Sunday, June 29, 2008

Eats, Shoots And Leaves.... grammar may be different in outer space

I took the title of Lynne Truss's superb bestseller because this isn't intended as a public argument about copy-editing and the serial comma.

It seems to me that publishers' guidelines pay lip service to the serial comma, but cheerfully sacrifice it if it is felt that the reader won't notice, and the page would be visually more appealing with fewer commas.

Does anyone else feel that way?

I've read a lot of grammar manuals in my time, much of it too esoteric for the modern world, and one of the most sensible comments I ever saw was to the effect that punctuation is a courtesy to the reader, to remove ambiguity as to what the author intended.

A very useful convention in science fiction is the use of an initial capital, or else of italics, to show that a word is being used in an unusual (un-American) sense.

There is a difference between "his Mating Ceremony", "his mating ceremony", and "his Mating ceremony".

Isn't there?

By the way, I deliberately put the inverted commas before the commas.

Maybe I'm too much of a word geek, or maybe the language has moved on and I haven't, or maybe it's because I'm stubborn and British educated, but I do sometimes wonder whether I am alone (violins) in thinking that there should be handbook --a supplement-- to the standard manuals for FFandP writing.

Is there one already?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Meet Me on the Holodeck

The Baltimore SUN recently had an article about a computer simulation called "Virtual Iraq," used to treat veterans suffering from traumatic stress syndrome. Here's the URL:,0,2471081.story

The system includes 3-D goggles, earphones, an odor-producing machine, and a vibration platform. Other than the last device, there doesn't seem to be a tactile component. The technique aims to recreate as vividly as possible the experiences that created the original stress. Repeated exposure is designed to drain the memories of their "haunting power" so that the patient can freely talk about them in therapy. The whole set-up costs about $7000 (cheaper than I would have expected, actually). The psychologist who invented the system was inspired by observing brain injury patients, who ordinarily have trouble concentrating, deeply absorbed in video games. So far, proponents of this therapy say it shows significant improvement over other approaches.

You SF fans will easily guess what this article reminded me of—the holodeck on STAR TREK. Aside from its recreational purpose, the holodeck was used for training simulations and for therapy. The Doctor on VOYAGER set up scenarios for Seven of Nine to practice social skills and a Vulcan officer in pon farr to be intimate with a simulation of his wife.

I wonder how far in the future we'll achieve totally immersive virtual reality. Judging from the Virtual Iraq system, we seem to be getting close. When something like the holodeck eventually comes into existence, it will doubtless get used for a variety of purposes, good and bad, serious and frivolous, like every previous medium—teaching, therapy, socialization, entertainment, fiction delivery, interactive porn. Hmm, considering the Doctor’s pon farr simulation, could such a virtual reality system enable couples separated by work or military service to “meet” in a multi-sensory, fully lifelike online environment?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Persistence Pays

on June 19, 2008
Every “no” is one step closer to a “yes.”

And I answered him:



You've raised a philosophical point that can generate many strong plots.

Good, commercially viable, stories come from listening to the popular philosophical undercurrents -- assumptions people use but don't challenge. Dramatize a challenge to one of those blythe assumptions and you generate a dynamite plot.

And you've done just that with this post.

There is a powerful, popular saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

You have said keep doing it and you WILL generate different results - at least once, and once is all you need.

Our prevailing culture nurtures a "failure" attitude. If it doesn't work the first time, quit, or make random changes to avoid being thought "insane."

You have expressed the "heroic" attitude prevalent in science fiction, fantasy and action/adventure. Die hard.

These attitudes are diametric opposites. These two attitudes are "in conflict." Thus they form the backbone of a plot!

Science says we live in a world governed by probability. But science also says two people, in different places, doing the same thing will get the same results. Results are repeatable. That's the key to the scientific method.

Yet, science also says that you can throw the dice a certain way hundreds or thousands of times -- and no matter who does it or where, the dice will fall a specific way an exact percentage of the time. That is -- do the same thing over and over and get differing results in the short term but predictable results in the long term.

You have said in this blog that in the long term, the well constructed script will sell.

We know that if our dice are precision crafted (i.e. our scripts are properly structured), that it is a matter of random chance whether a given production company will need that particular script right at that particular moment.

We know that if the script is solid and we keep it on the market, it will sell -- or attract attention to another script we would love to sell.

One time in a thousand, or one time in ten thousand, we win. Persistence pays because the longer something has not happened, the more likely it is to happen. Keep at it long enough, and science says it is inevitable, repeatable and reliable.

But another good old saying holds that it's better to work smart than to work hard.

We need to spend the rest of this year on adjusting the ODDS, increasing efficiency, targeting specific markets.

