Friday, February 28, 2014

USA Today HEA - new Sci-Fi Encounters column launched #scifi #romance

With her debut launching yesterday, Brigader Veronica Scott announced she's been invited to write a twice-monthly column for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog. Veronica says, "We've named the column “Sci-Fi Encounters” and my charter is to talk about science fiction and fantasy romance books. I plan to talk about a mix of established authors, small press and self pub in each column."

This is fantastic news for the world of science fiction romance, and I hope you'll all swing by to give her your support.

Visit her debut post here -

Follow her on Twitter as @vscotttheauthor for the latest updates.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

SFRB Recommends #11: Partials by Dan Wells #scifi #YA #dystopia SFRB Recommends

Partials - Dan Wells 

I've got to admit, I originally read this because my Kindle had run out of charge and it was the only interesting thing on my husband's Kobo. But once I started, I was hooked. Wells paints out a dystopian world where a deadly virus is killing babies within moments of their birth, effectively eradicating humanity as more of the aging population dies. Their solution - keep lowering the age where their youngsters are forced to start procreating, focusing on having as many children as possible in the hope at least a few will survive. But it's not working.

Partials follows the attempts of teenage medical student Kira, desperate to find a cure - not only so that she won't have to join the ranks of baby-makers but to save the child of her newly pregnant best friend. A captured Partial - part of a genetically engineered army designed to end a terrible war, only to turn on their creators - may be the answer they need. Of course, none of it goes to plan.

The dystopian world is well drawn out but bated with unanswered questions - this is the first of a trilogy. The Partials are fascinating, with a quirky method of non-verbal communication which sounds quite primitive but certainly gives them a huge advantage over humans. Kira is strong, capable, and not the normal whiny teen that I've found in a lot of YA titles. Her companions are rounded out characters, and there's even some romance in there. And there's an excellent twist toward the end. Despite being YA, this is something that should equally appeal to adults and fans of dystopia.

Author site: Dan Wells

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hurts So Good: How to Break Your Heroes

Hello hello!

So, as an editor, a lot of stories cross my desk every month. I'm also a writer, though, and that means that writing a good story isn't just a matter of being a spectator. I mentioned in a recent post  that sexual assault is often used for female characters as a sort of plot device--an easy way to give them a tragic backstory and offer a motive for being both defensive of themselves and prickly. However, that post also outlined the issues with it. On reading it, my partner challenged me, "okay, so how can most writers craft a good character without using that as a plot device?"


That's what I'm going to talk about today. Obviously, I've already covered one base, but I really think we can get more creative with ways to give your character that challenge. Before we get going, just a note--I'm going to keep saying "heroes", but all of this applies equally to heroines or nonhumans/non-binary heroes as well! I'm also going to focus a bit on fantasy and sci fi in particular, so keep in mind that you may have to adapt things based on your setting and genre a bit. And obviously, they're not set in stone, but do read them before you run off to break them.

So, why should your character "be programmed with the most tragic backstory ever written"?

Rule 1--They Don't Have To

Shocking, right? You can always give your character a surprisingly healthy history and then just load the tragedy and conflict on as events play out through your story. Never be afraid to hurt your characters on stage! They can't be too precious. Conversely, if you find yourself wanting to smash your heroes' hearts a bit too often, maybe pull back on a a bit. If I had a dollar for every time a manuscript had gone overboard on the tragedy department, I'd have a solid gold computer.

Rule 2--Know the Difference Between Pathos and Bathos

Hyperbole is *not* your friend in a serious manu--unless other characters poke fun at your character's unfortunate circumstances or there's inherent absurdity to the tragedy. It worked for Lemony Snicket, but I wouldn't call tragedy-overload a recommended style. It's hard to use. Pathos is, simply, an appeal to your audience's emotions. Bathos is transitioning from the exalted to the absurd. While Christopher Moore is a master of bathos, and can actually make some moving stories from the contrast, but it's not easy to do. I keep pressing the yellow 'caution' sign to make it light up here, but it's important to know when your backstory is so sad it's gone all the way to being silly. There's a balance point between tragic, heartbreaking, and tragedy overload--at 'tragedy overload', the audience's brains shut down and can't handle any more sadness. They have to giggle to deal with with things. (This is the same part of your brain that thinks Holocaust jokes and other offensive, tragic subjects are funny.) Be aware of that when you're writing.

