Sunday, August 9, 2020

SFF Tropes: Name Your Fave!

If you love some Romance with or alongside your SFF, my publisher is doing this fab giveaway of new releases to celebrate Romance Awareness Month! Note that my book, THE FIERY CROWN, is included :D 

Our topic at the SFF Seven this month is our favorite SFF Tropes.

For those who might not know, a trope is simply a story element. I've noticed that some in SFF circles tend to be resistant to discussing tropes - as if they're a negative or unoriginal aspect of storytelling - where Romance readers are very open about embracing and searching out their favorite tropes. In truth, tropes are inevitable and wonderful parts of recognizing what kinds of stories we love. If you want a broad overview of tropes - and you're not afraid of a rabbit hole, because this site WILL take you down one - check out TVtropes. Despite the somewhat misleading title, this site is super useful for researching story tropes from all creative media. 

If you want to peruse just SFF tropes - maybe look for your personal fave! - I did the search for you.

A lot of the time, what people identify as tropes are those story elements that have become cliche. The Chosen One is a somewhat cliche trope in Fantasy that can make us roll our eyes if it's not handled well. Usually handled badly with this trope means that the Chosen One is a white boy prodigy (Orson Scott Card anyone?) with no indication whatsoever what makes them so freaking special except that they are Special. And no, making your Chosen One a brown girl instead doesn't automagically solve the problem.


You all know me: enemies to allies/lovers and marriage of state/convenience are right up there for me. They also happen to be grand crossovers to Romance, so they work well for me. 

I also love me an underestimated heroine with hidden talents, magical or otherwise. I love an embattled ruler, almost always a queen for me. The Hero's Journey is a favorite, though I almost always give it to a female character. That goes well with the magic worker struggling to control growing powers. The alpha male with a cinnamon roll heart always works for me. 

Amusingly enough, all of those tropes are in THE FIERY CROWN. Go figure.

What about you - fave SFF tropes???

Friday, August 7, 2020

Audiobook Recommendation

The only thing I have to offer you in the way of audiobook wisdom is dinosaurs. A Grown Up Guide to Dinosaurs Mostly, I find I can't handle someone talking at me while I'm doing other things I need to pay attention to like driving. Unless you're talking to me about the state of science. A friend recommended the book and insisted I'd love it. She was right. My only complaint was that it wasn't long enough. But then, I was listening to this audiobook while I was painting a room (no, once the cutting in is done, painting is pretty brainless. No cats were painted in the painting of my deep blue wall) and I ended up needing a few more hours than I had. Oh well.

Because of the expense of producing audiobooks, not a single one of my stories is yet in audio. I say yet because there may be efforts afoot to change that. Just. Don't hold your breath. I'm not. There are still logistics to be worked out and options to be explored.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Rise of the Audiobook

This week I’m listening to The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, a beautifully written historical fiction that takes place in 1950’s India. I love learning new things in such a vibrant way…and I’m listening to it! 

Good timing too because our topic this week is audiobook popularity. Do you listen to audiobooks? If you’re an author, do you make them? Any thoughts on if they’ll overtake ebooks? 

Honestly, I was slow to join the audiobook bandwagon. I’m not talking books on tape, but the electronic versions you can download in an app—so EASY! Yet, when they became a thing and my fellow book bloggers were devouring them, I stuck to my paperbacks and hardcovers. 

Crazy enough, at the time I was still working in the corporate world and driving at least two hours a day, sometimes more depending on which laboratories I needed to visit. 

Fast forward to today and…man oh man, why didn’t I give audiobooks a try back then! If I could hop a time machine that might be my destination, go back and tell my commuting past-self to download gobs of ‘em I could’ve soared my 90 book-a-year average into the triple digits! 

Even though I no longer commute, I’m so blessed to be able to work from home, there are plenty of days my eyes can’t take any more screen time. That means ixnay the ebooks and even reading on a page is difficult—thank you very much chronic disease—but, I’m thankful for audiobooks! 

Popularity then: I’d say they’re gaining. I talk books with most people I come across and within the last couple of years I’ve noticed that more are listening instead of reading. Interesting…possible factors could be: chronic disease is on the rise, resulting in conditions that increase the necessity of an audible option, and in our current semi-isolated climate hearing a voice is a comfort, even if it’s recorded.

Another interesting thing, I recently learned that for traditionally published books it’s not always the publishing house that puts out the recorded version. 

Come on, gasp with me! I can’t be the only reader out there who didn’t have a clue about how audiobooks came to be. 

Yes, I was aware of companies you could hire to produce your self-published or indie-published book if you wanted to. But maybe because I haven’t been listening to audiobooks that long or maybe because I don’t really pay attention to the intro and miss who actually made it I’d always assumed they came from the publisher!

There you have it, my take on audiobooks and how I think they’ll continue to grow. Yes, I enjoy them, though never as much as a paper version. And yes, I believe I’ll make one someday. 

*By the way, have you listened to Martha Well’s Murderbot series in audio?! The narrator, Kevin R. Free’s interpretation perfectly encompasses Murderbot’s flatline emotions and ponderings. So, so good. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and dig sci-fi, hands-down start with this one!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Audiobooks on a budget

This week we're talking about audiobooks here on the SFF Seven. I'll say right off that I'm a huge fan, especially nonfiction. I subscribe to Audible and have a Chirp account too, so I'm pretty stocked on stuff to fill my ears with. Back in the days before covid, audiobooks made waiting in the car for kids a less stultifying lifestyle choice. Bonus that I was not tempted to sing along to must, therefore avoiding the "Mom, please stop singing" refrain, which as you can imagine was always so uplifting and encouraging. 

In the new normal of quarantine life, I haven't been in the car much, so my listening time is way down. (I know, I should use the treadmill more, which is a great time to listen to audiobooks, too.) Regardless, I'd still consider myself a fan. I'd recommend any and all of the last three three books I listened to on audio: The Last Emperox by John Scalzi (on Audible), What If? by Randall Munro (on Chirp), and Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik (also on Audible; I read the ebook, too, but the audio was super fun). 

One drawback of audiobooks in general is that they do tend to be pricey, but there's always the library. Also, you can have BookBub send you daily emails of deals for Chirp books, much like they do for ebook sales. For more info, check out the write-up on BookBub regarding the service. LibriVox also offers audio recordings of books in the public domain, for free, and this is literally the only way I can handle Herman Melville.

But all the above is from the point of view of someone who listens because it's fun and eats up a long car incarceration. So I brought up the topic--asking both why audio is a thing to do and tips for doing it on the cheap--with my friend and fellow science fiction romance writer, Cailin Briste. Here's her response:

I have a unique take on audiobooks. I’ve had eye problems for over a decade that made reading difficult. I have the Kindle Oasis specifically because it can do text to voice. At the rate I read books, having my Kindle read to me was the best financial option for me. I’ve even grown attached to the computer simulated voice that reads the books. Since I’ve had surgery on one eye, I find myself reading more rather than listening. Actual audiobooks have always been for long drives with my husband. A shared experience. He even listens to romance novels.

So, in addition to scoping out deals on places like Chirp and LibriVox, seeing whether your ereader or computer has a text-to-speech capability may also help you access audio without having to pay out the wazoo.

Oh. I guess I should mention that the first two of my Tether cyberpunk romances are available in audio through Audible. The third is not because I self-published it, and if you think buying an audiobook is pricey, whoo-boy, you should see what it costs to produce one. (Hint: a lot.) But I am pondering reading More Than Stardust aloud, like on YouTube or something, chapter by chapter, if anybody would ever be interested in such a thing. 


p.s., Much more excitingly, Cailin Briste, who was kind enough to talk with me about audiobooks, also has a new erotic science fiction romance out this week, the last in her Sons of Tallav series. If spicy SFR is your jam, check out Trey: Son of Tallav

She’s the opposite he can’t resist.

Trey Johannsen’s preference is to stick to managing a private club on Beta Tau. It’s dark. It’s sexy. The cries of pleasure, the thud of a flogger, and the mingled scents of arousal and fear are evidence he’s damn good at it.

So when his boss insists Trey’s perfect for assisting a new hire to develop a cabaret, Trey is nonplussed. How the hell do you make burlesque accurately represent the lifestyle? Then he meets her, and instant attraction has him imagining peeling her clothes off, tying her to a bed, and sinking into her until she can take no more.

He’s determined to make her his own despite differences that could thrust them into bitter conflict.

A lust-inducing man isn’t on Patsy O’Shaughnessy’s shopping list. Her commitment to refuse his overtures, they’ll be coworkers after all, slides into oblivion. She’s got a lot on her plate, but dessert never hurt a girl. Especially when the dessert is built like a Celtic warrior of old, lacking only the kilt and sword.

This is the 4th and final book in the Sons of Tallav series.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Apple Books | Kobo | Nook

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Audiobooks: Have We Heard This Before?

Audiobooks, I've had a few would-be readers ask if I'd ever release my Immortal Spy series as audiobooks. If the Universe could guarantee that I'd make back my investment in having them done (and done to my satisfaction) sure. I'm a big, big fan of delivering products in formats consumers want. However, the costs of having seven ~90k books recorded are quite prohibitive, especially now that the consumer bar of expectation is rising due to a glut of products. I'm watching consumers clamor for recordings done with a full cast and sound effects; it's audio entertainment circling back to the Golden Age of Radio when radio shows like The Shadow, Flash Gordon, and George & Gracie held listeners transfixed. Indeed, readers who are visually impaired also want to enjoy the escapist journey, and audiobooks give them that opportunity. I want to give them that opportunity, but as a Self-Pub author, I just can't afford it.

As a reader, I don't listen to audiobooks, not because I'm a snob, but because my attention can't stay fixed on someone talking without visual cues. It's my quirk, by no means a ding on those who enjoy audiobooks. 

Do I think audiobooks will overtake eBooks and print? No. Not at all. I think the heyday has passed. Now, we're moving into the high glamour, which will eventually price itself out of viability before scaling way back and settling into the niche market that's been around for a hundred years...since the dawn of commercial radio.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Audiobooks - the Future or...?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is all about audiobooks! Do you listen to them, do you make them, do you think they’ll overtake ebooks?

I like audiobooks okay, but personally I don't LOVE them. I listen to them occasionally - like if I have a solo long-distance drive, or if I get an audiobook for free or cheaper in that format. Then I'll listen while doing housework or some such. Mostly, however, I find that I'd much rather have the quiet of my thoughts and/or listen to music. I mull my own stories when I'm not actually writing, so that's valuable thinking time for me. I'm so much in the habit of this that I find when I'm listening to an audiobook, my mind wanders. Soon I find that I've been daydreaming my own book and have totally lost track of the one I'm listening to. 


This doesn't happen so much with reading. Sometimes I get story ideas when I read, but it's easy to make a note and move on. I immerse much more with reading, either on paper or ebook. Audiobooks will never take over ebooks in my world.

That said, I *do* listen to my own audiobooks. They're an excellent way to catch myself up on previous events in the series, immerse myself in that world again, and gather up the various plot threads. I've been listening to the audiobook of THE FIERY CROWN - second book in The Forgotten Empires - narrated by the immensely talented Gabrielle Baker, as I complete a revision of book three, THE PROMISED QUEEN. I also listened to book one, THE ORCHID THRONE. I can say that getting the story in a different format - read by someone else - helps me "hear" the details better than if I read. Also it lets me multitask.

All of my audiobooks thus far have been produced by my traditional publishers. I haven't had any of my self-published books put into audio simply because the initial investment is so high. I've thought about it. I've also thought about recording them myself. I'm still not convinced it's worth the time and effort.

For those of you who DO love audio, other books of mine available in audio format are (so far as I can recall - let me know if I missed any!):

The Twelve Kingdoms: THE MARK OF THE TALA

Falling Under: GOING UNDER

Facets of Passion: RUBY, FIVE GOLDEN RINGS


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Not Painting Myself into a Corner Plotwise


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "World Rules and Painting Yourself into a Corner: What's a rule of your world established in a previous book that complicated things for you in a later book?"

Re-upping a post I wrote for this blog in early 2018, here’s what I said the last time as an opener:

The best example of this I’ve ever seen is the opening sequence of “Jewel of the Nile”, where romance author Joan Wilder is writing the most fantastic pirate scene and it keeps building and building upon itself, more complications and worse problems for the plucky heroine and then…she’s trapped alone with a ship full of evil pirates and NO escape.

“I don’t know what the pirates do any more,” she says basically, in despair.

I have never, to the best of my recollection, painted myself into a corner in a book.

I sit down, I write the book over the course of a few weeks (now that I’m fulltime), I don’t have Michael Douglas in his prime to distract me, as ‘Joan Wilder’ did…I start out knowing the beginning, the ending, and a few key scenes along the way. I don’t end up in box canyons like the bad guys in old movie Westerns and I don’t have to rely on suspension of disbelief, as people had to do sometimes with the old movie serials, like Flash Gordon, as embodied by Buster Crabbe. One week the serial would end with him facing certain death or Dale Arden facing certain death and there’s no way Flash can reach her in time…and the next week’s episode starts off with her safe in his arms and no explanation given because of course, he’s FLASH. What? Eat your popcorn and don’t ask questions.

Yup, doesn’t happen to me when I write.  Somehow my faithful Muse and I avoid those issues. We might have other issues perhaps but not that one.

Moving on from my 2018 thoughts to the present day, I did get a little too conservative with my Badari Warriors series when I began writing it. This was my first ever actual series and I wasn’t sure how it would go, or how readers would like it, so in my head, I was doing three books. Okay, fifteen or so books later and with wonderfully enthusiastic fans (yay!), I’m still spinning out the overarching plot. I’ve sat down more than once and done a really rough sketch of what else could happen before we get to that last book. I do have the final book plot in my mind, as much as I ever do any plotting in detail ahead of time.

So where is the problem, you may ask? Well, I made the original packs pretty small. I believe I said about ten men each at one point.

So as it became clear to me I was going to want to write tons of books about my Badari Warriors, I had to find ways to open up the possibilities. I like wide ranging stories. I’d had in my head from the beginning that …..SPOILER…..

…despite everyone being so adamant there were no Badari women, I knew that yes, there were, and I planned to write a book for them at the right time. The book was GABE. I did plant some hints about this in an earlier book, where one of the human characters overhears two of the alien scientists laughingly discussing an old rumor that perhaps a few Badari women might have been created, early in the 800 year old experiment’s history.

So that was one way of expanding my boundaries. Then in KIERCE, I created a Badari from another lab entirely, in the south seas area of the planet, and gave this set of Badari a few new rules, while keeping the basic parameters. Now I’ve written about this southern pack in DAEGAN and the most recently released book, IVOKK.

If I’ve established a rule or a condition as an absolute, I won’t annoy my readers by breaking the rule in a later book. That can really set my teeth on edge as a reader when I’m reading someone else’s series so no way am I going to do that. But I’m pretty creative about working within my existing universes and trying to tell a good story. It’s not my nature to sit down pre-writing and draw up some gigantic, rigid structure of commandments and rules my characters and

I Must Live By.

So no, won’t be painting myself into any corners!

Here’s the newest book I mentioned above:


The blurb:  Proud enforcer of the Badari South Seas pack, Ivokk undertakes a secret mission back to their former home, in search of a cure for a mysterious illness affecting his soldiers, now in exile in the north. He’s ready to make any sacrifice to find the answer and help his pack brothers stay strong. He’s even willing to accept responsibility for the human woman assigned to the mission, although she’s a headstrong civilian, difficult and rumored to dislike his kind.

Sandara DiFerria was once a three star chef in the Sectors, but that was before the alien enemy kidnapped the entire adult population of her colony to use for experimentation. Rescued from the labs by the Badari, she does her part to support the rebellion now by running the vast commissary operation in Sanctuary Valley. All she asks is to be left alone until she can get back to the Sectors and pick up her old life again. Her one previous romantic brush with a Badari soldier turned out badly, ending in public humiliation. Add to that post-traumatic stress from her life before moving to the colony and she’s the last person to pick for a top secret mission. Or so she believes.

The Alpha running the pack disagrees and sends her to do the job under Ivokk’s watchful eye. Thrown together by the nature of the task they must undertake, the undeniable attraction they both feel grows. Will the dark secrets of Sandara’s hidden past create an insurmountable barrier between them? Can Ivokk and the tempestuous human chef find the answer to the Badari illness in time? Or will the elements and the enemy bring disaster?

Amazon      Apple Books      Kobo      Nook      Google Play

Friday, July 31, 2020

Those Who Have, Those Who Will

This made me laugh and I needed that. I figured I'd share the wealth.

On to the stuff I'm supposed to be blogging about. You know, there's a saying in boating. There are boaters who have run aground and those who will. I feel like that's the same way with writers writing themselves into trouble. Have I run aground in a boat? Oh yes. More than once. Have I written myself into a corner? Shockingly, not yet. I have no doubt that at some point it's likely that I will - it just hasn't happened yet. I put it down to one of the oddities of my brain. Sure. Migraines all the damn time. But in exchange, continuity issues seem to be a little bit of a weird and mostly useless (unless I'm writing) super power. No one else appreciates being reminded of what they said four years ago. I assure you.

I do have a situation right now in a WIP where I wish I could adjust a timeline. But I can't. So I have to cope. An acting teacher, talking about how to put up a Shakespearean play, commented that it's easier to create within the confines of a set of rules than it is to create in a void. Some days, I agree. Some days, I rebel. But one thing remains. If I write a series, there's a spreadsheet with all of the details I assume I'll need going forward. I'm frequently wrong and I have to go digging through earlier books to find some detail I half remember so I can get it right in the next installment. It goes in the spreadsheet at that point. But that's about the limit of my patience for guaranteeing that I don't write myself into something I can't write myself out of. So far. But. Like I said. There are those who have and those who will.