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Friday, August 29, 2014

When Sci-Fi Romance Is Funny

I mentioned this 'show' on another blog recently, but it bears repeating here. Sometimes sci-fi romance can be funny...even campy.

Heat Vision & Jack exceed on both counts.

First of all, it's directed by Ben Stiller. So let the snarky goodness commence.

Second it's got Jack Black...and HE KNOWS EVERYTHING!!

Third is Owen Wilson (of Bottle Rocket and Shanghai Noon fame) as Heat Vision, the angsty side-kick.

Christine Taylor plays the buxom sheriff...which is where the potential romance comes in.

Ron Silver plays the scary quasi-government hit man after Jack in all his Ron Silver-y goodness.

Honestly, they manage to squeeze quite a bit into 30 minutes! Unfortunately, Stiller's golden Emmy couldn't force the green light for this nascent show. Hollywood brass has a history of canceling shows before their time (see: Firefly), so for now, we must be satisfied with what we can scrape up from the bottom of the shoe of the internet.

Check out the trailer above, then click this link to see the entire pilot. And remember: Knowledge is power...for real.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TED Talks, Changing Attitudes, and Thinking Outside of the Box

TED Talks, Changing Attitudes, and Thinking Outside of the Box

By S. E. Smith

Sometimes life throws you unexpected snowballs. A strange analogy, but so true. I won’t say my life has been difficult. I will admit that I’ve had many difficult times in it. It doesn’t help when you are a born worry-wart, but someone has to take the job, right?

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog? Everything! It is what is important to you at specific times during a specific time of your life that makes you who you are. As Andy Warhol said about his painting of 100 cans of Campbell soup when asked, that was all he could afford to buy to eat so it was important.

For those that don’t know, I’ve given up my day job to pursue the unknown. I am now a full time writer and my own boss. There was one condition that I had to promise to my husband when we talked about me transitioning from working a full-time job outside the home plus writing, to just writing full-time. That one condition was that I started taking time for me.

This, I must admit, is a relatively new concept for me. As the mother of four children, I never had time for me. There was always something or someone demanding my time. Once the kids were old enough to leave the nest, I turned all that energy and ‘new’ available time toward my job. I even worked a full-time job, part-time teaching position, and wrote!

Now, I don’t want to sound like I was this incredible superwoman. I’m not. In fact, for the last year my husband became increasingly concerned about my health. He knew that I couldn’t continue on the path I was going for much longer.

So, the choice came down to doing something I enjoyed compared to something I loved. My decision came mainly from the many readers who have posted the wonderful reviews and sent me emails encouraging me to continue sharing the many stories I have. My Facebook friends are the coolest group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking with. I enjoy our conversations, learn from them, and hold close the warmth they share when I am overwhelmed with doubt.

As part of the promise, I have been walking for an hour a day on the treadmill that my husband gave me for my birthday (I actually asked for it). While I’m working on improving my health, I also feed my mind.

I’ve always enjoyed TEDTalks (this one on how stress is good for you really hit home; watch to the very end) and have been especially enjoying them since I’ve decided to take this journey. What I am learning is that I made the right decision. I am following my passion, something that I am good at, and I’m facing my fears.

My attitude is slowing changing. I still work too much and too long, but I recognize that and am working on a strategy to put more balance in my life. The biggest change was when we were sitting at the dining room table and my hubby told me I looked younger, less stressed. I was surprised because I was exhausted from working fourteen hours straight. But, it dawned on me that it was a good fourteen hours. I didn’t feel like the weight of the world was on my shoulders because I was doing something that I was passionate about.

I’m beginning to really take a look at how I’ve been living my life. The world didn’t stop because I didn’t finish a project. People didn’t stop liking me because I was tired and didn’t answer them right away. The universe continued on its merry way totally oblivious to the fact my office was a disaster zone. And, I didn’t worry about it.

A part of my old self wants to keep that worry going. It wants to hide behind the fear of failure. It wants to remind me that I don’t have the self-confidence to be who I want to be. But, that is my old self. The one that I took a good long look at and said, it’s okay to worry, just keep it to the things that I can change. It’s okay to fail, you can learn from them and grow stronger. It’s okay to have self-doubt because it keeps you from losing who you are and what means the most to you; just remember you can do it in the end.

And so, when I think of things outside of the box, like Touch of Frost: Magic, New Mexico Book 1 where I mixed Sci-fi and Paranormal, I know that it will be alright. When I dream of doing things and make them happen, it is because I am stepping outside the box I have been standing in watching the world as it goes by. I like being outside the box. As I look back at it, I think it would make a very nice box for a garden. One where all kinds of wonderful ideas can grow. Oh, and that snowball I mentioned at the beginning? It has melted and I'm using the water for the flowers.

S. E. Smith is a USA Today and Amazon International Bestselling Author. Fans can reach her at or visit her web site at: Join me for additional information about the books at,, and at my new book discussion forum at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


When a reader asks me where I get my ideas for the books I write, I say something funny like: "Oh, I have an idea tree growing in my backyard. Once I year I harvest the ideas and store them in my attic to ripen." That usually gets a laugh. If I get a deer-in-the-headlights look, I remind them I'm a writer of fiction, a teller of tall tales. So what did they expect me to say? Stephen King told people he dug his ideas up in the backyard. Of course, he writes horror not romance, so I guess digging things up is appropriate.

The truth is I find ideas for stories everywhere. Everything I see, hear, taste, feel, or smell can spark a story idea.  A snatch of conversation overheard while standing in a grocery store checkout line, reading about a new scientific breakthrough, hearing about a love letter delivered fifty years late, the smell of barbeque on a warm summer night, walking hand-in-hand with my husband through our neighborhood, the sight of two strangers kissing on a street corner or arguing over dinner in a fancy restaurant all trigger What If in my imagination.

And I haven't even mentioned my biggest source of inspiration - novels, TV shows and movies. Though I write mostly in the many sub-genres of romance, I'm a voracious reader of all genres of fiction from romance to horror, mainstream contemporary to historical, mystery to science fiction. Every book I read adds to my knowledge and feeds my muse. Like a squirrel she gathers bits and pieces from every book: an interesting character trait, a fascinating local, a new word. Then she uses them to season the raw ideas I plucked from my tree.

My husband is a big fan of science fiction, but doesn't care for reading, so we watch a lot of TV and movies. Like with books my muse is constantly on the prowl for more ideas.

The Twilight Zone series is one of his favorites and mine. Several of my books draw their beginnings from specific episodes. STAR CRASH was partially inspired by Roddy McDowall's People Are Alike All Over episode. And poses the question, what would it be like to be the star attraction in an alien zoo? Just to stir things up a bit STAR CRASH also incorporates a bit of Star Trek and Planet of the Apes.

THE SWORD AND THE PEN grew out of a combination of  the TV show Xena The Warrior Princess meets the movie Stranger Than Fiction, with a touch of the book InkHeart as well as a dab of Keenan Wynn's Twilight Zone episode A World Of His Own. If you're a writer I highly recommend you watch this episode.

Even my shorter contemporary romances have been inspired by real life issues and events. After a visit to the HAHS - Hooved Animal HumaneSociety center in northern Illinois, I set my book THE BABY RACE on a horse rescue ranch. And MAGGIE UNDERCOVER was inspired in part by the Drew Barrymore movie Never Been kissed as well as my son who even though he's thirty still looks like a teenager.

I love to take themes and ideas from different sources mix them together then add my own unique twist to create something new, and I hope interesting and exciting for my readers.

The world is filled with stories both true and fictional waiting to be told. More stories than I could possibly write, which is why I'm glad there are so many talented authors in the world. Because even if I can't write all the stories I still want to read them.

So what inspires you to write? To read?

Happy Reading!
Friday, August 8, 2014

Return to the Planet of the Apes

I know this isn’t book related, but I’ve been bothered by something I learned this week. As sci-fi lovers, I thought it might interest you as well.

We don’t get out much, but we did get to see Return to Planet of the Apes last weekend. Great movie! Keep in mind, I’m one of those who always read the book first, and then complains about the movie. Yeah, I know, but I practically live at Dog-Eared Pages bookstore so what do you expect?

Anyway, I didn’t read the book before seeing this movie. I don’t even know if there is a book. What I do know is that I truly enjoyed the film as its own medium, without having to compare it to a book. I guess you could call it a novel experience.
I was amazed at how the ape called Caesar played the main character. His face was so expressive, you knew his thoughts without him saying a word. The scene between he and his son almost had me in tears. How did they do that? These weren’t masks. Masks couldn’t portray emotion so clearly. And I’m almost positive Caesar wasn’t a real ape.

After the movie, my friend Don Gerron, (Don worked on the short film that took first place at this year’s Phoenix Comicon and designs my bookcovers — lucky me!) began to fill me in on some background. They use CGI (computer-generated imagery) animation to create the apes.

Of course, I had no idea what that meant. So Don explained further. The actors have sensors attached to their faces and bodies and then perform their scenes. Their movements are tracked by special software, and then animated for the film.

“Wait, you mean to tell me. That guy produced such meaningful facial expressions with sticky stuff all over his face? Now that’s acting. The only animation I’d ever seen I thought was better, was the scene in Lord of the Rings when Gollum is arguing with himself. I remember being transfixed by that scene.”

Imagine my surprise when Don tells me Caesar and Gollum were played by the same actor; Andy Serkis. I googled Andy, and learned he’d been cast in lots of great movies. This guy is mega-talented. How could I have never heard of him? Granted, I’m not a big movie buff and rarely pay attention to such things. Many of you may already know this, but it was news to me and figured I can’t be the only one in the dark.

According to my friend Don (and IMDB), although Andy Serkis has been critically acclaimed for his performances, he was ruled ineligible for Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Academy Awards because his characters Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were computer generated.

What? That’s crazy!

I don’t understand. Can’t the Academy create a new category for CGI (also called Motion Animation) actors? It strikes me that it might take as much talent to do what Andy Serkis does. Seriously, how do you do serious acting with globs of gunk all over you?

It also seems rather obvious that we’ll see more of this type animation in the future. I believe great talent should be recognized and to be ineligible for the highest award in your industry seems quite unfair to me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in our comments section. If you think I’m making too much of this, I’ll just go back to my books and enjoy Andy’s work whenever it’s playing. If you agree, maybe we could start a #OscarsForMotionAnimationActors campaign on Twitter.

Empathy begets synergy,

Anna Questerly
Monday, August 4, 2014

Futuristic Archangel by Vijaya Schartz - 99cts until 8-7

99cts in kindle
What if you were told you are not entirely human, and you must fight an unspeakable evil coming to enslave the human race? Michael doesn't want any part of it... until the people he loves are threatened and his nightmares become reality.

"...relationships, angels, aliens and seduction... even Satanism... kept this reviewer riveted... you won't want to put it down... superior... enthralls, and, at the same time, awakens!" Richard Fuller, Metaphysical Reviews

"A mighty fine tale primed to read through in one sitting."
Curled Up With a Good Book - 5 stars

"engaging, fast-paced... harmonious mix of enticing story where real people do extraordinary things. Humorous, hopeful, fluid and entertaining, often droll dialogue. Marvelous tale of good and evil." The Charlotte Austin Review - 5 stars

"Lavishly described, expertly written with stirring descriptions that take one's breath away... a solidly absorbing, old-fashioned science fiction novel of good and evil, yes and no, the one and the many." The Book Reader 

Checkmate $2.99 in kindle

The other book in this series of two, is Checkmate, where the same characters fight evil anew a few years later.


Vijaya Schartz

Friday, August 1, 2014

Space Western!

My latest SFR release has a setting I call the Space Frontier. In my world building I see a couple or three hundred years of colonists moving out from Terra in star sleep space ships at first. Later there are faster ships and jumpstreams, fueled by a highly prized new mineral called cryst. There are still far flung isolated communities, agriworlds that have difficulty maintaining their high tech past.Some planets have developed governments, treaties and allies, others are chaos. Most worlds have a great deal of empty space, and lawlessness and piracy are common.

Go centuries into the future from the Space Frontier and you have my Diaspora Worlds books--same history, just much farther into the future.

My hero is from a frontier planet and got caught up in the Slave Wars, which didn't really settle the issue of how to treat the humanoid non Terran race they share the galaxy with.The War did leave Jack Starlander as the only survivor of the small group from his homeworld that fought, which is why he hasn't returned home but mines cryst on an asteroid.

Widowed single mother Sophie has powerful paranormal abilities, but she has run into lawless men, slavers.

$2.99 on Amazon or free with Kindle Unlimited


Asteroid miner Jack Starlander stumbles upon the illegal sale of a woman and child with unusual abilities. Jack once fought to free slaves and can't abide slavers. In the ensuing shoot out, two important men die. Jack, Sophie and her daughter and Jack's close neighbors are forced to flee to safety. Their journey takes them into deadly danger.
An Antiquarian with her own ancient secret, Sophie knows old stories may seem fantastical but have core of truth. She recognizes the mythic thread in the old Starlander legend. Perhaps his family's myth can save them.

Sci-Fi Romance For Your Ears

We usually think of sci-fi romance in terms of novel, films, or TV shows. I'd like to introduce to a treat for your sci-fi attuned ears.

SciFi Romance is, according to their website:

" independent folk band from Los Angeles that blends unique arrangements and a dark, percussive take on acoustic music into a sound that has been labeled "steamfolk" for evoking a punk-infused, retro-future vibe. Their new album The Ghost of John Henry, a concept album about the John Henry legend, was released in May 2012."

"The band's debut album ...and surrender my body to the flames, which was performed entirely by Vance Kotrla, was named one of the Best of 2010 (Anestakis Indie Music Blog), and called "a well done blend of dark and moody steamfolk" (Examiner) reminiscent of "somber Nick Cave meets Joseph Heller with a screening of Metropolis in the background" (The Slums Off Hollywood Blvd)."

Yes. This.

My favorite track is Steam Drill Blues from The Legend of John Henry. Click the link, then click the play button at their page. Oh, baby.

I found them, oddly enough, while searching Amazon for a sci-fi romance novels. But I fell in love a different way. The music is lush, moody, driving, and opens the listener to new worlds.

Just like science-fiction romance...

Who We Are

This tells about us.