Thursday, August 30, 2007

Changing into Aliens

The latest vampire novel I've read is a YA book, MARKED, by the mother-daughter team of P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast. In this universe, vampyres (as it's spelled) are openly known to exist. Their representatives place the Mark on the foreheads of fledglings, teenagers destined to become vampyres—if they survive the Change, which spans several years. The young heroine, once Marked, has to enroll in a boarding academy for fledglings. This kind of vampirism is not spread by biting. A quasi-scientific explanation postulates that in a small percentage of adolescents, the hormonal surges of puberty trigger a change in strands of "junk DNA," initiating the person's transformation. This book offers an imaginative variation on the familiar vampire fiction conventions. I strongly recommend it.


The "alien" aspect I see in this story is the process of turning into something no longer completely human. The heroine undergoes mystical experiences and finds herself possessed by strange urges, while grappling with new powers and vulnerabilities as well as adjusting to a new environment. The ordeal of becoming a creature one no longer recognizes, of course, befalls every adolescent to some degree. We may not transform as radically as caterpillars into butterflies, but we still struggle with the changes that come over us at that stage of life. It's been pointed out that a major appeal of the movie I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF is that it symbolically represents something that happens to all teenage boys. A similar point is made in its usual inimitably witty fashion by a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER episode in which Xander gets involved with a gang who've been possessed by hyena spirits. When Buffy tries to describe Xander's alarming behavioral aberrations to Giles, Giles replies with something like, "He's turned into a teenage boy. Obviously, you'll have to kill him." I sometimes refer to our grown sons' adolescent years as “turning into a werewolf,” the period when a formerly pleasant, cooperative child becomes an almost unrecognizable creature. In Jacqueline's Sime-Gen universe, young Simes literally transform into alien-looking creatures by sprouting tentacles and gaining strange new powers (strange in the eyes of Gens, anyway).


In creating alien protagonists, recalling the confusion of our teenage years may help us get inside the minds of our characters. After all, the term “alienation” is often applied to the turmoil many adolescents go through (in our culture, at least—see THE CASE AGAINST ADOLESCENCE, which I recently discussed, for an alternate view). And for those of us who've long since attained adulthood or even middle age (or beyond), today's youth may seem to inhabit a different realm, a world of the future with technology and dialects we have to learn as foreign customs and second languages. Bridging that gap may offer clues about how it would feel to communicate with aliens.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dragoncon


I am off to Dragoncon in Atlanta. Please stop by our booth, Bump In The Night Central to say hello, win prizes and talk about books.
Hope to see you there.
Susan Kearney

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three of Swords - Commitment

Bet you were wondering what the Tarot Suit of Swords has to do with Alien Romance!

Or with Romance in any form.

Well, there it is. Commitment.

Most Tarot decks portray the entire suit of Swords as dire and terrible. The Three is shown in the Waite Rider deck (drawn by a woman, but designed by a man) as a heart with three swords piercing it -- blood dripping. Other decks are even worse.

The "best" the Swords has to offer is considered to be the 6 which we will discuss later, and then you'll see the six is not so hot.

With each of the not-so Minor Arcana, (i.e. the numbered cards) there are two major components to the "meaning" or "significance" -- the number and the suit.

The Number and Suit (or World) combine to establish the abstract, non-verbalizable, meaning of the variable represented by a card. And that non-verbal meaning establishes the meaning of the Major Arcana that are connected to the Minors by the Jacob's Ladder diagram. That's why I call the numbered cards the "not so" Minor Arcana. They are actually the source of all "meaning" in Tarot.

The Jacob's Ladder diagram is a cascade of 4 interlaced Tree of Life diagrams (see The Biblical Tarot: Never Cross A Palm With Silver) - one diagram for each of the four "worlds" or levels of reality represented by a Suit.

There are four Worlds, four letters in the Divine Name, four variables necessary to create a Boolean algebra and four forces that hold the world together (the forces phycisists want to combine into a Unified Field Theory).

Our manifest reality has three spacial dimensions and Time. See my reviews column (http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/ for January to June 2007 for a series on how the Soul enters manifestation through Time.

I learned of the concept of the Soul entering reality through Time in a Chabad course http://www.chabad.org/ on Kabbalah, mulled it over for a year, read dozens of books, wrote columns on it, am booked into a conference to teach it, and I still don't understand it. But I keep trying.

On the Tree of Life diagram, the Major Arcana fit onto the connecting spurs between the numbered Sepheroth. There is only one set of Major Arcana images, but each one functions in each of the four "worlds" differently. So there are four complete sets of meanings for each Major card. So there is no way to tell which of the Worlds a Major is expressing in a given reading.

Students of Tarot argue endlessly about what symbols go onto which card or what number a given Major Arcanum should be -- and some people feel that one deck is more responsive or sympathetic to them personally than another because of the art, the inking or the symbolism or the magical conditioning they've imbued it with.

These issues can be easily penetrated by understanding that the cards represent points on the Tree of Life diagram. It simply doesn't matter, in any objective way, what you put on the card. It only matters that you, yourself, can tell them apart. Therefore subjectivity reigns supreme in the matter.

Take some pieces of paper and scribble numbers on them and you can make a Tarot deck. It only matters that you know what each card represents and where it fits in the dynamic process of energy flowing down from the Creator to ultimate manifestation. So your deck will work just fine up to your own personal limitations.

The artwork is put on Tarot cards for those who don't understand the Tarot in terms of this structure that underlies all the universe. (Well, who does???? We all need a little symbolic help here.)

So let's trace it out on the Tree diagram.

The Threes can be reached directly from the Aces by the Major called THE MAGICIAN. Or Three can be reached through Two via THE FOOL from One to the Two and then THE EMPRESS across to the Three. And you can get out of the THREES through the LOVERS and THE CHARIOT.

In this series of explorations of the Tarot cards we are following the path down the Tree that is usually called "The Lightening Flash" -- so we will move down in numberical order from One to Ten.

The 3rd Sepherah (or zone on the Tree of Life) is called BINAH, is often associated with the astrological symbol Saturn, and can handily be thought of as the gates of life and death. This is the portal through which you are born -- and the portal through which you go when you die.

That's both symbolic and actual, but for the most part the 3 of Swords card turns up representing a psychological state.

That state is very well described by the word "commitment." It is a point of "no return" -- a moment that will always be remembered as the "before" and "after" moment. "Before I met your mother, I had so many girl friends I couldn't remember their names!"

Some times this 3 of Swords moment is felt as a loss - a death. Sometimes it's felt as a new start, a gain, a birth.

To leave some place is also to go someplace else. You can grieve over the friends left behind -- or reach out to the new people you find yourself among.

How you experience the passage through that portal is a matter of your own personal choice. And remember, the whole Suit of Swords is about choices. Choices are actions, as are thoughts and words. The Sword is the symbol of cutting in half or dividing. And that's what choosing is.

So the Three of Swords represents a choice about who and what you are.

The essence of the Gates of Life and Death is very simple. In order to "be" anything at all, you must "not be" everything else. Identity (a subject much explored in my column for The Monthly Aspectarian archived at http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/ ) rests on the principle of dividing or distinguishing one thing from another.

And that distinguishing process is the process of moving energy down the Tree into manifest reality -- at the numbered points the energy divides and separates like white light spreading out into a rainbow.

In order to be red, you have to not-be green. In order to be Jacqueline Lichtenberg I have to not-be George Bush. In order to be happy, I have to undersand that what I am is defined by what I am not. What I am-not is also, ultimately in the "place" I came from, part of me.

You see what I mean about the Tarot representing ideas, concepts and notions that simply can not be conveyed verbally? You'll sprain your brain wrapping it around these concepts, but they are very useful for understanding any fictional character's internal conflict which generates his external reality and its inherent conflicts -- leading to a bang-up resolution of that fictional character's story.

The Three of Swords for a fictional character is that moment of adjustment when the character resigns him/herself to not-being everything else. "Foresaking all others" do you take . . . ?

Now consider the process of writing a novel.

In the Ace of Swords moment, you began the action of creating words.

In the Two of Swords moment, you saw your first words appear, the first character you put onto the page turned around and looked you in the eye. Shock of seeing part of yourself outside yourself stopped you -- or tumbled you over, out of control, with no way to predict what would happen.

Once you take that tumble off the balance point of the Two of Swords you are subject to the laws of psychology just as a circus tumbler is subject to the laws of physics.

If the action is begun with enough power in the Ace, you move right on through the Two smoothly and suddenly find yourself diving through the portal of the Three.

Once through that portal, there is no way back. You have become NOT everything else. Something vital has separated from you. You have divided yourself off into you and your characters.

In the writing of a novel, the Three of Swords is the moment of total commitment when you comprehend just what completing this project will cost you.

How long will it be? How many years of your life (usually about 5) will you spend living inside it until it's finished? How deep into your own psyche must you delve to find the words? How much of your true self will the readers see exposed? What will you see coming out of yourself that you never believed was in there? How hard will it be to sell this project and get it into print? How will you ever find time to answer the fan mail? Or will you have to go into hiding (Rushdie comes to mind).

The Three is also the moment when you see what you might get if (and only if) you can finish this project, despite the cost. How much money? How much fame and glory? How many people's hearts will be touched?

This book is the legacy you're leaving your children - will they find it saying how much you love them? Will someone, somewhere, come to understand you and themselves better for it? Your great-grandchild maybe?

And that's the essence of the Three in all the Suits; what you pay for what you get. What you leave behind in order to become what you will be.

Once you've written this book, you become the author of this book and can never not-be that author. Everyone who has ever written anything knows that feeling. It's like giving birth. The thing you have written is now separate from you -- and you are different for it.

So the Three of Swords is the moment when you strike a bargain and make the commitment to pay this price for that reward, knowing you might not get the reward, or might not want it once you've obtained it at dire price.

A child being yanked out of fourth grade to follow his parents across country to their new job FEELS only the loss of his friends, not the better school, nicer friends, and better university nearby.

