Wednesday, February 28, 2018

KISSing, only with plots instead of mouths

Q: How do you keep your story from getting too complex?
A: Here, meet my critique partners. Aren’t they amazing?

See, as a writer, I’m still learning how to keep things simple, and by simple I mean being able to hold the whole story and all its moving pieces in my mind for that final quartile, so I can wrap up the whole yummy burrito. An overstuffed burrito is a ruined white shirt, and I have…well, let’s say I have a guacamole problem. However, that’s where my amazing crit partners come in.

My CPs are kind of alpha readers who also know SO much more than I do about craft. They margin-note anything that's confusing or well-that-came-outta-nowhere or interesting-but-never-mentioned-again. Those margin flags typically indicate I have a whole back story for that element and love it to bits and really, really want to use it to complicate matters, but it isn't useful to this story/character/moment, and so it needs to go. For instance, plot threads concerning Mari’s mom and Garrett’s super powers and the oblique, giggletastic Terminator fan-service references? Gone. Snipped. Fixed. Streamlined. Thank you, SuperCPs.

In sum, my advice to everyone attempting to KISS (we all know the acronym, yes?): get some alpha reader/crit partners who know their stuff and aren’t hesitant to call you on your over-complicated crud.

(Note: It's tricky but not really hard to build good CP relationships. I met one CP because we were both writing a lot of self-indulgent Tolkien fanfiction a million years ago, one through a romance-writing professional organization that gets together in person monthly, and one because we slept together at a local writing retreat, which isn't nearly as salacious as it sounds. If you gut-flinch at the thought of going face-to-face with other writers in person, Critters might be a nice place to meet SFF-minded folk online. If you're a member of the RWA FF&P chapter, they have a mudpuddle that kind of functions as a CP dating service for folks writing SFR and PNR. Make sure to trade sample chapters before you get hitched for the whole manuscript, and also try to hook up with someone who is just a little bit ahead of you in craft knowledge.)

Oh! And one addendum from the former-litcrit-student in my head: it also probably helps to focus on a tiny, tiny group of POV characters – one, if you can get away with it – and their goals, motivations, and conflicts. If a worldbuilding piece doesn’t affect your protag, ditch it. The only stakes a reader is going to care about are those that directly affect your POV character's internal journey.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Complex Storylines: Clarity is Key

How to keep your stories from being too complex?

~slaps knee~

Oh, dear reader, I am the least qualified to answer that. Reviews of my books have included such phrases as "little hard to follow" and "have to pay close attention"...and those are the kinder ways of saying, "Wait, WUT?"

I'm getting better. Honestly. Pretty sure. Somewhat.

I keep repeating the KISS mantra in the back of my mind, but at the fore are the multiple balls the protagonist is juggling that will eventually merge into one big road sign of "guilty party this way." Part of the ongoing process of honing my skills as a storyteller includes being more mindful of how many balls are in the air, being clearer about the connections, and allowing the beats to remind the reader of where we are and what we know without bludgeoning them.

So, my advice, for what it's worth, is to include a very clear statement at three points within each arc of your story:

  1. The beginning: This is what we want.
  2. The middle: This is what want, this is what we have, and this is what we need.
  3. The end: This is what we wanted, this is what we've got, and this where we're going next.
Clarity, it's the best companion to complexity.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Keeping it simple

How do you keep a story from getting too complex?

I have never been accused of that particular trait and must defer to those wiser than me this week. If it isn't a spider's web of subplots. I'm basically lost.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Keep It Simple, Sister

I don't always share my non-SFF stuff here, but I'm so pleased with how this cover turned out that I just had to. SHOOTING STAR is a contemporary romance, darker and edgier than my Missed Connections series. I'm really excited to see this one finally come out as I've been working on it for years. Releasing March 6!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is "How do you keep your story from being too complex?"

...and I don't know.

I mean, what is TOO complex? I'm thinking that sometimes there's too much story to fit into a single book, which is probably why my series tend to expand.

It can be a mistake of newbie writers to think a story needs MORE. I used to worry about that, especially with the first novel I wrote. I worried that the story didn't have ENOUGH. Enough of what, I'm not sure. But, that was before I understood that the actual details of the story are much less important than how the story is told. It's the author's voice we fall in love with. Details, while they may add to the atmosphere of the story, tend to be forgettable.

So I think it's key to keep in mind that simple is good. If we're feeling the impulse to add to the story, simply to add, that's almost certainly not necessary.

Friday, February 23, 2018

To Run or Not to Run

On my mind this week and the week past: Running for public office. I can't believe I said it out loud. I hate politics. Yeah, I see you laughing and nodding. We roll our eyes and say things like 'all politicians are liars/crooks/insert accusation du jour here'. It's sort of this decade's lawyer joke. Except that's not what I'm talking about when I say I hate politics. 

You know I'm an introvert. So when I say I loathe politics, I mean that the idea of going to meetings with people wasting time, breath, and money using too many words and hours in an attempt to manipulate me into doing what they want makes me want to stab icepicks in my ears. And maybe theirs. HATES it, my precious. 

I laugh nervously about my chances of even getting voted into anything resembling an office. I'm a Wiccan living in the south. That's a tough sell. And frankly, I'm kinda left of left. So I'd expect to get laughed right out of the polls. But eh. I've had my share of unkind rejection letters. Losing would frankly be a bit of a relief. And yet I still mull the idea of filing to run. 

Why would I entertain the thought of doing something like running for public office when I claim to hate the whole process?  ESPECIALLY the fund raising part? Because I've discovered there's something I hate even more.

Dead children. Specifically, needlessly dead children. I am sick to death of 'thoughts and prayers'. I am sick to my soul of a bunch of old guys in suits wringing their hands in front of the TV cameras only to back to jacking off the NRA in the back office with one hand and eviscerating healthcare that might treat disturbed, hurting children with the other. I'm done with them. It's clear that more and more parents in this country are also done with them.

So I don't know yet. I'm still noodling. Because it's something I *really* do not want to do. It wouldn't be a step out of my comfort zone. It would be a damned drop from orbit. In just a wing suit. Still. Were I to take that leap, it would be because James wrote an excellent position paper. And I feel like plenty of parents would resonate with a platform of:

No parent should have to drop a kid at school with the parting words: May the odds be ever in your favor.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

On My Mind: Building Community

So, this past weekend I was at Boskone, and it was a wonderful time, as I was reminded what an amazing community we have in SF/Fantasy Literature.  There are some amazing people in this business, who are filled with wisdom and warmth and kindness.   I had the great fortune of sharing the signing table with Mary Robinette Kowal, who all of these attributes in abundance.  We, as a community, are blessed to have her in it.

Sadly, this past week, I've also been reminded that we have a way to go, and there are some people who thrive in being terrible, and making things unpleasant for those around them.  And that behavior, sadly, gets them notoriety.  They get talked about, which serves their ends.  I won't give them the time of day.

Because the people who are wonderful, who do great work and are good people-- they're the ones who deserve notoriety.  They're the ones who should get notice and have their names mentioned over and over.  So here is a large list of great people who deserve your attention.
First off, some of the people who I have been personally connected to, who have been a wonderful part of my local community: Stina Leicht, who wrote Cold Iron and Black Thorne and the upcoming Persephone Station, and gave back to the community for years by running the ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop before passing it to me.  Rebecca Schwarz, who is running it now.  Amanda Downum, author of The Necromancer Chronicles.  Patrice Sarath, author of Gordath Wood and the upcoming The Sisters Mederos.  Ari Marmell, who writes the Mick Oberon and Widdershin books.  Nicky Drayden, who had her fantastic debut last year, The Prey of the Gods.  Chris Brown, who wrote Tropic of Kansas and is one of the nicest guys you'll meet. Alex C. Wrenick, who writes shorts and poems, also as Camille Alexa.  BookTuber Extraordinaire Thomas Wagner.

Also, my fabulous compatriots on SFFSevenJeffe KennedyJames A. Moore (who wrapped me in a great big bear hug this weekend), K.A. KrantzMarcella BurnardVeronica Scott and our newest member, Vivian Jackson!  Vivian was a student of the aforementioned ArmadilloCon Workshop, making her another great success story from that program!

Friends, I'm not even scratching the surface.  There are so many more: Caroline YoachimFonda LeeAnnie BelletElizabeth Bear-- someone who treated me like a peer well before I earned it.  Courtney Schafer.  T. Frohock. ML BrennanSpencer EllsworthJaym GatesLaura M. HughesSarah ChornFoz MeadowsMelanie R. Meadors.  Mike UnderwoodPAUL WEIMER, possibly one of the nicest people in this business.

I could go on and on, because we have so many amazing people in this business.  Who else do you think deserves some praise?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A distractible mind thinks all the things and also, Hello!

I wake up very morning and read the news. So, um, there are a gazillion things on my mind this week, and I want to talk about approximately none of them. (Am fuming about some stuff, especially the stuff that also makes me sad.)

However, the one very satisfying thing about having a distractible brain is that I can switch topics with whiplash-inducing speed. Here goes:

1.  I’m here. On this excellent and admirable blog. Writing my words alongside some truly talented folks who have kindly let me come in here and play. For a gal who grew up binge-reading SFF and later decided, hey, maybe some other readers wondered about all those kissing scenes that we knew were going on but never quite made it to the page, and who then decided to squash the SFF and the kissing into one giant moshdoodle of steamy smooching cyborgs on space stations, well… this is a dream come true. I can’t wait to meet everybody.

2. Last weekend, I met aliens. Well, I went to Marfa, Texas, and saw the legendary mystery lights in the sky there. Does that count as a close encounter? I know, I know, I read about the UT Dallas undergrads who “proved” it was all atmospherics reflecting car headlights or somesuchcrud, but I Want ToBelieve. (Yes, even now, Fox Mulder. I know you got kind of old and uninteresting, but hey, I did, too. Don’t sulk. Have a sunflower seed.) At any rate, there is magic out in the mountains and in the desert. You can feel it. Also, the lights look exactly like the running lights on an alien mothership. And they change colors, so...disco aliens?

3. I’m reading more than writing at the moment. For folks who don’t know, the first two books in my Tether science fiction romance series – Wanted and Wired and Perfect Gravity – released in 2017. I love them like paper wubbies. The third one is in “what in the world do you put on the cover a book featuring a body-hopping AI who thinks she might be a girl, and yikes we have to title this beastie too” limbo. I’ve started on a new project, but it’s so new it mewls and I probably shouldn’t say more than that. However, the judging deadline for the Romance Writers of America RITA awards is coming up way too soon, so I’m spending most of my time reading books and wondering how I ever managed to write one (or three) of these things and whether that miracle is repeatable.

Okay, there’s more. I’ve also been thinking way too much about risk-taking (in the context of Girl Scouts, corporate fail-fast culture, and Adam Rippon); girl-power rock ‘n’ roll, esp. The Runaways and The Dollyrots; what a Regency duke actually did all day, other than hanging out in his club with his mates and drinking boozy things and sometimes going to balls; and Elon Musk’s hot little interplanetary car.

I’m happy to talk about any of the above. And thanks for the warm welcome, y'all.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

On My Mind This Week: Dogs

Huzzah! It's the Year of the Dog! Huzzah! 

For a dog-lover like me, it's a good sign. Except...well, last year I had to say goodbye to my beloved husky. He was 15, a rescue who'd put up with me and my weird for 14 of those years. He'd started life as the hot-potato dog, bouncing through four homes before landing in mine. He settled in rather quickly, leaving us birds in our slippers. In the inimical opinion of my Samoyed who'd joined the family first, the husky was...tolerable. He enjoyed long walks but was afraid of sewer covers, puddles, and thunderstorms. He routinely dug up moles then tried to convince the poor traumatized things to be his playmates (they declined as politely possible). Whenever I was on the phone, he would include himself in the conversations. He would never steal food off the table (not even the coffee table), but he would sneak it out of your hand if you happened to be distracted. He loved people. A guard dog, he was not.

Eventually, time does what it inevitably must. Not since grad school have I been without a four-footed companion. (I assure you, that's longer ago than I want to consider.) I've completed the painful parts of grieving and progressed to happy memories. For some months now, I've auditioned this strange freedom from responsibility for another life and have come to the conclusion that being dogless is no fun.

There are millions of dogs in need of homes. Their great big eyes and pleading expressions pulling at all the heartstrings. Oh aye, adoption is an option. Especially when you're looking for a dog who's aged out of his puppy years.

I came close to bringing home a big floof who'd been abandoned at the start of the winter holidays, but, darn it, I showed up at the shelter mere minutes too late. However, when a pup lands in a happy furever home, I'm happy...even if the home isn't with me.

My second attempt was a huge adoption event put on by area shelters and rescues. We're talking hundreds of dogs. Thousands of people showed up. Over 800 animals joined new families. Alas, mine was not one of them. Seeing the joy on faces young and old as they received kisses of gratitude from their new pets? Priceless.

Oh, but then, but then I found a breed-specific rescue one state over that has multiple blue-eyed shedders in need. Yes, yes, I promptly submitted my application. Yes, yes, it takes time for volunteers to vet applicants. Yes, rescue leagues are far more particular than shelters.

Now I wait...

Dear reader, I finally discovered the one thing that'll make me refresh my inbox more often than queries and submissions--rescue application approval. 

So that is why dogs are on my mind this week.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Can we PLEASE seriously consider a few sensible gun restrictions?

I do not ask that guns be outlawed. I ask that they be regulated properly to better insure that those who are mentally ill, those with a history of domestic violence, and those who are untrained do not have access to weapons capable of slaughtering 17 students and teachers in a matter of minutes. 

I understand that the right to bear arms for a well regulated militia exists, but if we can modify the right to freedom of speech (as has been done repeatedly on the FIRST AMENDMENT) then we can do so for the SECOND AMENDMENT as well. No one walking the streets in the United States needs bump stocks. No one living in an urban area or any suburban or rural area needs the capacity to fire 30 rounds or more per minute.
Requiring that people with firearms be insured is not an infringement of anyone's rights, any more than automobile insurance is an infringement. requiring that anyone who wants to have a firearm have proper training is not an infringement. Requiring that people buy their weapons (or transfer the ownership through proper channels) is not an infringement. THESE ARE SIMPLE, COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS.
Requiring that ammunition be sold in stores rather than online is not an infringement. TAXING AMMUNITION THE SAME WE WE TAX CIGARETTES (any tobacco related products) OR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IS NOT AN INFRINGEMENT AND COULD BE USED TO BETETR SECURE OUR SCHOOLS AGAINST WOULD BE MURDERERS.

Part of this has been posted before. I'm posting HERE for the first time. 
Dear Joe The Plumber: F___ Your Rights.
And, up on the soap box again.

I have said before and I will likely say many more times that I absolutely believe in the Second Amendment. I also believe in the First Amendment, which allows for free speech and permits you to be a narcissistic ass by making your statement about your rights to the grieving parents of youths murdered by a mentally unstable and deluded brat before he killed himself with the same firearm he used in a shooting spree.

I firmly believe in the Second Amendment and I believe, as I have already said, in the First Amendment. But you know what? I believe the interpretation might be a bit generous. There are occasions where the First Amendment has exceptions:

Incitement: Want to start a riot with your words? That's a no-no.

False Statement of Fact: That means the vast majority of politicians and most of the reporters for Fox News should all get their mouths washed out with soap. 

Obscenity: That means I censored a certain four letter word in my header. It's considered "obscene" by a lot of people. 

Child Pornography: Means some people are sick and should be locked away from children for all eternity (And just possibly used as targets at the local gun range, but some people might think that last bit is a wee bit extreme.).

Fighting Words and Offensive Speech: Remember "Incitement" up above? This is just another way of reminding us that picking fights with your words, even on a personal scale, is not legally protected. 

Threats: With the exception of situations that are obviously hyperbole like "Imma punch you so hard you go into orbit." Threats are not taken lightly and are not protected by the Bill of Rights. In fact in Georgia, if you threaten to kick someone's posterior, it's technically a "terroristic threat" and a felony. I don't know how that breaks down in the rest of the country. See, I'm a writer, not a lawyer or a plumber, so I might not understand all the shades of gray out there. 

Speech Owned By Others: Note how I'm not even quoting you here. Your words are yours. They might be disgusting, self-indulgent fecal matter that express how deeply important it is for you to own penis substitutes to newly grieving parents, but they are still yours. 

Commercial Speech: Truth in advertising. Lie enough and you could get in trouble again, especially if you are doing it to sell product. 

Governmental Control Issues:

Government as Employer, Government as Regulator of the Airwaves,  Government as  Educator, Government as Subsidizer/Speaker,  Government as Regulator of the Bar, Government as Controller of the Military, Government as Prison Warden,  Government as  regulator of Immigration.  

Those are all exceptions to the First Amendment, an Amendment that I hold near and dear to my heart. 

Now, let's look at The Second Amendment, shall we? 

Here it is: 

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." 

Know what that means? Of course you do. 

Here's one for you, Joe: What about MY Right not to get shot? 

That would fall under the Ninth Amendment: 

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Your right to bear arms does not override my right to not get shot by a lunatic who had easy access to a weapon. 

Additionally the United States Declaration of Independence says we have three unalienable rights including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

All of which is to say that I DO respect the Second Amendment. I also believe that if changes and justifications can be made to the First Amendment, they can and should be made to the Second Amendment as well and that those qualifiers and changes in no way, shape or form prevent you from defending your home. 

I firmly believe that proper screening, proper safety regulations and proper educations should all be required before anyone in this country is allowed to carry a loaded weapon outside of their own home or, frankly, inside of their home. (Just yesterday another toddler killed a younger sibling because the parent or parents were too careless or stupid to know not to leave loaded weapons where a toddler could get to it. I feel for the parents. I do. I also believe the owner of that weapon should be stripped of the privilege of owning a weapon and very possibly prosecuted for manslaughter. 

I also tend to think that since we have a very powerful military (possibly the greatest in the world, though I expect that's up to debate with some other countries) we could maybe acknowledge that we've got that militia part covered, but that's just me. 

And so on a side note, because I can and I have the right, I think you’re a moron and a loser and while I respect your rights, your lack of common decency regarding the grief that several families are enduring lowers my respect for you, low as it might have been.

And, off the soap box again.

Don't agree? Fire away. Please feel free to use logical reasons why these are not good ideas.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


The ever-efficient KAK already grabbed this cover for the sidebar, but I thought I'd officially share here. THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN, originally in the holiday anthology AMID THE WINTER SNOW, will be out March 12! If you didn't grab the anthology - or if you did, but want the standalone, too - you can preorder now. It's the same story, either way - the continuation of Amy and Ash's rocky romance in THE TEARS OF THE ROSE, and fitting in the timeline between THE EDGE OF THE BLADE and THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE.

This week at the SFF Seven is a topic of our choice - whatever is on our minds. So, I've decided to tell a story I haven't publicly told before. There's been a lot of conversation in publishing this last month about sexual harassment in the industry, largely springing from this article in the School Library Journal and the followup survey by Anne Ursu.

I spent some time yesterday catching up on the source materials - though I'd been reading lots of the ensuing conversations and fallout. Which included reading the comments, something I normally protect myself from but felt I should survey this time.

In talking with a friend about it, I said something about a parallel of when it happened to me. She immediately replied that she had no idea it happened to me.

Of course she didn't, because I never went public. There were good reasons for that, which I'll share.

It happened to me at a convention, only a few years ago. I was already an established author, with awards and a good record, bright future. My agent parked me with a male editor we hoped to dazzle. We were in the bar, with a bunch of people, drinking. And he started touching me. Knee, thigh, arm. And he wanted to talk about my writing! Oh, but he *really* wanted to know about the erotic stuff. By the third time he asked about my erotic writing, while touching my bare knee yet again, I became profoundly uncomfortable.

And I didn't know what to do.

For those of you who know me, that's pretty unusual. I'm not a shy person. In fact, "confident" is a word people often pick first to describe me. I have good boundaries and I'm firm and decisive in guarding them. I am not shy or at all hesitant to speak my mind.

But, sitting there in that bar, surrounded by people I knew - none of whom noticed anything - I felt suddenly powerless. Because this guy could influence my career. My agent wanted me to please this editor, not piss him off - though my agent had disappeared and was nowhere in sight.

For the first time in my entire life - at a fairly ripe middle age - I understood how this kind of thing happens.

I got up to go to the Ladies Room. On my way back I whispered in the ear of a female agent friend. I simply told her I needed to be extracted. Thirty seconds after I sat down, she got up, swept over and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry to interrupt your meeting, Jeffe, but I just found out [important person] is unexpectedly free - can you come meet her?"

And that was that.

I wanted to leave it at that, but my agent argued with me to report it, at least to the editor's boss. My agent offered to handle it and I accepted. The boss was livid, spoke to the editor. Days later the editor offered an apology via my agent, along with the news that he was on performance improvement and would no longer be drinking at conferences.

That satisfied me. I was ultimately glad we handled it that way, because - as my agent argued and convinced me - other female writers in that position would not necessarily have an agent friend nearby to rescue her. Or might not have the same confidence in her writing and career. It was important that I take action, not for myself, but so it wouldn't happen to someone else.

Because that's something I see a lot. Many guys who get pointed at are shocked that anyone saw them that way. Myke Cole was pointed to in the comments of that SLJ article and took a long, hard look at his behavior. I respect him for posting about it and taking decisive action to correct himself. I like to think that editor did, too.

This is why #metoo is important - because we have to bring these behaviors into the open, or they won't change. In reading those comments, I see a lot of people casting accusations of lying or attention-grabbing. I didn't go public with what happened to me because I didn't want to be that year's scandal at the conference. The conference organizers never knew, because we handled another way.

That's fine, because I had the personal power to handle it, and the strong backing of my agency. Not everyone has that. Not everyone has agent friends who happen to be sitting nearby and who can respond without question with such grace and effectiveness.

(That, by the way, is why I argue that harassment policies should include a provision for reporting to an industry friend to intervene. Firmly telling the person to stop never felt like an option for me, because of the power imbalance. Which is why it happened in the first place.)

One thing I'm leaving out is how shaken I felt at the time. With the buffer of years, I'm no longer bothered. But at the time, I wondered at how badly I'd handled that. I really felt I should have been able to tell him to knock it off. It was very instructive for me to be more compassionate when others tell their stories about feeling powerless in a situation.

I also thinks this speaks to the power of networks, friendships, and collegiality. We can all watch out for each other. And if you ever need to be extracted, just whisper in my ear.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Backlist Love For Wreck of the Nebula Dream 'Titanic in Space'

My first two books were published six years ago, in January 2012 (Priestess of the Nile from Carina Press, a Harlequin imprint) and Wreck of the Nebula Dream in March 2012, self-published. I decided for this post, since we're midway between the two, to feature Wreck today, partly because scifi romance and self-publishing have been my primary career path since that time. Although I did meet Jeffe as a direct result of having been published by Carina…and she introduced me to Marcella…and here I am on SFF7 (although that development happened a bit later.)!

I enjoyed writing about the Nebula Dream so much (although I destroyed her) that I’ve since written several books set on a more fortunate interstellar spaceliner, the Nebula Zephyr.

Here's the background of Why I Wrote Wreck. (Portions of this post first appeared on Pauline B. Jones' blog.):

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been fascinated by stories set during a disaster – the events, how could the characters have known or sensed what was about to happen, what do they do, what could they have done, what would I do…Growing up in Upstate New York, the closest I personally got to disaster as a child was probably digging unreinforced snow forts!

But, the family legend is that my maternal grandfather had a cousin who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. (I’ve since decided after a lot of searching around on the internet that she was probably not a relative, despite the unusual last name.) And as a result, I was thoroughly intrigued with that disaster in particular. I think after I’d seen the 1950’s movies about the sinking – “A Night to Remember,” which goes pretty much straight from the nonfiction book of the same name, and “Titanic,” a sudsy tragedy with Barbara Stanwyck – I was thoroughly hooked. (Saw them on late night TV folks, not in the 1950’s theaters LOL.). I devoured any account of the sinking. I read books and sought out movies about other disasters as well, both natural and manmade, like Pompeii and the Sepoy Rebellion and Apollo 13…

But Titanic is the epitome of disaster. Premonitions. Too much speed  on a clear night. Too much trust in the unsinkable technology. So many people, too few lifeboats.  The wireless operators staying at their posts, talking to the world on the internet of its time, Marconi wireless, yet no one could help. The Carpathia driving through the Atlantic, knowing they’d arrive too late. The Californian ten miles away, able to save everyone, yet unaware of the tragedy.  The musicians playing. The brave officers.  The lovers separated. Or staying on board together to drown.  The popular captain who’d never actually been in a sinking situation. The corporate executive who steps off the sinking ship into the last lifeboat and spends the rest of his life reviled. The steerage passengers, kept below too long. The rich, the famous, the children… I mean, the dramatic elements go on and on, yet it was all very real, and extremely sad.

Now I’m a writer obviously and I’ve done so much research into Titanic over the years, you might expect me to have written a novel set on that ship. Well, but for two things. First of all, I feel Titanic is complete. Not to say I won’t keep reading books about it and watching movies and TV mini series set aboard the ship, but as a novelist, it feels done. My Muse isn’t inspired to go there. Which leads me to the second point – my Muse likes to write science fiction adventure/romance, with Special Forces operators and smart, gutsy women, in dangerous situations. So it was probably inevitable that all that Titanic inspiration would turn into the catastrophe that strikes my Nebula Dream in the far future. I just had to figure out why my military hero would be traveling on such a ship. Once I knew that answer, I was off to write.

I looked to the events of Titanic for inspiration, not to do a literal retelling out in interstellar space. My plot includes science fictional things that would never happen in the cold North Atlantic. (No spoilers here!) But I also deliberately included two children among the small party trying to survive – Paolo and Gianna, who for me symbolized the many children who sadly perished on Titanic. There are some other subtle nods to the events of Titanic and a few outright similarities – the Nebula Dream is the newest, most advanced cruise liner of her time, with new engine technology, her captain and the company’s representative out to make a speed record at all costs…until….well, that would be  the story, now wouldn’t it?

The blurb: Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, space marine Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Backlist Love: HEY! Where'd It Go?

Should anyone attempt to search out my first two books, they'll find the books are no longer available. This is because the rights reverted to me. Yay. The books are undergoing a minor face lift while I write book three. Then books four and five.

I no longer own the awesome covers Berkley gave Enemy Within and Enemy Games. Had to go out and get my own. Which I did. Haven't shown them to anyone else, but what say we plunk the new ones down here for your perusal? The covers aren't final. So if you have suggestions, bring 'em. (besides getting the stock photo watermark out of the Enemy Games cover) The series title it going to change to The Chekydran War, since this series follows the arc of said war.


The third book is tentatively titled ENEMY STORM. No cover for that one yet. It is THIS CLOSE to going off for edits. Not that I'm anxious for that.

On the off chance anyone has forgotten what this pair of SFR books was about, here are the descriptions:


An escalating intergalactic cold war.
A  starship captain clinging to her shattered past. A pirate with an empire to protect .
An inhuman adversary.
And a threat beyond the scope of the imagination. 

Enemy Within

After a stint in an alien prison followed by a torpedoed military career, Captain Ari Idylle has to wonder why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of command and banished to her father’s scientific expedition to finish a PhD she doesn’t want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. She wasn’t built for it, either. But when pirates commandeer her father’s ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner—this time of pirate leader Cullin Seaghdh, who may not be at all who he pretends to be. As far as Cullin is concerned, the same goes for Ari.

Ari’s past association with aliens puts her dead center in Cullin’s sights. If she hasn’t been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. He can’t afford the desire she fires within him. His mission comes first: that he stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth of her mission.


Besieged by an inhuman adversary.
Betrayed by their own kind.
A scientist and a spy, sworn enemies allied by danger, bound by passion. 

Enemy Games 

Kidnapped while combating a devastating plague, Jayleia Durante fights to resist Major Damen Sindrivik, an officer from a rival government’s spy corps. With her spymaster father missing, and mercenaries hot on her trail, Jayleia must align with the magnetic, charming, manipulative spy. She must not lose sight of the fact that his single-minded agenda is for the protection of the empire - not her, not her people. 

Damen knows a shadowy network of traitors has allied with the violent, insectoid Chekydran, and that Jayleia’s father holds the key to dismantling that web. She becomes his only lead in a circuitous round of hide and seek. Too bad his instincts tell him Jayleia is lying to him. Nearly as much as she's lying to herself. 

Unless Jayleia can decide what matters most: ending the war or Damen’s love, they’ll become the prey of the traitors they stalk, and one species’ civil war will consume the galaxy.

Don't forget to let me know whether you love or hate the new covers (and why, please, if you hate them - so I can fix them.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018


With the release of Lady Henterman's Wardrobe just a few weeks away, you still have time to read The Holver Alley Crew so you are up to speed when Lady Henterman comes out.  And why wouldn't you want to fall in love with Asti & Verci Rynax, and the rest of the crew? 
Look what people said about it:

From the Bibliosanctum:
Certainly, fans of caper stories should be making The Holver Alley Crew their number one priority. A strong start right out of the gate, this series opener is a well-written and brilliantly executed example of the fantasy heist genre, and of all the novels written by Marshall Ryan Maresca so far, this might be my favorite one yet! The Rynax brothers and their crew are so good at their jobs that they will steal your heart from the very first page, and I simply can’t wait to see what the gang will be up to next.
From The Speculative Herald:
Maresca crafted a fresh and thrilling heist story that moves at a great pace. This is the type of book you just feel the need to read cover to cover, looking/wishing for the pause button on real life until you finish.
From JBrondar Book Reviews:
This is my first book from Marshall Ryan Maresca and I loved it. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next books in the series. I will be on the lookout for Maresca’s other books too.
There’s some fantastic planning scenes, as the team pieces together exactly what they’re going to do and when. Then there’s the tension of the job, and this is something which is brought out to perfection – each action is watchmaker-precise, and each failure can lead to a cascade of other failures – watching the team anticipate and deal with these (or not) is agonizing and wonderful.
The neighborhood of North Seleth and Holver Alley are well-written and thoroughly described environments that I could visualize being in any city. The alley is a close-knit community where the neighbors help each other out and everybody knows everybody else.  The reader gets to be immersed in this little segment of Maradaine- bars, churches, sewers, the chemist shop, a bakery… you name it. This whole world has depth equivalent to the most well-known and loved fantasy works on offer.  The final verdict: You’ve GOT to read this book!

Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, The Holver Alley Crew is the first novel of Maresca’s third interconnected series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine.

The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax’s service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery.  They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life. Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.

With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land.  Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti’s crumbling sanity, the brothers lead their crew of amateurs and washouts to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.

Available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and more!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Backlist Love: LARCOUT

Often, authors are so focused on pimping our latest work that we sometimes neglect the great works we've already published. So, this Valentine's Day, I'm giving a little love to my first book, a high fantasy novel, LARCOUT.

Fire Born, Blood Blessed: Book 1

Blood-beings can be chattel or char.

Fire seethes through the veins of every Morsam, demanding domination and destruction. Combat is a hobby. Slaughtering the inferior blood-beings is entertainment. Life is a repetitious cycle in the prison fashioned by the gods. But mix-race abomination Vadrigyn os Harlo suspects the key to freedom lies in safeguarding the blood-beings; until her blood-born mother uses foreign magic to turn the Morsam against her. Betrayed, bound, and broken, Vadrigyn struggles against the dying of her essential fire. Yet the ebbing flames unleash the dormant magic of her mixed heritage…

The magic to destroy free will.

Seized by the gods and dumped in the desert nation of Larcout to stop history from repeating, Vadrigyn discovers her mother’s legacy of treason and slaughter still festers. To survive the intrigues of the royal court, the roiling undercurrents of civil war, and the gods themselves, Vadrigyn must unravel the conspiracy behind her mother’s banishment. But manipulating free will unleashes a torrent of consequences.

If she fails the gods, she will return to the Morsam prison, stripped of all magic and all hope.

If she succeeds, she can rule a nation.

Kasthu. Roborgu. Inarchma.

Live. Learn. Burn.

Buy It Now in eBook & Paperback: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Overdrive (for Libraries)

Read an Excerpt: Chapter 1

Read the Reviews: Goodreads | #SPFBO 2016 Finalist

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Backlist Valentine: PETALS & THORNS

This week we're giving a valentine to the books of years' past and sharing a title from our backlists. A little love for those publications that might even predate the creation of this blog!

For mine, I'm sharing my first standalone fiction publication. It was my first sale as a novelist, even though it's technically a novella at 81 pages, and I originally published it with Loose ID. (Now sadly going out of business.) It's an erotic fantasy - a BDSM Beauty and the Beast - and is still one of my best-selling titles ever. Also, I originally published it under the pseudonym "Jennifer Paris," the one time I used that name. When I got the rights back and self-published the book (also my first venture into self-publishing), I did it under my own name. A bit of history there.

In exchange for her father’s life, Amarantha agrees to marry the dreadful Beast and be his wife for seven days. Though the Beast cannot take Amarantha’s virginity unless she begs him to, he can and does take her in every other way. From the moment they are alone together, the Beast relentlessly strips Amarantha of all her resistance. 

 If Amarantha can resist her cloaked and terrifying husband, she gains his entire fortune and will be allowed to return to her family and a normal life. But the Beast seduces her at every turn, exposing, binding, tormenting, and pleasuring Amarantha until she no longer knows her own deepest desires. Increasingly desperate to break the curse that chains his humanity, the Beast drives Amarantha past every boundary. But her desire for a normal life may jeopardize the love that will save them both.

As an interesting aside, here's this article on how Facebook is "flattening" content and reducing the ability of creators to share quality stuff. I'm trying to share it widely in places that AREN'T Facebook.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

New Release Day MATEER A #SciFi Romance Novel

I'm going to take a pass on the week's topic of why people aren't writing or don't write and how to move beyond that, because my fellow SFF7 authors have covered it brilliantly all week AND because I have a New Release today!

MATEER: A Badari Warrior SciFi Romance (Sectors New Allies Series Book 2)

The Blurb:
Megan Garrison, a doctor at the Sectors Amarcae 7 colony, goes to sleep one night as usual only to wake up in her nightgown, strapped to a table in an alien lab, destined to be the subject of terrifying experiments. Granted a brief reprieve, Megan and the other kidnapped humans are released in the middle of a forestlike enclosure on this unknown world and told to survive as best they can for now.
Her only hope is Mateer, the genetically engineered alien warrior imprisoned with the humans. He knows more than he’s sharing about this planet, their captors and the fate of other humans, including perhaps her own sisters. Turns out everyone from her colony has been kidnapped by the Khagrish, a ruthless race of alien scientists. Working for enemies of the human-led Sectors, the Khagrish have created the Badari to be super soldiers.
Mateer, a tough Badari enforcer, now a rebel, is captured while infiltrating the lab to help his pack bring it down. He’s also been ordered by his leaders to search for Megan and save her life at all costs. Tortured by the enemy, he’s offered one chance at survival – convince Megan to become his mate and assist the Khagrish with further experiments.
As the situation at the lab grows worse, Megan struggles against her deep attraction to Mateer, while she does her best to shield the other humans from the terrible Khagrish experiments. For his part, Mateer knows she really is his fated mate and despairs of being able to keep her safe, as the rebel attack is delayed and she fights the truth of their bond.
Will they be able to work together to defeat Khagrish plans and preserve human lives until the promised rescue happens? And what of their future together – will Megan accept Mateer as her true mate, or walk away if she’s freed?
This is the second book in a new scifi romance series and each novel has a satisfying Happy for Now ending for the hero and heroine, not a cliffhanger. Some overarching issues do remain unresolved in each book since this is a series but romance always wins the day in my novels!
Buy Links: Amazon     iBooks   Other buy links to come

Friday, February 9, 2018

Why You're Not Writing

Just a little blue heron for you today.

Full disclosure: This week's question was mine. That's because so many people tell me they want to write a book but they have no idea where to start. Or that they actually started the book and then read one on the same subject that was so good and they could never, ever do that well so they quit and gave up writing. I have an email file full of responses bleed pain all over my Outlook folders from people who knew what they wanted but believed themselves inadequate to the task of going and getting what they wanted.

Most of these people are women. (I did ask guys, too, I swear! But guys mostly denied every wanting to write books. Of the few who responded with wanting to write, every last one had also given up.)

So. Why aren't these people writing that book?

1. Because they're confused about what writing is.
Those of us who DO write have come to figure out that it's a multiphase process that in its first stage requires you to regress to your earliest and lamest excuse for language in order to get the bones of a story on a page. Don't believe me? Someday we'll auction off sneak peeks at a couple of my first drafts. (The price of my humiliation will be high.) They only barely qualify as language. Most of it has no caps and no punctuation. They're heavy on 'I know what I meant, even if no one else does.' That draft gets edited into something more mature. That draft goes to beta and then gets rewritten again . . . So yeah. The people notably NOT writing thought they could sit down and be, if not brilliant, at least understood from the moment their fingers touched a keyboard. They were deeply disappointed in themselves when that didn't happen. I send these people to Julia Cameron The Artist's Way - something that will ease them into viewing writing as a process.

2. They're comparing their raw drafts to someone else's finished product.
Most of us have been there. Let's pretend I was working on an 'an alien comes to earth and gets hooked up with a group of kids' story. And then ET came out. On the big screen. With a John Williams score and cinematography that plucked every emotional string I had and a few I didn't know I had. Where do you suppose that alien story *I* was working on went? Right. Straight under the bed. Get it back out. Write that alien. Write those kids. Ya know. If the plot is too much like ET, change it up. But your telling of the alien stranded on earth is going to be different because of your voice - that's what readers buy. Oh! You thought it was the story? Or your lovely prose? Nope. Not saying those things don't help - but no one cares if there's a typo on page 612. Your readers care whether your story connected with them emotionally. Did it make them feel anything? If yes, you win. If no, well, you won't likely sell many copies. Readers pay you to make them feel something. Lots of writers who write about writing address this. So I hand over my copies of Anne Lamott, and Stephen King.

3. They're afraid.
We live in a society that demands there be a right answer and a wrong answer. It is the basis of our educational system. It's etched pretty deeply into our psyches when we're young. Most of us have a dreadful relationship with failure. No matter how many inspirational memes we paste on the mirror telling us that failure means we're learning, we've internalized the message that failure means we're bad human beings. Even how we talk about it brands US as failures rather than our endeavors. (We say "I tried and failed" rather than "I tried and the thing I tried failed.") Writing fiction, by definition has no right and no wrong. There's only a story to be told. That's stepping pretty far outside societal conditioning there, pal, you sure you wanna leave the pavement that way?? So that aspect is scary enough. Then you have to deal with the fear of spending all that time and all that effort only to have everyone hate what you did. Or worse yet, roundly ignore it. Those things are pretty fail-y, aren't they? And that kind of perceived rejection is mighty threatening to a social beast like humans. I honestly don't have resources to offer on that one. Nike ads notwithstanding.

If you have any suggestions for assuaging or coping with that fear, I'd love to hear it. A couple of the women have glorious minds and amazing stories to tell. I'm invested in not letting the stories die with them.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Why You Aren't Writing That Novel

OK, time for some hard truths.  You haven't finished writing That Novel.  You've been talking about it for years, and you can visualize all the elements of it so easily.  You know it, back and forth, inside and out.  It's there, waiting.

But you haven't written it.

Why is that?

I could tell you it's about discipline-- and it is, no doubt.  It takes discipline, it takes putting your ass in the chair (or feet at the standing desk), and just plain doing the work.  It takes not going to that party, not binging that series, not spending yet another night refreshing Facebook every twenty minutes.  It takes just digging in and getting it done.

But most of you don't want to do that.
Here's the ugly truth, dear reader, and look deep inside yourself and ask yourself if this is why you haven't written That Novel.

You don't want to write a novel.  You want to have written it.

I get that.  I get wanting the glory of having it in your hands, being able to say, "Oh, I wrote a novel", but not having to do to the unsexy, daily-grind part.  I'm in the process of drafting my tenth novel (thirteenth if you count the ones that are sitting fallow on  hard drive), and I always wish there was a way to fast-forward this phase of it.  At this point, I know what I'm doing in terms of writing a novel, but it's still hard, grinding, go-down-to-the-word-mines work

And you're never going to write That Novel until you come to terms with that part of it, and get down to doing it. 

So what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Why don't people who claim to want to write a book...write that book? Mostly, I think it's about unreasonable expectations of what "being an author" is and what writing a novel entails. I'm not going to get into the selling of the novel because that's a leg of the journey beyond this week's blogging prompt.

Unless you live with an author, your exposure to what it means to Write A Book has probably been through the fictitious portrayals of an author's life in TV and movies. It's a fun and flexible occupation for a character to have, but like most occupations portrayed on TV, the actual act of doing the job isn't anywhere close to reality. Rick Castle, Jessica Fletcher, Rory Gilmore, they spend five seconds on screen every fifth episode "writing." Sure, there's a reason for that. Watching an author do their job would be some dry, dry, dry TV. Type, type, type, swear, talk to themselves under their breaths, get up, pace, get something from the fridge, write some more, get up, get coffee, erase everything they'd written, let the dog out, scan social media, make a get the idea.

Folks who "want to write a book but..." rarely stop to think about a novel being the longest term paper they've ever written. If they did, they'd find a local author, hand them a bottle of whiskey, and walk away...after buying two copies of every book ever written by that author, naturally. 🤣