Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cherry Picking

My real reason for blogging is to test the "Ping", however, since writing "Test" is too boring, I do have something useful to say.

Susan Kearney, one of the alien romance authors on this blog, will be one of my "Crazy Tuesday" guests on October 2nd, 10 am to noon, on my chaotic, unscripted "authors blogging aloud" show, talking about her book video for Kiss Me Deadly with Tammie King of Night Owl Romances.

Other authors with book videos will also chat about theirs, and I will hope for an opportunity to mention my own alien romances videos in passing.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Friday, September 28, 2007

His Preposterously huge Highness (answers to Kimberley's questions)

What authors inspired the contributors the most?

I am by nature a contrarian. If you tell me I can't do something, I want to prove you wrong. If you tell me I am sure to like
someone (or her book), I'll bend over backwards not to do so..... (and vice-versa)

Contrarian is probably a banker's euphemism for a grumpy old woman!

I started writing in 1991. Without intending any offense to anyone, and with the obvious exceptions of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Tom Clancy, Arthur Hailey, Georgette Heyer, Terry Pratchett, Harry Harrison, Agatha Christie, Jo Beverley, George Orwell (aka Eric Blair), JRR Tolkein, William Shakespeare, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Jane Austen.... I don't think I'll name those thoroughly moderns who inspired me because they did so in the sense of "(expletive deleted) I could do better than that" to borrow a David Bowie line.

Of course, looking back on my unpublished self-confidence, I am appalled at myself, but I'd probably never have started if I didn't imagine that I could meet the standard.

By the way, I rather liked David Bowie's music and Ziggy Stardust persona. I also liked a great deal of what is now called Classic Rock, but which I might call Sci-Fi Romance rock... Fleetwood Mac, especially Stevie Nicks's music, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Doors, the Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, and many more.

My natural inclination might have been to write Historicals, but I went off that idea when my British respect for my betters rebelled at a few novels I encountered in which real historical figures were created villains, and in one notable case given yard-and-a-half long masculine genitalia and a penchant for misplacing it. Besides which, all the best titles of nobility which cunningly suggested that the hero had a perpetual hard-on had already been used... by several authors.

So, I created my own divided and dysfunctional ans sexually insatiable royal family and set them in outer space, and built a world for them starting with a sun, and an uninhabitable planet (a gas giant... because my sense of humor is low) and its moon.

definition of Science Fiction Romance and related sub-genres.

I prefer the term speculative romance, and I think of it as anything that comes under the Paranormal umbrella but which does not involve ghosts, vampires (unless they are aliens), zombies (ditto), Time Travel (unless to do with the Twin paradox), magic.... There must be an explanation for the happenings, even if it is highly creative, as in The Physics of Star Trek or The Science of Star Wars (or whatever the real titles were).

What are the absolute must-do conventions? Introduce the Hero before the Villain? Happily Ever After?

If you tell me there is a rule, I want to break it. In MATING NET, I introduced the villain first. He's an arrogant, sexy hunk. Maybe he isn't really the villain. He's the hero's identical twin, and he is the one who causes all the problems. Of course, that meant that New York was not ready for Djohn Kronos. I won't necessarily have sex on page 90, either, or whatever page it was once supposd to be. However, I will not mess with a happy ending, a happily ever after. Once my hero and heroine make a commitment to one another, they stay together... so far.

What do most have in common?

I think we all do more research than most readers might appreciate, we all respect our readers' intelligence, we all write thought-provoking material. We're all pretty enlightened and well read.

When did SFR become a recognized sub-genre?

I'm not a Historian of the genre. I'm not sure it is recognized. There still seems to be some confusion whether some of us are placed in the Romance or Sci Fi aisles. There's no confusion in my case. If my book is not certifiably Romance, I get to rewrite it until it is.

When did this happen and who led the way?

I think the way is still being led.

Who were the pioneers?

I like to think some of those on this blog are, also a number of the members of the SFWA chapter.

Thank you for some great questions, Kimberley!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Questions About SFR

Here are my answers to the questionnaire posted a couple of days ago:
  1. What are the absolute must-do conventions (as in, Should one introduce the Hero before the Villain? Must there be a Happy Ever After in SFR?)

By the current publishing definition, a novel isn't a romance (strictly speaking) without a happy ending, defined as a pledge of love between hero and heroine. Not all love stories can be classified as romances; one that ends in tragedy isn't (by today's categorization). Without that “happy ending” feature, it would be an SF or fantasy novel with “romantic elements” or a romantic subplot. I could bend the boundaries so far as to concede that the ending might be “happy for now” rather than “happily ever after.” Other than that principle, which simply restates the essential conditions of the genre, I'd say there aren't any other absolutely required conventions. No, I don't think the hero has to be introduced before the villain. It's not uncommon for romantic suspense to begin with a prologue or opening scene that presents the antagonist in the midst of his villainy before we meet the hero or heroine. For a romance, however, I do think it's almost a required convention that we know from the beginning who the hero is. Yet traditional Gothic romances stretch even that expectation. (The innocent heroine's rakish husband may be under suspicion for villainous deeds.)

  1. What do most have in common?

Besides the journey of the hero and heroine toward the declaration and fulfillment of their love, I see the only universally common feature of speculative romance to be some element that's contrary-to-fact in terms of the primary world we live in. Like the “straight” SF or fantasy author, the SFR writer creates a “secondary world” (as Tolkien puts it), whether a completely different world in a magical realm or on another planet, an alternate-history version of our Earth, or an environment much like ours except for the presence of vampires, werewolves, dragons, magic, psi powers, visiting aliens, etc. The speculative or magical element has to be real within the world of the story, not an illusion or a hoax; the latter would place book in a different subgenre. Other than these elements, we could say most have in common a strong alpha-type hero, but doubtless even this, like almost all other common factors and conventions we might propose, has exceptions. The wonder of this subgenre is the wide variety of stories and characters it encompasses.

  1. What authors inspired the participating authors on this blog?

For me: Suzy McKee Charnas, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah (Sime~Gen universe), Marion Zimmer Bradley—I have many other favorite authors, but those are the main ones whose work has directly affected the subject matter and themes I've been inspired to write about.

  1. When did SFR become a recognized sub-genre? And who led the way?

As far as my memory serves, SF, fantasy, and paranormal romance began to be marketed under those terms in the mid- to late-1990s. While I could mention many authors and works that contributed to the prehistory of the subgenre (e.g., myths and fairy tales such as “Cupid and Psyche” and “Beauty and the Beast,” plays and movies such as DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY and THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR [based on a novel, of course], some of Bradley's Darkover novels, Yarbro's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, etc.), I'm sure of “who led the way” only in the area of vampire romance. That provides a useful boundary marker, I think, because paranormal romance first caught on as a subgenre because of the appeal of vampire romances. The first vampire novel I ever saw marketed as a romance (as opposed to vampire novels with romantic elements marketed under horror) was OBSESSION, by Lori Herter (1991). New readers coming to the field today can have no idea what a thrilling innovation it was to see a romance novel with a black-caped hero and a bat on the cover.

  1. Who were the pioneers?

Again, I can speak with certainty only about my specialty, vampire fiction. Aside from Herter's delightful four-book series (undeservedly neglected and sadly out of print), other pioneers in vampire romance include Linda Lael Miller, Maggie Shayne, Nancy Gideon, and Amanda Ashley.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

7 of Swords - Conflict Avoidance

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:
The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..

The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) plus the "World" or Suit of the card. For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

On the right hand side of the Jacob's Ladder diagram, we are now looking at the circle that is #3 UP from the bottom of the right-hand side.

From the 6 of Swords - Love as a transitive verb - we got here to 7 Swords by making some sort of substantive change in habit patterns, very likely because of the interaction with a loved one. (stopping smoking, change of job to follow spouse's career, trying to be good enough for one you worship from afar, etc)

The image on the Waite Rider deck shows a fellow stealing swords from an encampment of tents, sneaking stealthily away.

Remember the whole business of being alive is the process of channeling pure divine energy down from beyond Existence to Here-And-Now. Every breath, every blink, and every book you undertake to write, every speech you give, everything is composed of all the processes represented by the circles on Jacob's Ladder. Every bit of energy you bring into existence is filtered through ALL these processes. Each circle contains within it all the other circles on Jacob's Ladder. It's the holistic view of the connection between Creation and The Creator.

Understanding that view makes being alive easier.

So, note the difference from the 5 of Swords where the fellow has taken another's swords by force and gloats about it, not knowing he's done wrong.

Here, swords are taken by stealth and there's guilt in the body language.

Something changed in the passage through 6, something having to do with the ability to empathize with others, to know right from wrong, to know that having a right to do something doesn't necessarily mean you must do it, or even that you may!

The 5 on the Tree of Life is associated with Mars, the god of war, yes, but the ruler of Aries, the First House, the source of Identity, of ego strength. It's your umph, your get-up-and-go. It's the power that lets you clean the whole house, singing.

The image for 5 Swords is the king in his chariot going to war. In 5 Swords there is a readiness to fight for what's right. (Politicians are always saying, "I'll FIGHT for Education!" and I'm always replying, "Why fight? Just do it. Go around spoiling for a fight, you'll get one.")

In 6 Swords, "what" is right got modified by the experience of love.

This sequence of processes is the essence of the Romance Novel about a man and woman who meet on a battle field, save each other's lives, and discover (in 6) that to live together they must leave the lives they know as Mercenaries. Here, in 7 Swords, we begin to see the result of that decision.

In 7 Swords we come to some confusion about what is right and what that means in terms of actions -- and thus of relationships.

7 on the Tree of Life is associated with the Astrological symbol Venus which is all about Relationships.

Venus is the ruler of Libra, the 7th House of relationships with others, of marriage, but also ruler of Taurus, the Second House and source of our own values. (Some people choose their values to please their friends; others use their values to select their friends.)

So whatever happened in the transit through 6 - Love - affected values and relationships in some profound way which now becomes apparent.

In the World of Action, Swords, the willingness to fight became a willingness to avoid fighting, to avoid conflicts.

Libras, of all the natal signs of the zodiac, are known as peacemakers.

The Libra child in the family is the picky eater, the one who leaves the table when the other kids get rough, the one who needs to wear certain colors. As Libras grow up, they become managers, politicians, corporate ladder climbers, because they have the knack of being liked and creating teamwork.

Taurus can be about money, but Taurans are born with an appreciation of composition, beauty, and an ability to prioritize because they establish their own value system very efficiently.

Taurus is a very practical sign that sees sensuous beauty as practical. Venus as ruler of Taurus is about your Relationship to what you value and how you determine what you care about.

Venus as ruler of Taurus is about the perception of beauty, in a different way from what we discussed in 6 Swords, but remember 7 contains 6.

You will also find echos of the 2 of Swords in the 7 of Swords.

Note the 2 of Swords on Jacob's Ladder is the 5th circle up on the right-hand side.

All the circles on the right hand side have some essential core meaning in common, as do the ones on the left, and the ones in the middle. Discovering what that similarity is will lead you to the advanced level of study.

We can discover the meaning of the 7 of Swords by combining the attributes we understand about 7-ness with Swords-ness.

Here, in 7 Swords, Peace becomes a transitive verb.

Peace is a concept which is virtually undefined in the zero-sum view of the universe, which is the basis of the Waite Rider Tarot images.

Where influenced by Libra (which is somewhere in your Natal Chart, as is Venus) you might find yourself so sensitive to personal strife when bringing a project through 7-Swords that you will do literally anything to avoid conflict, including abrogating the self, subjugating the self, or attacking clandestinely.

Libra is not inherently that sensitive. That sensitivity happens because of too much internal, subconscious tension on your heartstrings.

Low-strung, Libra is a cardinal sign -- a positive, starter of projects, an instigator and manager with harmonizing heartstrings.

But in our zero-sum culture, we often substitute a habit pattern of conflict avoidance for peace. That's why the Waite Ryder card image highlights that most common experience of the 7 Swords process.

The 7-Swords conflict-avoidance actions are usually intended to take charge of the situation.

Writers note: 7-Swords is the part of the plotting process where most writers make mistakes or find themselves unable to imagine the next action of their main character. When you, as writer, are avoiding a confrontation with conflict inside yourself, your characters will be unable to do anything but wait for rescue.

The conflict-avoider waiting for rescue can become every bully's dream victim, too. Anything to please, anything to appease. The one who accepts all the guilt -- "just don't yell at me."

The cardinal signs are always trying to do something, to start, or control, or get what they want. The cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. These are the pro-active signs (remember everyone has all signs and all planets, just mixed up differently. All signs, planets and attributes, behaviors and tendencies are in us all, and brought to the fore sometime in life by transits.)

The Libra in you needs beauty, harmony, light sound and music, the heart pumping love, lots of people around, plenty of family and associates galore.

When manifesting as the conflict-avoider, the 7-Swords can prompt every sort of trickery and deceit to "get away with" whatever action seems likely to satisfy those needs.

When manifesting with a solid assertiveness, the 7-Swords process leaves love and harmony behind in a spreading wake.

Whether, in the development of your project (writing a book, building a house, courting a life-mate) you experience the process of 7-Swords as sneaky deceit or as an emitter of pure harmony depends to a large extent on whether you see the world as a zero-sum game.

If working in the zero-sum game model of the universe, where in order for there to be a winner, there must be a loser, then the lessons of 6 Swords will lead to conflict-avoiding behavior in the 7 of Swords.

Why? Because the 7-Swords process is Cardinal (like Libra) and driven to GET what is needed, while likewise maintaining peace.

The way to win but avoid conflict is to steal, sneak, sow confusion and snatch, -- to GET what you want, behind others' backs so they won't attack you.

7 Swords pretty much explains every I LOVE LUCY (the TV show) plot: ways of manipulating relationships from a position of weakness (feigned and otherwise).

If, on the other hand, you see the world as abundant, then it's never necessary to take what another person has, leaving them without. There's plenty. You can go get some for yourself from the Source. Everyone can be a winner and there doesn't have to be losers.

In Magick, that's called The Law Of Abundance.

The 7 of Swords is not about things -- it's about actions, methods of getting (i.e. it's about PLOTTING A NOVEL).

Sometimes what you, or your characters, are out to get isn't a thing - it can be prestige, power, control, intimacy, psychological validation.

7 Swords can have a lot to do with flimflamming, with casting illusions and slight of hand to misdirect attention -- so you can grab what you want.

7 Swords is the process of copycat behavior, stealing another person's actions. By copying what another person does, you expect to get what you imagine they have.

It's also where you get "I'm doing this for your own good." and "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

It is keeping up with the Joneses, believing the outward show, the seeming of power over others is all there is, and there is no inward price.

7 has a lot to do with imagination and thus creativity, another Venus function.

Writers of Romance will see how the 7-Swords process in the development of a Relationship can be driven by fear that the new Lover will not tolerate their old, habitual, actions, so to avoid strife they indulge in secret.

In Reverse, 7 Swords points the way out of this passive-aggressive trap built of fear of others' emotions.

Seeing one's own actions through the pain you are causing another changes everything.

Now you see what you've done, you see your failure, and you must make amends.

To do that you will give up a habitual action, return what you've taken, confess, express regret and remorse, turn your heart inside out to make it right with your victim.

You will accept advice, try harder than ever, hold nothing back, cry out to the heavens for help -- and as a result, there's a good chance events will carry you on to a better place.

Remember this is the plot basis of a novel. If your protagonist hadn't imagined the rage of her Significant Other and decided on subtrefuge, she wouldn't have gotten into enough trouble to be able to learn the lesson from the results of her actions.

Every card in the Tarot deck is ultimately good - even when the lesson is harsh.

The 7 Swords (Reversed in the Waite Rider deck) is the path of tshuvah, the path of return to the source of your Soul, the path toward becoming a tzadik. It is actually the key step toward becoming wholly at peace within yourself and in total harmony with your environment.

In a novel, 7-Swords Reversed is where the character "arcs" or changes substantially via an epiphany, a Dark Night Of The Soul, and does their act of contrition or act of faith. And it is followed by a release of the tension that was causing the conflict or its avoidance.

So, in 4 of Swords, you produced a copious flow of words to fill up your novel. In 5 Swords you showed it around and got told to cut and rewrite -- it may have felt like rejection of your heart's greatest creation, but in 6 Swords you left that first draft behind and forged bravely ahead to a new version, suddenly totally in love with the new vision.

In 7 Swords old habits reasserted themselves and you tried to sneak in some of the bits you really loved and just couldn't cut; maybe nobody would notice!

Now you've seen that your 5 Swords critics had a point - those bits just don't belong in this story (maybe in another, but not here), so you've found your main character's inner conflict, taught him a lesson he'll never forget, and brought the conflict to a satisfying release of tension. He's become a wiser soul, as have you, as will your readers.

Now you're ready for a serious encounter with objectivity -- submission to a paying editor.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Admiral Answers, Part 1

Ready Room, Huntership REGALIA

The starfield twinkled as it always did at sublight speeds, but even more so because the REGALIA skirted the edges of the Staceyan Belt. The pinpoints of light—some larger, some smaller—arced across the velvet darkness like a sash of jewels that even the most pampered Glitterkiln socialite would envy.

Branden Kel-Paten noticed none of it. He was in the ready room to answer questions. Deep, personal questions. He slid back the small covering on his left wrist and spiked into ship’s status through the chair’s armrest feed. It was the only way he could keep himself from pacing the room—or worse, fleeing it in panic.

But he’d promised Sass he’d do this.

“They like you, Branden,” she’d told him, not just an hour ago but several times over the past week. “They really do, and you have to understand this is just part of it. When people like you, they want to know more about you.”

More of his theories on starship design, he could understand. But this…this! He’d paged through the dozens of questions submitted several times over the last few days. Then new ones arrived and he was close, oh so close to tracking down Sass in her office and tell her to call this whole godsdamned thing off.

But he knew she’d just laugh and then wrap her arms around his waist and look up at him the way only she could… and his complaints would vaporize under the faith, the trust he could read in her eyes.

He could easily face squadrons of enemy fighters or an entire contingent of armed assassins and blink not an eye. But his deepest fears and desires, his thoughts, his inner demons…it was only because he’d learned that Sass’s inner demons weren’t all that different from his own that he knew she’d never ask him to do something she herself wouldn’t do.

So here he was.

A small light on the edge of his screen flashed. Incoming connection. He accessed the release code in his mind and—with a loud sigh—watched as a familiar female face appeared on the screen. Two familiar faces, actually. One was a woman, a middle-aged blonde who—had he not known better—he could have sworn could have qualified (visually, at any rate) to be Sass’s mother. The other was a smaller face, black and white and furry. That face was at the moment busy cleaning a plumey black tail.

The woman smiled knowingly. “Ready, Admiral?”

He nodded slowly, spiked out and steeled himself. Let the games begin.

How does it feel to 'spike in' to your ship? Is it painful or uncomfortable--or does it make you feel energized? Does it give you a sense of power or only a sense of isolation because of who and what you are?

“It depends on the ship,” Kel-Paten said, thinking, okay, this isn’t too bad. Laurie’s question was logical. “The Vaxxar was designed to integrate with me so the spike was a seamless process. After years, and you have to realize I was on that ship for over a decade, it was something I did without thinking. When you open the door to your house, or put your hand on a kitchen cabinet to open it, are you fully conscious of the act? I’d guess not. That’s probably the best way I can explain it to you.

“But the experience after spiking in is quite incredible. Energized is a very good way to describe it. I’m still speaking of the Vax, of course. Now with ships where I had to rig a dataport, yes, that could be problematic. Uncomfortable. Like,” and he thought for a moment, “wearing someone else’s shoes. The function is correct but the execution is lacking.

“As for a sense of isolation, well. Yes and no. When I’m fully integrated with the ship, I’m aware of so much of the ship that the sense of myself dissolves into that. Which is fine when I’m alone. But if I have to spike in with others around then, yes, I can feel very distant from them. My perceptions are so much wider at that moment. “

If you fell in a pond, would you short-circuit?

“No.” Kel-Paten glanced at the question’s tag on the screen. “Kimber An.” He shook his head. “I’m not a hair dryer. I’m an excellent swimmer, by the way. Something I haven’t yet been able to convince Sass to try.”

Sure, you're brave when it comes to blasting bad guy aliens, but what would you do if someone handed you a newborn baby human and you couldn't hand it off to anyone and Sass is totally clueless about babies and it would die if you didn't take care of it?

Kimber An again, Kel-Paten noted. Of course. The question revolved around babies. “I’m progr—fully trained in the necessary medical procedures for humans and other sentients at all stages of life, including, yes, human babies. An infant entrusted to my care wouldn’t perish mostly because,” and Kel-Paten allowed one corner of his mouth to quirk up slightly, “I’d track you down, Kimber, and hand the child to you. I do know an expert when I see one.”

I'm curious about your first confrontation with Captain Sebastian, many years ago. It's obvious that some not-exactly-regulation thoughts were going through your head during that face-off. Do you and Tasha ever look back on that time and laugh?

“A number of thoughts were going through my mind that time on the Sarna Bogue, Laurie. The most prominent of which was the fact that I had to requisition the ship’s cargo and had been inexplicably prevented from doing so. Inexplicably, you understand, because the Sarna Bogue should have been—what’s your expression?—a cake walk. Rostikov was nothing if not ineffectual. His crew usually aspired to the same lofty heights. To find myself so neatly locked out and by this, this—“ and he waved his right hand in the air— “imp who didn’t even bother to don her uniform.” He shook his head. “Yes, before you ask, she knows what I thought that day. She still laughs at me.

“And yes, when I moved beyond my expected annoyance, I was decidedly intrigued. She didn’t back down, you know,” he continued, his voice softening. “Everyone does or rather, at that point in time, everyone did. Sass intrigued me because she challenged me. That was a rare occurrence in my life. She’s a rare occurrence in my life.”

I would like to know how the cyborg transition affected him and his relationship with his family. Especially his brother. They seem really close, but obviously have to hide it.

“That could be a book in and of itself, Mary,” Kel-Paten said. “How did it affect me. Well.” He huffed out a short sigh. Why did the memories never fade? “Initially, it was horrible. Yes, I’d been trained and prepared for what was going to happen. I was told how glorious this was going to be, all the things I’d be able to do. Before the surgeries, I was honestly quite excited. I had a purpose, a definite positive one. I saw myself as some kind of hero and when you’re fourteen, fifteen years old, that’s the things dreams are made of. I think that’s probably why it all became so horrible. Because I never felt like a hero . I felt like a…well, I felt far too different. And clumsy. Relearning to walk was frustrating. Relearning how to hold a glass of juice was embarrassing.

“There was a lot of pain, a lot of problems. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone. And as for my family, Rall’s the only one I consider family. He just accepted me. Whatever was done to me, he simply accepted it. He was a cheerful child. All right. He was goofy. He always had some prank going, was always making faces behind the technicians’ backs. And before you ask, no, I don’t know why he was allowed such access to the labs or to me. But he was and what little sanity I retained is solely his doing.

“I didn’t initially know he was my brother. I knew there was some relationship because he was so often around when I was growing up and during the surgeries. I did know he was Rafe Kel-Tyra’s son. It wasn’t until I was in the academy and decided to hack into the Triad’s locked records on me that I found out Rafe was my primary biological donor. Which made Rall my brother, yes. It worried me for a while that Rafe was going to augment Rall, too. I wouldn’t have let that happen. I was totally loyal to the Triad. I accepted what they did to me because I knew I’d been created for that purpose. But I would not have stood by and let them augment my brother.”

What sign are you?

“Technically, Donna, that doesn’t come into play here. Our constellations are different from your world’s. However, I’ve worked on a recalculation and the closest approximation would be Aries. My birthday—reconfigured to your world—would be 15 April.”

You've probably been in love with Sass from the moment you first saw her, but my question is this. Were you already able to override your emo-inhibitors? Or was it your love for Sass that gave you that ability?

“Actually, Kathy, I was annoyed and intrigued when I first saw her. Love didn’t enter into the equation at that point. It wasn’t something I felt capable of or more so, it wasn’t something I felt I deserved. But Sass and her attitude fascinated me. I wanted to spend time with her because being around her was like that clich├ęd breath of fresh air. Time was running short on the Sarna Bogue. We had to get back to the Vax. And I was surprised to realize how much I did not want to leave her behind. I also realized how wasted a talent like hers was on the Bogue.

“I knew she was pretty and that’s what scared me. Women didn’t like me. Pretty women didn’t like me at all. And here was a pretty and creative and intelligent woman. I didn’t have a chance.

“Overriding my emo-inhibitors was something I’d been doing for quite some time. First of all, it was a tremendously flawed program. Anger is permissible but affection is not? Emotions aren’t that cleanly divisible. Once I realized how easy it was to be angry, it wasn’t that difficult to test to see if other emotions could break through.

“What the inhibitor does is allow me the option of shutting emotions off. That’s saved my life more than once. My biggest problem, though, wasn’t that I couldn’t feel love or affection. It’s that I had no idea what to do with it when I did. Not a lot of practice.” Kel-Paten grimaced wryly. “That’s one of the reasons I started dictating log entries to her. Practice. Practice talking about how I felt, what I wanted to tell her. I’m a military officer. We run a lot of drills, a lot of simulations and scenarios. The logs were my way to try to make sure that if I ever had a chance to talk to her—just casually—that I wouldn’t trip over my tongue and make a complete idiot of myself. Which, of course, I did anyway. Because none of my practice drills ever included how standing near her would make me feel. Or the kinds of things she’d say—the gods only knows what’s going to come out of her mouth—and that I’ve have nothing to say in kind. She still—”

A red light suddenly flashed in the corner of the screen but Kel-Paten was already spiking in and receiving the data from his link with the ship.

“If you’ll all excuse me, we have a Rebashee freighter convoy issuing a distress signal.” He spiked out and pushed himself to his feet. “Next week, then, barring any more emergencies?”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Questions for the bloggers

Kimber An, a regular reader and commentator on this blog, has very kindly suggested some questions that she would like the authors on this blog to answer individually, in their own time, if they wish to do so.

1. What are the absolute must-do conventions (as in, Should one introduce the Hero before the Villain? Must there be a Happy Ever After in sfr?)

2. What do most have in common?

3. What authors inspired the participating authors on this blog?

4. When did SFR become a recognized sub-genre? And who led the way?

5. Who were the pioneers?


I've got a radio show from 9pm to 11 pm Eastern tonight, so I'm busy preparing. I shall be interviewing, or facilitating a round table discussion with Marjorie M Liu, Barbara Karmazin, Ghost Hunter Jeff Dwyer, Dawn Thompson, Cassandra Curtis.

We're talking about a special sort of alien romance: Shapeshifters of the Sea on Passionate Internet Voices Talk Radio

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A preview of Star Shadows

It was one of those days that it hurt to be alive. The beauty of it inspired you to live life to the fullest. But it also made you feel as if you could die from it.
At least on the inside.
Arielle Phoenix, one day short of her eighteenth birthday, looked at her twin brother Alexander and grinned.
“How long before they figure out we’ve escaped?” she asked.
Zander shrugged as if to say he didn’t care and flashed a grin of his own. Elle grabbed onto the back of their friend Boone’s shirt with a shriek as he kicked the jet cycle off the ground and set off over the waves.
Zander was right behind them as they headed straight out to sea and hopefully out of sight distance of the villa that hung on the side of the dormant volcano. The “borrowed” jet cycles hovered just over top of the waves, kicking up spray as the ocean rolled beneath them, revealing swirling colors of bright blues, shimmering greens and the purest aqua.
A pod of dolphins joined them as they headed towards a small spit of sand and coral that only appeared at low tide. It was another remnant of a volcano, one that had long ago caved into the sea leaving behind a veritable garden beneath the glass-like surface.
Elle moved her arm up and down as if she were skimming it over the waves. The dolphins swam closer, racing beside them, jumping over the wake fanning out behind the jet cycles and then diving beneath the surface, only to come up again in a race against the humans.
Elle didn’t understand how she could speak to the dolphins. She just knew that they, somehow, understood each other. The dolphins tossed their heads with a smile and agreed to join them in their get-away.
It seemed there were no limits to what she could do with her mind.
Zander couldn’t do anything with his. At least not anything extraordinary. Their parents seemed to think that he should be capable of great things. Their parents were both telepaths, and their father could move large objects with his mind and had the ability to see in the dark.
Yet no matter how hard their mother probed into Zander’s mind there was nothing there. At least nothing that answered back to her. After countless attempts and endless frustration he begged their mother to stop wishing for something that obviously was not going to happen and she did, reluctantly. Not that she had much choice. Zander might not have the ability to project into minds but he knew how to protect himself with the litany their parents taught them.
Elle knew that he felt like a disappointment to their parents. All she had to do was look inside his mind to know how he felt.
She looked because he wouldn’t talk about it. But in the past year or so it was harder to see what was inside him. His mind was not able to reach out as Elle could do with hers, but it was very good at keeping things hidden. And Zander kept a lot of things hidden from his sister and his parents.
The truth was that Zander was normal. Like Boone. Boone’s mother had some of the physic abilities, and his sister showed some promise but his father Ruben, and the twin’s grandfather Michael, and the servants were all just normal, everyday people.
Elle wondered what it would be like to be normal. To live a normal life and not live under the constant security and scrutiny. She also wondered what it was that made her so special.
Elle did not understand the fear that consumed their parents. Both of the twins chaffed against it. They felt as if they were prisoners in their own home. In their entire life time they had never left the villa, except for short jaunts down to the beach, and only under the watchful eyes of unseen yet heavily armed guards. The guards whose jet cycles they were now riding across the waves at breakneck speeds.
If only they knew why they were so protected.
Their parents were very good at shielding their thoughts from their children. At least Zander had inherited that talent or else he wouldn’t be so good at hiding things from his sister.
And Elle was very good at convincing their parents that she and Zander were completely innocent.
Until they found out they were missing from the villa.
But until then, they were free.
The wind poured through Elle’s waist length hair, spreading the ash brown locks behind her like a banner. Her strangely pale gray eyes, identical to her brother’s, crinkled against the salt spray and the bright sun reflecting off the top of the water.
“Faster,” she said into Boone’s ear. He stole a quick look over his shoulder at Elle and her heart did the little flip that always resulted when his bright green eyes were on her.
“Hold on,” he replied and the jet cycle jerked forward as his thumb pressed a button on the handle.
Elle shrieked with joy as they sped up and the dolphins raced beside them.
Zander, up to the challenge, flew by on his craft and leaned sideways, spraying Boone and Elle with water.
“No!” Elle screamed as Boone went after him. Her protest was half-hearted at best. She knew she’d get the wettest when the two started battling but she didn’t care. She’d be soaked through soon enough when they dove into the coral garden that grew beneath the surface of the water.
Zander’s cycle moved directly in front of them and Boone bent low over the cycle. Elle moved with him but still got a face full of spray. She felt Boone’s lean, muscular frame move with laughter as she held on tight. She tried to pinch his abdomen, but could not find enough loose skin to grab. His two years at Academy has erased any softness left over from his boyhood.
“Get him!” Elle yelled.
“I will,” Boone said. The velocity of the wind snatched the words from him but Elle recognized the intent in his eyes. She had seen that look many a time in the past. They had grown up together after all. And mischief was not a new or sudden concept.
The dolphins moved away, content to follow along at a distance as they realized the play was getting serious. Zander’s cycle sped away, hopping waves, and Boone moved even lower over the engine.
Elle, pressed against his back, was sure she felt the pounding of his heart against her cheek. He moved his hand from the control to brush against hers and she knew he that he was allowing her to enter inside his mind.
“We’re carrying more weight.” The words formed inside him. ‘It will be hard to catch him.”
“You will.”
The craft skipped across the wake fanning out behind Zander as they gave pursuit. Zander toyed with them, veering across from left to right and then back again, knowing they would be slower, knowing they would have to fight the chop, hoping that they would…
Elle felt her body fly through the air as the nose of their hover cycle got caught in a wave and stalled against it. The craft flipped up on its end and both of them were dumped into the water.
Elle immediately kicked to the surface and a dolphin nudged her side with the tip of its nose as she rose.
I can do it…
The dolphin responded in kind, it’s smiling face inches from her own as she broke through into the warmth of the sunshine that danced across the water.
Zander circled them and waved cheerfully when he saw that she was safe. Elle was tempted to send him a blazing, torturous thought but lost it when she was jerked back under from below.
She twisted and found herself caught in Boone’s arms as he moved up from below. Even though the water was cold, her insides warmed as their bodies slid together beneath the water. Strange sensations coursed through her as his eyes moved level with hers.
“We might drown.” She sent the thought into his mind as they bobbed just below the surface.
“I could…easily…or… we could try this. ‘
His lips touched hers, tentatively then more forcefully as she opened her mouth against his and closed her eyes. Elle’s stomach gave a sudden lurch and she realized that she needed to breathe but didn’t really care.
This was better than breathing.
It wasn’t the first time Boone has kissed her. They had shared a few awkward, embarrassing moments the first time he left for academy and then again when he was home on his breaks.
But this was different. It was almost as if he’d been…practicing?
Her eyes flew open and she shoved him down and away as she kicked towards the surface. Zander was waiting on his cycle, a concerned look on his face.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Elle spit out the words with the water she had swallowed after her quick trip into Boone’s mind.
“That wasn’t fair,” Boone yelled as he came up beside her.
Elle splashed water in his face and swam towards Zander.
“What is wrong with you?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said as she held her hand up. “Help me up.”
Zander looked over her head towards Boone, who was trying to right the craft in the water.
“Zander,” Elle hissed. “Pull. Me. Up.” Her words were threatening and she knew that he knew better than to toy with her when she was angry. Zander jerked her up and she settled herself onto the seat behind him.
“You’re soaked,” he said.
“Shut. Up.”
“Did he kiss you?”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Then why are you so mad?”
Elle looked over her shoulder at Boone who had righted the craft and was now following them. It wouldn’t take him long to catch up since they were now the heavier ones.
Why was she angry?
Because Boone has kissed a lot of girls. She had seen their faces in his mind as if she were watching a parade and each one had been more beautiful, more mature, more self assured than she was. He had practiced. A lot. And more than kissing.
Boone was no longer the boy that they had played with in the dark tunnels beneath the villa. He was a man. A man who had the capability of traveling the universe. Her father admitted that he was already the best pilot he had ever seen. He processed numbers and equations in his head as if he were a machine. He had been to more planets than she could count and had the type of freedom that she and Zander dreamed of.
And he’s here…with you…
Elle felt her anger dissipate a bit. After all, if all those girls were so wonderful why wasn’t he with one of them?
And the kiss had been nice.
She glanced his way and quickly recognized the stubborn tilt to Boone’s chin. He was looking straight ahead. The sandbar was in sight. The dolphins swam merrily between them.
He was right. She shouldn’t have looked inside. It was an unspoken agreement between the three of them and something her mother had pounded into her head since she began her training.
She should never use her abilities to take advantage of her family and friends.
But it was always so tempting. And easy.
Zander cut the engine back to idle and they coasted in to the narrow curve of sand. Boone pulled in beside them and jumped from his cycle with a quick, jerky, motion. His green eyes rounded on Elle and sparks seemed to fly from them as he stared down at her.
“I think you two need to talk,” Zander said. He got his pack from beneath the seat and walked towards the opposite end of the spit.
Elle turned to watch him go. She was avoiding Boone, which despite the wide open spaces around them, was hard to do. The spit was barely wide enough for them to stretch out on but was long enough that Zander’s body diminished in size as he moved away.
It suddenly struck Elle that her brother seemed lonely as she watched him shrink against the horizon. Her heart ached with a strange emptiness as she watched him jump up and down three times and move his neck from side to side as he always did when warming up his muscles.
Elle felt Boone move up behind her and dismissed the thought of Zander’s feelings from her mind as other strange and bewildering things flooded in.
“It’s hard to be away from you Elle,” he said. “And it’s lonely at Academy.” She was surprised. She had expected a fight, not this strange gentleness.
He was so close that she felt the rise of his hand, as if he were about to touch her. Elle crossed her arms and kept her eyes on her brother as he peeled off most of his clothes and sliced into the water.
“I have no claim on you Boone,” she said. “We’re friends, nothing more.”
“What if I want it to be more?” he said.
Elle’s heart jumped into her throat and she turned to face him.
“What do you mean?”
His hair, a warm rich brown shade, was already dry from the wind. The academy required that he keep it short but Elle could remember a time when it hung over his eyes and flipped wildly around his ears. His eyes, all the greener against the vivid blues that surrounded them, looked down at her with a strange yet familiar glow.
“You know what I mean Elle. You are all I ever think about.”
“Strange way to prove it,” Elle said defensively.
His hands gripped her upper arms and pulled her a step closer. Elle placed a hand on his chest to stop him and Boone looked down at where it rested gracefully against his chest and a slow smile spread over his face.
“My heart has always been yours Elle. Since the first time I saw you.”
“You were only six,” she said with a wry smile. “and I was four.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I love you. I always have and I always will.”
Elle looked up at him, her pale gray eyes searching his. “How can you know that?”
“I just do.” He lifted her hand from his chest and placed it against his temple. “Look inside and you’ll see.”
Her hair whipped around them with the strengthening of the breeze as she closed her eyes and let her mind flow into his.
She saw the girls again and quickly dismissed them. She saw the pranks he pulled at Academy. She saw him studying with his comrades and she saw him practicing the fighting skills that his father and hers had taught him along side Zander.
She saw shared memories from their childhood and she saw the places he had been with his father and with his uncle Stefan. She saw the love he felt for his mother Tess and his sister Zoey, who was several years younger.
But there were some places he would not allow her to search. He knew the litany that her mother had taught them. He knew how to protect his mind. Elle wondered what he kept hidden but quickly dismissed it because of the surprise she felt as she realized that with all the memories she saw there was one constant.
She saw her face staring back at her.
Elle felt Boone’s forehead touch hers as her mind floated with his. He truly loved her. But how did she feel? She had nothing to compare her feelings with. Boone was the only boy besides her brother that she had ever known. What if there was someone else out there that she was supposed to love?
But all thoughts of anyone else left her as Boone kissed her. She couldn’t imagine kissing anyone else. Kissing Boone was all she ever dreamed about. All she ever thought about. And there was more than kissing; she had seen that very clearly in his mind.
She wanted that too. She wanted Boone to show her what it felt like. Her arms snaked around him and she felt his sudden intake of breath as she pressed against him.
“Elle.” He groaned her name and moved the lower half of his body away from her.
“What?” she asked. She felt dazed, breathless, and warm yet twisted up inside.
His hand smoothed the wild tendrils of her hair back into place. “Maybe we should go for a swim,” he said. He tossed his head towards the water. “Zander.”
“Zander,” Elle sighed. For the first time in her life she wished that she didn’t have a brother.
Boone quickly turned away as she looked at Zander, who was playing in the water with the dolphins. He handed her pack to her and moved to the other side of the cycle and turned his back to her as he pulled of his shirt.
Elle couldn’t help but admire the contours of the muscle in his back as she wondered at his sudden shyness around her.
She skinned off her shirt and kicked away the baggy pants that she wore. She adjusted the hem of the short revealing top, checked the tie around her neck and made sure that her bottom half was properly if not scantily covered.
Her father would certainly raise his eyebrows at the cut of her attire but she didn’t care. What could he do to her? Lock her away from the world?
“Ready?” she asked Boone as she adjusted a set of shields over her eyes.
“Right behind you,” he said, settling his own shields into place.
Elle took off at a run for the water and flattened herself out to dive beneath the gentle lap of waves with Boone close behind her.
The sand bar ended suddenly as the rim gave way to the ancient crater and a world of bright colors and exotic plants opened up beneath them.
The water felt warmer, as if the volcano that had once been here still burned down in the deep. Elle was certain parts of it were inside her. She felt the brush of Boone’s body as they swam side by side and was certain that the water around them would boil.
Boone pointed out a pair of brightly colored fish that darted from behind a trumpeting piece of coral. From below a ray moved up as if it were part of the water and barely missed their heads with its tail.
They turned and grinned at each other and as one moved to the surface for air. The dolphins quickly circled them and chattered as Zander joined them.
“I see you two made up,” he said.
Elle pushed her goggles up and looked at Boone.
“Kissed and made up,” Zander added.
Elle splashed water at this face and Boone rose up with a yell, placed his hands on Zander’s head and pushed him under. The dolphins headed for cover as the three of them splashed, wrestled and dunked each other as they had done since they first knew each other.
But it was different now. Zander knew it and he swam away as Boone pulled Elle under again.
He’s lonely…
The thought once again faded as Boone’s lip’s found hers and they twisted away from Zander, moving as one beneath the surface and they breathed air into each other’s lungs.
They kissed until Elle thought she would pass out from lack of oxygen. Her ears roared as she felt the blood rushing to her head. She pulled her head away and opened her eyes to look at Boone but saw that he was looking up.
A shadow fell across the water and as they swam to the surface Elle knew they were in trouble.
Her father had come looking for them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Animal Rights

No, not the kind for which PETA advocates. I'm thinking about the rights of hypothetical animals with genetically enhanced intelligence, brought to mind by the TV adaptation (this summer on the anthology program MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION) of Robert Heinlein's story "Jerry Was a Man."

This theme goes back at least to the Darwinian nightmare of H. G. Wells' ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, in which the mad scientist operates on animals to make them quasi-human. Although the artificially evolved beasts have a culture based on the Law given to them by the doctor, with decrees along the lines of, "Not to walk on all fours; are we not men?" they inevitably devolve into parodies of their original subhuman natures, echoing the late nineteenth-century horror of "degeneration." Science fiction master Cordwainer Smith's story "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" focuses on the struggle for equal rights for the Underpeople, humanoid beings developed from animal stock. C'Mell, for example, is a cat woman.

The TV script of Heinlein's "Jerry Was a Man" disappointed me because the adaptation made the enslaved laborers into androids rather than apes, as they are in the original story. I suppose this decision was made in order to minimize special effects costs and permit the "Jerry" of the program to become his wealthy advocate's lover at the end of the show. Aside from making the inclusion of other artificially designed animals (a miniature pegasus and a tiny elephant) irrelevant, the way the androids are used in this version is just silly. For the sake of pathos, the job Jerry has been retired from (with the prospect of being destroyed as no longer profitable) consists of shuffling in a grid across a minefield to trigger buried mines. A technologically advanced industry capable of building semi-intelligent, completely human-looking androids would waste them by blowing them up, when a simple robotic device could do the same task much more cheaply? Heinlein's Jerry is a genetically modified ape with near-human intelligence and the ability to speak, although on a rudimentary level. When the rich woman who has come to buy a designer pet discovers the "retired" apes are destined for euthanasia, she buys Jerry and hires a lawyer to establish human status for him. The TV show, in its most telling departure from Heinlein's original, has the lawyer prove the android's humanity by demonstrating that he is capable of lying and cheating to save his own life at the cost of the life of one of his android co-workers. In Heinlein's story, Jerry proves his humanity first by showing that he understands the concept of honesty and refusing to lie under oath, then by singing “Dixie” to illustrate his appreciation of music and his yearning for freedom. Given a choice between those two ideas of the essence of humanity, I must say I prefer Heinlein's.

If some species of animals were genetically enhanced in this way, for the express purpose of performing complex tasks and made just intelligent enough to enable them to perform their functions, would they then be so human that it would be immoral to force them to perform those functions? Would they be entitled to paychecks, fringe benefits, and voting rights? Sticking to robots would be ethically simpler! Real-world questions arise about our treatment of chimpanzees and gorillas when we consider that some of them have reportedly mastered the rudiments of language, traditionally assumed to be the ability that sets Homo sapiens apart from other animals. Many people believe dolphins have a language of sorts and a level of intelligence nearly equal to ours, although possibly different in kind. Notorious bioethicist Peter Singer would assign more rights to a healthy adult ape than to a human newborn with severe medical problems. If “humanity” resides in the mind and soul rather than the physical form, such questions are bound to arise at some point in our real-world future.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Six of Swords - Love Conquers All

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers.
The Series is: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, now on Kindle.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:
The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..

The principle of discovering the real meaning of a Minor Arcana Tarot card is based on the blend of the numerological meaning of the number of the card combined with its Suit.

The quality of Six-ness can be discovered from its location on the Tree of Life diagram - right in the center balance point, Tipheret.

The image on the Waite-Rider deck 6-Swords is of a man in a boat poling across a river with ragged refugees in the boat -- choppy water on one side, calm on the other, approaching a distant shore. Tradition has it, this is the crossing of the River Stix with the Boatman.

That's a beginning at finding the meaning, but it doesn't even scratch the surface of the process of Six of Swords.

Six is Tipheret -- Beauty or the beautifying adornment.

It is at the center of the Tree, the balance point, the heart and thus Soul.

One of the purely human gifts of perception is the ability to discern beauty. One of the components of beauty acknowledged across all cultures is composition -- the harmonious relationship of shapes, masses, colors, textures -- how things go together and relate to each other in harmony.

The very concept "harmony" isn't something you're going to be able to teach your dog even if he "sings" (cats, well, all bets are off). Harmony is a very human sort of perception.

Perceiving your own place in the scheme of things is an experience in perceiving the beauty of the universe, its overall composition as one whole, unity.

Swords are thoughts, words, deeds, and even opinions.

Six Swords is the result of the process described in 5 Swords -- in 5 Swords Egos met, in 6 Swords Egos have blended into a composition, and that composition is beautiful. That composition is a Relationship.

If 3 Swords is the wedding, 4 Swords the Honeymoon, and 5 Swords the first fight, 6 Swords is the settled, routinized relationship (image of the breakfast table, he reads the news, she packs the kids' lunches).

The days are routinized, the arguments are scripted ("Where the H did you put my keys!") every behavior is predictable including the complaint about dropping used towels on the bathroom floor. The cliches of life are an artistic composition.

But steady state is not a story, so writers listen up!

6 is love. Swords is Action. The 6 of Swords is LOVE IN ACTION. It is the action of love.

This process is the heart and soul expressing itself.

Swords are about Action -- and when a soul's action is thwarted, resisted, put off or denied, then the Action will burst out somehow.

People who have fallen into a routine will want change. That's the nature of life and the nature of the Suit of Swords. Change.

If the family has fallen into failure, in Six Swords they will move to another town, looking for other jobs, other schools, new opportunities.

If the family has been wildly successful, Six Swords becomes the TV Show Dallas -- the corrosion that wealth inflicts to sober people up and make them reach into their souls for something worth while.

We say we "fall" in love -- to indicate a change.

These processes we've been tracing from Ace to 6 of Swords are in the order of the "Lightening Flash" path down the Tree of Life from highest abstraction to concrete manifestation. It is a "fall" -- a decreasing of potential energy by actualizing it.

In 5 Swords we might see an encounter with a Best Enemy, combat, whacking off parts of the ego that don't fit, whipping the relationship into shape, and from the 5 of Swords you FALL (look at the Tree of Life diagram, it's DOWN to the 6) into love.

The Six of Swords is that thing guaranteed in the USA Declaration of Independence -- THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Not happiness itself, but the pursuit. That's where they're going in the boat -- someplace they hope/expect will be better.

When you finally get a glimmering of an idea of the composition of the world and where you fit into it (at this person's side, leading an army, planting trees), you begin to evaluate your life in terms of the rightness and beauty of it. And you make changes to improve the composition of your life.

The Six of Swords Reversed represents that long, steady state when nothing changes. It won't change until you start feeling stuck in a rut, stultified, trapped in a dead-end job or relationship, repeating habitual actions that go nowhere.

As you criticise every imperfection in your life, you build up a head of steam for change.

Eventually, you will make (actions = swords) a change.

You will make this change because you can see the composition of your life as a whole as it is now -- and as it could be.

Out of love, you will leave where you are to go somewhere else and make a new start, clean up your act, begin success, make it all new and better. It may, however, as the card image suggests, take horrendously deteriorating conditions where you are to blast you out of your rut and make you a refugee.

The Waite-Rider drawing illustrates what the person caught up in striving to change doesn't see.
Swords are actions, but more than that. By the time the project (writing a book, crafting a marriage, raising a kid, whatever) has reached the level of 6, these actions have become habits, coping strategies that become your "baggage" in life.

The astrological association of 6 on the Tree of Life is the Sun. The natal chart's Sun position describes how that individual uses energy.

The Six of Swords is thus how you, individually, habitually utilize your personal energy resources. And that characteristic methodology is behind your habitual actions.

Your habitual actions add up to the shape of your life.

"Every single time! Every time I get close to a promotion, I get fired." Or "Every time I get engaged, the girl dumps me." "Every time I clean up my desk, it's heaped again in two days!"

To utilize this insight into the "every time I" composition of your life, you have to be over a certain age -- usually 29 years old begins the process, and 36 reveals the shape of it -- sixty years and you really see it. (1 Saturn cycle; 3 Jupiter cycles; 2 Saturn cycles.)

Each of the Swords in that boat image represent a habitual action pattern -- the boat represents leaving, trying to flee the consequences of actions. And all actions have consequences.

Fleeing doesn't work. Never once, no matter how much love drives this process, will it work. Why? Because the action of love is to preserve and protect.

Move to another city for a job - your habits will reconstruct the life you had in the old city.

Divorce this dud and marry a nice new person - same fights all over again.

Why do people do that? Change everything but what's really bugging them?


It has so many facets, aspects, textures, components and manifestations the word is almost meaningless. Yet we all know exactly what it means. At core, it is perhaps the universal human affinity for the experience of perceiving beauty.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. It is, however, also an attribute of our material surroundings. There is always beauty in our world, but we aren't always capable of perceiving it.

Once we have experienced that perception of beauty in conjunction with a thing, person, or action, we develop an affinity for the thing that becomes an attachment. We want that experience of beauty again and again, and cling to the circumstances or actions first associated with it.

If you have a vivid memory of a marvelous Thanksgiving family weekend, you will love Thanksgiving and try incessantly to recreate those special conditions. Failing at that endeavor produces what's known as the "Holiday Blues." And the blues can become a habit you take with you.

Humans early on in life develop coping strategies -- ways of succeeding, getting pleasure, being psychologically reinforced, methods of dealing with adversity. When a method works more than once, it is repeated -- and eventually becomes so ingrained the adult isn't aware of that habit.

That is one of the things the swords in the boat symbolize -- the unconscious coping strategy actions that we take with us when we think we are breaking free of a stultifying trap, or successfully fleeing an intolerable situation.

We love our actions, our companions, our opinions, the sound of our own voices, and ourselves. We resist change. We love the people in whose presence we see beauty. We will cling to those things with all the power of our Sun Sign. In Astrology, the Sun represents the Will and physically the heart of the body, the pump that powers our actions.

If the trap or the situation was the result of our habitual actions, we will recreate that same trap and mysteriously that battle will confront us anew.

The 6 of Swords represents that cliche scene in every horror movie where the menace is vanquished, the Hero turns away, and just as he thinks he's free, there is the menace again right in front of him.

That menace is actually inside himself.

If the image on the Waite-Rider deck is taken to be the River Stix -- then the card is telling us we can't even get away from our ingrained, habitual actions by dying and reincarnating. These habits are part of our Soul, and manifest in each personality we wear in successive incarnations.

These habits are old, familiar friends, what we perceive as our Identity, and thus beautiful to us.

So in 6, Swords manifests as the action of Soul Growth, or incarnation to perfect a particular Sword, a particular habit or way of thinking.

The attribute that lets us develop habits is not bad. The content of the habit might need adjusting to fit the composition. (writers: rewriting is the key to success.)

The 6 is about love - about giving one's whole self, about blending into a Unity (yeah, two hearts beat as one; two people, one soul -- there's a reason why cliches are cliches).

The 6 of Swords is telling us Love Conquers All.

Remember the 6 of Wands -- the man on the horse leading a Victory parade (as I said, the Waite-Rider pack is rooted in the zero-sum-game view of the universe). That man is a leader -- his men follow him for love of his vision, values, and objectives. But he is a conqueror driven by love of an idea. (Wands are Ideas). He is an idealist whose ideas are loved.

As Swords manifests through 6, Love becomes an actual action, not an emotion (that's 6 Cups). Love becomes an transitive verb, not passive or reflexive. (Yeah, I know, you can't do that in English.)

By finding and unifying with your Soul Mate you can unlock that white-knuckled death-grip on your old habits and let yourself grow to the next level. And of course, this has the same effect on your Soul Mate, who also grows.

The way love conquers all is through the changes wrought at the level of those unconsciously held coping strategies, the habits dragged with us from incarnation to incarnation and re-created to suit each of our new Natal Charts -- like the menace in the horror movie, appearing before us again and again until we stop doing whatever it is that projects that menace into our surroundings.

You (and only you) can change those habits you drag with you from life to life.

I said under 5 Swords:


Thoughts are Swords.

Thoughts are weapons. Thoughts can hurt others. (this is mysticism, remember?) Merely thinking something nasty about someone can do actual damage to the universe, and it does not matter whether the thinker has a lot or a little magical power gained by Initiation. On this, everyone is equal. Every thought, word and deed no matter how small alters the universe.


And that's the mechanism whereby you project your personal menace or nemesis or ideals of beauty and happiness into your surroundings. What you hold in your heart (Sun, Tiphereth) projects into your world, for good or ill.

The 5 of Swords will try to beat it out of you -- the 6 of Swords will succeed in loving it out of you.

Love is growth. Love spurs you to let go and give to others.

That isn't really "sacrifice" which has such negative and painful semantic nuances.

It isn't sacrifice when you don't actually give up anything of value.

When you love, your definition of Identity, of Self, expands to include the Other. So when you give to the Other, you haven't given up anything -- you still have it because your Self still includes it. You can give up your life for another, and it isn't a sacrifice at all. It doesn't hurt. It isn't a loss. If life is not a zero-sum-game, then there are no losses.

Understanding that concept is what lets people allow themselves to be loved -- to allow another to include them in the other's Identity.

To do this on an individual basis is what allows the soul to love God and be loved by God. That's a biggie and takes a lot of practice with smaller things.

The 6 of Swords Reversed represents the situation where there isn't enough energy to get out of the current habitual circumstance. That's not necessarily bad. It just means the way out of this trap has more than one step. And it means the objective can be achieved only by approaching it stepwise, with a lot of practice, by forging yourself some new swords.

That's all right because you have more than one life. If you're in a trap, find the beauty inside it and love your way out of it. Improve your habits; the trap will dissolve of its own accord.

There's one other property of 6 that we should notice here.

In the Jacob's Ladder diagram

(Google produced this URL )

On that web page, count up from the center bottom circle of the long Jacob's Ladder diagram -- 5 circles up, and that is the circle we've been discussing as the 6 of Swords. Its Tree (the Swords Tree) has the black background.

Note that 6-Swords is ALSO the 1 (or Ace) of Pentacles (the red background).

These two vibrations or processes are actually the SAME THING. Remember the guitar string analogy, two notes the same but an octave apart. That's why it's called the Music of the Spheres -- the universe is made out of vibration.

6 or LOVE is always the connection point between one of the 4 Trees and the next.

6 is always at the heart of something and also at the start of something.

At LOVE pure energy transforms from one level to another.

The whole of Creation is about LOVE.

Love holds everything together. Love connects everything to everything.

Think about that. Love doesn't really have to do any conquering because the universe is not a zero sum game where winning creates losers. Love doesn't conquer. Love is.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, September 17, 2007


I’m going to filch a page directly from MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND’s author, Lisa Shearin, and offer to put GAME S OF COMMAND’s Admiral Branden Kel-Paten on the hot seat for the next two weeks. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking of for some time but until Lisa convinced Paladin and spellsinger, Mychael Elliesor to ‘fess up on her blog, well, I had a snowball’s chance in the deserts of Ren Marin of getting Kel-Paten front and center.

It’s not that he’s shy. I mean, a 6’3” human/cyborg fleet officer and acknowledged killing machine shouldn’t be shy, should he? And he did very begrudgingly grant me an interview several years back. Of course, that was an interview with me, his author. Submitting himself to the scrutiny of total strangers is something completely different. Or so he tells me, and not in a happy tone of voice.

However, since Mychael folded, uh, that is, so graciously agreed to respond to questions from Lisa Shearin’s readers, I felt I could put a little more pressure on Kel-Paten. That is, Sass and I could put a little more pressure on Kel-Paten. She has far more sway with him than I do.

So think of what you’d like to ask the indomitable admiral, post your questions here or email them to me via my site, and next Monday I’ll get Branden front-and-center and in the hot seat.
Sound good?

Remember, you can catch up with the some after-the-last-page scenes here and here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shapeshifters of the sea

Although my head is in outer space --where else?-- as I struggle to meet an extended deadline for the fourth of my alien romances KNIGHT'S FORK (Prince Djarrhett's story, which takes up where INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL left off), I'm also counting down to an internet radio special.

What kind of sexy, inter-species-loving aliens prowl in the icy blackness of our deepest seas?

In celebration of Sea Otter Awareness week, the "Cherry Picking" occasional show will run from 9.00 pm (Eastern Time) until midnight on Sunday 23rd September. We will be talking about shapeshifters of the seas and the environmental issues that affect their lives, their food chain, their passions.

Alyssa Day,
Jeff Dwyer,
Barbara Karmazin,
Marjorie M Liu,
Deborah MacGillivray,
Jacquie Rogers
Skylar Sinclair,
Dawn Thompson,

will be joining Rowena Cherry to speculate about selkie, dolphin-men, sea otters, sea lions, man-whales, and other salty sea-lords who make a splash in the midnight surf....

or wild wet hunks that go hump in the night, if you prefer.

Find out how to tune in for this, and all PIVTR programming at

With best wishes and apologies for the promo,


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The process

I just finished Twist this week. The past six weeks of writing have been hard to say the least due to my father being in and out of the hospital several times. It has made me realize how much of writing is about the mental process, especially when you get down to the last few chapters of a book.

Writing is not something you just sit down and do. There's so much mental preparation that is involved. I guess the easiest way to say it is you have to get your head in the zone and it is so easy to get knocked out of the zone.

I took my lap top with me to the hospital and went down to the main lobby to write. I found a nice cozy table, turned my back to the TV and wished I'd brought my noise canceling headphones along. The scene I was working on was fairly easy to drop into because it had been formed in my mind since the character, Shane, evolved in my mind.

Then I was graced with the visit from the little old lady with the walker. I recognized her as a hospital volunteer from the aqua coat she wore. There were several empty tables and chairs in the lobby but no, she had to come and sit down right next to me with her walker and oxygen tank. Then she preceeded to stare at me. I felt as if I was being stalked by Darth Vadar.

Out of the story immediately. Instead of writing about Shane's brother's tragic death I'm like what is up with this woman? So I move to another table but my mind is on the woman. Especially when I realized she'd moved into the exact chair I vacated. Guess I missed her name on it.

This is just one of the interruptions I had while trying to find quiet corners to write in. And after a week of running back and forth to the hospital and waiting on test results and getting my dad back home it's not easy to trudge the stairs to my office and just sit down and write. There are too many things rolling around in my exhausted mind.

It takes us so long to write a book. I wrote this one in a little over four months. But so much happens in four months that its hard to remember what you wrote when you were first starting the story. I spent the entire day yesterday, rereading. Why? For continuinty. For flow. I wrote this chapter in the car. I wrote this chapter while on vacation. I wrote this chapter at the hospital. How many different moods was I in while writing? One thing I found, that when I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open I made Abbey tired too. At least we could relate to that.

I'm happy with what I wrote. Twist was a bit different for me. A first person urban fantasy. Time Travel, alien races, lots of kick butt action and a love story. And lots of Abbey's witty observations. I think that was the best part of the whole story. It will be out in February. And now I have to totally switch gears and write a colonial period historical and prepare for the release of my next sci-fi romance, Starshadows.

Yes, my mind is spinning!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rationalized Fantasy

This Saturday the SciFi Channel will broadcast a new Highlander made-for-TV movie. I'm looking forward to this one because it stars Duncan McCleod, from the TV series, whom I always liked better than Connor. When the HIGHLANDER program had its original run, it was fun to speculate on the origins of the Immortals and the reasons behind their powers and vulnerabilities. For example, what would happen to an Immortal buried alive or left to starve in a desert? Would he keep dying and reviving over and over, indefinitely? How long would he stay alive after each revival? Why are Immortals sterile? And who says there can be only one? How did this lore begin, and how do we know it isn't a deliberate lie or a baseless legend? If Duncan and Connor had been the only remaining Immortals, would they have fought to the death? Suppose they didn't want to—who or what could make them? The only origin story in Highlander canon was offered in the abysmally dreadful second movie, which I prefer to pretend never happened. (I don't think many fans of the series acknowledge that disaster as canon.) The "Immortals as aliens from another planet" plotline was not only hokey but illogical. Extraterrestrial invaders have spent millennia seeding Earth with "orphaned" babies? (If I remember correctly, the whole foundling children motif was ignored in that film.)

In my opinion, the clue to the secret is found in Duncan's ostracism from his clan as a "changeling." If the Immortals are in fact fairy changelings (most cultures in the world have some analogue to fairies in their folklore), their unique traits make sense. I like to imagine that they are hybrid children of fairies and human lovers. Unacceptable in the society of the fae, these babies are cast out to be adopted by human families. That explains why all Immortals are foundlings of unknown parentage. Their elvish heritage accounts for their near-immortality, with decapitation being the sole means of killing them. (Yes, they also might be thought of as vampires. After their first death, they cease to age, and decapitation is one of the traditional vampire-slaying methods. Also, they drain energy from their own kind by killing. However, I'm not going in the vampire direction right now.) The fact that they are hybrids explains why they're sterile. What about those lethal longswords they seem to have at hand all the time, yet nobody ever notices? Fans have theorized that the swords are stored in a pocket dimension known as “katana space.” :) Obviously magic! As for the "there can be only one" lore, I think that was promulgated by malicious fae who loathe and fear the hybrids and therefore want to encourage them to kill off each other. Someday I might write a story along these lines, although of course if I don't want to make it Highlander fanfic, I'd have to file off the serial numbers (to quote a favorite saying of Heinlein's).

I've always enjoyed fiction that provides explanations for its fantasy motifs, whether magical or scientific. Magic should have rules and rationales, just as science does. I especially like scientific, or at any rate systematic, explanations for traditional folklore monsters such as vampires and werewolves. I much prefer a werewolf who's born that way, because of evolutionary forces that have created a human-beast blend, rather than one who is "cursed." Jack Williamson's classic DARKER THAN YOU THINK offers an enthralling "unified field theory of the supernatural" (as I think of it) to explain witchcraft, psychic powers, werewolves, and vampires in terms of a near-human subspecies that split off from Homo sapiens in prehistoric times. No pure specimens of this strain exist today, but their bloodlines have spread throughout the human race, some people carrying far more of the "Homo lycanthropus" genes than others. Many authors have created detailed explanations of vampires as another naturally evolved species, such as Suzy McKee Charnas' THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, George R. R. Martin's FEVRE DREAM, Jacqueline Lichtenberg's THOSE OF MY BLOOD, Elaine Bergstrom's SHATTERED GLASS, and Octavia Butler's FLEDGLING. Vampirism as an infectious disease is meticulously explored in Richard Matheson's classic I AM LEGEND (which will have a new movie adaptation released this winter), Dan Simmons' CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, and Scott Westerfeld's PEEPS. Arthur C. Clarke famously told us that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. Likewise, any creature with strange enough traits appears, to casual observers, a supernatural entity. Think of all those "deities" encountered by Captain Kirk and his crew, only to turn out to be super-powerful aliens with inflated egos.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

5 of Swords - Co-dependence

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. Read my posts for the last 4 Tuesdays to catch up, or pick up the Kindle books updated and expanded:

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:
The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..


The 5 of Swords is the first (in the Waite Rider deck) to have more than one figure on it. The 5 is the first point in the process of "action" where others are encountered -- i.e Re-actions to your actions.

Previously, all the "actions" (Swords are actions, choices, thoughts, words, wishes, prayers, curses, or just nasty silent criticism of another's appearance, speech or choices) have been internal to the actor.

For a writer, this process starts with deciding to write a particular novel, putting down some words on the screen, seeing the characters or story take shape as a thing external to the self, making commitment to finish it, and then a long period of quiet growth as words are produced, but not ready yet to show to anyone.

To discover the core essence of the 5 of Swords, we have to grasp the concept of word or thought as an action in itself, and express that through the essence of 5-ness.

What is 5?

Notice on the Tree of Life diagram I found on wikipedia - ,

Keter = 1
Hokhmah = 2
Binah = 3
Da'at is in another "dimension" (i.e. above the plane of the Tree) and doesn't have a card for mystical reasons.
Gevurah = 5
Tiferet = 6
Netzah = 7
Hod = 8
Yesod = 9
Malkuth = 10

The Hebrew letters on the "spokes" of the diagram can be represented by the Major Arcana of the Tarot -- each Hebrew letter is both a number and a philosophical principle of existence symbolized by something (door, shepherd's goad, window, staff, etc)

5 is right under 3 and above 8. They form a "pillar," one of the three polarities that underlie the structure of all reality. (in Astrology: triplicities and quadruplicities, the principles of 3 and the principles of 4 which we discussed last week and the week before.)

3, 5, and 8 are all about what you are being defined by what you are-not.

In the process of passing through the Gates of Life and Death in 3 Swords, you decided (a Latin root word for cutting in two) to do this project -- and therefore not-do that project -- which means you committed resources, reached for one thing at the expense of something else. It hurt, but you did it anyway, you took a "loss" to make a "gain."

In the 5, you are doing exactly the same thing, on another arc of the process.

The great, huge, mass of words you've produced as your novel must now be exposed to -- (eek!) criticism.

You will see your work through the mind and eye of another person. You will "encounter" the actions, thoughts, words, deeds, habits and choices of another person.

In the 4 of Swords you invested your ego in your work, and you let it grow in quiet solitude.

The ego investment is now huge, personal, and tender for lack of calluses developed by rubbing against others' ideas. It's very private (fan fiction hidden under the mattress for sheer embarrassment), and it's very personal. Your whole identity is tied up in what has grown in 4 -- because of the price paid in 3 when part of your identity was cut away so that the rest could grow. You have paid a huge price, so what is left to you is valuable beyond words.

Thoughts are Swords.

Thoughts are weapons. Thoughts can hurt others. (this is mysticism, remember?) Merely thinking something nasty about someone can do actual damage to the universe, and it does not matter whether the person thinking has a lot or a little magical power gained by Initiation. On this, everyone is equal. Every thought, word and deed no matter how small alters the universe.

The Waite-Rider deck depicts this as all bad. But it's just as easy to make it all good.

The study of Tarot is the study of how to alter yourself so that all your ideas, feelings, thoughts and creations beautify the universe. You can't do that by "control" -- you must "become." The Suit of Swords delineates that process of becoming, because in Swords "control" just does not work (hence the terrible reputation of these cards).

If you live a life where the highest virtue is to resist temptation -- Swords is where you'll come a-cropper.

In the 5 of Swords, the thoughts of one person encounter the thoughts of another, two egos engage in a sparring match.

Words driven by thoughts are weapons. How many of us have been "cut low" by a snob? How many have encountered a back-stabber, a character-assassin? How many writers have broken down in tears when their manuscripts were criticized?

Words are also defenses -- we defend our ego with excuses, dodges, denials, explanations of what we really meant to write.

Writers, pay attention here. The 5 of Swords contains all the secrets to writing great dialogue you will ever need to know. It is reparte incarnate, subtext, innuendo. The duel of words is all here in this one process.

5 is all about conflict. The 4's image is the King on his Throne dispensing Justice (all kinds of Jupiter and Saggitarius associations.) The 5's image is the King in his Chariot riding to war.

The 5 is about the aroused ego dealing with a threat. Astrologers associate Mars with the 5's -- the god of war. The ruler of Ares, the First House, -- all about the Self and the energizing spark that gets the Self moving.

Very often, even a depressed person will swing into action when something dear to them is threatened by another. Maybe they'll dash off a scathing reply on a blog, phone a talk show, challenge a speeding ticket in court: "I've got rights!" screams the person whose thoughts have encountered opposing thoughts.

As I mentioned in discussion of 4 Swords, the 4 of Swords is the pause between the wedding and the first fight -- and the 5 of Swords is the first fight.

In the 5, what has grown huge, self-indulgent and shapeless in 4 is whittled down to shape and size to fit into the social or relationship framework. As in 3 something is lost, but also as in 3 what is left is the better for the loss.

5 is the dynamic process of ego relating to ego. There are all kinds of ego-driven relationships -- marriage, master/slave, favorite enemy, arch-rival, strange bedfellow alliances, favored nation status, your supply-chain businesses, birth family to put up with, chosen family to cling to.

5 is where the Ego begins the process of fitting into a group - any group.

Refer to the first book in this series (available on Amazon) THE BIBLICAL TAROT: NEVER CROSS A PALM WITH SILVER. There is a discussion of the model of the universe and of life as a zero sum game -- for there to be a "winner" there must be a "loser."

The Tarot based in Kabbalah uses a totally different model of the universe. Thus in Tarot, the blending of the notions connected to 5 and the notions connected to Swords doesn't necessarily lead to fighting.

Combat, arguing, fighting, dominating and denigrating are not signified by the 5 of Swords. But when you attempt to play (play = Swords) a zero sum game, you inevitably are pushed into strife when passing through the 5 of Swords process.

Thus 5 is associated with pain, strife.

When actions manifest through 5-ness, you get strategy, tactics, warfare, brute strength, bullying, but also leadership, problem solving, bright ideas gallore, problem solving by optimizing rather than compromising.

The Waite Rider deck (based in the zero-sum game view of the universe) depicts a man who has disarmed two retreating figures and remains holding their weapons.

This could be taking the credit for another scientist's discovery. It could describe arguing against someone using their own arguments against them. It could represent taking a free will gift from someone then using it as a weapon to destroy them.

In the 5 of Swords you find actions that are both directly aggresive, and (5 Swords Reversed) indirectly aggressive.

You see the passive-aggressive type of relationship, where one person sneaks a punch at the other, then denies it -- leaving the victim feeling helpless. ("Oh, I was just kidding! What? Can't you take a joke?")

Using one's intellect (swords) to disarm another person -- to use your power to overcome another person's weakness -- leaves your victim feeling helpless. The normal human response to being disarmed and made to feel helpless is hatred.

The 5 of Swords includes the co-dependent relationship where, possibly one person's words and deeds supports another's self-destructive behavior, or possibly one person uses words and deeds to support another person's healthy spiritual and personal growth efforts (support, not command).

It's called a co-dependent relationship because it works both ways. Each person gives and gets in equal measure forming a dynamic but stable relationship -- and that's not necessarily bad. The usefulness depends on what habits are being encouraged and supported for what reason.

All relationships of this shape, though, are included in the 5 Swords, even the good or neutral ones.

The 5 of Swords also covers the situation where one person challenges another to prove what they are saying, or to prove themselves worthy. "Put up or shut up!" The teen initiation of proving yourself, taking a dare, etc.

The 5 of Swords also describes the kind of relationship where one person turns the other person's only defense (rationalizations, excuses) against them, then laughs at their natural fear of their own childhood nightmare of being helpless.

Another word for this process is "button pushing" for the purpose of manipulating another person's actions. People will do amazing things to avoid feeling helpless, disarmed, defenseless.

The 5 of Swords represents the sorts of relationships that form along the axis of degredation, sneering, devaluing.

The worst in human nature is brought out by the 5's -- and Swords then manifests that worst in words and deeds. When you blurt out something hurtful that you didn't mean to say, it's a 5 of Swords moment.

The 5 of Swords also describes the behavior of the coward with power exceptionally well.

But as with all the so-called minor arcana, it really bespeaks the very best in human nature if you don't operate in the zero sum game model of the universe. To get through the 5-Swords process unscathed you must "become" not "resist." You must become the kind of person who simply is not tempted to harm others.

To become that kind of person, you must be at peace within yourself, have your own internal conflicts resolved. If you're not, then passing through the 5-Swords process will boost you on the way to becoming just that, a person who can love whole-heartedly.

The ego, the sense of self, can here be brought to fit together with the other egos in your group. Together you make a whole far more powerful than the sum of the parts. For one to win, it isn't necessary for another to lose. In the Tarot model of the universe, there is no such thing as winning or losing and thus no such thing as a "draw" where nobody wins.

The 5 of Swords is where your most private (and possibly overblown) assessment of yourself and the value of your actions gets re-shaped, sifted and sorted, discarding what isn't sound and re-arranging what is. It is a healthy and refreshing exercise, not a win-lose situation.

The 5 of Swords is the forging of a contract, an agreement, about the group's dynamic.

Remember, in the zero sum game model, 5-Swords is the King in his Chariot going to war. It doesn't have to end in battle. A show of force could be enough.

The 5 of Swords could also be the establishing of a pecking order, deciding who is top dog by chewing ears off, or it could be "Put me through medical school and I'll see you live on easy street the rest of your life." 5 Swords is the unspoken contract behind all relationships.

The first fight in a marriage may define the way the relationship works for the next fifty years.

In Reverse, the punch is pulled, the victory by backstabbing, underhanded, button pushing or manipulation. In Reverse it's the avoiding of the direct, clean, nose-to-nose conflict to reshape both parties' egos, and the result is that the relationship becomes undermined.

The 5 of Swords clean and direct conflict is the defining moment of an intimate relationship, and it does not have to be victory for one and defeat for the other.

It doesn't have to be an unethical victory. It doesn't have to be beating up on the other until they knuckle under, then seethe with hatred for years.

For more on that, see the book The Intimate Enemy: How To Fight Fare In Love And Marriage by Peter Wyden.

To transform the 5 of Swords experience from a fight to problem-solving requires that both parties have solid, healthy egos that don't fear attack but welcome the view of the self from a different perspective and welcome the change that new view brings.

Think of the growth in the 4 of Swords as bread rising -- and the process of the 5 of Swords as punching it down so it can rise again with a finer texture. The 5 of Swords is not destructive -- it's part of the creative process. An essential part.

So writers - don't fight with your first readers. Don't explain what you really meant. Don't defend what you intended to write. Don't go into the process of letting someone see what you've written with expectations of acceptance - or of rejection.

Go into the process of exposing your ego-child with the intention of discovering what needs changing -- because something always does. It isn't about winning or losing. It's about finding yourself inside others.

Use the 5 of Swords as a model for every dialogue based scene you write because here, in this process, not only is strength of character revealed but your character's true motivations -- possibly unknown to him -- become clearly evident.

What's true of characters is true in life as well. That's why stories are so engrossing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg