Sunday, June 23, 2013

Forced to Serve Boxed Set by Donna McDonald: Guest Post


Why I claim the romance genre, even when writing science fiction and fantasy
My book plots are at least 50% dedicated to the romance in the story. As an author, I like exploring how letting the right or wrong person into a character’s life (and bed) can change his or her outlook and reactions to everything else. Something about the process of helping characters find and make personal connections fascinates me enough to write about it over and over. I carefully craft both their out of bed and in bed time with equal writer enthusiasm.
I choose over and over to categorize my books in the romance genre primarily because I unapologetically seek a happy ending in every story. Since Star Wars managed it with Leah and Hans, I have come to expect all my science fiction and fantasy to offer an HEA at the end of the story, if not always the book.
What makes each Forced To Serve story a true “romance” is the amount of emphasis put on the relationship in the story. Okay, it’s also the fact that I have a lot of sexual content in them. Well, okay—maybe not “a lot” by some recent NYT bestselling book standards—but I definitely include sex scenes unabashedly, as I deem necessary.
Where science fiction comes into my work
Most of my 17 published books are classified as contemporary romances. In truth, they are romantic comedies. However, my writing roots are in what used to be lumped under an emerging romance genre back in the 90’s called “paranormal”. This label pre-dates the sub-genres of Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, and even Science Fiction Romances, which is the label I think most closely fits the Forced To Serve series books. I do often call them Space Opera because many of the ebook sales channels offer that category specifically.
Why do I Science Fiction at all? Well, I grew watching Star Trek, Star Wars, and every other space related show I could find on TV. In 2011, thanks to my book editor and Amazon Prime, I also joined the ranks of other Browncoat fans grieving the cancellation of Firefly. It was a great attempt to spin the future in a way that was both scary and yet hopeful. I think there is a definite Firefly-esque feeling to the relationships among my crew members.
Where the sex comes into science fiction and what I do with it
I jokingly describe writing science fiction to my contemporary readers as a “writer vacation” for me, which really isn’t a joke. Even with all the humor in my work, the contemporaries can be emotionally draining at times with their 100% romance stories. Writing fight scenes in the science fiction books is fun for me. I love depicting ongoing life on board a space ship with a crew that goes on rescue missions to other planets. I find it very easy to satisfy my romance roots while this is happening by letting one or more of the characters always fall in love.
Why do my books contain a lot of sex? Without it, I think the stories would be okay stories, but to be one my stories, they are going to explore romance and sex. Sexual relationships offer me a literary way to talk about issues of control, exercising power, making commitments, and the spiritual push in a character to honor certain sexual traditions, such as celibacy or the total lack of discretion. Following a character couple’s developing sexual relationship allows me to show that physical connections can be taken casually by all genders or taken equally seriously by all genders. Through sex I can explore biological imperatives and/or blow them apart. I like getting to explore the selfishness or selflessness of giving pleasure to your partner, and love exploring what that says about a character’s overall “goodness”.
Fantasy author, LB Gale’s blog posted an intriguing article about “What the romance genre can teach Science Fiction and Fantasy authors”. I was excited to see that others were thinking about this subject as well in their science fiction and fantasy.
To illustrate how I use romance and sex, here is a little snippet from the The Healer’s Kiss, which is Book 4 of the Forced To Serve series. In a scene leading up to this one, a visiting entity on the ship has frozen several crew members during a conflict. When the entity is eventually defeated, ship’s counselor, Lt. Dorian Zade is brought out of the frozen state first and has a panic attack when he sees Commander Gwen Jet (his mate) still frozen. He immediately thinks Gwen is dead.
In the beginning of this lovemaking scene as he is undressing her, Dorian is looking to reassure himself that Gwen is okay and that their relationship is the way he’s come to rely on it being. This is actually a good example of how I use sex to show the emotional state of the characters.
“Last good pair. Last good pair,” Gwen said, panting between his probing, aggressive kisses. “I concede control. Please don’t destroy them.”
Smiling at her pleas to spare her clothing, Dorian slowed his hasty struggles, flicking open the fasteners with slow, deliberate intent instead. He liked the way Gwen quivered with every brush of his fingertips against the new skin he revealed in the process.
 Falling to his knees, he worked the pants over her rounded hips, down thighs that enclosed all the delights a male could ever hope for in any life. When he had to stop tugging to unclip the thigh holster for her weapon, Dorian felt his hands trembling again.
Raging fires of Helios, the warrior in her always called to him to be conquered. It was all he could do not to throw her on the floor and unleash the anxious Siren side of him wanting physical proof she still lived.
But with his memories of their mating week now restored, Dorian knew with startling clarity now that he was the first bonding partner Gwen Jet had ever let have any control over her. They hadn’t even gotten a chance to discuss that yet. Knowing they might never have done so if she had died, shook his foundations. The swift change of fierceness into tenderness brought a sweep of compassion so encompassing that it threatened to dissolve him into a puddle at her feet. Nothing would scare his warrior mate more than to know he wept over her.
Leaning his forehead against Gwen’s belly to soothe his spirit and to reassure her of his desire, Dorian whispered a prayer for her continued safety. Then he simply refused to think anymore about the possibility of losing his mate, even though such a threat was always going to be a reality for as long as they served on the Liberator.
Next, the scene gets even better from a romance novel perspective, but I think this is enough to make my point.
Certainly you don’t need this kind of intimate scene to show the alien world, the details of the mission, the larger conflicts they must resolve in rescuing someone, or the hierarchy on the ship. But what this kind of scene does for readers, especially those who enjoy romance, is to raise the bar on the personal risk of the characters. Instead of just mentally assuming Dorian is going to be devastated if Gwen dies, my readers have experienced his connection to her on many levels and in many ways, so they are going to feel the pain too. Plus, this particular couple has a complicated history already in the story. Gwen was captured and tortured during a mission in Book 2. Dorian ended up kidnapped by black market traders in Book 3 and Gwen had to go rescue him. This little scene in Book 4 is actually going to reassure those who have followed the couple from mission to mission and book to book. Love conquers all, right? Readers want that to be true in every world and reality, and I do, too.
It is always my intention to show the romantic relationship as just part of their daily lives (like it is for us) and as a aspect of their character (romantic partner, good father, understanding friend). In a typical romance novel, a character is often defined greatly by how they handle emotional connections. The physical is used to illustrate the depth of connection, but to me, the sexual relationship can be just as revealing about personality. Are they a control freak in bed? Are they laid back? Are they generous with giving pleasure to their partner?
The gut reaction of most is that romance is a woman’s genre, but that has not been the case with any of my work. I find that the interest in relationships crosses genders. I’ve estimated from comments, email, and social media connections, that at least a third of my readers are male. As a romance author, I find this to be extremely flattering. It further validates my adherence to the typical romance genre requirement of an HEA and monogamy. Everyone who reads my work knows I intentionally pair up couples by the end of most books.
I will admit that the romance between Captain Liam Synar and Peace Keeper Ania Looren spanned both Books 1 and 2. Initially, I did that because I did most of the world building in Book 1. But when I got to Book 2, I realized this couple’s relationship destiny was going to be a driving force in the series and affect everyone else in every book. Since George Lucas took three movies to get Leah and Hans together in the original Star Wars trilogy, I figured taking two books to resolve Liam and Ania’s relationship was probably okay. Most readers haven’t minded, but linking Books 1 and 2 more tightly was the primary reason I released the first Forced To Serve series box set which contains them both.

This is Book 1 of the Forced To Serve series.

Being captain of his own rescue ship is the life Liam Synar has always dreamed of living. Being master of a hereditary demon is not. Coveting Malachi's power, his exiled evil brother hunts him, wanting to capture the demon that Liam's life mate now unknowingly hosts. Putting Malachi inside Ania two years ago had been an act to save her when she almost died saving his. If only the demon hadn't killed again.

The Demon of Synar is a dark, thrill ride through space that starts the series with a bang. ~ Jesse Coffey, National Indie

Intense with detailed world building, The Demon of Synar is a compelling read packed into a novella sized piece laced with enough emotional angst that I sometimes forgot this was a sci-fi story. ~ Leanna, Two Lips Reviews, RECOMMENDED READ

I don’t normally read this genre because I am not really into futuristic stories set in space or stories that are about demon possession, but this one caught my attention and I thought I would give it a try. I am glad that I did because it was a good read. I can’t wait to read the sequel ~ Isis, Sizzling Hot Books

This is Book Two of the Forced To Serve series and approximately 102,000 words long.

Ania Looren would have chosen death over becoming a demon host, if she’d had a choice. But her mate Liam is master of the Demon of Synar, and made that decision for her in order to save her life. Her spirit now grieves for what she has become Ania fears the great harm she can cause using the demon’s power. Unfortunately, Liam’s reluctant embrace of being the demon's master, along with his refusal to discuss Malachi with her, leaves Ania facing her destiny alone. Their personal relationship war vacillates between full out conflict and a cease fire, yet she is drawn into becoming one of his crew. But can she really let the only male she’s ever wanted back into her bed without risking her heart?

The Demon Master's Wife is dark but brilliant. Set in the future, the plot is riveting. It's tight, full of action, and if I hadn't been reading on the Kindle, I'd definitely have been turning pages fast and furiously. It's the same exquisite agony I have when I'm reading a Stephen King or Diana Gabaldon book – I can't read fast enough to find out what is going to happen next but I can't slow down enough to savor it as I want to. ~ Jesse Coffey, National Indie

The Demon Master’s Wife has well rounded, multi-faceted characters, a complex, yet engaging futuristic world, and a cliffhanger that I literally groaned at when I read it but excited me for the next installment. The author did a phenomenal job of making me feel like I was part of the Liberator’s crew. Ms. McDonald is definitely a double threat author with her multi-genre offerings and is one to watch. ~ Leanna, Two Lips Reviews
After 35 years of doing everything for a living except writing books, I finally published my first romance novel in March of 2011. Sixteen novels later, I am living my own "happily ever after" life as an author. I love writing romance. It is the best job I have ever had. I love to hear from readers and try to always answer back.
Thank you for reading my books. Hope you enjoy them.

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