Rule 3--Mind Your Cliches 

I mentioned sexual assault above. It's one of the gender-bound cliches; however, it's seldom used for male characters. Cliches are actually quite fine to use as long as you spice them up a bit. Consider gender-swapping them, for instance. Losing a mother motivates quite a few sons to seek revenge, but that's fine for a girl, too, instead of losing her father. Brothers and sisters are great targets, and lovers are traditional. Friends are less often used, and that's a shame, because I think we all know that in real life, friends can be as close as family, too. Adopted siblings are a good one. However, do be aware that they are cliches, instead of turning a blind eye.

Rule 4--Gender-Swapping Is Your Friend

If you are using a cliche, try to do something different with it. Heck, this goes for less-overused ideas as well. Put a character in a situation that would not necessarily conform to their gender or cultural expectations. If you're in a fantasy or sci fi setting, this is doubly true. Don't limit yourself to Terran norms! If readers can suspend disbelief enough for dragons and magic and interstellar travel that's faster than light, they can handle having a sister rescue her brother, a mother rescuing her child, or a father who's been captured. Remember to think outside the normal box of boy-save-girl or girl-gets-hurt-by-boys-automatically. Your readers will love you for it.

Rule 5--Go All the Way

If you're going for a cliche, don't be half-hearted. This goes for any sort of tragedy, really. Mind Rule 2, but a lot of readers do like it when authors amp up the sadness. Oh, sure, subtlety is important, but it's okay for something to wreck your character's life. After all, tragedies don't just conveniently come back whenever you need to talk about them. They keep characters up at night. Maybe your hero has flashbacks and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Triggers are a convenient way to add to tension and realism--the smell of whiskey or Martian flowers or the colour octarine might remind your character of that fateful night in a way they can't forget. Addictions are a 'fun' way to add consequences, too. Remember--tragedy doesn't exist in a bubble.

Rule 6--Motivation Does Not Equal Reactions

Is your hero doing what they have to as a result of someone else's tragedy? How do they feel about it? Maybe they're annoyed because it's not really their war and they just want to go home. That ambiguity is great for having your character switch sides or even switch back! Is your hero inclined to forgive the person who hurt them, but feeling forced to go through with their revenge? Honour works both ways. What if the character's heart just isn't in it? Conversely, you can have your character go to some really dark extremes for revenge, even go overboard, but if you do that, make sure other characters (and not just a single, often female, token) criticize their choices. Just because your character has a motivation, doesn't mean it will determine their reaction. People change over time and consider their personal tragedies differently.

Rule 7--Sympathy For the Devil

Maybe your character understands why her commanding officer left her family to be devoured by the ravenous space wolves on the mine orbiting Betelgeuse--because it meant saving thousands of people in the colony ship. Just because your character is driven to revenge, doesn't mean you should hate on your antagonist or villain all the time. That leads to boring antagonists, and lack of conflict. Furthermore, making your villain/antagonist sympathetic will create distress in your main character. Distress is your friend! A strong villain is almost more important than a strong lead. Make sure their motivations make sense.

Rule 8--Why?

Why is your character's backstory important? Does it really add to the story, or is it cleverly-disguised filler? Is it exposition, clogging up the beginning, or is it revealed slowly? If you're stumped, it's okay to be mysterious. Sometimes it's good to discover your character's motivation along with the audience. And for a first draft, well, anything goes. You're going to fix it anyway. You can also map out multiple possibilities for the background if you're not sure about it. Above all else, make sure your character's tragedy adds to the story rather than clogging it up or slowing it down.

