Guest Post & Giveaway by Daco, Author of ELECTROMANCER

Whenever I hear about a new sci-fi romance, I want to know more! Naturally, I then want to share the news with as many SFR readers as possible. Hence, I’m delighted to welcome author Daco aboard Galaxy Express 2.0 so we can learn more about her new superhero romance ELECTROMANCER!

Daco kindly wrote up a snazzy post about five non-spoiler elements readers can expect from her action-adventure, which features costumed crusaders of the SFR kind. She also has two digital copies of the book to give away! Details follow her post. Enjoy!

Five Groovy Facts about Electromancer by Daco

Groovy Fact #1: Electromancer is a superhero with the power to wield electricity (that’s the “Electro” part of her name), and she can fly at the speed of light. Who doesn’t long to fly? The closest any of us ever comes to flying is in bed with our eyes closed or buckled up in an uncomfortable seat in an airplane or for the more adventurous of us, hang gliding or parasailing. Imagine traveling at the speed of light—you’d never be late again. Well, you might if, like Electromancer, every time you went flying around, you burned every stitch of clothing off your body.

Groovy Fact #2: But wait! Every superhero must have a costume to wear, right? To solve her wardrobe malfunction dilemma and to avoid the necessity of stopping to shop when she’s pursing evildoers, Electromancer wears a form-fitting body suit, gloves, and boots made of Electroweave. What’s Electroweave? You won’t find it at Sacks or Bloomingdales. It’s a byproduct of a newly discovered element called Electromite, which just happened to fall to her planet like any other meteorite. Unlike any other meteorite, however, Electromite contains an unfathomable amount of energy.

Groovy Fact #3: Electromancer wasn’t always a superhero. Just like you and me, she was an ordinary human being (and sometimes still is.) It was only after she was absorbed by a hydroelectric generator during a meltdown that she became the one-and-only Electromancer. On the verge of death did a new superhero emerge! It took her some time to master it, but she’s capable of changing back and forth between her human and superhero form. Like many superheroes, she conceals her identity, especially since her arch nemesis, the ultra-evil Momo, is out to get her so he can reach his goal of world domination.

Groovy Fact #4: Did you ask about sidekicks? Well, Electromancer loves animals and has a white, fuzzy cat named Miss Marbletop. There’s a story there, because Miss Marbletop is no ordinary cat. But her true sidekick is Blue Arrow. He’s also her heartthrob. They have a lot in common, most prominently that he’s a superhero as well. He transforms into an intoxicating blue cloud-like vapor and can elongate his form into that of a blue arrow. He’s lethal with the bow. Together, they fight evil. In the end, will they both survive? With the responsibility of saving the world on their shoulders, is it possible for two superheroes to find love?

Groovy Fact #5: Last but not least, Electromancer lives in Britannia. No, not Britain, England, or the UK. Just as Superman lives in Metropolis and Batman in Gotham, Electromancer is from a fictional time and place. Her world parallels our Earth. Maybe it is our Earth in some future time or dimension. And that’s the thing about Electromancer—she’d crash through the time-space continuum for love!

Giveaway Details

Leave a comment about your favorite superhero and/or superhero power for a chance to win an e-copy of Daco’s ELECTROMANCER!

Two winners will be picked at random. The deadline to enter is 12 midnight EST on 2/5/16. Check back here to see if you’ve won!

About the author

Daco_photoWhat is the question asked most when introduced? Is Daco a family name?

When given the opportunity to name his second child, Daco’s father, a physicist who spent every day of his life pondering the Special and General Theories of Relativity, jumped at the chance of formulating her name. From conception to birth, she is both name and formula. Pronounced with a soft “a” and long “o”, the name sounds a little French, but is scientifically based in a physics formula:

The derivative (D) of acceleration (A) at the speed of light in cm per second (C) is equal to zero (O), where C is same in E = mC2.

My father had a sense of humor; there is no change in acceleration at the speed of light, the speed of light is the fastest rate of speed we know of, now at least, so I guess that makes me the speed of light!

Born at the Naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and raised in Wernher von Braun’s Rocket City of Huntsville, Alabama, Daco holds a B.A. and M.A.S. from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, International Thriller Writers, and Romance Writers of America. When not practicing law, she spends her time raising two children and writing novels.

For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly for a Hugo Award

Like other women-driven endeavors, sci-fi romance is a monumental achievement when one considers how much participating readers and authors accomplish while simultaneously being the targets of exclusionary tactics, criticism, harassment, sexism, marginalization, erasure, and other toxic attacks. Why persevere in the face of such odds? Women do so because they’re confident in the knowledge that romance in the context of a science fictional setting is just as valid as any other element, as well as being a topic worthy of exploration. They’re smart like that.

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly continues the tradition by creating a welcoming place where readers can celebrate their interest in science fiction romance. Therefore, we invite you to consider it for a Hugo Award.

SFRQ website buttonAbout Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly is a semiprozine focused on stories in a technology-based setting that feature a central love story and upbeat ending (HEA or HFN). It also covers romantic SF.

Features include release news, opinion columns, reviews, short stories, and much more—all for free.

SFRQ is a paid market. Thanks to our advertising, we compensate our cover artists and short story authors.

Meet the SFRQ Team

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly is run by a diverse and dynamic team of women who bring various talents to the magazine’s production. SFRQ is helmed by Chief Editor KS “Kaz” Augustin, Fiction Editor Diane Dooley, and Releases Editor Heather Massey. We’re a trio of sci-fi romance bloggers, authors, and genre buffs.

SFRQ’s stellar review team includes Marlene Harris, Toni Adams; The Book Pushers, Jo Jones, RK Shiraishi, Normalene Zeeman, Weirde, Psyche Skinner, Rachel Cotterill, Ian Sales, and SFF Dragon.

Other contributors include various guest columnists and short story authors.

SFRQ-Issue-09-CoverNominate Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly for a Hugo Award because…

* SFRQ covers all aspects of sci-fi romance and only sci-fi romance. This exclusive focus offers readers a semiprozine with truly unique content.

* SFRQ is spearheaded by women and serves an underserved audience of fans who enjoy the combined power of SF and romance.

* A vote for SFRQ is a vote for SFR fans and the representation they deserve.

* Nominating SFRQ will help raise the visibility for the SFR and romantic SF stories you want to read.

* Nominating SFRQ offers you a way to help correct the power imbalance in the field of science fiction and SF fandom. Women have always been a part of these groups and their work often goes unrewarded. We can help change that—together.

Here’s how you can nominate Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly:

1) Purchase a 2016 Supporting membership ($50) to become a member of the World Science Fiction Society. Register here.

2) Nominations will open in early January 2016 and voting starts early May 2016.

3) Visit MidAmeriCon II and follow the instructions for voting online or by mail.

For more information, visit I Want to Vote and The Voting System at The Hugo Awards.

Want to help in other ways? Use your social media power to spread the word about Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly! Share this link or direct folks to scifiromancequarterly.org.

By the way, SFRQ isn’t the only women-centric semiprozine. Pease consider nominating another such as Luna Station Quarterly!

Thanks so much for your time, and for your consideration.

KS “Kaz” Augustin

Diane Dooley

Heather Massey

On the Ableist Portrayal of Female Villains: MINIONS’ Scarlet Overkill

Back in December 2015, Indiewire’s Animation Scoop featured an interview with MINIONS’ directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. As a fan of supervillain Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), I read the interview (which I had recently discovered) to learn more behind-the-scenes information about how the story evolved. Then one quote in particular stopped me cold:

BD: Let’s talk about Scarlet and Herb Overkill and working with Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm.

KB: The nature of Scarlet’s character is that she’s bi-polar and unpredictable.

Wait, what?!

Scarlet spits tea_gif

I had previously expressed my concerns about Scarlet’s ableist portrayal several months earlier via Twitter—September 9, 2015, to be exact. I collected my tweets in a Storify: Scarlet Overkill’s Ableist Portrayal in Minions.

At the time of my tweets, I’d assumed her ableist portrayal was the result of unexamined prejudices. Mr. Balda’s statement, however, seems to indicate the creative team had deliberately made a choice to portray Scarlet as having a mental disability. Needless to say, such an approach is problematic, irresponsible, and harmful.

It’s very disturbing to see a representative of Illumination Entertainment spin this narrative about her character. Scarlet Overkill isn’t the first character to be portrayed in an ableist way and she probably won’t be the last, but this incident demonstrates that the conversation about this issue needs to keep going. It’s especially concerning given that her character appears in a high-profile, mainstream film targeted at children.

Mr. Balda’s statement is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it trivializes bi-polar disorder, which is an extremely serious health condition. Associating any kind of psychiatric diagnoses with a villainous character demonizes mental health consumers and that’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Then there’s the sexist aspect. I’ve not seen any indication that the male villains of the Despicable Me franchise are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. If it’s true they aren’t (and I’m willing to bet money that they aren’t), then characterizing the franchise’s first female supervillain as having one is an astonishingly callous and sexist act. Films like MINIONS don’t happen in a vacuum. The implication here is that there’s something evil about women who have a mental health history or heck, all women who experience mood swings as part of their menstrual symptoms.

Another issue is that a bi-polar condition is complex and involves more than just mood swings. Reducing it to someone being merely “unpredictable” and “upset” is beyond irresponsible. It’s also inexcusable. Additionally, Scarlet Overkill’s character isn’t a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of a villain struggling with a mental health condition.

This incident is yet another example of how the entertainment industry perpetuates ableist stereotypes. But it doesn’t have to continue. A character like Scarlet Overkill can have mood swings without them relating to a psychiatric disorder. Or she can simply choose to deploy mood swings as part of her arsenal. Why is it so difficult to envision a female villain who’s in complete control of her behavior? The failure of imagination displayed by the MINIONS’ creative team is staggering.

Color me cynical, but I doubt any follow-up message about Scarlet’s “bi-polar” portrayal will come from Illumination Entertainment or Kyle Balda, so on their behalf I apologize to anyone who may have been hurt by Mr. Balda’s words. I’m part of a society that hands out ableist portrayals and/or general ableist actions left and right and have contributed to the problem myself. Therefore, I’m here to convey how sorry I am to those affected by his thoughtless comment.

I apologize for all of my shortcomings in this area as well. This situation only makes me more determined to listen, learn, and do better in my own life. I don’t have a disability, but I know plenty of people who do. I have an enormous responsibility to do right by all of them, whether or not I even know their names.

I wrote this post in the hope that at least one person will gain better insight and abstain from using ableist portrayals in their stories. If you have insights about this type of situation to share or links to informative articles about the subject, please do so. Thank you for reading.

Images property of Universal Pictures

SFR Cover Reveal: GAMBIT by P.J. Dean

It’s that time again–time for a new installment in P.J. Dean’s The Felig Chronicles! GAMBIT releases 1/15/16 from eXtasy Books. Check out the beautiful Tina Cain and the handsome Nate Lowe, the warriors who are valiantly defending Earth against an alien invasion!

Now that you’ve seen the sparkly cover, here’s the blurb:

When the stakes are high and lives are in the balance, it all comes down to knowing when to risk it all to win the game.

For our Felig-battling couple, Tina and Nate, the fight is far from over. After they learn that the Felig invaders, now under a new more ruthless leadership have concocted yet another, more harsh future for earth, the pair and their crew jump into action. The lovers, together with their friend, the wealthy society rebel, Wiley Devilbiss and the disgraced, dethroned former Felig leader, Lord Advisor Leltin, will have to forge a peculiar alliance, fueled by revenge and gamesmanship to outwit the indefatigable Felig.

###

For more information about The Felig Chronicles, visit P.J. Dean’s site and follow her on Twitter: @PJDeanwriter.

#Resolutions, I haz them #2016 #writing

(The photo above, sans fireworks, is one of the Johor State Administrative buildings. The entire complex is a lovely agglomeration of Islamic architecture, and is an inviting place to while away a late afternoon.)

Actually, I’m not much of a person for resolutions but, as part of SFRQ’s editorial team, I thought I should *ahem* Set A Good Example. And so, here I am. 😉 Bear with me as I try to come up with a list that will, no doubt, splinter into a thousand pieces when it hits the immovable object called Life!

Before I continue, I’d like to add that we are all not “one” person. To different people, and even to ourselves, we fill or exhibit different roles, so I thought it would make more sense if I make one firm resolution for each of the “roles” I normally play, rather than coming up with something more generic and, to be honest, more useless.

As a writer, I have been mulling over an anthology of stories, as well as a couple of books. So, for 2016, I commit to writing two at-least-novella-length books and an anthology. That doesn’t sound like much but, if you read last month’s post, you’d see that I already have a pretty busy year set out.

As a reader, I will resolve to read more SFRs. I always make that promise, and time always seems to get away from me. But I have now declared this publicly, so we’ll see how that pans out.

As a Linux user, I have made donations to my favourite development teams in the past and I commit to doing that again this year. All of my work is built on the time and effort of hundreds of developers from all over the world, and it’s only right that I make my appreciation known.

As a small business owner, I will stop moaning about how much I hate marketing and promotion and actually Do Something. Preferably, several somethings, and not in an irritating, tweet-every-hour-about-it kinda way, which only pisses people off.

As a wife, I will tell my husband how much I love him on a more frequent basis. I wouldn’t get half the writing I do done if it wasn’t for him supplying me with copious mugs of tea, family breakfasts and lunches, and the timely medicinal whisky, and I should express my gratitude more often.

As a mother, I will be a little less relaxed around the kids, and lay down the law more strictly than I have been. I will also find time to work in the darndest kind of things in homeschool, because the kids never know when they might be required to do some sewing, make jam, explain mortgage-backed securities and the upcoming crash of junk bonds to someone, or pack a suitcase efficiently.

As a pet owner, I will trim Sausage’s nails more regularly and pay more attention to the cats. Yea, even the Evil One (Fluffy).

There! Whew, what a list. What about you? Anyone want to share any of their resolutions?

Why Was My Short Story Rejected?

Dooley-Bio-PicWhen KS “Kaz” Augustin, Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly’s esteemed boss lady, approached me with an offer to be part of the editorial team, there was only one thing I wanted to do: provide a paid market for Science Fiction Romance in the short form. If writing a short story is difficult (and it is!), then writing a short story that manages to combine and balance the requirements for both science fiction AND romance genres is twice as challenging. No wonder, then, that the vast majority of the submissions are rejected.

Over the past nine issues, there has been one occasion when I failed to fall madly in love with a story (and so we didn’t publish one) and two occasions where I fell so madly in love that we published two stories that issue. Purchasing two stories stretches our budget quite a bit, so it requires me making puppy dog eyes and begging noises at Kaz. I’m lucky she’s a sucker for those things.

I think it might be helpful to those authors who wish to be published in our magazine if I go over the most common reasons that submitted stories are  rejected.

THE WRITING JUST ISN’T THERE…YET.

This category is (by far) the largest. We are absolutely open to new, as yet unpublished writers. I believe three of the eleven stories we’ve published so far have been from authors we were proud to debut. Lack of a publishing history means nothing to us. Lack of writing skills, however… We get many submissions that are just not fit to publish due to lack of craft, punctuation, grammar, etc. It might be the greatest story ever written, but if it’s riddled with typos, it’s going into the reject pile, fast. I encourage newer writers to submit their work to rigorous critique via beta readers, crit groups, etc, in order to bring writing skills up to a level where it’s the story I see, not the errors.

In this pile, also, are all the fantasy, paranormal, horror, etc, submissions we get. Instant rejection. Please read our submission guidelines under ‘submissions.’ on the home page of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.

WHAT’S AN ‘HEA?’ WHAT THE HELL IS AN ‘HFN?’

This is the second biggest category in the rejection pile. We get a lot of submissions from obviously skilled speculative short fiction writers, many with quite impressive publication histories. Unfortunately, they are unfamiliar with the required Happily Ever After or Happy For Now ending. The story must end on an upbeat for the Romance arc. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top; subtlety is a beautiful thing. But it MUST end happily and/or hopefully. I strongly urge the writers in this group to read our archived fiction.

WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ SPECULATIVE ELEMENT…

1. Yes, you do! A large number of submissions in the reject pile are near-future scenarios that are, for the most part, indistinguishable from the contemporary world. Or the speculative element arrives far, far too late. In short, they’re not science fictional enough.

2. On the opposite side of the spectrum (but still in the same rejection pile) are those stories that start with a huge dump of world-building before the story even starts. We want stories that meld the romance and the science fiction seamlessly, and this means the SciFi never takes a back seat to the Romance. And vice versa.

I LOVE YOU. I’M JUST NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU.

It’s a good story, well-written, with all required elements present. I like it. Maybe I love it. But it didn’t make me say “Yes! Yes! This is the ONE! Thank you, Writing Gods, for letting me get my eyes on it!” It’s quite hard to explain this category other than it just didn’t capture and enrapture me enough. Or there might have been just one thing about it that lost me. One recent reason was that the heroine had absolutely no agency. Another rejection was because the relationship lacked passion (and I don’t mean sex). Another was that the characters were really great but the plot was a little too muddled. It’s hard to put the finger on exactly why a good story isn’t, in my personal opinion, one that we want to publish.

We have a general policy of not giving personalized feedback on stories. I do it occasionally, but I just don’t have the time to give feedback on all of them. Sorry. Hopefully, the above will help. And comments are open if anyone has any questions. Please do take a peek at our fiction archives. I hope you’ll love these stories as much as I do, and will give submitting authors a better idea of what we like.