Sunday, October 18, 2020

Is NaNoWriMo for You?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is:  To NaNoRiMo or not.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, where participants attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. I have mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo, mostly because I think it encourages writers to essentially binge-write, often exhausting themselves creatively in order to get that 50K.

Anyone who's followed me any length of time - by reading my blog posts or listening to my podcast - knows that I'm a strong proponent of finding a sustainable pace for writing. I've tracked my own productivity for years - almost a decade now - and I've talked to countless authors about their process. The binge method feels good in the moment, but also results in crashes. Overall, I've found that the creation binges don't compensate for the resulting crashes. This lowers overall productivity.

Conversely, discovering a sustainable production pace - a daily wordcount that a writer can produce over the long term without crashing - increases overall productivity in an amazing way. 

So, is NaNoWriMo for you? I think it can be super useful for building that daily writing habit and discovering what your sustainable wordcount is. But I think going through NaNoWriMo should be focused on that: discovering what you can do in the long term. Writing 50K in November and then crashing for months afterword won't lead to a sustainable writing practice.

Now, if you don't care about developing a sustainable writing practice and just want to see if you can write 50K in 30 days, then go for it.

But if you DO want to be a career author, then consider setting up a schedule for NaNoWriMo where you slowly increase your wordcount over the course of the month, like this:

1 100

2 200

3 300

4 400

5 500

6 750

7 1000

8 1250

9 1500

10 1750

11 2000

12 2000

13 2000

14 2000

15 2000

16 2100

17 2100

18 2100

19 2100

20 2100

21 2100

22 2200

23 2200

24 2200

25 2200

26 2200

27 2200

28 2200

29 2200

30 2200

By the end of November 30, you’d have 50,150 words. By slowly increasing the wordcount and not exhausting yourself at the beginning, you'll build up your ability to write sustainably, much like training in a new exercise. Best of all, by the time you’ve got yourself in the habit of doing 2,200 words a day, it will feel very easy and natural. Because you’d be in shape for it.

And if 2,200 words/day isn't sustainable for you, drop it back. Find out what IS sustainable. Writing is individual and what's key is finding your own process and owning it. NaNoWriMo is just one tool to discover that. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Shopping in My SF Stories for One Item to Bring Home

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the item from your books you most want to own and why.

Hmmm, let me think. The first item which came to mind was the blaster – I’ve always wanted a blaster. There’s a lot of fun technology in my Sectors scifi romance series but the more I thought about it, the more I decided…no. These items don’t exist outside of their own ecosystem, as it were. I wouldn’t be able to recharge the blaster (although I do seem to have given it a pretty limitless capacity. I don’t remember anyone reloading during a battle in any of my books.) The high tech medical tech needs support systems as well. And besides, importing an item into our current time doesn’t always work out well. Lots of classic science fiction tells that tale! “The Little Black Bag” by Cyril Kornbluth comes to mind…

I can just see the Twilight Zone-esque unintended consequences of me importing some Sectors tech into present day Southern California.

Now I would enjoy having Midorri the alien pet…but she’d be hard to explain. Jake the Cat would probably object to sharing his house, cat tree and litter box with an alien interloper. Not to mention his cat treats! Moby the Nebula Zephyr’s ship cat likes Midorri and they get along very well but Jake isn’t as collegial. He won’t share my lap for sure.

Moving on to my ancient Egyptian novels, I’d love to have some of the jewelry. I’ve craved a pair of those elaborate, intricate earrings since the first time I saw the King Tut exhibit way back in the 1970’s. BUT, where would I wear them? I’m known for wearing elaborate and fanciful jewelry, especially earrings, anytime, anywhere but actual ancient Egyptian trinkets of the kind I’d like would be over the top at the grocery store, even for me.

And in my Magic of Claddare series, I haven’t really created much in the way of ensorcelled or powerful objects, although there was one pendant but it belongs to a goddess and I’d rather not risk upsetting her and bringing her into our realm on the trail of her necklace.

(Hmm, I do seem to be mostly about the jewelry, the pets and the weapons, don’t I?)

The last thing I considered was MARL, the ancient alien Artificial Intelligence from my Badari Warriors scifi series. He’s pretty self-sufficient, has infinite capabilities and between us we could probably figure out all kinds of nifty stuff to work on. He can be condescending and cantankerous as well and he accepts only one Authority at a time. I don’t think he’d react well to my removing him from Jill Garrison’s vicinity since she rescued him from (MILD SPOILER) ten thousand years of waiting on standby after his actual owner died.

I guess I’ll leave the goodies in the worlds I’ve created and allow my characters (and my readers) to enjoy them!

The scene where Jill discovers MARL, from the first book in the award winning series, Aydarr:

Her light made the mineral deposits in the walls and the stalagmites and stalactites twinkle with variegated colors as she swept it across the huge room in front of her. She stumbled and checked herself again as the beam crossed a figure lying huddled next to a large stalagmite.

“Hello?” Jill was ready to duck for cover but the person didn’t move and, as she played the light over him or her again, she realized she was gazing at a corpse.

Slowly, she walked to the spot where the other had spent their last moments. The figure was humanoid, dressed in some kind of flight suit, wearing a helmet obscuring her view of the face. One leg was bent in an awkward position that made her wince in sympathy. The body could have been there for millennia, preserved by the minerals and atmosphere in the cave. The entire form was encased in a layer of sparkly limestone, or whatever the predominant mineral dripping down the cavern’s walls might be.

With a pang of regret, Jill knew she was never going to see the face of the ancient. “I wonder what happened to him,” she said, rising and glancing around the cave. The sound of her own voice was reassuring. “I didn’t see any wreckage from a crashed ship outside.”

“Are you the rescue mission?”

Startled into a scream, Jill leaped sideways, into the shelter of a stalagmite, and aimed her weapon in the direction of the voice. “Who’s there?”

“You’re not the rescue mission.” The tone was oddly singsong, as if tasting the sounds, playing with the sentence structure. “Give me more language samples. I can only infer so much.”

Jill peered around the edge of the stone formation. There was an ovoid metallic unit which she’d ignored initially, sitting a few feet away from the corpse. Now the device displayed blinking blue and violet lights. “Who are you? What do you want?” she asked.

The lights moved faster, adding colors. “This would be easier if I could have direct access to your brain waves.”

“Uh-uh, not happening.”

“Your kind is unknown to me, although similar to many beings encountered on missions in the past. Where does your species originate?”

“I think I should be the one asking the questions,” Jill said. “I have the pulse rifle. What are you?”

“I’ll take input however you choose to provide it, even in the form of questions. I am MARL.”

“Which tells me nothing.”

“I can’t translate the acronym. I don’t believe your language has the capabilities for all the capabilities I encompass. You appear to be a member of a primitive race.”

Stifling a chuckle, Jill gave the blinking lights a sideways glance. “Insulting me isn’t a great way to make friends.”

Green lights added themselves to the blue and violet. After a short pause, MARL said, “No insult was intended, merely a statement of fact.”

“What happened here?” She waved one hand at the calcified corpse. “How long ago did he or she die?”

“Based on my calculations, about 10,000 of this planet’s years have passed since I received my last instructions.” MARL made a humming noise, and the lights blinked furiously, a few red pinpoints among the other hues. “We were trying to get home because my pilot had vital information he hoped might lead to the defeat of the enemy, but they pursued us and damaged the ship.”

“I didn’t see any signs of a ship out there.” Jill gestured toward the mouth of the cave.

“It crashed into the lake when he tried to land.”

“Injured as he was, are you trying to tell me he swam to safety then dragged himself and you up here?” Jill was fascinated by the story but skeptical.

“I am self-mobile and can manifest other, additional forms.” MARL’s hum rose to an ear splitting volume but nothing else happened. After a moment of silence, it said, “Well, if I were at full power, I could. I’ve been in hibernation mode, doing the minimum required, until you arrived. I am in the process of powering up.”

Jill thought the alien AI, if that was indeed what MARL might be, sounded rather grumpy and a bit embarrassed. She decided to think of MARL as a male entity, since the voice was masculine in timber. Maybe MARL sounded like its pilot had in his lifetime. “Are those your manifestations, as you call it, outside the cave? Because one was crushed by a rockslide and the other was half buried in dirt and debris.”

“Yes. The unit you see here is a portable emergency subset of myself, automatically ejected when the ship crashed. Two of my separate selves assisted the pilot in exiting the submerged wreck and brought him here, with me.” MARL levitated off the cave floor briefly before drifting back. “I sent a distress call then I executed the final order from my pilot. Since then, I’ve waited, set to standby status.”

Sounds like a report. Deciding she wasn’t in jeopardy from the ancient AI, Jill walked out from behind the rocks. “What was his final order?”

“To shield this valley from the enemy. Allow no overflights, no scans. I directed all my remaining power to the effort, until or unless contradicted by someone in authority. Are you in authority now?”

Shaking her head, Jill asked, “Why would you accept my orders? I’m obviously not connected to the people who created you.”

“I’m not meant to operate independently, but to support the organic beings in charge of the mission. As no rescue of my pilot was ever attempted, nor any message received, I can only surmise the civilization to which he belonged, and their enemies as well, have passed from the galactic stage. Although primitive, you appear to have the sentience required to make use of my capabilities to at least a limited extent. I was built to serve,” MARL said in a quiet voice. “Ten thousand years is a long time to have no real purpose.”

The blurb: 

Jill Garrison, a maintenance tech at the Sectors Amarcae 7 colony, goes to sleep one night as usual only to wake up in her nightgown stranded in the middle of a forest on an unknown world. There’s no time to think as she’s stalked by carnivorous predators and rescued by genetically engineered warriors calling themselves the Badari. Turns out they and she, along with her whole colony, are now prisoners of the Khagrish, a ruthless race of alien scientists. Working for enemies of the Sectors, the Khagrish have created the Badari to be super soldiers.

Aydarr, the Badari alpha, isn’t sure he can trust Jill but his attraction to her is undeniable. He impulsively claims her as his mate to prevent her death at the hands of the Khagrish.

Can he continue to protect her from the experiments already underway? Will his claiming her put his pack in jeopardy from their alien masters?

As Jill searches for a way to rescue her fellow humans and get them all to safety, she finds herself falling for Aydarr, despite the secrets he’s keeping. She has a few of her own.

The situation becomes dire when Aydarr and his pack are sent offplanet on a mission, leaving Jill unprotected, prey for the senior scientist. Can she escape the experiments he has in mind for her? Will she be able to thwart the Khagrish plans and liberate humans and Badari alike? How will she and Aydarr reunite?

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Wishful Thinking


What I wish I had from my books - easy. Edie's Iskant - her ship. It's completely tricked out. I might hope for better food stores than she has, but that's about it. Of course, I'd just go zipping around space and get myself lost. It's a one and a half person ship, meaning it's designed for one but can support more in a pinch. I wouldn't be interested in the pinch part. This pandemic-enforced-togetherness thing has me all about the isolation and not-another-person-alive-within-miles vibe of Edie's boat. 

A close second would be the medical that exists in this series. Medicine isn't generally painful in my world. It might not be able to cure everything, but it's pretty darned good. I'm saying this after having my first nerve block for migraines done, and let me just say yeowch. Those injections in the face got my attention in the worst way, so I could do with some painless medicine at this point. 

 What would you want from any of the books you've read?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Bookish Gotta-Have-It Items!

 Science fiction is full of powerful tech and weapons and fantasy brims with fantastical magic. But I can’t tell you which item from my books I most want to own and why, because you’ve got to wait just a bit longer to be able to read them.

Lucky for you, I read a lot and I’ve got gobs of things I dream about collecting—if only they were here in the real world! So if you need some ideas…

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Made-up Gizmos for Communication and Cats

 Look at these two adorable floofs:

Don't you just want to snuggle them and give them treats all day? Ahhhh, cats. More on them later.

This week on SFF Seven, we're talking about things we invented or made up in our books that we'd really like to have in real life. Can I just say, I make up a lot of stuff? Like, a lot. Most of it is based on seeds of current science extrapolated to possible future usage, and yes, my worlds tend to be a teensy bit dystopian so that doesn't always work out well, but generally speaking, I'd like to be able to play with most of my made-up gizmos. 

For instance, weather control. I grew up in Houston, Texas, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and whoo-boy is that a fun place to ponder weather control, specifically hurricane harnessing mechanisms. In my Wanted and Wired series, large-scale climate control experiments go awry, and the resultant calamity is, um, less than jolly happenstance, but some of the other technology mentioned might be really helpful. Lookin' at you, ocean turbines that can turn hurricanes into clean energy.

I also made up off-the-shelf hats and implants that allow brain-to-brain messaging and even transmission of sensory data, enabling someone else to feel what you feel. Wild speculation, yes, but also not completely without actual scientific basis. Those would be cool to have. 

But my favorite gizmo--also communication-related--is a series of alterations performed on the fictional cat Yoink, who was based on those two felines above, General Leia and OreoKitty. (Blame them for the delight in belly rubs, which I am told is not a universal cat like.) Tech in the books enables Yoink to communicate with her people as well as with a whole world full of animals that have implanted tracking devices, making her sort of a commander of a loose army of wild and generally pissed off critters. 

That tech would presumably enable me to communicate with the animals in my life. And I'd like to ask those guys some questions for sure. Like, hey Leia, what'd you think of the book?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

New #SFR Release: THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by Vivien Jackson & Rebecca Royce

Three cheers for our Wednesday blogger, Vivien Jackson, and her newest Sci-Fi Reverse-Harem Romance release with co-writer Rebecca Royce!


(Stranded Hearts Book 1)

The day her starship crashed, Bianca's life began.

En route to life saving surgery, Bianca’s ship plummeted from the stars to a primitive planet far beyond the reaches of the Union and all she’s ever known. Surviving was just the first miracle. Being found by a race of what her education says are savages--but who her damaged heart and sharp mind embraces as loving, passionate, and kind--challenges everything she’s ever believed about herself.

Nox, Torrin, Mattis, Astor

The one who finds her. The one who claims her. The one who wants her. The one who needs her. Leaders among their people, they couldn’t be more alike or more different. But they are in agreement on one thing: she’s going to be theirs and they will fight to keep her.

On the day she fell from the sky, their world changed forever.

Buy It Now: Amazon  |   B&N  

Sunday, October 11, 2020

How I Gave Myself a Fire Lizard

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the item from your books you most want to own and why.

In mulling this topic, I've come to an interesting realization: I rarely have interesting "items" in my books. With a couple of outliers, I don't really include objects of power or other magical artifacts in my stories. There's the Star of Annfwn in The Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, but it's not something I'd necessarily want to have. There are a couple of objects of power in my Forgotten Empires trilogy - most notably the orchid ring - but I wouldn't want that, even if it could be mine.

Mostly, the interesting stuff in my books that I'd like to have comes in the form of personal powers. And I'm noticing now how often the ability to control weather - like being able to make it rain! - crops up in my characters. So, sure, I'd love to have Lia's connection to the land and weather in the Forgotten Empires, or Salena's storm-making magic in THE LONG NIGHT OF THE CRYSTALLINE MOON in the UNDER A WINTER SKY anthology and the other upcoming Heirs of Magic books. I think it would be totally cool to be a shapeshifter as in Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms.

But those aren't items. 

The closest I can come is a familiar, which is a living being, not an item, but can be "owned," more or less. So I'm picking Chuffta from my Sorcerous Moons series. That's him, on Princess Oria's shoulder on the cover of book one, LONEN'S WAR. Chuffta is a telepathic, tiny white dragon. More or less. It's complicated. He's also Oria's best friend and staunch companion - even though he suffers from an unfortunate fascination with fire that occasionally gets him into trouble.
And yes, Chuffta is totally wish-fulfillment because I always wanted one of Anne McCaffrey's fire lizards for my very own!


Saturday, October 10, 2020

No Time for Nits

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is  Nitpicking - venting about things or thinking about the value of attention to detail.

Personally me, I’m not much of a nitpicker. I tend to be live and let live and select my battles, you know?

As far as editing for tiny details, the worst situation I ever had was once when a new-to-me-copy editor went through one of my ancient Egyptian paranormal romances and ‘corrected’ almost everything. When I write a story set in 1550 BCE Egypt, I have a style and a voice that fits the epoch and the way the ancient Egyptians thought about the world. It’s one of things readers and reviewers compliment (not to be boasty). As one reviewer said, “These are not 21st century people in kilts.” Right. I do a ton of research and have a huge library of reference materials in order to achieve my desired effect of taking the reader to that ancient world. I like to joke I’m getting my informal degree in Egyptology with all this studying. So I was irate and the copy edit was useless to me.

Have you ever dealt with real nits by the way? Our family went through several rounds of that activity when the children were little, especially one year when the day care was allowing children back in without being diligent enough on checking they were actually nit free. I’ll spare you the gory details but nits are tiny and tenacious and there’s nothing fun at all about searching through an entire head of hair to find and detach them.

Gave me a whole new appreciation for the term, let me tell you!

Hopefully I haven’t grossed you out…

I did have to watch the details on my new release of the past week, STAR  CRUISE: RETURN VOYAGE, which is in the Pets in Space® 5 scifi romance anthology. The events take place on a ship called the Nebula Zephyr but a lot of the plot is anchored in a tragedy set decades earlier, in The Wreck of the Nebula Dream. I had to be so careful and triple check myself every time I referred to either ship to be sure I was getting it right. Dream was destroyed, Zephyr sails on.

Speaking of details, we did hit #1 in several categories on Amazon and got that little orange flag appended to the listing for a while and we were a Nook Best Seller…but then to balance that, Kobo had a technical glitch on their end and were delivering four pages of gibberish to people versus the humungous anthology they expected. Details, details. Kobo admitted it was a problem on their end and took quick action so all is good.


It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you out of this world. The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to, a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone!

STAR CRUISE RETURN VOYAGE: Gianna Nadenoft is a reclusive survivor of one of the worst interstellar cruise ship disasters in the history of the Sectors. Now a renowned artist, she hasn’t left her home planet in decades, not since returning there after the wreck as a traumatized three-year-old. With her service animal at her side, she’s going to attempt to travel across the star systems to attend her brother’s wedding and reunite with her fellow survivors.

Trevor Hanson is a security officer aboard the cruise liner Nebula Zephyr with his own traumatic past as a former Special Forces soldier and prisoner of war. He’s assigned to provide personal protection to Gianna during her time aboard the ship but soon finds his interest turning from professional to romantic.

Onboard the Nebula Zephyr, powerful enemies are watching Gianna and making plans to seize this rare opportunity to gain access to her and the secrets they believe she’s still keeping about the wreck. Can Trevor overcome his personal demons and rise to the occasion to save Gianna from the danger waiting on his ship, or will she slip through his fingers and suffer a terrible fate deferred from her last disastrous voyage?

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Note: Image from DepositPhoto