An adult has a wider perspective and though he may feel the loss, he can imagine new, wider and more fruitful vistas ahead, and so the pain of loss isn't overwhelming or paralyzing.

There is a Child within every Adult who weeps for loss, screams in terror at stepping out of the balance point of Two, pulls back and cannot look ahead.

There is a Child within us all who can not make an Adult commitment.

To commit to an action, project or change is to renounce all that was and dive past the point of no return, an act of faith -- a soul taking an incarnation knowing the life pattern will be very hard, a couple pledging for better or worse, a pilot deciding to try to make it to the next airstrip rather than return against the wind on one engine.

The Three of Swords is frightening because it comes after that even more dismaying moment of balance in the Two of Swords. The Three of Swords is risk. The Three of Swords is fear. The Three of Swords is the fear of loss and the loss of fear all at once.

The Three of Swords is the bedrock of character.

These Three of Swords moments are the moments in life when our elders tell us we are building character. Strength of character is what carries one through the darkest moments of life. Will you do the right thing regardless of the pain, the cost, the risk?

And the Three of Swords is the moment, very near the beginning of the novel, when the main character faces his or her own "point of no return" -- the point after which the events of the novel must inevitably unfold all the way to the end. (Everyone knows that moment when it comes to sex, or running a red light.)

If that moment is well constructed, the writer has no difficulty completing the project. If that moment is flawed, the writer will likely bog down in the middle and not finish, or graft on some other novel's plot twist in the middle and barrel onwards to an ending that has nothing to do with the beginning. Real life doesn't let you do that.

Novels "work" for us as entertainment because they are shaped like real life. That shape makes the fictional impossibilities seem real to the reader.

One of the points where the writer can induce a reader to identify with a character is that Three of Swords moment where the fictional character is tested to near destruction, gives a primal scream to the heavens, and hurls himself through the portal of Three Swords. There's usually one at the beginning of the novel - and a more intense one near the 3/4 point, an epiphany.

Three is the gate that leads to life or (from the other side) to the realm beyond death.

Swords are actions, thoughts, decisions, habit patterns.

The Three of Swords is the act of commitment. That act may be a thought, a verbal admission of a feeling, diving off Niagra Falls, a bargain with the devil, or an act of faith. It is a deed which divides life into "before" and "after."

Whether the Three of Swords is experienced as "pain" or not depends on how "mature" your Philosophy (Wands) combined with your Sanity (Cups) actually is.

A strong character does not experience the pain as louder than the hope. A weak character does. Any reasonably sane person experiences both at the Three points in life, chalks it up to experience, and builds a stronger character, and a more mature person.

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Down Home Zombie Blues Book Video

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll let you all have fun with the new THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES book video. It resides on MySpace at the moment so if your ISP blocks that site, you can also find a smaller (nonMySpace) version on my site here:
http://www.linneasinclair.com/books.html

I did try to load the non-MySpace version to this blog but gave up due to technical limitations (mine).

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

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What's neat about the book video is the music: well-known blues musician Traveling Ed Teja is mentioned several times in the book as Theo Petrakos's musical favorite (Theo's the male protagonist--a divorced homicide cop deals with stress via his guitar--in case you've just come to this blog and haven't read the teaser excerpts prior to this.)Ed graciously wrote the theme music for the video AND is putting together an official The Down Home Zombie Blues song collection, which will be posted on a special site: ZombieLight Orchestra

His "Blue Light" and "Blue Dime" have a special meaning to the book (and to Jorie!). Here's another sneak peek of the book:

(excerpt from The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair)

Theo stood, restless energy unsettling him. He wanted to stay awake in case she needed something, but to just sit there and listen to his mind think—and his heart break—was driving him crazy. Hurry up and wait had never been his strong point, which was why he liked detective work. He could always find something to do.

But here, too much had happened, and so much of it had been out of his control. He needed to refocus… Yes. He grabbed his guitar case. Duty belt and weapons were carefully placed on his nightstand. Boots came off. He propped his pillow against the wrought iron headboard and brought his guitar into his lap. The well worn Brazilian rosewood was smooth and cool under his fingers—and very familiar. He dug out his slide, then picked aimlessly at a few strings until a blues refrain he’d been toying with came to mind. Zeke had been busting his butt for over a year now about his reclusive ways since his divorce. You still singing “The Down Home Divorced-Guy Blues”? was Zeke’s constant taunt.

So Theo actually started writing the song. He closed his eyes and let himself sink into the sassy notes of the music, keeping time with one foot against the blanket. He hummed the melody softly—he was still working on the lyrics.

The tension leached from his neck and shoulders. He went through the refrain twice, then something made him open his eyes. He realized the room had grown quiet. He no longer heard Jorie’s voice or her tapping on the screen just on the edge of his hearing. That’s because she’d turned, her eyes wide in question.

Skata. He should have asked if playing his guitar would bother her.

“Sorry. I’ll stop.” He shifted forward to put the guitar back in its case.

“No. That’s blissful.” A small smile played across her lips.

“I don’t want to disturb what you’re doing.”

“I’ve done all I can for now,” she said, and rubbed her hand over her face again. “Until the zombies take a new action, I can only watch and wait.”

“And the Tresh?”

“I’m no threat to them until the zombies wake again,” she continued. “And since they know more than I do about the Sakanah, they may not consider me a threat at all.”

Theo could hear the strain in her voice at the mention of her ship. He wished he had answers for her, but that, too, was out of his control.

She motioned to his guitar. “Please. It sounds so nice. And I need something else to think about for a little while.”

Was that why she let him kiss her? Was that just part of the playacting they’d started—-he’d started—-earlier? And he had started it, he admitted ruefully.

But somehow, no, he didn’t think she was toying with him. And he hoped it wasn’t just his male ego making that claim.

He glanced at his watch: two-ten. He pulled another pillow against the headboard, then patted the mattress. “Come, sit with me.”

It would be temptation, Jorie next to him on his bed. But playing his guitar would keep his hands occupied. Because after what had happened in the hallway, he knew if he touched her again, he wouldn’t be able to stop.

She pulled off her boots, then climbed across his bed on all fours, looking almost childlike, an impish smile on her face. She settled next to him and drew her knees up, wrapping her arms around them.

He found himself playing Traveling Ed Teja’s “Blue Light”, because it was soft but upbeat at the same time. Somewhere in the middle of the song, Jorie’s head came to rest on his shoulder. He smiled to himself and kept playing, going through the song a second time, then segued into Teja’s “Blue Dime.”

He plucked the last few notes softly. She’d curled up against him, her knees resting against his thigh.

He put his guitar and case carefully on the floor, tucked the G-1 under his pillow, then turned off his bedside lamp and drew her into his arms. She murmured something unintelligible. He smoothed her hair back from her face and she settled into slumber again.

Theo listened to her breathing, the muted clicking of her computer, and the rustle of the night breeze through the fronds of the palm trees outside.

It was Christmas, and somewhere, sweet voices were singing, silent night, holy night…

While all of unholy hell waited just beyond his door...


Enjoy! ~Linnea
www.linneasinclair.com

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pets and small children in SF

Many new writers are taught not to include pets and small children into their Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. Supposedly, the inclusion of pets and small children in adult fiction detracts from the story and especially the Romance. However, if you’re writing Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, you would have pets and small children because you’re writing about their world and their reality.

I disagree. In my opinion, including pets and children as secondary characters makes the story more realistic and believable. They flesh out the background of the world-building. After all, pets and children are a natural and normal part of our lives, aren’t they?

Robert A. Heinlein incorporated pets and children in his Young Adult Science Fiction. Classic examples are PODKAYNE OF MARS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podkayne_of_Mars
and THE STAR BEAST http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Star_Beast

In David Drake’s Honor Harrington series, http://web.telia.com/~u54504162/honor/index.htm
Honor is one of the few people adopted by a Sphinxian treecat an intelligent indigenous species. This occurred when she was a child, a rarity among treecat adoptions. She has dubbed her 'cat Nimitz. After conducting considerable research on them, she has eventually become one of the foremost experts on treecats.

Andre Norton’s http://www.andre-norton.org/books/date.html
Beast Master series of books takes the relationship of humans and their pets to a higher level of an equal partnership and blending of physical and psychic abilities. In her Moon of Three Rings, the aliens have a “circus and pet show” where the animals are equal partners in their presentation of their acts.

In the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, http://www.korval.com/liad.htm
cats are honored pets within many of the Liaden households. In I DARE, www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441010857/blookangarue/107-2494529-45437/blookangarue
the cat plays a major role in bringing down the villain of that tale.

For the second book in my Sidhe trilogy, DOWN CAME A BLACKBIRD, www.atlanticbridge.net/publishing/blackbird.htm
Indio’s eight-year old daughter Socorro stows away on the mining expedition spaceship with her pet kitten, Licorice. The miners on the spaceship voted to hide their presence on the ship from the scientists and captain because they didn’t want to have to cancel their mission in order to return her and Licorice to the space station.

Readers and book reviewers have written to me to express how much they enjoyed the different scenes with the kitten. Especially, the chapter where Kevin has created a cat spacesuit and has to put it on the struggling kitten. Needless to say, blood is shed in this chapter and none of it belongs to the cat. LOL.

In THE HUNTRESS, www.king-cart.com/cgi-bin/cart.cgi?store=linda018&cart_id=2724621.20752&product_name=The+Huntress&return_page=&user-id=&password=&exchange=&exact_match=exact
my award winning Erotic SF novel, the alien hero Rulagh is an exo-biologist working for the Interstellar Humane Society. He’s on Earth to handle the animal control problem of the chupacabras, the feral descendants of alien pets left behind by UFO tourists eighty years ago. In addition to killing off wild chupacabras, Rulagh and Sonia wind up adopting two orphaned chupacabra pups.

Here’s a scene from THE HUNTRESS where Rulagh teaches Sonia how to handle the baby chupacabras and bond them to her.

THE HUNTRESS: EXCERPT

Rulagh squatted in front of the cardboard box and removed Suma, the chubbier one of the chupacabra pups. He cradled her against his chest and stroked her belly. She gave a delighted meep and stretched her body like a courtesan begging for attention.

Sonia lifted a tentative hand and stroked the baby chupacabra’s soft belly. Miniscule scales tickled her fingers. The puppy was too small, too trusting for Sonia to feel afraid of it.
Rulagh’s quiet voice deepened into a raspy whisper. “Now’s a good time to give them their first blooding.”

Sonia pulled her hand away as if she’d been bitten. She peeked at the tips of her fingers and saw no bite marks. Her heart skipped a beat. Chupacabras was Spanish word for goatsuckers. “First b-blooding?”

Rulagh cocked his head and flicked his tongue at her for a split second. “It’s nothing to be afraid of. The feral ones were never taught how to control their bloodlust. They’re omnivores. They need meat and plants, not just blood to ssurvive. When the first blooding is done properly, it binds them to you for life.”

He thinks I’m afraid. Was she? Sonia pursed her lips. No, she wasn’t, not with Rulagh hunkered down on his heels calmly cradling one of the pups in his arms like a baby. She slanted a defiant look at him, picked Anga up and tucked the tiny body into the crook of her arm. The pup snuggled against her with legs splayed apart, coiled her tail around Sonia’s wrist and gazed up with glowing red eyes. The feathery soft crest on Anga’s back and head tickled Sonia’s arm.
Rulagh hugged Suma to his chest, extended his fore claw and crooked his finger. “I promise you, after the initial cut you will feel no pain.”

She held out her right hand. He inserted his claw into the tip of her index finger with a swift, delicate touch. It felt like a needle had pricked her. A bead of blood formed on her finger. Anga turned her head, flicked her tongue out and stared at the blood on Sonia’s finger. A shiver rippled through the pup’s body.

Sonia stuck her finger in the pup’s mouth before she could change her mind. No way was she going to act like a sissy for Rulagh’s amusement. Anga latched on to the finger eagerly. A contented croon burbled from her throat while she sucked with innocent greed and clung to Sonia’s finger with her paws. Anga’s tongue had the same sand-papery feel of a cat’s.

A slightly deeper croon burbled from the other pup. Sonia risked a look and saw Suma sucking on Rulagh’s finger with the same greed. He pulled his finger out of the pup’s mouth. It gave a sad meep. “Now we sswitch.”

Why was he doing this? Why didn’t he just bond the puppies to him and leave her out of it? If he planned to take them with him when he left the planet, it didn’t make any sense to bond them to her too, and then leave her behind. Did this mean he planned to take her off planet too? The implications, the possibility of being able to actually fly in his spacecraft whirled around in Sonia’s mind.

She tugged her finger out of Anga’s mouth and inserted it in Suma’s mouth while Rulagh placed his finger in Anga’s mouth. The pups sucked for about thirty seconds more and released the fingers with satisfied sighs. Their heads lolled back, they yawned and their eyelids slid shut.

Sonia followed Rulagh’s lead and returned her drowsy pup to its adoptive mother’s side. She rose to her feet and studied her finger. The pinprick mark had already sealed shut. “How often will we have to do this?”

“Once a week. As long as we give them blood as a regular treat, they’ll develop a taste for our blood only and won’t even consider drinking from anyone else.”

“What about when they get bigger, won’t they need to drink a lot more than just a couple of drops?”

Rulagh touched Sonia’s arm and stroked it with his blunted fore finger. “They won’t ask for more because by that time, they will love us too much and accept whatever amount we choose to give them.”

IMPLOSION ZONE www.loose-id.net/detail.aspx?ID=531
is my newest Erotic SF novella. It’s also the sequel to FLARE ZONE, which debuted in the FANGS anthology at Loose Id. IMPLOSION is scheduled for release within the next two weeks at Loose Id.

In addition to trying to find and arrest the serial killer who’s terrorizing the space station, Maris and Pierce have their hands full acting as godparents for Kayle, a week old A.I. (Artificial Intelligence).

Kayle is eager to prove himself by trying to solve the mystery of the serial killer with the help of his friends, the children who are supposed to be helping him learn how to socialize properly with others. Kayle is frustrated by the limits placed on him because he’s still considered an A.I. child. He hopes to be able to upgrade to AdminNET level instead of being restricted to only KidNET Internet access at the station.

Here’s a short excerpt from IMPLOSION ZONE where Kayle and his friends wind up in the middle of danger on the deck where spacers and stationers are fleeing in a panicked stampede from a undead vampire on a berserk rampage.

EXCERPT: IMPLOSION ZONE

Kayle hadn’t anticipated this vast warren of space where the five-level-high ceiling curved into the distance. Gantries loomed two and three levels high, holding the lopsided weight of the massive robotic cranes that loaded and unloaded cargo. Every fifty yards, holographic message boards rotated and showed constantly changing data updates about arriving and departing ships, stock market reports, prices of commodities, and job openings.

Dockworkers monitored the loaders. Ship captains, cargo-masters, and stationers exchanged loud and raucous discussions over availability of passenger and cargo space. Assorted spacers on shore leave strolled to and from the side corridors where various shops, restaurants, sleazy bars, gambling parlors, and sexual entertainment houses catered to their needs and vices.

Suli stood beside Jason. Her straight black hair flipped over her shoulder while she moved her head back and forth to watch the sights. Jason’s red hair and pale skin kept him readily visible in comparison with the normally dark-haired and dark-skinned population of the station.

Cataloging the immense variety of human coloration and body type still kept Kayle occupied each time he wandered about the station. He looked forward to increasing that visual database even further when Lilith and Caliban decided he’d matured enough to upgrade to AdminNET instead of KidNET.

Suli kept a tight, white-knuckled grip on Jin’s hand. He’d wandered off in the wrong direction right after they exited the tube-train. She’d freaked out when Jin disappeared from view, and wasn’t taking any chances on him getting away again.

Jason jammed his hands in his pockets. “This is fragging! I always wanted to see the docks, but my dad never had the time to take me here.”

Kayle turned to Abrized. “Are you sure this is the right place?”

The Avee child spun around in a circle. “Deck 10, Sector 13 is where Station Security said they found my second-father’s body.” He stopped. His nostrils flared and the blue feathers on his scalp rippled. He pointed to the left. “Och-Eoce blood scent is very faint in that direction.”

A high-pitched scream of endless fright scaled up. Echoes bounced off the walls in confusing tangents. Kayle damped down the background noise and turned his audio sensors up to full power in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the scream.

People stopped midstride. Heads swiveled in every direction.

Hooting sirens wailed overhead. Suli, Jason, and Jin stuck their fingers in their ears. Abrized sunk down to the floor and covered his head with his arms. Ramps retracted into docked ships. Machines loading and unloading shipping cans ground to a stop, their flexi-metal grips and extensions frozen in mid-motion.

The words RED ALERT! RED ALERT! followed by PLEASE PROCEED TO THE NEAREST EXIT POINT IN AN ORDERLY FASHION flared inside Kayle’s head. The same bland and frustratingly noninformative instructions scrolled across the holographic message boards in flashing red letters.

He opened his illegal backdoor link to Security Central to find out what information the police and station administration were holding back from public links in order to avoid any panic. His link shunted to an automated reply node. All lines are busy. Please hold until the next available line is open.

The booming, bone-shaking crash of emergency seals closing at both ends of Section 13 reverberated through the metal-plated deck. Garbled screams and yells exploded from around the left-hand curve of the dock. The cascading logic of chaos math failed to encompass the sudden storm of frightened humanity that exploded from every side corridor onto the dock.

A very faint whisper of smoke tainted the airflow. A mass of adult humans, all sizes and shapes, stampeded around the curving line of the corridor straight for Kayle and his friends.

Approximately forty-six percent of the panicked mob waved work tools and jagged lengths of pipe over their heads.

Sara’s Combat Law #6: Mobs are bad news. Panicked mobs are worse news. Avoid them at all costs.

Kayle blinked. Who programmed Sara’s Laws into my brain? Sara wasn’t even a sentient being. She was a minor science fiction vid heroine with a cult following that encompassed eighty-four star systems. He discarded the thought as irrelevant to the present situation.

Jason pointed at the rear wall. “Go that way. We have to get out of their way. Fast.”

Obviously Kayle wasn’t the only one with a working knowledge of Sara’s Laws.

Suli tugged Jin along with her and ran toward the wall. Jason pulled Abrized to his feet. They raced after Suli and Jin.

Jin’s toy clattered to the deck and rolled backward. He yanked his hand free from Suli’s hold, ducked under Jason’s arm, and barreled past Abrized’s grasp to retrieve his prize.

Adult legs blocked Kayle’s view. He pelted at a sharp angle that cut across the deck a few feet ahead of the river of panicked humans and caught sight of Jin.

Tears streaked the little boy’s face. Eyes wide with fear, he squatted down on the deck and hugged his toy to his chest, making his body as small as possible.

Sara’s Combat Law #2: Don’t be a hero, but if there isn’t any other choice, go for it.

Between one step and the next, Kayle morphed from his Avee shape into a shimmering flexible panel with feet. He lunged forward, grabbed Jin, and wrapped his flattened body around the little boy in a protective bubble. The mob crashed into them. Legs, hands, and feet kicked and pushed Kayle and Jin in random directions like a soccer ball bouncing across a playing field.
He rolled to a stop. The thundering roar of feet slamming against the deck damped down into a faint vibration. He unfolded his body from the bubble shape, released Jin, and morphed back to his default form of a two-foot-tall silver humanoid.

***
In conclusion for today’s blog, my advice is as follows:

Don’t limit your horizons when you write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Include pets and children in your stories as part of the normal lives of your characters.
Thank you.

Barbara Karmazin
www.sff.net/people/selkiewife
www.myspace.com/barbarakarmazin
groups.yahoo.com/group/TheSensuousAlien/

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The "gods of Tigron" trilogy (aka The Mating Books)




Cathy Clamp was one of the speakers on my Research workshop panel at the last RT. Her handout, and those of Jade Lee, Sandy Blair, Judith Laik, and my own can be found in the Useful Stuff area of my website

For me, the most memorable story Cathy told was of how she always takes every opportunity to see unusual things, and makes the effort to talk to strangers. So, last weekend, when I had the chance to go into a cockpit with the pilots of a plane, and to talk to them about how and where ground radar interrogates air traffic, I did.

Much to the consternation (I am sure) of the other passengers, I was in with the pilots for a long time. I learned about air ways and sea lanes, the trade winds and the jet stream, and solar winds!

There's nothing like talking with pilots (or any experts) about the right way to do this and that, in order to extrapolate how one might to the "wrong" thing, or get around the system.... which of course my aliens have to do.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

(By the way, I take no responsibility for the "associated" links that youtube offers you once you have viewed the Mating Net video!)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aliens in Disguise Among Us

Coincidentally with the release of the latest remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, about aliens who assume the identities of human victims, I've just read two novels on a similar theme: Hostile nonhuman creatures lurking among us who look (to the uninitiated) exactly like normal people. Both of these books, Melissa Marr's WICKED LOVELY and Karen Marie Moning's DARKFEVER, feature protagonists with the power to see faery creatures in their true form, to which ordinary people are oblivious. Moning's Fae are all dangerous, none of them beneficent toward humanity; the best that can be said is that some of them don't kill us. While some of Marr's Fae have a benign attitude toward mortals, many of them are cruel and most, at best, capricious. Both of these heroines' lives depend on not letting the faery folk realize their illusions have been penetrated. I'm also reminded of A. E. Van Vogt's WAR AGAINST THE RULL. The alien Rull, hidden behind their human disguises, can be recognized by touch, so refusal to shake hands is highly suspicious. And wasn't there a short-lived TV series in which the extraterrestrial invaders looked like the rest of us except for a small anomaly in their fingers?


Suppose you were one of those people who know hostile beings walk disguised among us? If you tried to warn the rest of the world about the danger, you'd be classified as delusional, because of course nobody else could see the reality behind the illusion. In fact, you yourself might suspect you're mentally ill (as Moning's heroine fears at first) until you meet others who share your frightening gift. A possible variation on the theme: What if you're one of the small minority who can see the aliens for what they are? But suppose you alone realize that the "invaders" aren't disguising themselves out of hostility, but out of fear. They have some good and innocent reason for hiding from the human population they're forced to live among. If you tried to convince your fellow "Sighted" minority of the aliens' innocence, most of them wouldn't believe you, and you would be doubly isolated.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Cover




Hi Everyone,
I just got back from a vacation in Chicago and found out the Solar Heat cover has been changed. I will upload more photos soon. I visited a planetarium and have some cool pictures to share. But in the meantime, you can can have a sneak peak of my February paranormal romance.
Best,
Susan Kearney

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Two of Swords

Last week we looked closely at the Tarot Card the Ace of Swords, both as an ACE (a "one") and as a Sword, or a manifestation of the alchemical "element" called "Air" (which has nothing to do with what you breathe to stay alive.) Remember this is written for the Intermediate Tarot student, so some knowledge is assumed.

With our point of view firmly fixed in the novel writer's perspective and the Alien Romance story in particular, let's see what the Two of Swords has to teach us.

If the Ace of Swords is the moment when you face the totally blank page and decide to write this particular story, the Two of Swords is the moment when the opening words are before your eyes.

All the Two's of the Tarot represent the fist division between the point where all is One and the point where the One subdivides.

Only when the first mitosis, the first cell division, has taken place can you have CONFLICT, and as students of the WorldCrafter's Guild Essence of Story course have learned, Conflict is the Essence of Story.

So after the first words flow out of your fingers, you stare at them and this character who has walked onto the page from somewhere inside you looks back and smirks. He or she is now a separate being with a rationale, goals, and a big problem.

At that moment, you, the writer, are in confrontation with your own subconscious mind, definitely your equal.

Thus the image on the Waite Rider deck's Two Swords is a figure holding two crossed Swords, Swords massive enough to unbalance the slim figure and tumble all into the waters behind.

Water, remember, is the symbol of emotion and is represented by the Cups of the Tarot. The Cups are all about the subconscious, or internal psychological conflicts. The energies driving Swords came down through Cups -- unbalancing at this point in the manifestation of that energy that first appeared in the Ace of Wands would represent a step backwards. That's sometimes necessary, but not usually much fun.

The Two of Swords represents that point of hesitation after the first move in a planned project. OK, it can represent the "cold feet" a couple about to get married experiences. It's a moment when opposing forces are equal and further action is impossible.

So staring at the first few words of your magnum opus without another word left in your head, what do you do?

You have decided to write this story or to launch this life-project, whatever it is. And now you've taken the first step -- "de-ciding" or cutting out the edges of the project to define it -- you discover that what you have generated is bigger than you are. The "di-chotomy" is more massive than the originator. Any disturbance can send the whole system out of control.

And that's it -- the pure essence of all the Two's -- a balance point which seems "safe" but must be left behind if the energy of the Ace of Wands is to propagate downwards into manifestation.

The essence of Two is balance and security. It's antithesis is what C. J. Cherryh calls, in her FOREIGNER UNIVERSE novels, "badji nadji" -- or "let the chips fall where they may" -- a statistical process that no one controls and no one can predict. Pure chance.

What you have created with your decision in the Ace of Swords is now manifest outside you and you can not control it.

That's frightening because Swords are sharp weapons that can do harm, just like words.

Fear is healthy, a sign of sanity -- but too much fear can kill you.

So there you sit before your creation afraid to move this way or that -- afraid to MAKE THE NEXT DECISION! Why? Because you can't CONTROL the result.

Well, some writers love it when the characters take on a life of their own and command the plot, and others just clamp down and stop telling the story. Still others will work with their alter-ego subconscious manifestations, make friends with them, and argue them into taking the plot-course that will get their message out (i.e. get the book published).

How you respond to losing control of something that has come from inside you will determine how the Three of Swords will manifest. How you habitually (Swords are habitual actions and reactions) deal with things you don't control will determine the shape of your life.

The most popular interpretation of the Three of Swords is "sorrow" and "loss." But that's NOT what it really is all about.

Within the Three is contained the Two, and the manifestation of the Three Swords is determined by how adroitly you finesse your way out of the situation of the Two Swords.

Now we come to the analogy of Acrobatics or Circus Flying, gymnastics, maybe High Diving.

The Suit of Swords represents Air. I've said that before. Some may argue that a different symbol in the card deck represents the alchemical element Air. Frankly, what symbol you draw to represent an element is irrelevant. The Alchemical Elements take their significance from the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Name of God, as I discussed under the Ace of Swords. I am using Swords to represent the third letter in that Name, the third level down Jacob's Ladder.

There is a Jacob's Ladder diagram and explanation of how that relates to the Tarot deck in The Biblical Tarot: Never Cross A Palm With Silver by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

Pure energy enters manifestation in your Life by the ignition of AN IDEA (the Ace of Wands), and then that energy travels down the circuitry of your soul via the Tree of Life diagram. There are a number of Paths that energy can take. But let's try to keep this simple and at the intermediate level.

As the Idea energy ripens and becomes more complex, it leaps to the level of Emotions -- Cups -- and you get all fired up about the idea, seriously jazzed, whacked out of your mind by your own brilliance. Finally the energy leaps from Cups to the Ace of Swords where you decide to act on that Idea-emotion.

Notice how I've described this process dynamically -- energy flowing down complicated channels, gathering momentum and going faster and faster.

Now, in the Two of Swords it hits equilibrium -- a fear is faced.

If you CHOOSE (choices are Swords) to stop that energy at the level of Two Swords, the dynamic momentum pours and pours into the Two making those balanced Swords heavier and heavier and the consequences of moving one or the other worse and worse.

Trying to stay at that balance point (staring at the first words of your story) will eventually result in your falling over this way or that way, and anything can happen. But one thing is for sure. It's going to hurt -- just as a trapese artist will get rope burns hitting the net or a gymnast will be bruised by an ungainly sprawl.

Rope burns and bruises and making a fool of yourself in public by falling over is what the Three of Swords is usually interpreted as. But it doesn't have to hurt.

Any circus flyer or gymnast will tell you that nailing a landing is a joy beyond measure. So the trick of handling yourself through the Ace of Swords to the Two of Swords and then onwards is not to obstruct the momentum!

You swing through the Ace of Swords, plant your feet in the Two of Swords and push off in a mighty leap. You don't stop to think (thoughts are Swords too), you think on your feet. You talk and dance at the same time. You walk and chew gum. You keep going through the balance point. If you stop, you are in trouble.

The Two of Swords Reversed represents that moment when you are flying through the air, head over heels.

Now, fear.

Remember, above we touched on how Swords are thought, and one kind of thought that can leave us stuck at a balance point like the Two of Swords is fear, fear of losing control.

Fear is an emotion (Cups) -- but it has to be dealt with via Swords (thought).

Consider that if you know Newton's Laws of Motion, or if you're a practiced gymnast, spinning head over heels is not frightening - it's exhilarating. Experience and understanding of the process, of the forces operating on you, gives you confidence.

You know there's a measured uncertainty in where your feet will land. You know there's a chance you've miscalculated the push-off and you're going to fall over, or stagger. If you're diving, you know you may hit the bottom of the pool, or hit your head on the board.

You "know" (Swords; thought) the dangers, know what to do if any of them happen, know the probabilities, know the risk, and know the reward.

And so you're not afraid, not paralyzed, just cautious. But you are moving!

That's the Two of Swords Reversed -- it indicates that one of two situations is in progress: a) you lost momentum and sat still too long, but now you're moving, b) you didn't pause too long but pushed off and are now moving.

If a) then the Three of Swords will hurt. If b) the Three of Swords will sting a little but it'll be worth it.

Remember, "As Above: So Below" -- these analogies are not exact but they do hold. The spiritual level of reality works according to the same kinds of rules and priciples that obtain here below -- there is symmetry. (Two's represent that symmetry).

If you haven't read Marion Zimmer Bradley's circus novel, CATCH TRAP, I highly recommend it for an understanding of this process.

Circus Flying is an artform that uses mass and momentum to make visible certain spiritual processes which are the building blocks of all personal relationships, but most especially the love-relationship.

Swords are ACTIONS, so the Laws of Motion apply by analogy. The Two of Swords is a static equilibrium, but life works most smoothly as a dynamic equilibrium.

If you get caught in a static equilibrium (looking at the first few words of your story), eventually the energy flowing down your circuits from the Idea will dislodge you and the result will be a big mess you have to painfully clean up.

So when you come to that point of seeing your first words appear on the page, DON'T STOP. Keep going. Let the momentum carry you into the head over heels spin that feels so out of control. Practice that spin until you can nail the landing without a qualm. And the "landing" in writing a novel is the moment when you write "The End."

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

Monday, August 20, 2007

Close Encounters of the Zombie Kind: Teaser from The Down Home Zombie Blues

Since in my last blog we played with Jorie's reaction to Earth, I thought I'd share Theo's--our intrepid Florida homicide detective's--reaction to working with a Guardian Force team. Essentially, commandos from another planet. Now, Theo's trained. They're trained. But training can mean two different things when it comes to fifteen-foot tall mech-organic monsters. However, office politics never seem to change...


From THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES by Linnea Sinclair
Coming from Bantam books Nov. 27, 2007


Theo had spent the last several years of his BVPD career interrogating people who lied—either by accident or design, out of fear, greed or stupidity. It was one of the first rules he’d learned as a rookie: Out here, everybody lies. Yet Theo wasn’t ready to brand Jorie Mikkalah a liar. At least, not quite.

She just wasn’t telling him the complete truth. Which fit in exactly with the corollary from Rookie Rule Number 1: Always know that you are never, ever being told the whole story.

He wasn’t. Not about the implant in his shoulder, not about the zombies and not about her plans. And especially not about whatever was going on with her team of space commandos.

He thought of that as he drove west on Twenty-second Avenue toward the mall. Jorie, still clad in her oversize sweater, was perched in the front passenger seat.

It was almost three forty-five in the afternoon. The ETA for the zombies was now less than an hour. A surge of adrenaline shot through him every time he thought about that. He tamped it down. Be calm. Think. He’d handled a zombie before, with far less preparation. He could do it again. His Glock was secured on his right hip, his zip-front sweatshirt keeping it and his gun belt with extra ammo hidden from sight. He’d also donned his black tac vest, very aware that something that could so easily trash a car wouldn’t be hampered by it. But he had to wear it—and his smaller Glock in the ankle holster. For extra protection, his assault rifle was racked in its usual place.

By comparison, the weapons the space commandos wore seemed strangely small and light. Jorie was decked out in much the same manner as when he first saw her: headset with its eyepiece (swiveled down for the moment), dual laser pistols, and various gizmos attached to a belt (all hidden by the sweater). Her high-tech rifle rested on the floor.

Oddly, it wasn’t their weaponry that was foremost in his mind at the moment. Their camaraderie—or lack of it—was.

He glanced at the passengers in his backseat through the SUV’s rearview mirror. There was a power struggle under way. He’d been with BVPD too long not to recognize one. But this one centered on him and the lives of everyone he knew.

A detective’s sixth sense told him he’d been off the mark in his initial appraisal of Commander Mikkalah. She was responsible for his kidnapping and that damned thing in his shoulder, but, despite that, he was beginning to see that Jorie did take people’s lives into consideration. That same sixth sense told him Rordan didn’t.

And that, he suspected, was where the lines were drawn. The players had chosen their sides.

On Jorie’s was Tamlynne Herryck, now wearing his old black and white Tampa Bay Lightning T-shirt over her sleeveless uniform top. Tammy, he’d dubbed her. But Jacare Trenat—Jack, wearing one of Theo’s Old Navy T-shirts—had sided with Kip Rordan. Theo didn’t speak a word of Alarsh, but he knew if he dubbed Rordan Pompous Asshole he wouldn’t be too far off the mark—though Uncle Stavros would probably call Rordan a malaka. Too bad he’d loaned Rordan his Bucs jersey. He hoped like hell he’d get that back.

Jack, it seemed, was doing all he could to get his nose far up Rordan’s butt. Though to be fair, Jack was young. Just a rookie. He had that bright, shiny look in his eyes that was a combination of a desire to please and a belief that he could save the world.

And Rordan, with his swagger, was just the kind of malaka a rook like Jack would admire.

Of course, saving the world—Theo’s world—was Jack’s job. If it hadn’t been his own world at stake, Theo might have found the entire situation amusing: intergalactic space commandos falling prey to petty office politics. He just hoped Jorie Mikkalah was up to the task of not only the zombies but whatever Rordan was planning as well.

He stopped for a red light. Jorie had been focused on her scanner gizmo since they’d left his house but she looked up at him now.

“Ten minutes,” he said, anticipating her question.

She nodded. “I need to position Rordan and Trenat first before we remove your people.”

“And Tammy?”

“Tammy?”

He inclined his head toward the Tampa Bay Lightning fan seated behind her.

“Lieutenant Herryck and I will take the opposite position. You can return to your structure. We’ll meet you back there in about one sweep.”

“Whoa, wait a minute.” The light turned green. He stepped on the gas. The SUV stuttered, then surged forward. “I’m part of this mission, remember? And it’s a long walk—”

“We’ll use the PMaT to transport back to the ship when the juveniles have been dealt with.”

Peemat? Oh, that damned thing that spins your guts out through your eyeballs, then puts you back together again as you go from Point A to Point B. A thought struck him. “Why do you need me to drive you to the park if you have that transporter?” It was certainly quicker and more efficient, though nauseating.

“Zombies track PMaT,” came Rordan’s answer from behind Theo. Another glance in the rearview showed a slight smirk on the man’s face.

Yeah, okay, so I’m a stupid nil. Theo returned Rordan’s reflected smirk with one of his own. “Skata na fas, malaka,” he said under his breath. Eat shit, asshole.

“Because all PMaT transits are unshielded,” Jorie said as if Rordan hadn’t commented. “Zombies have what we call a sensenet. Through that, they’re aware of surges created by unshielded tech. And they react.”

“But you said you’re going to transport back—”

“The zombies will be neutralized at that point,” she continued. “But to engage the PMaT in the proximity of a forming portal holds danger.”

Rordan said something in Alarsh, short and quick.

Theo saw Jorie shrug. Her answer was equally short and sounded—though he had no idea of the content of the exchange—casual, almost offhand. But her fingers were tight around her scanner.

He didn’t like not understanding their language. He liked it even less that Rordan understood his. He hoped this was just petty office politics and that they were all on the same side when it came to the zombies.

But he couldn’t be sure and he couldn’t ask. He could only remember what she’d told him earlier, denying—lying about— tampering with her tech to change what the zombies did. He gleaned from their conversations on her ship that’s what had turned Wayne, her agent, into a parchment Mr. Crunchy with moist eyeballs.

And here she was doing the same thing because Rordan—and intergalactic office politics—prevented her from saving lives at a crowded mall during Christmas week.

So Theo decided to do the only thing he could: tilt the balance in Jorie’s favor. He made his decision as he dropped Rordan and Jack at the far end of the park by the tennis courts, then Jorie and Tammy at the other, next to the baseball field. A quick trip around the perimeter announcing—via his PA system, with blue strobe going—the possible sighting of a rabid raccoon cleared away the few remaining joggers.

Theo pushed the traffic gates shut, then set the Park Closed sign in place. Jorie had told him to go home once the park was clear. But he was not going home until this batch of zombies was dead and that PMaT thing was spewing Rordan’s unworthy molecules all the way back up to the ship.

He turned the lumbering vehicle back toward the ball field, parked it just behind the row of low bleachers, and got out. Jorie trotted toward him, frowning. He leaned on the front of his SUV, arms folded across his tac vest.

“I’m staying.”

She glared at him. He glared back. When she flung her arms wide in exasperation and let out a now familiar sounding string of Alarsh curses, he knew he’d succeeded. A mixture of elation and relief washed over him.

Which ended a split second later when a discordant wail erupted from the scanner in Jorie’s hand—and echoed out of one dangling off Tammy Herryck’s hip.

Jorie favored him with one last hard glare—partially obscured by her eyepiece—as if to let Theo know he was now edging his way to the top of her shit list, then she thrust one of her small laser pistols into his outstretched hand.

“Opticals, remember?” she asked, teeth gritted. She swung her rifle around. “And legs. Stay with me.”

Opticals. Eyes. And legs. And writhing energyworms and long, flailing, razor-sharp extenders. He sprinted after her to where red-haired Tammy stood, rifle in one hand, scanner in the other, then stopped. Both women’s heads were bent over their scanners but, damn it, no one was looking around. Someone should be. He remembered the green glowing circle, the thing oozing out—impossibly—from its center. He turned, squinting through his sunglasses into the late afternoon light.

Something slammed him from behind, crushing him to the ground. Grass, dirt, and gravel were pushed into his face, and he heard his sunglasses crack. Then, with sickening clarity, Theo realized he could no longer breathe...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Writing and describing injuries and miscellaneous vampire lore

Depending on the fictional situation, there will be fights, battles, etc… and wounds to your hero, heroines and secondary characters in addition to any alien romance. Here’s a basic listing of the possible injuries and results.

HEAD INJURIES

SCALP

Scalp wounds bleed copiously, making it a major source of hemorrhage and shock. They may also be incidental to damage to the skull.

SKULL

Skull fractures in different places have rather different effects, but for these purposes, symptoms include one or more of the following; a mixture of blood and cerebrospinal fluid leaking from the ears, nose, or throat, blood in the whites of the eyes, loss of the sense of smell, loss of vision in one eye, a dilated, fixed pupil, a worsening in the patients level of consciousness.

These last symptoms are indicative of pressure on the brain, caused either by swelling of the brain or bleeding into the skull. Swelling of the brain can cause serious damage or possibly death on its own, but has the advantage that its self-limiting (and in a modern setting, usually controllable with drugs). On the other hand, hemorrhage will almost always lead to continued degradation and death if left untreated.

The patient may have a headache localized at the injury. He may be lucid for a period after the injury, but this will rarely be a period of normalcy. He will usually feel drowsy, and may thereafter slip into a coma. The patient will lose one set of reflexes after another. He may gradually lose the use of one of his arms or legs, or become completely paralyzed on one side of the body. This will happen gradually as pressure increases starting with a slurring of speech and clumsiness. His breathing may become uneven, and some part or all of his body may begin shaking uncontrollably (seizure activity.)

The time course for these degradations can be hours or days and the condition can worsen dramatically in minutes.

JAW

A broken jaw is associated with numbness, bleeding from tooth sockets, fractured or missing teeth, inability to close the jaw properly (teeth don't come together right), pain on moving the jaw, and sometimes with bleeding from the ear. Fractures of the jaw also allow the tongue and other soft tissues to intrude into the airway, leading to suffocation.

FACE

All sort of bones can be broken in the face: the face plate, sinuses, cheekbones, the orbits of the eye, and of course, the nose. There are a wide variety of possible symptoms, but severe facial injury usually results in progressive swelling, resulting in difficulty breathing, inhalation of blood, frequently eventually (~1 hour) completely closing off the airways, resulting in suffocation. There may also be numbness or paralysis in some part of the face. Facial injuries can also lead to extreme hemorrhage and shock.

Neck Injuries

As you may imagine, there are a lot of important things passing through the neck, including the spinal cord, larynx and trachea, phrenic nerve, brachial plexus, carotid artery, jugular vein, cranial nerves, oesophagus and pharynx, thyroid gland, and stellate ganglion. Of course, many of these may be damaged simultaneously. Possible symptoms for damage to each of these are listed below. Not all will necessarily be present.

Spinal cord: paralysis, partial paralysis (no surprise !)

Larynx and trachea (you breathe through your trachea): spitting blood, a sucking neck wound (see chest wounds), hoarseness, difficulty breathing, high-pitched, noisy respiration (stridor).

Brachial Plexus: numbness and/or partial paralysis in an arm.

Carotid artery: decreased level of consciousness, heavy bleeding (which may compress the trachea, causing difficulty breathing), and hypovolemic shock.

Jugular vein: heavy bleeding, hypovolemic shock.

Cranial nerves: inability to shrug a shoulder or rotate chin to opposite shoulder, paralysis of the tongue, hoarseness, and difficulty in swallowing.

Oesophagus and pharynx (connects to your stomach): difficulty swallowing, bloody saliva, sucking neck wound.

Stellate ganglion: dilated pupil.

Thyroid gland, phrenic nerve: no special short-term effects.

Also, damage to the muscles in the neck will mean that the patient is unable to hold his head upright.

CHEST (Thoracic) Injuries

Trauma that is inflicted on the chest can result in damage to the chest wall, lungs, trachea, major bronchi, esophagus, thoracic duct, heart, diaphragm, mediastinal vessels, and spinal cord. Any combination of these injuries may occur.

"SUCKING WOUNDS"

A person inhales by moving a muscle called the diaphragm, creating a vacuum in the chest, which pulls air in through the mouth down into the lungs. However, if there is a hole in the chest wall, air can enter through that hole instead, preventing air from entering the lungs. The patient will feel short of breath, air will visibly be being sucked in through the hole in the chest wall. The resulting low oxygen will usually result in unconsciousness in fifteen minutes to an hour, but is unlikely to be fatal on a short time scale.

TENSION PNEUMOTHORAX

Sometimes, a hole in the chest wall acts as a one-way valve, letting air in, but not out again. Sometimes, the lung is punctured without the chest wall being punctured (from a broken rib, for instance). Alternatively, if a wound that punctured both the chest wall and the lung is treated with a tight compress, air will still escape from the lung but not from the chest cavity.

In these cases, the increasing air pressure in the chest cavity will cause hyperinflation of the chest, preventing the patient from breathing. The patient will have rapid, shallow breathing. He will fall unconscious from low oxygen in fifteen minutes or so, and will probably suffocate if left untreated.

TENSION HEMOTHORAX

Is a similar problem, but in this case it results from blood filling up the chest cavity. The patient will probably be suffering from shock, as well as suffocation. This will usually result from multiple rib fractures damaging internal tissues. Frequently seen together with tension pneumothorax (in which case it's a hemopneumothorax).

RIB FRACTURES

The main symptom of rib fractures is that it hurts to breathe, which will make exertion difficult. The amount it hurts depends on how many ribs are broken (a broken sternum is especially painful). Beyond this, unless the patient has flail chest, hemothorax, the ribs have damaged the lung, or the ribs are displaced to such an extent that their motion damages surrounding tissue, the ribs will probably be held in place by the surrounding muscle, and are largely ignorable.

FLAIL CHEST (PARADOXICAL CHEST WALL MOTION)

Yet another way to suffocate: the ribs or the sternum are broken in such a way that breathing moves air from one part of the lungs to another, rather than in and out. This will usually result in unconsciousness from low oxygen in fifteen minutes to an hour, but not death.

CLAVICULAR (COLLAR BONE) OR SCAPULAR (SHOULDER BLADE) FRACTURES

Until it's splinted, pain in moving at all, inability to use the arm effectively, pain in attempting to use the arm. Can't really be fatal.

PULMONARY PARENCHYMA (DAMAGE TO THE LUNGS)

Lacerations of the lungs may cause pneumothorax, as above, as well as bleeding into the lungs. Contusions (blunt damage) will cause swelling of interstitial tissues and bleeding into the small airways. In either case, the patient will have difficulty breathing and will probably be coughing blood or exhaling blood. If this is severe enough, low oxygen may lead to unconsciousness and death.

HEART

Damage to the heart may result in massive blood loss, heart failure, and death in short order. However, less severe injuries can result in bleeding into the pericardial sack (tamponade). When this fills up with blood, it will put pressure on the heart, making it more difficult to beat, lowering blood pressure. The patient will initially feel very tired, leading to increasing stages of shock shortly.

AORTA AND GREAT VESSELS

With modern medical care, 85% of patients with multiple aortic ruptures will die at the scene, 20% of the survivors die within six hours, and 72% of the remainder will die within a week. This is, then, another good way of bleeding out in minutes. Massive hemothorax and loss of blood pressure are the most common symptoms for penetrating injury. However, for blunt injury initial manifestations are pain behind the sternum or between the shoulder blades, difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing, leading to a left hemothorax and increasing levels of shock.

DIAPHRAGM

A penetrating chest wound at or below the level of the nipple is likely to enter the chest, pierce the diaphragm, and enter the abdominal cavity. Since the diaphragm is the muscle you use to breathe, injury to the diaphragm results in respiratory distress, often associated with hemothorax, pneumothorax, and shock.

Abdominal and Pelvic Injuries

The principal immediate danger resulting from abdominal and pelvic trauma is profound hemodynamic instability resulting from injury to the spleen, pancreas, liver, kidney, or tributaries of the aorta. Most abdominal injuries result in poorly localised and nonspecific pain, nausea and reflex vomiting. In general, blunt injuries to the abdomen are more dangerous than penetrating injuries.

INTESTINES

Abdominal pain and peritonitis. Peritonitis is an inflammation of the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity. Starting a day or so after the injury, it will lead to severe abdominal pain and distention, fever, vomiting, thirst, and, if left untreated, death in a week or two. It is easily treatable. Injury to the duodenum leads to more severe symptoms (severe abdominal tenderness in the upper right quadrant, sever vomiting), rise of fever within hours, and may have hemodynamic instability with time.

Note that evisceration isn't automatically fatal, in the absence of major hemorrhage, especially if the intestines aren't otherwise damaged, but that with poor medical care, sepsis will probably be a killer.

SPLEEN OR LIVER

Abdominal pain in the upper left (spleen) or upper right (liver) quadrant, severe hemorrhage rapidly leading to increasing shock and death. The mortality rate without intervention is near 100% for splenic injuries, and almost as high for blunt injuries of the liver.

Sepsis (inflammation or infection) is a major postoperative complication for liver injuries. Splenic rupture can also occur up to two weeks after the initial injury, as an initial clot dissolves, or the splenic capsule ruptures under pressure of an initially small hemorrhage.

URINARY TRACT (BLADDER, KIDNEY)

Abdominal pain, back or flank pain, inability to void or blood in the urine. Some kidney injuries will result in massive hemorrhage, but others will not. In the long term, damage to the kidney may lead to renal failure (this can also be caused by shock and sepsis.) The course of renal failure can last weeks to months. This is fatal more than 50% of the time.

STOMACH MUSCLES

Damage to the stomach muscles will make it difficult or impossible to stand; just think of all the things it's hard to do after you've done too many sit-ups.

BLOOD VESSELS

Injury to major blood vessels in the abdomen may cut off the blood supply for the legs, making it impossible to stand in very short order. Depending upon where they're damaged, they make drain into the upper legs, causing extreme swelling.

PELVIS FRACTURE

Besides making it impossible to stand, it is likely to cut one of the major blood vessels leading into the legs. Pelvis fractures are commonly associated with massive hemorrhage.

Extremities

The nature of damage to extremities (arms and legs) is fairly intuitive. Generally, minor damage will make the extremity painful or difficult to use; major damage will make it impossible to use. Major blood vessels may be damaged, leading to heavy hemorrhage. Joints can be dislocated, bones broken, muscles and tendons cut. Note that damage to the scapula (shoulder blades) or clavicles will make the arm nigh-on unusable.

Sepsis

Fever, shock, decreasing mental status, can easily lead to death if untreated. A common problem, especially with poor medical care, in the days and weeks after injury.

Unconsciousness

To recap - what makes you fall unconscious is either direct injury to the brain, or inability to feed it enough blood or oxygen. If you lose all blood supply to the brain, you fall unconscious in seconds. Massive hemorrhage can lead blood pressure to drop fast enough that unconsciousness follows in seconds to minutes. If you lose oxygen supply, you fall unconscious in ~4-30 minutes, depending upon how restricted your air supply is. Poisoning - as from sepsis - can also cause unconsciousness.

Putting it all Together

Probably the easiest way to use this guide to traumatic injury is to use the damage system for your game, and if you want a graphic description look up an injury of the appropriate severity to the appropriate body part.

Note that there are major blood vessels just about anywhere, so if you want blood loss, you can feel free to add it in.

The trick to making it seem especially nasty is not to read the whole laundry list of symptoms at once. Give them a few at a time, so that they have a chance to sink in. Remember to add in the effects of sepsis, and of torn muscles and broken bones.

If they have to continue operating while septic, make sure to make them feel it - weakness, fever, chills, reflex vomiting, trembling hands, occasional unconsciousness.

"And they all died horribly. The End.


Time frame for Death after vampire bite

An initial peak of mortality occurs within minutes of hemorrhage due to immediate exsanguination.

The average 70 kg (154 lbs) male has approximately 5000 ml (5.3 quarts) of circulating blood.

Severe external hemorrhage is associated with the following symptoms: rapid pulse; dizziness or faintness; collapse; a drop in blood pressure; a rise in pulse rate; and pale, cold, clammy, or sweaty skin.

Certainly, the severing of a common carotid artery will immediately terminate a large portion of the blood supply to the brain. Nevertheless, the victim of such a wound may remain conscious for from fifteen to as many as thirty seconds.

The largest portion of your blood volume at rest, about 64%, is in systemic veins and venules. Systemic arteries and arterioles hold about 13% of the blood volume, systemic capillaries hold about 7%, pulmonary blood vessels hold about 9% and the heart holds about 7%.

Because systemic veins and venules contain a large percentage of the blood volume, they function as blood reservoirs from which blood can be diverted quickly if the need arises. In cases of hemorrhage, when blood volume and pressure decrease, veno-constriction helps counteract the drop in blood pressure. Among the principal blood reservoirs are the veins of the abdominal organs (especially the liver and spleen) and the veins of the skin.

Signs & symptoms of shock.

Systolic blood pressure is lower than 90mmHg
Resting heart rate is rapid due to sympathetic stimulation and increased blood levels of epinephrine and norepinphrine.
Pulse is weak and rapid due to reduced cardiac output and fast heart rate
Skin is cool, pale, and clammy due to sympathetic constriction of skin blood vessels and sympathetic stimulation of sweating
Mental state is altered due to reduced oxygen supply to the brain.
Urine formation is reduced due to increased levels of aldosterone and anti-diuretic hormone (ADH)
The person is thirsty due to loss of extra-cellular fluid
The pH of the blood is low (acidosis) due to buildup of lactic acid
The person may have nausea due to impaired blood flow to the digestive organs after sympathetic vasoconstriction.


MILD TO MODERATE SHOCK (10%-25% OF BLOOD VOLUME LOST)

The patient will be pale, have rapid, shallow breathing and a high heart rate, will sweat, and will feel quite weak. He will be thirsty, his extremities will be cool, and his senses will start to cloud. Even the most stout of heroes will start to feel a rising panic, from purely physiologic hormonal reactions.

SEVERE SHOCK (30%-50% OF BLOOD VOLUME LOST)

Platelet aggregation in the lungs will lead to respiratory failure. Failure of cellular processes will lead to sequential systems failure, frequently starting with the heart and kidney. Basically, you stop breathing, your heart stops, everything else fails, and you die. This can take anywhere from hours to days after the initial injury.


There’s a possible SF story from the following articles. Remember when Frankenstein was a horror story? Now we have organ transplants, reattachment of limbs and electro-shock to restart stopped hearts.

Dogs reanimated after death by removing all of their blood, replacing blood with ice-cold saline solution. A few hours later, saline solution removed, fresh blood supplied and dogs revived.
www.webpronews.com/topnews/2005/06/30/scientists-reanimate-dogs-dislike-zombie-comparisons

Scientists Develop Substance to Stop Heavy Bleeding

www.wtop.com/?nid=106&sid=1153504


Fangs: Retractable or not???


Retractable fangs would work physiologically while having a set that drops down behind the first creates a poor feeding design. Unless the fang that dropped down had a notched design so that rear tooth clicked into place with the front tooth forming a single unit.

As for where the teeth would retract into Vampires could have a hollow pocket in the upper mandible where the fangs could sit when not in use. No need to tuck them into the gunk found in the sinus cavity - eeew.

Another option would be rather then a second set of teeth you could have them replace the incisors or canines depending upon which teeth you have them bite with. The majority of the tooth could sit in the pocket and come down when needed. A series of tiny ligaments that hold the tooth in place would work as the mechanism of action. When relaxed the tooth would drop. When tensed they would pull them up and out of sight (just an fyi muscles pull not push - picky I know but its one of those anatomy thing people pick up).

Since vampires are their own species (either a sub of humanity or completely separate depending on your lore their physiology would have evolved/designed/been tailored for their survival. So think human bone structure with a twist.

Here is a link to a close up of the sinus cavities. www.entnet.org/images/still_15a_l.jpg


The maxillary sinus is the one behind the nose. Notice the pad of tissue below it and then the bone underneath. Under the bone is the hard palate, which flows into the soft palate. The small white shape on the lower right is a tooth. In front of the tooth is the gum line and lips.

The neat thing is as long as your design works you could have their fangs do what you want just create a space for them within the upper mandible and your good to go. A long time vamp wouldn't even notice the changes but a newbie would especially if the pocket holding the fangs protruded from the hard pallet. They'd be running their tongue over the spots all the time.

Then again you could always go with magic and screw the physiological aspects.


At the following link, where they show the surgical process of inserting an IV line down the jugular vein for chemo and other medical procedures, they say the right internal jugular vein is usually chosen for this procedure because since the right lung is lower than the left and this route does not endanger the thoracic duct.
www.medstudents.com.br/proced/proced4/jugular.htm

Here’s a link to the Gray’s Anatomy Image showing the locations of the neck veins and arteries.
www.theodora.com/anatomy/the_veins_of_the_neck.html


Most vampire movies shows the bite on the left side of the neck where the left common carotid artery is located. I believe the assumption there is that the vampire saliva secretes a substance that prevents blood clotting and increases bleeding because this is what happens with the saliva from a vampire bat.
Here’s a news article about how the substance in the vampire bat’s saliva may bring new treatment for strokes
www.cnn.com/2003/HEALTH/conditions/01/09/stroke.bat.treatment/


Preferred Method of Killing a Vampire.

#1. Albania = Stake through heart

#2. Bulgaria = Chain to grave with wild roses

#3. Macedonia = Pour boiling oil on, drive nail through navel

#4. Prussia = Put poppy seeds in grave. (With all due respect, putting seeds in the grave, it doesn’t have to be poppy seeds, just something unfeasibly numerous and un-countable, wasn't to kill a vamp, simply to keep him occupied counting 'til the end of days. You ever wonder why they had the counting Count on Sesame Street? Old folklore.)

#5. Rumania = Remove heart, cut in two; garlic in mouth, nail in head

#6. Saxony = Lemon in mouth


Thank you for reading my blog topic.

Barbara K.
www.sff.net/people/selkiewife
www.myspace.com/barbarakarmazin
groups.yahoo.com/group/TheSensuousAlien/

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Children as Aliens

Recently I saw the movie THE LAST MIMZY, based on a classic SF short story, "Mimsy Were the Borogoves," by Lewis Padgett. Even if I hadn't read the reviews, I would have known a full-length film would have to change and expand the story, adding plot elements that weren't in the original. However, I wish the movie hadn't glossed over the central premise of Padgett's work, that children's brains operate differently from those of older people. According to this tale, the reason only children can understand the marvelous "toys" from the future, which reshape their thought processes in ways impossible for adolescents and adults, is that children essentially have alien minds. After a certain age, people who look at these advanced artifacts (actually educational devices that have accidentally been transported back in time) see only meaningless shapes. Children below the critical age threshold, on the other hand, understand the "toys" and have their brains rewired by interacting with them. The author suggests the reason we don't remember many of the events of our childhood is that our minds were so alien in our early years that the adult brain can't connect with those thought patterns.


I'm not sure I can completely believe this theory, but it makes a great SF premise and resonates with some of the things we know about children's brains. For example, there's a developmental window for learning language. Once the critical age has passed, it becomes much harder to learn a second language, and native-speaker fluency will probably never be achieved. Moreover, "feral children" deprived of exposure to language past this age can never learn to speak beyond a crude, rudimentary level. In Suzette Haden Elgin's "Native Tongue" series, human linguists learn extraterrestrial languages by immersing very young girls in the target species' speech environments. While the infant mind may not be a "tabula rasa" capable of being molded into almost any shape (a twentieth-century misconception thoroughly debunked by Steven Pinker in THE BLANK SLATE), the brains of young children are certainly more malleable and receptive than those of adults. In Isaac Asimov's classic "Nightfall," in which a planet with multiple suns experiences darkness only once every thousand years or more, one character speculates that whatever remnants of culture carry over between the times of chaos are passed down by people who were small children at the time darkness fell. To an infant or toddler, the whole world is new, so the strange phenomenon of darkness wouldn't drive him or her mad as it does adults. Children have a flexibility their elders have lost. I'm also reminded of the many examples of the competence and creativity of real-life young people Robert Epstein provides in THE CASE AGAINST ADOLESCENCE. In the realm of fantasy, we learn from the Mary Poppins series that newborn babies can understand the speech of birds, a power they lose in the process of learning human language.


SF application: Is it possible that the best ambassadors to send forth for first contact with extraterrestrials would be children? I can imagine an embassy of children under the leadership of pre-teens or young teenagers, a squad of Terran representatives young enough to retain their adaptability, facility in learning new languages, and sense of wonder.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ace of Swords

Folks:

First, I have to say that at Nasfic, Linnea Sinclair provided me an advance copy of THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES. I just started reading it (it's a 516 page pb and I'm on p 10) and it's so good I'm recommending it to you now. NOTE: I'm reading an ARC so changes might have been made in the version you buy now.

Remember I teach writing, and (even at Nasfic on panels about writing) students say it's not possible for editors to reject a book on the first 5 or 10 pages.

Well, it IS possible because those pages have to contain the bits and pieces that form the foundation for the novel, all arranged in the right order. Linnea's done that first 10 pages perfectly except for one parag I (as editor) would have deleted (but as writer, I'd have wanted to save) -- so I'm watching to see what it foreshadows.

The paragraph on p 7 starts "Unless you were a pilot taken prisoner by the Tresh." and ends with the POV character deciding she couldn't afford to think about that now. This is a classic "abort" -- starting the reader down a path then pulling them out for no obvious reason.

That parag. would have worked better later. Or perhaps the last sentence might have been deleted.

But it's on p 7 -- and it's only one small paragraph! It does have a purpose (starting the internal conflict, giving the character a haunting past and the sense you've read about this woman before). Then everything moves straight forward again, so I anticipate a smooth, good read here.

It had to be a difficult decision - that paragraph! Which brings me to the topic I want to address. Decisions, habits and actions.

I've found myself writing little essays for this blog each week, and I feel guilty because it's time I should spend writing. So instead of writing, I'm writing! Well, that's what writers do -- they write!

So I'm going to try an experiment that may not work because there are so many interesting things happening in life all the time that I'd like to discuss here.

Let's see how many little essays I can write (I have 20 on my list of must-write essays) essentially about the core topic here, alien-romance, yet still also about the Tarot Minor Arcana Swords (decisions and actions) and Cups (love, character, relationship).

As many of you know I teach writing via Tarot and Astrology - those disciplines are very fruitful sources of plot-twists and characters with recognizable dilemmas. I've been invited to teach at Ecumenicon 2008, March 27-30, 2008 at the Best Western Convention Center in Baltimore, MD. And I would dearly love to finish these 20 essays before that.

These next 10 essays will be a book in the series begun with my book THE BIBLICAL TAROT: THE NOT SO MINOR ARCANA (available on amazon.com) - a short introduction to how to go about learning Tarot. The Wands and Cups books are written but not published - the Swords and Pentacles never got written because the publisher went under before publishing Wands.
This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student.

------------

So THE ACE OF SWORDS!

I use the paradigm where Wands is Fire, Cups is Water, Swords is Air, Pentacles is Earth and Tarot is structured on the Kabbalah's Tree Of Life diagram, or more specifically Jacob's Ladder.
The Aces are beginnings, origins, the number ONE -- the unity behind all reality.
Aces exist at the level of reality where all things are just one thing, and haven't yet been divided into many things.

The moment just before the Big Bang began to fling all the matter of the Universe out from that tiny, collapsed central point is an "Ace" moment. All human activity replicates or recapitulates that moment, over and over on many levels.

Thus the Ace of Swords represents the very beginning point of an action sequence, or course of action, such as writing a book, fixing a leaky faucet, going to college, buying a house.

The Ace of Wands is the point where you wake up at 2AM, grab a notepad and scribble down the IDEA (Ideas are Wands) for a story. The Ace of Cups is the emotion from which the story arose, usually subconscious. The Ace of Pentacles is the moment when you hold the first printed copy in your hands (Pentacles are materialization of Ideas.). The Ten of Pentacles is where you bank the Nobel Prize money. The Ace of Swords is TYPING THE FIRST WORD.

The Ace of Swords isn't "I am writing a book" -- it's "I'm going to write this book."

The Ace of Swords is, "I'm going to fix that leaky faucet." The Two of Swords all the way to the Ten describe the comedy of errors up to the point where you get the next IDEA -- call the plumber. (and the water-damage cleanup company) (and the insurance company)
The Suit of Swords is often thought of as misfortunate. I don't think so.

Swords represent force in motion.

The four "Worlds" of the Kabbalah are expansions of the 4 letters in the Divine Name -- Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh.

The letter Vav is a Yod (a little fillip like a comma or a spark suspended in mid-air near the top of the writing line) with a staff under it, reaching down to the bottom of the writing line.

The Vav is a Yod that has GENERATED downward like a tornado touching down. It is a nail that connects things together. The Yod has expressed itself in the Vav. So the "World" represented by Swords is the expression of the Idea represented by the original Yod, a spark of fire.

Thus "Swords" is Divine Power Expressed -- or in motion.

A human being is the visible end of a connecting channel (a kind of "worm hole") that reaches all the way up through all the Worlds of Kabballah and brings down the cyclone of Divine energy.
Think of the Indian concept of the Chakras, or Marion Zimmer Bradley's Keepers who have to have their "channels" cleared.

The human being is a complicated bit of circuitry, and endowed with Free Will (that's a Kabbalah given -- humans have Free Will at all times).

The human being can be like the Sorcerer's Apprentice and reach up to channel down more power than they can handle. The human being can have more ambition than skill and not know it. The human being can have more imagination than judgement and not believe it.

The human being has to make choices and take action by balancing a myriad factors. Losing that balance doesn't make the energy stop flowing -- thus the cards in the Suit of Swords that follow the Ace, the next stages in the project of fixing the leaky faucet or writing the novel often don't manifest smoothly. That cyclone tip of downrushing Divine energy can touch your life and rip it to shreds. Thus the Suit of Swords has a bad rep.

The Suit of Swords, the 3rd World "down" the Tree of Life, is represented by the "Element" Air which we learn in Astrology symbolizes Thought, the Intellect. Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are Air Signs.

And so we learn that a Thought is an action -- as is speech. How we think, what we think, affects our reality, our world. What we say affects even those who never hear it. Thoughts and deeds are one and the same.

We learn this from the power of positive thinking, and how imagining success often brings success. Your thoughts infuse your deeds with exceptional power when both thought and deed are alligned. (think golf swing)

Decisions (de-cision -- to cut in half) are represented by Swords.

A story or novel (your evereyday life is a story you are writing) usually starts where the two elements which will conflict to generate the plot first come together. At that single (ACE of SWORDS) point, the author and by extension, the main character, must DECIDE what to DO when CONFRONTED by the antagonist element.

The antagonist might not be a person -- it could be a storm, a planet to be explored, a disease to be beaten. Whatever it is, at that moment of confrontation, a THOUGHT has to become a DE-CISION, a dividing point.

It can be nothing more than the recognition of an adversary, or perhaps worse, the recognition of one's True Love. Or a failure to recognize, and thus failure to act. The failure to act is also an action, and thus symbolized by Swords.

Human beings have an analogue brain, so we make decisions based on "experience" -- in other words, we are lazy. What's worked before, we do again - until it becomes a habit. And with age, we become so hidebound we can't do anything but what we've made our habit.

We tend to take that kind of habit from lifetime to lifetime (yes, in Kabbalah, reincarnation is real).

So confronted with a unique situation, we boggle. Confounded, we think slowly, or in non-logical sequences, or by free association. Then we hunt frantically for elements in the situation that remind us of something else we already know the answer to.

Wands represent the kind of original thinking we apply to a unique situation without trying to find a similarity to some other known situation.

Swords represent the kind of habitual thinking we prefer where memorized solutions apply to new situations.

Thus the Ace of Swords can represent the origin of a new habit -- or the groping for a memorized solution that almost applies to the new situation.

More accurately, the Ace of Swords is the moment when you decide if this situation can be handled by a memorized solution or needs something entirely new and different.

The moment right after that is the committment to the course of action, the point of no return. "Now you've done it!"

And the Two of Swords is the moment when you think over what you've done, hoping nothing will happen until you figure it all out!

The ACE OF SWORDS reversed is that exact same moment of tension at the threshold of action -- but without enough tension, without enough potential energy to get the project all the way to the 10 of Swords -- the ultimate consequence of the begun action.

Often, actions begun this way -- ill considered decisions and actions -- take hold of a person because the person is striving mightily to avoid doing something else, or to avoid "feeling" (i.e. Cups) something, or is simply doing too many things at once.

It isn't a particular amount of energy that you must accumulate before you act that makes the Ace of Swords come right side up and a project take off with a bang big enough to reach its necessary end.

Each project requires a different amount of energy, a different amount of committment.

And yes, the Swords represent "committment" -- in relationships, paying off a loan, showing up at work every morning, not drinking too much at night so you can show up alert in the morning, getting through school, staying married to the same person even when things go bad.

So whether the Ace of Swords comes up right side up or upside down in a reading depends a lot on what is going on within the person on the levels of Wands and Cups -- ideas, and emotions -- Fire(wands) and Water(cups) make steam, and steam drives the turbine of life. Working at the level of Swords, remember you are still way above the level of Pentacles which is our everyday 4-dimensional reality, material reality. So we're talking about psychological and psychic energies here in Swords.

The fuel for actions is intentions and the totality of understanding of the universe (what E. E. Smith called, in the Lensman Series, the Visualization of the Macrocosmic All). How well you manage your life will show up in how well matched your selected project is to the amount of "committment" you put behind that Ace of Swords. But it also depends on how shrewdly chosen your projects are -- on whether you've done your homework before selecting a project.

Take the fury of Al Queda for example. It is fueled by religious conviction and the perfectly human sense of right and justice. That fuel is not Swords but Wands and Cups -- and the steam that combination makes drives their swift sword with the full might of human belief.
What will it take to thwart such conviction driven actions?

Now translate that question into the story you've decided to write at the moment when you face the blank page in the Ace of Swords. That question is the conflict which is the essence of story. What it will cost the Hero to thwart the Villain is what your readers want to discover.

In a Romance, the two destined lovers can be each others' enemies (as Linnea's DOWNHOME ZOMBIE BLUES points out) and allies at the same time, against something bigger than both of them -- until they combine forces.

And by the way -- "plot" is Swords. Plot is the sequence of actions the characters take. A deep study of the Suit of Swords might improve your plotting ability by an amount even you would notice.

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