Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fess Up Monday!

Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

Happy New Year to everyone!

This is a milestone year for me, because this is the Year of my First Novel-Length Publication. You can all read BONDS OF DARKNESS from Liquid Silver Books on January 15th, or you can sneak a peak at

But of course, while that's pretty cool, I'm well into two new projects. What are you up to, this first day of 2007? What are your goals? Do you freeze up even thinking about that?

If you want a little hint in setting reasonable, attainable goals, check out FINDING FOCUS: MANAGING YOUR CREATIVITY from last autumn's newsletter. If you set an unreasaonable goal, you're just setting yourself up to fail. And that sucks. A good goal for 2007: avoid the suckage early and often.

On the blog schedule this week:

Tuesday: News 2 Use, everyone's favorite feature.
Thursday: A new Read This, with links to some good speculative romantic short stories available on the web…including MINE!
Friday: Romance and science fiction go out on another date in a new publication dedicated to speculative fiction.
Weekend: A new feature, From Other Shelves – noteable books outside our subgenres.

So I invite you, every Monday, to fess up. Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell, tell! Because if you write just 1,750 words a week, by this time next year, you'll have the first draft of a novel!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Classy, Classy, Classy!

Each week I get an email from the reviews coordinator at Samhain Publishing, letting me know about new speculative romance releases. This makes me smile every single Monday, because as a one-woman shop, I really appreciate the time they take to make my life easier. (Thank you, M, did you know how much I appreciate you?)

Today when I got home from the day job, I found a holiday greeting card from the Samhain Publishing Staff.

I'm telling ya, that's classy.

Happy Holidays, Samhain Publishing!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, a call for gossip devolved into a genuine discussion of a favorite topic: what readers expect from paranormal romance.

I wouldn't want to be an editor looking for the next hot read in speculative romantic fiction, because everyone seems to expect a different experience, or bring a different reader need to the bookstore aisle. I think that our subgenre has to work the hardest in any of romance, because of the varied tastes and desires of its fans.

And although this reality too often leads to angry readers demanding to know why a favorite series has turned the corner into something they don't want to read, I think the diversity in speculative romance is a strength.

I'm sure my letter to Speculative Romance Santa is very different from yours, and not just because I'm weird. It's because speculative romance whispers so much to so many, that we must be flexible in our definition of genre, and be understanding that what tosses your confetti might sink somebody else's tugboat.

So share your wish list for 2007 with the Speculative Romance Santa.

Here's mine:

Dear Speculative Romance Santa,

Please forego the diamonds and dark chocolate confections in my stocking this year, and deliver some good specrom reads, like…

Stories so well crafted that the romantic conflict grows directly from the circumstances of the author's speculative vision.

Stories that challenge my emotional boundaries through characters that so move me, I must transcend my "squick" factors to appreciate their love story. Even if it's only for the time it takes to read the book.

Real aliens to fall in love with. Tentacles and everything.

Historical speculative romance.

More stories like early Dean Koontz, but with more speculative content. I'm tired of re-reading Watchers and Lightening, Santa, please?

Love and chills,


Monday, December 04, 2006

Holy Crap Where Did She Go?

It's going to be hit-and-miss until the New Year, folks, but just to keep you thinking...

News 2 Use -- Controversial Issues Edition

Our Brains -- Should We Thank Sexual Outlaws?

The idea of interbreeding with another species gives us instinctual heebie-jeebies. But it seems more and more likely that the key genetic development in the human brain came to us courtesy of interbreeding with Neanderthals.

So…what species can we interbreed with now, to make the next evolutionary jump in your speculative romance? Paranormal creatures like vampires? Mythological remnants of elves and fairies? Aliens? Genetic engineered mixes with animals? Machine intelligence? Go forth and write!

Social Exclusion Actually Hurts Brain Function

Studies measuring the magnetic fields inside the brain show that people who are rejected or excluded from social interaction actually undergo neurological changes, resulting in poor decision-making and impaired learning processes.

So when we socially marginalize and demonize any group -- homosexuals, for example, or romance authors -- we create huge problems. Huge. Measurable. Neurological. When you are creating that near-future setting for your speculative romance, consider how any sexual outcasts you create may act. If your near-future society marginalizes people who sleep with vampires, chances are those people engage in risky, and possibly violent, behavior.

Global Sex Study Reports Dubious View of Women and Sex

A study of sexual practices and habits in 59 countries paints a pretty damn dim picture for women. Incidents of venereal disease and other sex-related health problems are linked less to promiscuity, and more to issues of poverty, mobility and gender equality. And while monogamy remains the basic rule, women are far less likely to have multiple sexual partners than men -- especially where social situations leave women in poverty and inequality. This results in such lovely statistics as these --

  • HIV rates climb rapidly for married women in underdeveloped countries, as they are put at risk by their husbands' behavior and their inability to control their sexual lives in marriage.

  • First sexual experiences remain traumatic and coercive in cultures that value women's sexual purity and therefore marry them off young.

  • In poorer nations, sex is still seen as less of a personal choice and more of a survival strategy.

  • In industrialized nations, where gender equality has resulted in parity of multiple sexual partnerships, women enjoy a higher standard of sexual health.

    The next time you consider the romantic aspects of an alien culture that values virginity, or begin to build the sexual history of your heroine, remember this study. There's nothing romantic about sexual inequality.

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    This week my mind is on keeping speculative romantic sex believable. PC Cast and Gena Showalter give their insights: Aliens Do It With Tentacles!

    For your reading pleasure, and a nice primer on keeping alien sex believable:Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    News 2 Use!!!!!!!!!!!

    Are You An Agent of Evolution?

    We tend to think of evolution as a purely biological process, but is human self-awareness, intelligence and tool-making capacity just a series of biological advancements enabling the next evolutionary step -- co-creation? Whether we meld human and machine, or use technology to alter our DNA, or both, is the next step supposed to be humanity taking conscious control of what we become?

    Ray Kurzweil should get the Moster Hug of Appreciation from speculative authors everywhere for his futuristic gleanings.

    Aliens: Are they ET or Predator, and Should We Be Shouting At Them Until We Know?

    As various groups, including SETI, Yahoo and Cosmic Connexion, start to beam active messages to potential alien environments in space, others wonder if it's such a good idea. After all, if there is alien life, there's no guarantee how they might feel about us.

    It would be ironic if instead of blowing ourselves up, our sincere desire to connect with aliens is what causes the end of humanity.

    Monday, October 30, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    The Global Existential Threat Level has gone back down to GUARDED.

    My personal existential threat level has gone down as well. It's nice to be back.

    This week's inspiration are my favorite jokes. I hope they inspire you. too.

    Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: Banana.

    So, Mr. Hydrogen Atom rushes into the Periodic Chart Police Station in a great tizzy, crying, "Help, help, someone has stolen my electron!"

    "Calm down, Mr. Hydrogen Atom," says the nearest Periodic Chart Police Officer, "are you sure someone's stolen your electron?"

    Says Mr. Hydrogen Atom, "Oh, yes! I'm positive."

    What's your favorite joke?

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Provoke a Thought Or Two.

    Racy Li kindly pointed me at The Sixth Feminist SF Blog Carnival, which has kindly linked to my rant about the place of virgin heroines. (Read below.)

    Dozens of interesting links discuss the roles of female protagonists in books, TV, movies, comics and video games.

    I was glad to see that I was not the only one let down by the season finale of Eureka. It's so great to see a sci-fi show that dares to focus on relationships, but holy crap, could we break outta the box just a bit, fellas? In a town where the rules of physics are broken left and right, can we maybe get ourselves a little more challenging of a relationship going on?
    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at ELEVATED.

    My personal existential threat level is much, much higher.

    This week's inspiration:

    Fall seven times, stand up eight. - Japanese proverb

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Do Virgins Suck?

    An astute Specrom member sent me a challenge on my disdain for virgin heroines. She had a story to enter the (cancelled for lack of entries) Zircon contest, but, knowing the market, knew that submitting a virgin heroine to the Zircons would be like submitting hot, same-sex polygamy to Guideposts. She suggested that in a genre like romance it's hard to escape the virgins, and because of my prejudice against virgins I'm missing lots of good fiction.

    She might be right. Then again, maybe not.

    In one of my very first reviews for SpecRom, I encountered a contemporary paranormal romance featuring a VH. The story could have been just as effective if she wasn't a virgin. Although a plausible (for some) reason was provided for her virginity, it just smacked of manipulation. I asked myself WHY an author might choose to write about a VH in contemporary America, and didn't like the reasons that came to mind.

    Reason #1: The heroine must be a virgin because Virgins=Goodness. If an author chooses Reason #1, then I think it's just an example of sloppy characterization. Halos, white hats and intact hymens are lazy ways to cue the reader to cheer. You may in your personal philosophy believe that virginity is a sign of goodness. All well and good, but recognize that it won't connect with all readers unless you are writing to a niche audience.

    Reason #2: The heroine must be a virgin so she won't make sensible choices about romance and sex, and then the plot can go on for 90,000 words. Insulting on so many, many levels, is it not? To assume that a contemporary heroine who has no sexual experience hasn't the wits to make good choices…yikes. To assume that a contemporary heroine who has sexual experience also has the wits to make good choices…yikes, again. I have yet to find a biology book which equates sexual experience and intelligence.

    Reason #3: The heroine must be a virgin because this is a romance novel, and I don't want to defeat my reader's expectation. Get a calendar.

    So I just couldn't figure out why an author writing a contemporary would choose to write a VH except out of personal storytelling choice. And hey, that's great. But expect me to exercise my personal reading choices right back. With few exceptions, stories set in our contemporary world with a VH aren't going to be great fiction to me. I mean, if the heroine is a virgin because she was abducted as a two-year old and kept in a basement by a gang of alien Satanists for sacrificial purposes, hell ya I'm interested. Chances are, you're not. Remember, the greatness of fiction is always subjective.

    But, I hear you asking in legion, about speculative worlds? Can't the VH be plausible in those settings? The answer is of course. I have myself written and am trying to sell a short story set in the future featuring (gasp) a Virgin Heroine, and I didn't even realize it until Astute Specrom Member brought this issue up and exposed my own base hypocrisy. My compliments to you, Astute Specrom Member!

    I guess I would ask authors to ask themselves, as they sit down to craft a speculative world, WHY are you creating a world in which virginity matters? As long as you can answer that question honestly and completely from either personal or story logic, then you write what moves you and audience be damned. If the characters ring true and the plot sweeps me off my feet, even a hypocritical virgin-hater like myself probably will like it.

    Or not. Such is the subjective way fiction works. We write what moves us and hope that it connects with a reader somewhere. It's the nature of the beast we ride. It truly has two backs -- the reader and the author -- and one cannot control the other. It's a courtship, as tricky as any held in singles bars or speed dating sessions.

    So I am officially no longer the founding member of the Deflower the Virgins Literary Action Committee, and I think a better author and reader for it. So bring on the virgins, but don't expect me to like them. Not all of them, at least.

    So I put the question to you, speculative romance readers and authors: Do Virgins Suck?

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    The Global Existential Threat Level has been upgraded to ELEVATED.

    That damn North Korea...

    Here's some inspiration, but if you had a week like mine, you need more perspiration and less playing Sid Meyer's Pirates...

    You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
    Robin Williams

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    News 2 Use!!!!

    This is Your Brain…Being Responsible?

    As neuroscience continues to link behavior – both bad and good – to biological complexities beyond our control, how do we define criminal and moral liability?

    The article draws parallels between free will and determinism. Once we thought our behavior was determined by supernatural forces. In the future, will we conclude that much of our behavior is determined by biology? And if we can excise violence from the brain with a few simple surgeries, how will the issue of free will and consent factor in then? Story fodder galore.

    A Real Live Speculative Romantic Hero In Wales

    A man with no identification, apparently no past and, even more weirdly, apparently using a language translators cannot identify, has been caught breaking into the same house in Wales three times. He refuses to identify his country of origin, or give authorities any personal information.

    Run with it folks, it's a life-to-page situation.

    TV To the Stars

    Coming this fall from France, CosmicConnexion will broadcast the first television program aimed, literally, at a universal audience. Content will we beamed into outer space using the National Centre for Space Studies antennae.

    So of all the shows on this fall, which one would YOU beam out into space for the enjoyment of aliens? I vote Showtime's WEEDS.

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    I wonder what circumstances must prevail for the threat level to reach low?

    And instead of inspiration, I'll leave you with my new motto:

    When does CPR become necrophilia? -- Kevin Nealon, WEEDS

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    Market News For Youse and Youse and Youse

    Submission – it's good for the soul, hehehe

  • Omega Room wants your full-length novel of any genre, but is really hot for science fiction and fantasy.

  • Triskelion has two new speculative romance imprints waiting for your manuscript: Urban Sorcery and Illusions.

  • Medallion Press re-opens to paranormal romance and science fiction subs.

  • Pitch-Black Books wants your fantasy short story.

  • Asylett Press is looking for pretty much everything in the romance and speculative genres.

  • As always, full listings are at Speculative Romance Online – The Website.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    News 2 Use, Get Yer News 2 Use Here

    Replace Football with Jazz Choir, Damn it!

    A Canadian research study has linked early music training in children with increased memory capacity key to improved literacy skills, math aptitudes and general IQ. After tracking two groups of students aged four through six – one musically trained and the other not – improvements in the musically trained were noted in just four months.

    Reading stuff like this makes me wonder why school districts always have enough funds for sports teams, but are always cutting those expendable music programs. Maybe in a future, or more sensible alternate, human society, we'll have battle of the bands instead of clash of the pigskin titans.

    Have I ever mentioned that I think the only legitimate sports should be competition ballroom dancing, Latin and Standard?

    Those Mirror Neurons are Busy Guys!

    (Last week's News 2 Use showed a link between empathy and mirror neurons. Now...)

    German research suggests that when a human watches sexually arousing images, the brain reacts as if the watcher is actively involved. In other words, seeing and doing elicit the same neurological response.

    This particular study is on visual images. I wonder how the brain reacts when it reads a description of sexual activity. My guess is that the female brain responds to literary stimulation with much the same enthusiasm as the male brain does to visual, and between this post and the last we have enumerated the neuroscience behind romance novels.

    Are We Neurological Hostages?

    Neurosurgery patients have discovered, by accident, that stimulation of certain areas of the brain induces an experience known by schizophrenics as "the shadow self." Those in psychotic states and these stimulated surgery patients experienced the hallucination of shadowy presence linked to their own. However, some people experienced the shadowy presence as positive or neutral, while others felt that the presence was malign and manipulative.

    The more I read about neuroscience, the more I marvel at how we are at the mercy of our brain function. And how we may someday be at the mercy of people who can control our brain function. Psychosis as WMD, anyone?

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    Humanity remains in no immediate danger of destroying itself, which is always comforting on a Monday:

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    And to inspire you this week, a thought from one of my favorites:

    As for me, prizes mean nothing. My prize is my work. -- Katherine Hepburn

    Saturday, September 23, 2006


    Show our love for speculative short fiction, romantic or otherwise. Apex Digest, a great market, needs financial support. Buy tickets for some really great stuff, like




  • and on September 29th, you may be the winner.

    Tickets cost a buck, you can enter as often as you like for dozens of neat donated prizes.

    I think they might still be taking donations, so if you are a published author who wants to help out, check their site.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    READ THIS: Angst in D Minor, by Jenn Reese

    Lone Star Stories features Angst in D Minor, by Jenn Reese: a clever little tale about one young woman's search for a new way of living in an eat-a-man world.

    I've archived the READ THIS links at Speculative Romance Online, the website. There are a few broken links to fix, but otherwise you can find a short specrom fix with one quick click.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    NEWS 2 USE!!!!!

    Lovers of Speculative Historic Romance Take Note

    A history of the Scottish people written in the 1440s contends that an exiled Egyptian Queen, Scota, was the mother of the modern people of Scotland. In his new book, Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scotts, author Ralph Ellis pulls together various historical documents to back up the claim that ancient Egypt is ultimately responsible for kilts, bagpipes and haggis.

    Considering the paranormal and supernatural elements of ancient Egypt, and that some researchers think that ancient Egypt may also be the source of original vampire lore…

    Just make sure you mention SpecRom in your author notes!

    Pumping Up the Supercomputer

    Intel researchers may have found a way to process information even faster inside computers, using laser lights instead of wires as connections. While technological advances have found fast and relatively cheap ways to communicate data between computers, advancement has stalled around finding a way to increase speed of communication between individual chips in a computer. If the laser light technology develops as hoped, incredible new supercomputers may be the result.

    Supercomputing is the only way we know of to understand complex natural systems like weather and genetic patterns really work. A world where humans better understand neural activity, how tornadoes really work, where hurricanes might go, could be the setting for your speculative romance.

    Empathy Is Neurological Not Emotional

    Our ability to feel empathy or share an experience vicariously depends on "mirror neurons" activating in response to stimuli.

    According to researcher Christian Keysers, “It’s exciting because we can start to look at the diversity of experiences of other people. Some people see others through themselves, and some are more objective about it.”

    With the new supercomputers, will scientists be able to locate and activate those mirror neurons and inducing an empathetic response? How about a voluntary sharing of someone else's sexual experience? How about a nonconensual sharing of someone else's pain?

    Rio Hawks Down

    A pair of hawks nesting in an upscale area of Rio de Janiero have attacked residents, scratching arms and faces, one day reaching a rate of five attacks in a twenty minute span.

    Nature at work, DARPA or Hitchcock: you decide.

    What I Want For Christmas

    From Publisher's Lunch:

    Hannibal for the Holidays
    Bantam announced publication of Thomas Harris's HANNIBAL RISING for December 5, the fourth book featuring Hannibel Lecter. This one focuses on Lecter between ages 6 and 20. A film version of the book, based on a screenplay by Harris, will follow closely with a February release in the US. (When signed in 2004 as part of a two-book deal, the book was originally due for fall 2005. The NYT says Harris completed the manuscript within the last month.) Publisher Irwyn Applebaum says they plan a minimum first printing of 1.5 million copies.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    But you can focus on your muse:

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    I know my mind is greatly eased. Yours?

    And our inspiration today:

    Goals are dreams with deadlines -- Diana Scharf Hunt

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Website Updates!

    Market News

    It's a slow month for markets. If you have a tip, email me!

  • Bold Strokes Books looks for speculative lesbian romance.

  • Cobblestone Press wants speculative sensual romance.

  • Mojocastle Press wants speculative romance, whether it be sensual mainstream or hard-core, no-happy-ending.

  • As always, you can find all the markets at Speculative Romance Online's homepage.

    Member News

    Rowena Cherry is thrilled to announce that in September, Dee Gentle’s PNR Paraphernalia and What’s New column features interviews with Science Fiction Romance and Futuristic authors, including Rowena Cherry. Check it out at

    And in the Rowena Cherry author newsletter, look for an excerpt from award winning Aviation Romance author, Susan Grant’s newest release, YOUR PLANET OR MINE, an interview with Cover Model MARK JOHNSON, an excerpt from Historical Romance author Lori Pepio’s HIGHLAND HONOR, and Rowena Cherry’s Ramblings (in this case, about climbing a cliff for a photo opportunity), a new hunky interactive online jigsaw puzzle and a contest.

    Pollyanna Williamson writing as Tambra Kendall announces that her story "Through A Magic Mist" will be featured in the Celtic Love Knots anthology from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid. Watch for it in 2007.

    Ellora's Cave author Nathalie Gray invites you to check out her new releases:

    Bain's Wolf, werewolf/contemporary, 13 Sep 06
    Sinful, historical/medieval, 25 Oct 06
    Timely Defense, medieval/time-travel/humor, 13 Dec 06
    Feral, futuristic/werewolf, 25 Jan 07

    Debbie Mumford's release from Freya's Bower, Sorcha's Heart, gets a great revew!

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    But first, on a day when my personal existential threat level is high, because I haven't been spelling "existential" correctly...

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    And to assuage my guilt for getting next to nothing done last week, this gentle reminder from Dame Agatha Christie:

    We owe most of our great inventions and most of the achievements of genius to idleness – either enforced or voluntary.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Fess Up Monday...On Tuesday!

    Did you write? Did you sell? How many words? Tell, tell tell!

    The Global Exististential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    Diamonds are only chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs, you see.
    Minnie Richard Smith

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    News 2 Use: Labor on your Writing Edition!

    Scary Science Breeds Sensational Speculative Fiction

    Wired Magazine lists the "Science Projects that Scare the #%@! Out of Us."

    My favorite is The Pain Gun: "a gun that turns people into puppets writhing in a theater of misery."

    A Holiday Weekend Gift from Science Fiction Author Stephen Baxter

    In an article for the Belfast Telegraph, the vice-president of the international H.G. Wells Society thoughtfully provides nine alternative history possibilities to stimulate your creativity.

    My favorite is the Vision of Enduring Rome, which might have included a thriving Native American culture here at home instead of genocide and colonization.

    Negative Emotions Linked to Reduced Lung Function

    A study by the Harvard School of Public Health has demonstrated that the more hostile a middle aged man is, the worse his lung function becomes.

    Previous research links hostility and anger to a host of other physical disorders, including heart disease, asthma and hypertension. Theories suggest that negative emotions disrupt regular hormone function, which in turn causes damage to immune systems.

    Other scientists think that linking emotions, personality and health is a bunch of hooey.

    If it isn't hooey, in your speculative future will we have a new commitment to soothing the angry middle aged male, and everyone else for that matter? Insurance mandated stress reduction strategies? (Erotic, or otherwise…)

    When Religion and Good Sense Don't Mix #1

    A clergyman drowned after trying to show his congregation he could walk on water. According to a witness: "He told churchgoers he'd had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus."

    Insert your own jokes here. Or in the comments!

    When Religion and Good Sense Don't Mix #2

    The chief exorcist of the Vatican marks Harry Potter books as tools of the devil.

    Stuff like this yacks me off, because it undermines the legitimacy of exorcism. Legitimacy of exorcism: discuss.

    When Science and Religion Meet, It's Interesting!

    Brain scans of Carmelite nuns show increased neural activity in various regions of the brain during their most intense mystical experiences.

    Adding another bit of evidence that the spiritual and the electromagnetic are linked realities.

    We're all aquiver, Jim!

    CBS Paramount is digitally re-mastering all original Star Trek episodes, and plans to re-release them in syndication next month to celebrate the series' 40th anniversary.

    This isn't exactly news, but it certainly is great. Look forward to An Analysis and Celebration Of the Spock Mystique!

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    How much did you write? Did you submit? Did you sell? Tell, tell tell!

    First things first:

    The Global Exististential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    And today's inspiration, from Marie Curie:

    I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.

    Markets coming later today!

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Thursday's Creative Challenge Game!

    Share your creativity in the comments section.

    How do you meet the science fiction/futuristic, fantasy or paranormal date of your dreams?

    Write the ad copy for the match-making service who can set you up with your personal slice of speculative romance heaven.

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    News 2 Use: Freaky Freaks Edition

    A traumatic antidepressing frontal lobotomy hysteria

    According to The Psychologist, the worst ideas ever entertained by scientists about the human mind are…

    #4: Freudian hysteria: it's not just in the woman's mind, Doctor!
    #3: Post-trauma counseling: it makes things worse!
    #2: The chemical imbalance model of mental distress: only the drug companies believe that seratonin really means anything.

    And the worst idea ever about the mind in human history: THE FRONTAL LOBOTOMY.

    I wasn't surprised by #1 and #4, but I'll admit the drug companies suckered me on the depression is caused by chemical imbalance. And why are we rushing counselors to disaster sites if it makes things worse? I wonder who gets paid, and by whom…

    I also wonder which Bright and Shining Current Theory, in any field, will be debunked in your story's vision of the future?

    With Large, Nasty Teeth!

    A pack of raccoons is terrorizing a Washington State community. So far ten cats have been killed by the raccoons, one small dog almost carried off, and one human bitten.

    Wildlife authorities have no explanation for the aggressive behavior. Attempts to trap the animals have failed, because the adult raccoons have figured out how to avoid the traps and are teaching the tricks to their offspring.

    Says one nuisance wildlife expert at the scene: "They [the raccoons] are in control up there."

    Watership Down meets Cujo, man. What species will quit pretending they are inferior next?

    Astronomers Observe Dark Matter

    Scientists believe that they have found proof that dark matter exists, and that our understanding of gravity is not basically flawed.

    Dark matter is thought to account for up 80% of what's in the universe and is invisible because it does not emit any electromagnetic radiation.

    I don't totally get the whole "dark matter" thing, but isn't it totally creepy that we are able to sense and interact with only about 20% of What's Really Out There?

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Fess Up Monday

    How much did you write? Where did you submit? Did you sell? Tell, tell, tell.

    The Global Exististential Threat Level has been downgraded to GUARDED.

    Put your duct tape away.

    Today's inspiration, thanks to Winston Churchill:

    Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    SpecRom Says...

    Each Thursday I'll post a writing prompt. We can laugh at our collective sicko creativity in the comments.

    Create a new slang word and its definition (and etymology if you feel enthused) for romantic and/or sexual interaction with an alien/fantasy or paranormal type lover or lovers.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    News 2 Use: Oh The Humanity Edition

    One More Misstep for Mankind

    NASA can't find the original video tapes made of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.

    According to the BBC, they lost an audio tape of the same event, then found it again, in September of 2001:

    But we all know where to find the Paris Hilton Sex Tape.

    Better Wine Through Worms

    Australian scientists are using the olfactory molecular recognition system of the nematode worm as a pattern for a "cybernose" that will help evaluate a grape's readiness for wine.

    "The cybernose will draw on how the brains of simple organisms...process information about smells and tell the difference between related odors," according to the lead scientist of the research, resulting in better Australian wine.

    Scientists continue to turn to bioengineering for clues on how to improve technology, which is great. I'm just so glad they are focusing on essential services. I mean, better Australian wine could be the turning point for humanity. Maybe the cybernose, or the little worms, can sniff out the NASA tape?

    Get Your GETAS Update Here

    The Global Existential Threat Advisory System, tracked by the Lifeboat Foundation, has been raised to ELEVATED.

    "The Global Existential Threat Advisory System intends to provide a comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding existential threats to the world," said Philippe Van Nedervelde, Lifeboat Foundation's Chief International Evangelist.

    Existential risk quantifies the probability of events that could spell the end to life, the universe and everything.

    Got duct tape?

    PS -- I signed up for the GETAS email updates, so I think we'll report the Global Existential Threat Advisory on Fess Up Mondays. Just to put our writing travails in perspective.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    The Quest for Romantic Horror continues...

    Here's an interesting article at HellNotes about the genre definition of horror.

    The gist -- that horror is not so much a genre itself but a subcategory in all genre works when one of the author's goals is to evoke fear in a reader.

    I can dig that. Because as I've said before in many places, to as many people who will listen, there is little physiological difference between the body's reaction when it's frightened and the body's reaction when it's aroused. To my mind that makes sensual romance and horror a hand-in-glove fit.

    And I for one am eager to have my damp panties scared right off me, as long as I know there will be a reasonably happy ending.
    New Review and Member News

    MONSTER by Joely Skye is reviewed at our website. It asks why is this gay alpha hero not the jerk that straight alpha heroes can be?

    And our members report great and glorious stuff:

    Zircon winner Isabo Kelly won the Dream Realm Award for Speculative Fiction Romance with her Cerridwen Press release, MARSHALL'S GUARD. Congrats, IK!

    Visit author SUSANNE MARIE KNIGHT's Romance Writing with a Twist website and sign up for her 2006 Snowy Season Surprise Contest. The *surprise* will be an autographed copy of one of her best-selling books. Which one it will be is up to you! Goody bag also includes cool prizes, promo items, and lots of seasonal fun! Contest ends on January 15, 2007. Only one entry per person, please! Go to and click on the contest button for details.

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Fess Up Monday!

    Accountability breeds success. Or so I'm told. I'm willing to give it a try. So...

    Each Monday I'll post a little thought to get us all through the week.

    Then we can post our progress, or lack there of, our submissions, waiting angst, rejections and sales in the comments section.

    So it's Monday, Specrommers. Fess Up.

    And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.

    Erica Jong -- the author whose work was the first my mom forbade me to read!

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    News to Use!

    No Gravity, No Good Stuff

    (Thanks Vicky Woodard for the tip!)

    As humans become space tourists, what's the first thing we're going to try? Zero-g sex, of course. And what will be the enhancement or drawbacks to performance? What will be the impact on conception and birth control?

    Who knew that pregnancy in space might be unavoidable through contraception, but dangerous, even deadly, for fetal development? If people in space can't have regular intercourse, I wonder what sort of zero-g sexual expression might develop? Could it come to…

    Choking the Chicken in Clerkenwell

    (Thanks Denise Rossetti for the tip!)

    Europe's first Masturbate-A-Thon comes to a close Saturday afternoon, when sponsors will receive pledged money for every minute they masturbate or orgasm they achieve. The event raises funds for HIV/AIDS treatment and alternative sexual practices awareness.

    Okay, nothing gets the attention like salicious headlines, but this bit and the space sex bit make a good combined point. If you're writing about sex between humans and aliens, the plumbing might not match up. What alternative sexual expressions will your human/alien love match use?

    OM Your Way Out of Pain

    Research points to Transcendental Meditation as an effective way to reduce and manage pain. TM actually changes the way the brain responds to painful stiumuli, producing "a physiological state capable of modifying various kinds of pain."

    If TM can make your brain feel pain less acutely, what other changes in human perception of sensual stimuli are possible? And without invasive technology. Well if that doesn't help there's always…

    Eat Worms and Don't Die

    Intentionally hosting parasitic worms may be the key to reducing allergic conditions like asthma and irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers have evidence that allergies are practically unknown in the developing world, and they think parasites are an important factor. "Many parasitic worms have … developed ways of dampening down the inflammatory immune responses that are also responsible for many of the symptoms of allergic disease."

    Would controlled parasitic worm hosting help out when we colonize other planets? Could we host the alien world worms, gaining the supression of inflammatory immune response to alien allergens?

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Speculative Romance Online...

  • open for entries in the Third Annual Zircon Contest for Short Speculative Romance! Visit for rules and electronic upload form.

  • <...posted a new article: Just A Whisper of Magic: Using Magical Realism in Contemporary Romance, by me.

  • ...salutes the achievements of its members:

    Zircon winner E. Catherine Tobler invites you to share her stories: "Indigo With Distance" is in the August 2006 Realms of Fantasy, and "Threads" is in issue #18 of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

    Zircon winner Isabo Kelly is running a contest this month. "Guess that Movie Quote" for fun and prizes at

    Carol Berg announces that DAUGHTER OF ANCIENTS won the 2006 Prism Award for Best Romantic Fantasy from the RWA Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter. She's running a drawing for copies of DAUGHTER OF ANCIENTS and the other books in the Bridge of D'Arnath series on her website,

    CJ Barry's UNMASKED won the FF&P chapter Prism Award for Best Futuristic, and the Kiss of Death Daphne Du Maurier Award for not only Best Paranormal but Best Overall (!!) for 2006. Congrats, CJ!

    Linnea Sinclair won a RITA with her futuristic GABRIEL'S GHOST. Congrats, Linnea!
  • Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Markets, Markets, Get Your Markets Here!

  • Silk's Vault Calls For Romantic Horror and Sultan's of Sin Halloween Contest Entries

  • Arg, Mateys: The Shimmer Pirate Issue!

  • Stardust Press wants erotic romance stories that walk the edge

  • Lady Aibell -- Erotica and Erotic Romance wants dark romance, horror and science fiction

  • New Concepts Publishing Has SpecRom Anthology Opportunities

  • Liquid Silver Books launches Molten Silver for speculative romantic erotica

  • Whispers wants speculative erotic romance with alpha males and strong heroines

  • The Opinion Guy opens to character-driven, thoughtful speculative fiction shorts

  • As always, full listing with links can be found at our fabulously marvelous and helpful website, Speculative Romance Online.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    A Little Musing, and then News 2 Use

    A Little Musing...

    Over at Romancing The Blog, there's a discussion of the Fear of Being Derivative. Which prompted me to ponder the difference between ripping off, and paying homage to, favorite works. Which led to me making a list of the books that most influence my writing style.

    For an aspiring romance author, they're pretty weird. Weird enough to make me wonder what genre I really do fit in.

    The two novels that have most influenced my style and goals as an author are

  • Imagica by Clive Barker

  • Hannibal by Thomas Harris
  • .

    Which cheered me up, because how many romance readers are also Clive Barker readers? Man, I can derive from him all day long and no one will notice. Mwah ha ha.

    I'm interested in finding out who influences you, and whether those influence fall in the genre you write.

    NEWS 2 USE!

    What's Our Response to Take Me To Your Leader?

    Exopoliticians create strategies for how to deal with potential extraterrestrial contact. The discipline of exopolitics is maligned in the UFO researcher community -- unfairly maligned, according to UFOlogist R. Lee.

    Without a plan to meet ETs, our reaction might be chaotic, disjointed and dangerously uncoordinated. "Which will either cause them [ETs] to be disappointed in us, and we’ll lose out on technology and other wondrous things, or at least, experiencing the thrill of interacting with aliens from outer space. Either that, or it will make it easier for them to eat us for lunch."

    Oh boy, something else I'd like to be, if I ever grow up!

    Potential Exopoliticians Take Note of This!

    The Astrophysics and Space Science Journal has published research purporting to show that the "blood rain" experienced by provinces in Southern India during 2001 contain living microbes from outer space. The microbes reproduce without DNA and in conditions known to be hostile to life on Earth.

    If further research confirms the early hypothesis, the theory of panspermia may get a boost as extraterrestrial life is at last confirmed.

    Neat and all, but might the consequences be? Read on…

    Take Over the World for A Half Million and Care/Feeding of Grad Student

    Current official assessments suggest that bioterrorism would only be possible with the backing of state-level entities. Technology writer Paul Boutin headed into the lab to see just how expensive and difficult it would be to synthesize and spread a deadly virus.

    His findings: "Every hands-on gene hacker I polled during my project estimated they could synthesize smallpox in a month or two. I remember that game from my engineering days, so I mentally scale their estimates using the old software manager's formula: Double the length, then move up to the next increment of time. That gives us two to four years—assuming no one has already started working."

    And think what they might be able to do with alien microbes? Or are the alien microbes the first salvo from an unfriendly ET?

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    READ THIS: Real Love Edition

    Read This: GODDESS, by Jon Hansen

    Abyss and Apex has a lovely speculative romance, in flash form, up in their latest issue.

    Goddess, by Jon Hansen manages to beautifully illustrate the complexity of fantasy love versus real love in the space of about 1000 words.

    Read This: THE MOUNTIANS OF KEY WEST, by Sandra McDonald

    Lone Star Stories features an exploration into desperation, temptation and, finally, contentment.

    The Mountains of Key West, by Sandra McDonald is another cautionary tale: do you want the illusion or the real thing?

    Read This: JUDY AND NORMAN, by Darby Harn

    Reflection's Edge offers a selection that fits the Real Love theme, but isn't romantic love. Still, it's a moving and provocative read.

    Judy and Norman, by Darby Harn, makes the point that love isn't about who you find it with, but about finding it when you need it most.

    Read them, and share what you think.

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    News 2 Use: The Where the Hell Have You Been Edition

    Did you miss me? I'm an inconstant and fickle sort of woman, c'est vrai.

    Put Down That Antibacterial Soap!

    Electrically conductive microbes may hold the key to nanotechnology advances. Researchers have reported success in manipulating certain bacteria into producing nanowires that "will literally reach out and connect cells from one to another to form an electrically integrated community."

    I didn't even know there were electrically conductive bacteria, let alone the potential to harness them to produce teeny tiny electrical systems. What are some of the consequences of that? Positive: self-replicating, self-repairing electrical systems? Negative: clouds of squirming microbes filming electrical wires and disrupting power? I'm not sure I get the science involved with this one, so corrections and clarifications are welcome! Leave a comment and set me straight.

    Amazons Take Note

    Sperm created from mouse embryo stem cells successfully fertilized a female mouse, resulting in a litter of seven. Six offspring survived to adulthood, showing developmental, respiratory and other problems. Nevertheless, researchers believe this is an important first step in aiding infertile couples.

    Don't you just shudder to imagine the potential denigration and marginalization of future humans created with lab sperm? Still, I can also imagine a nice colony of fed-up women populating the stars from sperm engineered from their own stem-cells, making men redundant in the reproductive process. I can also think about a pretty gross future where something like the Tleilaxu axolotl tanks from Dune matched with artificial sperm create factories for manufacturing humans. Puts a whole other spin on "animal farm."

    Civilization Linked to Pressures from Climate Change

    Researchers in England hypothesize that what we call "civilization" organized in response to pressure from a changing climate in ancient times. As available water resources dwindled, people converged and developed the order and power hierarchies we call civilization.

    Considering the predictions of massive climate change in this century, how will modern humanity re-organize to survive such environmental pressures? How did your alien or fantasy culture do it?

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    News 2 Use!!!!!

    Just a Spoonful of Neurochemical Drugs Makes the Medicine Go Down

    Psychiatrists and their patients increasingly turn to pharmacological answers to new classifications of mood and anxiety disorders which once were just considered unhappiness and shyness. And while experts haggle over issues like whether the symptoms of what is now called social phobia are just a "disadvantageous personality trait" and whether we are slipping into "cosmetic pharmacology," the fact remains that of those Americans suffering with severe mental illness, only half of them receive adequate treatment.

    I think this is a trend that invades our entire medical culture: as the good folks at Mind Hacks put it, we're no longer considering health issues as much as we are treating "those without previously recognizable medical problems in an attempt to improve quality of life." Now I'm all for high quality of life, but not for just the few with the means to afford it. I see a disturbing future with those endowed with means altered in any way science can to "improve quality of life," with the rest of us poor joes schlepping along as best we can and the ones who really need medical and psychiatric intervention lurking below, like a shark ready to strike…

    Are We What We Google?

    Researchers have labeled the analysis of our collective internet searches as a "database of intentions," capable of predicting social trends and changes and even perhaps your future moves as a consumer.

    From the New York Times: "The 20th century brought public opinion polls that showed what those customers were thinking. This century's great technology can give companies, and anyone else, a window into what people are actually doing, in real time or even ahead of time."

    I'm sure you all either laughing or shuddering along with me, because I know what kind of Googling I do when I'm researching a story. I once found this website for cannibals. They gave deboning instructions and a marinade recipe.

    G.R.I.N. and write about it, baby!

    The threats of the 20th century were called NBC: nuclear, biological and chemical. In the 21st century we'll be menaced by the G.R.I.N.: genetic, robotic, information, and nano threats, according to Joel Garreau, author of Radical Evolution. And the G.R.I.N won't be in the hands of rogue governments, like NBCs. According to Garreau, we may find ourselves at the mercy of any "disgruntled grad student with a reasonably well-equipped lab with a good chance of creating something that could wipe out the human race."

    Furthermore, Garreau envisions social upheaval in response to technological leaps, much like the advances of the 50s fueled the changes of the 60s. And as that technology begins to change the form, function and definition of what it means to be human, we can expect tension between all the different post-humans and trans-humans.

    "We know historically that … when humans compete for an ecological niche --- and they did 50,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens and Cro-Magnons co-existed --- it usually ends badly for one."

    Oh man what a story idea treasure trove this article at CNN is. Mutant wars! Mad scientists! Social upheaval! Clearly though Garreau isn't paying attention to our friend Ray Kurzweil. Ray thinks that with advances in the melding of neuroscience and brain science we'll all be able to download the education we need to be that disgruntled grad student. The future. Gotta love it.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    The Big Bang Post-o-Rama: Market News, Member News and New Reviews

    Market News for your holiday:

  • Moxie Press wants your cross-genre speculative romances

  • Wild Rose Press wants you to lead them down the garden path for their new antho contest

  • Apsen Mountian Press is looking for cross-genre speculative romance…and they have a horror romance line

  • Unical Press wants fantasy/paranormal romance

  • The Heart and Soul imprint of Saltwater Press wants new age romances

  • Check out the full listings at Speculative Romance Online.

    Member News 7/3/2006

    Paige Cuccaro releases QUEEN OF HEARTS.

    Garden District princess Samantha Vines, is all about propriety, etiquette, and responsibility. Cross-dressing Vic Cabarini has wrong-move written all over him but Sam will learn one wrong can lead to a whole lot of rights.

    Rowena Cherry is happy to announce the formation of a group blog at

    Editor's note: I've visited. Thoughtful posts about the challenges of hybridizing science fiction and romance.

    Rowena Cherry is pleased to announce that the July and August issue of her newsletter will be up at as of July 10th.

    As your beloved but freaky editor, I fought the good fight in my Campaign for Romantic Horror with this guest post at Dark, But Shining, a grand and thoughtful blog about darker speculative genres, and stirred a little discussion at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

    Of course, I'm always up for talk about the marriage of horror and romance. Leave a comment. Send an email. Join the Campaign for Romantic Horror!

    I think we need a theme song. Every good campaign needs a theme song. What do you think?

    New Reviews Posted on SpecRom 7/3/2006

  • Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip

  • Writing The Other by Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward

  • In the Werewolf's Den by Rob Preece

  • The Hunters: Declan & Tori by Shiloh Walker

  • Read the reviews at Speculative Romance Online -- The Website.

    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    News2Use In Depth: Singularity Bomb 2

    All summer we're feeling out the implications of Ray Kurzweil's vision of the future -- his singularity event horizon when technology and genetic manipulation will alter the basic elements of being human. Check out his article library and his news 2 use about the dangers of technology.

    "Safety, security and sex are the biggest concerns" of the European Robotics Research Network (Euron) as they contemplate a future where humans and robots interact daily.

    It's easy to imagine that robots will appear more and more in our lives, becoming more and more indispensable. While robots from the ubiquitous home shopping networks can sweep your floors and mow your grass, robots are also now performing surgery in London and are anticipated to be caring for the elderly within twenty years. Euron is trying to set the ethical boundaries before robots hit the mainstream scene, raising questions that become easy "what-if" launches for speculative (romantic)fiction.

    How do we protect human beings from robots?

    I'm not really thinking about how to protect dear old grandmamma from a robotic caregiver gone mad. Instead, I'm considering how to protect dear old grandmamma from someone raiding the robotic caregiver's memory for her social security number, her blood type, her DNA -- all valuable data in this age of identity theft.

    Hackers have taught us that anything security systems analysts do, they can do better. Imagine a future where routine surgeries are performed by robotic assistants, with human doctors standing by to assist if complications develop. Now imagine terrorists -- or even aliens -- usurping control of the systems running the surgical robots. Gives a whole new spin on "hacking."

    As robots insinuate themselves into our lives, I can imagine a dual-class society emerging. The common folk live in a world made vulnerable by manipulation of robots, while the upper echelon essentially go neo-Luddite -- using technology as little as possible, relying on humans to take care of the small stuff, and demanding intense loyalty. Like the consequences of the Butlerian Jihad on the society of Dune, the new upper crust could demand highly skilled people as a commodity and demand an intense, feudal-like loyalty from them.

    Should robots resemble human beings?

    Our aesthetic sense is trained to appreciate symmetry, so the cultural resistance to a monstrous-looking machine with multiple arms, a tripod stance and numerous artificial sensory organs tending to dear old grandmamma might be too great. Just to gain acceptance, robot manufacturers may need to create machines that in their mirroring of their users do not intimidate too much for use.

    But consider humanity's distressing ability to dehumanize each other. If the things that snap to your commands have two eyes, two arms, two legs, a nose and a mouth like, say, your spouse, your boss, or that hottie you covet at the health club, will we start treating people like our robots?

    And if you covet that hottie at the health club, can you order a robot to mimic what you can't have? Or perhaps mimic what a widow or widower, or reluctant divorcee, has lost? Which brings us to the most fascinating question…

    Should robots be used for sexual entertainment?

    Using machines for sex is not a new concept. If this were that kind of blog, I would post a link to a site displaying the antics of a piston-powered phallus. Almost every new technology is immediately used for sexual pleasure, so sexbots are pretty much guaranteed.

    Sexbots are not an entirely bad idea. Mechanized or robotic sex workers could be designed so they wouldn't transmit disease. They can't be emotionally abused, can't be raped. And they would never turn down a request for even the most bizarre bedroom entertainment.

    But what about an always ready for anything sexbot that looks exactly like Mel Gibson? Scarlett Johanson? I'm sure that laws shielding famous human images would spring up immediately, and just as immediately be broken.

    Even more freaky, how about an always ready for anything sexbot that can be ordered to look exactly like that hottie from the health club? What if a blank sexbot powered by nanotechnology could reproduce the likeness of any digital image it's provided? What if your angry ex could create a sexbot you? What if using Photoshop-like technology that digital image could be altered? Imagine going into your spouse's side of the closet and finding a sexbot you, only thinner. Or larger.

    What if that serial killer two doors down could create a sexbot you? While you're watching your housebot do the dishes, he's ripping sexbot you to shreds. And it's only a matter of time before he graduates to the real thing…

    Of course, none of these questions and extrapolations even touch on the Biggest Question of All: what if robots become self-aware?

    Imagine the possibilities, and go write about them.

    Further reading on this subject:

    No Sex Please, Just Clean The Floor

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    SpecRom Cinema: Ju-on

    Back again to the Asia Extreme film fest, and the offering of Ju-on.

    Whoever made this movie should offer me all kinds of things just for sitting through such a 90+ minute lesson on How Good Movies Are Not Made By The Occasional Creepy Visual Effect.

    I'll put the lesson in the lead this time, for all you authors looking for tips to darken up your speculative romances or other prose. Pay attention. This is crucial. I'll make it big, bold and unmistakable.


    Don't read any further if you want to avoid spoilers. Though, how I could ever spoil an entertainment experience this bad is inconceivable to me.

    In Ju-on, which was remade with equal negative effect in America, the tragedy of one ill-fated family has leaked into the walls. The ghosts of a sadistic man and the wife and son he murdered take the lives of everyone who subsequently encounters them in the house.

    The killing flaw of Ju-on is its structure. After a prologue scene both horrifically and aesthetically pleasing, hinting at the violence that's poisoned the house, the movie devolves into a series of vignettes, each prefaced with the name of the victim printed in white characters on a black screen. Once the victim is identified, the poor unfortunate struggles and screams for ten to fifteen minutes before being dispatched by the evil ghosts.

    That's right. It's like an animated kill list. No characters are developed. I'm given no chance to get to know them, let alone given a chance to care if they fall to the ghosts. And since I know exactly who is going to fall to the ghosts in each scene, the only suspense revolves around how creepy the ghosts will be when they kill.

    The creep factor lasted for approximately three deaths. After that, I started flipping through a back issue of Gourmet magazine I found under my chair and glancing up at the screen when the scary music sounded, just to see what the ghosts would do next.

    A trio of schoolgirl zombies appeared for no apparent reason. Up until that point, the story revolved entirely around the ghosts of this one specific family in this one specific house. Suddenly, I look up from a recipe to see a cute young girl in the obligatory fetish school uniform being menaced by three dead and blue but still cute zombies in the obligatory fetish school uniforms. My mood darkened from disappointed to angry. What, I wondered, are American directors so hot for in this movie that they would waste money making a bad remake of it?

    So let's review.

    Vivid characters + audience empathy + threat = excellent storytelling in any medium or genre.

    Cardboard characters + audience apathy + threats + creepy effects = crap with creepy effects.

    If you decide to take your paranormal romance into darker shadows, or take your science fiction love story into Alien territory, please remember that the basic requirements of storytelling do not cease to matter just because the aim is to create fear in your reader.

    Vivid characters + audience empathy + threat.

    It's a formula that can't go wrong. Tape it above your desk. Tattoo it to your knuckles so you see it every moment that you're typing.

    Don't pull a Ju-on if you want to play on the dark side.

    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    NEWS 2 USE - The I'm Sorry I've Been Neglecting You Version

    Some of us have WIPs you know

    Go Team Go

    The team fielded by Ecuador in pursuit of the soccer World Cup has its own personal "witch doctor" who has hexed the English team, according to The Sun.

    Think of the possibilities with introducing a paranormal element into the Harlequin NASCAR tie-in. Not that I don't already think that the Harlequin and NASCAR tie-in is paranormal. The only sport that should be legal is competition ballroom dancing. Latin and Standard.

    PS: England 1, Ecuador, 0.

    Tell Me More, Tell Me More

    According to research published in the American Scientist, the human brain is wired to deliver that burst of pleasure we feel when the proverbial light bulb goes on. When we grasp a new concept, the brain shoots us full of natural opiates.

    The research also indicates that the pleasure from viewing art is similarly hard-wired. So now you know why that "aha" moment when your story comes together feels so damn good.

    Why Can We Go Crazy?

    The emerging discipline of evolutionary psychology aims to explain why human DNA developed a cognitive, emotional and neurobiological system so prone to breaking down in the form of psychiatric disorders.

    The blurb at Mind Hacks (I love them, love them, love them) is just the gateway to a web of links to learn more. As we understand how the brain's chemistry and cognitive functions work, science continues to blur the line between normal and abnormal psychologies. I remember reading not too long ago a great woo woo about how fine the line is between being creative and being crazy. Maybe our susceptibility to madness is just the risk of being such a creative species. So, if your alien species places even more value on creative thinking…

    From the Oh Gross! Department

    While doctors brush them off as victims of a delusional disorder, growing numbers of Americans report an itchy, bumpy rash apparently caused by "Morgellons." Sufferers report a feeling of bugs crawling under their skin, described by one victim as "It gives you the sensation that you have worms under your skin or rats crawling on you." The itchy bumpy rash shows signs of parasitic activity or other type of infection.

    It's just too weird to summarize here. Go read it yourself, Rense has a dozen articles. Icky, icky, icky! But a story gold mine!

    An Advertising Campaign for Space

    Research shows that most people are disconnected with the idea of space exploration, have no idea of the goals of such a long-term enterprise and see little value in going beyond our atmosphere, let alone our solar system.

    According to space exploration proponents, we need an advertising campaign for space.

    Having formal training in marketing and advertising, my mind boggles at how those media manipulators might make the space shuttle sexy. What a great platform for a story: "what if a few marketing moguls made space exploration the #1 priority of Americans?"

    Finally, from the Can't Resist Department

    According to the July 2006 issue of Gourmet: The Magazine of Good Living, a new restaurant in Beijing "offers over 30 varieties of animal penises. The organs, often served with testicles, are thought to enhance virility."

    So consuming male sexual parts=virility. So wouldn't that make orally enthusiastic straight women and gay men…mirror mirror on the wall, who's the most virile of them all?

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Market Updates: Regular Schedules Lack Imagination Edition

  • Echelon Press seeks Dark Fantasy Paranormal

  • Editorial changes at Red Dress Ink and Berkley

  • wants flash fiction -- and really likes erotic horror

  • Ralan opens the 2006 Grabber

  • Flesh and Blood magazine and Inara Press bid adieu to you and you and you

  • From The Asylum hosts a Hot Summer Something Fiction Contest -- but keep it PG-13

  • See the full list with links at Speculative Romance Online The Website.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Short Story Boot Camp: Basic Training

    SpecRom's Third Annual Zircon Contest for Short Speculative Romance opens for entries in August. Here's the first of a series aimed at potential Zircers, and anyone hoping to break the short story market.

    Okay, let's start with a definition, cause that's where you should always start. Can't reach a goal without an adequate definition.

    Our goal: Write a saleable short story in the speculative romance genre.

    Now, let's examine the goal's components.

    Saleable = exceeding editorial expectations for the target market.

    When you have ANY product or service, you cannot know enough about the target market. Your fiction is both product and service. So know your target market.

    For the Zircon Contest, reading along with this blog, studying the articles on the site and the reviews by the editors will clue you in on what the editorial expectations are. For example, if you receive the Speculative Romance Online monthly newsletter, you know that it is issued From the Desk of the Deflower the Virgins Literary Action Committee. Therefore, any virgin heroine had better be extraordinary to be a finalist in the Zircs.

    Do you feel that is unfair? Do you think that quality should not be judged by such subjective matters? Get over it or find another craft, because every piece of fiction you ever submit anywhere, whether to a contest, an editor or an agent, will be judged subjectively. That's why you should know your market.

    For other purposes, knowing the market means reading the short fiction that's being purchased and published. There is no other way to do it. You've got to read what's out there.

    Here in the blog you'll find some recommendations through the READ THIS feature. But if you go to our best market friend Ralan, at Ralan's SpecFic and Humor Webstravaganza, you can find links to practically every print and ezine in the speculative genre. Click, read, study, repeat.

    For more traditional and erotic speculative romances, many of the electronic publishers now offer short speculative romances for download. For a great list of these publishers, I can suggest The Passionate Pen's Romance Publisher's List. Click, read, study, repeat.

    Short Story = for our purposes, i.e. the Zircon Contest, a piece of fiction with a beginning, middle and end that does not exceed 10,000 words. Though, length is always determined by editorial expectations of your target market.

    See above: editorial expectations.

    But for further clarification, a short story will generally follow a different plot arc than a novella or novel-length piece of fiction. In a novel, you have pages to develop characters, relationships and ideas. In a short story, you have paragraphs.

    In the helpful Fiction Factor article Writing A Great Short Story, Lee Masterson suggests a good short story focuses on a single event and provides a snapshot into the wider literary world running through and behind that event. The short stories that stick in my memory provide that sense of freezing a pivotal moment and showing it to me through a unique story lens. I am left with a satisfied feeling of a story told, but also a lingering sense that the story goes on. It's hard to explain further. Good art is always paradoxical.

    Being a soul who hates to re-do work, unless of course it's revisions to her own fiction, I've compiled this list of links to wonderful articles that will help you understand the form and function of short speculative romance fiction:

    How to Win A Zircon, by Joyce Ellen Armond, otherwise known as me

    Tips for Writing Short SFRs by Ann Townsend

    Meshing the Genres: More SFR Short Story Tips, by Emily Alward

    SFR Shorts: Perfect When Paired with SFR Tshirts by Jody Wallace

    Short and Sweet: Writing the SFR Short Story by Megan Powell

    Speculative Romance genre = a story that uses elements of romance and speculative fiction in a way that satisfies a reader's enthusiasm for both genres.

    Speculative fiction is a genre of ideas. Romance fiction is a genre of relationships. A good speculative romance does more than find a balance between speculative and romantic genres. It weaves the idea and the relationship into a feedback loop, each element supporting, enhancing, reflecting and foiling the other.

    In crafting a speculative romance, you have to ask what-if twice.

    What if...aliens invade the earth. A speculative story could proceed from there. But a speculative romance requires another step. How will the alien invasion affect someone's romantic relationship?

    What if…a mousy librarian discovers she has super-powers? How will that change her sex life?

    What if…the princess must be sacrificed to a dragon to save the kingdom? How will that unexpectedly help her find her heart's desire?

    What if…a woman inherits a haunted house? How will that affect her struggling marriage?

    If you're running short on what-if questions, just spend a few hours surfing science, futuristic and paranormal blogs. Start with the ones listed on the News 2 Use section of SpecRom's website. There's so much what-if out there, you can't plead nothing to write about.

    So remember the goal: Write a saleable short story in the speculative romance genre. And get to work!

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Humor Break

    You Are 42% Evil

    You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
    Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    SpecRom Cinema: Perversion of Pathos

    So the Sundance Channel is running a series called "Asia Extreme" -- playing all those nouveau horror movies that American directors are re-making.

    Last Sunday's offering was Dark Water.

    These are my thoughts on the original film (not the American version which I have not seen), as I try to figure out what makes nouveau horror tick, and what themes/mechanics/twists can we lift in the pursuit of successful dark paranormal romance.

    Be warned. This discussion contains
    (emphatic organ music and crashing thunder.)

    What struck me about Dark Water is that the horror was not so much about generic supernatural eeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil, but grew organically from the emotions inherent in the story's tragedy.

    In the original, a besieged Yoshima fights a custody battle with her overbearing ex. The most important thing to Yoshima is to keep her daughter, Ikuru. But she's out on her own, trying to find work and a stable place to live. In short, she's trying to keep it together under some serious stress. Y&I get moved in, a job is secured, things seem to be going well. And then the ceiling starts to leak. It's the first clue to the tragedy that spawns the horror.

    Yoshima begins to unravel clues about a child gone missing. The girl and her family lived in the apartment directly above Y&I -- the apparent origin of the ceiling leak. The little girl's mother ran off without warning, and soon after, the little girl disappeared. Through mounting creepiness and threats to Ikuru's safety, Yoshima discovers the secret of the lost little girl. Unsupervised and alone, the girl followed a maintenance crew to the roof and fell into the uncapped water tank to drown alone and unclaimed. When Y&I move in to the apartment building, the lost little girl's revenant decides that she needs a mother like Yoshima far more than Ikuru ever could.

    The key here is that the horror springs from real emotion. The lost girl is trapped in grief and anger and abandonment. It's not that she wants to destroy Ikuru or claim Yoshima out of negative emotion. She the ghost of a frightened child: she wants, she aches, she takes.

    Or more accurately, at the surprisingly powerful climax, Yoshima gives. To save Ikuru, she sacrifices herself and embraces the lost girl's ghost, accepting the job of being mother to a wanting child through eternity (horrifically illustrated by the drowned animated corpse trying to nurse from the terror-struck Yoshima), and thereby giving Ikuru the chance to live.

    So what's the lesson of Dark Water? I think it's a new view on creating threat. Instead of making the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil want to destroy because, well, it's eeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil and that's what it does, consider grounding the threat to your characters in an emotion that, in normal circumstances, would engender a reader's empathy. Who wouldn't feel for a motherless child who falls victim to tragedy? How about when its hungry ghost starts tearing you and your family apart? It's a perversion of pathos -- a tool you can use when crafting your next dark paranormal romance.

    Saturday, June 10, 2006


    Yes, it's Saturday, not Friday. But I spent Friday visiting with my dear old mum, sipping iced tea and eating fresh strawberries. You should have had such a nice day as we did!

    As always, the full market listings can be found at Speculative Romance Online, The Website.

    Walking Bones wants the odd, the strange and the bizarre in the short form.

    Circlet Press calls for submissions for Fantastic Erotica.

    DLSIJ Press wants work of any genre, fiction and non-fiction, by women authors. They have an upcoming anthology themed to alternate realities.

    And as a special bonus to you blog readers, the most interesting market I've seen in a while...

    Bust Down the Door & Eat All the Chickens
    We are seeking stories of an absurdist or surrealist nature that are within the range of 2000 to 5000 words. They should not fit comfortably within any genre. We prefer humorous stories where impossible things happen. It must be able to grab our attention from the very first line. And make every word count.

    An excuse to tell my favorite surrealist joke!

    Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: Banana.

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday, June 05, 2006


    New reviews posted today --

    RESURRECTION by Sara Reinke
    Guy who raises the dead vs. maniac serial killer. Sign us up!

    PASSION MODEL by Megan Hart
    Bot, bot, just who is the sex bot?

    DESTINY'S MAGICK by Rae Morgan
    Corporations, covens and astral projection orgasms. Oh my.

    As always, see em at Speculative Romance Online.

    The Other Big Bangs

    Scientists who have long speculated that an asteroid impact caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs now think that a previous impact paved the way for the evolutionary rise of dinosaurs. Evidence of an impact crater below Antartica suggests that the majority of land and ocean life died off prior to the dinosaur's prototype, archosaurs, leading the rise to dino dominance.

    Read the original news article.

    So what's going to walk the Earth after the next big crash?

    Who Are You, Really?

    Geneticists now think that "humans" may in fact be a symbiotic amalgam of human cells and bateria. Some estimates suggest that up to 90% of what we consider "us" is actually "them."

    Scientists arrived at the conclusion after discovering that the DNA composition of healthy human feces is actually 95% bateriological.

    Read it and weep.

    Okay, after your juvenile snicker over poop having DNA, consider the implications. All those wars because of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, then we find out that we are just self-aware prime real estate for germs. Consider that the next time you feel self- important.

    The Elders Strike Back

    The Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry is drafting rules for the creation of robots, echoing Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics. Prominent among the minister's concerns: an emergency shut-off button.

    Japan believes that its anticipated worker shortage in elder care may be solved through the application of robots.

    Read more about it.

    Imagine the potential social shift that senior citizens paired with robots might create, especially here in America. Suddenly, one of the most undervalued, most neglected, most manipulated segments of society will be paired up with robots. I'm thinking that just a few pissed off nursing home residents with the requisite education could REALLY fix the Medicare Part D problem.

    Aging boomers + unstoppable robots = freaky future.

    Friday, June 02, 2006


    Report any market tips to!

    Inara Press calls for submissions for short stories, novellas and novel-length cross-genre romance. (I've been nothing but impressed with this new start-up so far, from their cover art to their fiction. Reviews coming soon!)

    Forbidden Publications is a market for everything romance, from sweet to extreme, from 2,000 to 80,000+ words.

    Little Brown UK science fiction imprint Orbit is coming to the US/Aussie markets. That will eventually mean 40 new science fiction titles released per year. Woo hoo!

    As always, full market updates at Speculative Romance Online!

    Wednesday, May 31, 2006


    Denise Rossetti, author of the upcoming Ellora's Cave release GIFTS OF THE GODDESS and finalist in the 2005 Zircon Speculative Short Fiction contest, presents The Campfire and the Craft.

    Are you weighted toward the storyteller, the wordsmith, or balanced happily between?

    Denise is writing an interactive erotic story through her newsletter, and it's hopping great fun. Check her out at