Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Journey is the Destination

by S. Usher Evans
When I started my publishing journey, I was so focused on the journey itself that I neglected to properly process the destination, i.e., a completed series. I was always focused on the book I was writing, the book I was editing, the book I was promoting, etc. Now here I am, almost two years after earning my "published" card, and I find myself staring at an omnibus version of my space pirate bounty hunter series--four books, seven short stories, and a prequel novella. So I’m taking a few moments to process (for a brief moment) that I made it here, and what it means.

When I wrote the first Razia book in the spring of 2014, the process itself revealed a lot of truths about myself. I was going through a "quarter-life-crisis" where I'd decided to question every decision I'd made to figure out if I was making it because I wanted to, or because I was scared of the alternative. Turns out, I was usually scared of the alternative, so I made a concerted effort to stop living my life out of fear.

Fast forward to today: I live back in Florida near my friends and family, I quit my soul-crushing consultant job, I started a publishing company, I traveled to 26 conventions in 18 months to spread the word about my books, and I have a complete four-book space opera series, one standalone fantasy, two in a fantasy-romance trilogy (one of which comes out today), and one in a YA fantasy series.

The thing is, I'm no longer having soul-affirming realizations while I write, but when I finished Razia, I did go through a bit of a mourning period. My bratty bounty hunter first walked into my brain when I was 15 years old. I’d just seen Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider and I wanted to write a character as cool and calculating as she was. Over the next 15 years, Lyssa evolved not only into a complex, layered individual, but a fully formed imaginary friend that I called on to entertain me during boring college classes and, later, boring meetings. Since publishing Double Life, I’ve always been daydreaming about her next adventure, her next scene, forward motion always. But now, there's nothing more to write.

The final two pieces and the omnibus of Razia are releasing on my 30th birthday on June 12th (but you can preorder them now). I released the first book on my 28th birthday, marking my emergence from a period of deep depression. And now closing the Razia chapter means closing the chapter on my twenties and embracing a decade where I finally know who I am and what I’m doing with myself during my rotations on this earth.

But there will still be that bittersweet sadness of a passed youth, knowing that a chapter of my life is closed but also knowing there’s a brand new one waiting to be written.



S. Usher Evans is an author, blogger, and witty banter aficionado. Born in Pensacola, Florida, she left the sleepy town behind for the fast-paced world of Washington, D.C.. There, she somehow landed jobs with BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Television before finally settling into a “real job” as an IT consultant. After a quarter life crisis at age 27, she decided consulting was for the birds and rekindled a childhood passion for writing novels. She sold everything she owned and moved back to Pensacola, where she currently resides with her two dogs, Zoe and Mr. Biscuit.

Evans is the author of the Razia series, Madion War Trilogy, and Empath, published by Sun’s Golden Ray Publishing. Her latest book, The Island, releases April 26th.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

SFRB Recommends #56: Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green #scifi #sfrom #spaceopera

To escape the merciless Ithian Alliance, Sair, a fugitive slave, makes a desperate deal with Drea Mennelsohn, captain of the prototype ship, Specter. But putting his life in the hands of a woman as mysterious as she is beguiling could turn out to be the biggest mistake of his life, especially when the price on his head begins to escalate. 

Drea seems to want far more from the fugitive than just payment for his passage on her ship. Though neither can deny the sizzling chemistry and growing bond between them, Sair must soon make an agonizing decision that could result in the loss of the remarkable woman he has fallen in love with—and their chance to inherit the stars.

Inherit the Stars has left me with several questions I've turned over in my head several times in the months since I've read it. What are acceptable lengths to go for peace? How much can we impinge on free will to create a peaceful society? I know I fall on one side when it comes to such things (as do our heroes in Inherit the Stars), but there's a case to be made that their techniques are not acceptable or right. In science fiction, we have access to alternative weapons that raise ethical questions I find fascinating to ponder- especially as we liken them to technology we have access to today.

The story is purely from the hero's point of view, which I think works better for some readers and worse for others. I'd recommend it for its excellent secondary characters and its original ideas on what weaponry and disability could look like.

Author site: Laurie A. Green | Romantic adventure-- anytime, anywhere.

Recommendation by Lee Koven.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Don't Copy That; soldiering up your fiction

by Jolie Mason

Contemporary military life has a sound to it, a feel to it, everyday, all the time. Just like any other job, it becomes a part of a person, and, therefore, it is a key component to any military based storyline and characters. That being said, there are common misconceptions about military speak in entertainment media. This is primarily because most of us know only what we see on television. Granted, they are details that those outside the military might not notice.

So, if your readers don't notice, why does it matter? Because the difference is there in the details. Genuine military details create a genuine world that readers can immerse themselves in and enjoy. All the rules have a purpose and a context, and writing them well makes the situation feel real and explains your characters in a way you can't do without them. In any military institution, future or present, there are going to be protocols. The fun for us is that we get to invent them or re-invent them. First, let's go over some common errors in realism.

Copy That.

In today's military circles, this has become sarcasm. Comm chatter does not include this phrase. Ever. If it did, a soldier might get busted for insubordination. Nope, it's good copy or bad copy, or just copy. This phrase indicates the receiver can hear the other end of the conversation, and that's all. The phrase copy that has become a Hollywood joke to military personnel around the world. To indicate an order has been received, the most common phrase to use is acknowledged.

Don't move, soldier

This is a protocol that could conceivably be found in almost any military where seniority of rank is a factor. When a conversation with a superior is finished, it's not over till the fat lady sings, or, in this case, till the junior officer has been dismissed. They stand there and wait.

In a similar situation, a soldier doesn't just run up to a senior officer and start babbling details either. This is a completely Hollywood invention for dramatic effect. Even if the world is ending, aliens are invading and a rain of plasma fire is falling from on high, a junior soldier should wait to be acknowledged. There is a practical reason here. Command HQ is gonna be a busy place in a battle, and the human brain only processes so much information at a time. Military institutions tend to know this from practical experience. Five people shouting information at a commander is not nearly as efficient as waiting to be told to speak and getting the information one important snippet at a time, allows commanders to process and make quick decisions.

Left or right?

Neither. Soldiers don't use directions like this. There's a reason that is so very obvious, but no one ever thinks about it outside of military situations. Right? English words tend to do double duty or be very imprecise.

When giving a location, soldiers use directions; north, south, east, west. They speak in distance traveled to reach a destination, and they don't use the word right when what they mean is correct. These speech patterns become ingrained in a soldier so that, even after service, you'll notice they may not revert to civilian speak.

Back to the future

When writing future fiction, authors are bound to play with the protocol. It's three hundred years from now or another planet, and there will be some license to be taken. The world you build will determine your military protocols. For example,  a private merc group or ragtag bunch of rebels is less likely to have fixed military protocols for chatter. A centuries old regime is more likely to follow older protocols like the ones we have today.

In her Hell Squad series, one of the things Anna Hackett does so brilliantly is blending military and law enforcement into a cohesive group, even though they all come from different professional backgrounds. She has soldiers, marines, SEALs, intelligence, and SWAT all coming together to do a job and save humanity. She doesn't write comm chatter as a copy of today's military, but, out of necessity, she has to build on all of their experience to make it work.

The best method when writing any institution is to consider their motivations, just like you would any individual person's motivation. Those motivations inform their protocols. As frustrating as it was during my time as an Army wife, the protocols we had to use were born of traditions and necessities that pre-dated myself. Acknowledging that made it easier to deal with red tape. Surprisingly, it makes writing military protocols and characters easier as well.

In the Behind the Scenes productions attached to the Firefly television series, Joss Whedon describes the ship, Serenity, as the tenth character. It's a fascinating insight, and it made me change my thinking about writing environments. He saw the ship as more than a set, but as an interactive character. The same could be said for any setting. When you look at it this way, a space station, a military institution, a science lab all have a purpose that informs the way the characters interact with them just like they interact with each other.

Contemporary source material is available to help inform us in our military speak. The US Army has a handy radio operator's handbook called “FM24-19” that is public domain and is the definitive book on current military comm protocol. Gaming is actually a useful source, but it has the same Hollywood information we do. Therefore, a writer has to be careful what game design sources they use for inspiration and information. Battlefield 3 by Electronic Arts has some of the most realistic military interaction I've heard to date.

Let's face it, building your own army from the ground up is one of those things writers just love to do. It's as close as any of us will ever get to world domination, and you know we would if we could. Whether you're writing a space empire or an apocalypse, the key is to understand the job your characters are trying to do, as much as you can, without leaving for boot camp.


Jolie Mason's blog Future Fairy tales

Author of the 47th Lancers series.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

SFRB Recommends #55: Paradox series by Rachel Bach #scifi

Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet. 
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

(blurb from Fortune's Pawn)

Spanning three books, the Paradox series follows the galaxy-changing adventures of Devi Morris, a space mercenary that gets in way over her head and proceeds to kick backside on her way out. She considers her power armor suit, the Lady Grey, her BFF, names her weapons (one after her grandmother!), and doesn't take "no" or "can't" for an answer. Although this leads to some problematic behavior in the beginning, it's more often what she needs to get her out of the many tight spots she gets thrown into or throws herself into. There's an alien plague, space squid, another dimension, bio-engineering, and international conspiracies hiding the truth, if any of those elements attract you.

The secondary characters and galaxy are portrayed with bold detail and complex morality. Themes highlighted include who watches the watchers and what are acceptable sacrifices for the greater good. Devi's relationship with her love interest, the brooding and lethal Charkov, gets rather rocky during the series, but be assured there's a happily-ever-after for them! The romance may not be the focus of the books, but it is tightly interwoven in a fantastic space opera.

Author site: Rachel Aaron/Rachel Bach: Official Author Site

Recommendation by Lee Koven.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Five #Author Shortcuts To Save Time #marketing

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and supernatural stories to engage the emotions. Today I wanted to share five things I use to save me precious time when it comes to promoting, so I can get back to the actual job of writing. I hope they might help you too! If you know of any others, please share them in the comments. (These are all services I use and personally recommend, but there are others available).
  1. Booklinker.net - this gives you a shortened universal Amazon URL that will take anyone who clicks it to the appropriate Amazon store for their location. So no more having to tweet/post individual links for the UK, Canada, Australia etc. You can also create one for your Amazon author page. However, I'd recommend using it only for your own individual books - once a book URL is registered with the site, no one else can use it which might be an issue with multi-author anthologies or boxed sets for example. For those you might need permission, or to nominate one author to take responsibility for it. If you're with a publisher, you might also need their permission.
  2. Bitly.com to shorten links - There are lots of sites that will do this, but I find this one is the best. My embedded eBook links don't like the URLs from my website because of the # in page URL, but bitly not only shortens lengthy URLs but removes this issue. Why shorten links? Well, it gives you more character space in tweets if you're not using something like Hootsuite for example (more on that further down). And it looks less untidy in your social media links if you're not embedding them or inserting hyperlinks. It can also tell you how many clicks a particular link gets, so if you wanted to track a particular marketing method or promo event, you can assign separate bitly links and check the stats.
  3. Link your Facebook page to Twitter - Go to www.facebook.com/twitter. It gives you the option to add any pages you admin and your profile, so choose whichever you wish. This means whenever you post to your page, it gets tweeted too, saving you a job. It might also help with your page visibility. One note of warning: If you use the scheduling function on your page, it won't tweet that scheduled post. Don't ask me why. I've tried asking and complaining and got zero help from Facebook. But there's a way around it...
  4. Link your blog to Twitter - I use twitterfeed.com but there are others. So when a new blog post goes live, it automatically tweets (though there can be a delay up to a couple of hours. Again, I don't know why). You can also add hashtags to be included in the blog tweet, but bear in mind it'll be added to EVERY blog post tweet, so be sure to use something that will apply to anything you post. You can also link your blog to your Amazon page (via Author Central), and your Goodreads account.
  5. Hootsuite - this allows you to not only schedule tweets but also to other social media platforms. The free version allows for three social media sites - I use it to post to my Facebook fanpage (this gets around the issue of posts scheduled on your actual page not tweeting), Twitter, and my Facebook group. You can add more with the paid version. This means you can space out promo to stop it being annoying, and schedule for days when you're away from social media (for those who can escape the time suck!). You can also set up streams to follow certain accounts, hashtags etc (a bit like Twitter lists but you can see several on a page - handy for events).WARNING: When converting Amazon links, be sure to delete unwanted extra text from your URL. A direct Amazon link should look like this - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BI7BDC2 And NOT like this - http://www.amazon.com/Quickshot-Pippa-Jay-ebook/dp/B01BI7BDC2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1459241496&sr=1-1&keywords=quickshot You don't need any of the text from and including ref. There was an article about this HERE
I hope you find some of these useful, and please share any you've found.
Disclaimer: Any views expressed in the post are purely the opinion of the author and not the SFR Brigade.

After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 22 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, Broad Universe, and EPIC,  blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade. She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), the 2015 EPIC eBook awards, the 2015 RWA LERA Rebecca (2nd place), and the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place).

You can stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.

A Space Opera Short Story
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Sal, a legal carrier (just about) of whatever comes her way, puts her trust in just two things: her guns.

Keeping out from under Imperium eyes—especially those belonging to a certain Ehi Wahu—while making a living, and trying to keep a lover who can tolerate her twitchy trigger fingers, are the extent of her ambitions.

Then a kiss from a passing stranger, and a promise of the biggest score in a long time, tempt her. Devin fulfils more than one need, but he comes with more trouble than one woman can handle. And this time it'll take more than her guns to save her. She'll have to trust a man again.

WARNING: for over 18s only. Adult content including sex, bad language, & implied extreme violence.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation