Starheart has a new cover – and a warning #sfrb

SH cover payhipI’m absolutely delighted to share the brand new cover for Starheart, produced by the talented Rebecca Poole of Dreams2Media. For the very first time it has that wonderful combination of space and stars, and that hint of romance with a strong, feisty heroine facing it off with an alpha male. I think it’s fabulous.

I’ve revised the blurb – and added a warning. Much has been said about trigger warnings of late, and although this book doesn’t need trigger warnings as such, I’ve received more than one review complaining about SEX and the dreaded F-bomb. (For those who don’t know, that means the word ‘fuck’ is used.)  So I think it’s fair enough to give readers a clue. It’s done on DVDs, and many romance books give an indication of the level of sex, from 1 (behind the bedroom door) to 5 (menage, lots of screwing). Starheart has a burgeoning love story between a man and a woman, with two sex scenes that are not from a how-to manual. And Jess swears when she’s upset. Sorry, that’s how it is. I do, too.

So the blurb has an addendum – “This book contains sex scenes and strong language.”

And if the thought of sex and swear words hasn’t put you off, here’s a snippet from the book, to whet your appetite. This is from the beginning of the book, when Jess meets Hudson for the very first time. Her ship has been stopped and she has been transported to a Fleet battle cruiser for questioning. She’s cooperating. Of course.

________________________________________________________

Jess stared around her at clean grey walls and floors, and a row of no less than ten lifts. Strewth. The buttons went up to thirty. Thirty levels. This ship was huge. A group of people appeared from a doorway, also heading for the transit foyer. Three senior officers. She fixed her ‘not sure why this is happening but I’m being co-operative’ expression on her face as they approached.

Well, well, well. The captain, a senior commander and a rather dishy admiral. Tall, thick brown hair, heavy eyebrows over blue eyes that right now were shifting his gaze over her body and most especially down the carefully-judged split at the front of her shirt. She smiled at him, taking care to adjust her hair while she did so. Now what would a Star Fleet admiral be doing at Nordheim?

Beside her, Lieutenant Douglas and the two escorts stiffened to parade ground attention.

The admiral stopped in front of her, still staring. “What have we here, Lieutenant?”

The look in his eye sent a sexy shimmy down her spine. No prizes for guessing what was on his mind right now. And under different circumstances, she wouldn’t mind. No, not at all.

“Captain and First Officer of a suspicious ship, Sir. The Saintly Maid. They’re here for interrogation.”

Jess widened her eyes. “Suspicious ship? Oh, really, Lieutenant, you must have mistaken the Maid for some other vessel.”

The admiral grinned. The transit car the senior commander had summoned arrived with a gentle ping. The captain and the senior commander both had their bodies pointed toward the open door but the admiral lingered, gazing down at her.

“Delightful to meet you, Captain…?”

“Sondijk .And equally delightful to meet you, Admiral…?”

“Hudson. Ullric Hudson.”

She gave him a long, hard once-over, her gaze traveling slowly down his body and back up to his eyes. “Welcome to Nordheim, Admiral Hudson.”

________________________________________________________

To celebrate the new cover, I’ll offer a copy of an ebook (name your type – mobi, epub or pdf) to anyone who can name Saintly Maid‘s first officer. Leave a comment on this post. Hint: read the sample chapter

Don’t forget to try a few other science fiction romance books from the SFR Brigade presents

 

1. Anna Hackett 3. Sue Ann Bowling 5. Deborah A Bailey
2. Aurora Springer 4. Ed Hoornaert

A Matter of Trust is going places

Tour Banner - A Matter of Trust

On a blog tour, to be exact. Click on the banner and come along for the ride. We’re looking for people to host the event between 18-23 August. If you have a spare spot on your blog, I’d love you to join in.

 

The SFR Brigade presents – a snippet from “Starheart”

picture of cover for book StarheartI’m busy slowly working on my next book, a new Morgan’s Misfits adventure. But for this week’s snippet, I was reminded of one of my very favourite moments in Starheart between Fleet Admiral Ulric Hudson and slightly shady freighter captain Jess Sondijk. A wary relationship exists between the pair, and Jess is due to meet Hudson for a dinner date. But life intrudes and Jess takes off to follow a lead. Hudson has Jess’s ship, Saintly Maid, apprehended, and Jess is incarcerated in the battleship’s cells until Hudson returns on board, when the admiral has her brought to his office.

Before we start, here’s the blurb.

Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk thought she had her life under control until Admiral Hudson’s Confederacy battle cruiser stops her ship to search for contraband. His questions reopen matters she had thought resolved. What if her husband’s death during an official boarding wasn’t accidental?

Hudson has his own questions. Who in the Confederacy is trading with the Ptorix? And what price is high enough to pay for starhearts, the prized jewels the aliens call the windows of the soul?

Jess and Hudson’s interests collide in more ways than one as they follow a shadowy trail of deceit and corruption in search of the truth. But while Jess is more than willing to put her life on the line to protect what’s hers, Hudson must balance the risk of inter-species war at worst and the end of his career at best, in a deadly game of political intrigue, murder and greed.

____________________________________

Hudson sat back in his seat, watching the door when she entered. Her grey ship suit was unzipped at the front and the scoop-necked white shirt she wore underneath revealed a tantalizing expanse of breast. The last time she’d been brought aboard she’d dressed for the occasion but this time she probably didn’t even realize. Her eyes blazed with fury as she barged into his office, flanked by a lieutenant and two troopers. No, intimidation didn’t work on Jess Sondijk.

“What in blazes is this about? Annoyed I stood you up?”

“Thank you, Lieutenant, you may go,” Hudson said.

He waited until the door closed behind the troopers. “I admit, I’m not accustomed to being stood up.”

She slammed both her palms on his desk and leaned towards him, affording him a lovely view of her cleavage. “You are not the freaking center of the universe.”

His gaze slid down to admire the swell of her breasts. Nice. Exquisite. Two delicious handfuls. His mouth watered. The prospect of a close and personal encounter with that body was enough to give a man a hard-on.

She pushed herself upright. “Oh, for f**k’s sake. Do you ever think about anything but your cock?”

He leaned back, grinning. “If you flaunt your assets, my dear, you can hardly blame me for looking.”

____________________________________

Jess swears rather a lot and there are sex scenes. I’d rate it as spicy on the heat scale. You can find the book at the online stores below – it’s also available in print.

Buy the book direct using Paypal (you’ll get a mobi, epub and pdf for the same price as anywhere else, and I’ll get most of what you pay)

Or find Starheart at Omnilit Smashwords Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple

Don’t forget to look for other great reads

1. Melisse Aires 4. Aurora Springer 7. Mel Teshco
2. Shona Husk 5. Ed Hoornaert
3. Sue Ann Bowling

You can’t be too careful with that precious first page

picture of annoyed cartoon character

Life is too short

Authors, you can’t be too careful when crafting that precious first page for your tour de force. This is a case study.

Since he retired, my husband has read a lot of books. He tends to like crime, thrillers, mystery – that sort of thing. And he often picks up free books from Smashwords. As I explained in a previous post, if he enjoys the read, he’ll go and buy whatever else that author has on offer. Sometimes, he’ll share his new find with me. “Read this. I think you’d like it.”

So, feeling at something of a loose end, I sat down in my reading chair and opened the book on my tablet. It’s a crime novel, written in first person. I’ll say no more at this stage, because all I’d read was the blurb. In the first few sentences I met the protagonist, and a rather scruffy stranger. The exchange was very different to the usual polite frippery. He says, “Pleased to meet you.” She responds with, “No you’re not.”

So far so good. I’m interested. But then we meet a new character who is this lady’s boss. And this is where the author lost me. Not because a new character is introduced, but because I am immediately derailed into a far too long exposition of this person, his background, her background… All presented as her inner thoughts. But of course, they’re not. When you’re having a frank and earnest discussion with someone, you don’t reflect on how long you’ve been employed, or explain how the boss has taken on the role of buffer. The protagonist has taken on the role of narrator, cunningly disguised with the word “I”. Meanwhile, I the reader had lost track of the story.

I wasn’t in the mood. I switched off and did something else, muttering to the OH that his idea of a good read and mine weren’t the same.

The difference between us is that I’m a writer. What would have been perfectly acceptable to me ten years ago, now has to pass the inner editor. And while I can turn the inner editor off if the story has grabbed me, that’s going to be for grammar and such. If I lose interest in what’s going on – life’s too short, sorry. I have other things to do. Like look at pictures of cats on Facebook.

As it happened, at the OH’s insistence I had another go and managed to get past my irritation with needless information. It wasn’t a bad read. The main character was autistic, highly skilled at body language but very poor at social skills (hence the book’s opening exchange). I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into this lady’s mind, and the way she developed through the events in the book.

After I’d finished it I realised that my first reaction – I can’t be bothered with this, it’s all too hard – is very likely what an agent would do while wading through her slush pile. The entire work that an author may have taken years to perfect, is judged by a few paragraphs in the opening chapter. Just as well my husband acted as gate keeper for this one.

How about you? Have you ever ploughed through what you initially thought wasn’t so hot to find a gem? And why, indeed, did you persevere?

Starry Nights

Welcome to the annual Science Fiction Romance Brigade blog hop. This year’s theme is ‘Starry Nights’. Think lovers hand in hand. Or the Milky Way as a hazy river of light across a desert sky. Or go a little farther out…

hs-2004-10-f-full_jpg smlOut there in space EVERY night is a starry night. Imagine the clarity. The only haziness comes from nebulae, great glowing clouds of gas around stars. Think of the Orion nebulae, or this one. The stars won’t twinkle as they seem to on Earth. That’s just because the light travels through Earth’s atmosphere. They’ll be hard and bright, and I expect their colours will be clearer. Blue for Rigel, red for Aldebaran.

What always fascinates me about stars, though, is not the prettiness. It’s that you’re looking back in time. In my novel Starheart, the heroine, Jess, is beginning to realise that her husband was murdered. She’s out in space, at the space station, checking the log files on the ship where her husband died.

Outside the ship a river of stars shone diamond bright amongst the litter of gases and debris that made up the spiral arm. In a way it was a perception, an illusion. Some of those stars no longer existed, blown into smithereens long before their last light arrived in the back of her retina. Maybe what she saw on these log files was a sleight of hand, much more than a none-too-subtle cover-up of a botched boarding.

Leave a comment on this post to be in the draw for an e-copy of any one of my books. (You’ll find all the titles via that link) Just tell me  the name of the book you’d like, and the format (epub, pdf or mobi).

We’ve got some great main prizes, too.

1st – $100 Amazon or B&N gift card, plus books
2nd – $50 Amazon or B&N gift card, plus books
3rd – $25 Amazon or B&N gift card

Entry is via Rafflecopter, one entry per person. But be sure to visit other participants in the tour for more chances to win – some have their own giveaways. And thanks for stopping by.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Future Politics – is democracy dying?

picture of Sunset on the Houses of Parliament, London

Sunset on the Houses of Parliament, London

I recently read an article in iO9, about the potential shape of future political systems. And it got me to thinking, as these things do. I have a BA(Hons) in history. Part of my honours year was a fascinating study of the French, American and Russian revolutions, and the rise of Fascism in Italy and Germany. The broad brush similarities between these apparently disparate events is there for all to see. In essence, a powerful autocracy is weakened by allowing the influence of the educated middle class. It all looks like everything will be rosy in the garden, but then the rabble rousers see an opportunity and rouse the rabble. That’s when the random killing starts, and mob rule and fanatics take over, while the people at the top get rich. Animal Farm, anyone? After a while, everyone recognises that this can’t continue. A small group sets up rule, which, more often than not, leads to a new dictatorship, for example Napoleon, or Stalin. Yes, I know this is an over-simplification. Spare me the detailed ‘yes but’s. Let’s look at a few modern examples.

