Gods and Heroes

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. It’s been a busy, busy six months, and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up soon. But I’m rewriting a section of the second Superheroes Union novella, and I’m still pushing ahead on Boundless whenever I can wedge an extra hour into my schedule.

In the meantime, have a link! Mr. Diaz and I have discussed how we relate to superheroes, especially superhero teams, a number of times. The comparison to pantheons most of us relate to as mythology always fascinates me. So the shirt of the day over on Woot.com amuses the heck out of me today.

Seriously, though, what’s up with only one woman in that pantheon? I know Wonder Woman gets all the recognition, but if we’re going to make her over as a classical goddess, surely she ought to have a number of sister-goddesses. *g*

How to Name a Superhero + Contest!

One of the hazards of writing superhero romances I would never have imagined ahead of time is the naming of superheroes. It is a pain in the neck trying to come up with superhero names, particularly for characters who don’t have a particular outstanding power or ability. And then when I do, I have to do a reasonably thorough web search to see if the name has already been used for a superhero, because the last thing I want to do is tread on somebody else’s intellectual property.

Also, it’s dull as dirt.

Superhero–or supervillain–names often start with the character’s powers. Dynama and Singularity were both named this way, “dynama” adapted from “dynamo” and “dynamic” because her powers have to do with motion, while a “singularity” exerts the gravitic pull at the center of a black hole. Other characters are named for striking characteristics, physical or otherwise. In the X-Men, a fuzzy blue character is known as Beast, while in the Batman animated series, Harlequin is so named because it’s the costume she wears. And sometimes, a character acquires a name based on a real name or actions they’ve become known for. Professor X of the X-Men teaches, and his last name is Xavier.

With all these different options, you wouldn’t think character naming could be so difficult. And yet, in the Superheroes Union novella in progress, I have a character without a good superhero name. On the plus side, this gives me in a fantastic excuse for a contest. *g*

Contest

Suggest a superhero/supervillain name for the character described below. Enter as many names as you like. The best entry–whether I use it in the story or not–will win a Superheroes Union T-shirt or tote bag, a copy of The Superheroes Union: Dynama, and a copy of the next Superheroes Union novella (as long as you remind me when it comes out. The memory isn’t what it used to be). Runners-up will also get a copy of Dynama or a small prize.

Character Description

A man in his early 20s. 5’7″, dark hair, brown eyes, Asian-American. No costume yet–he most often wears a long black coat. He is stronger and tougher than you’d expect for his size and musculature, but he doesn’t actually have what you’d think of as super strength. He’s trained in hand-to-hand combat. He spends a lot of time free-climbing buildings or observing from on top of them. He can leap extraordinary distances and survive spectacular falls. His balance is exceptional. He has a sense of impending danger that lets him react to harmful situations a split second before they happen.

And if I really have to leave him with the placeholder superhero name “the Hallelujah Kid,” he’s going to be really pissed. ;-)

Leave your suggestions in the comments, and feel free to spread the word!

The Next Big Thing

Violetta Vane tagged me for The Next Big Thing, and since it’s Christmas week, I’m afraid I am running behind. At first, I was going to do this about the novella I’m working on right this minute, which is a second Superheroes Union romance. But so many of you reading this are already familiar with the Superheroes Union, so I thought I’d give you a taste of something different instead.

This is the story I had to back burner when the Superheroes Union first occurred and am still finishing…just not very fast. *g*

What is the title of your book?

It’s MMF space opera romance with the working title Boundless.

How did you come by the idea?

I discovered MMF entirely by accident, and I love the way the character dynamics work when it’s done well. So I decided that’s what I wanted to write, and started with the emotional dynamic I wanted between the characters. Then I fleshed them out into a space opera milieu. When I knew who I needed the characters to be and where they were, they brought most of the story elements along with them.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?

Joseph is interesting. He’s a character I see very clearly in my head, which makes him harder to match with any real person. If you can imagine kind of a cross between Antonio Banderas in Desperado and Antonio Vargas in Strictly Ballroom, you’ll be on the right track, though at 6’2″, he’s taller than either. Joseph is going a bit grey and wears his curling hair back in a short tail. Both of them are now older than Joseph looks, so the truth is, it would have to be someone with that kind of look who can play forty-five-ish.

Michelle Rodriguez is a close match for Ty, though Ty’s eyes are green and her hair is light brown.

Daniel Curtis Lee comes close for Dak. Dak wears his hair different and his skin tone is darker, but this will give you an idea.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An old soldier who outlived his war, a young mechanic who’s never been off-planet in her life, and a gorgeous drifter with the entire slave trade breathing down his neck. What could possibly go wrong?

Will your book be self-published or traditional?

Traditional. I really like my editor at Carina Press, and I’m hoping she’ll work with me on it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Work in progress! *g* And that progress has been interrupted for several other writing projects along the way, along with the editing work I do. I imagine that by the time I finish the rough draft, I will probably have been working on it for two years on and off.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Slipstream Con, by S. Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore, might be a reasonable comparison. Boundless rests on the same strong core of a central character dynamic and phenomenal chemistry, and both books are space opera, though Boundless has more sex in it and is…maybe not darker, but grittier.

Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold, also has the sense of space opera meets romance I’m trying to capture with Boundless, though it’s a standard two-person romance, and I’d be ecstatic ever to succeed in my career as well as Bujold has.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Fanfic. ;-) Not some particular fanfic, but fanfic in general. Fanfic is where I discovered MMF, which, at the time, I would never believed could be written well otherwise–sadly, my first picks in original MMF weren’t quite the caliber I was hoping for.

Fanfic is also where I met so many talented people who are now my beta readers or fellow writers. I feel incredibly blessed to have so many really good collaborators and so much encouragement, so when I decided to try my hand at writing romance, I wanted to do something I knew they’d enjoy: MMF and science fiction.

Of course, then I met my characters, and they became their own kind of inspiring. :-)

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

World building out the wazoo! New planets, cosmopolitan space stations, and one little tramp freighter where the gravity generator occasionally glitches and leaves our heroes floating midair while having sex. Dak’s dirty sense of humor! Rainbow asteroids and pearl beaches! Kick-ass friends scattered across three sectors of space! David standing up to Goliath, evil getting its just desserts, and a burned-out old soldier remembering how to live again. And Sancho the space beagle!

Let’s try a little excerpt. Copyright Ruth Diaz, do not use without permission.

***

“If you hid his body in one of the freezers, I’m going to be very put out. I just secured them all.”

Joseph laughed and settled in at the nav boards, entering some command with one hand and patting the seat next to him with the other. Sancho the beagle jumped into it like he belonged there—and maybe he did, since he’d sat there as they docked at Mèngjǐng, too.

From out in the corridor, Dakota’s laughter joined Joseph’s. He strolled into view in the doorway, sauntering into the control room like he . . . not owned it, but owned something. Himself, she guessed. His black pants were a little short—of course they were, he’d have borrowed them from Joseph, where else was he going to find wrap pants before they hit their next port?—and the dark green wrap shirt he wore gaped open at the front, exposing a deep sea of smooth, dark skin. It must have something to do with the way he’d fastened it, since he was about as broad as Joseph was, even if he didn’t look it, being taller.

Ty wrenched her eyes away before she could think any harder about licking him.

“We just secured the crew quarters,” Dakota said.

“Off we go, then.” Joseph’s amiable voice accompanied the soft clicking of his fingers on the navigation boards. “We’ve got clearance in forty minutes, and we can jump as soon as we’re past the second asteroid belt.”

Ty stared. “You guys are okay? No more of this ‘just stick my finger in a conglomerate’s eye’ rubbish?”

Joseph shrugged. “Somebody’s got to look after his kind, and it’s usually me.”

“I offered to demonstrate being easy to look at, but he made me wear clothes.” Dakota looked at the sleeve of his borrowed shirt as he unfolded a jump seat and sat down. “Said I needed pockets to keep that controller in till I can get a surgeon to pull the slave collar.”

Ty started to snicker, but stopped, staring as she caught a glimpse of the back of his head. “What happened to your hair?” The long cornrows she’d seen out on the docks were no more, shorn a couple of inches below the nape of his neck.

“Joseph cut it off for me.” He looked ridiculously pleased.

Joseph, not Captain. Well, that was something, but… Her fingers twitched—she hadn’t realized how much she wanted to run them through the length of his hair. She patted the bun at the back of her own neck, instead. “You couldn’t just have put it back?”

Dakota’s smile faded down to something more ironic. “I never wanted it like that in the first place. Anything more than a couple of inches is too much of a handle in a fight.”

Which explains why Joseph’s ponytail was so short. “I’ll never understand soldiers,” she complained. “Whatever makes you happy, I guess.”

He chuckled. “Don’t worry, beautiful, you’ve got enough hair to balance out both of us.” His eyes fixed on the nape of her neck, and Ty found herself blushing at the attention. “Someday, I hope I’ll get to see it.”

Ty bit her lip and smiled, looking back at her boards. Dakota had no trouble seeing her as a woman. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Joseph giving him a dirty look.

They broke dock on schedule, on a false heading Joseph said made them look like they meant to jump for Huàshuō. It wouldn’t make much difference—once they jumped, there was hardly more fuel expenditure involved in leaving from that point than from the one he’d usually use for Horizonte. Upon hearing this, Dakota started telling a story about the party he’d been to out on Huàshuō right before his ship was sent to a battle point nearer Niflheim. He’d just gotten to where they were doing strip karaoke (Joseph complained you couldn’t possibly play strip karaoke, but Dakota said the point was to end up naked) when her stomach took a very odd turn and Sancho started to howl. A red light came up on one of her boards.

Joseph pulled Sancho close, and the ends of the beagle’s ears floated away from his head with the motion. The canine serenade showed no signs of stopping. “Gravity’s out.”

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Ty tapped keys and slid her fingers across the glass to zero in on the red telltale. By the time she confirmed it was just for the gravity, she was drifting away from her seat. “Right, that would be me.” She tried to stand up and ended up veering crazily across the control room, kicking to catch her foot under the edge of her chair, but she clipped the edge of it, which started her going over backwards.

“You said this happens often?” Dakota’s voice was very dry over the sound of Sancho’s displeasure.

Ty looked for anything on the diamond-patterned surface of the deck she might wrap her fingers around when she got that close. An access door with a recessed handle caught her eye, but she didn’t know if she’d have the range…

“I had enough money to replace the gravity or the inertial dampers. Floating once in a while beats bashing into the walls. Doesn’t it Sancho?”

Sancho didn’t sound convinced. A strong hand wrapped around Ty’s ankle. “Don’t move around, Ty,” Dakota said. “Stiffen up and keep stiff until I let go. I’m going to correct your spin, get you back upright. Zero-g maneuvering isn’t hard, but you’ve got to start slow till you get the hang of the way the trajectories work.”

Afraid even to nod, Ty said, “Okay.” Sure enough, a gentle push on her leg had her turning upright—not fast enough to feel nauseous, but faster than she’d been going backward. When she could see him over her own legs, she asked, “I’ve got to get down to the gravity generator without coming adrift. How do I do that?”

Grasping her shoulder to check her momentum as she came around, he grinned broadly. “Zero-g maneuvering classes and heavenly bodies.” His words oozed innuendo, and she giggled. “My favorite.” She caught him looking at Joseph, whose stubborn frown couldn’t quite hide an upward twitch of his lips, and wondered what she’d missed between those two.

Whatever it was, at least it meant no blood on the floor—or in the air, she supposed, floating in bright red globules. “Hey,” she said, suppressing laughter in favor of a smile. “Gravity now, flirting later.”

Interview With J.L. Hilton, author of the Stellarnet series

Sorry I’ve been off the air for a while, but I’ve got an awesome author interview for you here as I get back in the saddle. J.L. Hilton talks about science fiction, the future of journalism, and the inspiration of Legos. She’s also giving away copies of her new release, Stellarnet Prince, and a hand-made r’naw eye pendant.


What got you started writing?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling tales. Before I could read, I drew picture books and acted out stories, either by dressing up or by using dolls and puppets. I won several writing contests in school, and had a short story published in Dragon magazine by the age of 18. I went into journalism and did the non-fiction thing for newspapers and magazines for awhile, then drifted back into fiction again after my kids were born.

What draws you to science fiction?

I grew up with science fiction – Star Wars, E.T., Star Trek, Alien, Twilight Zone, just to name a few. I used to write a lot of fantasy and supernatural, but with age I’ve grown to love technology more and magic less. I have a passion for the Internet, video games, devices, social media, and all of their potential. We live in remarkable times. The future is now.

The thing that got me hooked on Stellarnet Rebel, even before I developed an attachment to the characters, was the world building. What were some of your inspirations for the colony on Asteria?

Thank you so much for saying so. It took a tremendous effort to build the background for my characters, and I spent many hours doing research on everything from NASA and the International Space Station, to the United Nations and world history, to the physiology of dolphins and electric eels.

In 2009, I re-watched Babylon 5. That show was made fifteen years ago, before we had the Internet, smart phones and laptops. Also before widespread use of security cameras, I guess, because I often found myself wondering how so many people got away with so much on that space station! Where were all of the security cameras?! And they still read printed newspapers in 2258? Really?

I found myself wanting to see something similar to Babylon 5, but extrapolated from the social trends and technology that we have right now. When I began writing the Stellarnet Series, I wasn’t trying to write “cyberpunk.” I was trying to envision a future where people used the Internet and whose lives revolved around social/interactive media and gaming, as they do now. What would the world be like when the current generation of MMORPG-ers, Tweeters and Facebookers grows into middle age? And what will it look like when that technology moves into outer space?

Other inspirations included: 1) a book I read about Biosphere 2, and 2) my husband’s obsession with Legos (he bought them for the kids, of course). I came up with the idea for standardized space colony modules or “blocks” that would interlock. Hallways, stairwells, pipes and wiring would line up and interconnect when the modules were set side-by-side or on top of each other. Blocks could be manufactured by different countries and still match up, wherever they were sent in the universe. So you could start a settlement with one block, or ten, and keep adding to it very quickly and efficiently. No need for building tools or construction workers on the planet itself. Not even any need for an atmosphere or fertile soil, because each block – ideally – would have its own air processors and greenhouse. Though, as we see in Stellarnet Rebel, that’s not always the case.

Which comes first for you, the characters, the world, or the plot?

Stellarnet Rebel came to me in my sleep. I had a dream of Duin and Genny meeting for the first time. The characters, the setting and the basis for the plot were all there, and that scene appears in the book pretty much just the way I dreamed it. The characters, setting and – to some extent – the basic plot all happened simultaneously.

Even when I’m awake, it seems to come to me as a package deal. A few of my WIP: Dreolan and Cuilleen are raggedy adventurers trying to survive in an alternate-reality Dark Age Europe by accepting preternatural employment. Ephelia is a visitor to a far-flung space station turned interstellar cultural crossroads who hires Raldr to protect the alien art she acquires for collectors back on Earth. Vera and Boon are orphaned farm kids turned con artists in a weird west where hell literally breaks loose and a steampunk ouija board might be the only thing that can save their lives.

For me, who the characters are stems from where they live and what they are doing. So far, I’ve never conceived of a character without a home, or a plot without characters. But I dunno, if I HAD to pick one, I’d say characters come first, then setting, and the plot continues to develop as I plan, outline and write.

Tell us a little about your new book, Stellarnet Prince.

It’s the sequel to Stellarnet Rebel, and continues the story of interstellar news blogger turned Net celebrity Genevieve O’Riordan, who is the first journalist to break the news of an alien war and also the first human to have a relationship with an alien. Or aliens, plural, in this case. That the series turns into a M/F/M storyline is a bit spoilery, but anyone who reads the reviews of the first book and cover copy of the sequel will know it, anyway. How they reach that M/F/M situation by the end of book one is a bit unconventional, and repercussions from their triangle continue to be felt and dealt with in book two, as do the challenges they face from bigotry and xenophobia, some pretty dangerous secrets and further strife on the Glin home world.

Stellarnet Prince is classified as science fiction and romance, and there’s plenty of both (the first book is classified as science fiction and thriller). The sequel delves deeper into the personal struggles of the heroes and their relationships to each other, as they are faced with a whole new set of challenges. But the story also gets bigger, introducing new characters, new technology and new twists only hinted at in the first book. We learn a lot more about the Tikati invaders, the world of Glin, the heroine’s family and what Earth is like in 2062.


J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012), and a regular contributor to the Contact-Infinite Futures SF/SFR blog. Her artwork is featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at JLHilton.com or follow her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and deviantART.

Don’t forget to enter to win copies of Stellarnet Prince and a hand-made r’naw eye pendant!


An otherworldly love. Human blogger Genny O’Riordan shares two alien lovers: Duin, a leader of the Uprising, and Belloc, the only surviving member of the reviled Glin royal family. Their relationship has inspired millions of followers–and incited vicious anti-alien attacks.

A planet at risk. A Stellarnet obsessed with all things alien brings kidnappers, sex traffickers and environmental exploitation to Glin. Without weapons or communications technology, the planet cannot be defended. Glin will be ravaged and raided until nothing remains.

A struggle for truth. On Earth, Duin discovers a secret that could spur another rebellion, while on Glin, Belloc’s true identity could endanger their family and everything they’ve fought for. Have the Glin found true allies in humanity, or an even more deadly foe?

The sequel to EPIC-award finalist Stellarnet Rebel, Stellarnet Prince is out on November 12, 2012 and is available for pre-order right now.

Interview with Violetta Vane, co-author of The Druid Stone

Happy Wednesday, everybody! I’ve been delighted by the reception The Superheroes Union: Dynama is getting, and running around dealing with release-week details keeps me very busy right now. But I wanted to take a few minutes to share an interview with another fantastic writer with a fantastic book.

Together with Heidi Belleau, Violetta Vane is the author of The Druid Stone, a plotty, engaging, and very hot M/M urban fantasy. I was lucky enough to get to beta read an earlier draft for them, and I knew then that whatever publisher picked it up would have a pretty phenomenal novel on their hands, so I’m really excited to be able to introduce you to them and their writing.


I understand you have a new book out this month. Tell us a little about it.

No, you tell me about it! You edited it, after all. Hah! For those not in the know, we sent The Druid Stone to Ruth as we were writing it, chapter by chapter. Her comments went above and beyond beta-ing. She gave us extensive comments on things like sentence structure, for example. We incorporated most of these comments, and the book was much stronger for it. Our editor at Carina, Lynne, also helped make this a better book.The Druid Stone Cover

The book we sent to Carina needed a little light trimming, but it was already tight and solid, and for that we thank Ruth.

Now, as for the book itself? It’s an epic urban fantasy m/m romance. I don’t think there’s ever been another book written that’s quite like it. This is a love story but it’s also a plot-heavy, time-travelling, island-hopping, mind-warping odyssey. There’s sex and violence and also a lot of thoughtful stuff about cultural identity.

How did you decide to write “urban fantasy” that isn’t set in an urban area?

The label “urban fantasy” is kind of silly, honestly. But genre names rarely make sense. They grow organically, and we just have to accept them. Books that were called “urban fantasy” back in the early 1990s are much different than those carrying the label today. I think the only reason urban fantasy got called urban fantasy was that “low fantasy” sounds a bit pejorative. But that’s what urban fantasy is: a genre of stories with fantastic elements set in a world not very different from our own, as opposed to high fantasy, which is set in a world much different from our own. Whether or not it takes place in a city is practically irrelevant. The city stands in for modernity, for non-magic.

I think urban fantasy shares a lot of DNA with superhero comics and movies, which have larger-than-life characters set against a normal background. The central dilemma of superhero comics is that these larger-than-life characters always have to save the world, and in saving the world, they change it somehow. But if they change it too much, it stops being our own recognizable world! That’s why comic books are always getting rebooted. I don’t think they’re really rebooting the characters; they’re rebooting the world. Like the next Avengers movie is never going to explore the sociopsychological aftermath of an alien attack on New York City. Both UF and superheroes are a special kind of wish fulfilment: we want to experience the strange while keeping the same.

The Druid Stone does have some parts that take place in cities, but it’s mostly set in a small town. Modernity and layers of history are still crucial. And we even attack the question of… what happens when you can really change the world? I can’t give away any more than that, but you know what we’re talking about ;)

What’s your favorite part of the book?

I think my favorite part of the book, in a subtle way, is that moment near the end when Sean opens the church doors and steps out onto the street. It’s a quiet moment, unlike all the high drama before, and it’s very melancholic. But to me, there’s a lot of meaning packed into that second in time.

Of the fiction you’ve published to date, which is your favorite, and why?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Hawaiian Gothic. I don’t think it got a lot of reader traction, at least not for the foreseeable future, but we’re very proud of it. The story accomplished everything we wanted it to do. It also gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that we took a lot of risks with it, and they paid off artistically.

What are your research methods?

We did a ton of research for The Druid Stone. We research all our stories extensively. For any subject, we like to start off with general sources and back it up with at least one expert source that sites primary sources, and depending on the subject, we’ll go to the primary source. For our Roman historical that we just finished editing, those are easy to get to. I can go right to the Perseus Project and do a keyword search on, say, Plutarch’s writings. We also use academic databases like JSTOR—even though we don’t have a subscription, the abstracts and snippets are often enough to point us in the right direction.

The folklore from The Druid Stone is based as closely as possible on real folklore. SacredTexts.com has a lot of great public domain research up. Many books from the early 20th and late 19th century that collected Irish oral culture are up there, searchable, in their entirety. Of course, you have to get creative with spelling variants to do good searches, since Irish spelling can vary quite a bit! Finnbhearra, for example, can be spelled about five different ways.

Sometimes we’ll start with Wikipedia, but whenever you’re doing anything in-depth or controversial, you have to check the sources that Wikipedia cites.

Never, ever, ever rely on Yahoo! Answers or Wiki Answers, its clone. The most hilarious example of why not is right here:

Q: How did romans prepare and cook there food?

A: The romans usually used a microwave. They heated up thing like hot pockets and jimmy dean. There favorite was the meatball sub hot pockets

If you could go back in time to meet anyone in history, who would it be?

I’d be too worried about paradoxes to do any sort of deep or traumatic or family history stuff. So I think I’d be a Ziggy Stardust groupie circa 1973. Something utterly frivolous and sexual!


You can buy The Druid Stone direct from Carina Press or from any major online bookseller.

The Superheroes Union: Dynama – now available!

The Superheroes Union: Dynama The wait is over–The Superheroes Union: Dynama releases today! You can order it DRM-free direct from Carina Press or order through major online booksellers like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

To celebrate the release, I’m giving away a couple of free copies and a Superheroes Union totebag or T-shirt. To enter, just leave me a comment below. Tell me what you love about superheroes or what kind of superpower you’d want, or ask me your questions about the writing of the story. :-)

read: back cover blurb | excerpt

 

ETA 9/10/12: the swag contest is now closed