Monday, October 29, 2007

She’s Got Clout and Class..and knows how to Kiss

One of the things drawing readers to science fiction romance is the heroine with clout. The strong female protagonist who kicks butt, takes charge and still makes love with a palpable passion. Now some of you—how bright you are this morning!—are saying that's nothing new. Books by such authors as Suzanne Brockmann, Lindsay McKenna and others have long featured military heroines who face danger with equal aplomb to their male counterparts. Then, of course, there's long been traditional (ie: non-romance) SF from the greats like Catherine Asaro, Elizabeth Moon, Anne McCaffrey and CJ Cherryh that feature strong women in up-front roles.

What's different with SFR?

::Linnea points to the blog title:: The romance element.

Granted, that element is there is Brockmann's works (and other military action/adventure romances). But the heroines' backstories are based in our definition of and experience with women in our militaries. In our culture, women in combat are still not the norm.

With SF and SFR, your norm is what you care to make it.

Cherryh's CHANUR series posited some terrific female—if felinoid—heroines, starting with Pyanfar Chanur. A matriarchal culture. Females long in command of starships and starfaring. But this is pure SF with any romance element deep in the background. Same is true of Moon's, Asaro's and more. Wonderful, terrific, inspiring reads.

Not enough kissing for me.

That's why I designed Commander Jorie Mikkalah the way I did. Jorie, as most of you know, (unless you're been hiding under a rock for the past six months) is the female lead in my release next month, THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES. In her late thirties, Jorie's a war veteran, was a prisoner of war, and now commands her own tracker team assigned to the zombie hunting ship, Sakanah. She's one of many females in various positions of command on the ship. It's her norm. She's been trained in the same manner as any other gender or species her people have encountered. She's quite adept at kicking intergalactic butt.

She also falls head over heels for a Florida cop. As does he, not surprisingly, for her.

Digressing for a moment (this will make sense, stay with me), when researching and writing homicide detective Theo Petrakos, I spent a lot of time talking to and emailing with several (patient, kindly) guys in various law enforcement positions. I wanted to know not only how a male cop acts in certain situations, but how he'd deal with 1) being kidnapped by extraterrestrials and 2) falling in love, against his better judgment.

Cops are different people. Actually, they're much like outer space aliens in many ways. They've been trained—ingrained—to deal with situations most of us (God willing) will never have to experience. They have a tight, tough brotherhood (or sisterhood). There's a strong, silent code of conduct, code of honor. They truly have their own little universe, right here.

Theo was far more like Jorie than he realized.

So his issues with falling in love were pretty much hers, as well. The military environment that shaped her and her thinking was very much like his. Her desire to protect and serve was very much like his. Had Theo been a Mercedes-Benz salesman that parallel wouldn't have existed.

What I did with Jorie was to create a women with what we here would term a male mindset (she wouldn't, however). But she was also completely feminine. I based her a lot on the law enforcement mindset because I personally don't know what it would be like to be raised without culturally-imposed expectations based on gender, as she was. I'm not even sure I portrayed that one hundred per cent correctly because it's still me, writing the character. But when I wore Jorie's skin I had to divorce myself from all the "you can't do that because you're a girl" or "girls don't do that" thinking I'd heard since I was a wee kidling.

And I still had to make her want to kiss Theo. A lot. As she finds out when she comes upon him sleeping in the recliner in his living room:

Petrakos shifted in his sleep, his hands fisting, the blanket sliding off his legs to the floor.

Jorie picked it up and studied him for a moment. His short hair was still damp. He was probably chilled, with no shirt on. She could see the slight redness on his shoulder from the implant. And the hard curve of muscles on his arms and chest, both sprinkled with dark curling hair.

But it was his face that drew her gaze again. She couldn't say exactly why she found it pleasing. Other than it was an intelligent face, a hardworking face—a face that had laughed and a face that had wept.

The man and the female on the vid resumed arguing, but she ignored them and leaned over Petrakos, fluffing the soft blanket over his chest.

Strong hands slammed against her shoulders. Jorie flew backward, landing on her rump with a yelp of surprise. Her elbows hit the floor, pain shooting into her arms as she went flat on her back, one large hand on her throat. Hard thighs locked her legs to the floor.

Then dangerously narrowed dark eyes widened and Theo Petrakos gave his head a small shake."Ah, Christos. Jorie." He removed his hand carefully from her throat and sat back on his haunches. "I'm—regrets. You okay?"

She unfolded her fingers from around the G-1 on her utility belt with no memory of how her fingers had gotten there. But then, from the look on Petrakos's face, his reaction was the same. He hadn't intended to hurt her.

She could have killed him.

She relaxed her body. "Optimal," she said. "But better if I'm not on the floor." She levered up as he grabbed her arm, pulling her toward him. Her face ended up brushing against his neck. He smelled warm and male and slightly soapy. More than slightly blissful.

And it was insane, crazy for her to even think this way. She scooted back and was pushing herself to her feet when he cupped her elbows, drawing her up against his so warm, so very bare chest.

She knew if she found her face in his neck again, she would be sorely tempted to take a taste of him. So she looked up instead and found in his dark gaze an unexpected confusion. Did he know she had this overwhelming, frightening desire to nibble her way down his half-naked body?

"Theo," she said, wanting it to sound like a reprimand but, hell and damn, it came out sounding more like a plea.

Competent and kissable. That applies to both Theo and Jorie. And I like the fact that science fiction romance gives me the opportunity to experience that.

Blissfully—as Jorie would say—Romantic Times BOOKreviews gave THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES not only 4-1/2 stars (their highest rating) but named it the magazine's Top Pick:

"Quirky, offbeat and packed with gritty action, this blistering novel explodes out of the gate and never looks back. Counting on Sinclair to provide top-notch science fiction elaborately spiced with romance and adventure is a given, but she really aces this one! A must-read, by an author who never disappoints."

I'm thrilled and hope you have fun with Jorie and Theo in November.



  1. What I loved most about Jorie was how her kick-butt heroine persona included a sweet vulnerablity which was illuminated by her adjusting to human culture and her feelings for Theo. I think there are way too many cookie-cutter kick-butt heroines around these days. Sure, I love a powerful heroine, but no one is born powerful in real life. And even when we attain a position of maturity, we're still not perfect and in complete control. We're human. Jorie was all that.

  2. November cannot come soon enough for me. T-minus 60 hours.

  3. Kimber twirls around, singing, "I have the ARC, nenners, nenners, nenners..."

  4. Awwww! You lucky gal, you!

  5. Yeah, I feel like the first kid to open a present on Christmas morning.

  6. Oooo, I cannot wait to read that!

  7. Anonymous7:06 PM EDT

    As one of those rare critters, a guy who reads SFR, my enjoyment of Jorie is much more basic. What I find most enjoyable about her is her naivete about how she affects Theo. She does that head tilt thing and says "You want?" without the slightest awareness of what that does to him. It's extremely funny, but only because I can sympathize with poor Theo. What's amusing too is that her naivete seems a function of her own non-gender-biased background. More of that culture difference being demonstrated, there. To me, she exemplifies that song She Don't Know She's Beautiful, but from a more believable angle, given her culture and occupational standing.