Maybe a dramatized discussion of the definition of insanity would sell.


Now I wasn't specifically referring to an "Alien Romance" -- conflict applies to all story forms. But consider how these two human philosophical views might look to a non-human.

What do we think of a man who sets out to attract a woman -- and gives up the minute she shakes her head?

But what do we think of a man who persists "too" long -- i.e. a nerd. A stalker.

How could you explain to a non-human how hard and how long to pursue a human female?

Wars have been started over less. Galactic war isn't beyond imagining.

Take our current problems with Democracy vs. Islamic Fundamentalism.

The whole argument turns on a fine point of abstract philosophy -- that generates a whole plethora of overt behaviors (from dress modes to domestic violence).

The line between persistence and insanity is just exactly the same sort of abstract philosophical point -- that leads to a plethora of overt behaviors.

If we can't get along with other humans -- how can we get along with galactics?

On the other hand, there's a new TV show (which I haven't seen yet), a comedy involving a Moslem family in an ordinary US neighborhood. (I think that's the mix).

And we all know stories of various sorts of mixed-marriages with and without children.

Is it the role of women to reach across these philosophical chasms first -- to change the culture of the next generation? I've discussed that here, before, but it's an endless topic.

In the mating dance, does persistence pay -- or does it mark you as insane and undesireable?

Women look for heroism in a man -- which basically means "never say die" -- but is that really what we accept? Is the very trait that makes a person successful in life a blight on a Relationship?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Month and Counting: More Relentless Promo

Yep, we're a bit more than a month from SHADES OF DARK release on July 29th (though I know from past releases that my books often come out weeks early in the UK and Europe). In the continuing spirit of celebration, let's start with a nice contest with lots of prizes, all centered around SHADES OF DARK:

Or click HERE

Blogger Jace Scribbles is doing a bang-up job and all she asks is that you post on her blog your favorite Gabriel's Ghost passage. I've been following the postings with a smile as it's always interesting...well, okay, it's freakin' amazing to me which scenes or passages resonate with readers. Sometimes it's the ones I worked the hardest on. Sometimes it's ones that just showed up or were shoved in at the last minute to cure what I or my editor saw as a plot flaw or lack.

One of these days I think I'll blog on that crazy part of writing--what works, what doesn't and how to a great extent, an author Has No Clue (really, we don't).

In the meantime, go win some neat stuff. Including signed copies of SHADES OF DARK.

For two fugitive lovers, space has no haven,
no mercy, no light—only...

Before her court-martial, Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren was the pride of the Sixth Fleet. Now she’s a fugitive from the “justice” of a corrupt Empire. Along with her lover, the former monk, mercenary, and telepath Gabriel Ross Sullivan, Chaz hoped to leave the past light-years behind—until the news of her brother Thad’s arrest and upcoming execution for treason. It’s a ploy by Sully’s cousin Hayden Burke to force them out of hiding and it works.

With a killer targeting human females and a renegade gen lab breeding jukor war machines, Chaz and Sully already had their hands full of treachery, betrayal—not to mention each other. Throw in Chaz’s Imperial ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie, and a Kyi-Ragkiril mentor out to seduce Sully and not just loyalties but lives are at stake. For when Sully makes a fateful choice changing their relationship forever, Chaz must also choose—between what duty demands and what her heart tells her she must do.

Happy reading, hope you win! ~Linnea

SHADES OF DARK, the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost, coming July 2008 from RITA award-winning author, Linnea Sinclair, and Bantam Books:

…and suddenly I love you beyond all measure is not just words but a heart, a soul bursting open, a stripping raw of all pretense. It is Sully, it is Gabriel, it is his tears on my face, his body in mine, our minds seamless. It is hopes and dreams and failures. It is apologies and a prayer for redemption. It is heaven and damnation.

All that I am is yours pales beside it.

It is everything.

It is love.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Of dinosaurs and bodice rippers

"Do you read Romance novels?" MSNBC asks.

"Asks" might not be the mot juste. Their skewed manner of asking might be better tagged as "whispers" or "sneers".

It's not an easy poll to find. You have to know where to look, which is half way through a substantial excerpt from a Danielle Steele novel. However, here is your only choice, if you do read Romance:

"Yes, yes, yes! Bodice-rippers are my ultimate escape."

Excuse me? Not all Romances are "bodice rippers". The pollster does not seem to understand that.

It would be a very brave reader who would vote "Yes" given the tone and phraseology of that choice. If the pollster deliberately phrases an answer to deter those being polled from selecting that choice, it is not a scientific survey.

However, thanks to all the Romance readers and authors who blog and have posted the link, a lot of Romance lovers have boldly gone to the MSNBC site and voted. Some have gone further, and found a place to comment.

As far as I know, Danielle Steele does not write alien romance. I'd love to see a similar poll posted for every sub-category of Romance that there is, and each poll should be inserted within an excerpt... which, I suppose, ought to be a current or recent RITA winner.

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Becoming Creative

To glance back briefly at my last week’s post, I stumbled upon a sentence in Garrison Keillor’s column today that sums up the topic perfectly: “People who aren’t real to each other are dangerous to each other.” Wow!

On to a new topic: The June-July issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND contains a panel discussion article on creativity. The members of the panel agree that creativity isn't the sole possession of certain gifted people. Rather, everyone has the capacity to be creative in some way; moreover, creativity can be taught. I find those ideas quite cheering. The concept that all people have creative gifts reminds me of Dorothy Sayers' MIND OF THE MAKER, an exploration of the doctrine of the Trinity through an analysis of how human artists' works come into existence and influence others. Sayers' basic premise maintains that when our species is said to be made in the image of God, the most important component of that "image" is our ability to create.

One of the magazine's panelists, Robert Epstein, explains four "competencies" that "are essential for creative expression": "Capturing," being open to new ideas and preserving them without prematurely judging them; "challenging" or "giving ourselves tough problems to solve"; "broadening," learning a variety of new things all the time so that we can make innovative connections; "surrounding," making sure our environment contains lots of "interesting and diverse" people and things, which lead to the generation of interesting ideas within our own minds.

Another member of the panel talks about her "morning pages," a technique she uses when she feels blocked. It consists of writing three pages in longhand about anything at all, a kind of written stream of consciousness. I've noticed that many writers recommend exercises similar to this one. I haven't tried it and think maybe I should.

The article emphasizes the high productivity of highly creative people—in the sense that such people have "lots of ideas." Many of those ideas might not work, but the abundance of them makes it likely that some will. Failure doesn't throw these people into despair. Instead, they treat it as an opportunity to figure out what went wrong and what approach might work more effectively next time.

The panelists discuss why our society doesn't stimulate as much creativity in children as we should and how that situation could be remedied. For one thing, our culture harbors some negative stereotypes of creative people, such as the starving artist who's half-mad or addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parents often respond to a child's aspiration to become a writer or artist with the caution that they'd better have a more practical skill to fall back on. So young people need "permission" to be creative, as well as positive role models of creative people. Also, teachers should offer children open-ended problems and encourage the production of multiple solutions, instead of cutting off discussion with one "right" answer. (I trust the article is referring to truly multivalent problems in this case, not advocating a laissez-faire approach to math and spelling!) The exhilarating message of this article is that everyone has the potential to create, and all we need to do is find ways to unleash that potential.

Coincidentally, the latest issue of LOCUS contains an interview with fantasy author Jeffrey Ford, in which he makes a comment bearing directly on this topic. So I’ll close with that: “Writing has widened my world, made my whole life more eclectic. When people avoid the creative, they seem to have a tendency to only think in one particular way, but art allows you to get impressions of the ways other people think and feel.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Futurology of Romance


I prepared a post that was to go up Tuesday June 3 and it didn't, so I found it in blogger's listing and posted it -- but as Rowena Cherry once noted to me, when you do that blogger posts it on the date you saved it to the que, NOT the date you clicked POST.

So there is now a short (!!!) post from me inserted below on Tuesday June 3 -- and I didn't post on Tuesday June 10 because it was Shavuoth - a holiday.

So today's post is about the Futurology of Romance -- and no, it's not about computer error messages exchanged by AI's in love or inserted by AI's jealous of one another.

Jean Lorrah found the following online article about the effects of the writer's strike on Hollywood and "The" Industry.

Essentially, that article describes what my techie-son-in-law Ernest was showing me on the web when he was here -- Phil Foglio is doing an online comic that's blowing the hit stats out of the park. Others are doing stills and animateds that are capturing the young audience. Ernest knows tons of URLS -- his interest is mainly in humor.

The problem those new writer-producers will all have though is the same as with the e-book -- no editors, no "gatekeepers" to vet the work and direct it to people want that particular thing done at that particular skill level. The whole internet system will re-invent the wheel pretty soon.

People don't have TIME to hunt for the good stuff they want to spend an hour before bedtime on. They need Underwriters Laboratory for fiction. A guarantee it won't blow up on you!

There could be a product there that's sellable -- the 'zine or reviews or imprint or logo or colophon -- that guarantees the product has a certain skill level behind it, and the genre-label sorter that indicates what type of entertainment it delivers.

Do you think people would pay a monthly or annual fee to be sure that what they click on will meet their needs and not waste their time? Or would they stick with the current method of hearing about it on social networks from friends or on Lists etc?

Do you enjoy flawed fanfic more than tightly crafted pro-fic? Because that's what such independent productions often are -- fanfic in animated clothing.

How will large, international audiences respond to a flood of amateur productions online? Would such productions tend to be worse than Little Theater?

In Star Trek fanzines, the commercial forces that forged Manhattan Publishing also shaped and energized ST fanfic. Star Trek 'zines became enormously expensive to produce and someone had to upfront the printing costs and warehouse them in their basement, tote them to cons, etc. So publishers (who were often also the editors) would consider a submitted story in terms of whether they could make their investment back in time to print the next issue of the 'zine. Would this story enhance their reputation with readers who would pay for the next issue?

Readers objected to some content, others adored that content. Publishers split off whole 'zines to handle specialized content -- and re-invented genre. 'Zine buyers LOVED that guarantee of content at a certain editorial skill (readers hate typos and continuity blunders -- 'zine readers were just as picky about plot-resolution as pro-fic buyers) and 'zine buyers LOVED being able to buy the subject matter they wanted without it being polluted by stuff they didn't want.

I think the Wild-Wild-West goldrush this article describes will result in the same market forces reasserting themselves but in another way.

Video production DOES cost, especially if you want to do it well. The voracious market my son-in-law has found will demand ever increasing production values -- and actors, animators, artists, videographers, etc will want to be paid for their skills. So the most popular online fiction will bea small percentage of the BEST produced stuff.

Bandwidth does cost. Even though it's cheaper now, hard drive space on a server COSTS. YouTube is providing small spaces by selling advertising. So once more, fiction availability comes back to commercial market forces.

Amazon will already let you post whatever self-published shlock you want -- for a fee. If your stuff is not valued, or if you fail in self-promotion -- you will not make back that cost. Soon you'll be hiring an independent editor to edit your stuff before posting. Another new profession -- and I've run into a lot of them already -- independent editors.

Have you seen that commercial where, at a tennis match, everyone rushes onto the field from the stands and the announcer says if you let everyone play, you don't get anywhere?

It's a commercial for a website which posts only high paying jobs.

We hate the gatekeepers who reject us, and blame "gatekeeping" for keeping our valuable output from the hands of our audience.

Do we really need gatekeepers in the worlds of Art?

Isn't every romance that pours out of a writer's heart something you, yourself would want to read as desperately as the writer wants you to?

As artists, portraying the intricacies of Relationship, passion and love melded into something higher, how can we tell if what we produce is of any value to anyone but ourselves?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shades of Dark - Coming July!

Yes, I know I've been absent. I plead the usual writing insanity and a move to Ohio for the summer. While I try to dig out from under it all (and hang mirrors, drapes and all the rest of the move-in shtufff), here's a reminder that Shades of Dark will be out next month:


SHADES OF DARK, the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost, coming July 2008 from RITA award-winning author, Linnea Sinclair, and Bantam Books:

Something cascaded lightly through me—a gentling, a suffused glow. If love could be morphed into a physical element, this would be it. It was strength and yet it was vulnerability. It was all-encompassing and yet it was freedom. It was a wall of protection. It was wings of trust and faith.

It was Gabriel Ross Sullivan, answering the questions I couldn’t ask. Not that everything would be okay, but that everything in his power would be done, and we’d face whatever outcomes there were together.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Myths. Timeless inspiration

My Knight's Fork cover flats arrived this week. This is a thrilling and flattering experience. It's hard to put into words the emotions I feel, but they are mostly positive.

What irks? The Keynote.

"An idealistic Knight, a jaded Princess determined to become pregnant, and a new-age chastity belt add up to a delightfully wacky and highly sensual alien-god romance."

Given my druthers, which I wasn't, I wouldn't have called my romance "wacky" on account of the mental image that "Wacky Racers" left with me.

I've learned to beware of popular culture. A lot of people associated the antagonist in FORCED MATE with an unattractive and large-mouthed member of the Clampett family.

Ah, well, I am sure the Marketing people know best!

Nevertheless, I would love to give a classic Graeco-Roman myth (or a Norse myth, or an Indian one) to a select few Romance editors and their assistants, and see what kind of Keynote blurb they'd come up with.


Imagine the myth of Perseus and his quest to bring home the Gorgon's head (but not the rest of her).

When I consider the classical myths, they are full of dark, nasty, and controversial issues. There's cruel and unusual punishments, abduction, rape, incest, bestiality, adultery, spouse abuse, child abuse, patricide, suicide, murder, theft grand and petty, scrumping, mutilation, hunting an almost extinct species to extinction, revenge, cannibalism... to name a few.

Is that what makes them timeless?

Knight's Fork (the chess position) is about tough choices in an impossible situation where you can only save one of two (or more) threatened pieces.

I love the official cover art for KNIGHT’S FORK (which you can see on Amazon). It captures a lot of the undercurrents and symbolism about the aloof and sexually unattainable Rhett.

Although Rhett’s quest story was inspired by the Greek myth of Perseus (including his encounter with Andromeda), the official cover is like the Greek myth of Tantalus... the hero who was doomed to be half submerged (up to his neck) in water that he could never drink. So, I created an imaginary Tarot card, which I called The Tantalized Male, but it is based on The Hanged Man. It draws on the ideas of still waters running deep, of everyone having a dark side, of the chess-like battle between the White Knight and his inner Dark Knight.

Why a Tarot card? Insufficient Mating Material ends with a violent scene in a fortune teller’s parlour. Knight’s Fork is what happens next as –too excited to go to bed— the rogue Royals turn on Rhett to discover the truth about his sex life, if they can.

In FORCED MATE (an abduction-of-Persephone-from-earth-by-an-impassioned-Hades story), I introduced Rhett as the ultimate altruist. He tried to stop one of his big brothers from having unwise sex.

(He does that a lot, that's partly why his brothers get mad at him.)

So, his big brother thumps him. As a result, Rhett is arrested, imprisoned and threatened with torture and death. He keeps quiet about who he really is, and risks his life to protect the bad-ass older brother who hit him.

In INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, ’Rhett volunteers his unsolicited opinion to the exceedingly dangerous Tarrant-Arragon after Tarrant-Arragon has forcibly marooned Djetth (the wild brother) on a tropical island with the slightly overweight and bitchy Princess Martia-Djulia.

Tarrant-Arragon has his reasons for shooting down the unhappy couple, and they are mostly political. Martia-Djulia balked at the altar of her shotgun Royal wedding (to Djetth), but she needs a husband before she creates a bigger scandal as a result of a really bad choice of bed partner for a defiant one-night stand.

KNIGHT’S FORK is a quest story, but just as Jason and the Argonauts set out to steal a fabulous golden fleece, then discover that it's just a ratty old ram skin once it's removed from the magical tree, Rhett's quest doesn't turn out the way he expected, and he gets exactly what he went on the quest to avoid.

KNIGHT’S FORK will be released in October.

#1. Forced Mate,
#2. Insufficient Mating Material,

"I think Rowena's true skill is that she weaves this intricate world of aliens and sex just the same way J.K. Rowling weaves the world of Wizards."~ Des DiFabio,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Makes Us Care?

A Canadian friend sent me an article that appeared in the GLOBE AND MAIL last July, on the topic, "What Makes Us Care." Why do we feel more sympathy for the suffering of individuals or small numbers of people or animals than for vast throngs of people starving or being slaughtered in distant countries? According to one study, the more we think about and analyze a situation, the less likely we are to act compassionately (give money, for example). Shouldn't it work the opposite way? As the article puts it, sympathy "has a short attention span and a tendency to lose interest when things get complicated or unpleasant." The areas of the brain that control compassion, it seems, are more primitive than those that work on a rational level. Another factor, the "identifiable victim effect," means we are more likely to sympathize with individual victims we know something about. Huge numbers of anonymous people suffering far away don't have an emotional impact on us. As somebody or other has said, "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." That's why charities try to "trick" our brains by mailing us photos of sad children or abused puppies. Also, like one of my own favorite charities, the local homeless ministry, they send newsletters with real-life stories of people who've been helped or who are waiting for help. Another proven factor in giving, alas, is that we're more likely to want to help attractive victims. We often get "freaked" by mutilated victims or the visibly mentally ill and are therefore less likely to respond positively.

