped left and right, is going after that increasingly elusive traditional print contract worth an author’s time and investment?

Yes, it’s a lovely dream, with its promise of a nice advance and mainstream exposure, but I think it’s a dream tied to the publishing industry of the past. In other words, it’s tied into the myth that every book has bestseller potential, along with the idea of celebrity authors. Unfortunately, reality has painted an entirely different picture.

Another way of looking at the issue is that SFR means nothing—nothing—to NY without humongous sales to prove its worth. That is a fact. And Big 6 publishers aren’t willing to take the risk of releasing SFR in numbers/print runs large enough to generate those big sales. If they’re not doing it for established authors, then why would they bother with debut ones?

I once read that when submitting to publishers/agents, authors should start “at the top.” Well, what does “the top” mean any more? A top where the doors are firmly shut? A top where distribution venues are crumbling into dust (Borders, I’m looking at you)?

Yes, paranormal romance broke out of the niche and went mainstream. But that happened over six years ago (counting from the release of Christine Feehan’s DARK PRINCE). We’re in a different time. The publishing industry is a far, far different animal then when paranormal romance made its mark. Different times call for different approaches.

And when mega-publishers like Harlequin start creating digital arms, you know change is in the air.

So why should authors writing a niche subgenre like SFR view traditional publishers as the only brass ring in town? In the time it would take to submit and hear back from 50 agents (if even that many will look at SFR submissions), an author could conceivably have written three four, five, six, or even seven shorts/novellas and sold them to epubs/small press publishers. And have made money from them within a year’s time!

Can we ignore that kind of math?

Here’s some math that will shed more light on the situation from Everything You Wanted to Know About Digital Publishing But Were Afraid To Ask: A Q&A With Maya Banks:

It is absolutely true that last year I made more in digital publishing than I did with Harlequin, Berkley and Ballantine combined. (and the year before too) I think I nudged out thethree publishers by about 20k. I grossed about 600k so you can do the math there.

How does a 30k advance from a traditional print publisher stack up against 600k in ebook sales? 600k wipes the floor with 30k, that’s how. That’s also the type of “top” worth an author’s blood, sweat, and tears. I doubt Ms. Banks made any kind of advance on her first ebook, but it seems to me her risk (and hard work) paid off.

Here’s some more math (of the anecdotal kind): I have more sci-fi romance to read than ever before—with no thanks to Big 6 publishers. 99.9% of my  new release TBR pile is SFR ebooks. In fact, I recently learned about three ebook sales within the same week—and that’s just what came to my inbox. Digital publishers have a much faster turnaround time than traditional print ones.

So, authors, if you want me and other SFR fans to read your books sooner rather than later, think about which strategy is more in your favor.

I propose that we forget about thinking in terms of “top.” SFR is a subgenre that demands a more creative kind of strategy. Like going sideways. Or diagonal.

Key elements of said strategy include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

*First and foremost, build sci-fi romance in the digital market. Feed the fish in the small pond until it’s too large to ignore.

*Take advantage of the freedom digital publishing offers to tell the stories you really want to write.

*Submit your SFR manuscripts where they’re wanted—needed—by folks who Get It. They already know this subgenre’s worth. They are also fans. With epubs, the doors are already open. You can’t beat that kind of validation.

*Treat the publication of SFR books like a business. There’s a creative side, a business side, and a marketing side. New markets and new technology demand the development of new skills. Learn them, or risk being left behind.

*Use the existing—and free—resources. The Web is loaded with information about navigating the ebook market at no cost to you. Have questions about epub contract terms? Plenty of authors are happy to help out. Have a sale to announce? Enlist those with blogs/Twitter/Facebook/Google + networks to help spread the word. And so on.

*Pay it forward by helping other authors in the same fashion (probably one of the most important strategies).

Undoubtedly for many writers, it’s a challenge to wrap one’s mind around the shift from the traditional publishing model to new ones. The publishing industry is in a period of transition. There are so many choices to make and goals to re-evaluate.

While print contracts are a laudable goal, and power to the authors who make it there, for most others it’s not realistic anymore. But that’s where the power of ebooks comes in. My hope is that by redefining the brass ring for science fiction romance, we (readers and authors) can benefit from a new approach to making this subgenre a success.

Whatever your thoughts on this subject, I would love to hear them.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Tag Party for 7/20/11!

This morning was the end of an astounding chapter in space flight. Atlantis touched down, the last shuttle in service, for the last time. I don't think I'm the only one in the world, but hubby gave me an odd look when I teared up. A moment's silence for all the courageous men and women who took part in this amazing experiment over the decades.

And now, on to our terrestrial pioneers, our brave SFR writers to TAG!

For our new cadets, a brief Tagging flight manual:

* Go to the Amazon buy page (I've included the links below)

* Scroll down to the Tags Customers Associate with this Product header

* Look for these tags: SFR, Scifi Romance, SF Romance, Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance - please feel free to add any extra tags you feel are appropriate to the work (i.e. Space Opera, Military SF, etc.)

* Don't forget your SFR Brigade Tag! (If it's already there, just point and click!)

* If the tags are already there, just click on them to add your 'vote'

* If not, type them into the 'your tags' box to add them (no need to save the page, just type and add)

* Don't forget the "Like" button at the top of the page!

For a list of past Tag Party books, come on over to the Book Launch and Tag Party Books page. Tagging is always welcome.

On to our Tag targets for this week!

The Z Word by Bella Street

Space Slugs, Vol 1 (first time as a collection!) by Frances Pauli

If YOU have works, new or old, that you would like featured in the weekly Tag Party, or if you just want to drool over all the recent superhero/SF movies with me, please drop me a line at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SFR - Does it need the sex scenes?

"First Duty" is the clean, YA version of a novel I sold to Eternal Press. This second version, "Ultimate Duty," has some semi-explicit sex scenes, but doesn't go into erotica as such.

When I rewrote the novella (originally published by Sam's Dot Publishing), I added 22,000 words so buyers would get their money's worth. The book sells around the $5-$6 range depending on the discounting.

But when I got back my right to First Duty, I did just a touch up and left it squeaky clean. Yeah, there's some romance, but I concentrated more on the SF side of the SFR. It sells for 99 cents. Not bad value for 38K words.

I'm only mentioning this to let you SFR writers know that there is a good market for SFR without explicit sex. I know. I know. Many readers want that in their books, but I don't think it hurts to consider those of us who get a bit red-faced when bodily parts are strewn across the pages as well as the people (and aliens).

So, I ask your opinion. If you've written no-sex SFR, how was it received by your readers? If you haven't, would you consider it to pick up a potential market?

Not a very inspiring cover, but I never claimed any artistic pretensions. First Duty is still only 99 cents even though I set the Kindle price to $2.99 for the 70% royalty.

Nyra Hutchings, a young woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her first duty lies, and fight for more than her life against impossible odds.

Much nicer cover thanks to Ally Robertson, but the Kindle price discounted is $6.69. Too bad. I think a better discount would sell more copies. It can be bought at Fictionwise for a bigger discount to $5.91.

Oath or love?What is her ultimate duty? Remy Belieux, a woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her ultimate duty lies, and fight for more than her life against impossible odds.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just to mention  I'm featured at Sky Purington's great Blog
HERE this week.

I haven't post here very much although I love SFR but for those who don't know me I write futuristic and fantasy romance.

Sky is also a fantasy writer and is so good at promoting other writers and I'd love it if you spare a moment to pop over to her blog and visit us - I'm also offering a couple of downloads of  my book 'Dancing With Fate' to two commentors.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ella Drake visits Australia

Thanks to cyber space fellow SFRBrigader, Ella Drake, is a guest author today on Kylie Griffin's blog.

If you'd like to know more about her latest release, her view on why readers like SFR and which author has impacted her most as a writer, then come on DownUnder and visit.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Small Band of Renegades: The Spirit of the SFR Brigade

Several years ago when the SFR Brigade was first forming as an idea, a handful of us tossed around some ideas for a motto. As a joke, I suggested "A Small Band of Renegades Terrorizing the Romance Genre." Except it wasn't really a joke. The Romance industry as a whole seemed to view Science Fiction Romance as one big fat oxymoron, and its writers and authors as orbiting the outer fringes of the acceptable definition of "Romance."

And then came Avatar, and with its millions of fans, renewed hope that the Romance audience now saw the wonder and mystery of love stories set in space, imaginative places or futures that someday might exist.

With the formation of the SFR Brigade, a new sector of Romance began to speak with a group voice of its own. We never expected it to be an easy journey, but with three generations of readers who grew up with Star Trek, Star Wars and now Avatar, and with an audience who employs constantly evolving technology and communications as an everyday part of their lives, maybe our time as a subgenre is nigh.

You've probably heard about Sherrilyn Kenyon's keynote speech, even if you weren't at the 2011 RWA Keynote luncheon in person or haven't read the recap in her Facebook notes. Our own Diane (Paula) Dooley summed up her experience in one beautifully concise statement:

Perseverance...thy name is Sherrilyn.

Ms. Kenyon's words were a tremendous inspiration to hundreds of writers, a not-so-subtle reminder to keep our eye on the goal, no matter the obstacles, the pitfalls...the rejections. Don't accept "no." Don't hear it. Don't see it. Keep striving.

In the words of a beloved Firefly captain, "Keep flying."

In the words of another often-quoted commander, "Never give up. Never surrender."

But there was something else Sherrilyn Kenyon said in the midst of her speech that made my ears perk and my imagination snap to attention. These were her words:

"We have a paranormal genre today because a tiny handful of us carved it out when it didn’t exist. We proved it was viable and we opened the doors for many others and I am proud to be a part of that."

Isn't this exactly our goal with the Science Fiction Romance subgenre? With great writers like Linnea Sinclair, Anne McCaffrey and Lois McMaster Bujold having blazed the flightpath, we, an under-read, underdog collective are determined to make Science Fiction Romance the NBT. To reach out to both the hearts and minds of our readers.

Keep writing, Brigaders. Keep creating your amazing stories that take readers to other worlds, other times, other dimensions, other futures.

Keep entering contests. Keep submitting. Keep pitching editors and agents.

And keep reading, reviewing and promoting great SFR.

Just like our web site motto, we are indeed Conquering the Universe, One Story at a Time.

Now that our space shuttle program is coming to a sad and regretful close, there may be no time like the present to reach for those distant stars, and to take our characters and readers there with us.

Better to explore the cosmos in our imaginations than not at all.

The First Rule of Flying by Captain Mal Reynolds (Firefly)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Martha's Bookshelf Interviews Pauline Baird Jones, Plus Giveaway

Martha's Bookshelf is currently featuring an interview with Pauline Baird Jones (STEAMROLLED). While there, you can enter for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How One Fantasy Writer Makes Use of RWA

I’ve rarely posted, so will do the quick intro: I’m Laurel Wanrow, writer of adult science fiction and YA fantasy romance.

RWA 2011 was my fifth Nationals Conference in four and a half years of membership. I fell into writing, as many of us do, bitten by the story bug. But after I completed that first novel, with no connection to anyone, I had no idea what to do with it. A speaker in a class mentioned his wife wrote romance novels. Published ones. I’d written a fantasy with a love story so asked what she’d done next: “She tells every writer to join Romance Writers of America.” So I did.
I attended my first local chapter meeting in May 2007. Everyone was talking about ‘Nationals’. When fellow Maryland Romance Writers member Kate Poole learned I had completed a manuscript, she urged me to attend and pitch at the 2007 conference in Dallas. It sounded exciting, plus, my parents live in Texas and I owed them a visit. I signed up for the pitch appointment and also scrambled and got PRO status to attend the PRO Retreat.

My ‘First Timer’ Nationals taught me a lot. PRO retreat offered the perfect introduction to my career and throughout the three days, workshops covered craft, career and publishing over many romance genres. All of them had something to offer my fantasy writing. Plus,since many of the special interest chapters only came together this one time per year, a number of additional activities could be found. Er, besides the bar and karaoke. I can’t claim to have hit everything, but here are a few tidbits.

First glad-I-did-it: Use the RWA Online Chapter when it opens for conference chatting. I found a roommate my first year when anyone I barely knew in the chapter was already in a committed (roommate) relationship.

Second glad-I-did-it: My also-newbie roommate had received the great tip to attend chapter functions to mingle. We pooled our groups and went to KOD’s Death by Chocolate party, Passionate Ink’s luncheon, From the Heart’s dinner—where Deidre Knight spoke to a small room of 25 of us. LOL, I was that green I had no idea how lucky I was—and FF&P’s The Gathering. Ah, I had found my tribe—people to talk fantasy with. Funny enough, I found my second genre group listening to the CDs: Who knew “Doing it with a Younger Guy” wasn’t about May-December romance, but YA?

Which leads to third glad-I-did-it: Though I missed that first YA workshop presented in person, I listened to it and all hundred and forty-some CD workshops. I strongly recommend buying the $99 CDs. Then you never have to worry about missing something. Except…
Fourth glad-I-did-it: Look at the symbols on the conference brochure. Some workshops aren’t recorded for various reasons. Of the handful this year, I went to Roxanne St. Claire’s “How Do You Mend a Broken Scene” and Jennifer Crusie’s “Collage: Visual Brainstorming.” (Fan girl moment!)

Fifth, and best, glad-I-did-it: Some workshops aren’t in the conference listings. They may notbe specifically in my genre, but I’ve had good experiences to add to my muse’s pool of ideas:
KOD offers a pre-conference tour with varied suspense or mystery-applicable topics. I attended one to a military base in Florida for a close up look at refueling and weather planes and parachuting.

With the Outreach Chapter I’ve been to the Spy Museum and Alcatraz. Not to mention ridden with fifteen people in a stretch limo.

In a one-day mini workshop hosted by Beau Monde and Hearts Through History chapters, I chose the medieval track and gleaned background in horsemanship, armory, foods and wiccan ways to add to my fantasy world.

Sixth glad-I-did-it: Talk to people. I love meeting up with writers and connecting over our journeys. I’m always learning something new. If I hadn’t asked Suzi Lazear about steampunk at the 2009 conference, I never would have been inspired to create a costume for the 2010 FF&P party and to start my latest WIP, a YA steampunk.

At some point Nationals is over and you have to come home. My last glad-I-did-it is to keep the inspiration going. Chapter meetings and workshops, reading craft books, listening to workshop CDs, online workshops, entering and judging contests; they all add to your writing experience.

Do you have any gems to share? Please do! Or share your best bets for SF/F conferences. I’ve only been to one: Darkover held near Baltimore over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s small, but has several tracks to choose from (including steampunk!) Please recommend others.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dressing For Success In The Zombie Apocalypse

Book One of Apocalypse Babes, The Z Word, follows Seffy Carter and her longtime friends Gareth, Addison and Lani. The four besties share a past dysfunctional and dark enough to keep them bound together under do-over identities. But rends develop in their relationships from the flesh-eating
pressures of ending up in 1980, in a Montana desert, surrounded by zombies wearing dated disco duds.

Oh, and the main character wears a pink velour Juicy Couture tracksuit*.

Why, you might ask? It might be because the tracksuit has magical properties. But at the very least, velour naturally repels blood and bodily fluids, keeping the victim looking smart while running for her life.

Smelling pretty is also very important during an apocalypse, especially in the midst of all that rotting flesh, so this author recommends Victoria's Secret Pink perfume. Light, feminine, and well, it's called Pink so it matches the tracksuit. One cannot underestimate the value of a well-matched ensemble.

Fitting perfectly in the kangaroo pockets of the J.C.tracksuit is an Amazon gift card. Wallets, contact lens solution, or cell phones are not of importance when fighting the zombie hordes. But when one finds a quiet moment in a mysterious, hidden compound, one longs for nothing more than a book to read, most likely delivered via Whispernet technology (not invented in the 80s, but the author feels certain Amazon would have a work-around).

Coincidentally, these items are prizes in my contest! Talk about dystopian serendipity!

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win and present a well-groomed, well-read appearance during your darkest days, get my book (it's free!). Then leave a review, tweet about it, blog about it (or whatever you can manage while decapitating shambolic fiends), and follow the directions at my website Apocalypse Babes. The contest ends Oct 6.

Seems like a long way off, but like a brain-hungry zombie, it'll creep up on ya!

*possible magical properties not included

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Brigade on Facebook

So here's my maiden voyage onto the brigade blog. Quick intro in case you don't recognize the name, I'm Jennifer L. Hart and I write SFR as myself and erotic futuristic as Jenna McCormick. And with the help of the amazing Paula Dooley, we are working on expanding the brigade's Facebook presence. We've already set up a Facebook fanpage here. Like the page and you are free to post covers and links for anything sci fi romance. The page is intended for readers and authors alike.

Also, we are working on making the brigade group more user friendly. The original brigade group was set up under the old facebook group status and is scheduled to be archived. What this means is, all the posts will still be available but we lose all the current members.

Paula has sent out this messages to all current brigade group members.
Paula Dooley July 7
Hi - I'm mailing you because you are a member of the SFR Brigade - a group that has not been as active as it could be. The aim of the group is to spread the good word about what many think will be the Next Big Thing in romance publishing - science fiction romance.

Jennifer Hart and myself have volunteered to revamp the group. We need to switch the group over to the new facebook format and, in doing so, we will lose all the current members. Many of you are friends with either myself or Jennifer. If you no longer wish to be a member of this group please reply so that we do not add you. If you are not friends with either myself or Jennifer, please send one of us a friend request and a reminder to re-add you to the group.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Paula Dooley

We will be setting up the new group this week but we can not bring you in unless you are on the friends list with one of us! Plans for the new group are more active discussions on how/ where to promote SFR, contest announcements, setting up SFR blog tours and all sorts of other good stuff.

So if you DO want to be part of the new group you need to send a friend request to either
Paula Dooley
Jenna McCormick
Jennifer L Hart

A quick message with" join SFR Brigade group" so we know you want to be added and then we are in business!

Any questions?

Friday, July 8, 2011

St. Louis Blues tap former Stars talent Langenbrunner and Arnott

St. Louis Blues tap former Stars talent Langenbrunner and Arnott

Hockey teams are wheeling and dealing this time of year and two former Dallas Stars players head to St. Louis to play under their old GM.

Slugs in Print

Space Slugs, the long running web serial by Frances Pauli, made its print and ebook debut in July. Join the crew of the Slug One for their revised adventures and the never-before-seen bonus story, Escape from Damas Prime included in all versions of the book.

SFR, with a healthy dose of silly humor....and slugs. The rough draft of book two, Slug Opera is also available as a free, ongoing serial at:

Space Slugs
by Frances Pauli

When Xenobiologist, Dr. Murray, receives yet another phony wedding invitation from her galaxy hopping sister, she does what any good sibling would do. She drops her research and hops the first flight to some obscure planet at the edge of the civilized universe. But Zora's weddings never manage to go off as planned, and before the cake is served, Murray finds herself imprisoned with the unapologetic bride. With the assistance of a mysterious android and the universe's last living space slug, the two find themselves on the run in a stolen space ship with half the galaxy in hot pursuit. Thanks to Zora, it's the least desirable half. Maybe Murray will get lucky, and the crash landing will kill her.

Website, galaxy guide and slugtionary at:


In Print:

and for Kindle:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday Tag Party for 7/7/11!

Ah, the scent of new blood. Breathe in deeply my friends... *cough...cough* I think I many have been out in the heat too long. The summer sun is so bad for night dwellers.

What I meant to sat was, this week, I'd like to introduce you to our newest Brigaders with a book apiece to Tag!

For our virgin Taggers, a bit of Tagging Kama Sutra:

* Go to the Amazon buy page (I've included the links below)

* Scroll down to the Tags Customers Associate with this Product header

* Look for these tags: SFR, Scifi Romance, SF Romance, Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance - please feel free to add any extra tags you feel are appropriate to the work (i.e. Space Opera, Military SF, etc.)

* Don't forget your SFR Brigade Tag! (If it's already there, just point and click!)

* If the tags are already there, just click on them to add your 'vote'

* If not, type them into the 'your tags' box to add them (no need to save the page, just type and add)

* Don't forget the "Like" button at the top of the page!

For a list of past Tag Party books, come on over to the Book Launch and Tag Party Books page. Tagging is always welcome.

On to our Tag targets for this week!

Feral Collection
by E.C. Belikov

Ambasadora by Heidi Ruby Miller

Midnight Reborn (Watchers Book 1)
by D. McEntire

I've said it before folks, I'll say it again: if you don't tell me what YOU want, you leave the choices up to the demented pixie (me.) If you have works, new or old, that you would like featured in the weekly Tag Party, please drop me a line at

Cool Scifi for a Hot Summer!

Navy Seals Scifi Adventure!

Blurb for 'Fugue'

Lt. Chad Meyer and his team of Navy Seals on a simple arctic training mission in the Gates of the Arctic National Park find more than bargained for when a normal day goes awry. Attacked by an unknown and deadly force, the team
now outgunned and out manned must fight for survival.

Chad, determined to safeguard the lives of his men, must use all of his courage, will and stamina to make sure that they survive against their non-human foe.


Giving, his second in command, Chief Petty Officer Easely, a slow nod, he and the rest of the team who had become alert to the change in their behavior, prepared themselves to go.

To our nine o'clock and watch my back,” Chad mouthed, knowing they had to get to cover. They were weapon‟s poor and needed to procure safe ground if they were to make it out alive.

Easely cracked the slightest of grins, signaling to Chad that it was a given. The rest continued talking casually as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. The adrenalin began pouring into Chad‟s veins. As if toying with them, the pebbles continued to fly through the air, pelting the trees in front of them. Taking one big breath, he bolted to his feet and headed towards the forest, away from the clearing. As they regrouped in the trees, they tapped each other‟s shoulder, one behind the other, assuring they were friendly and alive.

The pebbles followed them to the trees but this time with more force.

What the hell are they doing?” Easely asked in a harsh whisper.

Toying with us.”

Shit, if all they have are rocks then—” Easely said, just as an energy bolt popped a tree four feet in front of them. The smell of creosote filled the air.

Soon, the weapons fire came in barrages, pinning them. Then suddenly, bright beams of
light pierced the darkness. It was as if whoever was searching for them had a flashlight to see them. He and his team pinned their backs to the trees, unwilling to be spotted so easily. Looking toward the southern slope of the Brooks Range, the wind caused the clouds to shift at the top of one of its peaks.

Rushing down the mountain, it was not long before the frigid air reached them, causing moisture to run down Chad's nose. Shifting once again, the wind reversed its direction in the jumble of trees, and the lights went out as quickly as they came on. A barrage of fire soon followed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

RWA Nationals: The truth about "first sale"

Yesterday Laurie Green asked if I'd post about attending RWA as an author with a first sale. It was a lovely experience, and at least on paper it sounded like a good idea. But I hesitated.

I remember running into fellow Brigade member J.C. Hay in a Murdering Your Inner Critic workshop (okay, wasn't really the title, but that's what I'd have called it). As we were chatting he noticed my pink ribbon. His eyes went wide and he said, "You sold!"

I started bouncing and chirping, "I did, I did!" It was the first moment I really let anyone see my excitement. Why? Shouldn't I be walking on clouds and shouting it from the rooftops? (I think I'm up to my third cliche now, sorry.)

Marcella Burnard, Laurie Green, J.C. Hay
Nationals is an amazing environment when it comes to peer support. A couple thousand women (and a few hardy men) who truly get it. The hopes, the heartbreak, the joy in every tiny step forward…these people KNOW. And they are free with their enthusiasm and warm wishes.

But proud as I was of that ribbon, I didn't talk about it much. For me at least, there was an element of guilt, and I think probably many writers who've sold know what I'm talking about.

Every author knows how hard writers have to work, how we have to persevere through life's ups and downs, how we encounter rejection at every turn. There is bliss in that first sale, and a monumental feeling of accomplishment, but you don't ever stop thinking about your friends, critique partners, and peers who are still clawing their way up that muddy hillside.

You never forget the business of publishing is subjective, and hard as you work there is an element of luck in reaching the right editor with your story -- the editor who will love it enough to piggyback it through the flaming hoops on the path between editorial interest and actual publication.

What I feel more than anything is lucky, and blessed. For selling my book, but also for having the opportunity to share the excitement with the people who really get it. Despite all the discussion of lists, markets, and trends -- despite those high hopes on awards ceremony night -- fiction is not a competition.

When my editor told me the comparables she'd chosen for my book, they were other WRITERS. One writer's success opens the door for another.

* * *

Now, just for fun, if you had to choose a hybrid of two other books or authors that describes your work, who/what would they be?

* * *

Automatons, oh my! And a new market?

Got a couple of links for the Brigade. First up, Heather Massey blogged at Book Den about automatons! It's a fun blog, so please pop over and support her! Besides, there is a giveaway. :-)

Also, Cindi Myer's Market News blog has news from RWA. She spotlights Avon today. Was disappointed that their "all" romance markets didn't mention SFR, but there is interesting news, not the least, publishers "need? authors. Wow. Sounds like, for the first time in a long time, pubs were pitching to authors! Just past the Avon update, she posts a new market for speculative fiction! They don't seem totally in love with the idea of love in the books, but they do leave the door open.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Visit an Asteroid!

Think you can't participate in space exploration? Think again.

New Horizons is a NASA craft en route to Pluto and points beyond. (New Horizons has a Facebook page and a Twitter handle: FB -!/new.horizons1 Twitter - @newhorizons2015)

It's the 'points beyond' Pluto that bring me here today. Astronomers are asking for help in identifying potential asteroid bodies for New Horizons to visit. If you go to and log in, you can help mark asteroids in telescope images. From the marked images, NASA will pick a couple of asteroids for a New Horizons visit after its Pluto flyby. You will need IE 9 in order to view and mark the images. Go forth and ID asteroids. The one NASA picks may be yours.

RWA Nationals: Adventures of an Unpublished Author

View of Times Square from my room

The 2011 RWA National Conference ended days ago and yet my head is still spinning from the experience. I made a ton of new friends, learned invaluable information about the craft of writing, and received amazing opportunities to further my career. This was also the first time I had the honor to present a class for RWA. I offered a hands-on (or better yet, feet-on) workshop that demonstrated how dance has brought men and women together throughout time. The class was relatively small but larger than I’d expected, me being an unknown author and my class being held at the same time as several highly-desirable workshops. I’d brought chocolate to entice potential wallflowers but found bribes weren’t necessary. All the attendees were enthusiastic and brave. Everyone readily participated in the dancing, laughing all the while. Between the smiles, positive interaction, and after-class questions, I felt the workshop was a great success. I have every intention of proposing additional dance classes at future RWA events.
Transformers premiere taking
place below my window
The YARWA reception Wednesday night was incredible! The editors on the panel (Karen Chaplin, Leah Hultenschmidt, Wendy Loggia, Julie Tibbott, Tara Weikum, Noa Wheeler and Natashya Wilson) told us exactly what they were looking for and how to get their attention. Then they, and an innumerable number of agents, invited the attendees to introduce themselves and openly pitch them as they moved about the room. Next came the YARWA raffle with a veritable ton of prizes including at least six agent/editor critiques and the grand prize, a pair of “Big Girl Rejection Panties.” My good friend, Laurel Wanrow won a critique and I won a set of amazing books but sadly, neither of us won the panties.
Gift books from RWA
Literally just in time for the conference, my first manuscript was finally ready to pitch. This was my first time pitching – anytime, anywhere. Guess what? It was fun! The editors and agents WANT you to succeed. They do their best to help you make the pitch. I enjoyed both the challenge of trying to interest a potential buyer and the pleasure of sharing my world with someone who could appreciate it. I can’t wait to dig deeper into the submission process. Yeah, I know, let’s see how I feel after I’ve received 85 rejections like NYT author, Steve Berry.
As for the RWA workshops, it would take an entire website to share what I learned this year. And I even skipped several sessions (to teach, to pitch and because I stupidly didn’t jump out of bed when the alarm went off on Friday – oops)! Instead of trying to summarize it all, here are some tidbits of advice from the pros:
  •  “Put your characters in your daily life (eating, answering the door) and visualize how each character would react in any situation you are in.” – Diana Gabaldon, Opening Session “People (readers especially) want to know secrets (about your characters, about you on your website or blog).” – Tess Gerritsen, Opening Session
  • “I never stopped (even after 85 rejections), I stayed with it until the world changed (and was ready for his genre).” – Steve Berry, Opening Session
  •  “A website boils down to good judgment. Content is key. Professionalism essential. Simplify! And never, ever use music or Flash.” – Carolyn Grayson and Lois Winston, Building Your Author Website: What Agents and Editors Want to See
  • “Use Facebook insights (a new feature) to determine successful posts then make similar posts. You can now convert an account into a fan page. Make sure to run a contest once a month. Facebook is a great way to get fans but you want them on your mailing list.” – Sheri Brooks, Stella Cameron, Cissy Hartley and Jayne Ann Krentz, Going Viral: How to Build your Brand using Social Media and the Web
  • “YA book covers DO affect sales. Look to YouTube for followers. YA book trailers must feed the reader’s fantasy. Trailers must have a gimmick. Fan-made videos are a positive, they add directly to sales. Never sell a three book series without knowing where it’s going.” – Simone Elkeles and David Levithan, Writing the YA Bestseller
  • “Romance readers want romance! Lose any part of the scene not pertinent to the story.” – Kerrelyn Sparks, Stand and Deliver
  • “The dominant element should filter down into every nuance of a world (magic in Harry Potter or fear in a romantic suspense novel). Sprinkle the unfamiliar into the familiar setting (or visa versa). Setting can enhance dialogue, set mood, give clues or create metaphor (make a different meaning). Theme is built gradually through images and symbolism.” – Adina Senft, World Building through your Character’s Eyes (This was an amazing class!)
Silvershade versus Poison Ivy at the FF&P Gathering
My body and heart still humming with the energy that comes from thousands of writers coming together to teach, to learn (and to party), eager to make my current manuscript that much better thanks to my newfound knowledge and insight, I must now retreat from the bright lights and big city, slinking back to my writing hole. As my superhero from the FF&P Gathering, Silvershade, would say, “I shall dwell in the place between darkness and light!” Meaning, in my case, a dim room and the glow from my computer screen.

Sarah Shade
"Fantastical Worlds, Romantic Adventures"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Could SFR by the NBT and How Might We Get There?

The Grand Ball that is RWA Nationals has come and gone and what a fantastic time it was! Though Sharon Lynn Fisher and I had high hopes for bringing home a Golden Heart win for SFR, it was not to be. This year. We, as a community, need to keep fighting the good fight. The industry is changing dramatically and each new day brings opportunity for our subgenre.

I did a lot of mulling and brainstorming in the last week, and I have a few things I’d like to put on the table.

One of the mottos for the SFR Brigade/SFR Community is: "Conquering the Universe...One Story at a Time." I think that applies to the Publishing Universe as well, and possibly we should adopt it as a battle cry rather than just a motto.

During my pitch sessions--one with a well known agent who accepts SFR and one with a senior editor from a publishing house that accepts both SFR and SF--they asked if I had any questions for them. Oh, yes I did. I wanted their input on SFR: Did they think it was increasing in popularity, decreasing in popularity or staying about the same?

Their response (averaged and paraphrased) was that it's difficult to tell in the current lackluster market, however there is a bit of a buzz about SFR and with the waning interest in vampire romance the industry seems to be searching for a missile lock on what will be "the next big thing." They hinted that if the stars aligned just so, that "next big thing" might possibly be SFR.

My take? I think SFR may have a shot at that coveted "NBT" title and there's a few things we can do as a community to help get us there:

1. Step up our efforts as a community to raise the visibility of SFR and find greater numbers of potential readers.

I'm convinced "The audience is out there." The reading public is now made up of at least three generations who grew up on Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Avatar and that translates to millions who have an interest in SF/SFR. Can we find new ways to reach out to our potential audience?  We may need to attack this objective from several different angles. While at Nationals, several Brigaders kicked around the idea of developing a SFR workshop for next year's Nationals and/or the RT Booklovers Convention. Should we found a companion community to the SFR Brigade for readers? Coordinate our efforts to attend the big cons? Work on joint book signing tours? Brainstorm a way for digital authors to do book signings? Hey, we're SFR authors. Innovation is our middle name.

2. Support our own subgenre by promoting SFR books.

The Brigade is approaching a membership of 200. If we were all to promote the SFR books we love, we'd create a huge impact. How do we do that? Write reviews and author interviews for our blogs, rate and review books on Amazon and Goodreads and other book-centered sites, tag, tag, tag!, and chime in on reader site discussions about good books to read. If we each devote an hour or so a week to advancing the subgenre, we're helping create a bigger market for our work.

3. Back a breakout SFR novel.

A huge-selling SFR novel could do wonders to open the doors for our subgenre. Recently, we've had a few books garner brilliant reviews and RT Top Picks, but if they don't have the sales to back that up, we've lost a launch window opportunity. It's not economically viable to personally buy 20 copies of your favorite SFR title, but what if you can convince 20 other people to purchase? This goes back to #2. Invest a bit of time to promote your subgenre--review, rate, blog, and discuss great SFR.

4. Work to establish SFR as a separate contest category from Paranormal.

I know this doesn't sound like a significant strategy point, but I believe it is. As long as SFR is pitted against Fantasy and Paranormal, it will struggle in contests against (currently) much more marketable subgenres. Often agent and/or editor judges are chosen for their interest in general Paranormal which doesn't necessarily included SFR, so our subgenre is sometimes a longshot to place well in the final round or be requested by the judge. If we, as a community, start with the smaller contests and convince them we'll submit X number of manuscripts if they break out a separate SFR/Futuristic/Steampunk/Apocalyptic category, they might take us seriously. This could also entail having to help locate a final judge who's an editor or agent, and that's where our published authors could help with their connections.

5. Pitch and query those SFR manuscripts.

The more editors and agents hear about imaginative stories with complex world-building and compelling characters, the more receptive they'll become to the idea of selling or publishing SFR, and the more likely they'll be to find that one "big story" they're all looking for.

This year we had three SFR manuscripts in the Golden Heart finals and one SFR novel that finaled in two RITA categories--ENEMY WITHIN by Marcella Burnard. That's progress! Here's a couple of other exciting tidbits:

--Popular author Zoe Archer has published a SFR titled COLLISION COURSE.

--At least two other 2011 Golden Heart finalists are also working on SFR manuscripts, including one who entered a previously shelved manuscript and "finished in the top third."

I think the environment is primed for SFR to make its move in the publishing world, but it will take a community effort to get us there.

What say you? Do you think the five-part plan will be effective? Do you have other ideas for things we can do as a community to promote SFR?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Brigaders at 2011 RWA Nationals

Tuesday night at a gathering in The View lounge,
New York's only revolving rooftop lounge.
Back row, left to right: 
Laurel Wanrow, Laurie Green and Sarah Shade
Front row, left to right: 
Jenna McCormick/Jennifer L. Hart, Donna S. Frelick,
Darcy Drake and Marcella Burnard

In the Atrium Lounge, Marriott Marquis
Left to Right:
Marcella Burnard, Laurie A. Green and J. C. Hay

At the FF&P The Gathering in the Sky Lobby
Thursday Evening
Superhero Costume Theme
Lisa Paitz Spindler (left) and Marcella Burnard (right) with Jeffe Kennedy

SFR Brigade Group Photo at FF&P Event
J.C. Hay, Laurie A. Green, Sharon Lynn Fisher,
Sarah Shade, Donna S. Frelick, Laurel Wanrow, Laura Thomson,
Danielle Meitiv, and Lizzie Newell

At the Golden Heart/RITA Awards Ceremony
Left to right:
Laurie A. Green, Sharon Lynn Fisher, and Donna S. Frelick
(Background: Darynda Jones)

Congrats to Brigaders in the 2011 Prism Awards



1st Place: Midnight's Ghost - Sara Brookes

2nd Place: Blaze of Glory - Sheryl Nantus

3rd Place: Enemy Within - Marcella Burnard (tie)


2nd Place: Wild Cards and Iron Horses - Sheryl Nantus

Congrats to all Brigaders for your Prism Award placings!

~ * ~

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation