No TV Tuesday

Sorry, no TV Tuesday feature this week. I had to go into the office today and never got a chance to get a post up as a result. I THINK we have WTF Wednesday tomorrow, barring “incidents,” but if not and you’re hankering for some Jackie thoughts, hop on over to Southern Fried Chicas where I’m talking about what you do AFTER the book is actually out.

See you there! Another copy of Behind the Red Door is, of course, up for grabs.

Why We Love Star Trek–A Chat with Teresa Medeiros

teresamwild1I am so pleased to have multi-New York Times bestselling author Teresa Medeiros with me here today for a long and rambling chat about one of our favorite fictional universes. But as you can tell (despite the rather misleading bookcover posted at right), it’s not the Regency universe we’re all agog over (despite the fact that we both write stories set in that universe), but the Star Trek universe. I happen to know as a result of my Avon FanLit past that Teresa is a huge fan of Star Trek, and after I saw the new movie a couple of weeks ago, I desperately needed someone with whom to gnaw over my feelings about both the new movie and the original canon, and I have a feeling Teresa would be just the person for the job.

I was right! Here’s our conversation:

Jackie: So, tell me, Teresa, how and when were you first exposed to the Star Trek universe (dates are not a requirement, but which series did you start with, etc.)? What do you think drew you to continue following it after that first exposure?

Teresa: Would you believe I’d never seen a single episode of STAR TREK until I met my husband-to-be when I was 20? I was always more of a LOST IN SPACE/LAND OF THE LOST girl myself. But he introduced me to the original series and I soon found myself completely immersed in the fictional world of the Federation. I think the humanity of the stories and the relationships between the characters were what I found so irresistible, especially the Kirk, Spock and McCoy banter.

massive_kirk_thumbI also developed a pretty heavy crush on young Captain Kirk. (Or as he’s known around our house–“Oh captain, my captain” .) Although the original series will always remain my favorite, I was also quite captivated by THE NEXT GENERATION when it debuted.

So how about you, Jackie? Are you a Kirk or a Spock woman? 🙂

Jackie: Um, both? I’m a Gemini, so I hate having to choose :).

m-spockaI have to say, though, that I have always been drawn more to the super-cerebral, stoic character than to the hot male alpha, which could explain why I was always fonder of Spock than Kirk, and why my favorite TNG character is Data. One of my favorite scenes in the first episode the Next Generation series was when Riker met Data for the first time and opined that he was Pinocchio, although personally, I always thought Data was a little more like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz–he thinks he doesn’t have a heart, but he really does.

chris-pine-james-kirk_lMust admit, however, that Chris Pine might make me change my mind about the Spock/Kirk dynamic. Loved the actor who played Spock in the movie (and dug that he and Uhura have the hots for each other, although I’m pretty sure that must be a breach of Star Fleet protocol, lol), but…well, all I can say is CHRIS PINE!

I’m curious to know whether you watched any of the series that came out after TNG, or whether it stopped there for you? And also, which is your favorite of the original cast movies and of the TNG movies?

dataTeresa: I’m a huge Data fan too! And I agree with you completely because he really was the “heart” of TNG for me. Killing him off in NEMESIS was a colossal blunder that made a not-very-good movie even worse.

And the Spock/Uhura thing totally caught me off guard in the new movie! But I totally bought into it because of the acting, especially her tenderness toward him and his barely restrained passion toward her. I think the “reboot” of the franchise by making it a slightly different timeline was particularly brilliant from a creative standpoint uhura-spockand will free them from adhering so strictly to official STAR TREK canon. And yeah…Chris Pine was rather…hawt!

I really loved DEEP SPACE NINE too, especially Quark, Kira and Odo. Great characterization and a lot of humor. I wanted to like VOYAGER but would often catch myself falling asleep during episodes, which I think is a bad sign. And ENTERPRISE was really just finding its footing when they ended it. During that period, I felt that shows like BABYLON 5, FARSCAPE, and STARGATE were actually doing a better job of capturing the spirit of STAR TREK than the franchise’s own shows.

My favorite original cast movies–I’m torn! My husband would say STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KAHN but I think I’d have to go with STAR TREK 4: THE VOYAGE HOME. My favorite TNG movie would be FIRST CONTACT. I didn’t like them killing Captain Kirk in GENERATIONS much more than I liked them killing Data. I wanted to believe they were both still out there somewhere exploring the galaxies!

Jackie: Ah, at last, someone who shares my undying Data-love. I, too, was upset when they killed him off at the end of NEMESIS, although I kind of thought they killed him without killing him, if you know what I mean. (One of my favorite jokes is that the moral of NEMESIS is “Always back up your Data.”)

I watched DEEP SPACE NICE pretty faithfully until they killed off Jadzia Dax. After that, the series took a turn that felt a little too “dark” to me for the franchise. But maybe I was just mad because I liked that Worf was happy and getting nookie :).
We also agree on best franchise movies, though I have to confess that I’ve never seen GENERATIONS, and only learned TODAY–from Wil Wheaton’s tweet about the Shatner scene that was cut from the movie)–that Kirk was killed off at the end. So until today, there I was, thinking he WAS still out there exploring the galaxies!
But that brings me to the question of the franchise “reboot.” While I was watching the movie, I loved it and thought it was brilliant. Certainly, the way they did it followed all the established rules of the Star Trek universe, although I did think they way they maneuvered the storyline to make Kirk the captain was a bit strained. But after I came home, itching to watch the old episodes and movies, I wondered if I could ever really enjoy them anymore because now it’s all stuff that never actually happened. I’m trying to convince myself that I can just imagine that all that canon really did happen in a parallel universe and remembering the episode of TNG where Worf wound up in the wrong parallel universe and all the Enterprises were popping into the same space to assure myself that that’s entirely possible in Star Trek physics, but I’m not sure it’s working.
Is there anything you can tell me to ease my pain? Because I can’t wait for the NEXT new Star Trek movie to come out to get another fix!

Teresa: “Always back up your Data”, eh? I hadn’t heard that one before but it’s perfect! Brent Spiner frequently makes jokes about the misbegotten “killing off of Data” concept in NEMESIS in his Twitter tweets.

And I liked Worf with Jadzia in DEEP SPACE NINE but I liked him even better with Deanna toward the end of THE NEXT GENERATION. That episode you mentioned–PATTERNS–is one my favorites because of the alternate realities where they were together. I liked Riker but I just never felt he deserved Deanna because he’d let her go one too many times. Did you ever read the Peter David STAR TREK novel IMZADI? That was the best treatment of the Riker/Troi love story. And I have to admit right here that my hero Morgan MacDonnell from A WHISPER OF ROSES was based on a Klingon archetype . Highlanders? Klingons? Not much difference, eh? They both growl a lot.

And I didn’t find that the movie interfered with my enjoyment of the previous incarnations of STAR TREK at all because I CAN convince myself that the movie and its future sequels are occurring in a slightly alterered timeline, which leaves the original timeline intact in my mind. Hmmmm…wonder what you and I would be doing in a slightly altered timeline? Accepting our Oscars for Best Original Screenplay perhaps?

Jackie: Ah, wouldn’t that be brilliant?

Thanks, Teresa, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me, and to allay my fears. I don’t know if there’s much that’s more fun for a Star Trek junkie than talking Star Trek smack with another fan.

wicked1Teresa’s many wonderful books, including her two most recent releases, Some Like It Wild and Some Like It Wicked, can be purchased at bookstores, retail outlets, and online booksellers everywhere. Please join me in thanking Teresa for her time and for her continuing generosity and kindness to her readers and writers in the romance community. We love you, T!

WTF Wednesday–RWA vs. Epublishers, Take One Millionty

When Amie Stuart suggested WTF Wednesday as a title for a regular feature (I had just invented yesterday’s TV Tuesday), I thought it was a fun idea and figured I’d use the space to discuss weird things that just make you go “WTF?” Then I got the June issue of Romance Writer’s Report (RWR), the monthly magazine published by Romance Writers of America and distributed to its members. And at the very front of this issue, there was another letter from the president, Diane Pershing, that made me (for the umpteenth time) say “WTF?”

Now, for those of you who don’t follow RWA, there is a lot of history here, and for the sake of length, I’m not going to rehash it all. Suffice it to say that RWA has had a rocky relationship with epublishers and epublished authors for quite a long time now, and this latest foray isn’t going to improve things.

To understand the letter, you have to know that RWA made the decision this year not to allow any publisher that doesn’t pay a minimum advance (the threshhold being the $1,000 in advance/royalty required for entry into PAN, the organization’s Published Author Network) to take pitches or deliver session content at the National conference in July. These publishers are still welcome to send people to the conference (i.e., give RWA their money), but they are not permitted to actually disseminate information about what they have to offer in any meaningful or useful way. Ms. Pershing’s letter was an attempt to explain RWA’s rationale for this decision, but far from mending any fences or making a really solid case, she managed instead to push pretty much every one of my buttons on this subject.

The thing is, I think it is safe to say that I do not wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to the merits of epublishing. Just a week or two ago, I posted my article, The Perils–and Pleasures–of Epublishing, and the “perils” portion is probably four or five times longer than the “pleasures.” After that, I hardly think I can be accused of being a blind cheerleader for the epublishing industry.

Notwithstanding, the patronizing tone of Ms. Pershing’s letter irked me from the outset, but my head hit the ceiling and my jaw hit the floor when I got to this passage:

So, back to RWA and its focus on the entire membership. At present, it is to the advantage of the publisher alone to not offer advances or a guaranteed minimum per author. It is not to the advantage of most of its individual members, and it is, most assuredly, not beneficial to the RWA general membership, as a whole…

Now, perhaps I am overinterpreting, but to me, this says that any author who accepts a contract from a publisher that doesn’t pay a minimum advance is doing harm to other members of RWA. It says that because I am willing to publish something without a guaranteed minimum payment, I am making it harder for other authors to get decent payment in the future. And for the record, I think that is bubkiss. As long as I am fully aware of what I’m doing, my decision doesn’t affect anyone except me, and it may be to my advantage as a career-focused writer to do it.

Case in point, obviously, is the first manuscript I ever had published, Carnally Ever After. I’ve already explained in my First Sale column over at Dear Author last week how the sale of that short novella led to my first sale to a royalty-paying New York publisher. Granted, I haven’t earned anywhere near a PAN-eligible advance on that story, but SO WHAT? The story is under 15,000 words; I couldn’t have submitted for PAN membership with it anyway. And while none of the novellas I’ve published since at Cobblestone have earned the PAN-eligible minimum either, put all together, I never expected them to and understood exactly how much I was selling them for (a guarantee of $0 but a likely return of more than if I didn’t publish them at all!) going in. This does not make me a stupid author. And it does not hurt other RWA members.

What does hurt RWA’s members is the persistent Jekyll and Hyde attitude of the organization toward epublishers. If it’s really RWA’s mission to assure that authors get paid what it thinks is a reasonable minimum for every book, then that’s the only model of publishing it should recognize as valid. That means publishers that don’t do so would not only be cut out of formal events at the national conference, but would not be recognized by RWA as “legitimate” in any other way. That means no more First Sale announcements in RWR for authors who’ve sold to a non-advance paying epress, no pink ribbons for those authors at the conference, and no PAN eligibility based on royalties (an author could earn $100k in royalties on a book, but if there was no advance paid, it wouldn’t count).

But what we have right now is a crazy mish-mash of “come here, come here” and “get away, get away” directed toward epublishers and epubbed authors. RWA wants the membership dues of those epubbed authors, make no mistake. It doesn’t want to offend those authors by telling them outright that their publishers are not legitimate. So it wiggles around the issue and ultimately ties itself up in knots trying to defend the indefensible.

Because it is indefensible to say that those who choose to publish without a minimum advance payment are uneducated (which Ms. Pershing’s letter clearly implies) and then not provide a forum in which to provide the education those authors need to make an informed decision. RWA can’t solve the problem of fly-by-night publishers who take advantage of authors by hiding an entire segment of the publishing market from its members. The only way for authors to decide whether it is in the best interest of their careers to publish without an advance is to have a clear-eyed understanding of the business model and what it can and can’t guarantee. Then it’s the author’s decision as to whether that publishing model is best for her book and her career–and she can do that without causing harm to other members.

I could go on and on and on about how, if RWA thinks a guaranteed income sufficient to support a “career” in writing is so important, its current $1k threshhold is laughable, but this is already over 1,000 words and I’ve made my point. Please, have at it in the comments. I’m all ears–er, eyes–to your thoughts on the subject.

TV Tuesday–Burn Notice

As I was casting about for topics for today’s blog, it occurred to me that I twitter quite a bit about TV shows I like, but rarely talk about them otherwise. I suppose that’s partly because, for a while, I was kind of a TV snob–that is, I didn’t really watch anything except PBS and sports (oh, the hours I have wasted watching baseball and football games!) because I just wasn’t interested (or didn’t think I was interested) in any of the series on network or cable TV.

In the last year or so, however, I have come to see the error of my ways. I think my return to series television was actually brought about not by the show I’m going to talk about today, but by the Fox series, House. I’d seen ads for it, but thought, “Oh, another medical show, bleh!”

Then my friend and CP Lacey Kaye mentioned how she loved the series and that its lead actor was Hugh Laurie. I did a double-take. I adore Hugh Laurie, going back to his days as Bertie Wooster in Jeeves and Wooster and his turns in Rowan Atkinson’s inimitable Black Adder series. I couldn’t BELIEVE that craggy, grumpy actor in the ads was my darling, effeminate King George from Black Adder, but I had to watch. The rest, as they say, is history.

But my House devotion must be saved for another TV Tuesday, because the show I am longing for right now is Burn Notice. Lucky for me, I only have to wait until Thursday for the new season to begin.1

I was introduced to Burn Notice by Amie Stuart, who mentioned it in IM. At that point in time, I’d seen ads for it, but I honestly wasn’t sure what it was about (mostly, from the commercial I’d seen, it seemed to be about blowing stuff up, which seemed more up my 11yo son’s alley than mine) and so I hadn’t bothered to check it out. But Amie’s in my trust network, and I figured if she liked it, I probably would, too.

I watched a couple of episodes from the middle of the second season and was HOOKED. I had to go to USA Network’s website and go back to the beginning. I watched every episode from the beginning of the first season onward, and then waited impatiently for each new episode to appear.

michaelwestenSo, what is it that I love so much about Burn Notice? Well, partly, it’s (duh) Jeffrey Donovan, who stars as former spy Michael Westen. I realize he’s not everyone’s cuppa, but oh my, to me, he is tall, dark, and utterly scrumptious.

But ultimately, what’s really fascinating about Burn Notice is the way the characterization. The characters could easily be caricaturish, but they’re not. I especially love the way the relationships between them grow and change, as Michael navigates his touchy childhood with his mother (played to perfection by a chain-smoking Sharon Gless) and ne’er-do-well brother, as well as his on-again, off-again romance with former IRA terrorist Fiona Glenanne (who could really wear longer skirts/shorts, but then again, the show IS set in Miami).

None of which is to say that the plots of this show don’t also rock. They do. And I have to admit that the clever way the writers weave the overarching plot arc for the series into the shorter plots for each episode has become a study for me, since I have an idea for a series of books that would need to use a similar technique. In this show, I think it’s masterfully done and the overarching thread is never dropped (the way it sometimes is in other series like X-Files that have similar premises about a deep, dark secret that underlies everything).

It also doesn’t hurt that I can claim a certain research angle for my current WIP, which features a former spy, too. Oddly enough, the idea for this book was conceived long before Burn Notice ever hit the airwaves, so I didn’t “borrow” anything initially. It just so happens, however, that the hero of this book and Michael Westen have a lot in commen, not the least of which is being tall, dark, and scrumptious!

So, have you ever watched Burn Notice? Love it, hate it, or feel lukewarm about it?

1USA and some of the other cable networks do this funny thing with their series, but I actually kind of like it. Instead of doing a single 26 week season all at once, they do two 13-week seasons per year, once in the fall and one in the summer. It takes a little getting used to, but I think it’s nice because, instead of glutting oneself for 26 weeks on a show and then having to wait a whole six months for the next season, there’s only 13 weeks between the last show of the old season and the first show of the next. I hate waiting and will even lose interest in a series if I have to wait too long for the next new show. (Publishers should take note of this, too. Making readers wait more than six months for the next book in an author’s series is a singularly bad idea, and four months is probably ideal. If readers have to wait too long, they may lose interest and forget the series entirely.)