The article reminded me of an online essay about the Monkeysphere. Google that strange word, and the essay will pop up high on the search page. It's well worth reading. The author cites a study showing that various primates differ in the number of members of their own species they can know as individuals (and therefore the optimal number to make up a social grouping), and by examining the size of a primate's brain, scientists can approximately predict what that number is. For Homo sapiens, the maximum is about 150. That's our Monkeysphere. Unless we make a conscious effort to think otherwise, people outside our personal Monkeysphere aren't "real" to us. The car that cuts us off in traffic is just a car to us, not a person behind the wheel. Some of us have no qualms about yelling (and gesturing) at that other driver in a way we'd never think of doing if we met him or her face to face, say, in an elevator. As the author of the essay puts it in one example, the garbage collection guy isn't a person to us; he's "the thing that makes the trash go away." To return to the topic of sympathy, the essayist asks which would upset you more, your brother being in an accident or a busload of children across town being in one? Similarly, which would you be more distressed about, that bus accident across town or thousands of people getting killed by an earthquake in Asia? The emotional and rational parts of our brain work in opposition to each other where caring for others is concerned. Now, there's another way to look at the matter, as proposed by C. S. Lewis (in one of his letters, if I recall correctly)—that the modern media are placing demands on our capacity for caring that it wasn't designed to handle. It's natural for us to feel sympathy for the people we come into contact with, about whose plight we can actually do some concrete good, rather than for people we'll never meet whose suffering may distress us but about which we can't do much of anything. Yet, on the third hand, we can make some limited contribution to the good of those abstract masses by wise giving to organizations that seek to address their plight. Which brings us back to the necessity for rational analysis of the options, so that our charity dollars don't go to scam artists or get intercepted by greedy warlords. And there we are again, with the problem of the rational part of the brain working against the impulsive part that wants to jump in and help. Psychologist George Loewenstein (quoted in the GLOBE AND MAIL article) suggests that the solution is "for people who are responsible for good causes to make use of what we know about human sympathy, to channel people's efforts in particular directions."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant
HQN Books, June 1, 2008

And Coalition starship admiral Brit Bandar is one tough woman. A mere intergalactic treaty could never get her to trust the Drakken Horde. There was too much bad blood between the Coalition and the Horde and, for intensely personal reasons, Brit wasn’t sure that she was through spilling it! But now a peaceful accord has made Finn Rorkken, a notorious Drakken rogue, second-in command on her starship – and through some grand cosmic irony – front and center in her thoughts…and her heart.

Either title sat easily on Finn’s battle-hardened shoulders. Though second-in-command to “Stone-Heart” Bandar? That would take some getting used to. Peace required as much sacrifice as war, so he’d comply even if his reaction to the gorgeous admiral fell decidedly outside protocol. But would he end up kissing or killing her if the galaxy’s tentative truce turned into all out war?


RITA award winner and NY Times best-selling author Susan Grant loves writing about what she knows: flying, adventure, and the often unpredictable interaction between the sexes! When she’s not writing romances set in far-flung locales, Susan pilots 747 jumbo jets to China, Australia, Europe, and many other exotic overseas destinations where she finds plenty of material for her novels.

4.5 stars! The quick pace and compelling characterization make this space adventure riveting! --reviewed by Jill Smith, RT Magazine
[A gripping storyline, fascinating characters and great writing. Susan Grant has an immense talent for writing this special brand of romance. --Tanzey Cutter, Fresh Fiction."[A] can’t-put-down read that draws you in from the first page and doesn’t let go until the tension-filled final chapters!" -- Linnea Sinclair, RITA award winning author of THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES
This tale packs a punch! Fans of the Honor Harrington series (by David
Weber) will thoroughly enjoy Brit and Finn's story. I could not help but give a spontaneous high-five when I finished this gem. -- Detra Fitch, Huntress Reviews,

This book kicked serious butt. Susan Grant can write more like this and I'll be ready to devour them at a moment's notice! -- Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews


Sunday, June 08, 2008

E=mc2 -- God clapped

Last night on the Science Channel someone defined science in terms of "finding out what we don't know" on a programme about the Large Hadron Collider

The first thing that struck me was the absolutely marvellous English understatement. (OK, that's superficial of me, but I am, first and foremost, a wordgeek!)

In my opinion, the "Large" Hadron Collider might be large enough and ambitious enough to qualify for inclusion in the list of new engineering wonders of the world.

It's all about the Big Bang, energy, mass, dark holes, Einstein's most famous equation E=mc2 , and the difficulty of seeing back in time to the Big Bang because when the Big Bang happened (if it happened) there were no stars, so there's no ancient light to follow.

The second thought to hit me was the proposition that two subatomic particles collided with great force. I visualized these colliding particles as "Good" and "Evil".

This morning, as I sat in Church, it came to me to wonder, "Suppose God clapped His hands?" So I googled "God clapped" and discovered with some relief that this notion has already occurred to several extremely learned people, who've published their ideas in places I wouldn't normally look.

While looking around youtube, hoping to find out what happened in November 2007 when the LHC was --apparently-- intended to be turned on, I learned that the Higgs particle has been called "The God Particle".

Another youtube clip describes the LHC as "Satan's Stargate" which seems a wicked cool tag!

Apologies for so many links in this blog, but I hope you are as fascinated as I am with some of this material.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I’m thrilled to announce the publication of MIDNIGHT TREAT, an anthology from Pocket Books reprinting three erotic paranormal romance novellas from Ellora’s Cave by Shelley Munro, Sally Painter, and me. Meet three ravishing, not quite human heroes—a gargoyle, a ghostly werewolf, and my vampire, Claude, from “Tall, Dark, and Deadly.” Here’s the link (if it wraps, so it may have to be pasted in two parts):

Here’s a teaser from my story, in which Eloise, a writer of fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance, tries to persuade actor Claude Darvell to produce and star in her screenplay adaptation of VARNEY THE VAMPYRE (a well-known Victorian “penny dreadful”). Little does she suspect that he’s actually a vampire himself, hiding in plain sight by performing in horror roles. They first meet at an SF convention awards banquet, after which they go to her hotel room to discuss the potential film.

Excerpt from “Tall, Dark, and Deadly,” by Margaret L. Carter:

When Eloise opened her eyes, a rosy mist clouded her vision, and her throat felt dry. After dragging herself to a sitting position, she rubbed her face and looked around. *Oh, Lord, I can't believe I acted that way! How can I ever face Claude again?*

Come to think of it, where was he? His cape still hung over the chair, but he was nowhere to be seen, and she didn't hear any sounds from the bathroom. No way could she look him in the eye, at least not until she'd put some distance between herself and her humiliating cat-in-heat behavior. Maybe he'd be gentleman enough, next time they met, to pretend the encounter had never happened. Meanwhile, she had to get out before he reappeared. When he saw her gone, with luck he would return to his own room and leave her alone.

Standing up, she had to grab the bedpost until a surge of dizziness faded. Noticing how loosely the bodice of her dress hung, she reached behind and pulled up the zipper. Muzzy-headed, she staggered out the door and along the hall to the elevator, one hand on the wall for balance. By the time she'd ridden to the ground floor, the danger of toppling over at every step had passed. Her brain still felt like oatmeal, though. She drifted through the lobby to the main doors, with a vague idea of letting the night air clear her head.

She shoved through the double glass doors and meandered to the corner of Wilshire Boulevard.

* * * * *

Claude came back from his foray to the vending machines with a full ice bucket and a can of Coke. After her involuntary donation, Eloise would feel dehydrated. Even before unlocking the room door, he sensed her absence. What the devil had got into the woman? He hadn't expected her to wake so quickly, but what had possessed her to run off the moment she did?

And without her shoes, he noticed. Or her key, which he'd taken with him. While these thoughts ran through his mind, he was already heading for the stairs. He could dash to street level on his own power faster than the elevator could arrive and carry him down. If Eloise hadn't gone all the way to the first floor, he could search the hotel at leisure. The first priority was intercepting her if she was indeed wandering around the lobby barefoot and half-conscious. Damn, this was the last thing he wanted to be doing after the mutually satisfying "dessert" they'd sampled.

Hurrying from the stairwell into the lobby, he scanned the area. Just in time, he caught a glimpse of Eloise disappearing out the main entrance. He strode after her as fast as possible without breaking into a trot. She paused at the corner. As he walked toward her, he noticed the dreamy vagueness of her gaze. She stepped off the curb with no sign of noticing the red stoplight. Claude darted into the stream of traffic, wrapped his arms around her, and flashed back to the sidewalk too fast for human eyes to follow.

Clinging to him, she shook her head in obvious bewilderment. "Claude—?"

He sensed the fog lifting from her brain. In a second she would start complaining about the way he'd chased and grabbed her. He also sensed eyes boring into him. Not just the curious glances of people who wondered how a man in a tuxedo and a barefoot woman in a formal gown had suddenly appeared on the sidewalk. Hostile eyes that felt not quite human.

He wasted no time processing this impression. Choosing action over analysis, he draped himself in a psychic veil that repelled vision. He projected a "you don't see me" aura that amounted to invisibility. With Eloise held close to him, she fell under the same curtain. Casual passers-by would blink at their "disappearance," then instantly forget about them. As for the watcher who troubled Claude the most, if he, she, or it existed at all, the illusion might provide enough time for an unseen retreat to the shelter of Eloise's room.

Claude carried her, murmuring confused protests, up the stairs to that refuge. "What the blazes is wrong with you?" he said as he plopped her on the bed. "Where did you think you were going?" And why did his own heart hammer with alarm at her narrow escape? He tabled that question for the moment.

"Out, if it's any of your business." Her flushed cheeks stirred his appetite, even though he'd just feasted on her.

"It's my business when you nearly get yourself killed. What the devil did you want to run away for? Surely I didn't do anything to frighten you, did I?" He smoothed the hair straggling out of her braid.

She jerked her head away from his hand. "Of course not. I just wanted to be alone."

"Really?" He captured her eyes with his.

"If you must know, I was embarrassed." She gasped at her own frankness. He knew she must feel baffled by the way the truth had popped out.

Maintaining the gentle pressure of his mind on hers, he prompted, "Why in the world would you be embarrassed?"

"Humiliated. The way I acted when you, you know, touched me." The heat radiating from her skin made him want to absorb every drop of her essence.

"I enjoyed every minute of it. And so did you, didn't you?" He stroked her head, and this time she didn't resist. His hypnotic gaze and touch already had her partly tamed. "Here, you're thirsty," he said. He held the cold soda can to her mouth. She drank half of it and licked her lips in a maddeningly sensual way. He held her close and crooned a wordless song of languid pleasure until she went limp in his arms. "Don't worry about it. Lie down and rest. Everything is all right now."

He lowered her head onto the pillow and turned her on her side to unzip her dress. After peeling it off, he folded back the covers and tucked her in with the sheet up to her waist. He knew he ought to leave now, but her half-closed eyes watched him with drowsy lust that sparked a burning in the pit of his stomach.

*Damn, I want her again! I can't remember the last time I was this hungry for a donor!* If he couldn't remember, he told himself with an ironic smile, maybe the answer was "never". In any case, resisting temptation had never been his forte. Earlier, he could have satisfied his thirst without bringing her to climax. Her arousal alone would have spiced her blood. Her eagerness, though, had inflamed him past caution. Now the sight of her bare breasts, flushed with passion, and the aroma of her female musk, tinged with traces of soap and bath powder, overcame the remnants of his scruples. After all, what harm would another sip do?

-end of excerpt-

Margaret L. Carter

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Real World Building


This post below was supposed to go up last Tuesday, but it didn't. So I'll put it up today -- and just let you know that NEVER in the history of families has a family-visit gone so well. If I wanted to make a short story out of it, I'd have to add some characters and events to create conflict -- there just wasn't any.


We spend so much time building imaginary worlds, but sometimes we have to put that craft to work in our everyday reality.

After all, what's the point of writing or reading SF or Fantasy or Romance or any sort of fiction if you don't use what you've learned, invented, mastered, practiced or just theorized about to craft your own life?

You aren't a character in a story -- you are the hero of your life.

Fiction is only practice. Living is what it is practice for.

So this week my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are here for a visit and we're running all over the place being an extended family on adventure watch.

My granddaughter is going on 6 and totally enamored of the Disney Princess fantasy that is being given such a hard sell lately. I don't know if she's a victim or just born at the right time and having the Establishment feed her what's best for her.

There's a generation being enchanted by dreams of glory, beauty, power and rightful sovereignty (not to mention love, but 6 is a bit early for that). How much is that generation's natural bent and how much Disney hype? Is there serious pain on the horizon for these kids when they thump down into "reality" at last?

I have to spend this week finding out what's going on in her head. She makes up stories, plays endlessly in costumes and dress up in grandma's old clothes, and will recite the biographies of all the Princesses. Having been 6 one time myself, I sympathize -- and envy her. We didn't have all the glitter and hype, the "reality mill" of Disney. We had books, a couple of movies (no DVD) and grandma's old clothes. But we played princess.

Jacqueline Princess Lichtenberg


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Why I write... alien romance

George Orwell is one of my literary heroes, along with Shakespeare, Tolkien, Asimov and Georgette Heyer.

George Orwell is best known for Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm but the rest of his works include essays, such as Why I Write, and Politics and the English Language, and his documentaries/social commentaries The Road To Wigan Pier, and Down and Out in Paris and London.

While I don't claim to share his politics or his extreme sense of adventure, I admire George Orwell for his commitment to accurate research; his integrity; and his ethics as a writer, commentator, and master of the English language.

In his essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell lists six rules for writers:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive voice where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

My personal favorite is Rule 6.

It is in part due to George Orwell's essays that I write about aliens instead of imaginary aristocrats and real historical figures.

The allowed fool is a concept from literature that harks back to the middle ages. The Court Jester was one of the only people who was able to speak his mind without risking his life, because he was usually considered a Fool or mad, or of such low status that his opinions were laughable.

Nevertheless, because he was entertaining and occasionally funny, his views were widely heard. I think the traditional traveling musician was more of a carrier of news
and might have been under more social pressure to deliver a popular message.

The character in my Romances who most resembles the archetypical Fool (and occasionally a Greek chorus of one) is Grievous, a very useful fellow!

If George Orwell were alive and writing today, I wonder whether he'd be writing Futuristics (Nineteen Eighty-Four was a futuristic. Or was it SF?) Or would he write Fantasy? ( Animal Farm was subtitled a fairy story).

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry