Monday, May 25, 2015

The SFR Brigade Summer Cafe is coming! #scifi #romance #giveaway

The SFR Brigade Summer Cafe starts next week, and boy do we have some delicious posts and giveaways for you! The event will run for a whole six weeks, with each week having its own theme and a specially selected prize bundle to be won. The participating authors will be posting about their books and sharing some recipes, from food and drink to recipes for disaster and love. Each week there will be a post here and at the SFR Station - who are running the event in conjunction with the Brigade - with all the links and info to take you around the blogs hosting the event. Hop along and enjoy the fun!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

SFRB Recommends 40: Keir by Pippa Jay #sfr #sfrom #romance #scifi

This week's recommendation comes from Rachel Leigh Smith.

A demon waiting to die...
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary 'Blue Demon of Adalucien' waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can't explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?

For me, this novel is the quintessential science fiction romance. It combines just the right amount of tech, just the right amount of fantasy, and just the right amount of things science can't yet explain, with rich, complex characters and smooth, almost lyrical prose.

The world Pippa has created is one I want to spend more time in. There's so much to explore and learn about. And this time, I reached The End knowing the sequel is coming soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Avoiding faux pas about cryptography - guest post by @AmeliaGraceTrea

A very short primer on attacks and methods.

“I may mention here that radio-aerograms are seldom if ever used in war time, or for the
transmission of secret dispatches at any time, for as often as one nation discovers a new cipher, or invents a new instrument for wireless purposes its neighbours bend every effort until they are able to
intercept and translate the messages. For so long a time has this gone on that practically every possibility of wireless communication has been exhausted and no nation dares transmit dispatches of importance in this way.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Gods of Mars.

John Carter of Mars aside, there are plenty of practically unbreakable ciphers, but there are even more ways to sound like a complete idiot when you write about them.

Some vocabulary first. A cryptosystem is a function that takes one set of symbols to another in a uniquely reversible manner. The key determines the specific way that this happens. Plaintext refers to what you want to hide and ciphertext to the stuff that's hidden.  An attack is an approach to finding the key. A good modern cryptosystem will withstand an attack where both the plaintext and ciphertext are known.

First and foremost, the security of a cryptosystem lies entirely in the key, and not at all in secrecy about the system itself. That James Bond film, “From Russia with Love,” where he and a suitably buxom cipher clerk steal a cipher machine. Forget it. They were amateurs. They could have pulled out and copied the rotors, returned the machine and been in the British embassy in time for tea or martinis with no one the wiser.

A “key search” attacks a known cryptosystem by searching for a key that works. Build the fastest computer you can and try to search every possible key. If you do this for a lot of messages, you'll hit the key often enough to understand the communications. The “bombe” was at Bletchley Park was a fast key searching machine. It's also why we use big keys, like 1024 bits. No use in making it too easy for the NSA, is there?

A side attack uses some other information to break the key. These are seriously cool, and you want your hacker to use one on her adversary. A classic example monitors power use. Computers use different amounts of power and time for different arithmetic operations. Ciphering with your 1024 bit key uses a lot of arithmetic. So you monitor your target by metering its power use.  Researchers have used the sound of the machines' fan, the brightness of a power LED with a telescope and many other tricks to limit the number of possible keys to a search-able number. You can even buy special purpose boards that will do this with “sealed” devices.

(Any opinions offered in this posting are those of the author and not the Science Fiction Romance Brigade.)


Coarse mouthed, hard drinking and bound only by the laws of physics, the space pirate, “Cynthia the Invincible” is on the run with from the alien Cataxi. She is stranded in Earth's dim prehistory when a lucky shot on her ship destroys the jump unit. Marooned in 1810 she is forced to hide while the ship tries to repair itself. Since she enjoys playing the computer game "Jane Austen World" she hides in Regency England. She finds that real life in the Regency is different from the game. Especially when it comes to love.

Living in the Regency poses many novel challenges for her. Mundane things like eating real food rather than the ship's synthetics or learning to ride a horse with a mind of her own pose obstacles that she must learn to overcome.  Others are subtle, such as the withdrawal from the drugs that allow her to conquer the long times required for interstellar travel, even with a jump drive. Even the process of learning to live with other people rather than alone in a small ship can cause problems. Especially when she faces the moral quandary of whether to use her advanced survival technology to save a friend's life.    Even worse, one of the less pleasant alien species is trying to alter Earth's history to eliminate the competition.

These problems would sort themselves out, given time. Does she have the time?

Amelia Grace Treader is an author of (mostly) historical romances, with the occasional science fiction romance thrown in for good measure. Based near Atlanta, she writes a unique combination of romance and action. She enjoys reading history, science fiction, and historical romance. Her day job has something to do with computers and making life difficult for college students. While a child of the American South, She's also an Anglophile and not unfamiliar with the south of England. They're more alike than you know - There's even a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in the Oracle in Reading, and they're just as good as in Kennesaw.

Despite the descriptive name of romance as “bodice rippers,” Amelia tends to write more in the sweet style of "bodice unbuttoners" where the romance is there but not explicit. After all, a good quality bodice was expensive, and only a cad or puppy would damage it. Besides that, tearing a hole in a space suit could have unfortunate consequences.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Meet the #Author Monday - Yolanda Sfetsos

Please tell us a bit about yourself:

My name is Yolanda Sfetsos and I live in Sydney, Australia. I love to tell stories and spend most of my days coming up with new ideas to write about, and then turn those ideas into actual stories. I also love to read, watch TV shows (though I’ve been a bit disappointed with my faves lately), love going for walks, and just hanging out with my hubby and daughter. I collect books because I’m a total bibliophile, and love stationery.

I like the simple things in life, and feel happier when I’m at home doing my own thing. :)

Tell us about DASH:

DASH is the fourth book in my SFR series called RECAST. It’s set in a fictional galaxy and each book features a different couple, but they’re all connected. This one is set after the Clash Arena falls, which means that the timeline coincides with both CLASH and SHIVER.

I like to call this my Robot Love Story. :)

What inspired you to write this particular story?:

I’ve always been fascinated with robots, so I knew that writing a story like this would someday be on the cards. Not to mention that I’d planned to write it since the beginning of the series.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:

Taylor turned on her heel and ran the other way. She was fast and knew she could evade him long enough to follow this tunnel to safety. Once she disappeared into the outside world he wouldn’t be able to catch her.
“Walsh, wait!” someone else yelled.
Taylor didn’t look back, instead rushed along the corridor so fast the walls blurred. She didn’t miss a step, managed to avoid every obstacle in her way. There were chunks of fallen rock, crevices on the ground, bodies lying motionless—but she leaped over everything. Her vision had faded to black so she could move along these corridors as if she were playing a game inside the blueprint of this place. She gained a lot of ground and, according to her estimation, would hit freedom in minutes.
Enforcer stayed right on her tail. She could hear his pounding steps echoing hers. No matter how hard she pushed to outrun him, she couldn’t evade him.
How do I lose this freak?
In her haste, Taylor’s concentration slid for an instant and she missed a step. Her foot caught in a crevice and sent her sprawling. The blueprint faded and she found herself back in the rocky underground. A heavy weight pressed against her spine when she hit the ground. She ate dirt and bit her tongue, tasting blood.
The asshole had caught her, and she was trapped beneath him like a useless lump.
“I told you to stop,” he shouted near her ear.
“Get the hell off me.”
“I can’t do that.”
The ground rumbled beneath her belly, like a hungry beast ready to swallow her whole.
“Get. Off.”
“I can’t do that,” he repeated, pushing his hips against her rump. “I know what you are—”
Taylor slammed her head back hard enough to smash his face. It hurt like hell but Enforcer grunted and gave her some room. She pressed both hands against the dirt so hard that her fingers broke through the earth. She used the ground as leverage to pull her legs out from underneath his, and was standing before he could respond.

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:

It depends. Sometimes the name pops into my head. Other times the personality, or even the looks. Sometimes everything comes at the same time. Or I might get the character’s story and what they look like before I settle on an appropriate name. It’s always different, which makes everything so much fun!

Any tips for aspiring authors?:

Never give up! And no matter what, just write. You can read all you want about writing and think about doing it as well, but if you don’t actually sit down and get started… you’ll never write. So write a lot, and make sure you reward yourself whenever you reach a milestone.

Questions for fun:

If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?: I tend to think that things worked out the way they did for a reason, so no, I probably wouldn’t change anything. Even if I do want to stop every evil act ever performed against a person or group because of unfounded prejudice.

What super-power would you choose?: Man, I’d love to fly. Who wouldn’t, right?

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?: Nope, not going to fall for that because everyone knows that no matter what I wish for, there will be unexpected consequences. :P

Coffee, tea or wine?: Coffee and tea. Depends on the time of day and the mood I’m in.

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!): There are SO many books that I love and adore. But for the sake of choosing one, I’m going to say FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury because it’s one of a handful of books that affected my life and led me on my writing path.

Favourite genre and why?: I love a variety of genres—urban fantasy, horror, SciFi, thrillers, mysteries—but I find that no matter which one I choose, I always like a little mystery in my stories.

Favourite colour?: Red. No, black. Okay, red and black.

Upcoming news and plans for the future?: DASH will  be released from Samhain Publishing on May 26, so I’m very excited about that. I’ve also got the last book in my UF Sierra Fox series coming out on paperback in October.

Asides from that, I don’t have any other contracted stories at the moment, but I’m working on some spin-off novels. I’ll also soon start working on the last two RECAST stories. So I hope to have more news later in the year.

Thanks for the cool interview!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!

Wife. Mother. Writer. Bibliophile. Dreamer. Animal lover. Intrigued by the supernatural. Horror freak. Zombie enthusiast. Movie & music fan. Slave to her muse.
Yolanda lives in Sydney, Australia with her awesome husband, lovely daughter, and cheeky cat.

She escaped the arena of death, but trusting him might be the death of her.

RECAST, Book 4
Taylor may be the Clash Arena’s most dominant—and only—female gladiator, but today she just can’t catch a break. After winning yet another brutal fight, with the arena inexplicably falling down around her ears, she jumps at the chance to escape the prison of her subterranean pit.
Instead, she finds herself knocked unconscious more times than she can count, and pursued over the edge of a sea cliff by an AI enforcer she can’t shake off her heels.
Walsh has been living a double life, masquerading as a tyrant’s enforcer while hiding his true agenda. When the despicable arena falls, there’s only one thing on his mind—saving the savage blonde who doesn’t trust him as far as she can throw him. Which is a considerable distance.
Once he convinces her he’s not out to kill her but help her survive, they form an uneasy alliance. But Taylor senses he’s keeping a secret, not just from her, but about her. And the truth will show them exactly what it is to be human.

Warning: This book contains some girl-on-girl action, a kick-ass gladiator who takes no crap, an AI who puts it all on the line, a band of misfits who aren’t as merry as they seem, cute tadpoles with sharp teeth, and grip-you-by-the-hair kisses. Strap in, interstellar turbulence is a bitch.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How #Alien Are Your Characters?

One of my saurian characters from Keir
One question that my editor asked me on the first round of copy edits many moons ago now was why all my characters were human or humanoid. Why were there no aliens who, basically, looked more alien?

I’ll confess that until then I hadn’t really thought about it but I had a logical explanation. For one thing, when writing a science fiction romance it, of course, makes it easier if the two main characters who are due to fall in love have a fairly close physical similarity. Sex scenes would obviously be a lot more involved and, er, convoluted shall we say, if the physical differences were very marked. Perhaps that’s something to explore when I’m more confident of my skills in the genre. :D

For my first book I wanted to keep things simple. And I felt that in a galaxy full of diversity, those species who had more in common with us would be more likely to interact, and to therefore form friendships or even romantic attachments. For instance--who do you spend the most time with? A best friend? A partner? Work colleagues? Family? Obviously with family you have that tie of blood and unity that (most) families take as the basis for their relationships together. You might not have chosen each and every one of your work colleagues to be with, but you’ve (presumably) all chosen to work in that profession and therefore have that bond. With a best friend you often have shared experiences and/or interests--things that unite you. With a partner there must have been some initial attraction that has led to a mutual bond and the desire to spend (hopefully) the majority of your lives together.

So in each relationship, there are one or more areas of related interest or goals that connect you. That compel you to spend time together. So it seemed logical to me that races with certain aspects in common might be more inclined to socialize and interact together than, say, those whose even basic needs are incompatible with our own. An oxygen-breathing race like us, for example, would be unlikely to want to spend time with a race that breathes or needs cyanide. A marine species may not want to risk asphyxiation in our atmosphere any more than we’d like to drown. 

It wouldn’t be impossible, and the very nature of a completely different society would no doubt compel a lot of humans to actively pursue such interactions, but the average person would probably seek the simpler solution. How many of us learn to deep sea dive, for example? How many would want to learn? Of course, there may be other ways to adapt ourselves in the future--as an example I recommend Neal Asher’s books where cybernetic and genetic adaptations abound--which would make these interactions easier, perhaps even commonplace.

There are more alien-style aliens in the universe I’ve created. Few interact with the humanoid races that tend to have dominated my stories so far. But there are always opportunities to explore those in the future.

What’s your view on it? Do you think I’m just evading the issue with my reasoning? Do you go for the most outlandish species you can imagine, or do you prefer to keep yours close to human?

(originally posted at Spacefreighters Lounge, February 2012)

A Science Fiction Romance Novel
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A demon waiting to die...
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary 'Blue Demon of Adalucien' waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can't explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?


Still to come -
Google Play

Book Two of the series, Keir’s Fall:


After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 21 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Broad Universe, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade. She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), the EPIC eBook awards, and the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place).

You can stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are solely that of the author and not of the SFR Brigade.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

SFRB Recommends 39: To Save a Life by Rachel Leigh Smith #sfrom #paranormal #romance #ebook #scifi

A’yen's loved ones are under attack. To save them, he'll risk everything.

Half the Lokmane are free and the resettling of Lok’ma is in progress. A'yen is crowned king, but it isn't stopping his enemies. Someone is after Ro, and the woman he's falling in love with is caught in the middle.

When Fae is trapped in a cave-in at a dig site and wakes up with fake memories, A'yen knows who’s to blame. Proving it is the hard part. Things get worse as his past relationship with a human male, a man once again part of his life, is used to trap him and try to turn the people against him. And destroy his marriage.

Ro is then framed for murder, another move to discredit A’yen. Saving his marriage and reputation is easy compared to saving Ro’s life. Ro’s demons come for him, taking him back to a life not worth living.

A'yen races to save Ro before he can act on his deepest desire: killing his tormentor. Happily ever after can't happen if Ro is dead.

I read this book in three days; it's possible to read it in one if you don't have other commitments. The narrative completely captivated my mind, holding it hostage for three days and beyond. Another superbly written instalment to add to the A'yen's Legacy series.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation