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.