So, that's my list of recommendations! Hopefully it's set your plot bunnies to chewing at the lettuce in the garden. If you're feeling doubt over your story's direction, that's okay too. Remember, no-one's going to judge you for rewriting or playing with things.

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meet the #Author Monday - Melisse Aires

Please tell us a bit about yourself:

I’m the married mom of three grown daughters, and am proud they are all readers. I live in a small town and have a day job in medical insurance(are your eye crossing yet? Lol.) So while very ordinary on the outside, I tend to have way too much imagination. Writing is my outlet.

Tell us about Her Cyborg Awakes: I decided to showcase the first in my SFR series, Diaspora Worlds. This book is now permafree! Book four, Neon Orchid, comes out in March.

What inspired you to write this particular story?: I wanted to write an SFR story with a more ‘traditional’ feminine heroine—not a bounty hunter or soldier. A character without a lot of training or any type of super power.who seems weak--but who still manages to attain what she wants most.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book: This is in the beginning—Sabralia gets an idea!

The palace was on a hill overlooking a wide bay. Long stretches of white sand contrasted with the pristine blue green waters of the sea. This was a beautiful world, with a warm climate and abundant forests and meadows. It would be an ideal agricultural world, but Sirn had not opened it to colonists, and none of the native life forms were sentient. Sirn only used it for military installations and his palace. Sirn held hunting parties now and then, and the dangerous beasts had been removed from the palace and spaceport area. The women of the Common Harem did not have access to this section of beach because it stretched close to the spaceport, and Sirn did not want them distracting his men. But she had been deemed not a security risk to the spaceport. She’d been married to Sirn since her teen years and had no military or spacecraft education, nor was she flirtatious as far as their records indicated.
A wonderful, scary idea came to her as she floated, letting a gentle wave glide her to shore. The beach! That was the answer!
Alfyt and the cyborgs would be tremendously busy during the feast. She would tell Qy to prepare a luxurious pallet, with food and drink, at her special place on the beach, because one of the Commanders wanted to be entertained outdoors, by the sea. Later she would lie and tell Qy her man had visited while Qy was at his nightly maintenance—her mind raced with the plan. She would hide on the beach until the feast ended and the Commanders left.

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?: Personality. I sometimes fiddle with names for quite a while.

Any tips for aspiring authors?: Don’t give up! Look for ways to learn, there is so much available.

Questions for fun:
What super-power would you choose?: Flight!
Coffee, tea or wine?: Coffee
What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):Tough one!  Lifelong—Prince Caspian/Narnia Series
Favourite genre and why?: Scifi romance. Why—what could be better than that?
Favourite colour?: Red
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!


Sabralia lives a lonely but luxurious life in Emperor Sirn’s Harem, her only companion is her obedient servant, Qy, a cyborg. Her life has largely been controlled by others, but when Sirn demands his Harem pleasure his Commanding Officers at a victory celebration, Sabralia makes a daring plan to hide to avoid rape by Sirn's men. 
The Palace is ambushed and her cyborg gets her off world. The impossible has happened−Qy the gentle cyborg becomes the man he once was, the warrior Kaistril. Pursued for valuable information, Sabralia is thrust into dangerous, unfamiliar situations where she must stand up to the challenges, or lose the man she loves. Sensual Sci-fi Romance. Novella 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lessons From Frozen

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the movie Frozen. If you haven't seen it yet and don't want it spoiled, come back after you've watched it.

I'm one of the millions of Frozen fans. This movie has resonated with audiences in a way Disney hasn't done since The Lion King. The music is amazing and each song advances the plot, the characters are engaging, and it's a story about sacrifice. But it's not the main character everyone loves. It's Elsa, the older sister.

Why are so many people in love with Elsa? It's not just because Idina Menzel works her vocal magic, though the popularity of "Let It Go" is definitely thanks to Idina's magic, and the lyrical beauty of the melody and words. (Big fan of Idina Menzel, in case you haven't figured it out.)

We love Elsa because we see something she doesn't know about herself. We root for her to overcome these things and see herself the way we do. This is accomplished with a lie Elsa believes about herself. Lies happen to be my favorite way of building characters. Frozen is one of the best movie examples of character lies since The Patriot starring Mel Gibson.

Elsa's lie is born in the movie's opening when she accidentally almost kills her little sister. Her parents teach her a mantra: Conceal, don't feel. Don't let anyone in. Be the good girl and don't lose control. This mantra, combined with what happened to Anna, leads to her believing she can't trust herself. If she's not perfect the people she loves will be hurt by her power, and could even die.

She's exposed at her coronation and flees the kingdom. If she stays everyone she loves will die. In the process she sets off an eternal winter, which sends Anna after her to bring her back and melt the frozen world. Except Elsa doesn't know how.

When working with character lies, by the end of the novel (or movie) the lie must be broken so the character can grow. Elsa's lie is built on keeping her emotions frozen. There's one more element at work in Frozen, and it's the can't/won't. Elsa can't control her power, and she won't let anything happen to her sister. By the end of the story the character has to do the one thing they can't, and the one thing they won't. Along the way she gets herself imprisoned because she won't let Anna be hurt. However, she doesn't see that by cutting herself off from Anna she's hurting Anna. That's how powerful her lie is and how strongly it's attached to her need to keep her emotions frozen so Anna won't die.

At the midpoint Elsa's lie is reinforced when she once again hurts Anna. This time by shooting ice through her heart, which will kill her if it's not thawed. A frozen heart can only be thawed by true love. At this point you may be rolling your eyes because it's time for the prince to ride in and save the day with true love's kiss, and that's what Anna thinks has to happen. But here's where Disney breaks Disney stereotype. Anna's heart is thawed when she sacrifices herself to save Elsa. There's more than one kind of true love, and sacrificial love is the most powerful of all.

This sacrifice, and seeing Anna embrace emotion, breaks Elsa's lie. When the lie is broken she gains control of her power and thaws her kingdom.

Elsa resonates because she's real and three-dimensional. Viewers are rooting for her to be who we know she can be, and this formula has created a blockbuster that's been in theaters since Thanksgiving. As I'm writing this, two and a half months after its release, it's still playing four times a day at my local theater. Using these techniques in novels also creates characters readers can't get enough of. As a reader I connect most with characters who believe a lie. It's also way fun to write and makes the story that much richer and deeper.

Want to know more about lies and how to use them to build great characters and stories readers can't put down? Check out The Character Therapist archives, and this post in particular.

Rachel Leigh Smith is a romance writer, a geek, and a Southern belle. She lives in Louisiana with a half-crazed calico named Zoe. When not adding words to an SFR novel she’s reading paranormal romance or crafting while watching some type of SF on TV. She’s still unpublished, but hopefully not for long. She also blogs sporadically at and hangs out on Facebook.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meet the #Author Monday - Shona Husk

Please tell us a bit about yourself: I write paranormal and sci-fi romance. I love creating new worlds and exploring them with my characters. When I’m not writing I love to cook (with chocolate) or read.

Tell us about Lunar Reunion: Lunar Reunion is the second in my Decadent Moon series. Decadent Moon is an alien pleasure resort, there are no humans, so it’s lots of fun creating all the different aliens. As the title suggests it is a lovers’ reunited story.

What inspired you to write this particular story?: A couple of different things inspired this story, one was the second chance at love. The other was the idea of an alien with really white, rough skin and absolutely no hair. The hero had been in my mind for a while, but I wasn’t sure if people were going to be into his telepathic tentacles. However I saw on twitter one day quite a bit of discussion about tentacles and I thought I might as well just write it and see what happens.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:

His tentacles had fascinated her. They weren’t alive in their own right—not like some species who had formed a symbiotic relationship with another creature. On a Klokian they were like extra limbs, or sensory organs. The Klokian were telepathic and it was their tentacles that picked up the thoughts for them to read.

Filid had let her touch them once after they’d had a couple of drinks and their guards had been down. Tentacles no thicker than her finger had wrapped softly around her wrist, caressed her skin. Heat had flared in his eyes that she didn’t need to be telepathic to read. And she’d no doubt he’d been able to read her like a plex screen. She’d wanted him even though she couldn’t have him—not without them both losing their jobs. After that there’d been less than accidental contact as if they were magnets that couldn’t pull away. Despite the risks they’d danced around each other even though they both knew it couldn’t go any further.

The untapped desire had frustrated them both to the point where lust had become anger. They hadn’t parted friends. She shivered as the memory swirled through her blood and twisted in her belly. Never fixing things with Filid was the one regret she carried.

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?: Looks and personality usually come first and I have to go hunting for a name.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:
Read a lot and from all different genres and write a lot :)

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?: Hmm that is a tricky one because changing something in the past would affect the future. I’m not sure I’d change anything…however I’d love to go back in time for a sticky beak.

What super-power would you choose?:
I’ve always admired Wolverines knives that shoot out between his knuckles (the healing and long life is also pretty cool).

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?: A never ending supply of dark chocolate, ongoing good health and prosperity for my family.

Coffee, tea or wine?: wine as I don’t drink tea or coffee.

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!): Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr is my all-time favourite.

Favourite genre and why?: Anything which creates new worlds!

Favourite colour?: red or turquoise.

Upcoming news and plans for the future?: I have one more book in the Decadent Moon series coming out later this year, Lunar Dancer. I also have two more paranormal romance books set in the fairy Court of Annwyn out in the second half of the year, The Changeling Soldier and To Love a King.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! Thank you for having me :)

Six years ago Filid made the mistake of falling for another officer in the Allied Planetary Military.
He walked away before they both did something they'd regret. Yet he can't get her out of his mind, even now.

Silva has never forgotten Filid, but he is the last person she expects to see on the pleasure resort of Decadent Moon. This time she won't let him walk away without exploring the fantasies she had about being with him.

Filid wants more than one night, and this time he is determined to hold onto her no matter the cost.

Inside Scoop: Filid comes equipped with sexy tentacles that cannot be missed!

Three time ARRA finalist Shona Husk lives in Western Australia at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Blessed with a lively imagination she spent most of her childhood making up stories. As an adult she discovered romance novels and hasn’t looked back. Drawing on history and myth, she writes about heroes who are armed and dangerous but have a heart of gold—sometimes literally.

With stories ranging from sensual to scorching, she is published with Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing and Sourcebooks. You can find out more at 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

It's A Good Time to Submit to SilkWords

SilkWords offers a unique, interactive, “choose your own” experience for romance readers

As of February 14, 2014 SilkWords LLC celebrates the launch of a web site that offers a first-of-its-kind reading experience for women’s fiction (

The site blurs the line between fiction and casual gaming by offering high quality, interactive romance that allows individual readers to choose how the story proceeds. Readers can also experience the story in different ways by returning to choice points and following different paths.

SilkWords was founded by wife-and-husband team Keri and Boyd Multerer. Boyd, who works as development director for Microsoft Xbox, is no stranger to the gaming industry.

“As a working mom of three young children,” Keri said, “I believe there’s a potentially huge market for a site that offers high quality women’s fiction that can be consumed quickly. And the marriage of two very popular forms of entertainment—romance and gaming—was a no-brainer for us.”

The site offers an upscale experience—original artwork, plus paid subscriptions instead of advertisements—and a continually expanding collection of multichoice stories varying in length, romance subgenre, heat level, and sexual orientation of protagonist.

Featured at launch are new stories from award-winning indie romance author Lisa Scott (also with HarperCollins and Bell Bridge Books), paranormal and fantasy author Skyler White (Berkley, Tor/Macmillan), award-winning historical author Kim Taylor Blakemore (Penguin, HarperCollins), and sex-journalist-turned-erotica author Leigh Cowart.

SilkWords’ acquiring editor is science fiction romance author and SFR Brigader Sharon Lynn Fisher (Tor/Macmillan), a Romance Writers of America (RWA) 2013 RITA finalist and three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist.

“Our goal is to offer something for everyone, from erotic to sweet, historical to sci-fi,” Fisher said. “It’s such a fun format for authors to play around with. Have you ever read a romance and wondered what would happen if the heroine made a different choice? Picked a different guy? Waited longer to kiss him? Our readers get to find out.”

Today’s launch is phase 1 of a larger SilkWords vision.

“The beautiful thing about SilkWords is there’s a ton of room for experimentation,” Boyd said. “Different forms of storytelling, interaction with the authors, and moving the medium forward. It’s stories first, gaming second, with a lot the two sides can learn from each other.”

Romance Industry
According to a study commissioned by Romance Writers of America, the nonprofit trade association for the romance industry, romance novels generate $1.4 billion every year, with 44 percent of sales in e-book format and the majority of buyers falling between the ages of 30 and 54 ( The digital book market has made romance even more popular by offering an anonymous experience (Good E-Reader,

Video Game Industry
It is estimated that 183 million people in the United States play video games (TED,, and 31 percent of those are women over the age of 18 (Entertainment Software Association, A recent CNN article cites an increase in female protagonists as well as “complex themes and more scenarios that call for decision-making, not brute force” as possible reasons for the increase in the popularity of gaming with women and girls (

About SilkWords
SilkWords LLC offers interactive women’s fiction to readers worldwide through our web site Blurring the line between fiction and gaming, SilkWords offers high quality romance that allows individual readers to choose how stories proceed—all for the price of a latte, and from the comfort of their own living rooms.

Learn More
Visit us at We provide unlimited access to journalists who would like to learn more. Please contact or for more information.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Breathless Press Critique Event

Breathless Press are hosting a critique event from the 14th-16th February. Details are in the image above, but if you'd like to check out the publisher further, go HERE for details on Breathless Press, and HERE for details on their NA/YA division Lycaon Press. They are open to scifi romance, and at all heat levels.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


With the first episode of my serial Amazing Grace out, I thought I'd give you a sneak peek at the next. Entitled ACTS OF GRACE, it'll be out... um, April, I think.
“How did this happen, Benedict? People don't just wake up with special abilities.” 
“No. I'm not positive, but my best guess it's something to do with Global Solutions. That's what we have in common, after all.” 
Something in his tone brought me around to face him. “Do you know of any others?” 
His expression went tight. “What's for breakfast?” 
“Benedict. I need to know.” 
“Grace, I'm not sure—” 
“Are there others?” 
I wasn't about to let him brush me off. He stared at me for a moment, then must have either gone off my expression or mentally picked up on my determination as he ran a hand through his hair and sighed heavily. 
“Yes,” he said. “As far as I'm aware, every inmate at Hammel MI has at least one ability.” 
Shock jolted me. “What? Why didn't you tell me about that?” 
“We were a little busy. Small matter of the sky being ablaze, remember?”

An unlikely disaster demands an unlikely saviour.

Grace McKenna wakes up to find the world in danger – the sky is on fire and the only man who knows how the global satellite system works is languishing in a mental institute. Sent by the director of Global Solutions, she discovers a man largely forgotten by society, a man whose powers intrigue her.

Breaking Benedict Thomas out of the institute might be as crazy as he’s alleged to be, but someone is lying and Grace is determined to find out whom. Especially since those lies have put the entire world in danger.

Champagne Books | AllRomance | Kindle

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Stuff of Gods: Building a World

 I'm baack, picking up where I left off. In my last post at the SFR Brigade, I talked about creating cultures. Today, I'll discuss building worlds.  What's the difference, you might ask? Good question.

Culture includes the rules and norms a community uses to maintain its social and economic cohesiveness, govern resources, and define the relationship of the individual to the wider universe. A world is a place where multiple cultures coexist (or collide) and the methods by which those relationships are mediated. For example, think about your place in the world. You probably have a national identity (e.g. American, British, Australian), perhaps a sub-culture within there (e.g. New Yorker, Welsh) that shapes your individual identity and the rules you use to structure your lives. But we also interact across those identities. Mediation takes place through the internet (we're all here sharing our stories), at the United Nations, through global corporation (a coke in every refrigerator) among many others. Those mediation institutions give us ways to communicate and connect but they are partial, may not be all that transparent in terms of rules and morals, and overlap with the everyday rules we use to survive--at work, in the community, at home with the family. The world is the culture that rules them all.

Writing Science Fiction is, at its heart, world building. By definition, its humans in space (usually from multiple places) engaging with aliens. Culture meets culture.

Take Star Trek, a world most of us are familiar with in some fashion.  The Federation is the mediating entity that allows aliens of all species to work together on something as small as a starship hurdling through space with the mission of meeting more species with different cultures. Military discipline serves as structure for managing it, with hierarchy of command necessary to handle an emergency in warp speed. There's a tool box for making just-in-time adjustments to new situations, including a universal translator, Xenobiology or the study of alien anatomy for the doctors in the sickbay, stun settings on phasers, to allow for different types of interactions, among many others.

Leonard Nimoy William Shatner Star Trek 1968

As new cultures appear, or existing ones evolve, new dangers, insights and opportunities emerge, the Federation too has to change. New species and new situations can put existing worlds to the test. That prime directive of theirs always threw a monkey wrench into defining ethics. 

Another mediation mechanism in Start Trek, and often in science fiction (although not so obvious and some out there might disagree) is a philosophical, almost religious commitment to the scientific method. Our heroes and heroines tend to gather data, analyze and then decide. While periodically our protagonists are challenged to take faith-based steps, that scientific mindset in many ways still dominates. Its science that defines how they interact with new species. They watch, gather data, act, gather more data, react.
But look at the emotionally driven characters always present in Star Trek, you ask?  Spock vs McCoy or Worf vs Data.  Even so, McCoy uses science for all medical decisions he takes, and Work scans with the best of them, unless honor rears its head in the decision-making process.  To effectively deal across cultures, being able to ask questions, assess danger, make decisions, requires an intellectual methodology based on ration, not just instinct. Both are needed, but science is usually there.

So if you are flying along, minding your own business, and you bump into a new species, what happens and what do you do? 

World building provides the answers.

Want to chat more? Me too.  Come find me at my blog, or say hi on Facebook.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Meet the #Author Monday - Corrina Lawson

Please tell us a bit about yourself:

My website, in a fit of ego, claims that I’m a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though I like to say not necessarily all four on the same day. But it does basically sum up who I am. I’ve been a writer ever since I could put words to paper and I was a geek before that was a term of endearment. I grew up on rural New England, served two years in the U.S. Coast Guard, spent seven years as a journalist, and managed a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Nowadays, my life is taken up managing my four kids, including twins, though they are fast approaching adulthood.
And I write. I’m always writing.

Tell us about Phoenix Rising:
The tagline is “He was raised to be a weapon but, for her, he’ll learn to be a hero.”

The story is about a man, Alec Farley, who’s been raised in isolation to be a weapon but thinks he’s a hero. Unfortunately, his guardian plans to manipulate Alec into using his ability to gain power.
The heroine, Beth Nakamora, a telepath, knows what it’s like to have people exploit psychic abilities. Originally, she only wants to show him the world and the possibility of a life outside his very closed world. But she falls in love with his optimism and his innate idealism, despite the influences of his nefarious guardian.

Basically, Alec was raised by a Magneto-type, and Beth is the Jean Grey who shows him what the world can really be life.

What inspired you to write this particular story?:
This book was inspired by two things. My love of superheroes and dealing with my twins, who have special needs. It struck me that out-of-control superpowers are an excellent fictional analogue for autism, or mood disorder, or other elements of emotion and learning that aren’t always in the control of people, especially kids.

There’s a moment in the movie Man of Steel where Ma Kent comforts young Clark, who’s hiding in a closet at school because he’s overwhelmed by his super-hearing and can’t be around other kids. If that’s not a metaphor for kids dealing with noise sensitivity issues, I don’t know what is.

Alec has full control of his dangerous ability and he revels in it. The heroine, a telepath, is far more scared by her ability and overwhelmed by it. Between them, they bond, and teach each other a lot about what it means to have psychic abilities and live a normal life.

Oh, and they also learn how much fun telekinetic sex can be. J


Please share a favourite snippet from your book:

This is Alec and Beth, early on, when she’s trying to teach him a little bit of control over his emotions. I love it because it’s fun and captures Alec’s personality nicely, plus Beth’s growing fascination with him:

She shoved her hand into the M&Ms and tossed a handful at him.

“C’mon,” he said with disgust. Some test. He twitched a finger and grabbed the M&Ms in midair with his TK. They hovered, unmoving. He could toss them back at her but why waste M&Ms? He twitched his finger again and formed the candy into a line. He let them fall into his mouth one by one.

“Mmmm...” he said, swallowing the last.

She hadn’t moved, her mouth set in a line, but there was something about her expression that made him think she was amused. That wasn’t what he was going for, though that half-smile was awfully attractive.

“Was that a proportional response?” he asked.

“Oh, definitely.” She grabbed the bucket of ping-pong balls and tossed the lot at him. Like the M&Ms, he took hold of the balls with his TK with little effort. They were so light, it was easy to keep them hovering. He let his hands fall to his sides and began juggling with his TK. The balls zipped around his head and shoulders, faster and faster with each second. But he wasn’t watching them. He was looking for some reaction from her.

Her eyes widened. And her face started to flush. Interesting. Did she get turned on when he used his power? She wasn’t built like the girls he saw at the strip clubs but she was all in proportion and she had such a beautiful face.
He let go of the balls and they hit the carpet, bouncing to all corners of the office. He stepped closer to her.

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:

Personality, always. And usually the name comes hand in hand with that.

Any tips for aspiring authors?

Practice by writing. Keep writing, keep learning. Never give up, never surrender.
We lose too many storytellers already. We cannot afford to lose any more. Keep going.

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change?
Yes. My father died in an accident when I was eight. I would absolutely go back and save him. For that reason, the episode of Doctor Who where Rose goes back to save her father hit me very hard. Naturally, I never liked that ending and was so glad that her father later turned up. Well, an alternate version of him, anyway.

What super-power would you choose?:
Immortality. I have so much stuff to do and so little time. I want more time.

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?:

1.    That my kids would all be healthy.
2.     That my kids would all be happy in their lives
3.     That I could travel with my husband all over the U.S. and the World.

Coffee, tea or wine?:

TEA. Black loose tea. Earl Grey Crème is a favorite.
What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):

Ah, it changes with my mood. My current favorite is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor. That book makes my heart happy.

Favourite genre and why?:
Uh, this is the part where I confess I don’t just like one genre, I want them all. So, the answer is: multi-genre books with a lot going on: mystery, romance, maybe a little science fiction. The only genre I don’t read is horror.

Favourite colour?:
Blue, I suspect.

Upcoming news and plans for the future?
I have a steampunk romantic mystery coming out on April 29, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract. It’s my homage to the Sherlock Holmes stories I love, with a multi-cultural Holmes analogue and a female Watson.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation