I received the most exciting news! My feel-good, girl-power, dream-big, sci-fi sports romance, redemption novel The Champion of Barésh has been named as a finalist in the paranormal romance category of the 2017 RITA® awards. The RITA, the romance publishing industry’s highest award of distinction, recognizes excellence in published romance novels and novellas. It’s like the Oscar in the Academy Awards, an industry honor judged by my peers. Up to 2000 romance novels and novellas from 13 different categories are judged each year in the RITA competition. After the first round of judging by fellow published romance authors, the competition narrows to approximately 100 finalists.
This is such a special honor. It’s been 16 years since the first time I got THE CALL letting me know my book had finaled in the RITA contest, and this was my 4th time to have that honor. It never gets old, you still get shaky and flustered and crazy excited, and can’t believe it’s happened. Like with lightning striking twice in the same spot, there is so much chance involved to final in the RITA. It takes more than a good book, it’s timing, it’s pulling the judges of all the many judges who will love your story. The stars really have to align to final. You can go years between one final and another, decades even, or it may never happen again…or it happens twice in a row. There’s no telling. Lightning striking. It’s why that phone call you get is the best. In a business where one’s author self-worth and perceived storytelling ability can often be trampled by sales numbers and needing to making the bestseller lists and how many folks subscribe to your newsletter, THIS was for me, this fills up my writer’s heart and soul. This is validating and lovely and pure joy that keeps me going with my crazy stories that don’t ever seem to fit neatly in any one genre/sub-genre. It’s so wild that whenever I feel ready to cave in and write what sells versus the books of my heart, something like THIS happens and gives me confidence in my abilities and that I *am* a good storyteller, even though I don’t top the bestseller lists or have legions of fans. And you know what? For me it’s always been quality over quantity anyway.
My book that finaled, The Champion of Barésh, is my first as an indie author. Seeing “self published” under my name on the list of RITA finalists was the most surreal thing. (When I left publishing 6 years ago not knowing if I’d ever return, this was not a thing, being able to enter the RITA with a self-published book.) On purpose, I didn’t make note of the date the calls would go out, but knew it always was around the time of my birthday. Yesterday morning I was on the road before dawn on a 3.5 hour rush hour slog to the airport when I got a call from some random city across the country. Telemarketers, i thought. Ugh! Calling at 7 am! I let it go to voicemail. My “Voicemail to Text” app gave me this: “Hi Susan…I am one of the directors on the board directors for our gonna be way and I was trying to give you a call this morning I know it’s early to give you some news….” I puzzled out “our gonna be way” for all of 2 seconds. It was “RWA” (Romance Writers of America). AAAAAAAAHHHHH. I so wished I didn’t have to work. I had to wait until I flew all the way across the Pacific Ocean before I could celebrate…in Seoul, Korea, with the other pilots who had no idea who RITA is but were happy for me all the same and more than willing to lift a glass in a toast.
Winners of the awards will be announced Thursday, July 27, 2017, at an Awards Ceremony to be held at the 37th Annual RWA Conference in Orlando, Florida.
A complete list of finalists and author photos can be found on the RWA web site at www.rwa.org in the Contests and Awards section.
I’m so pleased to feature USA Today Bestselling author Cara Bristol at my blog today. As you all know, my travels around the globe help me bring my science fiction worlds to life. I love how Cara describes how she too was inspired by a faraway land…
China, Xenia, and Claimed by the Cyborg: strangers in a strange land
By Cara Bristol
In 2007, my entire family took a trip to China. Previously, I had little interest in visiting China, but it was the year before the Beijing Olympics and we got such a great travel deal, I couldn’t afford not to go.
China changed my attitude toward travel. I’d been Europe, the Caribbean, and Canada & Mexico, of course. Before China, I traveled for vacation. I wanted to go someplace familiar and comfortable so I could rest & recreate. Until 2007, the places I’d visited were westernized. While Europe is pretty impressive, much older and more “cultured,” it’s not that different from the US.
Going to China was like traveling to a different planet. Oriental culture is so foreign, so unlike anything we have or know in West it felt alien to me. I felt like a “stranger in a strange land.” I fell in love with it, and instantly wanted to see more of the Orient. Since China, I’ve also been to Thailand, and I want to go to Japan and Vietnam as well. Maybe Korea. Hell, everywhere.
That sense of foreignness is what I try to bring to my science fiction romance settings. I want to take readers to places they’ve never been, to experience worlds different from what they know—yet not so different that they feel at a loss to understand. So I try to make my alien locales relatable to something familiar.
One of these worlds is planet Xenia, created in an earlier Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance, but used as the main setting in Claimed by the Cyborg. It’s a vibrant, colorful planet with fields of purple grasses, unusual flowers, and squat trees. The animals are unusual: fish have legs and land mammals have feathers and wings, the sky is pink, not blue, and it colors the planets streams and other waterways.
And, of course, an alien planet has “alien” food, which the hero finds unappetizing.
(I didn’t think the food we had in China was that different from American Chinese food: stir fry with chicken/beef/pork with vegetables and rice. However, in passing through one restaurant I noticed locals were eating stuff that bore no resemblance to anything we were served. To anything I’d ever seen. And in the street markets of Beijing, I saw shish kebob scorpions & centipedes).
Claimed by the Cyborg Description
March Fellows assumed he had all the time in the galaxy to pursue a relationship with Jules, an alien exchange student from Xenia, until she vanished without a trace. After years of searching, he finds his lost love on the eve of her arranged marriage.
The daughter of the Xenian emperor, Julietta never meant to fall in love with a Terran man while visiting Earth. Leaving to fulfill her responsibilities on her home planet opened up a hole in her heart that could never be filled. When March, now a cyborg, unexpectedly shows up just before she is to be bonded, she struggles to find the courage to turn him away a second time and follow through with her duty. Before she can act, the lovers are thrust into a political conspiracy that threatens the Xenian empire and their lives.
Claimed by the Cyborg is available in ebook and paperback:
Claimed by the Cyborg Excerpt:
(In this scene, Terran March is reunited with Julietta, his old flame who is Xenian.)
Julietta inclined her head toward a small table readied in the corner. “I thought we could have a bite to eat.”
Glassware, fresh flowers as close to the ones on Terra as she could find, and tapered glowsticks created an intimate tableau, reminiscent of their romantic dinners on Earth. They’d gone to small cafes where they’d scrunched in at tables so tiny they’d bumped knees. Sometimes the food had been good, occasionally it hadn’t been, but always the setting—a world of their making—and the company, had been perfect. Planetary race hadn’t mattered. They had been two people in love. One of them still was.
“All right,” he agreed with a wariness that stabbed her heart anew. He wanted nothing to do with her. She could force him to spend the time with her, but she couldn’t make him forgive or even like her again. “You’re not serving anything with legs, are you?” he asked.
Was that his concern? The food? “You mean like the fish at the banquet? You don’t like our food?”
“I’m sorry. It’s not what I’m used to.”
“No apology needed. I understand.” Gloom lifted, and giddiness rose within. She’d made the right call with respect to their meal. “Nothing with legs. I promise.” None still attached, anyway. She’d given precise instructions. While the food couldn’t be considered Terran, it was as close to it as her chef could get: bread baked from grain, cheese derived from yacuni milk—if asked, she would omit the mention of which animal had provided the milk—fresh fruit, and marinated sliced meat.
She gestured to the table. “Shall we sit?”
Once settled, she pressed the button on her wrist comm. Moments later, a servant wheeled in a cart, and after dishing out the food, moved to the side to wait. Julietta dismissed her with a wave. “I’ll be fine, Sillena. If I need anything, I’ll get it. Please inform the others I don’t wish to be disturbed.”
“Yes, Princess.” Sillena bowed and exited.
“Please, eat.” Julietta grinned. “It won’t hurt you,” she teased, forgetting for the moment that Kur and Naimo had been sickened by food poisoning. From what March had observed, Xenian food could hurt him. Perhaps wariness was wise.
He didn’t seem to make the connection and forked a bit of meat into his mouth. “Very good.” His eyes widened with surprise. “It’s almost like Terran beef—but it’s not, is it?”
“Our version of it,” she said. Taste wise, close enough, unless you saw the six-legged lizard the meat had come from. It wasn’t even a lizard because they didn’t have reptiles like Earth did, but it looked like one.
“Terran food must have seemed strange,” he said.
USA Today bestselling author Cara Bristol has been the no. 1 best seller in science fiction romance, bdsm erotica, and holiday fiction on Amazon. She’s the author of two science fiction romance series featuring tough alpha heroes: the Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance cyborg series and the Breeder science fiction romance series, which emphasize character-driven stories written with a touch of humor and sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine. Cara lives in Missouri with her own alpha hero, her husband.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Cara-Bristol-Romance-178661122147994/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Cara-Bristol/e/B004D8KZTQ/
Twitter, @CaraBristol: https://twitter.com/CaraBristol
Do a photogram/bookstagram of Claimed by the Cyborg on Instagram and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card. The contest runs until January 20. The earlier you enter, the greater your chances of winning. Get the details and contest rules HERE.