Thursday, February 28, 2008

Animal Genius

Last week, coincidentally, the latest NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC arrived with a cover story on animal intelligence, and NOVA aired a show on “Ape Genius.” The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC article discussed a variety of animals, including a Border Collie who demonstrates comprehension of over 300 words. A parrot featured in the article was trained to recognize a large number of English words and use them in context, e.g., to show he could distinguish objects by shape, color, or number. He didn’t just “parrot” sounds; at one point when a younger bird was having trouble learning a phrase, the educated parrot admonished him, “Talk clearly!” Elephants and dolphins, it appears, share with some apes the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, regarded as a sign of self-awareness.

NOVA’s “Ape Genius” episode explored the intelligence of apes and how their minds resemble and differ from ours. The theory was proposed that a major factor setting us apart from other primates is our capacity for teaching. While apes learn by imitating each other (and their human caretakers), and thus can even pass on elements of culture peculiar to a particular group, they have never been observed deliberately teaching anything to each other. You can read about this NOVA episode by searching “Ape Genius” at

From the Enlightenment period well into the twentieth century, the prevailing scientific orthodoxy considered animals as biological machines, with no consciousness, emotions, or even awareness of pain. (Chillingly, many authorities believed the same of newborn babies undergoing medical procedures.) Behaviorism, for a while, seemed to confirm the mechanistic position. Fortunately, that simplistic view is being discredited. Strict materialists may seize upon recent discoveries in animal intelligence to say, “See, we were right all along. There’s no fundamental difference between us and lower animals. Human beings are merely another species of animal, and any claim to a soul is a superstitious delusion.” Alternatively, however, we might say, “We now know that animals, possessing some degree of intelligence, self-awareness, and emotional complexity, are more like us than we suspected. Therefore, they deserve more respect than we’ve previously granted them. Perhaps some of them even have souls, whatever that means.”

I’m reminded of an Anthony Boucher short story (called “Ambassadors,” I think) in which astronauts discover a society of intelligent wolves on Mars. Rather than deciding there’s no way to bridge the communication gap between two such different species, Earth authorities think outside the fence. They recruit werewolves as ambassadors to Mars.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

what to do with ARCs

All right readers,
I want to tap into your creativity. Tor just sent me lots of advanced reading copies for Dancing With Fire my July romantic suspense. It costs me about $3 to mail each one. I'm look for ideas of what to do with them to promote my book that don't cost a fortune. Whoever comes up with the best idea will get a free copy! So think like an author. Where can I mail these books in bulk to let readers know this is a story worth buying?

You see it's not all about writing and selling a book. Authors have to do promotions too! I just tried to upload my cover but for some odd reason, the internet turned my cover blue! So if you want to see it go to and go to future books.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, Solar Heat is in stores now. If you haven't bought a copy, what are you waiting for???????????

Susan Kearney

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Alien Romance

I'm prepending a comment on the "Great First Lines" discussion, then my own post on the definition of Alien Romance, or maybe SFR. They're sort-of related.

For my money, the single most grabbing "first line" I have ever encountered (in countless thousands of books read) is Marion Zimmer Bradley's opening to the original SWORD OF ALDONES (not the rewrite SHARRA'S EXILE).

We were outstripping the night.

Why is that a great first line?

Because it bespeaks the essential theme, the pacing of the novel, and delivers that same sense of motion without knowing where you came from or where you're going that the novel does. The novel delivers on the promise of the first line, and that is what makes it a grabber.

A slushpile reader is trained to look at the FIRST LINE - then compare it to THE LAST LINE -- split the MS and look at the MIDDLE. If the 3 points don't match, the MS does not get read, it gets rejected.

So it's not "great first lines" that is the real challenge. It's crafting a first line that bespeaks the essence of the story at the thematic level.

There is a method of achieving this effect which MZB beat into my reluctant head and I finally formulated into a style of working that I can grasp. Maybe this will help you, too.


The reason why you want to write the novel or story is the reason why people would want to read it. But you can't simply state that reason. You have to ENCODE it in SHOW DON'T TELL using foreshadowing and symbology, art and craft welded together.

Now armed with the answer to that arcane question, you search for the beginning of the main character's story. You have to run up and down that character's whole life and ask yourself, WHERE IS THE STORY? You have to ask, "WHAT EVENT SEQUENCE CHANGES THIS CHARACTER IRREVOCABLY?"

Each real life has such a point (can be 3-4 years even). Some of us do change under that influence - and we have a "story of our life" - others don't change and meet a different fate because of that choice.

The FIRST LINE and FIRST PARAG of a novel (not, interestingly enough, of a screenplay) are composed of the the point in time & awareness when the character is jolted out of his/her former life, and dumped into his/her next life.

The OPENING SITUATION of a novel is composed of the point in the main character's life where the CONFLICT IS JOINED -- where the CONFLICT BEGINS -- where CHANGE BEGINS. (this is also the key to writing great biographies.)

Thus in the typical romance the cliche opening is where the main POV character first sees or encounters the love-object or some effect that love-object has left in his/her wake.

The mistake most beginning writers make in choosing a protagonist and in finding the point where that person's story BEGINS (and thus the opening line of the novel) is to fail to spot, identify, and express the conflict. Or the reverse, knowing the conflict but failing to discover which of the ensemble characters HAS that conflict and is therefore the protagonist because that is the person who will resolve that particular conflict. (all these story components are related, and that relationship is expressed in the perfect opening line, the narrative hook.)

As a result of that failure to find character and conflict, the new writer will open their composition with a long, rambling, abstract history lesson setting out the parameters of their made-up universe, the long life histories of the characters, the politics and everything else that has nothing to do with the conflict.

This preamble is all material the writer feels the reader has to know BEFORE being able to understand or enjoy the story. This opening expository lump happens because the writer doesn't know the craft techniques I call "information feed."

No matter how clever or engrossing or startling the first line is -- that expository lump method is bound to fail.

Why? Because someone looking for a story is, whether they know it or not, looking for a conflict that can be resolved a number of ways -- and the story is about which way this particular person resolves that specific conflict.

Before the reader is ready to memorize the names of all the Empires and relatives of the royal families and the list of all the baddies who want to kill the protagonist, the life history of the person she/he will fall in love with -- BEFORE ALL THAT, the reader has to be made as curious to know those facts as a lover approaching orgasm is eager to GET THERE.

First you have to tease the reader into excitement -- THEN you can inform them, but never using dialogue or exposition. You must encode this information in SHOW DON'T TELL -- which means you must make the reader figure it out for him/herself because they want to know, not because you want them to know.

So the FORMULA for finding that all important opening line that prevents the expository lump of an opening is -







That one sentence is your opening line. It is your pitch for the screenplay. It's the line you use at the SFWA cocktail parties to pitch yourself to an Agent or Editor. It's what sells the thing (and you).

Study each of the suggested opening lines in the previous posts -- analyze them. You won't learn anything, especially not how to produce those lines from the mishmosh story idea in your head.

You can't learn that trick by reverse engineering great opening lines. The greater the line is, the less you can learn by studying it.

Make a pile of your favorite books. Write down the opening line, the last line, and the middle paragraph of each book.

Use this list of questions above and produce your own opening lines (do dozens for stories you will not write). Then rewrite them and rewrite them -- until you can see how you are in fact replicating the EFFECT of the opening lines YOU admired.

The whole rest of the novel is about WHO THAT PROTAGONIST REALLY IS UNDERNEATH IT ALL. And maybe about how the protag finds out who he/she really is, which is often different from who they think they are.

So a fully encoded SHOW DON'T TELL story is all about Identity, and how Identity changes under the impact of EVENTS. IDENTITY change is STORY. EVENTS SEQUENCE is PLOT. I call the Event Sequence the "because" line -- because this happened, that happened, and because of that, this other thing happened. Because this happened, that person did this, which causes this other person to do that. "Because" cross-links the story and the plot so that a reader can't tell the difference.

It's like making soup. You can't replicate your Mom's soup without knowing the ingredients and proportions.

The FIRST EVENT (often psychological not physical, sometimes both) in the plot is hidden (or maybe not so hidden) in the first line. The first Identity Change potential lies nascent in the first line.

"We were outstripping the night." -- flight from dark horrors. WHO? A person being chased by that which is inside himself. RESOLUTION - turning to face that demon, The Shara Matrix. Lew Alton's story -- starts with him returning home to make home strange. Notice "outstripping the night" looks "backwards" or "behind" the character. The entire novel is an unraveling of the true meaning of events long past.

That's SWORD OF ALDONES. Go read it. Study it. It's a masterpiece. But MZB didn't like it because she thought events happen without CAUSE being apparent. I love it because I can imagine the causes. When the reader is prompted to contribute important elements to the fantasy, they become invested in that story - and look up your byline again. Leave room for the reader's imagination.

I learned while interviewing Leonard Nimoy for Star Trek Lives! that this technique of leaving an open spot for the viewer's imagination is called in theater OPEN TEXTURE. It's a technique that makes the characters walk off the page and into the reader's dreams. The opening line sets up that "texture" effect.

So now to today's post! Sorry about the rambling preamble! But I think the previous posts on opening lines were about the art, and about admiring other people's art. This is my contribution to the "craft" -- the part of writing anyone who can write a literate English sentence (As Marion Zimmer Bradley always said) can learn.


Yesterday, I had an interesting experience. The mother of a young man in High School had told him to call me for advice about what story to write for a science fiction course he was taking. (???? SF taught in HS? With writing? What an interesting new world.)

Well, this young man is highly proficient in Math and Science -- but really lacking when it comes to writing papers and so on, i.e. verbal skills. And she knew he'd never call me.

So I said, "Well, tell him to go to the definition of SF. 'What if ...? If only ...? If this goes on ....' And start from there. Put one of those in a story, and you might have SF. Put all 3 and you have an award winning SF story."

She memorized the list of springboards, but didn't understand, so I said, "Well, what if Hillary Clinton becomes President? What if she cut science funding to fund health care?" (because the kid likes science and is a kid so doesn't care about healthcare yet)

What if -- Hillary wins? If only -- we had universal health care. If this goes on - we have to cut something to fund healthcare. See?

(Hey you and I know Hillary wouldn't, but that's not the point -- the point is to demonstrate how to use the springboards to create a story that is SF, so some absurdity is required in the premise, then you work it out logically from there. Cutting science to fund healthcare is a contradiction because you need basic science to create new cures -- which is why this would make an SF story. It's fiction about science.)

Well, she went away confident that she can propel her son into writing a story now. It's hard being a mother who can't help with homework.

So then I got to thinking about the definition of SF and remembered I'd forgotten to include the really salient part of the definition. Fred Pohl and John Campbell and Robert Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon I think, came up with this one in a brainstorming session. (long, long story there)

"If you can take the science out and still have a story, it wasn't SF to begin with."

We use the same test for Star Trek fanfic. If you can take the Star Trek out and still have a ST fan story, it wasn't a ST fan story to begin with, and you should write it in its own universe and sell it. (some writers are doing that successfully now, though the first few attempts failed)

So we come to the problem that really has my attention -- defining Alien Romance.

You all know by now my own attempts at this definition created the premise that there is a Plot Archetype which I dubbed INTIMATE ADVENTURE, the core of ST fanfic. In the 1970's you couldn't buy Intimate Adventure SF/F at Waldenbooks so people paid exorbitant prices for fanzines printed on paper.

I still think of Intimate Adventure as a genre, but it is actually a Plot Archetype, which my sometime collaborator Professor of English Jean Lorrah has proven.

So that disqualifies it as the "definition" of Alien Romance because I/A is really not a genre. So I'm back to square one trying to define what it is that I actually write.

At the moment, I am working on transposing my Romantic Times Award winning novel, DUSHAU, into script format. So I have my nose into that universe again, and it definitely is Alien Romance -- it's SF Romance with an alien as one of the protags in the Relationship that drives the plot. In the third book, they actually get it on, too.

Appropos of the prepended item on FIRST LINES, the opening of DUSHAU is a parag all in caps, centered above the first paragraph of real text.


The protagonist who sees that announcement on her desktop display, responds instantly with total professional outrage, and eventually murders the Emperor because of this opening event. She has to change her loyalties to do that. The student should note what is NOT included in that opening line.

For more on why the accurate definition of the genre is vital to generating a FIRST LINE that will sell the book, see my January column and the review of SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES! by Blake Snyder and my comments on Amazon and on blog. It's a huge topic all about Commercial Art as a business.

Well, AR always seems to have a "What if ...?" element because you need to cast a universe around the characters. It has an "If only ...?" element because most all Romance does (the yearning for a soul mate), and occasionally AR comes up with an "If this goes on ..." type of prediction.

But what is the TEST to see if this particular novel is AR or not?

It can't be "If you take the romance out and still have a story, then it wasn't AR to begin with." Because that's the test for ROMANCE, not AR.

It might be, "If you take the alien out and still have a romance, then it's not AR?"

But then you come to what constitutes an "alien" -- as I've pointed out previously, humans can be the most bizarre aliens of all.

Take for example Banner's Bonus, by Carol Ann Lee (new author!) at (for my money, the best e-publisher currently operating).

This book is as well constructed and well written as anything Manhattan publishes. It should be a Mass Market paperback. sells it as SF Romance, but I think that's borderline. I also don't see it as Alien Romance, but it almost is.

This is set in a Star Trek like universe but apparently without non-human aliens (think Firefly). So some humans have been affected by a substance that has left them with Empathy, a trait that breeds true. So they're "alien."

However, halfbreeds have unpredictable half-talent. The particular kickass girl we follow is I think quarter or eight Empath. She believes she has no talent because she was tested. Her mother reads her father extremely well, though, and seems to be "bonded."

Her father hires a tough guy who hauls (interstellar) freight for him to protect his girl from some killers. She's a virgin. She spends weeks isolated in a small space ship with this tough guy, who melts. She (unknown to herself) bonds with him empathically, and thus becomes able to track him when he's kidnapped.

Definitely a Romance, and not too much actual sex. He takes her to the last place in the galaxy anyone would think to search for her -- his family's home. He has brothers - equally tough guys. They see she's bonded with him, even though he and she do not.

The SF universe building seems to me lacking. There is nothing different about the ports they visit, the types of people (crooks, criminals, lowlives, and heroes) they meet, the galactic political situation, the ways people do business -- and nothing at all is made of the mechanics of the space-drive they use, or any other science or technological innovation that might change the way people live their lives (watch a movie made before cell phones, and you'll see what I mean). In fact, their tech is less than we have today.

So the extrapolation of science is lacking. The worldbuilding, that we've discussed on this blog at such length, is a failure in this novel (even though it's a very well written novel.)

The Empathic premise could be something that happened on Earth -- Chernobyl comes to mind. Imports from China. There's no reason inherent in the story that forces the setting into the galaxy. They go from planet to planet as people might go from Southsea Island to China or India or San Francisco. The port bars are about the same. There's nothing galactic in this galaxy.

There's no reason that this story needs space travel. You take out the science, and you still have a story -- it's not SF.

Its "alien" is only human with a genetic twist of empathy that does not dominate or twist her personality, limit or inhibit her abilities, or rebound in any unexpected and unpredictable way making a problem the protags have to surmount (except the old Star Trek fanfic cliche of telepathic bonding) unique to this constructed universe.

It isn't SOLD as Alien Romance, but as SF Romance. Awe-Struck is the best publisher because they're honest and totally up front about their packaging. What you see is what you get.

Banner's Bonus is only just barely "SF" -- and the SF ladled on top like frosting. You can scrape it off.

But underneath the frosting, it's one whale of a good read! It tickles my AR button, but doesn't actually press it.

So what is it I'm really looking for in Alien Romance? What is the real core of the definition without which you do not have an ALIEN Romance?

Banner's Bonus is an example that should reveal the answer to that question. But I don't see it yet. It's a must-read because it's a book to study.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Great First Lines

Continuing the previous blog...

I happen to teach workshops in writing great and grabber opening paragraphs and scenes. So I much enjoyed CIndy's posting because--as we talk about the craft of writing--it underscores how essential the opening words are.

They are for two reasons: editors and readers. Understand if you don't snag the editor (or agent), you'll never snag the reader.

The editor (or agent) has seen it all before or read it all before. So you have to be pithier than pithy, cleverer than clever to snag his attention. The reader is distracted, multi-tasking, watching his kids' soccer practice or working on her taxes or catching a ten-minute read during lunch hour in the corporate cafe. So if you don't have the ability to intrigue at opening, you're never going to get your knock-the-socks off Chapter 5 read.

From my workshop, here are some of the better opening lines I've seen (some are from short stories, some are from novels). Tell me which ones work for you, WHY (why is very important if you're a writer) and which ones don't (and WHY):

(1) The night Jimmy-Ray Carter got nailed by the alien, he ran five miles without stopping, all the way to Bill Sharkey's house, and busted in on our card game, screaming and yelling and carrying on like a sackful of crazed weasels. Good sex will do that to a person.

We all just sat and watched while Bill poured three fingers of Wild Turkey and tried to get the glass up to Jimmy-Ray’s mouth without losing any, which was interesting enough that we all start laying bets as to whether Jimmy-Ray’s gonna get outside of the Turkey or not and if he does, is he gonna puke it right up again on account of being over-excited and all. Shows you what kind of cards we were holding—talk about a cold deck. [Pat Cadigan, Love Toys of the Gods]

(2) Meg didn’t understand at first.

The man was smiling, and his pleasant expression and tone of voice didn’t match his words. “We’ve taken your daughter hostage.”

She was in the parking garage beneath her condo, hauling a box of files from the back of her car, when he approached her. She wasn’t even a hundred feet away from Ramon, the building’s security guard.

The smiling man must’ve seen the confusion in her eyes, because he said it again. In a Kazbekistani dialect. “We have your daughter, and if you don’t follow out orders, we’ll kill her.” [Suzanne Brockamann, The Defiant Hero]

(3) Pulling one hand from the warmth of a pocket, Jay Landsman squats down to grab the dead man’s chin, pushing the head to one side until the wound becomes visible as a small, ovate hole, oozing red and white.

“Here’s your problem,” he said. “He’s got a slow leak.”

“A leak?” says Pellegrini, picking up on it.

“A slow one.”

“You can fix those.”

“Sure you can,” Landsman agrees. “They got these home repair kits now…”

“Like with tires.”

“Just like with tires,” Landsman says. “Comes with a patch and everything else you need. Now a bigger wound, like from a thirty-eight, you’re gonna have to get a new head. This one you could fix.”

Landsman looks up, his face the very picture of earnest concern.

Sweet Jesus, thinks Tom Pellegrini, nothing like working murders with a mental case. One in the morning, heart of the ghetto, half a dozen uniforms watching their breath freeze over another dead man—what better time and place for some vintage Landsman, delivered in perfect deadpan until even the shift command is laughing hard in the blue strobe of the emergency lights… [David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets]

(4) The surgery hurt far more than he’d expected.

But then, how could he have prepared for an experience so new? He’d known nothing of pain.

Until the first cut.

A line of fire ripped across his back and he screamed. It was the first audible sound he’d ever made.

Feathers were falling, surrounding him with a curtain of drifting white. It took him a moment to realize that they were his own feathers. They had lost their familiar luminescence and looked alien.

He was becoming alien himself. The idea horrified him, until the surgeon sealed the wound. Heat seared across his back, following the line of the incision. Wetness spilled on his cheeks and he tasted the salt of his tears.

Another first.

His bellow made the floor vibrate. The smell of burned flesh was new as well, and sickening.

He reminded himself that he had volunteered.

[Claire Delacroix, Fallen] [Linnea's note: this book isn't out yet--I rec'd an ARC. It's awesome!]

(5) It began the day the girl was dragged into the machinery.

Her shrieks took a moment to pierce through the clattering din of gears, the clanging song of shuttles. Mina lifted her head slowly, her fatigued mind taking time to register the new sound, to wonder what it might be. Then with a terrified oath, she grabbed the clutch to stop her looms, saw at least one shuttle snarl the cotton threads into a hopeless spider’s weaving before she had even turned away.

The victim was on her knees, her arm between two massive drums turned by heavy belts. Blood from the crushed limb slicked the drums as they rumbled on, grinding her bones and seeking to drag more of her into their hungry maw. She was a new girl, perhaps not yet cautious enough around the machines, perhaps just unlucky enough to have a sleeve flutter where it shouldn’t.

The overseer, Jacob, grabbed ineffectually at the drums and the belts driving them, only to have the skin stripped instantly from his palms. The belts hooked onto the huge drive shaft, which was turned by the gigantic water wheel that powered the mill.

And there was no way to stop the wheel.
[Elaine Corvidae, Winter's Orphans]

And some of mine that I'm particularly proud of:

(a) Telling her he loved her was on his list of things to do.

Dying before he had a chance to do so, wasn’t.

The metal decking of Starbase Delta Five skewed suddenly under his boots.

The shock wave of the first explosion blasted by him. He stumbled, slammed against the bulkhead. Debris cascaded down through the ruptured conduit panels. He swung his good arm up to shield his face and slid awkwardly to the floor.

“Macawley!” Her anguished voice called to him through the communications badge pinned to his shirt.

He almost said it, right then and then. I love you. I’ve always loved you. I’m just too much of a coward to tell you.

(b) This he knew with unwavering certainty: he would kill her before the next full moons rose.

A thick canopy of interweaving branches tattooed the sky overhead. Light from the setting sun barely trickled through. Within the hour, Alith, the first moon would rise. An hour after that, Takin would ascend. Neither full yet; not for another three days. Torrin didn’t need to glance upward for confirmation. He knew. Just as he knew the rain before it fell and the wind before it whined through the timbers. He was one of the damned; a full-blood Chalith, mage-line. Moon-kin.

(c) Only fools boast they have no fears. I thought of that as I pulled the blade of my dagger from the Takan guard’s throat, my hand shaking, my heart pounding in my ears, my skin cold from more than just the chill in the air. Light from the setting sun filtered through the tall trees around me. It flickered briefly on the dark gold blood that bubbled from the wound, staining the Taka’s coarse fur. I felt a sliminess between my fingers and saw that same ochre stain on my skin.

“Shit!” I jerked my hand back. My dagger tumbled to the rock-strewn ground. A stupid reaction for someone with my training. It wasn’t as if I’d never killed another sentient being before, but it had been more than five years. And then, at least, it had carried the respectable label of military action.

This time it was pure survival.

Do we see vividness and not brevity? Do we see word choices that evoke the emotions, that drag the reader in to the scene, willingly or not? But we also have action, threat, change.

It was either Swain (see my previous blog) or his protege, Jack Bickham, who advises that "good fiction starts with threat or change, and someone's response to that threat or change."

Words for writers to live by. Especially in the opening paragraphs.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Craft/First Lines

A good opening line is an essential part of story telling. It's also something that I don't think I'm particulary good at. Occasionally I get it right but more as often or not I don't think I do. OF course there is the best first line of all time..."It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." from Charles Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Most writers aspire to put down something that great.

I'm going to list some first lines that I think are pretty good and why I think so.

Alyssa Day/Atlantis Awakening
"These are my kind of odds," Ven said, drawing his sword with his right hand and one of seven daggers strapped to various parts of his body with his left.

Right away we know there's a fight going on. And I'm betting Ven is going to come out the winner.

Linnea Sinclair/Games of Command
"You might want to sit down,"....

There's more after that but I'm already hooked.

Liz Maverick/What A Girl Wants
In Hayley Jane Smith's defense, it should be noted that it was a record breaking week during the hottest summer in ten years of San Francisco meteorology history.

I love this line. In Hayly Jane Smith's defense. What did she do? What does the heat have to do with it? Why does she need defending? Must read on to find out.

Another Liz Maverick, This one from Adventures Of An Ice Princess
There are few things more humiliating in a woman's life than having an engagement party thrown in her honor when the man in question has not proposed.

You know that there's nothing but trouble coming up.

Here are a few of mine.

From Obsessing Orlando under the pen name Kassy Tayler
"I can't breathe!"
oh the drama of being a teen girl.

From Windfall
Something was different.

From Star Shadows and my favorite
It was one of those days that hurt to be alive.
When I wrote this line I wanted to show the desperation of youth. That burning, yearning, I got to do something or I'll explode feeling.

and from Twist
Would I make it
Pulls you right in doesn't it?

A good opening line should pull you right into the story and start your mind spinning with the basic questions. Who, what when, where and Why? And then I got to read this.

I'd love to see some other great opening lines. Anybody got any they want to share?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Craft -- Editorial Revisions

Since I always enjoy reading about how other writers work, I’m happy to write and talk about the writing craft. This week, my limited writing time (legislative session is going on, the busy period in my day job) was preoccupied with pre-publication revisions to my light paranormal erotic romance LOVE UNLEASHED, to be released tomorrow by Ellora’s Cave ( The hero, a modern-day wizard, gets cursed into the shape of a St. Bernard by a vengeful witch. Why a St. Bernard? Two reasons: (1) That’s the kind of dog we have. You can see photos of him by signing up on my newsletter’s Yahoo Groups page ( (2) Conservation of mass—190 pounds makes both a plausible adult human male and a plausible (although considerably on the heavy side) male St. Bernard. As a “stray dog,” the hero of LOVE UNLEASHED gets taken home by the heroine, a veterinary technician. He manages to twist the spell to let him revert to human form for a few hours each night. But is that enough time to seduce the heroine into giving him the help he needs to reverse the magic permanently? Much less to learn the lesson the curse is intended to teach him?

Saturday afternoon, I received an e-mail message that the publisher wanted some last-minute changes in the novel. One of the editors thought the heroine’s behavior didn’t make sense in two scenes. The request was for a rewrite to clarify that she was acting under the witch’s magical influence. After an initial “Eek,” I realized that, luckily, the changes could be made with only minor tweaks. As I saw it, the magical control was already obvious in the first scene, and in the second, I thought the heroine’s actions made sense without it. The important thing, however, is how the reader perceives a character, not how I see her in my own mind. Sometimes the writer’s intent doesn’t come across clearly in the first or even the second draft. It’s easy to assume that if I understand what’s happening, so will the reader. But if the editor misunderstands, probably some readers might, as well.

Critiquers often admonish me that I explain too much, so it felt funny to be asked to explain more! Actually, I was grateful for the opportunity of one more read-through. I noticed that several necessary commas had been deleted in the editing process. I also found an obvious typo—“a” for “an”—that had been missed through several rereadings by at least two editors and me. Although I have a Ph.D. in English and work as a proofreader in my day job, I’m beginning to think producing a perfectly clean text at book length is an unattainable goal. I’ve always been a picky reader, long before becoming a proofreader, and copyediting errors (not to mention just plain wrong English usage and mechanics) in published books make my teeth hurt. To find a missed error in my own published work is painfully humiliating.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Win a Susan Kearney book

Susan Kearney "THE QUEST" Contest! Enter Today!

Between Your Sheets is excited to announce that USA Today Bestselling Author, Susan Kearney is sponsoring The Quest Contest. To enter just click on THE QUEST book cover, to see how easy it is.

This contest will end February 24, 2008, the winner will be chosen by luck of the draw, and notified by email.
Have fun and good luck.
Susan & the Staff at Between Your Sheets

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Audience Response

Is our world turning "alien?" Or maybe it always has been?

The generation gap. The religious gaps. The cultural gaps. Romance is about bridging the gap between one individual and another. Alien Romance is about bridging the gap between groups, worlds of people living in different perceptivities of reality.

I've been a public speaker for a good while now and have noticed something I wonder if others have noticed. I'd really like some input on this issue.

It seems that general audiences, and even audiences full of fiction readers, have lost the distinction between a question and an opinion.

I usually start an audience discussion by asking the audience what they came to learn, and something about who they are and what they do. Then I edit the subject I'm supposed to discuss to slant it to the audience, When I finally get them jumping out of their seats with enthusiasm, I request questions from the audience. That's where the trouble starts. People offer long, rambling opinions instead of questions.

Has any other public speaker noticed this? Any idea why it's happening? Is it a generation related issue, or do you see it in older people too?

This seems important to me because I'm beginning to wonder if the distinction between fact and opinion has been lost as well, and if that loss is generation related. Do younger people take other people's opinions as facts?

I've noticed that newspapers and TV news have wildly mixed editorial commentary with news. The touchstone of good journalism used to be the strict separation of fact and opinion. Fact is news. Opinion is editorial. Both have their place, and are essential in order to comprehend the meaning of an item -- but they aren't the same thing.

I believe TV (non-fic and fiction) follows public trends. I don't think commercial endeavors create trends. They make a profit by following trends. But they do magnify trends -- with the internet, the magnification happens faster.

Are we looking at a trend here, and if so is there anything we can do about it? Is there anything we should do about it? The world should change with the generations. Resistance is futile. So it's not just a question of what to do -- but toward what goal should those actions be targeted?

I have been dismissing this issue of blurring question, opinion and fact as a mere curiosity. But I recently watched a 1957 movie on AMC, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESSS.

A character casually mentioned the population of the United States as 60 million. I thought immediately that 300 million was surpassed last year.

I saw in a different light, the vast problem of TV vs. Internet news, political elections, Electoral College issues, and how TV and Radio talk show hosts are influencing the electorate with opinion packaged as news. Is it possible that one generation can tell the difference between opinion and news while another can't?

Pre-radio, newspapers were the most influencial source for voters information. Owning a newspaper, endorsing a candidate, gave someone power. Now it's talk-radio, TV and above all YouTube. I don't know that it makes a difference. Media has always been important in shaping public opinion -- but media used to distinguish between fact and opinion.

When there were 60 million in America, there were a few things that "everybody" knew. Now there are 300 million, and as far as I can find, there isn't anything left that "everybody" knows. We are a fragmented society.

It occurred to me that the basic problem may not be whether people can tell the difference between question, opinion, and fact. That could be just a symptom, not the problem.

Perhaps the real problem is that our Constitution, governmental structure, school system, healthcare delivery system, fiction delivery system, news delivery system, cultural assumptions, have all reached a limit of what business calls "scalability" -- at a certain size, the underlying business model breaks down and the system becomes dysfunctional and non-profitable.

Is that why our schools fail to convey cognitive methodology to our children? Has the model upon which America is based reached a limit of scalability and begun to break down -- to cost more to operate than it can possibly produce?

Is the problem really that what works for 60 million won't work for 300 million?

What is really going on when audience members stand up to answer a call for questions and launch into a diatribe of personal opinion? And what can a speaker do about that without starting a riot?

Figure that out, and you'll have the subject for a dynamite best seller. All the technique in the world won't sell a novel that isn't ABOUT something having to do with a recognizable trend. Study the world. Hypothesize. Extrapolate.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, February 18, 2008

Craft of Writing: Vividness outrank Brevity

Eons ago, when I was studying for my private pilot's license, I used to read Flying magazine and a column called I Learned About Flying From That. Amazingly helpful, sometimes scary real-life recountings from real-life pilots. A bit of "hangar flying," as we used to call it.

So I guess we can say this is I Learned About Writing From That, starting with Susan Kearney's posting and continuing with Colby Hodge's terrific example of the difference between showing and telling.

My personal "Learned About Writing" came largely from a battered yellow tome entitled Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. I personally think if you want to be a published author and can read only one how-to book, Techniques should be it. It was originally written in 1965 or thereabouts. That's how classic the advice is. And timeless. Everything Swain talks about you can use today, right now in your writing.

One of the first things Swain taught me was "Vividness Outranks Brevity." That fact is the basis of a workshop I teach on word choice. Pretty is not the same as beautiful. Old is not the same as decrepit. The wrong word or the right word can make the difference between a gripping scene or a ho-hum one.

The reason vividness outranks brevity is that your writing creates a story world and, as Swain says:

You need to remember three key points about the world in which your story takes place:
a. Your reader has never been there.
b. It's a sensory world.
c. It's a subjective world.

I don't care if you're writing about Chicago or London or West Long Branch, New Jersey. Even if every reader has been to those locales, he's never been to those locales through your character's eyes, experiencing those locales exactly as your character does.

We all know the old adage that if you have three witnesses to a car accident, you'll have three different versions of what happened (and as I'm a retired private investigator who's worked accident reconstruction, I can tell you that old adage is very true).

The reality is the unreality you create is your story world and it's fresh and new and foreign to your reader, even if they're been there in real life.

For that reason, vividness is of utmost importance.

How do you write vividly? Swain: "You present your story in terms of things that can be verified by sensory perception. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch--these are the common denominators of human experience; these are the evidence that men believe.

Describe them precisely, put them forth in terms of action and of movement, and you're in business."

Go back and look at Cindy/Colby's blog offering again. This is exactly what she did to improve that passage. She brought us in with vividness, with human experiences through dialogue. She chose her characters movements--rubbing his hands over his face, or tossing his coat aside quickly--to fit the experience she wants the reader to have. You become the characters, you feel the characters because you are vividly brought into their situation.

I had the same challenge in the start of chapter two in my current work-in-progress, Hope's Folly.

Rya Bennton is a former military police officer now--with the collapse of the Empire's political structure--finds herself unemployed and siding with the rebels. But she has to get to their ship first.

My original draft is where I simply get my characters moving. I might not "see" the world as clearly. In subsequent drafts, I add in details that not only bring the reader into the world, but bring them in with the feelings and opinions I want them to have.

Hope's Folly is still being written. This section may yet go through changes. But you should be able to see the use of vividness in the opening paragraph of Chapter 2:

The passenger docks on Kirro Station were cavernous, dimly lit and bitingly cold. It didn’t escape Rya’s notice that someone with a sick sense of humor decreed the walls and bulkheads painted a distinctly icy color of pale blue. It took forty-five minutes for the Starford Spacelines’ transport ship to regurgitate Rya’s duffel out of its cargo holds, along with the rest of the passengers’ baggage. By that point, she had already turned up the collar on her brown leather jacket and tucked her hands under her armpits, releasing them only to make a grab for her duffel on the shuddering, rumbling baggage belt. Then she knelt, fished her dark blue Special Protection Service beret out of the side pocket, and removed the rank and service pins. She pulled the beret over her perpetually unruly hair. Some people might look twice if they knew what the beret symbolized. This was, after all, a declared Alliance station. Imperial Fleet in all its flavors, including ImpSec, was not welcome.

Granted, none of you have been to Kirro Station. But many of you have been to an airport or bus station, and the experiences of drafty buildings and lurching baggage belts are not uncommon. And I could have said just that--Rya walked through the drafty building to the lurching baggage belt. It would have gotten the job done.

But it wouldn't have brought you into her world as she hears it and feels it and sees it. So I used words like regurgitate Rya’s duffel out of its cargo holds and shuddering, rumbling baggage belt deliberately. I not only had Rya notice the cold, I had her keep her hands tucked in her armpits. Cold is cold but when you need to tuck your hands in your armpits, it's damned cold.

So craft lesson number one from Dwight Swain: vividness outranks brevity.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rocking the white house

I'm in one of those deadline crises that seems to require me to get up in the small hours to write certain scenes (in my next alien romance) which I don't want my family
reading over my shoulder as I type.

In my brief lurches onto aol, where I also receive transcripts of alien romance posts and comments in my mail, I noticed two things that inspired me to write what I'm about to write.

One was Margaret's Election blog.

The other was an aol news story.

It seems to me that the media and the newsblogosphere is focusing on the politics
of the original musician and copyright holder, but in my opinion, this is the wrong point, and no one seems to notice it.

What I see is that some --not all-- of the most prominent men in the country (and I don't care which political party they represent) seem to be setting an appalling example to all the world: that it is OK to perform a musician's copyrighted work at a public performance, or take a musician's copyrighted work as a theme tune for a multi-million dollar campaign, and yet not pay royalties and not seek permission!

It upsets me greatly to see that the musicians who complain are being vilified by commentators and bloggers. This might be because the majority of the public do not understand about copyright and that creative artists make their living from royalties.

I wish that some politicians or political commentators would set the record straight!

How embarrassing would it be to admit that there had been a misunderstanding, and that
the campaign's intention was to seek permission and pay the royalties?

How much of a nuisance would it be for an Election Committee to add a rule to the procedural manual (maybe under political contributions) about the use of copyrighted works as theme tunes or for public performances by musically gifted candidates?

Is there one set of rules for copyrighted music, or lyrics, and another for copyrighted works of fiction? I don't think so. Song lyrics are often poems. Some song lyrics are epic poems!

(OK, so I cannot see a political candidate performing a public reading of one of our alien romances. That may never happen, but that doesn't mean that writers shouldn't be concerned.)

Romance Writers of America has recently taken an interest in the issue of piracy of books. It's not just e-books. Books that have never been published as electronic books are being scanned, and shared or sold as e-books, and the authors never get a cent.

Other organizations such as EPIC and SFWA also do their best to put a stop to piracy, but as quickly as sites are shut down, they open again under a new name.

And part of the problem is that the sharers, copiers, and pirates feel like literary Robin Hoods. They seem to believe that all authors are millionaires, all publishers are profitable, editors and authors don't need an income, and that everyone has a right to read anything and everything without paying... or at least without paying the artist/author.

How many of you reading this blog (thank you!) have either had your written work pirated, or know someone who has had their work pirated?

How many of you think it is acceptable to file-share with friends or strangers --which cannot be done without making a copy, which is by definition publishing?

The way to share an e-book legally, is to let your friends borrow your e-book reader, or your computer.


Insufficient Mating Material

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Craft of Writing

It was with much interest that I read Susan's post from Wednesday. I too am a forgetful blogger and I especially find it hard to come up with "Alien" related posts, especially when I'm working on the other part of my career, that of historical writer Cindy Holby. I am currently working on a historical called Fallen and waaaay behind in my writing. As each author has a different process and has to find what works for them I'd thought I'd do some craft stuff and those of you interested can figure out what works for you and what doesn't.

At the moment I'm more worried about getting the pages done that the quality of them. I figure I can go back and fix them later. (I've got six weeks to write 300 plus pages. Yeah, no pressure. I usually need six months) So last night I realized that I was telling instead of showing when it really should be the other way around.

This is my first draft. The time is 1774, Aberdeen Scotland and the hero, Captain John Murray of His Majesty's Army has just gotten a letter informing him of his mother's pending death and the death of her third fiance.

John could not help but shake his head at his sister’s unbelievable run of bad luck where marriage was concerned. Lord Fansler had been her last hope at making a decent marriage as she was now known about London as the Virgin Widow. The gossip would only be worse now and all the eligible men would avoid her like the plague. Beyond her apparent beauty, she had nothing to offer. There was no dowry and Carrie was more likely to knock over a tea service than serve it. Still she was a pleasant companion and had a wonderful sense of humor along with a peaceful mien that made her pleasant company. Any man would be lucky to have her for a wife, lack of dowry notwithstanding. Perhaps he should introduce her to some of his comrades, such as Rory.
Rory’s father would likely not allow it. As would any of his friends parents who were of the peerage. Marriages were made to garner wealth and position which was something Carrie did not have. She was past the age of becoming a governess also.
John sighed as he realized that he would likely have to provide for his sister for the rest of her life. But thinking on that was better than thinking on the real reason for the letter.
Their mother was dying. Their father was in the colonies. If Carrie had sent father a letter at the same time she sent John’s then it was weeks away from delivery, and that was if father was at a post. The last he’d heard his father was on the Western Frontier, in a place called Pennsylvania, along a river called Ohio, fighting the savages. It could be months before Carrie’s letter found him and then more months before he could get home. What were the chances that Mother would still be alive if father got to come home?
John hated to ask for leave now since he had only recently come to Aberdeen. It would have to wait. Wait until mother was sicker and closer to death. There was nothing he could do for her or Carrie. Being there wouldn’t change anything. At least his visit would be something they could look forward too.

Boring right. John is sitting in his room just thinking. A friend and I call it rock sitting. Long story but same principle.

This is my final without edits. In this rewrite I added John's room-mate Rory to the mix.

“A letter from home?” Rory asked as he came into the room. He quickly removed his coat and hung it next to John’s, loosened his stock and stretched out on his bunk with his hands crossed behind his head. He appeared quite content and John knew, without asking, that his friend had recently been with a woman. “Bad news?” Rory asked.
“Yes,” John replied. “Full of it.”
“Give me the least of it first,” Rory said.
“Carrie’s latest fiancĂ© has passed.”
“How many is that now?” Rory asked. “Three?”
John nodded. “This one expired of old age.”
“Tell me John, how can this be considered bad news. Beyond the obvious lack of income for your sister.”
“She has no dowry and now no prospects. Lord Fansler was a last resort on our mother’s part. He had no heirs and no property, but he did have some money and a nice little house in London. It would have been enough to keep Carrie comfortable.”
“I supposed now it will all go to some distant relative,” Rory concluded.
“Yes,” John sighed. He dropped the letter on the desk the two men shared and stretched out on his own cot. “They call her the Virgin Widow you know.”
“Yes,” Rory said. “I’ve heard.”
“It’s too bad really,” John said. “She would make someone a wonderful wife. She’s pretty and intelligent and a most pleasant companion.”
“Indeed,” Rory agreed.
John looked hopefully at his room-mate. “She has a wonderful sense of humor also.”
“I know what you are thinking John and my father would sooner disown me than allow me to marry a woman with no wealth or title no matter how well he thinks of you. When and if I marry it will be to enhance the family coffers with coin, land and titles.” Rory looked over at John with a wry look on her face. “Although it might be worth the disownment to watch Carrie pour tea in his lap as she did when I visited with your mother when we were last in London.”
John had to grin at the memory. What Carrie possessed in beauty she lost in clumsiness. She had a dreadful penchant for tripping over her dress hem and knocking over tables and such.
“How is your lovely mother by the way,” Rory asked.
John sighed. “Not well. Not well at all.” He pointed at the letter. “Feel free to read it. I’m not sure I can stand to say it aloud at the moment.”
Rory quickly read the letter and sat down on his cot to look at John. “I am so sorry old friend,” he said. “What do you plan to do? Ask for leave?”
“I don’t feel as if I can at the moment,” John said as he too, sat up and faced Rory. “Even though I know the General will allow it because of his friendship with my father. I don’t want anyone thinking I am taking advantage of that friendship and asking for special privileges, especially since we have only recently come to this post.”
“I’m sure no one would think that, given the circumstances.”
“Oh but someone will,” John said. “It would come out, sooner than later. It would be on my permanent record and follow me wherever I go. There is some time. I think it would be better to wait until…later…”
“It would give her something to look forward too,” Rory added.
“What about your father,” Rory asked. “Do you think he knows?”
“It depends. I think now, at the present time, he does not know.” John rubbed
his hands over his face as the seriousness of the situation settled upon him. “If Carrie sent Father a letter at the same time she sent mine then it is weeks away from delivery, and that is only if Father is at his post. The last I heard from him he was on the Western Frontier, in a place called Pennsylvania, along a river called Ohio, fighting the savages.” John continued. “It could be months before Carrie’s letter finds him and then more months before he can get home. What are the chances that Mother will still be alive if and when he gets here?”
Rory reached out and laid a comforting hand on John’s shoulder. “There is only so much you can do from here, and nothing you can do about the things you can not control. Write Carrie and tell her you will ask for leave this fall and that your prayers are with her and your mother. Then write your mother and tell her you look forward to seeing her soon and make no mention of her illness. I have found in my own experience that mother’s like to think they are in charge and can make things fine just by wishing them so.”
“It is the same with mine,” John said.
“Then she will appreciate your subterfuge,” Rory said. “I will leave you in peace for a bit to write your letters.” With that he stood and stretched his arms over his head as if waking from a nap. “I suddenly find that I am starving and will have to go raid the mess lest I expire before meal time is upon us.”

I was able to cover all the information I wanted the reader to see, plus show a bit of Rory's personality. Rory is not a central character to the story, other than the fact that he will be senselessly killed and John's reaction to that death is important in his relationship with Izzy, the heroine. By doing this however, I developed Rory's character a bit more, showed how close their friendship is and hopefully in the long run have the reader be saddened by his death.

Its much more interesting this way, or so I hope.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


With the Maryland presidential primaries this week, the predictions and analyses of the political experts and pollsters reminded me of a story I read some time ago. It doesn't have anything to do with aliens or romance, but it's certainly "alien" to us in its futuristic speculation. The author imagines a future United States in which demographic science has advanced so far that an exhaustive study can produce the name of the single citizen who is absolutely typical. He so perfectly represents the attitudes of the population as a whole that there's no need for elections with millions of people casting ballots. Whenever public offices need to be filled, the authorities identify the typical citizen of the moment and designate him or her as the Voter. Amid much media hoopla, the experts interview and analyze him, and on the basis of his response a computer program (I think) chooses the winners of the election. An interesting satirical extension, to its ultimate degree, of our present reliance on polls and media trends. How many people vote for a particular candidate simply because that candidate has been built up in the media as a viable choice ("name recognition")? If the election process could be done the way that story imagines it, it would be quite a time- and money-saver. :)

Robert Heinlein, in his collection EXPANDED UNIVERSE, tosses out several provocative ideas on different ways to choose elected officials. His own novel STARSHIP TROOPERS, of course, limits the franchise to veterans of Federal Service (NOT actively serving members; they can't vote until after discharge). (No, the political culture of the Federation in that novel is NOT the neo-fascist military dictatorship implied in that infuriating travesty of a movie adaptation.) Here's an essay analyzing STARSHIP TROOPERS in some detail:

Heinlein also brings up Mark Twain's "The Curious Republic of Gondour," a utopian society in which every citizen has at least one vote, but education or wealth can earn the individual the right to additional votes. The relevant portion of the story can be found here:

Another system proposed by Heinlein (how seriously, I can't tell) is a return to the requirement of property ownership as a qualification for the franchise, on the grounds that owning property proves the individual has a serious stake in his community. That idea gives me the chills, implying a reversion to the bad old days of the poll tax and other exclusionary tactics. At the very least, property couldn't be the only qualification. A college degree or employment in a skilled trade should be accepted as an alternative.

Most entertaining is Heinlein's comment about women's suffrage. When the vote was extended to women, many people assumed political discourse would rise to a higher, more morally pure level because of women's refining influence. Clearly, that result hasn't come to pass. Heinlein suggests we haven't gone far enough. How about disenfranchising males for a century or so and see what happens? It's only fair, right? :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What do you want from our blog?

I'm a sometimes forgetful blogger. I tend to blog when I have a book out. And yes, Solar heat hit the stores this week. But what I'd like to ask readers is why do you read blogs? Do you want to hear about our books? About our lives? About how we think? Because I never know what to blog about. As much as I like Solar Heat, I wrote it a long time ago. So long that I don't recall details. And the new book I'm writing now won't be out for a long time. So what kinds of blogs do you like? Why do you read them? Do you ever buy books because of blogs, book videos, or covers?

I love to put up pictures on my blogs. Do you like those? Are you looking for information about authors? How we write? What we think? Industry news? I'm curious because Wednesday is my day and invariably I wonder what interests you.

So tell me. What do you want from us? What do you like best? What don't you like at all? Why do you come back here?
Susan Kearney

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Well...??? So why DO you write!!!

I'm experimenting inserting this in the HTML mode and can only hope it'll look OK. Please forgive the formatting gliches.

In several screenwriting classes, the assignment was the pesky "Why do you write?" one. Now I'm used to "Where do you get your crazy ideas?" and I've been answering that routinely on this blog. But "Why do you write?" I just can't fathom that question. But it keeps coming. Finally, it made me mad enough to draft the following little scripted scene.

Another assignment was to create a domain to house screenplay offerings, so I did that, too, though it's far from "finished." It will get a logo and some more graphics, a much longer list of screenplays ready to market, much improved "marketing materials" (i.e. the description of what the script is and what it's about), and even some internal navigation aids plus a lot more actual content. This scene is posted there, too -- where you can read this item without the format-scramble caused by the narrow column of the blog text.

Written by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

                                                               FADE IN:

               INT. TORTURE CHAMBER - NIGHT  

               A small dark room with a bare TABLE and CHAIR, plus a DESK
with two unlit SPOTLIGHTS aimed at the chair. A WATER
BOARDING setup sits to one side with no water in it.

               A cloaked figure, the INTERROGATOR, walks to the desk carrying a
large pile of paper. He pounds a light switch and sits.

               The spotlights reveal the woman, JACQUELINE LICHTENBERG,
sitting at the table. Mature, stately, utterly composed,
wearing a staid business suit, a queen on her throne,
Lichtenberg stares down the rude man from her reddened eyes.
The Interrogator checks his notes.

Now, once more, Lichtenberg, you
will tell me exactly why you write!

               Lichtenberg's voice is husky, lips dry and cracked.  

You wouldn't believe me.

Immaterial. We will not be here
all night. Answer the question.

               Lichtenberg's eyes flash to the water boarding setup then
back to the Interrogator. Her chin rises. She is silent.

                                   INTERROGATOR (CONT'D)

               The door opens letting in flourescent blue light.  LINDSAY a
hulking man built like a Sumo wrestler, enters with a BUCKET
of water. The door SLAMS. The Interrogator nods at the water
boarding setup. Lindsay pours the water slowly, glances over
his shoulder at Lichtenberg, drawing the cruel moment out.
She faces the Interrogator in royal capitulation. She folds
her hands on the table, stares at them and confesses.

B-because. Because I can't draw,
or paint, or sew, or dance, or
sculpt, or sing, or compose music.

I told you, no more specious lies.

               Stung, Lichtenberg stares right into the blinding lights that
hide her enemy.

The bald, unalloyed,
incontrovertible truth is -

               She pauses to take a deep breath.

                                   LICHTENBERG (CONT'D)
I HAVE NO TALENT!!!! There, now
are you satisfied!

               She starts to rise as if to leave the room in a huff.
Lindsay pushes her shoulders down, seating her hard.

               The Interrogator shakes the stack of paper at her.

That is a patent lie! This is the
original manuscript of one of your
award winning novels. Lindsay -

No! No, I'll tell you. I'll tell
you everything. Just don't - !

               She glances at the water boarding setup.  

All right. One more chance.

               Voice cracking, Lichtenberg begins.  

I write to show people the vast
potential I see in humanity.

That's too vague.

The Universe, and humanity, are
made out of the substance of love,
of affinity for goodness.

Balderdash. This is all battle
scenes and chase scenes.

The beauty of the human spirit
reveals itself under duress.

What human? These are aliens!

               Lichtenberg glances from the Manuscript to Lindsay and snaps.  

Lindsay, did you read that book?

Yes, Ma'am.

Were the non-humans believable?

Yes, Ma'am.

(To Interrogator)
The humanity of the human spirit
may be ellusive. But the beauty
within always emerges.

You don't always write science

True. I always show ways to
uncover the goodness in the world,
to inspire people to look at the
worst and see the inner beauty.

But this is cheesey trash, wall to
wall action peppered with passion!

Each action results from a free
will choice such as we all face in
life. Success depends on the
ability to make a friend out of an
enemy. The trick of that is to
find the beauty within yourself.

Let her go, Lindsay. She's daft.

                                                              FADE OUT.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reinventing Linnea

Bantam will reissue my backlist this summer with all new covers, and, I'm told, shelve my books in the romance section. To that end, they've decided Linnea Needs a New Look. It's called 'branding'--creating a design or image that will be associated with a "Linnea Sinclair" book.

So here's a sneak peek at the upcoming books. They're trying to lure romance readers without losing science fiction readers. What do you think? ~Linnea

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Crime and Punishment

The Maryland General Assembly's legislative session is at its height now, accompanied by reintroduction of various hardy perennial proposals, including the abolition of the death penalty, which seems to be gaining momentum this year. The disturbing revelations (through DNA tests) of mistakenly convicted people on death row and the fact that the execution process (with appeals) costs more than supporting a prisoner for life make the death penalty appear especially problematic. So I started thinking about possible future enhancements of or alternatives to execution as punishment for heinous crimes, some of which I've encountered in SF stories:

Simplest solution to the high cost of the death sentencing process: Put the malefactor in a permanent coma and harvest his organs for transplant, killing him only after all usable spare parts have been extracted.

Place his body in suspended animation and use his brain to pilot an otherwise unmanned cargo spaceship. This was the premise of a story I read a long time ago, but I don't remember what stopped the disembodied pilot from simply absconding with the ship.

Sentence him to lifelong solitary confinement in a sealed, completely automated and computerized cell, with no human contact. No more problems with prison violence!

Link him to a virtual reality program that forces him to experience his victim's suffering in precise detail, over and over for the rest of his life.

Same system, but instead force him to virtually commit the crime over and over in an endless loop.

Wire his brain to turn him into a mindless zombie and use him for hazardous physical labor.

Alter his brain through either surgery or drugs to make him completely docile, incapable of violence or rebellion.

Release him into society as an unperson, declared "invisible," so that no one will interact with him in any way, and he has to survive by scrounging for his basic needs. This idea also comes from a story I read, and, again, I don't remember how the author dealt with the danger that the convict, having nothing else to lose, might go on a rampage of destruction. That problem could be avoided by first reprogramming him, as above.

Wipe his personality completely. Reprogram him with a totally compliant, nonviolent personality. Would this procedure, if feasible, constitute the most humane solution or the ultimate violation of human rights?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Solar Heat Chat

Hi Everyone,
It's that time again. My new book Solar Heat should be hitting the stores this week. And while it is a sequel to Island heat, you needn't read the first one, which took place on Earth. Solar Heat is back in space and where I'm most happy. I'll be chatting about the book tonight at 9pm EST at Please come by, say hello and stay for some chocolate. :)

And here's a quote from Romantic Times: 4 1/2 Top Pick

"It's back to the stars for another otherworldly thriller. This rip-roaring adventure zips along while not scrimping on the character development or sexy sizzle. It's mega-talented Kearney at her best." —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

And here's a blurb.

Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0765358441
Publisher: Tor Paranormal Romance
Pub. Date: February 2008

Is she an indispensable ally. . . or his worst enemy?

When Intersolar Mining entrepreneur Derrek Archer rescues Azsla from her emergency sleeping pod, he's confounded by his desire for her. An inexplicable desire. An irresistible desire that causes Derrek to wonder if he's been drugged or hypnotized.

Is she better off with him . . . or without him?

Azsla's attracted to the sexy asteroid miner, but she fears getting close to Derrek might compromise her mission and reveal her secret. A secret that she's an enemy spy and her facade hides a complex and powerful woman—one capable of enslaving Derrek and destroying everything he holds dear.

Will Azsla's devastating secret destroy them . . . or save them?

When a cataclysm of deadly proportions threatens Derrek's world, they must overcome their distrust, suspicion and opposing loyalties. But while uniting forces might save a planet, working together might tear them apart or bring them together. Forever.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Crazy in Love

If it is the first Tuesday of the month, it must be "Crazy Tuesday"

Today, between 10.00 am Eastern Time and noon, Rowena Cherry and Susan Kearney will be chatting about Romance and out of this world lovers --and also their latest novels with Linnea Sinclair, Susan Sizemore, Joy Nash and Susan Grant.

That is the approximate order of appearance. You can listen live on your computers, or you can download the podcast later.

Why "Crazy"? Well, you'd have to be out of your mind to fall in love with a robot, a
cyborg, a half-man of steel, wouldn't you? How about a vampire lover to take a bite out of you every night? What about an extra terrestrial Terminator? An alien zombie hunter? Would you feel nervous if your lover spends part of her life as a wolf? Where would you look if your lover is a god with a penis that literally flashes in the dark?

Susan Kearney
Kiss Me Deadly
Dancing with Fire

Linnea Sinclair
multi-award winning science fiction romance author, including the RITA, PEARL, Sapphire and more

The Down Home Zombie Blues Nov 2007
Shades of Dark July 2008 (sequel to RITA winner,
Gabriel's Ghost

Susan Sizemore
Susan Sizemore, author of urban fantasy and romance vampire fiction.
The Vampire Primes romance series(Primal Desires) and Laws of Blood fantasy series
First Blood Aug 2008

Susan Grant
RITA Award winning SF Romance

Their paths had crossed in a bitter war.
Their hearts would collide in a fragile peace.

Moonstruck 6/08 An all-new series

Joy Nash
USA Today bestselling author for Immortals: The Awakening
Recipient of Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Fantasy
Deep Magic-Druids of Avalon book 2
Historical fantasy with an arthurian connection
Immortals: The Crossing Oct 2008

Rowena Cherry
Chess-inspired (mating) titles. Gods from outer space. Sexy SFR. Poking fun (pun intended) Shameless word-play.

"racy, wildly entertaining futuristic romance"~ Writers Write
Insufficient Mating Material

Monday, February 04, 2008

Line Edits, Plotting and Synopsis, Oh My!

Welcome to my world.

I'm in line edits on SHADES OF DARK (July 2008) which is not to be confused with (substantive) edits, which is not to be confused with galley edits. Which is not to be confused with writing the book. Line edits are, essentially, the second-round-pass on a finished manuscript. You've written the whole book, your editor has read it and come back to you with suggested (substantive) changes (ie: the funny part here should be funnier, the scary part here should be scarier, I think it's out of character for the character to say X at this point, etc..). You've made those substantive changes along with whatever punctuation and grammar changes your editor noted. Now the manuscript goes to the CE (Copy Editor), who basically checks spelling on every word and verifies every comma, question mark and quotation mark. And so do you.

Those are called line edits. Keep in mind you've already done a bunch of comman to em-dash changes during substantive edits. Now, you're doing more. Different ones. New ones. Ones you thought for sure you did or ones your editor did and the CE doesn't like.

You also change things per your publisher's "style sheet." IE: Bantam wants "toward" not "towards." Both are legal English. Six books in, I've pretty much trained myself to write toward. But some towards slip through. So do some advisors where Bantam wants advisers. I also write ship's logs or ship's systems and Bantam wants the ship's logs or the ship's systems.

I could argue the points--I sometimes do with "STET" clearly written over their changes, as when the CE for The Down Home Zombie Blues changed "sighting a rifle" to "citing a rifle"--but understand line edits are grueling. I get too tired to argue (except when "citing" is obviously wrong, unless one it issuing the rifle a citation...)

It doesn't end there, though. After this, you get galley edits. The galleys are the book's actual pages and you have to typo-snipe again.

Figure by this time you've read your own manuscript, oh, at least two dozen times and you can no longer 'see' what you wrote. The brain fills in automatically for what's not on the page. You anticipate. You miss things. It's nuts.

Add to the above the fact I'm writing Hope's Folly, Philip's story (from Gabriel's Ghost and Shades of Dark). And I'm revamping the synopsis for Moon Under Glass (totally new, unrealted SFR).

In the midst of that I'm prepping for an out of town book signing (Orlando, February 9th), a radio interview tomorrow (February 5th), an out of town conference (Columbia, SC, February 29th-March 2nd), and prepping/planning/coordinating workshops and talks I have with the other authors involved for the Columbia SC conference as well as a San Francisco appearance mid-March and the huge Romantic Times conference in Pittsburgh, end of April.
Have I mentioned that I basically spend 18+ hours a day in front of my computer?

Now do you know why? Welcome to my world.

~Linnea, back to line edits, synopsis revamping, laying out the Celebrate Romance conference program and figuring out what in hell I can talk about at my upcoming conferences and still sound both sane AND witty...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

New Star Trek Fanfic Posted

Well, it's not NEW new fanfic.

Remote Control is Jacqueline Lichtenberg's very first attempt at writing a script in the mid-1960's, before creating her Star Trek fanfic universe, Kraith,

before development of the Intimate Adventure premise,

before her first fiction sale of the Sime~Gen story, Operation High Time,

before winning any awards for writing.

But it may have some historical interest for fans. (as a script it is absolutely awful, and as a story it is more than somewhat lacking).

Read Remote Control -- brought to you by Doug Dietz who retrieved it from a 'zine Jacqueline no longer possesses.

Or explore our growing Star Trek fanfic section. Recommend 'zines to be added.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Creator of the Sime~Gen Universe
where a mutation makes the evolutionary
division into male and femalepale by comparison.

Alien Romance finalists

Congratulations to the Finalists

SILVER MASTER by Jayne Castle | Jove
THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES by Linnea Sinclair | Bantam (Dell)
HEART DANCE by Robin D. Owens | Berkley
INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL by Rowena Cherry | Dorchester Love spell

ALL TOGETHER DEAD by Charlaine Harris | Ace Books
A LICK OF FROST by Laurell K. Hamilton | Ballantine Books
GAMES OF COMMAND by Linnea Sinclair | Spectra
BLOOD BOUND by Patricia Briggs | Ace Books
PROTECTOR OF THE FLIGHT by Robin D. Owens | Luna

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry