Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The True Founder of Alien Romance

Folks:

What we're really talking about here this week is what I call "The Fiction Delivery System" (as in "The Healthcare Delivery System" -- fiction is, to me, a required nutrient of life.)

It shouldn't matter what the delivery medium is (print, graphic novel, animation, TV, film, whatever). It delivers fiction.

The true founder of Alien Romance as a genre was among the first to break through the artificial barriers between media and genres. Let's explore this in detail.

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Rowena Cherry wrote in her Sunday June 24th post here:

The great dilemma is, would alien romance readers today want to buy --in effect-- a traditional Regency romance in outer space? Was the Star Trek movie where Mr. Spock got married the omega and alpha of the genre, or is there room on bookshelves for more sexually continent heroes?

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Margaret Carter's repost on Wed. June 20th (or Thursday?) also connected the Vampire to Spock and furthered that with a discussion of the Hero of a Paranormal Romance as being "different" from the hero of a regular romance.

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Susan Kearny, on Wed. June 20th asked for input about how useful book trailers are in selling books -- i.e. a marketing question direct to readers who buy books.

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Rowena - the Star Trek story you're thinking of was Amok Time, an episode of The Original Series, not one of the movies.

An interesting connection with the Vampire mythos is that, during Pon Farr, a Vulcan male can be a lethal danger to other males -- or DIE himself.

This connects "death" and "sex" with an alien twist on the subject. After all, in evolution as we know it, you can't have a reproductive drive that kills the reproducer BEFORE they reproduce and expect the species to thrive.

However, in many byways of sexual exploration among humans, death (or near-death) is exciting or inciting. Most people consider that extremely "sick".

What's different about an SF-Romance hero (or paranormal romance -- actually Spock qualifies as both since he's a telepath and bonds with his partner telepathically in a bond that can only be broken by death)?

And what has that difference to do with the efficacy of BOOK TRAILERS?

Using Spock as the example, think carefully.

Theodore Sturgeon invented Pon Farr and added it to Vulcans and Spock. Have you read his stories?

I met him several times at cons -- had long conversations with him and I grew up reading his stuff. I've posted a short piece about his influence on me at

http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/welcommittee/TedSturg.html

When I saw the TV Guide blurb for that episode and learned that Theodore Sturgeon had written it, I WROTE that episode's script in my head - I knew exactly what would happen, scene by scene (if my dialogue was off a little) because I knew Ted Sturgeon's work.
He played with alien sexuality incessantly. Poul Anderson just included the biology of reproduction in his worldbuilding -- but Sturgeon got down to the nitty gritty of the "drives" involved.

What makes the PARANORMAL ROMANCE hero "different" from the usual romance hero is very simple -- the writer has the ability and indeed the obligation to "worldbuild" around the "paranormal" attribute.

Since it's a romance, it may have more to do with relationship than actual sexuality, but today's romance usually includes at least some sex, not just hinting and making out.

So what's different about a paranormal romance hero is that HE is different in some aspect of his maleness. That difference can be an impediment (say if he's a ghost and just doesn't connect) or an enhancement (say he's a telepath and can trigger all kinds of wondrous sensations in his partner).

What's different about the paranormal romance hero is that ALL the parameters of personality and physiology taken for granted in a regular guy can be changed.

What's interesting about reading a paranormal romance is the adventure of finding out what's different about him -- and how that difference will re-shape the parameters of the essential Relationship.

What's that to do with a book trailer?

Notice this discussion mixes and matches TV, film (ST had films), and print (ST has print books) with wild abandon.

It wasn't so long ago that mixing media just wasn't allowed. Then publishers made heaps of money off TV spinoffs -- actually though it didn't start with Trek, it really exploded when Trekfen discovered real Trek novels (let's not mention Blish's SPOCK MUST DIE!)

Jean Lorrah, my sometime co-author, has written a list of best selling Trek books. I mean best-selling AMONG Trek books.

So what is the real significance and use of the Book Trailer?

To further blur that gap between film, TV, and print (and e-book).

Publishers have found that advertising books on TV via trailers doesn't work -- it may sell books, but not enough books to cover costs (because air time is expensive and not enough people read books.)

Response to Susan Kearny's question indicates that readers who read blogs like this don't decide to buy a book on the basis of a YouTube trailer.

So what is a book trailer for????

Its audience isn't book-buyers. It's audience is film makers -- producers.

A book trailer shows how the material of the novel would translate to the screen.
Writing a book deliberately including the "set piece" moments that a film has -- visual moments that "say it all" in pictures and thus end up in the trailer -- puts you in the running for selling that book to the film industry.

Creating the trailor for that book proves the book could become a film.

There was a whole long discussion recently on the e-book List at EPIC (the professional e-book writers and publishers org) about the difference between a script and a novel. It's a big difference.

So what goes into a paranormal romance book trailer that would attract readers?

The exact element of sexuality/relationship-bonding that is different in your alien-hero.

If only someone has preserved the TV ads for Amok Time, you'd see what I mean.

Kirk comes backing out of Spock's quarters and hits the wall. Plomeek soup (green soup) follows splat. Spock SCREAMS at Kirk (yes, he uses invective both in Amok Time and in the film about the whales (colorful expletives).)

The bridge scene -- "T'pring - my - wife."

T'Pau being carried into the arena on a litter.

The fight in the Arena with Spock quite clearly trying to kill Kirk.

In other words, Spock behaving in a very un-Spock way -- but the viewers of the show already know what the Spock-way is.

The mental BONDING of the Vulcan wedding is only mentioned briefly in passing in this TV episode, Amok Time. But literally hundreds of millions of words have been fan-generated based on that one hypothesis - what would sex be like for a telepathically bonded pair?

What does it take to break that bond? What can force it to form accidentally (K/S). What does it take to keep it from forming if it's spiritually inevitable?

Yes, that's right -- the Alien Romance genre just about got it's whole start in Star Trek fanfic. And those stories all started with Amok Time and Theodore Sturgeon's addition to Trek of male-heat and telepathic bonding.

So Theodore Sturgeon is the real founder of the whole Alien Romance genre and he never wrote a single romantic word! (horror, yes, literary polemics yes, romance - uh-uh.) Or maybe it's Gene Roddenberry, who gave SF print writers like Sturgeon a chance to write SF for TV -- something just unheard of at the time!

Who do you think is the real founder of Alien Romance?


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Sunday, June 24, 2007

New Words For New Worlds




Okay, confession time--prior to this point, I cheated. Because I write Earth-based sci-fi, my world building was limited to an Earth that was almost exactly the same as the one we live in...except there are aliens openly living among us. So, I never really worried about the other differences except as they related to my aliens, the Observers, and the world and society they came from.

Now, with my current WIP, which is set on Earth twenty years in the future, I find myself questioning everything about these future humans. Language, for example. We've always had some kind of word to indicate when something was "cool" or "neat."

Remember "rad" from the mid to late 80s? How about "wicked awesome" or "def"?
But what makes a certain word stick around? Would people in 2027 still be saying "cool" or would they have moved on to some other variation, like "icy" or "chill" maybe? Or, perhaps in a society in which many freedoms have been sacrificed supposedly for the greater good and safety for everyone, "free" might take on the role "cool" plays now as something limited and intangible that everyone wants to have. Everyone wants to be cool (in theory), and in their version of our world, everyone wants to be free. But using that word in this new context, "I love your jacket. It's so free," might be weird or confusing to readers who, living in our world in 2007, have an entirely different understanding of the word "free.'

One of my favorite examples of this language thing done well is "shiny" from the Firefly television series and the movie that followed, Serenity. "Shiny" basically replaced "cool" or "good" in just about every context. When the engine is falling apart, Kaylee tells Mal, "Don't worry, Captain. It's all shiny." It can also be used sarcastically as when Mal is confronted with more bad news, "Oh, shiny." But "shiny" also works in this beat-up world where the Alliance, the bad guys, have all the new technology and Mal's ship is constantly on the verge of breaking down. "Shiny" means new and problem-free, which is something greatly desired by Mal and his intrepid crew.

My heroine in this story is tech-savvy (much to my utter dismay) and a rebel. She refers to herself, tongue in cheek, as an "information liberator," which basically means she'll get you the information you want or need, whether it's the unedited version of the Bible or your local politician's "donation" record at the local house of ill-repute, for a fee. In a world where everything, including the internet, has been sanitized for your protection, unbiased and factual information is a hot commodity. These days, she might be referred to as a hacker, but in her world, she's called a cyber terrorist by the fearful and big-brotherly government almost as often as she's referred to as an "undisclosed source" when it benefits their agenda. This girl loves gadgets and the latest tech. What word would she use for "cool"? What do you guys think? All thoughts welcome.


Stacey Klemstein
(My thanks to Linnea, Rowena and everyone here for letting me fill in!)
Stacey Klemstein is the author of the Zara Mitchell series, a science fiction romance trilogy. THE SILVER SPOON, Book One, is available now, and EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Book Two, will be released in February 2008. Book Three, as yet untitled, is in progress. Visit www.staceyklemstein.com to read free excerpts!


****

Stacey Klemstein
Author of THE SILVER SPOON (July 2007) and BITTER PILL (May 2008)

Visit www.staceyklemstein.com or myspace.com/staceyklemstein to read an excerpt and more!

"Don't misunderstand, it's not like I enjoyed having this happen to me. I guess it's just some kind of bizarre twist of fate, or maybe a sixth sense that only kicks in when the grim reaper is afoot. It's not like I'd wanted to find the high school swim coach floating face down in the deep end, any more than I'd wanted to find the assistant librarian hanging from the rafters in the library attic with a stack of true crime books kicked over beneath her.

It's just that whenever bodies started floating, swinging or, in this case, dropping, I happened to be there..." --BITTER PILL

Tall, dark, and continent




Am I going to talk about "continents"? Or "continence" as a heroic quality in an alien romance? Continence! Sexual continence, as opposed to sexual incontinence. We all think only of bladder control, because pharmaceutical company advertisements bombard us with solutions --or pills-- for that problem. As far as I know, there is no product to change the habits of the sexually incontinent. Possibly "continent" in the sense of sexual restraint has disappeared from the modern lexicon. I'll have to look!

Why do so many of us swoon over Spock, and scorn Kirk?

Kirk was supposed to be the hero. He was attractive in a short, brown-haired, pudgy/muscular sort of way. He had pecs and his tight top showed them. He scored with a different girl every week. He was impulsive, occasionally outspoken (rude), and he had tantrums. And, he got himself into trouble. He was like the sexually experienced, promiscuous, "rake" type hero that is so popular in romantic fiction.


Mr. Spock was more the traditional Regency romance hero.

He did not sleep around. He was almost invariably polite. He was formal.
I cannot recall him swearing. I cannot imagine him using any of the short, sexually colloquial terms that are a pre-requisite a book to qualify as "erotic romance". His wit was dry, and you had to pay attention to "get" it. Often he expressed devastating criticism just by raising one eyebrow. Jim's ways bewildered him. He was tall, dark, good looking, clean, well groomed. He was in control.

And he did that neat thing with his fingers. (But that's another story entirely.)

Mr. Spock --as a character, I don't mean I have the hots for Leonard Nimoy, bless him-- is the sort of hero that I'd like to write (and have my own happy ever after with!)

I see Rhett as potentially Spock-like.

(Rhett is in Forced Mate, also in Insufficient Mating Material. Get a glimpse of him in the "Insult and Injury" excerpt. Now he's getting his own story.)

The great dilemma is, would alien romance readers today want to buy --in effect-- a traditional Regency romance in outer space? Was the Star Trek movie where Mr. Spock got married the omega and alpha of the genre, or is there room on bookshelves for more sexually continent heroes?


(Games of Command is in my TBR stack.)

Rowena Cherry

Friday, June 22, 2007

Twist



Here's the cover to my alien vampire book. Which is really a time travel. It's for a new line by Dorchester Publishing called Shomi and with more of an urban fantasy edge. Thing Underworld, Blade Runner, along that line. All the covers are Manga inspired.

My book will be released in Feb 08. But the first in the line, Wired by Liz Maverick will be out in July, followed by Marianne Mancusi's Moongazer

We're real excited about the line so if you see Wired on the shevles be sure to give it a try. Liz writes awesome action and is an award winning author with her Crimson City series. Moongazer, which I've read, features an alternate universe and you never know which one is real until the very end.

I'm off for a week of writing and relaxation at the beach!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Superior Species



On one of the lists I subscribe to, someone recently brought up the question of what, if anything, makes paranormal heroes different from the heroes of non-paranormal romances. From the follow-up discussion, it seemed the poster was thinking mainly of supernatural creatures, although an alien with super powers or an extended lifespan would fit in, too. One suggested difference was that a person with superhuman powers, immortality, or very high intelligence would feel apart from ordinary mortals and might consider himself superior to them, having little in common with and no moral duty toward them. The naturally evolved vampire, Dr. Weyland, in Suzy McKee Charnas' THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY frequently states that he regards human beings as "livestock" or "cattle," creatures to whom he has no obligations. At first glance, his position has a certain plausibility. Since he occupies the top of the food chain, as far above us as we are above apes or other higher orders of nonhuman animals, why shouldn't he have the right to use us in any way he chooses?


However, some people don't believe we have the right to treat nonhuman animals with any less consideration than human beings. Notorious utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer, for example, summarizes that philosophy in this quote from his FAQ page:


"I argued in the opening chapter of Animal Liberation that humans and animals are equal in the sense that the fact that a being is human does not mean that we should give the interests of that being preference over the similar interests of other beings. That would be speciesism, and wrong for the same reasons that racism and sexism are wrong. Pain is equally bad, if it is felt by a human being or a mouse. We should treat beings as individuals, rather than as members of a species."


You can read the whole FAQ at: www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html


Also, Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry on Singer's works and philosophy. I've read one of his books, and whatever one may think about his ethics, he has the clear-headedness to carry his theories to their logical conclusion. On the premise that what matters in the treatment of a creature is not the species, but the capacity of the individual, he says that all sentient animals have the right to be spared pain, but other rights depend on whether they have the mental ability to be aware of themselves as conscious beings or to plan, hope, and anticipate. To Singer, a healthy dog has more rights than a human fetus, a newborn infant, or a severely mentally disabled human being of any age. To the hard-line abortion opponents who equate the killing of a fetus with the killing of a newborn, Singer heartily agrees—and says it's sometimes okay to kill a newborn. In his view, a newborn infant or a brain-dead human being isn't a person. Moreover, he supports a movement to confer legal personhood on apes.


Suppose we encounter aliens who stand as far above us in the evolutionary scale as we do above chimpanzees or dogs. What if these aliens conquer Earth and decree that they have the right to enslave or eat us (as long as they don't cause unnecessary pain), because compared to them we're only animals?


In my opinion, sapience and self-awareness make a difference. No matter how superior to us these hypothetical aliens may be, that superiority doesn't give them a right to treat us as lower animals rather than persons. After all, most of us don't think of human beings with subnormal intelligence as non-persons. I don't approve of fictional vampires (whether supernatural or naturally evolved) who, on the grounds of their long lives and superhuman strength, speed, etc., claim the right to treat ordinary mortals as prey. I don't think the same attitude would be acceptable from aliens, either. This position does bring up the question of chimps, gorillas, and dolphins. Suppose they are proved to have self-awareness in some sense comparable to ours? Would that discovery entitle them to personhood? Maybe—but equality of rights? That's a knottier problem.


It's often assumed that what separates us from the great apes by an unbridgeable gulf is our capacity for abstract thinking and the type of language that goes with it (as opposed to the simple, concrete type of communication some chimps and gorillas have supposedly learned). What if the extraterrestrials possessed some mental power that has no analogue in Homo sapiens? Would they dismiss us from consideration as “persons” because we lack that power, whether it be telepathy or something presently unimaginable to us?


And what about sex? Would a superior alien race view sex with human partners, members of an “inferior” species, as a form of bestiality? (On this topic, by the way, Singer maintains the theoretical acceptability of sex with animals, as long as no harm or cruelty is involved.) An interesting point to ponder while writing inter-species romance.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What does a vampire have in common with Spock

Margaret L Carter is out of town, and I was looking through my saved Blogspot email folder to check on something and I discovered to my horror that last August I'd offered to add some links and labels to her blog, and I'd forgotten!

So, I thought the least I could do was re-publish her post and insert the labels and links.

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What does a vampire have in common with Spock on STAR TREK? No, I'm not suggesting that the average vampire has a hyper-rational mind, pointed ears, or green blood. For me, however, the appeal of these two figures is similar. Both epitomize the allure of the Other in a form I find particularly attractive. When I first read DRACULA at the age of twelve, I was fascinated by the vampire because of the sensuality of blood-drinking. The scene in which the Count forces Mina to drink his blood was my favorite from the beginning. Many years later, I figured out that I responded this way because sharing blood represents the ultimate intimacy, and I still find such scenes deeply stirring. But I'm also drawn to vampires because of the same reason I love Spock. In each case, the character occupies the liminal position of "almost human but not quite," a person who looks a lot like us, yet with enough physical differences to appear exotically attractive, and thinks something like us but differently enough to embody a skewed perspective on the human condition.

Another appeal of both Mr. Spock and the typical vampire of fiction springs from his special relationship with the heroine. A Vulcan rigidly controls his emotions, never expressing them in the presence of others except during Pon Farr. The average vampire regards himself, with considerable justification, as superior to "mortals" (a term I don't find quite satisfactory, since vampires CAN be killed, but oh well) and views most of us as prey or, at best, pets. The heroine, whether a fan author's Mary Sue alter ego or a vampire novel's unusually strong woman, becomes, through her unique qualities, the Vulcan's or vampire's exception to the way he treats most of us mere mortals. In Suzy McKee Charnas' incomparable THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, psychologist Floria Landauer is the ancient vampire Weyland's "exception," just as, to cite an extreme example, Clarice Starling is Dr. Lecter's "exception." Depending on the behavior and attitudes to which our heroine becomes the exception, this situation may open a deeply troubling can of ethical worms, but that topic holds material for another entire essay. That's my main problem with the misnamed film BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA. Unlike many fans, I find Vlad unattractive (well, aside from his physical appearance, which strikes me as silly, not sexy) because his “love” for Mina constitutes making her an exception to the cruel way he behaves toward most other people, including Lucy, a pattern of evil and cruelty the film apparently expects us not to notice.

For a fascinating treatment of the reasons why the Beauty and the Beast motif appeals so strongly to many women, why we love monsters and feel regretful when the Beast turns into a handsome prince, go to Suzy McKee Charnas' website (www.suzymckeecharnas.com) under the “Byways” category and read her enthralling essay “The Beast's Embrace.” You can find these principles explored fictionally in her VAMPIRE TAPESTRY and her unforgettable Phantom of the Opera novella, narrated by Christine telling the TRUE story, “Beauty and the Opera, or the Phantom Beast” (reprinted in Charnas' collection STAGESTRUCK VAMPIRES AND OTHER PHANTASMS).

Another provocative examination of the allure of the alien monster, the Other, is presented in James Tiptree Jr.'s short story “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side.” A character in this tale, cautioning the narrator against falling prey to the fascination of meeting his “first real aliens,” theorizes that human beings throughout our existence as a species have been erotically attracted to “the stranger” because exogamous mating “kept the genes circulating.” With aliens from other planets, although mating may sometimes occur, interbreeding can't (unlike in the STAR TREK universe). But many people find aliens irresistibly attractive because of the “supernormal stimulus” effect. If we innately desire the Other, we desire aliens most of all because they're EXTREMELY Other. Tiptree's story presents this compulsion as completely negative. The human species is having its soul bled away by this fruitless yearning for aliens.

Needless to say, I don't find the situation quite so hopeless. Friendship or love between human and nonhuman is the central theme of many of my favorite stories. One reason I was a devoted fan of the TV series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was that there was absolutely no chance of Vincent's ever becoming “normal” in appearance. Vampires appeal to me on the same level. Therefore, I'm always a bit disappointed when a paranormal romance ends with the “cure” of the vampire, which, to me, negates the very aspect of the character that attracted me. Hence, unlike many vampire fans, I don't respond strongly to the resonance of the “repentant bad boy” theme, in which curing or at least reforming the “evil” or “cursed” undead monster plays an integral part. Having the human partner become a vampire doesn't please me much more, in most cases. (There are exceptions, of course. A talented writer can make either of these scenarios satisfying to me for the duration of a novel.) The ongoing challenge of two unlike characters embracing across the distance between them is what I enjoy reading and writing about. My own vampires are members of a different species who appear human and live secretly among us. Like human beings, they have the capacity for ethical choice and can be either good or evil. I've written an entire book of literary criticism about this kind of vampire fiction, DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN, published by Amber Quill (www.amberquill.com). The bibliography contains many titles that would interest fans of alien romance. For my own series, all the stories and novels are listed in internal chronological order at the “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe” link on my website (www.margaretlcarter.com).

Another series that fascinates me because of its “alien vampire” dimension as well as the search for understanding between people who differ from yet depend upon each other is the Sime~Gen series by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah. It takes place in a distant future when humanity has mutated into two halves (“larities”). Gens look like us but produce the essence of life-energy, selyn. Simes, who look like us except for tentacles on their forearms, need selyn to live but don't produce a measurable amount themselves. They have to draw this substance monthly from Gens or die in agony. You can learn about this universe in depth at www.simegen.com. When the first book, HOUSE OF ZEOR, was newly published, I saw Jacqueline on a TV interview in which she said the novel would appeal to fans of vampires and STAR TREK. It sounded like my kind of book, so I read it, and she was right. In fact, on the Sime~Gen website you can also read about how the “Star Trek effect” shaped the writing of HOUSE OF ZEOR. Which brings us back to vampires and Mr. Spock!




Opinions Wanted--book trailers

I used to think that the formula to becoming a successful published author meant:
1) I had to write well.
2) I had to write what other people wanted to read.
3) I had to keep enough product on the shelves so readers wouldn't forget me.

And all that is still true, but there is so much more. I attend conferences and give speeches. i do television and Internet interviews. I keep up a web site. I arrange marketing and promotion and print ads. There's a lot to the business side of writing. And one of the things I do to try and gain interest in my books are trailers. in the beginning, I hired a company to do them for me. They made great trailers but it got rather expensive. So i did one myself. And now I'm looking at doing another one.

And it's not easy. I have to write a script, scout locations, find talent--that's the actors--pick out costumes, hair and makeup. Then after it's all shot, the real work begins. Editing, text, sound, music. It's a lot of work. Then when it's done I have to upload it all over the Internet. Obviously I don't do all this myself, but even coordinating the work is work. :)

So here's my question. How many of you like watching book videos? How many of you have actually bought a book after you've seen one? Is all the effort and expense worth it? If you read this blog, please just give a short response. help us authors out and let us know if we're wasting our advertising dollars and our time.

And if you want to see the trailer for Kiss me Deadly my June release, it's at www.susankearney.com

Best,

Susan Kearney

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Aliens Who Give Rise to Vampire Legends

Folks:

Cindy Holby wrote Friday June 15th:
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So after I had a morning meltdown we put our heads together. And what did we come up with?
Aliens. Aliens who are the reason there is a vampire legend. Actually it was pretty cool to come up with a new concept on an old tale. Plus we made up lots of slang and my heroine only lost a few of her really snarky lines.
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And in the comments Linnea wrote:
Jacqueline Lichtenberg beat you to that, darling. Read her THOSE OF MY BLOOD if you want to learn about aliens and vampires and why they're on this planet. ;-) Then read her DREAM SPY which is awesome. ~Linnea
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Whee! Thank you Linnea and thank you Margaret for mentioning THOSE OF MY BLOOD and DREAMSPY and noting all the decades of history behind the "vampires are aliens from outer space" tradition.

I first got the idea from, Black Destroyer the short story -- A. E. Van Vogt? I remember the story, but I have also heard it described by many people when doing panels and none of them read the story I read! They think it's horror, and I think it's Intimate Adventure.

I do however believe that Black Destroyer was the originator of this vast and fascinating SF/Fantasy cross-genre concept. That story is one of the (many) reasons I became an SF writer.

I'm sure that Cindy originated the idea, too. Just because it's been practically done to death (ahem) doesn't mean that someone can't create it originally.

It is a logical extension of both the vampire myths and SF lore.

Think about Stargate (the movie, and then the series) and Stargate: Atlantis. Stargate (the movie) just extended this 1940's traditional SF approach from some select myths to ALL the gods in Earth's mythologies, and tied them all together in a Ragnarok of the Stars.

So I wanted to point out to those reading my comments on screenwriting something that many beginning writers don't understand.

In Hollywood, this happens all the time -- that an established, working screenwriter faced with a deadline and a monkey wrench such as Cindy describes for us would reach out for a logical extension of a concept and latch onto something a new writer has CREATED ORIGINALLY out of their own imagination.

Perhaps that author has written and even submitted the script -- or just shopped the idea around, possibly on an internet site.

A few years later a TV episode or theatrical release appears based on this new writer's original concept and the writer is absolutely convinced the established pro stole the idea.

But the pro did not steal the idea any more than Cindy and her editor stole MY idea.

(OK not quite the same. Mine has been published and re-published and widely reviewed and discussed -- and I know I was writing in an established sub-genre with its own rules.)

So back to my hypothetical story of the new screenwriter: The pro re-originated the idea. He didn't have to steal it. He just had to be well read enough and artist enough to synthesize the ingredients.

This is why you can't copyright an idea.

But here's where the new writer who thinks his idea is original can get in trouble. And it's where Cindy could get in trouble if she's unfamiliar with this huge and seething sub-genre (one of the first cross-genre genres).

When I wrote THOSE OF MY BLOOD and DREAMSPY, I already knew this SF/Fantasy/Horror hybrid genre like the back of my hand. All of its bits and pieces are part of my Sime~Gen universe premise on the thematic level (in fact Black Destroyer is one of the foundation bits of Sime~Gen).

Before writing THOSE OF MY BLOOD. I also updated my state-of-the-art research into the hybrid genre (cross-genre didn't exist at that time, and it was impossible to sell cross-genre books. THOSE OF MY BLOOD got 22 rejections and finally was published as SF because there was no SF-Romance category at that time, though a few vampire-romances had begun to appear. Rewrites had to tone down the romance and bring the SF to the fore.)

I did the worldbuilding behind THOSE OF MY BLOOD and DREAMSPY to carefully enumerate, point by point, all the thematic statements and details used by other novels (see Margaret Carter's various publications on the Vampire genre -- she's SUCH a scholar!).

I was careful not to copy or infringe or take as my own anything that had been used before. Most writers don't do that. It's too much trouble, too time consuming. And trust me, it is NOT done in Hollywood. They don't care.

They don't care because they aren't legally bound to avoid using ideas others have pioneered.
And there's a very good reason that you can't copyright AN IDEA (vampire legends originate with aliens from outer-space is an IDEA; all the little gods people have worshipped through the ages were just Go'auld mining Earth for hosts is an IDEA (and not an original one).)

The most incredibly commercial ideas in Hollywood are commercial because they aren't original -- even if the scriptwriter originates the idea without direct exposure to the literature where it's been pioneered.

What makes a concept commercial in Hollywood is that the audience is already familiar with it.
After nearly thirty years of developing the "vampires can be accounted for as visiting aliens" concept, it became a Hollywood original in Stargate where "all gods were just aliens".

(note how Stargate stays away from Christian, Moslem and Jewish beliefs -- haven't done Buddha or any LIVING religion but just pick on "old superstitions.")

(also note Stargate is being cancelled, but Atlantis will continue a while.)

So if you set out to write a script that will make you a Name in Hollywood, and you come up with something truly original that's never been done before, or a twist such as the Vampire-Alien combo, don't think that you can copyright that idea. You can't even Register it with the Guild's script-registration service. They only take completed screenplays.

An IDEA somehow exists "out there" external to our minds, and when the time is right, that IDEA inserts itself into dozens and dozens of minds (maybe millions) at about the same time. It isn't a race between you and all other originators, either.

Remember Thomas Edison wasn't the first to invent the lightbulb. But he got the historical credit because he had the commercialization machinery behind him.

After an idea has come out a few times, and failed -- THEN the big commercial success happens. So let others go ahead of you -- but to maintain your artistic integrity, if you get a chance to write the book out of the screenplay, be sure to note their names in your acknowledgements and that you walk in their footsteps.

If you think someone has stolen YOUR idea -- just remember that you stole it from the same place they got it from.

It's not the idea that becomes successful -- it's the commercial machinery behind the idea that makes the idea successful.

So it's entirely possible that because of THOSE OF MY BLOOD and DREAMSPY winnowing the ground first, Cindy's book may become the hottest commercial success of this very old idea and she may get the credit for originating it just as Thomas Edison got credit for the lightbulb.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm a meez-ing

[warning: rampant silliness]

I was all set to do something writerly and genre-ly about aliens and legends and our books and how our characters and ourselves perceive it all (and how run-on sentences suck...). Then I went to author Tori 'Sofie Metropolis' Carrington's site (because the writing team of Lori and Tony were of great help in teaching me, or rather Theo Petrakos, to swear in Greek in THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES) and there was a Meez on their site.

I was hooked. Okay, I've been on Neopets for several years. I've seen Zwinkys but they didn't grab me. Meez grabbed me. I'm a meez now.






Yep, that me as a Meez and Daq-cat. On a starship bridge. What could be better? You can also find me in the Bar on my site: http://www.linneasinclair.com/bar.htm

If this amuses you, here's the official spiel and link:


You can make your own at Meez.com
When you sign up, enter my username: linnea1015 as the referral (yeah, we get some kind of points for doing so).


Yes, silliness. But it does somewhat relate our desire to escape who we are, and explore "other" (and we've had some great blogs here on "other-ness"). Books were for the longest while, the epitome of "escape" and "explore other." Then came radio (The Shadow Knows!) and television (Star Trek).

Now we can actually BE an other. There I am, with my beloved cat. On the bridge of my starship.

Is that too cool, or what? (And yes, I do own and am at this moment wearing lime green Crocs, just like my Meez.)

If you become a-meez-ed, post and let me know. Maybe I'll start a link to all my a-Meez-ing friends and readers on my site.

Off to Ohio early Wednesday morning, so if you live in Buckeye-ville, come see me at:

June 22nd-- WALDENBOOKS Tuttle Crossing Mall, Columbus OHBook signing 1130am – 1pm

June 23rd--ELYRIA, OH, PUBLIC LIBRARY, West River Branch, 1194 West River Road NorthMeet and Greet with the Teen Advisory BoardPublic Workshop & Public Book signing hosted by Waldenbooks/Borders Express12:30 pm until 4:30 pm

June 24th-- WALDENBOOKS The Mall at Fairfield Commons, Beavercreek OHBook signing and Meet and Greet with the Romance Readers Group2pm – 4:30pm+

~Linnea

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Battling Backyard Aliens

You think I don't have any?
I do!

I've been battling some of them for four years at great personal cost! Not in terms of my own limbs... have you guessed where I'm going with this? Poison and fertiliser and strategically applied water are my weapons of choice against the alien invader.

My alien invader is green, with very large, dark almond shaped eyes, and a sinister mien. His brow ridge make him appear to frown menacingly at me. His body is long, and green. He has a body-armored thorax, an well defined abodomen (not a six-pack, though). He has wings. His glistening "body" --you know some mealy-mouthed editors favor calling a certain masculine body part "his body", right? I don't-- is an unimpressive inch or two.

Of course, an anticlimax follows.

My garden of delights has been penetrated by...
The Emerald Ash Borer

Moreover, the lake at the bottom of my garden (I own 80 feet of frontage, and I pay the same as a neighbor with 500 feet) has also been colonized by aliens, brought in on the feet and in the poop of giant Canada geese.

We wallet-warriors have had to call in the Government, local government, to help us fight alien vegetable matter. There is no other way to compel everyone to pay their "fair share" in the fight against this sprawling, weedy alien who will kill our lake if we don't fight with every weapon at our disposal, including waterborne weed-whackers that look like gamblers' riverboats.

Yes, I know aliens. I could write horror stories, if I were to exaggerate. Imagine if the Emerald Ash Borer didn't want to put his reproductive tackle inside my tree, and implant his offspring there, to eat me from the inside out. (How Alien!)

Imagine if the Thing in my lake had tentacles. (How LOTR!) Or a that it could walk. The Ents weren't the only ones. Did you read Day of the Triffids at school?

But I write alien romances... I don't "do" alien horror.

What's in your back yard?

Best wishes,
Rowena
(From whom not even a credit card commercial is safe from spoofing)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Monkey Wrenches and stuff like that

My current wip is an unban fantasy called Twist that I'm writing for Dorchester's new Shomi line. The covers are really cool, Manga style and its our hope that we'll pick up a bunch of new readers with the concept.

So yes there were guidelines for this line. And apparentlly when I pitched it to the aquiring editor he got so excited about my concept that he forgot one part of the guidelines.

No vampires.

So I'm halfway through the book which is due Sept one and scheduled to be released Feb 08 and I get a really sweet and apologetic email from my editor.

"uh, Colby, I forgot...we're not using vampires or werewolves in this line."

"uh, (insert editors name here). Did you forget that the vampires are my badguys?"

"Nope. But still, we got to do something. Make them nonvampire vampires or something like that." (thats a generalization of what he said.)

So after I had a morning meltdown we put our heads together. And what did we come up with?

Aliens. Aliens who are the reason there is a vampire legend. Actually it was pretty cool to come up with a new concept on an old tale. Plus we made up lots of slang and my heroine only lost a few of her really snarky lines.

So I lost the past two weeks to rewriting my nonvampires into existence. And I"m pretty excited about Twist. In spite of the monkey wrench.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Population Imbalances

It's well known that China's "one child" policy has led to a shortage of girls, leaving many young men unable to find wives. This week, though, I read in the paper that male birth rates are falling in some first-world countries, possibly because of environmental pollution, among other causes. All along, despite the higher number of boys conceived, fewer boys than girls have been born because prenatal loss of male babies tends to be higher. After birth, boys continue to succumb to death at higher rates than girls; males truly are the "weaker sex." Now, however, it seems that fewer boys are being conceived. So we could end up with a shortage of men in the developed world. Another demographic imbalance revolves around age. As an unintended consequence of population control, highly technological societies are ending up with "too many" older people in proportion to the young people needed to keep the economy functioning, especially in Japan and parts of Europe.


It's obvious that a society with too few women is in deep trouble, reproductively speaking. What are the likely sociological effects upon the status of women? Would they become highly valued and respected? Or would they be "valued" only in the sense of property to hoard and fight over? In the chilling theocratic society of Margaret Atwood's HANDMAID'S TALE, fertile women have become so scarce that they're forced to serve as breeding vessels (Handmaids) for a few wealthy, infertile couples. Another side effect of an excess of males, of course, is usually an increase in violent crime and other reckless behavior. A shortage of males, on the other hand, needn't pose a problem from a reproductive perspective. Given the necessary adjustment in sexual and/or parenting customs, one man can supply enough sperm to fertilized many women. From the perspective of women who want to marry and establish families, however, it's naturally a big problem. An extreme imbalance could lead to SF scenarios of men being held as pets or property by women rich and powerful enough to afford them. Or might the culture move in a retro direction and end up with a few powerful men possessing harems?


Too many old people? Might we (because I'm rapidly moving into that demographic) rule the world or at any rate the economy of developed nations, as we boomers supposedly do in the U.S. already? Or could the situation become so desperate that people past a certain advanced age—as in a little-read section of Swift's GULLIVER'S TRAVELS—would be effectively declared dead and stripped of their property rights to make room for the rising generations?


Optimistic SF writers such as Heinlein have often proposed fictional scenarios in which population pressures on Earth are relieved by extraterrestrial colonization. Would space travel ever become easy and cheap enough to remove any significant number of "excess" people from this planet? Historically, did the New World actually relieve population pressures in Europe? Or did the mere existence of an alternative for some people provide a symbolic "safety valve" that changed the balance in the Old World? I don't know enough history to have a legitimate opinion on that question, except that I know Ireland was severely depopulated by emigration in the wake of the potato famine in the 1840s.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Title Help--calling all would be title experts

Hi All,
I could really use some title help. My next books is a romantic suspense and is not tied to my June 26th release, Kiss Me Deadly. The book is a stand alone. It's about a secret formula my heroine inherits--along with her father's business partner--the hero. And someone is after the formula. My heroine is a classical dance teacher with a yen for tribal belly dance. The hero is a businessman. The book is set in Florida outside of Tampa.

All suggestions welcome.

Thanks,
Susan Kearney

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Mr. Ed" and Writing the Great American Novel

Please see my long comment on Linnea's post that went up yesterday. She's right, it takes longer to write shorter.

Well now! Isn't The Great American Novel what we all feel we're doing when we write?
Of course, we know it isn't so. Problems of genre-prejudice aside, you don't write "the great American novel" on purpose. Perhaps someone else on this co-blog will examine the concept "great" and the concept "American" in depth, and "novel" is a whole subject on its own, but today I wanted to examine what makes an Icon of a culture.

What is the function of an Icon and why do cultures elevate some trivial bit to become an icon to future generations?

Where do Icons come from?

I saw a segment on the PBS News Hour last week that's been bugging me with this question, and in truth it has a lot to do with Alien Romance and Intimate Adventure and Genre-Prejudice and Iconography.

"Mr. Ed" the 1960's TV show was billed and named in the News Hour segment several times as An American Icon. I think the publicist for the book written by the star of the show whom they were interviewing must have coined the phrase and succeeded in convincing the reporter to use it.

"Mr. Ed" preceded Star Trek and was an SF-ish parody crossed with kiddy-fare and came out immensely popular with adults because it was interlaced with complex relationships (like I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show).

http://www.tv.com/mister-ed/show/769/summary.html for more information (episode guides are there if anyone posted them -- tv.com is only as good as the contributors).

Mr. Ed was followed by "My Favorite Martian" -- and later by Star Trek which turned everything topsy turvey.

You see, Star Trek was actual adult drama -- not even really SF's traditional "Action/Adventure For Teen Boys" though it had that element prominent on the surface. ST posed serious questions about morality, ethics, world politics and religion.

SF on TV was revolutionized by Star Trek -- but the thin edge of the wedge, the ground-breaker, the true entry point into the general consciousness for science fiction (and adult stories about non-human intelligence) was via COMEDY.

And so Mr. Ed (about a deep buddy-friendship between an ordinary man and a talking horse who wanted to keep his verbal skills secret) became an American Icon (nearly 50 years later, when the star of the show writes a book about it!).

So maybe "an icon" is the tip of the root of change -- the point where a seed breaks open and starts to grow, but isn't quite recognizable yet.

Yes, I noted Rowena's post about Ginger Root and its shape. You see the impression humor makes.

So an Icon may be the first not-quite-recognizable appearance of a thing, or the next growth stage where it becomes recognizable (Spock has been named "an Icon") -- or some further inflection point in a growth curve.

Why do we appoint some things as "icons" and other things not? Well, that's another discussion having to do with popularity, publicity, journalistic choices, feedback between audience and profit-driven journalism, and group mind building.

But before we discuss any of that, and get bogged down in the related topic of "what is Art, really?" I think here on Alien Romance, we should study the 1960's a little deeper and learn.

Try this link:
http://www.tv.com/comedy/genre/4/topshows.html?g=4&era=1960&l=A&pop=&tag=gen_subtabs;era;4

Romance has been as derided as Science Fiction.
Science Fiction has begun to lose that stigma (still has a way to go, but frankly SF fandom WON the battle).

Romance is still considered "girly" fare, kid-lit, or the opiate of the useless drudge of the household.

But The Romance Genre really is an in-depth, far ranging and far reaching, highly philosophical, blatantly critical study of a single astrological phenomenon long known as The Neptune Transit -- which is famous for its spiritual effects.

The Alien Romance exposes that buried philosophical depth to the eye of the un-educated and perhaps innocent reader just as Star Trek exposed the philosophical importance of Science Fiction buried inside Mr. Ed, My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, and The Adams Family. (I'm not even mentioning Superman and other "kiddie" items, just general comedy.)

As Alien Romance adds an adult dimension to Romance, so Comedy added an adult dimension to SF.

Our next step must be a TV SHOW -- maybe made from a feature film -- which will become an American Icon like Mr. Ed -- a lighthearted romantic comedy with an alien point of view.

Now, maybe that's already happened and we're too close to it to see. I could nominate Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel as the Alien Romance Icon, maybe Lois and Clark -- maybe Forever Knight? Today we have Tanya Huff's Blood Files on TV along with a chance for The Dresden Files to make it on the Sci Fi channel. Maybe we're already there?

Anyone else have a nomination for the 2000's decade American Icon that will change viewing habits and make Alien Romance highly respectable general audience fare recognized on its artistic and philosophical merits?

What exactly is an icon and how do you recognize it before the media names it so?
Or maybe more to the point, how do you get to be "the media" that gets to choose what to select as "an Icon?"

Note this media piece on the last episode of The Sopranos:

--------------Were 'Sopranos' fans whacked or blessed? By JOCELYN NOVECK, AP National Writer
NEW YORK - And so on the first day of Year One A.T. — After Tony, that is — the "Sopranos"-viewing world was split in two camps.
One was muttering bitterly into its morning coffee at the open-ended conclusion of the epic series, a banal family moment over onion rings that would have delighted existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, author of "Being and Nothingness."
The other was lavishly praising the iconic HBO drama for capturing life's essential ambiguity and disorderliness.
See the full article:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070611/ap_en_tv/tv_sopranos_ending;_ylt=AnWtrKSlaxXnNWYMMX9RZueuGL8C
---------------------

Is "iconic" a buzzword being cheapened by overuse? Or does this really point the way forward into the general consciousness?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Monday, June 11, 2007

Authors and Writers and Readers, Oh My!

I'm too slammed with work--writing CHASIDAH'S CHOICE and deep in the final, final copy edits on THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES--to be particularly witty today. So I'm going to ramble...

I spent this weekend north of Tampa, FL, giving two workshops at the New Port Richey library for the Florida Writers Association. I had a terrific time and my thanks go to Dahris Clair and the FWA, as well as the lovely people at the library who kindly made extra copies of my handouts. FWA is a multi-genre writers' organization so it appeared to me that you don't get the kind of genre-bonding that you do when you're part of a solo-genre group, like MWA (Mystery Writers of America), RWA (Romance) or SFWA (Science Fiction). Hence, there were a fair amount of authors-to-be in the audience who were attacking the goal of being published via the more difficult path: alone.

I mentioned at in my opening--and it's something I've commented on before--that I have the greatest respect for writers who became authors in the pre-Internet days. Before information was literally dripping off the walls. Before professional advice was a mere mouse-click away. Jacqueline Lichtenberg's writerly advice on her Sime~Gen site saved my pre-published patootie more than once years ago. Her advice still keeps my published patootie in line.

So it surprises me when I speak before a fiction writing group and they not only don't know the difference between external and internal conflict, but they have no idea where to find a sample of a query letter. (And I'm not stating everyone in my workshop fell into that category, but there were more who did than I'd expected.)

The truth is not only out there, folks, but so are the answers. In addition to Jacqueline's WorldCrafters Guild, there are sites like my agent's blog, PubRants, where she fully and often humorously demystifies the process of getting an agent. And Miss Snark ::genuflects:: may have recently retired, but her blog archives--and spot-0n advice--is still there.

Authors like Holly Lisle and Orson Scott Card have long maintained wonderful "How To Write Your Novel" pages on their sites. And when you're burned out from crafting your words, go hang out with RITA-award winning author, Robin D. Owens, and revive your muse.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure many of you have your favorite Writing Help/How To site. Share, okay? And when I get time [Linnea falls off her chair, laughing], I'll do up a page on my site, listing them all.

So the plain fact is, educating yourself on the craft of writing AND (and this is a big, whopping, important AND) the business of being a published author is not an impossible task. It's out there, kidlings. Click, scroll, learn.

Which brings me to the other half of this blog: readers.

I was absolutely blessed (and surprised) to have GAMES OF COMMAND make All About Romance's "Desert Isle Keeper" list recently. The DIK designation means this is a book the reviewer would want with him/her on a desert island. It's a honor. I'm truly honored. Because writing a book that makes people happy is a lot of hard, hard, hard (did I say it was hard?) work.

I'm not sure readers realize that. Sometimes I think readers pictures authors as lounging on the chaise, dictacting their next novel whilst being hand-fed chocolate-covered blueberries. Or some such thing. Every word we dictate is then accepted without question by the editors and copy-editors who adore us, and we go on to our next novel, and our next bowl of chocolate-covered blueberries.

Trust me, it's not remotely anything like that. Writing a novel is slightly less painful then going through back-to-back root canal operations. Don't get me wrong. I love writing. I'm addicted to writing. But what I write, what I present to my editor and what comes out as the final book is a long, often frustrating, always crazy process. So in case any readers were wondering:

1. Yes, I have to write to a specific word count. I cannot just ramble on like I am here. Yes, there is some leeway in the word count but when my editor says CUT I have to CUT. That may mean a fairly important scene never makes it into the final book because there are more important scenes than that one. It's like packing for a week's vacation. You have a suitcase of a certain size. You have airline weight limits for that suitcase. You have fifteen outfits you want to bring along but only room for eight. What goes? What stays behind? That's what writing and EDITING a book is like.

2. I have to balance both the speculative fiction aspect (science fiction/fantasy) and the romance aspect. And often, some mystery or political intrigue that has to be cleared up by book's end. I have to keep both my science fiction readers and my romance readers happy. That means, yes, it's a balancing act and no one, ever, is going to be one-hundred per cent happy. Not even me. That's why I have to groan when I read a blogger's or reviewer's comment that a) Linnea Sinclair had too much romance in [fill in novel title] for me and, from another blogger or reviewer about the identical book b) Linnea Sinclair had too much science fiction in [fill in novel title] for me.

Please see item #1 above. I have a finite amount of space in which to produce a novel. I do absolutely the best I can at the time to keep everyone happy but (see item #1 above) I also have to listen to my editor and copy-editor. Things get cut, and understand I may not always agree with the things I'm told to cut. But I cut. That's my job, as much as writing the book is.

Writing cross-genre fiction is--again--like packing a suitcase for a week's vacation where the climate will vary greatly: a snowy ski resort at the top of the mountain and a balmy beach below. Bikini. Down-filled parka. Flip-flops. Ski boots. What goes, what stays behind?

3. I write to deadline. That means I not only have to make all these decisions and changes and adjustments to the novel, I have to do it before X date. While at the same time--and this may shock you--trying to spend some small amount of time with my husband. And remembering to clean the kitty-litter pans. And feed the duck. And yes, travel up-state to teach two workshops. In between that, I have to update my website. Design and print my bookmarks. Answer fan mail (love doing that!). Fold laundry. Life eats away at writing time. Unfair but factual.

And this isn't just me, kidlings. Every published author faces these kinds of problems. Did you all notice the first sentence of this blog? I'm WRITING one book while stil EDITING another.

Which brings me back to writers' organizations, like RWA, SFWA and the Florida group (FWA) that I visited this weekend. Get used to hobnobbing with your fellow and sister writers and authors now--even before you're published. Because once you get published, life quickly morphs from crazy to insanely outta control. You're going to need your author buddies, not just for critique reads or cover quotes or characterization questions, but just as someone to laugh with. Someone who has a shoulder to cry on. Someone who can help you celebrate when your book is designated a 'Desert Isle Keeper.' And someone who can help you pound your head on your monitor in frustration when one reviewer notes that the romance in GAMES OF COMMAND between Sass and Branden was a waste of time, and another blogger pens that the romance in GAMES OF COMMAND between Sass and Branden was the only thing worth reading.

Authors and writers and readers, oh my! ~Linnea
www.linneasinclair.com

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Worldbuilding in the grocery aisles

Hybrids aren't just cars that run on more than one fuel source.

There are hybrid animals, and hybrid plants which occur either naturally or with the assistance of mankind, also hybrids in Greek and Roman mythology. Some hybrids are sterile, and some are not. Some hybrids are called after a combination of the father's name and the mother's (father's name first). The mythological creatures do not appear to follow this convention... and in fact, now I understand the convention, my mind boggles over the Manticore (man-lion-scorpion).

wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid


The etymology is delightful. According to wikipedia, hybrid comes from the ancient Greek for "son of outrageous conduct."

I could have called my Tigron world's black sabre-toothed tigers ... pangers, or tigthers, but I think that would have complicated matters.

This week, I'm more interested in plant hybrids. For world-building in a hurry --not that I recommend taking a short cut, but sometimes one has to-- a few hours in the grocery aisles can be quite inspiring.

There are some astonishing hybrids available, as well as exotic fruits and vegetables that might or might not have been hybridized. I look at the Ugly Fruit, and I wonder whether it evolved to be visually appealing to anything (assuming that its fruit is "designed" to be dispersed with the assistance of creatures that eat the fleshy parts and eject the pits).

There's something spiny and orange that looks like a cross between a sea urchin and a sea slug, and I'm fascinated by those waxy green globes that come inside a pale green papery looking flower. If you were to change their colors, rename them, and describe them carefully as if you'd never seen them before, you'd hardly need to dream up your own fruits and vegetables for your alien romance's world. And, then there are the roots. You have to be careful what you do with your root vegetables, in my opinion.

How did we ever start to eat root veg? Did we observe a primate and copy them? Did our earliest ancestors' curious gaze fall upon something intriguingly orange, or pleasantly white, pushing up through loose soil? I suppose we do have an instinct (as children) to pull things out of the ground and bite them as an experiment. I'm told that I ate a worm once when I was a toddler! Would your aliens have similar instincts?

Your human heroine has to eat in outer space, so not all her food can be unrecognizable (or she'd have to have major allergy testing) or her gut would not be adapted to handle it. We're accustomed to stories about our domestic pets eating human delicacies which are not natural for them... which their guts are not adapted to handle. I've been thinking about what natural carnivores can and cannot eat, because I want my tigers to play a larger role in my next story.

In fact, having spent several hours reading the ingredients on dry pet food for research purposes, I do have to wonder under what circumstances a dog in the wild would eat corn on the cob. Or rice!

There are some schools of alternative healing thought that claim some of our painful ailments (such as arthritis) are a consequence of us eating fruits or vegetables that we are not adapted for, or to which some of us are allergic. My mother cured very painful arthritic swelling in her hands by giving up all produce in the tomato families. Other people have a problem with potatoes. (Some have a problem but don't know it.)

In Insufficient Mating Material, the hero and heroine are marooned on an island on an alien world, and they have to test food and deal with the possibility that the heroine might not have a tolerance for some of the fruits and vegetables growing there.

Why do I think roots are a problem? Carrots are easy, and you can eat them raw if you want to. Parsnips look like big carrots only white... but you really do have to cook them. Watch out for onions and shallots, because they look like tulip bulbs. There are different roots that look alike. Take ginger root and Jerusalem artichoke. They are both about the shape and size of a small, pudgy hand, with gnarly, stub-tipped fingers, root filaments like fleshy hairs, and are beige-gray.

On our world, some plants do not want to be eaten, especially by the roots (!) so they evolve to be poisonous. What happens in your alien world?

For those interested in research, or obsessed with plausible alien anatomy --and possibly inspired by the fact that a carrot fresh from the ground does not necessarily look "carrot shaped"-- M.I.T. (an eminently respectable place of scholarship) sells --or used to sell-- a to-scale, and anatomically correct poster called "Penises of the Animal Kingdom".

I thought the plural was Penes, but I suppose a few people wouldn't get the point.

And having Googled that, because none of the three of my dictionaries within easy reach gives any guidance on what a proper person should call multiple schlongs, I'm off to pursue other lines of romantic alien research.

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry
Insufficient Mating Material
"racy, wildly entertaining futuristic romance" ~Writers Write

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Explaining Aliens: SEALED IN BLOOD Excerpt

When reading SF and fantasy, I often find that the passages of exposition or extended dialogue explaining the biology and culture of the aliens are my favorite parts. As a writer, though, I know editors and readers want exposition interwoven through the story in subtle and intriguing ways. One method of getting around the problem is to include an essay in an appendix, laying out all the details not covered in the narrative itself. I always enjoy reading and rereading the appendices in S. M. Stirling's alternate histories, for instance. A way of incorporating this level of detail within the narrative is to have a character openly lecturing. In Suzy McKee Charnas' THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, Dr. Weyland, the vampire, delivers an ostensibly speculative lecture on "how nature would design a vampire." The female viewpoint character's suspicion of Weyland's vampirism and the professor's give-and-take with the audience keep the scene lively.


How do we integrate information feed directly into dialogue without having characters tell each other things they already know (the infamous "as you know, Bob" technique)? Often we can provide a character who serves as the reader's stand-in by being ignorant of the facts and having a plausible need to learn them. For example, Hugh, the protagonist of Jacqueline's HOUSE OF ZEOR, being new to Sime Territory, fills this role. That's the technique I most often use in my "vampire as alien" fiction. An ordinary mortal who has just learned that vampires (or werewolves, demons, etc.) really exist naturally wants to learn as much as possible about them (if she doesn't instantly run away in panic, but then she wouldn't be a suitable paranormal romance heroine, would she?).


As an example, this is part of the scene from my novel SEALED IN BLOOD in which the heroine first discovers that the hero is a vampire.


Excerpt from SEALED IN BLOOD (Amber Quill Press, www.amberquill.com):


The mugger let out a gurgle and released her. Sherri whirled around to see him stumble backward.


Impossible--how could he share her delusion?


The monster was flying straight at her. She threw herself sideways, landing on the leaf-strewn ground with a bruising thump to one hip. Instead of fleeing, the mugger brandished his knife underhand and rushed the winged creature. Maybe this thug had also decided the apparition didn't exist.


His defiant karate yell died in his throat when taloned hands grabbed his shoulders. He slashed the thing's chest. Its grip slackened. The man squirmed free and dashed into the woods.


With a loud moan, the creature sank to all fours. Sherri sat on the ground paralyzed, her head spinning, while she watched the wings shrivel up and disappear, the ebony fur melt away, the catlike ears shrink. The man levered himself into a crouch and stared back at her. His eyes gleamed crimson in the twilight.


"Nigel?" The ground lurched under her. Earthquake? *No, just my world-view turning upside down. No problem, folks.* He held out a hand. A chill swept over her. In the next instant it metamorphosed to a hot flush, as she realized his posture wasn't attack, but supplication. *Idiot, he probably saved your life! And you thought you were so open-minded!*


She scrambled to her feet and scurried over to Nigel. Squatting beside him, she took in the ripped shirt and the red patch spreading on it. "You're wounded."


"Excellent powers of observation." His voice slurred a bit, spoiling the sarcasm. When Sherri glanced nervously over her shoulder, he said, "Don't worry, he's long gone. Damn--didn't mean to scare him away. Wanted to question him. Clumsy."


"We'd better get you inside." When he grasped her outstretched hand, his weight almost overbalanced her. They both managed to stagger to their feet, though, and they trudged up to the house with his arm draped around her shoulders.


As they climbed the deck stairs, the cat hissed, then darted away to leap over the side. "Funny, Quark isn't usually shy of people," Sherri said.


"I make animals nervous," said Nigel as she opened the door. "Don't you lock it?"


"Just to go jogging? Don't be silly." She attempted a brisk tone to counteract her delayed reaction. Now that the crisis had passed, she felt the thudding of her heart and the cramps in her bowels.


"How do you trusting types survive?" He lowered himself onto the couch she steered him to. "Your cat's name is Quark?"


"Because he has strangeness and charm."


"Logical," he said. He closed his eyes.


"We have to get you cleaned up. Stay right there."


"I assure you, I'm not going anyplace."


Stumbling into the kitchen, Sherri realized her hands were shaking. She clutched the edge of the counter until they steadied. She drank a glass of ice water from the refrigerator dispenser, then refilled it for Nigel. After soaking a couple of washcloths in warm water, she carried them, with paper towels and the full glass, into the living room.


She glanced around at the newspapers on the floor and the galley proofs strewn on her desk. "I apologize for the mess."


Nigel opened his eyes and said with a sardonic quirk of his lips, "As well you should. Disgraceful--never saw such chaos. Don't know if I can bring myself to collapse in here."


"All right, it was a stupid remark," she snapped.


He leaned forward with a groan, resting his head on one hand. "Teach me to make inane jokes within minutes of getting knifed."


She perched on the arm of the couch. "Sit back and hold still." She unbuttoned his ripped shirt. "I'm afraid this is ruined." With his cooperation she drew it off. He winced at her touch and averted his eyes when she switched on the end table lamp. "Sorry, I have to see what I'm doing." He gulped down the glass of water as she swabbed sticky blood from his chest. After the second washcloth was stained red, she got a good look at the knife slash. The incision, closed to a thin red line, appeared hours old.


Mechanically patting his cold, white skin dry with paper towels, she said, "I do not see this."


"Sure you do," said Nigel, "just as you saw what happened outside. Don't lie to yourself; you're no good at it."


"Then those pictures of your sister weren't a special effect at all."


"No."


She withdrew her hand from his chest.


Something like sadness flickered in his eyes. "Relax, I won't bite. Not unless severely provoked."


Ashamed of fearing him, even for a second, after he'd rescued her, she finished cleaning the wound. "Doesn't even look like it needs a bandage. Nigel, how did you do that?"


"The change? A psychic skill we learn in adolescence. It's a purely superficial shifting of molecules, with more than a trace of illusion--how we look depends a lot on what the observer expects to see. That's why those last snapshots were foggy. The underlying body structures remain the same."


"Why did you do it?" she said. "The risk of being seen--"


"Error in judgment," Nigel sighed. "It seemed a good way to make sure he couldn't describe or identify me later. Besides, confound it, changing feels good." He touched the cut over his ribs. "I paid for it."


Reminded of how bad he must feel, Sherri jumped up with a guilty start. "What can I get for you? A drink?"


"Milk," he said. "Laced with the highest proof alcohol you have."


Since she seldom drank anything stronger than blush wine, she had to mull over her supplies for a minute. "Maybe Amaretto?"


Nigel grimaced.


"Oh, I just remembered the bottle of brandy I got for a present last Christmas--hardly been touched. Is that okay?" He nodded. Hurrying to the kitchen to pour the drink, she recalled first aid cautions against administering alcohol to an injured person. Nigel, however, ought to know better than she what his own metabolism could handle.


When she gave him the glass, he downed half of it without pausing for breath. "At least I should have taken off the blasted shirt first," he said. "Including clothes in the change takes a lot more concentration. It wasn't quite dark enough, either. I feel...drained. We're hypersensitive enough as it is when our molecules are in flux that way. That's why being stabbed hurt so much. In normal shape I'd have been able to suppress most of the pain."


"What else can you turn into?" she said. "Wolf, giant rat, glowing mist?" She sat beside him, forgetting all nervousness in her fascination.


He emitted a weak laugh. "Sorry, that's it. Aren't you satisfied with a six-foot bat-winged panther? And a singularly useless skill it is, most of the time."


"How can you be sure nobody saw you on the way here?"


He laughed harder, ending on a groan. "My dear girl, did you think I flew up from Berkeley? I am not Superman. My car's parked at the bottom of your lane."


"Oh," she said sheepishly. For a moment she silently watched him sip his drink. The superhero reference reminded her of other aliens in films and TV shows, and the planets they hailed from. She decided she had to ask. "Nigel, where are you from?"


"Nevada."


"What?"


"That 'alien' label was Brewster's guess," Nigel said, "and he was wrong. We're not interstellar invaders; we've shared your world for millennia. I'd be glad to give you the complete lecture and answer all your questions--later. We have more immediate problems. I've discovered a few things about Brewster. Pooling what little knowledge we have might enable us to end this harassment you're suffering."


"Have you considered giving my anonymous caller what he wants and washing our hands of it?" Sherri said.


"No longer an option," said Nigel. "I don't have the photos either. I turned them over to a friend in L.A., who will certainly destroy them. He's probably done so already."


An almost forgotten detail from the snapshots floated to the surface of Sherri's mind. "If your sister's shape-changing wasn't a special effect, then neither was anything else, was it? Including the blood-drinking."


Nigel turned his head to meet her eyes. "If you're suggesting that milk punch wouldn't be my first choice, you are right."


Her gasp held more delight than fear. How other fans would envy her if they knew what she'd stumbled into--not that she could tell anyone. "You're a vampire!"


"Close enough," he said. "We use the term for ourselves, though it's misleading in some ways. As you must have figured out, we aren't corpses animated by the Devil. We're a long-lived species with a few peculiar habits."


How long-lived? she wondered. "How old are you?"


"No more than I claim--forty-two, still in my first youth. And Laura's even younger. Good grief, can you imagine someone with centuries of experience getting into the trouble she's in?"


"So you're convinced she isn't in the coven voluntarily?"


"She was at first," he said. "I have a feeling things have gotten out of control."


"I suppose you're planning to play detective and rescue her?"


"What else?" He shifted position and winced again. "As soon as I've had a few hours to recover."


"You can stay here tonight, of course. You don't look in any shape to drive. You're still hurting, aren't you?" He averted his eyes from hers. Drawing a deep breath, she laid her head on the back of the couch, exposing the smooth arch of her neck. "Well, go ahead, I guess I owe you."


"No, you don't; I got you into this in the first place. My dear, you look like a martyr presenting herself for the headsman's ax!"


She raised her head and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. His head was bowed, one hand shading his own eyes. "Sherri, I can't afford to turn down your offer. But it doesn't have to be like that."


"Why won't you look at me?"


"Because I don't want to be tempted to use hypnotic coercion on you." He clasped her left hand and raised it to his lips. Again she noticed their feverish heat, in contrast to the overall coolness of his flesh. Still holding her hand, he put his free arm around her shoulders. To her surprise, she felt him trembling. "Relax for me, Sherri. I won't force you to; I want you alert."


"I want to stay alert, too. I don't want to miss a single detail."


He responded with a shaky chuckle and began licking the inside of her wrist. A shiver coursed up her arm. "What's that for?"


Giving her palm a light kiss, he paused to answer, "Our secretions contain a mild anesthetic, to which we ourselves are immune, of course. The last thing I want is to cause you pain." His tongue resumed its tantalizing strokes. The delicate skin of her wrist tingled with a warmth that slowly seeped up her arm and settled between her breasts. She noticed the nip of his teeth only as a painless prickling like a mild electric shock. He didn't suck the wound like a film vampire, but continued to lick. In the midst of the lassitude creeping over her, she managed to remember her scientific curiosity about the process and fixed her gaze on the cuckoo clock on the opposite wall. No more than three minutes passed before Nigel released her and sat back, closing his eyes with a long sigh.


She sat frozen, gaping at the minute, painless incision from which blood still trickled. After a moment he opened his eyes and said, "Are you sure you want to bleed all over the couch?" Digging a handkerchief out of his side pocket, he pressed it to the wound.


"Thanks." She closed the fingers of her right hand around the makeshift dressing. "I didn't see any fangs."


"What do you think I am, a rattlesnake? An object needn't be pointed to be sharp. Like a razor cut, that will be scarcely visible by tomorrow."


"Convenient. No punctures to hide." She studied his face. Still pale--naturally pale, no doubt, but the blue tinge had faded from his lips. "You do feel better, don't you?"


"Oh, yes. God, yes." He squeezed her hand. "It's just that I'm worn out. All this--the change, the instant healing--is a hell of an energy drain."


-end of excerpt-

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kiss Me Deadly trailer


To advertise my latest book, I decided to make my own video trailer. You can watch it at www.susankearney.com. It turned out to be a family affair. My daughter Tara acted in part of it. She's the girl thrown against the wall. My son played the villain and my husband drove the truck. My daughter did the text and a friend shot the actors. I wrote the script and helped edit. For about 40 seconds of film, it took two months of work. Not a solid two months--I was writing a book at the time, too. Anyway, this book, Kiss Me Deadly is a romantic suspense. I have found that going back and forth between genres, romantic suspense and my futuristic romances helps keep the writing fresh and the mind sharp.

But to answer the questions I'm asked most often:
1) Will I write more futuristics? Yes. In fact, Solar Heat is already finished and will be out next February. My daughter shot the cover photograph.
2) Will my books return to space? Yes.
3) Will I be writing more Rystani warriors? I hope so. The plan is to connect the Rystani series with the Heat series in a few more books.

For those of you who love paranormal, you've probably noticed that more of them are in stores than ever before. And this is due to readers buying these books and recommending them to their friends. Please keep up the good work. Your support means our publishers will keep buying these stories. So please, please keep recommending them to your friends. And if you like romantic suspense as well, please give Kiss me Deadly a try. It will be out in stores June 26 , 2007

Susan Kearney