Thursday, March 22, 2007


Osmosis Psychic = Your Next Heroine?

A grown-up indigo child and psychic now offers a psychic activation service, using a process she terms "osmosis" to enhance everyone's natural psychic abilities.

Okay, in our reality that sounds a little odd, but in your paranormal near future…who's to say? She's got an endorsement letter from an Iraq-deployed soldier in her press release. The possibilities are wide and varied.

Ultimate Two Birder

Researchers hope to use the example of plant photosynthesis to break the carbon-oxygen bonds of CO2 and use excess carbon dioxide as a fuel source.

Now that would be a spiffy future!

Asexual Species Diversify, Too!

Scientists have discovered that tiny aquatic creatures who reproduce asexually have diversified in response to environmental pressures -- something they thought only the sexual reproducers could do. Says one admiring scientists of the celibate microscopic beasties: "These really are amazing creatures, whose very existence calls into question scientific understanding, because it is generally thought that asexual creatures die out quickly, but these have been around for millions of years."

Silly scientists, of course asexual creatures don't die out. They join the Republican Party. (HA! Go ahead, flame me. I couldn't resist. Get a sense of humor, or get your own blog and make fun of Democrats.) Seriously, though, how would love relationships develop and how would emotions be expressed by aliens who reproduce asexually? Don't tell me they wouldn't form bonds of some kind, and don't tell me they would not actively seek pleasure, either. Be creative!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fess Up Monday!

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

The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

Today's question: Why do we do this? Why, when we know the odds are against us meeting our ultimate goals, do we keep writing?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Website Update!

All new at Speculative Romance Online:

  • Candice Vetter, our own astronomy diva, helps you decide how to deal with that pesky light speed barried in DISTANCE, SPEED AND TIME.

  • Specrom Speaks with PAULA GURAN of JUNO BOOKS.

  • New Member News.

  • New Market News.

  • New Review: THE STRANGELING by Saskia Walker

  • New Review: KING OF DRAGONS, KING OF MEN by Emily Veinglory


  • Also, check this out:

    OBCNFE (overworked but committed non-fiction editor) seeks plural professional relationship with other like minds. Ideal partners might be thirsting to make industry contacts by interviewing them for the newsletter, have an overwhelming passion for coordinating contests, be interested in becoming our liaison to the speculative erotic romance community or have a great off-the-wall idea for a recurring column. I'm flexible and easygoing, remember, so everyone interested in contributing is encouraged to reply. Not looking for a monthly hook-up: bi-monthly and quarterly involvement is fine, too. Creativity and a good sense of humor a must. Payment is experience and a great way to network in the community. Direct replies to joyce (at) with the subject line "Specrom Sounds Hot, Let's Hookup."

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    Okay, more like Fess Up Monday on Tuesday. I'm blaming the time change.

    Today's question: Have you ever returned a book because it did not satisfy?

    Personally, I think the practice of unhappy readers returning books is, to say the least, odd. Especially if the reason is because the ending wasn't happy, or, even more strange, the book featured people outside your ethnic group (as noted on Karen Scott's blog, comments section.)

    I wonder if this is a practice for romance readers only, or if unsatisfied science fiction or mystery fans demand their money back for the offending book? Presumably the fan read the book, because otherwise how could they know the story didn't make them happy?

    Do you ask for your money back because the wine doesn't have the smooth finish you expected? Do you ask for your money back because the pizza gives you gas? I've read some books so unsatisfying I felt I should be able to sue the author for damages afterwards, but come on.

    This world. It disenchants me on ocassion. How about you?

    Monday, March 12, 2007


    Joyce Ellen Armond loves sappy love songs and face-eating monsters with equal enthusiasm. Her personal passion is melding the genres of romance and horror. From her home base in rural Pennsylvania, waiting for the zombie apocalypse, she edits the Speculative Romance Online website and newsletter.

    You can read more of her short romantic speculative fiction at Quantum Kiss ( and her debut novel BONDS OF DARKNESS at Liquid Silver Books ( You can visit her website at

    Armond's contribution to SUM3 is the contemporary paranormal....or is it an urban fantasy....or science fiction story entitled "Attraction of Otherness”, wherein the vampire legend is revised in a very extraterrestrial way. For the story behind this story, visit Joyce's note to readers here. For an excerpt click here.

    A few people have commented on my vision of vampire in "Attraction of Otherness," employing descriptors like creative, new or different. Truth is, it isn't anything new at all. I just gathered interesting, otherwise unrelated items and tidbits and scrambled them together. That's why it feels new and different, and that's what creativity is. It's scrambling unrelated ideas into a personal vision.

    Speculative fiction authors feel undue pressure to come up with "new" ideas. This fear of doing what's already been done haunted me for years. I hated to finish one project, because I feared I'd never have an idea good enough again. The books I loved would mock me: you'll never be this creative, give up, be an accountant!

    Now I know that such fears are just so much self-defeating bullshit. I don't have to experience a startlingly new Eureka moment, pulling an entirely new concept from the air like Athena out of Zeus's head. (It was Athena, right? Minerva? Athena? The chick with the owl. You get the point.)

    Creativity isn't really creation, as in poof abracadabra from darkness comes light. Creativity is synergy: taking unrelated ideas and scrambling them into a personal vision. So all I need, to be creative, is to gather lots of interesting tidbits and facts and opinion and, well, stuff, and know my personal vision.

    That's what the News 2 Use feature in the blog and newsletter is about: tidbit gathering. Idea grazing. In this instance, gluttony is a virtue. (Too bad it can't translate to potato chips.)

    Knowing personal vision, that's a little more difficult. I fear that a large swath of humans on the planet today can't stand being alone in the room without the television on. How can they perform the introspective, sometimes creepy, sometimes humbling task of getting to know what makes them tick well enough to translate it into storytelling decisions? But…that feels like another blog topic.

    In "Attraction of Otherness," I poured a vampire concept I read in a book about monster-hunting, the pervasive cultural conviction of a government alien cover-up, my constant creative coveting of the Clarice Starling-Hannibal Lechter relationship and erotic kissing into the idea blender. The resulting purée I poured through the cheesecloth of my personal vision (creepiness, suspense, distrust of authority, challenging relationships, and loving evil), and voila: a tasty vampire smoothie that feels new and different.

    Do you fear hitting the bottom of your idea well? Then I pose two important questions. If you answer no to either or both, I'd suggest that's your problem(s).

    Do you gather tidbits and graze ideas? If no, go to the Specrom website. On the News 2 Use page, I've compiled a buffet of links. Feed often.

    Do you know your personal vision? If no, shut off American Idol (that shit will rot your brain, anyway) and shake hands with your expectations, your prejudices, your dreams and your dark sides.

    I am of course a fan of your dark sides. Because that's my personal vision.

    -Joyce Ellen Armond

    SUM3 at Amazon

    SUM3 at Fictionwise

    SUM3 Website Extravaganza

    Sunday, March 11, 2007


    JODY WALLACE, also the editor of SUM3, swears she didn't crowbar her own story into the anthology; JOYCE ELLEN ARMOND of the Speculative Romance Newsletter and LIZ BURTON of Zumaya Publishing approved it first. Ms. Wallace's resume includes college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and general all around pain in the butt. One of her alter egos is "The Grammar Wench", which should give you an indication of her character. Aside from this anthology, she is published in small press erotic romance under the pen name Ellie Marvel and has several novellas with Red Sage Publishing in their line of Secrets anthologies. You can find out more at

    Wallace's contribution to SUM3 is "Cooley's Panther”, which skews the contemporary world to paranormal in this suburban fantasy. For an excerpt click here.

    Can You Turn It Off?

    Or will it rule your leisure time? No, I'm not talking about the TV, I'm talking about my internal editor, that bitch on wheels who is doing her best to sour the thing I used to love most in the world -- reading for pleasure.

    It feels like she's always worn me out, but I can recall younger, glowier days of reading books with an uncritical eye. (Ok, let's get real...a LESS critical eye.) When I was a kid, I would devour the giant stack of library books within days of bringing them home and then, of course, have nothing to read until Mom took us back to the library. Once I was older, I used to hole up all week-end instead of socializing and stick my nose in someone else's imagination.

    Those days are over. Now that I'm a writer and editor, I can barely get through a book without noticing typos, clunky POV shifts, weaknesses in characterization, cliched plotting, you name it. There are things that don't bother me which would bother someone else, and I know not everyone is the Grammar Wench I am, but nevertheless, it does interfere with my good time.

    The rare book or story can sweep me away from all that, and I long for those moments. I treasure authors able to do that for me and track down everything they've written. Sometimes I reread old favorites for the glorious submersion I know is there, and sometimes old favorites pall in the glare of the dreaded internal editor. Such a disappointment when that happens. There are books I refuse to read again so I can remember them with nothing but fondness.

    Eventually, I tried escaping to a different medium to get my fix -- television -- but the internal editor followed me there, too. After I watch my shows, I drive my husband nuts discussing and critiquing the just-viewed episode. If it struck me as particularly egregious (SMALLVILLE, I'm looking at YOU), the poor guy has to hear about it for days afterwards.

    This makes it sound as if I've lost a valued possession, but I don't regret my transition from pure reader to analyst. The more I read (which has always been a lot), the more I became bent this way whether I wanted to or not. It's The way I view television and movies is further proof--I am of a mind to pick stories apart. To deconstruct them, examine them, and consider them from all angles. And in truth, I find stories of almost any sort interesting and worthwhile, whether I'm swept away by the wonderful worldbuilding or confused by stylistic oddities. It's always educational for a writer/editor to read (and arguably to watch television
    and movies), and one hopes it helps me hone my abilities.

    If I have one wish for SUM3, it's that the stories within provide an enjoyable experience for readers and silence the internal editors of those who are plagued by them.


    SUM3 at Amazon

    SUM3 at Fictionwise

    SUM3 Website Extravaganza

    Friday, March 09, 2007

    SUM3 WEEK!

    C. MITCHELL O'NEAL lives and writes in Ann Arbor, MI. His speculative work has appeared in Paradox magazine, Revelation, Dead Letters, and Insidious Reflections e-zine. He received an honorable mention in the Best Fantasy and Horror of 2004 for his short story "The Moon Shone on my Slumbers." His story in this collection won first place in the Zircon Awards of 2005 and is dedicated to his own southern princess. (Editor note: this melts my damn heart every time I read it, the story and the dedication.)

    For other examples of O’Neal’s work see Paradox magazine ( and Revelation magazine (

    O'Neal's contribution to SUM3 is "The Farmer's Boy and the Southern Princess”, which explains the truth behind a myth in a lyrical voice sure to captivate readers. He likes to hear from readers at coneal (at)

    Writing The Farmer’s Boy and the Southern Princess was a literal labor of love; please forgive the cliché, but it’s appropriate. My family has this horrid tradition of homemade Secret Santa gifts at Christmas, and a couple years ago, I drew my wife, Victoria. Since writing is the one skill that I have any confidence in, she was destined to get a story in her stocking. You can read the whole story behind the story here, at the SUM3 website:

    When people read the story behind the story, two reactions inevitably arise. Women tend to get this rosy and far away look on their face and make a sound somewhere between ‘oooh’ and ‘awww.’ Men tend to get this slight smirk, which grows into gleeful grinning, followed by various comments questioning my manhood. Which raises the obvious (though certainly not new) question, can a man write romance?

    The answer is, of course, yes. I’m a man, and this is clearly a romantic story, even if it doesn’t fall into the stereotypical genre of heaving bosoms and throbbing what-have-yous. In my mind, good, readable fiction is almost always about the protagonist’s struggle to get what they want. Romance is simply the most familiar version of that. We’ve all lusted, we’ve all loved, and we’ve all wanted someone else to love us back to the point that we were willing to struggle to make it happen. This experience is shared by both sexes. In writing The Farmer’s Boy, I was never faced with a character who’s emotions I didn’t understand. I was always writing what I knew, so to speak.

    Perhaps the more interesting question is, what does a man offer to a genre in which most of the authors are women, and most (though not all) of the readers are women? That’s a tough one. I do not think that I “write men” any better than my female peers. I do not think that I even added anything to this genre that hasn’t been added before; I wrote a fairy tale, essentially, the oldest version of the romance and therefore nothing new. Even so, I do recognize that there is something slightly unique in my story and my writing of it. I think it may simply be the oddity, like the first time we saw female sports announcers on the sidelines of Monday Night Football and went, “that’s new.” Challenging expectations of who should write what does lead to new ways of reading and seeing a story, and I suspect that my gender gives me some privileges in the field of romance fiction simply because people want to “see what the guy wrote.” That seems patently unfair to me, but I’ll take any edge I can get.

    I enjoyed writing this story, and though it’s not my typical inclination, I enjoyed writing the romance part of it a lot. Without the romance it would have been a weaker story, or maybe not even a story at all. Will I write more romance in the future? Probably not, but I do think that everything you write breathes a little bit of itself into everything else, so the lessons of the Farmer’s Boy and his true love won’t be forgotten.

    C. Mitchell O’Neal

    SUM3 at Amazon

    SUM3 at Fictionwise

    SUM3 Website Extravaganza

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    SUM3 WEEK!

    FRANCES ROBERTSON has been an avid lover of fantasy ever since she read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at a tender age. Romance followed somewhat later, and when it did, it seemed like a perfect complement to spaceships and dragons. Frances recently sold her first story to Tales of the Talisman magazine. She lives with her husband in the desert Southwest, and has a backyard full of bunnies, lizards, quail, the occasional bobcat and a gopher named Rasputin.

    Robertson's contribution to SUM3 is the historical short story, "With Heart to Hear”, definitely the spiciest entry in the anthology. In Robertson's story, the troll under the bridge is converted into a romantic hero. For an excerpt click here.

    “Love makes the world go ‘round.”

    Well, not really. That honor probably goes to money. But I’ll wager that love is number two.

    There are a lot of different kinds of love. Parental. Filial. Fraternal. Patriotic. Romantic. Love can drive men and women to heights of bravery and self-sacrifice. And unlike money, love makes us better people.

    That’s why I like to write about love. I grew up reading fantasy tales of heroic deeds done by people who loved. Loved their ideals, their people, their country. And if there was a little romantic love thrown in too, all the better. :-) Later, I discovered romance, first in my personal life, and later on the printed page.

    Yes, romance fiction is fantasy too. The relationships evolve too fast, and the tortured soul (usually the man) is redeemed by love; all his flaws are eliminated through the love of a good woman. In real life, the woman probably would (or should) run away from this damaged character. But the kernel of truth in that story is more important than what’s on the surface. Love redeems us. It makes us aspire to be better. To be our best selves.

    It was that truth that made me want to write “With Heart to Hear.”

    The word “love” is easily spoken, but not so easily demonstrated, unless the feeling is truly there. When we’re in the throes of infatuation, it’s easy to confuse desire with love. It’s really only by our actions that we show what it is that’s in our hearts to those who can hear.

    Frances Robertson

    SUM3 at Amazon

    SUM3 at Fictionwise

    SUM3 Website Extravaganza

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    SUM3 WEEK!

    ISABO KELLY is the award-winning author of numerous science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romance novels, short stories and novellas. After finishing her Ph.D. in Zoology in Ireland, she buckled down to concentrate on writing. Isabo currently lives in New York City with her brilliant Irish husband and her mad dog Eddie Monster. You can visit Isabo at her website or email her at isabo (at) She loves hearing from readers.

    Kelly's contribution to SUM3 is “The Last Guardian”, which mixes unrequited love and demonic threats into a suspenseful fantasy adventure.

    When I first heard about the Zircon Short Story Awards, I got so excited. I’ve been writing speculative romance for years and publishing since 1999. But it’s nearly impossible to find a home for short stories, and I love writing them. There’s something so satisfying about being able to finish writing an entire story, beginning to end, in a day or two. Lot less daunting than a full length novel!

    Then in a matter of two months, I was invited by a small web-newsletter to submit a short story for publication (any genre—yay!), and I read that my favorite speculative romance newsletter was hosting a short story contest. Yay again! So I decided to think of a story to submit to the Zircons.

    As a side note, I wrote a story for that other newsletter, too. The newsletter is now defunct (very sad), but the story is up on my website. It’s called Kellyn’s Sacrifice—a fantasy romance. And a related novella, The Heron’s Call, was just released by Samhain Publishing (

    When I started mulling over ideas for the Zircons, the first thing that came to mind was the opening scene of The Last Guardian. I could practically feel the exhaustion and fear running through Neeka’s body as she stumbled through the dark forest trying to escape…something. I had to figure out the something later. But I did know she was running toward the only man she thought could help her. And that man just happened to be in love with her. At that point, I figured I had a decent idea, so I started writing.

    I’m a real write by the seat-of-my-pants kind of author. All I need is an opening and I’m away. I figure the rest out as I go. The “something” chasing Neeka came to me as I was writing the opening scene for the first time. But I was a third of the way through the story before I realized why she was being chased. And even then, I had a few…things I needed to clarify. Eventually, with multiple edits, the story came together. In a week, I had my submission ready. All I needed was a title.

    At this point, I have to give a special thanks to my friend Dr. Claire Cave. She was kind enough to read this story for me and help me with a title. The Last Guardian was her suggestion and it worked perfectly. So many thanks Claire!

    I wanted the Zircons to be successful and continue for years to come, and I knew they’d need plenty of submissions for this to happen. I wrote my story with the intention really of supporting a wonderful contest. I never expected to final. When I won, I got so excited I had to do a happy dance with my dog.

    Speculative Romance is my genre. It’s what I write and what I read. And I love it. I particularly love stories that take risks and cross genres in unusual ways. So I was honored to be included in the SUM3 collection with so many excellent examples of cross-genre writing. Roll on Speculative Romance!

    Isabo Kelly

    SUM3 at Amazon

    SUM3 at Fictionwise

    SUM3 Website Extravaganza

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    We officially declare this week to be....(wild trumpet fanare)


    SUM3: The Zircon Anthology of Speculative Romance is now available in both paperback and electronic formats. Yippee!

    Through the two Zircon contests hosted by SpecRom, we collected short speculative romances that highlight all the facets of our subgenre. Like futuristics? We got em. Like fantasy: mythic, high or historical? We got em. Contemporary paranormal with a little humor? Contemporary paranornal with a bit of an edge? We got those, too!

    I've invited the SUM3 authors (including my humble self) to share the motivations and meanings behind their stories here at the blog. Stay tuned this week!

    SUM3 at Amazon

    SUM3 at Fictionwise

    SUM3 Website Extravaganza

    Thursday, March 01, 2007


    New feature! New feature!

    Who knows what lurks in the hearts and minds of SpecRom members? We'll pierce the veil by asking….The Ten Twiggy Questions.

    First to step out of the shadows: Specrom Jody. She lurks through specromlandia under a plethora of disguises, including the dreaded Grammar Wench. Watch out: the sharp edge of her humor is classified as a deadly weapon. Also watch out: she just made a sale! Mwah ha ha!

    The Essentials:

    Can you reveal your name?
    Jody Wallace, and I also write under the penname Ellie Marvel. Or the cat does. Yeah, it's the cat.

    Where do you call home?
    The recliner in the living room

    Why the heck are you a member of Speculative Romance Online?
    Joyce said I wasn't allowed to leave her when she took over.
    (Editor note: true story)

    The Stories:

    What three speculative romance novels/series must be on your shelf at all times to avoid interdimensional Armageddon?
    Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, Swendson's Katie Chandler series, Briggs'Mercedes Thompson series

    What three other books/series of any genre, fiction or non-fiction, must be there, too?
    Clyde Edgerton's Walking Across Egypt, Jennifer Crusie's entire list, and something I haven't read before that looks really, really good, so there's always hope in my heart

    In three simple sentences (beginning-middle-end), describe the plot of the Perfect Speculative Romance.
    I can't answer this question. There are too many perfect plots and not enough time for me to write them. That's three sentences, anyway.

    The Scoop:

    What movie do you find (speculatively or otherwise) romantic?
    Right now a favorite is the BBC Pride and Prejudice.

    What speculative romance would you most like to see made into a movie?
    I would love to see Susan Grant's CONTACT made into a movie. I won't go so far as to cast the roles, but I think it's very powerful and cinematic.

    What is your favorite purple prose sexual euphemism?
    Is rumpy pumpy purple prose? Because that phrase always makes me laugh.

    The Secret:

    Tell us a secret. (Feel free to use initials to disguise identities and to embellish wildly!)
    I went to a therapist exactly two times until I made her cry, and then I figured I was healed.

    Monday, February 26, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    As I hit the hard wall of the middle on a project that had been spouting words like a geyser, I think I'll cheer myself up by bragging up how well BONDS OF DARKNESS has been doing.

    Mrs. Giggles is not the only reviewer digging it. The Romance Reading Mom liked that it doesn't have vampires or werewolves. JERR's reviewer appreciated that the story's villain was a complex character. Fallen Angel's reviewer found it to be a "…very romantic…emotional roller coaster."

    In fact, almost all the reviewers varied the roller coaster, dark suspense theme. Since my ultimate goal is to marry the romance and horror genres, this makes me think I might be on the right creative road. You can read more about that in my Liquid Silver Books Author Topic.

    Friday, February 23, 2007

    NEWS 2 USE: The No Clever Subtitle Available Edition

    Dirty, Dirty Bacteria!

    Laboratory experiments point to bacteria as a defense against earthquake damage. Loose soil under buildings can be injected with Bascillus pastuerii. The bacteria cause the formation of calcite deposits that cement loose sand grains and keep buildings from shifting and collapsing during an earthquake. "Starting from a sand pile, you turn it back into sandstone," according to project researchers.

    Of course, couldn't you also conceivably use this technique to make natural foundations for housing? Squirt the bug and poof, you've got your building slab! Or, if you were terraforming a planet and needed solid ground, squirt the bug, poof.

    Of course, couldn't you also squirt the bug into arable farm land? Poof indeed.

    Should We Be Teaching Robots Fear?

    Robotics experts now consider that emotional, not cognitive, pathways may be effective in creating a robot that learns. The theory is that if a robot experiences happiness in completing a task -- whether it's cleaning a floor or nursing an elderly patient -- the robot will seek out more dirt or more ways to help in order to increase its happiness. Conversely, researchers are teaching robots to avoid certain tasks by instilling a fear response.

    Does this creep anyone else out? Are we competent enough to create an artificial system that experiences emotion in a human way? I mean, last I checked, if you scare some living creatures, they don't run away. They become aggressive. So do we really want to be teaching robots fear?

    Mark Your Calendars, and send Bruce Willis a Thank You Gift

    Scientists are already planning for the 45,000 to one chance that asteroid Apophis, named after the Egyptian god of destruction, may slam into Earth (with 80,000 times more force than the Hiroshima bomb) on April 13, 2036. Gravity tractor spaceships are the current best idea.

    Nobody at NASA wants to hear any of the dialog from Armageddon for real. See, I KNEW that Bruce Willis was INSTRUMENTAL, I say, INSTRUMENTAL, in the survival of humanity. Yeah, Bruce!

    (I don't know what happened to the link for that one. You'll just have to google, lazybones!)

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    Cynthia Ward Strikes Again!

    The Internet Review of Science Fiction features Cynthia Ward in February as she presents "Interplanetary Romance: Swords and Sense of Wonder."

    Be aware: she's talking "romance" as a literary term (i.e. grand sweeping emotional adventure) as opposed to "romance" genre. Read the article with that definition in mind, and you may find, like I did, many opportunities for speculative romance writers to consider.

    Cynthia points out that the heroes like John Carter in A Princess of Mars are all about being alpha male characters. "…they're daring men, often soldiers, who explicitly or implicitly follow a chivalrous code of honor as they battle nefarious villains, escape durance vile, and rescue beautiful alien princesses from a variety of deadly dangers and fates worse than death."

    I am not overly fond of the contemporary alpha male hero (understatement of the day), but even I can see the need for rugged, manly, take-no-shit warrior-men on Barsoom. By blending the setting and character elements of an interplanetary romance, authors can create an alpha hero that even I might be able to fall for. (And that would be a huge accomplishment!)

    Specrom authors have a chance to rehabilitate the unpleasant themes in the original interplanetary romances. Ward points out that the originals "reflect the sexual, racial, and colonial attitudes of their era." With the new diversity in speculative romance, we can write "sword-and-planet" stories that feature heroes from all races and all sexual orientations. Most importantly, we can write out heroes Ward calls "species-ist." We have the cultural and literary latitude to describe relationships between humans and true aliens, as well as elevate those alien princesses from passive victims to active heroes in their own right.

    And that would make for great reading. So, you know what to do. Go forth and write.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Another Triumph of Human Spirit

    Lisa Andel over at the Liquid Silver Books blog has traced anti-sex laws through the United States. It leaves you feeling pretty silly to be part of this culture, let me tell you.

    However, once you're done either giggling or shaking your head in disappointment with your fellow earthlings, consider how you can worldbuild by blue law.

    In BURNED AND BURNING, my story at Quantum Kiss, I created a near-future sub-culture driven by the notion that sexual desire, not money, is the root of all evil.

    In your future, what sorts of things will be criminalized? In your fantasy world or alien culture, what sorts of pleasure or bodily functions are considered taboo? What paranormal event might make it legal to sell a dildo in Massachusetts?

    Go forth and write.

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Website Update!

    What's new at Speculative Romance Online, the website, you ask?
    I'm so glad you did.

  • Meet the editors of Quantum Kiss: The Journal of Speculative Romance.

  • Learn about the electro-magnetic spectrum with Astronomy Diva Candice Vetter.

  • Updated Member News: Rowena Cherry, Tambra Kendall, Jody Wallace and Ellie Marvel, Jordan Summers and Kathleen Dante.

  • Updated Market News: Sword and Sorceress Anthology, Belle Books call for erotic southern romances, the PRISM 2007 awards and Samhain Publishing's call for entries for Valentines 2008 anthology.

  • New Reviews: PATHS OF BLOOD by Diana Pharaoh Francis, WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT by Jenna Black and RAGS AND OLD IRON by Lorelei Shannon.

  • Go forth and check it out.

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    What a crappy week. I spent most of it trying to wrestle through plotting. Sometimes I THINK I know where the story should go, i.e. I want take the Path of Least Conflict and Easiest Writing. Then the words just run dry. Until I shake myself out of the stubborn desire to do it the easy way, I get nothing but frustration and irritation and it makes for a very crappy week.

    Happen to any of you?

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    It's Valentine's Day, So Let's Talk About Sex

    When I was evaluating epublishers, I almost didn't submit to Liquid Silver Books (my first choice for various reasons) because I didn't think BONDS OF DARKNESS was sexy enough. No threesomes, no M/M, no toys, no anal. Just two people caught up in a paranormal conflict, falling in love and expressing that love physically, and not very often at that. I felt that more sex would've ruined the suspenseful rhythm. ("Hey, it's a life-and-death situation, let's stop for a shag!")

