Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Cost Of Magic

Magic costs the user. Every writer of speculative fiction or fantasy knows that.

Don't they?

Industrial Light and Magic (TM) has its cost. So does technology. I wonder what the long term cost of being "beamed up" was? I know that NASA astronauts suffer for their science. They may not be beamed up, but weightlessness causes their bones to lose calcium, and guess where the calcium goes?

Kidney stones! There are some doozies of kidney stones on display at the Johnson Space Center.

Which brings me to another cost of modern magical conveniences. Privacy.

George Orwell was right about Big Brother!

You can hardly make a Medicare election, reserve a plane ticket, collect your Office Max reward for recycling HP toner cartridges without having to supply your phone number, complete home address, name, date of birth and so much more! Moreover, banks, utilities, my child's school, and everyone else attempts to force me to use the internet for all my business and pleasure. I've even received reproachful letters informing me that (Fidelity "Private" Group) unsuccessfully tried to email (whatever private info I didn't want emailed to me). Instead of wasting valuable ink on the info they weren't able to email me, they direct me to go on the internet to find it and print it myself!

Yes, I may save a copse of trees, and I want to do that. But I know that spammers and hackers are reading my email and tracking my treks around the internet. I can tell (not always) by the sudden deluge of emails from names very similar to those of my friends, offering me cleverly disguised products to enlarge private parts I do not possess.

A few years ago, we were all outraged by Zabasearch, and wanted our names removed from their system. Now, dozens of pop up Big Brothers make names, addresses, phone numbers, maps to guide perverts to your basement window, and even credit reports available to every potential terrorist who wants to know.

Personally, I don't think the credit reports are accurate. I've been getting a lot of threatening telephone calls from the implausibly named "Credit Services" telling me that this is positively my final notice that I may borrow money from them. I've started to press button One, because pressing button Two to be removed from their calling list (I thought it was my final notice???) only encourages them. So, I am very nice to the telemarkers, until I get their names, phone numbers and so forth.

Then I go to the National Do Not Call Registry (now bookmarked on my toolbar) and report them.

I wonder whether the National Do Not Call Registry is as much of a misnomer and George Orwell's Ministry of Truth!

How do I relate all the above (kidney stones, telephone directory searches, phone spam etc) to futuristic, alien romance fiction?

Well, almost anyone can be virtually omniscient these days, if they know where to look. A self-styled "god" could be a high level hacker and an eavesdropper. The difficulty and the challenge (and therefore the fun) would be making him romantic and heroic, wouldn't it?

That's what I'm working on with the god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Editorial Ass: C[r]ash Flow (Or What Went Wrong in October in Book Publishing)

Editorial Ass: C[r]ash Flow (Or What Went Wrong in October in Book Publishing)

Opinion: the future of chain bookstores

Have you ever seen a problem, and had an idea for a fix, but no one to tell? Moreover, your idea wouldn't fit into any science fiction or fantasy work you have in progress?

Bricks and Mortar Chain Bookstores

I'd like to sort out the bricks and mortar book chain stores, such as Barnes and Noble, Borders Inc. As far as I can tell, they've become glorified warehouses with a few comfy chairs, a coffeeshop, and soft toys and confectionery. While it isn't impossible to find any book that ought to be in stock, many books might as well not be there. They're at ankle level, or you get a crick in your neck looking up; they're spine out and jammed together. If they're autographed, no one can tell.

Honestly, a booklover has to know what he or she wants before he or she goes there, and the chances of being distracted or frustrated and leaving without buying are quite high.

My local library is much more welcoming. At least, I'm allowed to use the computers to help me find what I'm looking for.


Barnes and Noble,, Amazon (not that Amazon counts), Borders. Books-A-Million all have websites and online stores. Some offer book clubs. Some offer discussions and forums and book-related social networking. Some are well done, and some are not very easy to navigate.

The only problem with buying a book on the internet is that you have to wait until and while it ships, and you may have to pay postage (and even tax). The advantage of your local chain bookstore is that you don't pay postage, you get your book immediately as long as it is in stock, and you can read as much of it as you wish to make sure you've a good chance of enjoying it.

So here is what I envisage as the future of chain bookstores:

Barnes and Noble (et alia) as a book-related internet cafe! (Warehouse attached).

I foresee lots of chained-down, but free-to-use computers all around the perimeter, and in a central reservation, too. I mean LOTS!

Booklovers would go to a comfy captain's chair, log in with their Barnes and Noble card number (or not), check their own emails (because we all do, don't we?), then migrate to the B&N bookclub and bookstore online...

Or, they'd simply type in the name of their favorite author, or the title of the book they want, and call up covers, back cover blurb, first chapter, last page, author's blog, author's website, author's booklist, book-trailers, reviews... all that useful stuff.

Of course, this could be done from home, too, in the same way that we can buy a flash drive at a compelling price online from Circuit City, then drive fifteen miles to the nearest participating store to pick it up.

Books could be sorted by subgenre. Award-winning, humorous futuristic Romances with plus-size psychic heroines (such as Insufficient Mating Material) could be virtually "shelved" in all six categories.

Book store patrons would choose, click, discover where the book was shelved (or else, they'd order it from the comfort of where they were sitting and a bookseller would fetch it from the stacks and have it waiting at checkout), pay online, then maybe finish their beverage, check their email again; pick up their purchase, and leave.

Local authors might take advantage of the facilities and actually write in the bookstores. (And be available to autograph books on site). Virtual signings could be a snap.

Anyone with a power outage or ISP downtime (or unpaid cable bill) could use the bookstore computers. What a service!

It could take book related social networking to a new level. Hey, the bookstore might replace the bar, though nothing could ever replace Linnea Sinclair's Intergalactic Bar and Grille.

What do you think?
What's your beef? And what's your solution?

Rowena Cherry

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fact, fiction and the American auto industry

I'm a Science-fiction Romance writer. I look at History (which repeats itself) also current events, and I wonder What If...?

Not that I write it, yet, but Steampunk is where the writer changes one invention from the time of the industrial revolution, such as H.G. Wells's "The Time Machine". That was the "age of steam", hence steam punk.

More recently, there is "cyber punk" which I suppose relates to choices made in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. One of the hallmarks of punk writing is that it explores the road not traveled and the consequences of a different decision whether made by a scientist, a businessman, or a politician (I assume).

I'm using "gunk" punk because if steam is what the Nineteenth Century machines are remembered for, then gunk might be what petroleum-driven cars leave behind. Or maybe I've been watching too many STP commercials.

Gratuitous decoration

This is a car made by my husband, with his own hands and the help of a few people he contracted with privately. He burned his hands on hot clay, he came home with his eyebrows covered in dust from sanding... he lost 10lbs from all the exercise. This photo was taken at SEMA by Jonathon Ramsey for

So, what if... in the 1940s American didn't have a manufacturing industry and depended on Germany and Japan? I'd probably be blogging in German, right?

History is being made right now, that's why I'm laying claim to "gunk punk" (unless someone has already thought of it, or someone has a better name). Peter M DeLorenzo of may have done so, but he doesn't write fiction as far as I know. He has a jaw dropping rant going on.

Peter is also selling an alarming book (non-fiction) titled "The United States of Toyota."

Alarming cover art.

I am now imagining myself as a writer in, say 2020 (hindsight pun!) looking back on the third week of November 2008 when Congress made a catastrophic vote NOT to make a loan to the last American car companies.

It's a "Mad Max" world now. Or perhaps it's Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" world with a touch of "1984". The Jesuits and the Japanese rule. We have an Emperor. And a Pope. And a third Minister of some sort, because good things come in threes.

Onstar speaks to us in Japanese in our cars. We cannot turn it off. They got Murdoch, too. And Comcast. All our Direct TV has Japanese subtitles. We cannot turn it off. Big Brother looks a lot like Vladimir Putin with Botox to get rid of the ugly Western crease in his eyelids. He tells us what to think.

America is bankrupt. When the world bank foreclosed, one of the creditors took Hawaii, another took the island of Manhattan, another took the Great Lakes for the water. No one wanted Detroit... I could go on. In a grim way, this is rather fun.

Maybe my imagination is overactive. I hope so! I was having trouble fitting any kind of Romance into my budding novel of milieu.

My point is, pay attention to the information that is available, and store it up for future reference. (Thank goodness for flashdrive!). There's a massive dissonance right now between the truth and what people are saying in the media.

If interested in GM's version of car myth vs fact visit

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Friday, November 14, 2008

Effective promotion and a modified anal fin

I seldom mention my internet radio shows, but this week I did two and
they can be found on

The Sunday evening specials are in celebration of a theme related to animals and conservation. And Romance. Sometimes it is a bit of a stretch to link a popular topic in Romance with the endangered species act, and sometimes my colleagues rise to the challenge.

The "Crazy Tuesdays" can be anything related to romance and writing, and are very much off the cuff.... so much so that they are not necessarily even on the first Tuesday of every month.

On Tuesday November 11th (the day before yesterday) from 11 am Eastern Time, I spent two hours chatting about internet promotion with Penny Sansevieri of about
what she does to promote authors, and what savvy authors are doing to get the word out
about their books, and what makes a good website first page and much, much more. On the air, Penny and I visited her author marketing expert home page and she explained why it was designed to be effective. Then we looked at mine!

I've made changes to mine, since then, but I am going to leave the before and after available for comparison, because I think it is interesting and instructive.

Penny says (and I've heard this before) that the visitor's gaze goes first to the top left. So, that is where the most compelling "hook" should be. In Penny's case, her potential clients want "buzz", so that is what she promises, right there, first thing they see. Pictures of cover models don't compare to a cartoon of a bee pointing at you, and words suggesting that Penny knows how to make your book a best seller.

Two days before that, last Sunday evening (November 9th at 9pm), my guests were Joey W Hill, Judi Fennell (visit her site and try to win one of three holidays), Sandy Lender, and Jo Webnar. Grammarians, please note the Oxford --or Harvard-- comma. Sandy and Jo are not a writing team.

We were talking about manatees and mermaids and how sailors could possibly have mistaken manatees for cuddly mermaids blowing kisses. Jo Webnar lives on a boat in Florida. We all visited her website on the air, and looked at her own photographs of her boat, her dogs, her local dolphin, and the manatees that come to visit, especially when Jo is hosing down the boat with clean water. They love clean water fresh from a garden hose.

Excerpts were read. I have no idea how someone came to ask Judi about the sexual logistics of being a mer-man with a tail. (It was probably me!) However, Judi mentioned that the correct name for a fish's wedding tackle is a gonopodium.

Who knew? Since a mer-man would be an aquatic mammal, I am not sure why it would need a modified anal fin. Whales and dolphins (etc) don't need a special name
for it.

However, I googled gonopodium, and much to my delight, I found that it was indeed a very impressive adaptation for targeting what needs to be targeted. Researchers had done the inevitable research, and it seems that female fish are intrigued by--and attracted to-- a male with a very large gonopodium. So, the males have adapted, everywhere except those that live in a geographic location rich in predators.

Next time I go to a doctor's office, I'm going to watch the goldfish more carefully. I'd always assumed that what I've occasionally seen trailing behind a fish was a partly eliminated streamer of the previous day's lunch.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sympathy For The Villain

Sympathy for the Villain
(a dramatic monologue from Django-Ra who casts a long shadow, but does not live beyond the Prologue of Knight's Fork)

Allow me to introduce myself...
I am the god-Prince Django-Ra. To my face, you should call me "Your Highness" or "Sir". Behind my back, I presume you will call me "Django" pronounced "Jan-GO"... The D- of Royal names is silent.

So, little Earthling, you are cautiously curious about me.

Know, then, that I am exceptionally gifted and exceedingly dangerous. I can read or wipe minds with ridiculous ease, just as I am reading yours. I play god-level chess, and am one of the most formidable Duplicate Bridge players in all the galaxies. Certainly I cheat. A god-Prince must be seen to win!

What's that? Ah, yes! You may well wonder whether or not I can read the mind of my favorite great niece, Electra-Djerroldina, the Volnoths' queen. She wears the most perplexing… Hah! but I will not tell you.

As you see, I enjoy excellent health –yes, sexual vigor, also—despite my advanced years. In my day, I was a superb star-fighter pilot with many kills to my credit... and to my discredit. Friendly fire is such a useful expression, isn't it?

Of course I have killed friends. And family. And lovers. We all do. It is inevitable. The Djinn bloodline is almost extinct. There are desperately few full Djinn females left for us to fight over. Those that there are, are taken. Alas! Which leaves lesser beings such as yourself, whose innards are not strong enough to endure multiple impregnations by a Great Djinn.

You are skeptical! Consider my great-nephew, the Crown Prince Tarrant-Arragon. He searched the galaxies for gestates. Yes, gestates. In our World, we measure time by the female cycle, and by the duration of a Royal pregnancy. His new Mate –or "wife"—is half-Earthling. He is beside himself with worry that she may not survive the birth of his heir.

Have I confused you? Every book has a genealogical table either in the front or at the back. Or visit the official family tree at It is…ah, economical with the truth. My own bastards, for instance, are not attributed to me.

Why do I do… what I do? I daresay I have bad Djinn genes. I enjoyed a deeply disturbing childhood. My twin brother died in what you would call his crib. I had nothing to do with his demise. It would have done me no good to expedite his departure from this life. We had vigorous, older half-brothers who were Heir Apparent and second in line to the Imperial throne, and it was beyond my strength and powers to remove them from my path.

Indeed, I was obliged to feign an interest in lesser-being members of my own sex in order to bask in the variable star-shine of my big brothers' tolerance. As long as they thought me "peculiar", they did not see me as a threat. Eventually, as you see, I...ah... outlived them.

Their untimely deaths brought me no particular joy. I did not get what I've always wanted.

What's that? I want to experience the Great Djinn rut rage. Earthling, do you understand what the rut-rage is? It is a drive, a sexual madness, a mating frenzy. Pure Great Djinn males, such as myself, have saturniid glands that can smell a full-Djinn female who is approaching oestrus from as many as fifty of your miles away. We then fixate upon that "scent love" sight unseen, and become obsessed with her.

Did I once have a "scent love"? Yes, but I never was in a position to claim her. My muscular half-brothers had Helispeta, consecutively. I, alas, would have gladly stood in line but Djohn Kronos and Devoron-Vitan made war over her, and Helispeta took sanctuary on your planet, Earth, beyond my reach. Not that she ever knew of my passion.

After she was lost to me, I tried to experience the rut-rage with others, even with my nephew's Empress, Tarragonia-Marietta, but met only with frustration. You may read my great nephew's love story, Forced Mate, and also Insufficient Mating Material for a less subtle view of my exploits.

Hmmmm. I believe I smell heightened excitement. My foolish, frivolous great-niece Martia-Djulia's forced Mating Ceremony must be about to begin. You will excuse me....


Just as I prefer my heroes to be slightly morally questionable, so I like my villains to be likeable --or at least entertaining-- when they want to be. As I wrote of Tarrant-Arragon (who is either hero or antagonist) his civilized veneer curls up at the edges.

Django-Ra is my most heinous villain. He and Helispeta saw the trouble begin in the electronic prequel Mating Net, and have seen it through Forced Mate, Insufficient Mating Material, and now into Knight's Fork. That's why I chose dramatic monologue by him to introduce you to his wicked world of the Tiger god-Princes of Tigron.

Some villains are too interesting to be killed off. But, if it seems that a happy ending depends upon their death, who is to do the deed? Can the heroine remain a romantic heroine if she kills the villain? Is it acceptable if she kills the villain by accident, or in self-defense, or in defense of the hero or some other vulnerable character?

Princess Leia strangled Jabba The Hutt. That was cool. Eowen killed the undead Ringwraith King. That was cooler.

Ditto for the hero. There's not so much of a double standard about a hero's activities. He's usually a knight or high-ranking professional warrior. Nevertheless... Luke didn't. Aragorn didn't.

Is it a cop out if the villain is simply hoist by his own petard (which literally means blown up by his own bomb)? I don't think so. There is a certain satisfaction --a "thusness"-- to that turn of events.

What inspires my villains? Not just the exquisitely courteous arch-villains of the Bond movies. For me, the most memorably wicked villain in literature was the Duke in Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess". He doesn't make The Daily Telegraph's list of Literature's 50 greatest villains -- --( ) But then, nor do Djohn Kronos, or Django-Ra!

I Love Your Blog Award

My friend and colleague, Emily Bryan nominated my blog... yes, this one, for an I Love Your Blog Award.

After receiving the award we are supposed to:

1) Add the logo of your award to your blog.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

It seems to me that there ought to be a sixth item on the list: "Favorite" the blog on

Here's a list of my favorite blogs that I am herewith nominating:

The Galaxy Express

Brenna Lyons Den

JA Konrath

Penny Sansevieri

Antick Musings

Alien Romances

Infinite Worlds Of Fantasy Authors

Fantasm Awards

Also mentioned:
Anna Genoese's blog (which I bookmarked in 2006! and which isn't what it used to be, but is still worth visiting)


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Rowena Cherry's chat on LibraryThing

Writers might be interested to know that has started week long author chats which Library Thing authors can book.

It's newish, but it might be a way of getting more exposure. Chats/Talks are posted on the same forums as all the other discussions going on between librarians (real ones), booksellers, readers.

My chat is

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Knight's Fork: PNR Reviewers' Top Pick for September and October consecutively.
(different reviewers)