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:


    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 Author.com) 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.