  • Yugoslavia. Tito kept a lid on the ever-present simmering ethnic tensions in the Balkans. He died, the attempt at democracy failed, war and genocide broke out. Without Tito, a state like Yugoslavia cannot exist.

  • USSR. Gorbachev recognised the writing on the wall. He was the moderate intellectual wave. Then Yeltsin took over in Russia and attempted a form of democracy, but the economic situation was such that the poor became poorer, gangsters became rich and lawlessness was rife. Now, Putin is working steadily at establishing himself as a second Stalin. Including grabs of territory.

  • Iraq. Nobody disputes that the late Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. But while he was in power, most ordinary Iraqis could go about their business. Sectarian violence didn’t happen – not that we heard about, anyway. When the Americans invaded his country, all bets were off. We only need to look at the newspapers to feel sympathy for that strife-torn country. It will not survive the overflow of sectarian violence pouring in from Syria.

  • Iran. Under the Shah, this was a westernised, modern country. Then the Ayatollah Khomeini took over. Salman Rushdie, a resident of another country, was in fear of his life for writing a book, and the American embassy was besieged. Now it’s an Islamic state where women are second class citizens and ‘democracy’ is a farce.

  • And these are just a few.

Which leads to the question, what about democracy? Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of democracy. Does it work? I wonder, I truly do. I believe democracy can only work where it develops within the country. It cannot be imposed by anybody else. It’s a fantasy to imagine that Western armies can roll into Afghanistan and impose democracy on the population. Democracy must be based on an educated population which understands the concept. Let’s remember that the original Greek democracy didn’t include everyone. Slaves and women weren’t considered part of the voting population. For a true democracy, everyone must be enfranchised. In Australia, women were able to vote in Federal elections in 1902 – but aboriginal people were not able to vote until 1962. http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-suffragettes So real democracy in Australia only goes back to 1962.

Increasingly, I’m seeing ‘democracy’ around the world going to hell in a hand basket. Minorities and women are being marginalised. Equality is a farce. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. Big business runs our countries for the benefit of a few. Some super-rich individuals earn more than some nation states. Only a handful of democracies work as they should, places like Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland; small countries with educated populations – where the state pays to educate people. Sure, workers pay high taxes, but the state provides education, health care and social security for all.

I wish it was like that everywhere, where people got off the endless ‘productivity’ bullshit bandwagon and recognised this is the only Earth we’ll ever have. Forget about why the climate is changing. It is. And our oceans are dying, the rainforests are being cleared for palm oil, extinctions are soaring, population is ballooning, fundamental fanaticism is exploding as marginalised people grope for simplistic answers.

From all of this I see two things.

  • Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory, as postulated in his Foundation books,  will probably exist in the future. We will be able to predict what is likely to happen next in a society on a large scale, with reasonable accuracy.

  • And the best, most stable, most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictatorship or an oligarchy based on merit. No wonder Asimov postulated a Galactic Empire.

Yes, I think ‘democracy’ has run its course, or will have run its course in the foreseeable future. What do you think?

I just un-liked your author page on Facebook

smiley_thumbs_downThis morning I logged onto a group I belong to on Facebook and read a post from an author bemoaning the fact that a friend had stopped ‘liking’ their author page. It’s not something Facebook notifies a page owner. This person simply noticed the number of people liking the page had gone down. In fact, it happened twice. Yep, hand up. One of those was me. And I’m going to be doing a bit more of that in the future.

It’s not meant to be hurtful or spiteful. It’s simply a reaction to Facebook’s new, bigger and better, privatised structure. I don’t have an author page anymore. Pages only work if you can get a LOT of fans – by that I mean in the thousands, not the several hundred I managed to muster, and that was in the days when FB shared everything to everybody. Now, a handful of people see what a page posts – unless you pay for the privilege. Boost your post. Buy advertising. Get more likes for just a small outlay. Want to know what buying FB likes really gets you? Check out this video. And the advertising? You can find lots of positive spin in a Google search. But maybe read this one, too. Mind you, a simple google search will bring up pages of tips and tricks for attracting ‘real’ page likes and real interaction. I’ll admit I didn’t try terribly hard to get followers. Even before the Big Buyout I had to wonder how much fresh, new stuff you can post about your author persona. And herein lies the reason for my defection from a friend’s page. This person pretty much duplicated the posts on the author page to their profile page, which means I got most of it twice. These days it’s hard enough to keep up with what really matters to me on FB, as opposed to what FB thinks I ought to see.

Why do I stay on Facebook? Because I interact with friends there, mainly in focussed groups. And the emphasis is very definitely on FRIENDS, not potential customers. Anyone who likes what I write is welcome to follow my FB account, or ‘friend’ me. Here I am. https://www.facebook.com/Greta.J.vanderrol Most of my posts are public. I share my photos and discuss my writing with like-minded individuals. Sometimes I’ll post about my books, do a bit of promo. Hey, it’s what I do, it’s a part of who I am. But I’m not very sociable, even on-line. There’s only so much time I’ll spend on ‘marketing’. I’ve found it works much better if I just go write the next book.

A sexy snippet from “A Matter of Trust”

Cover of book A Matter of TrustMy novella A Matter of Trust is a space opera love story.

Will the Demon Admiral protect her from her family?

Princess Amira is ready to start a new life after the death of her husband, but that doesn’t include marrying the man her father picks out for her. Pursued by his agents, she races across the galaxy in a desperate search for a safe haven. Amid simmering tensions at the edge of the Empire, Amira renews her acquaintance with Imperial Admiral Ul-Mellor. Although his detractors call him the Demon Admiral,  Amira finds him intelligent, articulate, and very attractive.

But Ul-Mellor is not human and Amira is a princess – far above Ul-Mellor’s status on his home world. He and Amira will have to overcome a gulf of cultural and class differences if they’re to turn their mutual attraction into a relationship. And what will Ul-Mellor do when faced with a choice – Amira or his hard-won commission?

Here’s a little taste. Admiral Ul-Mellor has taken Amira to his room, to protect her…

——————————————–

Amira’s heart hammered. The next few minutes might be very interesting. Or not. She could swear this assured, powerful man was nervous.

After the door closed he said, “Any surveillance in this room was removed by my people. We can talk freely.”

The guest room was as opulent as her own, but without the garden view. An enormous bed, turned down for the night, dominated the centre of the room, and two comfortable chairs and a desk occupied a corner.

“As you can see, Princess, there is no sofa. But we can share the bed. I will not intrude upon your personal space, or try to take advantage.”

She gazed up at him, standing in front of her. He said the words but the look on his face said something different. His eyes burned like coals. He seemed to be holding himself back, his shoulders and neck stiff with tension. Take advantage? Amira only just managed to avoid rolling her eyes. She bet his shoulders weren’t the only part of him that was stiff. Although she supposed she could understand his position. He was an alien in a human world. If he approached her and she rejected him, it would hurt, whatever he might want to say. Most especially if he wanted her to work for him.

“Is there some cultural problem I don’t understand? Can you not have sex with human women?”

His eyebrows shot up. For a moment he said nothing. Then the words tumbled out. “No. Not at all. I mean, there’s no cultural problem. I just don’t want you to feel that you are obligated. That you need to thank me or something.”

“Do Jorts kiss?”

He swallowed, a smooth ripple down his throat. Jort men didn’t have a human Adam’s Apple. “I have learned.” He took a deep breath. “But I’m not very good at it.”

“Let me help.” Never taking her gaze off his face, she stepped toward him and put her hands on his shoulders.

———————————————————

A Matter of Trust is available at

Payhip (you’ll download a mobi, epub and pdf for the same price as on the other sites – and I get a large slice)

Amazon Barnes and Noble iTunes Kobo Smashwords Omnilit

Words to Music isn’t necessarily song lyrics

Picture of Into the Dark coverA few years ago, a disparate bunch of authors got together to create an anthology of short stories, with the aim of raising money for charity. The instigator, Michael Wells, randomly chose songs from the collection on his iPod and sent them to each of the authors taking part. We had to write a story prompted by the song. My song was (I will follow you) Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie. Here it is on Youtube.

I’ve published my story on Wattpad. It’s a short read – and you really should listen to the song first. Into the Dark

Words to music coverIf you’re interested in looking at the entire Words to Music anthology, click on the cover at right.

 

Should content warnings be standard on books?

WARNING symbol

The subject of ‘trigger warnings’ has come up for heated discussion among my circles of friends. For those of you who have just emerged from under a rock, “Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as ‘trigger warnings’, explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans,” The New York Times reports.

The debate has been split between (surprise) those who think this sort of thing is warranted, and those who do not. My knee-jerk reaction was that it’s nonsense. The blurb on the cover should be enough, that we already live in a nanny state that governs far too much. After all, readers can always stop reading.

But on the other hand, movies and TV shows have a code of practice. In Australia, the national broadcaster prefaces any show which will show the image of a deceased Aboriginal person with a warning for the benefit of Aboriginal people that such content will be shown. It’s part of their culture not to see images of the dead. We’re warned about movies which contain violence, nudity, bad language and the like, and in Australia the content is rated G, PG, M, MA 15+, R 18+ or X 18+. You’ll find the explanations here.

And that segues neatly into a discussion I had recently about the use of the “F-bomb” in books. I wrote a blog post on the subject. To save you bothering to read it, essentially I treat “fuck” as just another word. It has its place and conveys information about the person using it. I have received more than one complaint about the use of swearing in my books. I’m not sure why a written word offends anybody. But to each his/her own.

I have also received complaints about explicit sex scenes. I write mainly science fiction romance, so the book’s genre might be a clue that sex happens. Some of the online book stores (Omnilit and All Romance come to mind) ask authors to indicate the level of ‘heat’ in their books, going from none through to five, which means it’s erotic. I’d set mine as two or three on that scale: consenting sex between heterosexual adults once, maybe twice in the novel.

Perhaps larger sellers like Amazon and Smashwords should introduce a similar coding system for the benefit of readers. Perhaps a setup such as that used by The Fussy Librarian would work. Or maybe I need to add a sentence to my blurb:

WARNING contains bad language, violence and some explicit sex scenes

Mind you, most of my books are basically adventure stories, not intended to offend anybody. But what would I do with To Die a Dry Death, which contains terrible acts of violence, a couple of times graphically portrayed, and also an explicit sex scene? None of the content is there for gratuitous titillation. It’s part of the story – and it happens to be true. If I wrote this book with no overt violence, I’d be sanitisng events which should not be sanitised. I feel rather the same about the sex scene, which qualifies at best as dubious consent. So…

WARNING contains strong violence and one explicit sex scene depicting dubious consent

But then, where do you stop? Does the use of a word like ‘fuck’ qualify as profanity? What about ‘damn’ or ‘bugger’? How much violence is strong violence (if we’re not talking horror)? And then down to specifics. What sort of warning would you put on the bible, which includes rape, and incitement to violence, just to name a couple? What about a novel like John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, which has a number of harrowing scenes regarding the rape and torture of a young black girl, although it’s a story about a trial? Or for me, what about that dreadful, dreadful scene at the beginning of The Horse Whisperer, where the horse and the girl are hit by a truck?

Should we be warning our readers? If so, about what? I’d love to know what you think.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: