Sunday, August 27, 2006

Masked Men With Knives

Men with knives... will they always be necessary?

I'm not thinking about alien assassins, aliens with table manners, or futuristic barbaric warriors. I'm thinking surgery.

Assuming for a moment that wars are not fought by champions playing chess, or out-singing each other, or displaying their terrifyingly impressive tails (or other body parts). Someone is going to get hurt.

I do "buy" heroines who can "do" pyschic healing.

In fact, the 2006 Romantic Times Conference, Pyschic Sunday was a real mind-opener. Two psychic healers --one hands-on, the other hands-off-- helped an unfortunate person with a visibly swollen face and abcessed tooth, and also on a number of others.

The psychic healing was very responsible, the point was made that all methods are complementary and the sufferers were also told to see a conventional doctor. However, whatever they did seemed to work.

I like medicine based on plants and other natural substances, too.

I have trouble suspending disbelief when a mortally injured party is put into a futuristic light box (like a seed propagator? like a tanning bed?) and they recover "just like that" --to quote the memorable, Fez-wearing magician, Tommy Cooper.

Maybe I accept it for some ailments. Immersion in the sea is supposed to be restorative. It certainly does great things for my feet... unless I step on a weaver fish, of course, or get stung by a jellyfish. So, I can believe that being bathed in some sort of light might be as good for me as being bathed in some sort of liquid.

Should I infer that the light box is akin to teleportation as medicine. I should re-read The Physics of Star Trek (which is on my keeper shelf). Beam Me Up, Scotty, is fine. Beam Me Well?

Sometimes, just taking my rotating head electric fan apart and putting it back together again the way it was does work for a time, but it wouldn't if something was broken or rusted.

Lasers, I suppose, could replace knives. My problem is, when I think of lasers, I think of a couple of James Bond films... Goldfinger, Die Another Day... and I shudder at the thought of laser eye surgery. I know I shouldn't.

Do I think that a machine with a laser could replace a man --or a woman-- with a surgical knife? Yes, but I don't want to write about it, any more than I --personally-- want to write about an android with a libido.

Terminator with a tool? Great for action adventure, and I daresay he would have been very competent in the Operating Room. But for a fictional frisson, give me a masked man with a very sharp knife, every time.

BTW, INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL begins with the damaged hero on an operating table,
hoping that his enemy's surgeons don't take a professional interest in his tattooed penis.

Best wishes,

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Do I like writing love scenes?

“Rowena, do you like writing sex scenes?” I was asked recently.

It’s the sort of question that makes one want to straddle a fence.

Well, I do. And I don’t....and do let's call them love scenes.
That said, if I had to come down on one side or the other, I'd say Yes, but...

Whether you see it or not, Sex usually happens in a romance. It’s part of the most important story of a person’s life… not necessarily sex with an alien, though if that happened and especially if the alien happened to be a little bit anatomically different, you can imagine that a blow by blow account would be quite fascinating.

Correction: could be.

On the other hand, one can write a first rate romance without a graphic description of what might happen once the bedroom door is closed behind two relatively normal people. Georgette Heyer’s Georgian and Regency romances spring to mind.

I do like to write the sort of love scene (or sex scene) where something goes dramatically wrong -- I have a rotten sense of humor—or at least not according to the hero’s expectations.

I usually pick on the hero, for reasons that are probably perfectly obvious.

He’s more likely to be … less philosophical … not to mention sore, if he can’t get the heroine’s chastity belt off, or if the heroine’s beloved pet cat mistakes his equipment for a funny looking mouse, or if the film crew falls out of the air duct, or if the lubricant contains a dye that won’t come off.

What—apart from its effect on character, and its potential to annoy the protagonists and shift the plot into a higher gear—is the point of a love scene in SFR or in a Futuristic?

Comic relief?

Oh, yeah. But in my very personal opinion, lovemaking that is good for both of them isn’t proof of a happy ever after, and it isn’t the high point on which I like to end my books.


Another thing I like about alien romance love scenes (or sex scenes) is that if the hero and heroine are from different planets, and do not have infallible translators implanted in their ears, one can have such fun with their grammar.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Got Magic?

If it's got Magic in it, it can't be Science Fiction Romance....

How many of us have read, or been told that if there's magic, it must be Fantasy.

I'd like a straw poll. If you've believe that there's no place for magic in SF --or if you've heard it, and wondered Why not?-- please comment.

It's easy. Click the crayon symbol to the right of the author's signature. You can be Anonymous. You just have to recognize the distorted alphabet soup. Sometimes, you have to do that part again because maybe a Z is really a z, but how could you tell?

Back to Magic... nor not... as a topic.
My position is that I don't appreciate being told what I can and cannot write.

That said, I was grateful for Guidelines when I was starting out. It's good to know the ten greatest "turn-offs" that might cause an editor, an agent, or a contest judge to read no further (metaphorically speaking).

Yet the rebel in me wonders: If it is scientificially OK, even desirable, for aliens from other worlds to have religions and spiritual beliefs, why shouldn't they have magic?

Is there a difference --as far as a third party observer can tell-- between a miracle and magic?

As we get older and wiser, do we "grow out of" magic?

Do we assume that a technogically advanced civilization capable of interstellar travel will be too sophisticated for magic? Will they have explained it all away?

We know the difference between a conjurer's act and something that truly cannot be explained.... don't we? Still we are fascinated when the pea under the shell is not where our senses tell us it should be, or when the magician catches the bullet between his not-even-chipped teeth.

When you think of jobs with legs, the entertainment industry must be one of the most durable... not counting the illegal occupations and the hereditary positions... there's singing and otherwise making music; news-and-story-telling; conjuring, juggling and magic-doing.

There's also cooking, farming and fighting.

There must be a reason why we need magic in our lives, whether it is Swords and Sorcery; dangerous bald genies in bottles (why are they always bald?), wands and winged dragons; portals to parallel worlds; or the possibility of amorous and lonely hunks --pretty much like us, perhaps with two penises, or pointy ears, or fangs, or silver-bullet-semen-- travelling through the icy blackness of space in search of love and understanding.

Why should an industry professional who is judging my alien romances become confused and upset if my non-human, interstellar starjet pilot can levitate through the sheer force of his personality and will?

Suppose he glares intently at the heroine and sweeps her off her feet, literally, without recourse to magnets, nano-power packs, or other scientifically possible explanations?

Disclaimer: I don't mean to say that any industry professional that I know HAS become confused and upset by such seductive delights (on the other hand, my alien djinn heroes haven't --yet-- performed inexplicable magic, either). I'm simply reflecting the warnings I've heard from How-To enthusiasts.

I might also be contemplating a little genre rule-breaking, some time in the future. INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL is virtually finished, and I'm seriously thinking about breaking new ground in the next book, which is provisionally titled Knight's Fork (yet another chess reference).

Best wishes,

Disclaimer: This is pretty much the same blog as published on the group blog alien romances

Sunday, August 06, 2006

New Photo


Browser trouble prevented me from posting this in the body of the previous posting.

Dangerous research on the seashore

Maybe I'm unusual, but when I read a novel, I expect to come across the scene on the cover. I feel vaguely cheated if it is not there.

I'm not so bothered if the cover is an artistic grouping of artifacts, although... if there's a bejewelled dagger and a lace doily, I suppose that I do expect them to be used to good effect in the novel.

Please do not misunderstand me. I'm not criticizing anyone's cover or art department. I am simply sharing my inner thoughts about covers in general, and my gut reaction to the gorgeous cover of my next book... and the hazards of hasty research.

The colors are fabulous, and the artwork is sexy. I couldn't ask for a better looking cover (unless I was absolutely out of my mind). It's just a little more "romancy" than I had in mind.
An author friend who is a bit of an expert on cover psychology says that I should tell readers, especially male readers, to ignore the cover. But should I?

My gut instinct is that if the scene is on the cover but not in the book, then I have to --somehow-- write the scene and beg my editor to fit it in. Is that extreme?

If only they'd given me a bare-chested hunk staring out to sea (face not visible, so his features could not be wrong) or up to his waist in the ocean... I should have suggested that! I'm not blaming the Art Department at all. I was warned that I could not have a hunk in underpants out of respect for buyers' fine sensibilities.

Anyway, how many cover models would want INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL displayed boldly across their groins?

Verisimilitude is important, and there are times when you just cannot ask your more exhibitionist friends to commit an illegal act and tell you how it felt.

Illegal? Well I think you can be pinched for doing the deed on a public beach.

In case any members of the law enforcement community are reading this with professional interest, I must disclose at this point that the sea was too cold for my husband. Mostly.

Suffice it to say that my scrupulous --and ingenious-- attempts at research took longer than expected. Either the tide was wrong (too far in or out), or the waves were too mighty, or too placid, or the sand was too gritty, or the light was wrong....

On the last day of my time by the sea, when my bags were packed and it really wasn't convenient to get my costume wet again, my dear husband and our child decided that despite the low tide, and a stiff onshore breeze, it might be fun to experience the surge of surf.

My mother went to get towels from the car, and we splashed into the North Sea (English Channel) to join dozens of screaming bathers and people surfing on one sort of board or another.
August. Low tide, but only a seven foot drop, not like the nine foot range one gets at the full moon or with the spring tides. For a month I'd watched the shallows at low tide for signs of sinister movement. That day... I forgot.

I did get to refresh my memory of whether there is any difference between the feel of sun-warmed masculine, muscled skin in cold seawater (as opposed to in a fresh water bath, shower, or chlorinated swimming pool) but it's not useable.

Not worth the risk. If anyone in my immediate family had to step on a weaver fish, I'm glad it was me. I have very high arches, and go barefoot a lot. Thanks to that, only one spine got me, and it broke off before it could deliver much of the excruciating neurotoxin.

Knowing what had stung me, I flicked off the spine, got out of the water, got home as quickly as possible (luckily it was not far), and immersed my throbbing foot in the washing up bowl filled with water as hot as I could bear. And epsom salts. And more water.

That's what you do to draw out the poison, if you are unfortunate enough to step on a weaver fish or lesser weaver fish. They are spined, venomous little predators (they eat prawns, I believe) who like to bury themselves all but the spines in sand when the water is warm.

Keeping the water as hot as possible until the pain was gone meant regular top ups. My dear husband was especially enthusiastic about this, and had no compunction about tipping very hot water onto my toes (the arch area was what needed it). I noticed an odd thing. Near boiling water feels almost cold for the first second or two as it is added to hot water. Then the brain resets, and registers that the water is very hot.

I didn't even limp the next day, as I lugged (schlepped) my little family's three heavy suitcases from Guernsey, to Gatwick, to Detroit. I was lucky.

I'm glad to have my feet under my desk again.