Thursday, June 29, 2006

Monstrous Matings

I've been a fan of H. P. Lovecraft since I first started reading horror at the age of twelve and discovered HPL through "The Dunwich Horror" in an anthology. Like Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan" (to which a character in the Lovecraft story alludes), it concerns a woman impregnated by a monstrous deity from another dimension—in the Machen story, through a mad scientist's experiment, and in the Lovecraft story, through a dark ritual. I'm totally out of sympathy with HPL's mechanistic-materialist world view, but I love the Cthulhu Mythos with its ancient lore, forbidden tomes, and tentacled monsters from outside our universe. (I've written an article about how Stephen King uses Lovecraftian motifs in the framework of a different philosophy in IT; the article, "The Turtle Can't Help Us," is archived on

It would take only a slight tilting of the viewpoint angle to change "The Dunwich Horror" from horror into a first contact story. Viewed objectively, what's so dreadful about mating with an intelligent entity of a different species? (Of course, this plot premise has roots in the early twentieth-century visceral horror of degeneration and miscegenation, a driving force behind the exclusionary, racist immigration laws of the time—sentiments shared by HPL—but that's a whole other topic.) Marion Zimmer Bradley was heard to say indignantly of half-human Wilbur Whateley in "The Dunwich Horror," "What's so terrifying about a poor deformed boy?" I've speculated about what sexual union with a Cthulhu Mythos entity would be like (perhaps analogous to a love affair with a deity in classical myth—Zeus visited his lovers in numerous nonhuman shapes) and how a half-human character fathered by such an entity would experience the world. My collection HEART'S DESIRES AND DARK EMBRACES ( includes a story in which the hero was fathered by an extradimensional entity but chooses his human side for love of the heroine. Currently I'm working on a novel about a woman whose little boy was begotten by a Lovecraftian "deity" possessing the body of the hero, her boyfriend.

The concept of a child's having two fathers, one of them not human, isn't completely outside the realm of SF plausibility. Look up "chimera" on the Internet, and you'll find that fusion of two zygotes within the womb to form a single organism can occur naturally, and fusion of the embryos of different animals has been done artificially. A Chinese experimenter actually created a hybrid rabbit-human embryo. (It wasn't allowed to grow, of course.) While this sort of experimentation has to proceed under stringent ethical limitations in the real world, imagine what a vast, amoral entity with superhuman intelligence could do along these lines.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

quest cover

Susan Kearney's THE QUEST

When I wrote THE QUEST, I knew I wanted Kirek for the hero.

I'd introduced him in THE CHALLENGE as a baby with extraordinary mental powers.

In THE DARE readers saw Kirek as a 4-year-old Oracle.
And in THE ULTIMATUM, Kirek served as a sex slave,
not an easy task for a Rystani Warrior.

So THE QUEST would be Kirek's story and for this wonderfully complex character,
I needed two things---a plot that would do him justice and a woman who might not.

Kirek's mission-- to destroy the Federation's deadliest enemies---
makes him question his moral and ethical values.
He's a warrior who believes in peace, a warrior who doesn't like to kill.
A warrior who must defeat the Federation's greatest enemy or billions will die.
And oh does he need help.

Captain Angel Taylor's going after the biggest salvage haul of her career.
Fiercely independent, she joins up with Kirek, but she has her own plans---
and they don't include him.

However, Kirek has a way of getting to a woman.
Together Angel and Kirek cross the galaxy and you can join them on THE QUEST
by watching their booktrailer at .

I decided to try a booktrailer so readers would get a visual synopsis of the book
and I was so pleased at the way this turned out.

The spaceships is cool, the hero is yummy and after watching the booktrailer
for just thirty seconds readers can get a feel for the book.
Instead of reading about the story, you can see it.

My publisher Tor came up with a fabulous cover and I'm so excited about this book.
And even if you've never read a Susan Kearney book,
you can start with THE QUEST and feel like part of the crew.

As a kid I read Heinlein and Clark and I dreamed of what it would be like
to actually go into space, visit other planets and see other cultures.
And now I can do that---in my imagination.
And I'm inviting you to come along with me on THE QUEST
where the men are bold and the women more than hold their own.

After reading my books, readers frequently ask me how I thought up the "suit,"
which is technology left by an ancient race that allows my characters
to go into space or underwater without special equipment.

The suit is run by psi power and it clothes, washes and keeps out viruses
and bacteria as well as translates language.

Why did I create the suit?
It started because I really don't like to describe clothing and it just evolved
into part of my Universe. I often wish I had a suit of my own.

And several readers have written to ask me where they could buy one.

Sorry. So far the suit is strictly from my imagination.
However if you read THE QUEST, you too can imagine having one of your own.
But even better you can have my best hero yet.

Kirek is fun-loving and has a genius IQ and of course he has a Warrior's body, too.

If you'd like to meet him, please go to
or pick up Susan Kearney's THE QUEST

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dating Androids

The newest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND has an article about a humanoid robot built by a Japanese designer. She looks like a very pretty Asian woman. The object of the project is apparently to make an android with whom people will feel, as much as possible, that they are interacting with a human being. I was disappointed to learn that the robot doesn't, in fact, carry on a conversation. She has a repertoire of programmed responses. She's essentially a highly advanced analogue of the Disneyland animatronic figures. It seems the field of artificial intelligence hasn't yet reached the point where a computer complex enough to pass the Turing test can fit into a human-size body. Before discussing the robot's capabilities, the article gave some background on the Turing test -- whether one can tell by conversing with an unseen "person" whether that person is human or a computer. If one can't unmask the computer by talking with it, so the theory goes, the computer is intelligent. Remember Eliza, the psychologist program that "reflected" the subject's feelings back in dialogue that, up to a point, was convincingly realistic? E.g., if you said, "My father didn't understand me," the program would say, "Tell me more about your family." However, if you said, "I believe all things are relative," the program would probably respond with the same sentence! Years ago we had a similar program on our home computer. The kids discovered that if you said, "I need/want [blank," the "doctor" would respond, "I am not here to serve your need for [blank]." They spent many fun hours putting ever more outrageous things in the blank. They also discovered that if you told the doctor, "Say [blank]," he'd obey. So they would fill in that blank by typing numbers 20 or 30 digits long and listen to the voice program pronouncing them. Anyway, this new robot doesn't do anything like that. She does, however, according to the reporter who interviewed her creator for the magazine, give a fairly convincing impression of a live woman. The inventor mentioned that her eye movements aren't natural enough yet. For that, he'll need a larger body to hold the hardware and software. Therefore, his next robot is going to be a man, probably a duplicate of himself.

Intimacy between human beings and robots or androids, of course, goes back a long way in science fiction, to the pulp classic "Helen O'Loy" and probably further. Robert Heinlein has computers in TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE who decide they want to become human and move their personalities and some of their memories -- of course there wouldn't be nearly enough space for all the memories -- into cloned bodies. I've never written a robot or android story myself, but I think these characters certainly fall under the "alien" theme -- the most interesting kind of alien, to me, the kind who is enough like us to identify with but intriguingly different, with a skewed perspective on human existence.

Margaret L. Carter

Why do SF readers boldly go everywhere...but the bedroom?

Okay, first let me state that I'm not talking about ALL SF readers. So put your laser pistols back in their holsters. Second, I can't take credit for the subject line. I filched it from author Barbara Karmazin and maybe I can talk her into responding here.

But the point is this: I'm a long time and avid reader of:
Science Fiction /Fantasy
(not necessarily in that order) and it's only in the SFF venues do I see an author's novel being trashed for including a romantic plot or subplot.

I certainly have never seen a romance reader trash a novel for including a mystery or speculative fiction plot or theme. And I've never personally seen a mystery reader trash a novel because the detective had a love interest.

But put a love interest in an SF novel! Incoming photon torpedoes! Ion cannons firing at will (poor Will, why does everyone fire at him?)! A segment--a certain segment of SF readers go totally ballistic. Their beloved genre has been sullied. Damaged. Insulted. A LOVE INTEREST? LOVE? That...that...::shudders:: four letter word? LOVE?

It baffles me.

Or maybe it doesn't. We live on a planet in which love is equated with weakness. Hatred, violence, bigotry and criminal activity are "manly". Strong. Bad is good. Caring and compassion are for weaklings. You know: wimmin.

What baffles me even more are the wimmin SF readers who uphold this philosophy. Romance in SF/F is bad. Sex is SF/F is punishable by tarring and feathering. Some arguments I've seen by those who support this is that a female character in an SF story who falls in love is being 'objectified' or manipulated into a stereotypical cultural norm (ie: wimmin fall in love as if that's the only thing they can do).

Well, my characters fall in love. I personally can't envision a future (if the SF is set so) or a planet/star system I'd want to spend time in (and that's what you do when you read a book) that doesn't value companionship. That doesn't recognize the importance of emotional intimacy, physical intimacy. (I'm not saying I can't ENVISION an emotionless society. I'm just saying I don't want to spend ALL my time there.)

So one of the things that my characters experience in my books is falling in love.

It may come as no suprise to you that I'm happily married. Very happily. Since 1980. And while yes, my husband is an enormous center of my life, I've also been a tape-recorder-wielding news reporter and a gun-totin' private investigator. Love didn't diminish my abilities in either of those careers. So I rather figure if I can do these things--and be all these things--so can my characters.

One last thing. I've often wondered if those SF readers who recoil from SFR also recoil from listening to rock/pop music in which the lyrics plainly are about the singer's feelings for someone else? And I'm not talking Barry Manilow type music, either. But Springsteen. Billy Joel. Led Zepplin. Van Halen. (Does anyone think "Hot For Teacher" was about an arsonist?) ZZ Top. (Oh, "Legs" was about fried chicken, right?) . The list (and the beat) goes on...

Hugs all (because yeah, my characters aren't the only ones who have emotions),

Friday, June 23, 2006

A week's adventures in blog-land


Well, I suppose it was inevitable. I had resisted the whole idea of doing a blog, but Rowena Cherry is an irresistible force -- so I joined this blog on Alien Romance.

And she invited me to the companion blog focused Survival Romance -- a theme that's got my imagination running overtime already.

Then she advised me to get onto Amazon Connect where authors are allowed to post to their readers -- a new feature I had neglected to pay attention to.

That's quite a hassle -- they make you get your publisher or agent or publicist to verify that you really wrote the books you did write. I can see why! I'm just wondering if somehow that will help their computer sort away books written by others with similar names.

So yesterday I put up my first Amazon Connect post -- and already got 3 votes and a reply! The thing actually works!

You may note that the Amazon post I did is about a new Amazon Review for my Vampire Romance, Those of My Blood -- which asked a number of questions the answers to which may make up into a new story!

So while the last thing I need in my life is more story ideas, blogging has certainly unleashed a new flood of them. I don't know what to do first!

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Shot down on an alien planet ....

Hot off the drawing board is the official
cover of Insufficient Mating Material.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Writers don't write in a vacuum

Hello Everyone!

Every novel I've sold has had some kind of strong Relationship driving the plot, though working in the science fiction field before Paranormal and Futuristic Romance, I had to hide that fact.

I grew up on science fiction written for teenage boys, and eventually became a protege of Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of the first women in this field (went professional in the mid-1950's). Her first published story was CENTAURUS CHANGELING, and those literary analysts among you can work out the connection between that story and what you are publishing today in Alien Romance.

Eventually, I sold a Witch World story about a vampire to Andre Norton for her Witch World anthologies (it's in #2 of the series). Now, I've been writing prequels to that story, developing a vampire character -- and of course, eventually he's got to have a definitive soul-mate encounter.

So there are a large number of writers who have strongly influenced me -- from "I have to learn to write like that!" all the way to "I have to show them that's the wrong way to write!"

And I've been at it for decades now. You'll find my biography and bibliography linked from my homepage along with links to free chapters for all my in-print books, and a whole lot of free stories to read online.

Here is a short list of writers who influenced my work: One day I'll get up essays about each of those people -- I've known most of them personally.

Recently, while I was doing an interview for an online Star Trek and Australian convention publication, I had also just read a wonderful novel by Moira J Moore called RESENTING THE HERO. I googled up her website and emailed her that I would review her book and please ask her editor to get Ace to send me the sequel. I had forgotten the Ace publicist had sent the book -- many times authors arrange to have books sent to me. She replied in such a way that I knew she had heard of me, and might have read something of mine.

So while I was keyboarding the answers to interview questions, I happened to think of how many authors had influenced all my work (my Star Trek fan fiction, Kraith, posted now in for free reading is Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe added to aired-Trek) and then I thought of the growing number of authors that I have influenced, that I haven't been keeping track of at all properly.

So I quick wrote back to Moira J. Moore and asked for a quote to include in my interview, and in the nick of time, I got it and plugged her work.

That was the day I was invited to contribute to this blog.

And I knew what I had to do. I have created a quick page for my homepage listing authors who are willing to admit in public that my work influenced them -- early in life, later, whatever. It could be either "I want to write like that" -- or "I have to show the world how wrong that is!"

I put Moira J Moore right on top and a couple others that I thought of off the top of my head, and the last on the list is Linnea Sinclair.

If I get a quote from Linnea and her URL I'll link it onto that page. I hope she reads this!

And anyone else who reads this who would like to be on that page can send me a quote and their URL to

I think creating a permanent record of these invisible links among us all is a worthy project. I think every author's homepage should contain such a page and personal essays where possible.

Is there anyone who agrees with me about this? Do readers want this as well as writers?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, June 12, 2006

Am I insane?

Yes at the time I thought it was pretty good idea. One book, two heroes, two heroines. But now as I write it I have to wonder if I was insane when I decided to do it. The title of the book is Phoenix and it's the third book in my Star series. The story centers around Zander, who is Shaun's son (Stargazer)and Boone who is Ruben's adopted son (Shooting Star) Best friends, both after the same end, but something terrible has to happen doesn't it? (Add evil laughter here)

The problem is how do I make them different. Don't hero's have the same genetic make-up? Won't the reader get bored reading the same hero type Point Of View from chapter to chapter? And what about the heroines? One is Elle, Zander's twin. The other is Mara who so far has only been seen in Zander's dreams and only briefly. As I said I must be insane. Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Politics and messing with people's names

If you want to know what I've been up to --or even if you don't-- I'll tell you.

I'm in the middle of an editing exercise that I'm finding fascinating. Recently... (actually May 31st -- I'm the sort of person who simply has to check facts) my Dorchester editor, Alicia Condon, emailed that she liked my suggestion that maybe the heroine of Insufficient Mating Material ought to have a nickname.

The heroine has a royally long, formal, hyphenated name. I began to feel that constantly repeating the full name was a bit tedious, but I didn't have time before my deadline to put sufficient thought into shortening it. I'm doing so now.

Have you ever given much thought to nicknames? Just because a hunk comes into the heroine's life, and he decides to call her "Ro" (for example) doesn't mean that she thinks of herself as "Ro" all of a sudden, when she has spent thirty years as Rowena, or Ro-Ro, or Janey, or I.

The rest of her friends and family won't suddenly start thinking of her as "Ro" or addressing her as "Ro".

Will the hunk introduce Rowena to his friends as "Ro" or "Rowena"? How will Rowena feel about mere acquaintances using the "private" name?

Is this an alien idea?

Different nationalities have different sensibilities about how they are addressed, and by whom. My Japanese friends are scrupulous about calling me Rowena-san. When I lived in Germany, it was considered important to address a lady as "Frau" plus her last name whether or not she was married... unless of course, the lady had a title such as "Graefin". In England, I would never have dreamed of calling my teachers anything other than Miss ... or Mrs. ... or Mr. ... . I admit that I am secretly taken aback that six-year-old schoolchildren call me "Rowena".

When in Rome... OK. But I'm writing about an alien world which is far from a modern, American democracy (or even republic).

Factor in that the nicknamee is a member of a royal family, and life becomes really interesting.

Up the ante. Suppose the nickname isn't a variant of her given name... "Sugarpuss"? Suppose there's a slightly rude innuendo?

So, maybe only the hero uses the nickname. Does he ease into using it? At first, does he substitute "Ro" in conversation, where before he might have addressed the heroine as "Princess Rowena-Jane"? At what point does he wonder whether "Ro" can cook, and what "Ro" is like in bed. You might suppose that he wondered such things from a distance before he even learned the heroine's name!

Anyway, for what it's worth, this is what I'm wrestling with this week.

Best wishes,

Saturday, June 10, 2006

When Intergalactic Aliens Hijack Your Novel...

Ah yes, another voice checking in from the Far Reaches, which is--as most of you know--in United Coalition space just a smidge past Garchan-3... I'm a far more experienced starfreighter pilot than I am a blogger, so bear with me as I learn the ropes here.

Writing the average novel with the average cast of characters is tough enough. Writing an SF novel with unique and strange characters and settings is tougher still. Writing SFR--science fiction romance--in which one must satisfy the desires of two sets of readers (SF and romance) is lunacy.

I love it. Writing, that is. Although lunacy does have its attractions...

As those of you who've read past posts here notice, there's simply something special about writing in this genre. To me, it has more texture, more depth, more flavor, more potential for wow-factor plot lines than any other genre. Writing SFR is like painting with a brush that only knows vivid colors and can paint in vividly colored patterns as well (Photoshop can do that, but I digress...).

One of the elements that makes this so unique is the novel's character(s). More often than not, he or she isn't your next-door neighbor (unless you live on Cirrus One Station). A character's upbringing, his social or cultural setting, her religious background, her political milieu is often different to vastly different from what we experience on this planet.

That's why readers read it. That's why I write it.

Because being hijacked by intergalactic aliens for an hour or three whilst tucked all comfy-like in your den chair is simply wonderful.

The average novel permits the reader to step inside someone else's skin. The SFR or futuristic novel (and yes, they are somewhat different) takes the reader not only inside another's skin but another's star system and often turns everything the reader knows topsy turvy.

What if (and all good stories start with a 'what if?') being blind was considered such a heinous flaw that the blind were put to death? And what if you survived as a blind child by seeking refuge in a nearby monastery whose monks viewed blindess as a sacred gift...but killed telepaths? And oh, you're a blind telepath.

That's the backstory for Frayne Ackravaro Ren Elt--Ren--a secondary character in my October 2005 release from Bantam, Gabriel's Ghost. Now, he's a secondary character--blue skinned aquatic, too--mind you. You can imagine what kinds of troubles the main characters have (they're Sully and Chaz and I invite you to experience them on my site).

But I couldn't build Sully's and Chaz's story without having Ren there. What Ren is directly relates to Sully's conflicts. See, they're long time friends. For a reason. And that reason almost gets them killed.

In SFR, intergalactic aliens, odd cultures, strange political structures aren't one-dimensional backdrops. They are the texture--the warp and weft of the story. And they're not always secondary characters, either. Sometimes they're a main character...

Umm, yep. Sully's not quite what he seems...

Oh, I'm Linnea Sinclair and I write SFR for Bantam Spectra. Look for my books in the science fiction section (not the romance stacks) of your local bookstore. I'm the odd-gal-out here. :-)

Come explore with us.

Hugs all, ~Linnea

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Research is like an iceberg ... only not as dangerous to readers

I use an iceberg analogy because --as a rule of thumb--
it is only appropriate for about 10 percent of my
background research to show up in my books.

The other 90 percent looms below the surface.

My numbers may not be everyone's ideal.
But, whether it's ten percent or twenty,
with luck, my readers will never notice that it's there,
beyond perhaps admiring my worldbuilding. :-)

After all, for every cool, alien-seeming flower or fruit, there are lots of
equally exotic plants that aren't useful for the purposes of my story.

(which I recently sold to Dorchester)
my furious hero is stuck on a deserted island
with an unwilling heroine who won't take off her fancy
(but wet) clothes to save her life .... which she should!

According to SURVIVORMAN, Les Stroud, the best way to avoid
hypothermia is to doff the wet duds and share body heat.

So, my hero decides that life will be more tolerable if he can
construct a distillery and a guitar --or a flute.

It doesn't much further the story if my hero then plans exactly how
he will go about fabricating his moonshine still or his instrument,
but the author needs to know, and a true detail here or there gives
the hero something plausible and character building to do
in coming scenes.

Not to mention, his seemingly pointless and illogical activities
are bound to annoy the heroine.

Research is on my mind partly because my "Research" for a desert
island survival romance was the topic of a radio interview I was
given yesterday.

Also, because I have suggested to the organizers of
next year's Romantic Times Convention that I'd like to put together a
workshop on "Research".

And finally, because I am about ready to get
into the Research phase of writing my next book.

Thank goodness for the internet! Imagine walking into a public
library, and asking the librarian to point me to the stacks dealing
with unauthorized exhumations, for example.

I'll leave you with that thought, pretty much.
I'd like to wish you all a prosperous and happy week.

I'll hope to blog on SUNDAYS in future,
in an effort to be more predictable.

Best wishes,