    Mrs. Giggles and Emily Veinglory discuss the eroticism of erotic romance, and reach the same conclusion as I have. A lot of erotic romance just isn't sexy. Part of the problem lies in predictability.

    Endless descriptions of tab A in slot B, no matter how an author varies the tabs and the slots, are not erotic. It's mechanical. (If you want to write about mechanical sex, actually feature an AI character. This is speculative romance!)

    Miz Veinglory plaintively asks, "Where are the books full of furries, pegging, forced feminisation or all those other unexploited wonders of human sexuality?" Since I'm not even sure what pegging is, I'm instantly intrigued. We're writing SPECULATIVE FICTION here, folks. Our readers want us to look into potential futures and potential alternatives to the now. They want us to deliver the oh-wow factor, the awe, the wonder. They want us to go poking around in the dark corners. Otherwise they'd go read historical or contemporary romance! Writing another round of anal sex or a POUS (penis of unusual size, as one of my clever reviewers has dubbed it) isn't living up to your responsibility as a speculative fiction author. And with the competition for the erotic romance reader's dollar…

    Mrs. Giggles (who also tires of tabs and slots) gives another insight. "I want descriptions. I want sensations. Thoughts. Emotions. I've come across sex scenes where the actual act is alluded to but the heroine's emotions and thoughts during the act are so explicitly detailed that I find such a scene too erotic for words."

    You as the author may be caught up in the writing-the-sex act. But boiled down, whether you are writing about the heroine having sex or kicking ass or solving a riddle, you are always WRITING ABOUT CHARACTER. Everyone knows what it's like to have sex. (Even people who haven't had sex have a set of concrete expectations.) Readers want to know how it is for the heroine or hero or even villain to have sex.

    Magical Musings hosted agent Lucienne Diver recently, and she spoke about what makes a story go from "almost, but" to sold.

    "Your viewpoint character is the lens though which the reader sees the world. A lens can warp images, color them, magnify or diminish them. Voice should do the same. Descriptions will be filtered through a character’s unique perceptions and way of expressing him or herself."

    Every woman feels a kiss in her own unique way. Every man experiences an orgasm in his own unique way. Every sex act is different, for an infinite number of reasons. There's just no excuse to have your characters make love like somebody else's characters. Make it a point of authorial honor, and deliver the reader a surprising, even shocking, new take on sensuality through the filter of your characters' experiences.

    So there. I've had my rant. What do you think?

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    The blog Magical Musings interviews one of the Five People I Wish Would Have Said Yes, agent Lucienne Diver. She gives some great insight on what makes a story go from almost to hell yes, especially that tricky thing they call "voice."

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    Another Word on the HEA

    It's been a few weeks since the last convulsion of "Romance = HEA." But I've been thinking about it, because I have a very complex reaction to the "Romance = HEA" issue.

    I believe that something that's published in the genre of romance should end with the lovers united, looking forward to a life together after overcoming all the obstacles to their love.

    On the other hand, when I read "it's romance and it's got to have an HEA!" all my rebel-against-authority buttons are pushed. Throw a rule at me, and I'll feel an irresistible urge to break it. It's one of my natural laws.

    So I think that we are presenting the argument ineffectively. For those who feel constricted by the romantic HEA, or feel that romance novels suffer from the demands of ending happily, I appreciate your feelings because in some part I share them. But I ask you to consider it this way.

    The ending of successful fiction pays off to its theme. If the theme is "misuse of science brings horror and death," the ending won't satisfy if on the last page dawn rises over a new tomorrow filled with hope. If the theme is "only through the greatest sacrifice can evil be overcome," then the hero of the story will die in the end if the writer has done her job.

    The theme of every novel published in the genre of romance is ROMANTIC LOVE CONQUORS ALL. That's the ride the reader wants. And that's the ride I generally deliver, because it directly reflects my personal philosophy.

    It's pretty hard to pay off to the theme of Romantic Love Conquers All without having the lovers overcome all the obstacles and live happily ever after. And that's why romance novels end the way they do. The authors are doing their jobs effectively in paying off to the theme.

    I think that "unhappy endings" are effective when the story's theme mirrors or resonates with the audience's own personal world views. If I agree that only through the greatest sacrifice can evil be overcome, I might cry when the hero dies, but I will also love the novel because the theme that hooked me paid off in the end.

    But I don't agree with that philosophy. When someone tells me I have to make a sacrifice, I am just too cynical and assume I'm giving something up so they don't have to. So a book with the sacrifice overcomes evil theme can be the most powerfully written story ever, but it's going to be a tough sell to me. I might admire the prose, the characters and the author's technique, but it probably won't satisfy me.

    So instead of thinking "happy vs. unhappy" with all the subtext infecting that conflict, think paying off to the theme. If you are writing a story that features the theme Romantic Love Conquers All, and you pay it off, chances are you will successfully tap into some facet of the eager romance market.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    News 2 Use: The I Thought I Posted This On Tuesday Edition!

    Or, in which towards the end I wax cynical about our species' chance of survival...

    What does a six dimensional universe look like, anyway?

    Scientists aren't sure. They aren't sure other dimensions even exist. But they think they might be able to figure it all out by charting their influence on cosmic energy present at The Big Bang.

    If we have 64 positions in our three-dimensional world's Kama Sutra, how many do they have in the six dimensional world?

    Okay, that was cheap and tawdry. I just don't get string theory.

    Algae to the rescue!

    The hottest potential source of renewable biological energy right now is algae. From raw algae comes something called "biocrude," which can be processed just like crude oil at existing refineries.

    Before you get all excited…

    I wonder if living with six dimensions makes you smarter?

    The demand for an eco-friendly sustainable fuel created a boom market for palm oil. To take economic advantage of that boom, corporations in Indonesia have destroyed large chunks of Southeast Asian rainforests, overused toxic fertilizers and burned and drained peatland for palm plantations -- making Indonesia the third-worst global offender in the release of climate-damaging carbon emissions.

    Go team.

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    MY FAVORITE SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL: Snickers: After the Kiss.

    M4M assaults the bastion of machismo. I couldn't be happier!

    (Also, Prince in the rain is a beautiful thing.)

    Friday, February 02, 2007


    Merrie Haskell mixes the romantic allure of time travel with the unmistakeable tone of Regencies in "The Roman and the Regency." It will resonate with all of us who ever felt lonely, kept from our hearts' desires by the expectations of our own socities.

    Read it today at Quantum Kiss.

    Tuesday, January 30, 2007

    NEWS 2 USE: Take That Edition

    Take That, Scientists

    Finally catching up with folklorists and esoteric practitioners through history, scientists reveal statistical data showing the changing phases of the moon affect humans. According to the research, menstrual and fertility cycles, flare-ups of gout, asthma and bladder problems, plus incidents of murder, suicide and traffic accidents, all seem to respond to changing moon phases.

    The scientists grudgingly admit that, although the mechanism of the effects are not understood, "It is suggested that melatonin and endogenous steroids [which are naturally occurring in humans] may mediate the described cyclic alterations of physiological processes. Electromagnetic radiation and/or the gravitational pull of the Moon may trigger the release of hormones.''

    When designing an alien or fantasy universe, consider that western human scientific method has worn unduly heavy blinders when dealing with items of folklore, faith and the supernatural. Imagine how different our world would be if scientists weren't just now confirming these things long known to non-scientific or anti-scientific communities.

    Take That, Accountants

    In great news for creative people everywhere, research published in the journal Science suggests that our brains default to woolgathering, and that goal-directed thinking and concentration are departures from the norm.

    According to one researcher: "In a sense these thoughts reflect an amazing capacity on our part to multi-task. It is as if we have a sense of how much [attention] we have 'left over' and allocate these resources to working out some problem or anticipating what we have to do in the near future."


    Take That, Guidance Counselors

    Psychological studies now show that long-range career planning is a big waste of time. People cannot predict what will make them happy at lunch a week from now, so it's ridiculous to expect them to know what will make them happy at work five years from now.

    This takes away such an unnecessary burden. I've had it drilled into me, that I gotta have a plan, I gotta have goals. This is great. It's scientific evidence it's okay to be considered a slacker!

    Monday, January 29, 2007

    We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Viewing Pleasure For This Commercial Message...

    Mrs. Giggles rates Bonds of Darkness an 89.

    "Bonds Of Darkness is my first encounter with a genuine true-blue unabashed self-proclaimed romantic horror story and I love it."

    How cool is that?
    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    I'm working on a little rant about appropriate sexuality levels in speculative romance stories. I've been disappointed lately as a reader by books which seem to inject inappropriate or gratuitous sexual content, detracting from the stories' character development, speculative integrity, plot and tone. But I keep sounding like some prude who doesn't like sex. Which is certainly not the intention of the essay or an accurate reflection of dirty little me.

    So if anyone has some early ideas, rants of their own, etc., about speculative romance sex, toss them out in the comments and I'll address them later this week in this rant. I believe the issue is an important one, and I can't believe I'm the only person dealing with them as both reader and author.

    Thursday, January 25, 2007


    As always, find all the info with links at Speculative Romance Online's website, along with interviews, articles and reviews.

  • PHAZE wants to explore some new erotic romance frontiers.

  • ELLORA'S CAVE wants hot stories for their Torrid Tarot and Halloween anthologies.

  • CATSCURIOUS PRESS wants you to go in the way-back machine and submit short stories with a classic 60s gothic romance feel.

  • Check it all out at SpecRom.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    New 2 Use: Strange, Strange, Strange

    Attractive Man…By Consensus?

    Research by the University of Aberdeen suggests that a man becomes subjectively more attractive to women if other women pay him positive attention. The logic is this: if other women find reasons to smile at, flirt with or otherwise try to capture a man as a mate, he must be worth the time and effort, and is therefore more attractive than he would be if other women were ignoring him.

    Maybe there should be an anti-evolutionary backlash. Considering womankind's propensity to latch onto the least positive man within a 50 miles radius, should we start AVOIDING the popular ones and go panning for the socially hidden gold? Sounds like a good motivation for your next heroine.

    Moca Vampire…Before Chupacabras!

    Early in 1975, livestock in the small town of Moca, Puerto Rico, were killed at an alarming rate, found slashed and mysteriously drained of blood…way before anybody ever heard of chupacabras. The animals' deaths coincided with reports of a huge birdlike creature in the area, as well as the killing of two unnaturally large snakes thought to be responsible. But even after the snakes were dispatched, the livestock exsanguinations continued.

    I am so fascinated by historical incidents of related paranormal phenomena. Something exsanguinates livestock, and has been doing so for decades. What the heck is it????

    Southeast Asian Paranormal Crime

    A native of Malaysia recounts first and second hand experiences with magic-using thieves. Methods employed by the home invaders include spells that put the household into a deep sleep, and brief shape-shifting to tiger form in order to scare watchdogs into submission.

    If you create a paranormal or fantasy culture where magic exists, remember it won't always be used for noble goals.

    What if…

    …UFOs are not visiting aliens, but precognitive visions of future human transports?

    My favorite explanation for lake monsters is a vision or incursion from the past onto our current perceptions. Why not UFOs from the future? Or…

    Weird Shit in Iran

    UFOs, both hovering and crashing, have been observed over the past week in Iran.

    Read about it:,7340,L-3354296,00.html

    And, most ominously…

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    (For those new readers -- the Global Existential Threat Level monitors our chances of wiping ourselves out, or being wiped out, as a species. It's always good to put your own hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares into planet-wide perspective, doncha think? I mean, gosh, what's the sense of getting all hyped about something if the world is about to explode. We're just those kinds of pragmatists here at SpecRom. Always got your back, baby.)

    I had a couple of those wonderful and far too rare days when it's a push to have my fingers type fast enough to get down all the words, they flow so fast. And other than missing my scheduled blog posts for Friday and Saturday, everything else in My Author's CageFight (doesn't that sound more interesting than 'My Author's Life'?) went pretty well. It's hard to feel threatened when your first novel-length release comes true, and step one in your evil plan to rule the world is achieved. So my Personal Existential Threat Level is Super-Mondo No Chance of My Head Exploding Low. (How's THAT for daring the universe, harhar.)

    I'd like to invite you all to preview the upcoming anthology SUM3. That's for someone, somewhere, somewhen is falling in love and being amazed by it. SUM3 is the compilation of outstanding stories found through the Zircon Contest for short speculative romantic fiction. My short story, the infamous weird take on vampires "Attraction of Otherness," the story that convinced me to write speculative romance, the story that landed me this gig ladies and gentlemen, is in that anthology. It's due out any time from Zumaya Book's romance imprint, Zumaya Embraces.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Website Update!

    If you don't receive our monthly email newsletter, then go to our beloved website, Speculative Romance Online, and check out January's new content.

    New Articles

  • Interview with Cover Artist April Martinez

  • Getting Your Love On in 2056, by Joyce Ellen Armond

  • Northern Skies, by Astronomy Diva Candice Vetter

  • New Reviews

  • MISTRAL'S KISS by Laurell K. Hamilton

  • MINDER by Joely Skye

  • UNMASKED by CJ Barry

  • TETHERS by Sara Reinke

  • Member News from Rowena Cherry, Robin D. Owens, Ann Macela, Vicky Burkholder and me!

    Market News from Nanobison, Samhain Publishing and a new contest for sf/f/h novels, with editors and agents as judges.

    If you are expecting the newsletter to pop into your mailbox, and it hasn't, please contact me. Mail kerfluffles to the AOL server! I think I fixed most of it, but if you slipped through, let me know.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    NEWS 2 USE: Story Ideas Galore Edition

    Future Buzz

    In a blog post titled "Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual," transhumanist George P. Dvorsky lists phrases and concepts that he expects will be on the cutting edge of our future.

    Neat, neat stuff. Neurodiversity, the noosphere, information theoretic death -- it's a whole list of story concepts!

    Another Good Reason Not to Trust the Government

    The Washington Post visits with people who believe they are Targeted Individuals -- in mind control experiments run by the government and military.

    This fascinating story of the marginalized has the same enticement as do alien abductees. Are they involved in a world weirder than then one you and I inhabit day to day? I suspect there's a coherent phenomenon going on in cases like this. Whether it's aliens, the government or something else entirely -- I just don't buy they are mentally ill. But then again, I like to think the world is weirder than it seems to be.

    Perfect Story Prop, Thanks to Science

    Researchers now believe that black diamonds -- a very rare and porous form of the gemstone -- originated in outer space. They say: "The new IR measurements are consistent with the formation of carbonado [black] diamonds in an interstellar environment."

    Science is so obliging, coming up with these lovely details for our speculative romances. Thank a scientist today.

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    It's official!

    BONDS OF DARKNESS is now available at Liquid Silver Books.

    (Checking off first step in evil plan to take over the world.)
    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    Hey -- having a bad day? A bad week? Do you know what you need? A new outlook. A new perspective. A radical shift in consciousness. Because, as my mother always told me, you can't change the world, so you must change yourself if you want to be happy.

    Somehow I didn't think she meant this, but on a rainy (again) Monday when I'm running behind on everything, this works for me.

    So You've Decided to be Evil: A Step-by-Step Plan for Joining the Forces of Darkness.

    Of course, you'll also need An Evil Plan.

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    Blog Crawl -- alien romances: Does Human Nature Exist?

    Margaret Carter is cool. I don't believe I've ever told her that, so I think I should declare my admiration now. Her post about how technology and culture differences affect who we are and who we become, and just how far we can deviate from our hard-wired parts is a delight.

    It ends with this statement (and I agree with it): No matter how much technology changes, it's probable that our descendants two or three centuries from now will be, in the essentials that make them human, fairly similar to ourselves.

    What fascinates me about "human nature" is how wide and varied it is, and how only such a narrow band of our behavior spectrum is sanctioned by our culture. It's always instructive to remember that we all have the capability to be saints or psychopaths, depending on our neurology, nurture and personal choices. We're an interesting species, living with tremendous inner tension. It's equally our nature to kill and create. We're a strange bunch.

    So while Ms. Carter is correct in that human will probably stay human, as authors we have tremendous latititude in envisioning human alternatives. But that means as authors we have to think in ways that might be uncomfortable, might challenge our own ideas and preconceptions about what's right and what's wrong. What's acceptable and what's taboo. Even what constitutes a happy ending. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

    Speculative romance is not a place for the mind unwilling to take a walk on the dark side now and again.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Hot/Cold: VAMPIRES

    I started the New Year off with a carefully crafted Blog Schedule. According to it, today I should be introducing the Blog Crawl feature, where I surf the blogs, pick up an interesting topic, and find a different spin on that discussion.

    What's up, Blog World? I could only find HEA discussions (like this one at Dear and what's left to say? So, let's play another game instead: Hot/Cold.

    Hot/Cold: Vampires

    Can you imagine paranormal romantic fiction (HEA'd or otherwise) without vampires? No way, you shout. Well, me either.


    I am about vamped out. When I get wind of a new series that's billed as Buffy in the Regency and I yawn, that is serious serious burn out. (A year from now I'll pick this book up, be all excited, and the rest of you will be yawning because you've so been there and so done that.)

    I have fallen out of love with the current vision of the paranormal romance vampire hero. Now this is not a bad thing. It just means I can fall in love all over again when the New Paranormal Romance Vampire Hero arrives to sweep me off my feet.

    What might I like to see in a New Paranormal Romance Vampire Hero, you ask?

    (1) More violence. I'm sure this shocks those of you who know me, har har. But I feel that the fangs aren't sharp enough anymore. The aura of danger has dulled. I want me a real predator. I want my heroine's la petit mort to be mixed up with the real threat of dying.

    (2) No more angst. I want a new emotion from my vamp hero/anti-hero. I leave it up to the author which new emotion, but I want to be surprised. Give me a new emotional tone to a romantic vamp, please!

    So what's your take on the Vampire? Is he still hot? Would any changes to him make you go cold? Or do you agree with me, he's cold like yesterday's Bloody Mary, and what would make him hot again for you?

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    News 2 Use: Mind Control Where You Least Expect It Edition

    Another If A Tree Falls In The Forest Riddle

    By sending electric currents into subjects' brains, researchers have created a haunting effect. Subjects report perceiving shadowy presences that correspond to classic ghost experiences. But does that mean ghosts are merely a supernatural explanation for neurological phenomena? Or does it mean that spiritual entities use electrical energy to create our classic ghost experiences? And will we ever know?

    Imagine if something or somebody -- a ghost or an alien species -- manipulates our brains to create a hallucination of contact. Neat stuff. On a less serious note, anybody remember this. "This is God, Kent." HA!

    You Know Who's Behind This, Right?

    Feasibility studies from New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Business Center conclude that the idea of an alien theme park in Roswell is viable.

    The aliens! If you were an alien, and you wanted to build a base of operations in America where you have access to friendly humans, wouldn't you build an Alien Theme Park in Roswell?

    Never Underestimate The Power of Cultural Prejudice to Ruin Good Science

    Years after Timothy Leary told us to turn on, tune in and drop out, scientists are bucking laws and convention, running trials to determine the positive and negative health effects of psychedelic medicines. Current research involving MDMA (known as extacy), ketamine and even LSD reveal potential treatments in addiction recovery, reducing the impact of PTSD, and even relieving the pain of cluster migraines.

    Our culture is so very sensitive about faith and religion that when Leary held up LSD as a spiritual shortcut, any positive benefits of psychedelics were buried under an avalanche of hysteria. What other taboos may have grown up around the same sort of cultural prejudice, robbing us of something positive? And in your futuristic, fantasy or paranormal culture, what do they get freaky about, to their scientific loss?

    Monday, January 08, 2007

    Fess Up Monday!

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

    The Global Existential Threat Level remains at GUARDED.

    Almost everyone I know, whether they live in my hometown or in Houston or London or Shanghai or Oregon, all have taken second winter homes in the Land of Mucous. I know that I'm ever so excited to be visiting!

    And since I am, and you probably are, surrounded in wadded up tissues, I recommend an always fun read: Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex. If you haven't read it, go for a great laugh. If you have read it, chances are you need to laugh. It will help you cough out all that mucous.

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    From Other Shelves: ACQUIRED TASTES, by Peter Mayle

    Nothing grabs a reader's hand and drags them into a speculative world like a startling, vivid detail. And nobody does details as well as Peter Mayle. You can read any of his books to study his technique, but in ACQUIRED TASTES a speculative writer gets the added bonus of a peek inside the kind of cultural quirks that themselves are startling, vivid details of our own sort of alien world on Earth: that of the super-mega-ultra rich.

    The book is a collection of essays Mayle did on behalf of Gentleman's Quarterly, a sort of wry and witty, better bred literary version of VH1's The Fabulous Life Of…. Mayle parts the waters between the have-what-we-needs and the have-it-alls, guiding us through how to purchase a cashmere sport coat and tailor-made shirts in London, how to eat caviar, choose a single malt, how not to have house guests, and never runs out of praise for luxury hotels. All very interesting (did you know that they comb the cashmere from wild goats, or that caviar must be graded and salted within the first fifteen minutes of the liberation of the eggs?), but how does it all help an aspiring speculative author?

    When you create a new world for your readers to explore, you want to detail it as vividly as possible. Just as vividly as Mayle details the haunts of the privileged. Whether you are working with the rich and powerful members of a fantasy world's nobility, the down-and-dirty criminal world of a spaceport at the universe's fringe, or a contemporary secret society of vampires, details make your vision become real to the reader. And an afternoon with Mayle will give you an excellent primer on details.

    On Manhattan: There is a man, usually squatting on the sidewalk at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Forty-second Street, who glares at every pretty woman who passes by and mutters at each of them, "Change your underwear, babe."

    On buying truffles: But even here, in the middle of nowhere—buying direct from men with dirt under their fingernails and yesterday's garlic on their breath, with dented, wheezing cars, with old baskets or plastic bags instead of Vuitton attache cases – even here, the prices are, as they say, tres serieux.

    On the historical cachet of his favorite restaurant: Ladies and gentlemen could rent rooms by the hour in the maisons de passe before tottering around the corner, still slightly flushed, to recover at Antoine's table.

    Each of these examples doesn't just highlight the power of a vivid detail. Sure, sure you can get the mouth feel of Manhattan, truffle-buying and Chez Ami from these sentences. But it gets you thinking…what are the strange, vivid details of my fantasy high court, spaceport dive bar, or clandestine vampire club?

    These thoughts not only makes the writing more fun, but it might be the difference that moves you from unpublished to published, or from midlist to best-seller.

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    IROSF Flirts with Speculative Romance

    Cynthia Ward, rapidly becoming one of my favorite speculative fiction theorists, strikes a blow for paranormal romance in the current issue of The Internet Review of Science Fiction. "Paranormal Romance: Here, There and Everywhere with Science Fiction" takes the IROSF sub-genre spotlight with a detailed genealogy of fiction that currently culminates in our beloved speculative romance. You've gotta register to read it, but registration's free and the IROSF is a resource worth your attention.

    Cynthia's article raises a point near to my heart: how paranormal romance is starting to burst through certain seams of romance fiction conventions. I don't mean to suggest that speculative fiction conforming to the happy-ever-after, monogamous, heterosexual standard has no value. On the contrary, I love em. But I'm also excited to see the development of what I'm starting to call speculative fiction about relationships.

    Cynthia singles out several Mothers of the Genre, among them the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. While I was entranced by the romance between Lessa and F'lar (and how many among us didn't have a crush on F'lar or Lessa by age 13?), the Pern novels also deliver those delightfully fascinating relationships between the dragons and their riders. To me, Impression was always as emotionally moving as any human romantic relationship.

    If I think about the science fiction and fantasy stories that stay on my shelf as keepers, they almost all have central plots that revolve equally around speculative elements and relationships. The by turns violent then disturbingly tender relationship between Morn Highland and Angus Thermopyle keeps Stephen Donaldson's GAP series an annual read for me. Guy Gavriel Kay's A SONG FOR ARBONNE and TIGANA never deliver a happy ending, but I consider them grandly romantic. Frank Herbert's DUNE series is as ripe with relationships as it is with ideas: Paul and Chani, Jessica and Faradyn, Alia and first ghola Duncan Idaho, series ghola Duncan Idaho and Honored Matre Murbella.

    As much as I love a happy ending, I also appreciate the occasional tragic love story. As Cynthia states in her article, the movie Brokeback Mountain wouldn’t qualify under genre standards as romance because there certainly isn't an HEA, there's adultery and homosexual main characters. But the movie's plot is motored entirely by the characters' relationships. So of course I'm interested!

    I respect the boundaries of the romance genre, because when I pick up a book marked "romance" I know that I'll be getting that HEA. But even though I love dark chocolate the best, that doesn't mean I'm not open to milk chocolate. Or caramel. Or spun sugar. Just as long as the experience satisfies my craving for something sweet.

    But how the heck do we get bookstores to shelve relationship-oriented speculative fiction so we can FIND it? I leave that problem to a better mind than mine. Any suggestions?

    Wednesday, January 03, 2007


    Godspeed, Inc. by Vincent Miskell will be a treat for all you fans of Linnea Sinclair. It's a high-concept science fiction adventure. Keep reading and you'll get to a rousing romance. Thanks Abyss & Apex for publishing such a great tale. And to Mr. Miskell for writing it!

    Burned and Burning envisions a near future where misused neuroscience tries, but fails, to spoil love. The author: some chick named Joyce Ellen Armond. The market: Quantum Kiss: The Journal of Speculative Romance. A very cool place to see and be seen.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    News 2 Use: Shit That Freaks Me Out Edition

    Clouds and Plankton?

    Atmospheric scientists may have discovered a link between blooms of phytoplankton in the ocean and the creation of clouds that reflect the sun's energy away from the planet. Some researchers see this phenomenon as a planetary mechanism to counteract global warming.

    I see this as a spooky reminder that we know next to nothing about the complex and chaotic systems that make the planet work. If plankton farts can control the temperature, what startling systems will exist on your science fiction planet? Think worms, spice, samlon and Grendels. And extra points to anyone who can identify the two books from which I stole my examples!

    Choose One: Kid's Brain Function or Your Portfolio Health?

    Joint research performed by the US and Demark suggests that exposure to toxic chemicals has created a "silent pandemic" of neurological disorders in children. The research links autism, attention deficit disorder, developmental disorders and cerebral palsy with a minimum of 200 chemicals used in industry, and that number could climb to over 1,000 as testing continues.

    As you design a future world, never underestimate the damage caused by the amoral pursuit of wealth.

    I Am Never Seeing A Physician Again. Ever.

    New studies show that doctors are using Google to make difficult medical diagnoses, with a 60% success rate.

    Three words that should strike fear into your heart now: pharmaceutical industry Google-bomb.