Around the block….

As I’ve mentioned from time to time on Facebook, I blew out a hip ten years ago in a cycling accident, and it’s deteriorated quite a bit over the years. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be getting a total hip replacement. See you on the other side!

Goodreads, anyone?

At one time, I kept a good record of what I was reading on Goodreads. but watching a few authors struggle with web controversy has kept me away from it. What do you think? Is it worthwhile for authors to have a Goodreads presence as readers? If you’re on Goodreads, how do you use it? Comments, please!

Je Suis Le Monde

I should be writing.

But the horrible violence in Paris and in Beirut took the story words right out of me, and left this:

Why? Why do we humans resort to violence? What sense does it make to kill good people, innocent people, and why? Because they want something? Because they hate someone? WHY?

They’re going to have to sit down and talk to get what they want, so why not do that FIRST?

They hate a color, they hate a nationality, they hate a religion, they hate a race — WHY? Why do some people think killing innocents will get them what they want? Because we all know what it’s going to do — it’s just going to make more people angry, and then they will be just as determined never to let you have what you killed innocent people to get. Now everyone is angry. An eye for an eye, until the whole fucking world goes blind.

How about we sit down and talk instead of kill?

Damn the Cooties, Full Speed Ahead!

This weekend, I had to smile when I saw a new review on Amazon for my latest science fiction novel, Farryn’s War:

I normally read a lot of science fiction and not much romance, so I was a bit concerned we’d be all heaving bosoms and whatnot. Pleasantly surprised to find the ‘romance’ was just part of the plot line and character building.

And that, my friends, is why I always pause and really look at the person who asks me, “What do you write?”

Most of my stories are about a race of empaths, the Tolari, who live on a planet circling Beta Hydri, two dozen light years from Earth.  The stories encompass local and interstellar politics, cultural isolation and societal change, a dozen alien races, war, peace, and everything in between.  Also, men, women, and children, relationships and choices, victories and losses. And there’s the rub. What should I call it, anyway?

Once upon a time, “space opera” was a term of disdain, but thanks to Lester del Ray and others, it came to stand for space adventure, characters, plotting, and a big canvas: vast civilizations, long space voyages, epic battles.

Are the Tolari novels space opera? Absolutely. But over time, the trappings in the genre assumed a life of their own, and the genre called “space opera” became very fluid. Take a look at the space opera bestseller list on Amazon, and it could be 75% military SF, or 75% space adventure, or anything in between, with a sometimes heavy sprinkling of science fiction romance in the top 20.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as “science fiction romance,” except perhaps in the much older sense by which Edwin Abbott’s Flatland was called “a romance of many dimensions.” But writers in the 1970’s and 1980’s (mostly women, but not all) did astonishing work in drawing realistic characters in SF settings, looking at the ripple effects of technological and cultural change on people, relationships, and societies. And people fall in love: one of the very oldest sources of complexity in fiction. Are the Tolari novels science fiction romance? Absolutely! But over just the past few years, the acceptance (and popularity) of erotica and a dismayingly limited number of tropes mean that virtually every title on the current Amazon “science fiction romance” bestseller list sports a man with a naked chest on the cover — and romance readers know what that means.

Now, I think my writing can stand up respectably next to military SF and “alien warriors and the women they capture.”  But that’s not the point. The point is labeling. And Cooties.

  • Science fiction readers (many but not all male) who see  the word “romance” – or even an obviously female name on the cover, or artwork with a couple holding hands — often have the same sense of anxiety and risk-taking described in the review above: “Hold on, Grampa. Is this a kissing book?” In other words: relationships and sex. In other words: Girl Cooties.
  • Romance readers (most but not all female) may be OK with “science fiction” on the cover, but if they see spaceships, or an alien NOT locked in an embrace with a human of some sort, they may worry that there will be whole chapters about alien cultures, or the effects of technological change, and lots of cardboard characterization. In other words: Science Cooties.

I grew up on Andre Norton and Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov and CJ Cherryh, as well as my mother’s Harlequin romances. I’m a science fiction writer, but I refuse to limit my scope to anything less than everything. If that means I sometimes call what I write “space opera,” and sometimes “futuristic romance,” and sometimes just “SF,” I’m going to be asking my readers to take a chance. If you like romance, read The Marann (winner of the 2013 PRISM award from the Romance Writers of America — the same award won by quintessential space adventure writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller). If you like space opera, read my latest, Farryn’s War. It’s not military, and it’s definitely not erotica, and if you absolutely hate spaceships or romance, you might want to look for another author more to your taste. But if you find one of my books that you like, take a risk and try another.

I’m about stories, and a sense of wonder, and unforgettable characters, and I’m a sucker for happy endings, though in the middle, it may get rough for a while.

Who knows, I may someday be one of the women who destroy science fiction.

But whether they’re the physics kind or the kissing kind, I am done worrying about Cooties. There are just too many good stories I want to tell.

The Fall_cover_200
Farryns War cover 200

A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time

You may have noticed the new look. This blog has moved to WordPress, where it can be attached to my official website. This will take some getting used to on my part; I spent an embarrassing 5 minutes figuring out how to log in with sufficient privilege to post. Hopefully, I’ll remember next time!

Going to the old blog URL will redirect you here; or you may come directly to Either method works quite nicely.

So! How do you like it?

This comes at another beginning: for the past week, I have been contemplating how to begin the next book. Also, I have been contemplating where to start it, and thus we come to a delicate choice. I know the story, and I know where it’s going, but where, indeed, do I place the reader to best advantage?

Meanwhile, Farryn’s War is in final adjustments, and we’re in discussions with Madame Publicist on how to begin Letting People Know A Book Is Imminent — yet another Beginning.

And summer is… not quite here, at least not today. We’re back in the land of unseasonably cool, wet weather. What about you?

Weather Beans

In a typical year here in Pittsburgh, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This year, the “out like a lamb” memo seems to have been waylaid. April, however, which also came in like a lion, might have stolen the memo; the weather beans call for thunderstorms tomorrow, but they also suggest that it will be 63F.

While not ideal, this makes us happy.

Meanwhile, I’m still recharging my creative batteries while I wait for Farryn’s War to come back from the editor, and our good friend Tom Peters is working on the cover (and it’s going to be amazing). Once the file lands in my inbox (bleeding red pixels), I shall Get To Work on it.

Looking ahead — plans are afoot and ideas are bubbling for a sequel to Farryn’s War, and, further ahead, a story in which I might reveal some small part of the reason the Benefactors stole some people from Earth and planted them on Tolar in the first place.

I’ve also had a notion to turn Stranded into a series of short stories or novellas, woven inside and outside of the Tales of Tolari Space and the new series starting with Farryn’s War.

And those are my thoughts on Hump Day. How’s your week?

Which Way to Go

Here in Tolari Space, things have been rather quiet, which has resulted in an absence of posts to this blog. This time, I’m not going to apologize for being such an extreme introvert that even a daily tweet required more energy than I was left with after the book launch. It is what it is. Sometimes, I just need a break. But I’ve got a little energy back today, in the aftermath of a migraine that crippled me for close to a week, so my thoughts turned to What to Do Next.

The Fall is available (have you purchased your copy yet?), and the next book, Farryn’s War, is ready for my new editor. It’s time to look ahead to the next story. The problem is, there are lots of stories backed up in my head, and since none of them are pushing harder than the others to get out, I don’t know which one to write next.

1) I could, of course, continue the story where Farryn’s War leaves off. That would make a great deal of sense.

2) I give hints in The Fall and more hints in Farryn’s War of a story taking place alongside them; it begins in the time between the end of The Marann and the beginning of Daughters of Suralia, and it ends during Farryn’s War. It might be novella length; I’m not sure, as it hasn’t completely gelled.

3) The inimitable Bertie, whom I just love, deserves his own story.

4) A story involving Farric-as-Monral and his heir, a few years down the road, is brewing in my head. It would explain a few things, such as why I’ve made a point that Tolari have peds rather than feet. That wasn’t, by the way, a pointless mummery of deciding to use a different word to describe an everyday object. There’s a reason, and there are hints of it scattered here and there…

5) Backstory: the Sural’s rise to power, and the tragedies that accompanied it.

6) Backstory: Storaas. A man of many secrets…

7) Backstory: the Jorann.

8) Forwardstory: Rose as the Terelia. Pay careful attention to offhand comments in Daughters and The Fall and you won’t be surprised where that story goes.

9) And more.

As I said, lots of stories backed up in my head, but those are the main ideas at the moment. If you have a preference what you’d like to read about next, now’s the time to speak up!

Watch For It!

I have spotlights and guest posts going live in the coming week in the following places (I will try to update the links to be more specific as I get them):






Monday (3/9):

Do You Wanna Win a Gift Card?

Or maybe a set of ebooks?

Click on Rafflecopter link over there on the right, or go to my website, to enter the contest.

One person will win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and all three Tales of Tolari Space ebooks. One person will win an ebook copy of each of the three Tales of Tolari Space novels. And three people will each win an ebook copy of my PRISM Award-winning debut novel, The Marann.

Good luck!