Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What Makes Me Write a Series Instead of a Standalone Book? by @CarmenWBuxton

by Carmen Webster Buxton


Many readers love books that occur in a series. For some genres, it’s almost required. For mystery writers, it makes a lot of sense to create a detective—either a pro or an amateur—and then write each book about a different crime, but with the same protagonist. The detective can travel, so setting can vary, and other characters can be added as needed. With other genres, it’s not nearly as common to have the same protagonist in every book. 

I created my own universe with my ThreeCon books, but those books are a series only in the sense that the rules of my made-up history of Earth and the galaxy apply to all the books. Specific galactic-level events are referenced in several books, but no character appears in more than one book. 

Previously, the only series I had published where the same characters appeared was the two Haven books, The Sixth Discipline and No Safe Haven. Both books are set on the planet Haven, with a nine-year gap between the end of Book 1 and the start of Book 2; both stories have many of the same characters in common. The reason there are two Haven books is because when Ran-Del’s story started in my head, it spread to encompass other story lines. When I was done writing the first draft, the page count was much too big for one book, so I split the story in two. I could do that because there was a logical breaking point, with enough resolution to end that book, but one big outstanding question remaining for Book 2.

But now I’m publishing Book 2 of what will be a 3-book science fiction romance series, all three books set (mostly) on the planet Wakanreo, and all three involving the same characters.  As with the Haven books, these books weren’t conceived as a series. It’s merely that once the characters existed in my head, they kept doing stuff, so I kept writing it all down.  I actually had a very rough draft of both Alien Vows (Book 2) and Alien Skies (Book 3) finished before I published Alien Bonds (Book 1). I had to do a substantial rewrite of Alien Vows because of the changes I had made when rewriting the first draft of Alien Bonds. Once Alien Vows is out, I’ll be doing the same kind of rewrite on Alien Skies.



Some romance writers create a series where the books share a theme, like a common setting, or all being tied to one occupation (such as Mindy Klasky’s baseball-themed Diamond Brides series). Others might be family-oriented, with brothers as the protagonists (brotherhood seems to be the most common family relationship on which to base a romance series; a search on Amazon for “romance series brothers” yields many surnames including: Hunter, Bradford, Beckett, McGavin, Cocker, Cynfell, Stone, and Darcy).

Romance is tricky to write with the same characters in a series, because the plot is focused so much on the development of the relationship between the two main characters. If the relationship already exists when the story starts, can you still call it a romance? I think so, but the relationship still needs to be each story’s focus, and it needs to develop or change in some way.  Certainly, Diana Gabaldon manages to keep the relationship front and center in her Outlander series, in spite of the ground (and time) her characters cover.

My readers sometimes express in reviews their hope that the book they are reviewing will be the first in a series, that those characters’ stories will continue. Usually, I have to tell them no, because if the story is over in my head, then it’s over. But with the Wakanreo books, I can finally say yes, the story will continue! 



Bio:  Carmen Webster Buxton spent her youth reading every book published by Ursula LeGuin, Robert Heinlein, and Georgette Heyer. This combination of far-future worlds, alien cultures, and old-fashioned courting customs influenced her writing and that shows in most of her books


Links:
Carmen's blog/website: http://carmenspage.blogspot.com/


Carmen on ​Twitter:​ ​ https://twitter.com/CarmenWBuxton 


Buy link for ALIEN BONDS, my latest release   ​: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07959BHM4



Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Meet the Author - Michelle M. Pillow


Today, we're introducing new SFR Brigade member and very prolific SFR author Michelle M. Pillow. Michelle has several SFR series in the works! Read more about her work and achievements below. Welcome, Michelle.


How or why did you first start writing SFR? Any particular inspirations?

I honestly thought I would only write historical romances. It’s how I started, and as a historian, it’s what I loved to do. After my first book, a Regency ghost story romance, published (back in 2004), the editors contacted me needing authors to fill out their Sci Fi Romance list. I agreed with the idea I’d go back to historical “my true passion.”

I laugh at younger me now. Historicals are no longer my passion. Those first Sci Fi books, Dragon Lords, a futuristic dragonshifter series, grew into the Quirlixen World collection with 34 books within 7 series installments and growing.


How many SFR books have you published and what are the titles? Can you give us a quick blurb on your most recent or upcoming title?

I was recently recognized by RWA for having published a 100 romance titles. The majority of those would fall into the Sci Fi category—alternate reality romances, futuristic, sci fi, space opera.

His Earth Maiden: A Qurilixen World Novel (Space Lords Book 4)
Released: May 15, 2018

Former elite Federation soldier, now turned space pirate, Jackson Burke has done his best to turn his life around—for the better. He isn't prepared when fate leaves a woman's safety totally in his hands. Since heroes don't leave a damsel in distress—and despite being outlaw pirates, the crew considers themselves the good guys—Jackson assumes responsibility for the beauty. It’s enough that his ship is held together by rust and sheer will, now he's got to keep this good guy thing straight and not give into the urges the sassy female brings out in him. Raisa is everything a man could want and for some reason she seems to like him, rough edges and all, but he's on the Federation's wanted list and they aren't known to back down.
Website       Amazon       Nook        Kobo        iBooks


When writing, which usually comes first for you -- the romance or the other elements of the story?

I find both to be equally important. If any element—scifi, romance, intimate scenes—can be lifted out of the story and it doesn’t really make a difference to the overall book, it doesn’t need to be there.


Have any of your books received any special recognition? What and where?

I’m a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author and just received recognition from Romance Writers of America for publishing over 100 romances.

2015 Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion Award of Merit recipient for outstanding literary fiction in Paranormal, Warlocks MacGregor: Love Potions

2011 Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award Nominee

Winner 2006 Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for the historical romance Maiden and the Monster

2007 Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award Nominee for the futuristic romance Lords of the Var: The Bound Prince


Where's your favorite place to write? Do you have a dedicated writer's cave?

I’ve learned to write anywhere and everywhere. There have been many deadlines met while riding in a car, airports, hotels, parking lots, coffee shops, waiting rooms, my couch… Strangely, I’m rarely in my office. Really, if I can bring a laptop I’m probably working.


What are your favorite SF/R movies or television series and why?

This is a tough one since I tend to love anything paranormal or scifi. I loved the quirkier dialog in Serenity. Stargate, Star Trek (I was a Next Generation fan, as that’s what was on when I was becoming a somewhat adult), Eureka, Black Mirror, Dr. Who (Tennant), the original Star Wars, Terminator…I should probably stop, or I’ll spend the entire time with a list of awesome.


About the Author

NYT & USAT Bestselling Author Michelle M. Pillow is an award-winning romance writer with over 100 published books over the course of her nearly 15-year career. She is best known for her Quirlixen World including the series: Dragon Lords, Space Lords, Lords of the Var, Galaxy Alien Mail Order Brides, and more.

Michelle is always up for a new adventure or challenge, whether it's a paranormal investigation of an old Vaudeville Theatre or climbing Mayan temples in Belize. She was a refugee extra on SyFy's Z Nation (2016).

You can find Michelle M. Pillow at these sites:

Website      Facebook      Twitter      Instagram  
    Goodreads      Bookbub


Upcoming/Newest Release:
Better Haunts and Garden Gnomes
(Un)Lucky Valley Book 1
Cozy Mystery Paranormal Romantic Comedy
June 26, 2018

Sci Fi Works:

Quirlixen World Collection
The Qurilixen World is an extensive collection of science fiction and futuristic romance novels by award-winning author, Michelle M. Pillow. It all started nearly 15 years ago with the original Dragon Lords series and has since grown into a massive collection. Check out each series within this bestselling world. Note: Each book in each series is a standalone story.

And More!

Friday, June 22, 2018

SFRB Recommends #82: Escape From Zulaire by Veronica Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Empires by @egmanetti


by EG Manetti

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




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

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




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

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

»◊«

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, milord.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a great deal more.

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

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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



 888

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

888
 



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

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

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

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


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JADRIAN Blurb and Buy Links: 

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon     B&N    Kobo      Google  iBooks


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