Friday, July 28, 2006

Hanging Out in the Outer Sphere

Well, hopefully, you aren't checking in to see Xandra's thoughts on RWA National...because I'm not there. ToT (is there an emoticon for pouting? LOL). So instead of the publishing process (which does include attendance at events like RWA National, RT Convention, and other, smaller venues), I thought I'd talk a little about writing process.

Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Nora Roberts have all said "you can't fix a blank page." Many authors among us can nod our heads in sympathy when someone talks about how difficult it seems to get the words on the page. Others just shake their heads and can't conceive of sitting down to write without a well-developed map (aka an outline or scene synopsis). I suspect most of us veer somewhere to the middle of these two poles.

Myself--I just can't hit my stride without a good start. I think it comes from my checquered past, when I used to write short contemporary romantic comedies. I entered so many contests and submitted so many partials, that I gradually got used to thinking in terms of Hooks and Cute Meets that before I could go on, I had to have that hook scene or cute meet scene hammered out solid. Of course, looking back at some of that, I see that the rest of my stories tended to suffer because while that hook scene or cute meet scene was fine, the rest of the story often diverged from the promise put forth in that opener. Back then, I was sailing up that river in Egypt about what I really wanted to write, and it shows now that I look back on it.

A few years ago, I reinvented myself, starting from the writing process up, and thought I'd had my old habits kicked. But I see them resurfacing sometimes, albeit in different forms. For me, I need that good beginning still. It's not so much a "cute meet" or even a tried-and-true "hook" thing anymore, but I need to have that opening scene hammered out before I can do much more than noodle on the rest of things.

How about you? For you writers out there, what has to be in place before the rest starts flowing? And for the readers...what's your favorite part of a good yarn?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Let's Blog About It!

Hi Everyone!

I'm here in Alanta right underneath the place to meet & greet the upper echelon of publishing--AKA the bar.

Have to say so far I've been having a ball! Was so excited to meet people while I volunteered at Registration. If you get the chance to help out here, then do it! It's so great to put names with faces (Lynda, Kat, Susan Grant, Anna Genoese, etc.)

I was also at the Gathering (in a short, red dress) that shouted more Red Dress Ink than FF&P, but I wanted to get attention. Though I think it was more for me jetting out to go to moderator training then slinking back in. But I did get to meet Chris Keeslar after I learned the name for Dorchester's new manga line--Showmi. Passed off my business card and he asked me to send a partial of my latest futuristic BELIEVE IN ME. Yeah!

Other highlights that I got the fortune to see were Scott Eagan of Greyhaus who said he'd love to see anything with romance as long as it's got depth. He said that would run between 75K-110K. And he accepts YA if you're so inclined, but be warned he used to teach high school, so he'll know if you're off the mark. Deidre Knight was there with Nephele Tempest from the Knight Agency and said that the market that laughed at them earlier when they shopped around Karen Marie Moning, is now seeking paras hot and heavy. They're also launching a new website this week to celebrate their 10th anniversary, so check it out.

At luncheon today, I got to hear Meg Cabot. What a gem! She was so animated and friendly. She had us rolling the whole time! I'd love to hear her give a talk on just about anything.

And then I had a meeting with Vivian Beck. Got flustered because I couldn't get an elevator to get upstairs to my room for my pitch cards and had five minutes before my pitch. Then it hit me to call Joey, my significant other along for the ride, to run to the rescue. I ended up having to report to the local Vivian had selected, and there came Joey bounding down the escalator to deliver my cards. Then I had to wait for the three others in line ahead of me. But I had a delightful time talking with Vivian's daughter. She's so personable, and I'm sure a big help to her mom. Then I got to sit down with Vivian, and as I was pitching I mentioned that I thought BELIEVE IN ME would be perfect for Showmi. She said she thought the same, and asked for the FULL!

So all in all, my conference is going super! Except for the blisters I got yesterday after being on my feet for 2/3 of the day. I thought Dr. Scholls had me covered, but alas he failed me big time. So any minute I'll be hobbling away, because the show must go on!


Greetings from Atlanta!

I got here yesterday morning and though the conference wasn't in full swing, the place is full of 'alive' with industry professionals from authors to editors to agents to...well, you name it. If they're connected with books in any fashion, they're here {g}

I met our Kat Mancos face-to-face for the first time yesterday--while I was talking to Shirley Hailstock (past RWA President. As I started to introduce Kat, I was surprised to learn that Kat and Shirley already knew each other! Talk about 6 Degrees of Separation!

Then as I checked in to the Conference, I met (too briefly!) our Skylar Massey who was volunteering at the desk! Skylar and Kat, if you're reading this, look me up for lunch so we can chat more. I hope to be sitting with Patti O'Shea, our recent guest blogger and, if we can find her, another friend, Jennifer Green.

I took quite a few pictures at the Literacy Signing but forgot to bring the cable so I could import them here (I'll do it when I get back).

Finally, last night I attended the FF&P Chapter Gathering, a dessert reception/Prism awards ceremony. There were a number of agents and editors attending. Though I left early (was starting to fall asleep at the table!), the talk seemed to be that the paranormal genre is still hot and growing (excellent news for all of us!)

More later!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

World Building

How do you build a world?

That’s a question I get asked a lot as a writer of science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romance. All right – I’m paraphrasing. Usually people actually say, “Where do you come up with all this stuff?”

I’d like to say it just pops into my head fully formed and I write like the wind until I have about 100,000 words down on paper. Then I whisk it off to my editor who weeps with gratitude. But I’d be exaggerating.


It’s more like 90,000 words.

Anyway. I like to think when people ask me this question, rather than impugning my sanity, they’re actually asking how I create the worlds I like to play in [and of course how do I craft my plots, but that’s the subject of a different blog.]

For purposes of this article, let’s say they want to know how I build a world. There are some steps I follow – not too closely – but as a basic guideline.

I start with a map. Literally. Sometimes it’s just a quick sketch of the place my characters are going to inhabit. It could encompass an area as small as a medieval village, or as large as a galaxy. I’ve never mapped a whole universe, but considering what I spend on paper, you’d think I had once or twice.

Once I have a basic idea of where things are, I think about the rules of the place. Does magick exist? Werewolves, vampires? Is this world at war? Is it the future or the past? Futuristic or primitive [noting that the future can be primitive also as in Conjured in Flames]. Am I going to be messing with laws of nature or physics? Can my characters fly? Do they travel through time or pop in and out from another reality? How do I plan to explain that? How much disbelief will I be asking my readers to suspend?

After I have some of the rules in place, I go for the artifacts and gadgets. Do I need to invent anything for my characters to use that I can’t pick up at Wal*Mart? I need to know how they work, whether I’m giving my characters a potion that will hopefully calm their out of control lust for one another [Wolfsbane: Aspect of the Wolf] or a microscopic translator device they can swallow with a glass of water [Hunter’s Moon]. I don’t need to draw schematics of these objects, but I need to be able to explain them since my readers, and my characters might be a little bit curious.

Finally when I have the world, the rules, the gadgets in place, I decide how my characters will deal with everything I’ve created. Will they consider a robe fashioned from sea weed [More Than A Fantasy] to be amazing or commonplace? Will they bat an eyelash at an orchid whose scent can be used to help control their minds? [Bonfire of the Vampires] Will they believe the souls of two ancient lovers can be trapped in an alabaster jar? [The Soul Jar]

Now that I have a world and I know how it works, what my characters will find there and how they will deal with it, if I’m lucky, I have most of my plot worked out, too. From there, as I begin to write, the world I’ve created becomes more colorful. I notice little details that I might not have thought about in the beginning and I weave them into the story. The end result, several thousand dazzling words later if I’m lucky, is a world that readers will want to visit again and again. I

How do you build a world? In other words, where do you come up with your stuff?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Thank You Patti!

It's been a great week with Patti here to blog with us. I, as I'm sure everyone else has, enjoyed your posts and insights on futuristic romance. I'm looking forward to your future books (especially Eternal Nights with that yummy hero on the cover!) and wish you much luck at Tor with your new ones!

If you have time before you go, why not give us a blurb for the new Tor book to whet our appetite?

See you at National!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Question for Patti--From Skylar

Morning Patti!

I recently read Stephen King's fabulous (almost autobiography) ON WRITING. In it he says one of the most important aspects to consider is theme, as in the way it makes the reader feel. Not only because it can open their eyes, but also to give them a momento to take away as a souvenir of sorts to implement in their lives. Did you have any specific messages you wanted to convey either via your settings, plot, or most importantly your characters? Did this speak to you personally--as in an issue you might have been dealing with/concerned about at the time? And have you ever had something come through in your novels that subconciously worked it's way in?

Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us!

Question for Patti - From Xandra

Hi Patti! Thanks for blogging with us here at Star-Crossed! Hope you're enjoying your stay! My question is one of those odd ones, and it's pure speculation (which isn't all that out of place in speculative romance, LOL!) - where do you see futuristics going in the future?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Question for Patti -- From Lynda

I think your Through a Crimson Veil was a 'hotter' book than your previous ones (though they weren't shabby in terms of heat either {g}). Now that you're writing for Tor, are your books going to be 'hotter' yet? About the same?

Question for Patti -- From Skylar

Hi Patti!

The boss is away for a few so...

Skylar had a couple of other great questions that I don't see listed.

*Got any exciting vacation plans, since you love to travel?

*Are you doing anything special at Nationals next week, as in external book signings?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Question for Patti--From Skylar

Hi Patti,

Was wondering if you'd tell us how you got "discovered". I've heard people say they got an in through contests, pitches that clicked right off the bat, and of course there's always dumb luck. Who knew an elevator could be such a momentous place for a first meet.

What were you doing when you got the "call"? And how long had you been "shopping" Ravyn's Flight?

Question for Patti -- From Lynda

Hi Patti!

Let's get a little personal ;-) I know you're a 'reader' like the rest of us. What are some of your favorite books? Authors?

And how about movies? Got any favorites?

Have any of these books/movies inspired book ideas for you?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Question for Patti -- From Skylar

Skylar had some great questions that I'm going to take the liberty of putting out here.

*Would you rather write youer own books or do you prefer doing series like 2176 & Crimson series?

*How long does it take for you to write a book?

*What's up after Eternal Nights?

Futuristic Romance Heroes

What makes a good futuristic romance hero? In my opinion, the exact same things that make a good romance hero, period. Of course, these are just guidelines and made to be broken.

The hero has a code of honor

It might not match society's idea of honor, but he strives to always live up to his own code.

Since my heroes have all been military or paramilitary, they tend to adhere to the normal social ideal of honor. However, in The Skypirate Justine Davis creates a hero who attacks coalition shipping. This is definitely not considered a good thing by the powers that be, but the coalition is a corrupt entity and by attacking it, the hero feels he's striking a blow for the planets that were overtaken by this imperial power.

We also see a lot of a personal code of honor in vampire books. The hero either only takes enough blood to live on, leaving the donor with a pleasurable interlude or, if he kills his prey, it's always the dregs of society, the kind of bad guys that few readers will feel any remorse over. If the vampire loses his control and accidentally kills an innocent, he's been tortured by this from the day it happened--even if it's been hundreds of years. I can't think of one instance where a vampire hero in a romance has killed someone "undeserving" for regular feeding.

Heroes are protective and reliable

These men might be as alpha as all get out, but they'll die to protect someone they perceive as weaker than they are--even if it's with great reluctance--and the heroine can rely on him to help her no matter what the circumstances.

I've noticed a pattern in my books. No matter what else is going on around them, the hero and heroine are always a team, able to rely on each other one hundred percent. They might not trust each other, in fact, in Through a Crimson Veil, Conor was damn pissed off at Mika for the lies she told, but despite all that, he continued to protect her and Mika knew he'd never let anything happen to her.

Heroes are self-reliant

They don't whine to others, they take care of their own problems.

In Janice Tarantino's The Crystal Prophecy, not only is the hero self-reliant, surviving a situation that felled other lords around him, he also is able to shoulder the burden placed on him by The Widows and take the steps necessary to save their society.

Heroes have an emotional vulnerability

No matter how tough they are, they need love.

I tend to write heroes who are loners, with few connections to others (Eternal Nights is the one exception) and this is part of the emotional vulnerability. We all know these guys need to be loved. The most extreme example in my writing is Conor from Through a Crimson Veil. Through no fault of his own, he was rejected by his mother--she refused to even touch him if she could help it--and to protect himself emotionally, he built a fortress around himself. Then Mika comes along and tells him she loves him--often. He wants to believe, but he doesn't quite dare. In the course of the book, Conor inches forward toward trusting and believing that he really is worthy of love.

The difference between regular heroes and futuristic romance heroes

IMO, the main difference is the futuristic hero can be larger than life beyond what most authors can do with a contemporary hero. Sure, he can be a galactic police officer, but he can also be Prince of Planet X, out to save the galaxy from the evil empire.

But whether he's a futuristic rebel out to topple a corrupt totalitarian government or a contemporary hero who's out to catch a murderer, the reader has to care about the character.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Patti -- Cover Art

Patti, you've gotten some great cover art on your books (Dorchester does a fabulous job). I hear complaints all the time about covers. Some don't like the 'clinch'. Some don't like the 'cartoon' style illustration. Some don't like covers without people. You obviously can't please everyone all the time but...

I know as an author you don't have final say but, if you did, what would you choose? What do you think is the 'perfect' cover art for a futuristic?

Why I Think Futuristic Romance Rocks

Before I get started, I'd like to thank the Star-Crossed Romance authors for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I appreciate it!

Lynda asked me to talk about what drew me to write futuristic romance and why. At first, I thought this was a pretty easy topic to address, but the longer I thought about it, the more complex the answer became.

I've always been drawn to futuristics. I remember being in a writing class, and when the teacher went around the room asking what genre we were interested in, I said romance mixed with a little science fiction. She promptly shot me down, telling me there was no such thing and that I had to pick one or the other. I still remember finding my first futuristic romance when I was in Waldenbooks--I think I shrieked with the thrill of discovery. :-) Yeah, it's lucky I wasn't banned, but here was exactly the kind of thing I was interested in writing and someone was publishing it!

I found out other romances like this had been released and I started a search to hunt down every single title so I could read them. Most were out of print, some weren't easy to find, but I spent weekends hitting used bookstores, thrift stores and library sales until I'd gotten each book.

So what is it that draws me as a writer to the subgenre? The infinite possibilities.

I'm very character-driven in my writing and I like to see how certain scenarios impact who a character is. For example, the idea for The Power of Two came to me with one word: nanotechnology. I'd done a lot of reading on this years before because it interested me, not because I ever thought I'd use it in a story, but now what I knew was zinging around my brain. What if I used Quantum Brain Nanotechnology as a basis for the story? What if my hero and heroine were connected to each other this way, but they'd never met? What kind of impact would this have on who they were?

That last question is the one that interested me the most. How would this shape these characters?

This all took maybe a couple of minutes to zoom in my head and then Cai made an appearance and the possibilities began to snowball. She was brilliant, shy and had been ridiculed mercilessly her entire life because of her intelligence. She'd withdrawn from the world and her only real connection was the man on the other side of the nanoprobes. But no matter how safe she tried to keep herself, Jake was almost always in her head. She learned to trust him, learned to rely on him--and she never told him she was human.

Jake was impacted too. A loner by nature, he doesn't trust easily either, but here he is, forced to have the implants put in his head. But he thinks Cai is a computer and so he opens up to her, developing an emotional closeness he believes is safe because she isn't human. Imagine how happy he was to find out he'd been sharing his deepest thoughts with a real person and someone who was very young at the outset of their connection.

How could I duplicate these circumstances in a contemporary romance? I guess I could have had both Jake and Cai telepathic or something, but it doesn't have the same thrust as being coerced by the military into having implants inserted. It doesn't carry the same ramifications or shape who these people are in the same way.

The second reason I like futuristic romance so much is that I have the power to create my own society and watch how it plays into who my characters are. Near future, far future, alternate reality, alien planets--it's all an opportunity to torment the hero and heroine. :-) My motto for writing is: Torture the characters before they torture me.

Justine Davis in her futuristic books Lord of the Storm and The Skypirate created a very interesting world that greatly impacted her heroes and heroines. In LOTS, the heroine is a coalition pilot and the hero was enslaved and used sexually by the elite of this society. He has every reason to hate the coalition, but the heroine defies her people to rescue him and he finds himself falling in love with someone he considers the enemy.

Skypirate took this world and impressed its influence on the hero and heroine even farther than in book one. The heroine here is a former coalition officer (and not a nice person in LOTS) who's been enslaved because of the escape in the first book. The hero is a space pirate who happens to be from the same world as the hero of LOTS and he's believed all his people are dead. This has had a profound impact on his life and on his beliefs.

Another book that I think used the society in an interesting way is The Crystal Prophecy by Janice Tarantino. The heroine is from our world and brought by The Widows to future Earth. This is a fish out of water tale because this place is drastically different from ours. Here we see an author use a futuristic world to impact a current-day character.

In contrast, the world in Ravyn's Flight and Eternal Nights isn't all that different from what we have now since it's only about 40 years out in the future, but these characters grew up with war. Not just a off-in-a-foreign-land war, but an on-US-soil war. They've never known what it's like to have a true peace, they've forever been aware that the US could be invaded again.

This isn't the main thrust of the books, in fact the wars on Earth are barely addressed, but this has shaped who the heroes and heroines in this world are. Ravyn not only grew up in a war zone, her mother was on the front lines as an army surgeon. She'd already lost her father and knew she could be orphaned at any moment. I also find myself interested in the differences between Kendall and Ravyn as heroines. Kendall is only five years younger than Ravyn, but those five years made a difference in who each woman is because of what was going on in the world around them.

As you can guess from everything I've said, I don't have much interest in the world alone. It all comes down to the characters for me and how society and events shape who they are. Futuristic romance offers limitless opportunities and new and creative ways to torture my heroes and heroines. :-)

A third reason I love the subgenre is that the story can be as big or as small as the author wants it to be.

In Lord of the Storm and The Skypirate, a group of rebels is fighting for the freedom of their world from coalition tyranny. In The Crystal Prophecy the future Earth is fighting for its very survival. These are pretty huge stories.

But there's room for the smaller scope story as well. In Ravyn's Flight the goal for the hero and heroine is to stay alive until help can arrive from Earth, and if possible, take out the bad guy. The fate of the world doesn't hang in the balance, just the fate of two people. In Eternal Nights the hero and heroine are trying to stay alive too and expose a smuggling ring.

So these are the reasons why I love the subgenre so much, but I've spent days trying to figure out how, exactly, my interest originated. Before I knew there was a such a thing as futuristic romance, I wanted to write it, so why? Was it the reruns of Star Trek that my friends and I watched as very young children? Or was it born at some other time?

I haven't come up with any definitive answers, but I'll probably be thinking about this for a while now.

Patti O'Shea

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Star-Crossed Romance

Star-Crossed Romance

Awesome! I was going to try this text in different colours...mainly because I LIKE different colours!LOL But I better behave myself...*sigh*...

Yes, scary as it sounds, it is my turn to blog. Blog. What an odd word. "Today I blogged." Blogged? Hmmmm...

Okay, getting back to what is at hand, I better write something constructive. I was going to wow you all with my intellectual and slightly amusing prowess with the written word, but then I came back to reality and...well...this is what you get. Me. ROTFL

Humour. I like humour. I like humour in a lot of things, but especially in books. Some authors just have that knack of making you laugh-out-loud, such as Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. But what about paranormal books? Are there any humerous paranormal romances out there, be they the werewolf/vampire/ghost/sci-fi/fantasy? Could humour have any possible place in paranormal romances at all?

YES! Well, in my opinion, anyway . Dara Joy in her early romances had great humour (remember Rejar? Phwoar!!!!) and humour peeks out from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Hunter books. Christine Feehan and J.D. Ward, to name a few of the well-know authors. They handle humour differently, but well.

Humour eases the tension, gives a spark of humanity, and gives me a feeling of warmth towards the characters. It shows me that there is more to the heroine, hero, villain and side characters, it gives them a chance to be witty, to laugh in the face of danger, to crack a joke when things are down. It's a show of spirit!

And face it, if a huge meteor is hurtling towards the couple, their spaceship is about to be invaded, everything is tense, they are facing their nemesis ...and suddenly one of them makes a dry remark that just tickles the funnybone -well, that just does it for me. I LOVE it!

I write sci-fi/futuristic romances, and the humour fluctuates between books, depending on the characters. I love this genre (as well as reading paranormal and fantasy romances). It gives me such a wide expanse of opportunies to use humour. A dry comment. A sly dig. A bemused remark. Anything to break what could be serious situations and which, indeed, remain serious, but that brief bit of humour is a bit of relief. It's also a good chance for the hero and heroine to bounce off each other word-wise. (I could talk about bouncing off each other, but this isn't quite the place *cough*). What? I didn't say a thing...

Humour. Humour can be laugh-out-loud, it can be smile can even be sensual. It can create moods in scenes, change the tone, give sudden insight or add to the puzzle of a character. It can be subtle or in-your-face. And parnanormal, fantasy and futuristic/sci-fi romances are great genres to explore humour mixed with the more serious story-lines.

I just wonder how many paranormal, fantasy and futuristic romance books are out there with humour that I still have to discover. Any suggestions?

And what about facing a werewolf that turns into a man? A hunk of a man? Would I offer him a doggy bone?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Recycled Heroes

Have you ever noticed that all your favorite actors from sci-fi series seem to get recycled on other sci-fi shows? I'm watching Stargate Atlantis and love the potpourri of sci-fi alumni that are on that show. There's Mitch Peleggi aka A.D. Skinner from X-Files, and from Star Trek Enterprise, Chip (was that his name on the show? doesn't sound right, but you know who I mean.) Then there's the holographic doctor from Voyager, who is a fully realized human on this show. Former Farscape castmates Ben Bowder and Claudia Black have become part of the regular cast on Stargate SG-1. I love this! It's so great to see actors I've enjoyed in series that have been cancelled becoming part of shows I currently watch. I feel as if my universe has reached equilibrium when that happens, even though the characters they now play may be very different from the one's I grew to love them as...

...which brings me to a point... have you ever recycled your characters? I had a strange experience the other day...and for me, that's saying quite a lot. Anyhoo, I had just gotten into the shower when a very minor character in one of my novels (By A Silken Thread, TBA from Triskelion) climbed in there with me and stole the soap. I kept waiting for him to offer to wash my back, but he wouldn't until I heard him out. It seems he is eager to tell his story, and what a story it is. I would have called him rude had he not kept me spellbound with the fantastic tale he spun. Though a sexy bastard, I had to wonder at his timing since it's no small secret I am in a mad dash to complete my current WIP before RWA nationals. And yet, he wouldn't leave me alone until I agreed to write at least the rough idea down and promise him I would consider it on the list of books I'm working on...(Currently numbering 15 in all. He obviously is not only rude, but merciless as well.)

So, now I am totally captivated by the possibilities in this story of his, and yes, it's rife with paranormal beings...dark angels to be precise.

Have you ever had a minor character approach you to tell their story, or am I alone in my madness?


Alien TV/Libraries - Part 2

When love flourished in M for medical textbooks

Two weeks ago, Rachel Cooke sparked a nationwide debate by standing up for libraries under threat of closure by penny-pinching bureaucrats. Now, we publish a personal account of how libraries have the power to change lives for the better. By Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson
Sunday July 9, 2006


I was eight years old when I came to Britain as a refugee - and was not particularly grateful. Mostly this was because after years and years of being a sheep coming to the manger, or a grazing cow, I had at last landed the part of the Virgin Mary in the nativity play at my convent school in Vienna.
And then ... Hitler.

We came to London in 1934, a bedraggled party consisting of my fey, poetic mother, my irascible grandmother and confused aunt, and rented rooms in a dilapidated house in Belsize Park which, in those days, was a seedy, run-down part of the city. The house was full of suddenly impoverished refugees facing exile. On every floor were lonely and muddled professors, doctors and lawyers, mostly from German-speaking countries. I had no friends, no school yet, nowhere to play.

Then, one day, walking up the hill towards Hampstead to do some shopping for my grandmother, I came across a building with an open door. I went inside. The room was very quiet and full of books. At a desk sat a woman with fair hair and I waited for her to tell me to go away. But she only smiled at me. Then she said: 'Would you like to join the library?'

My English was still poor but I understood her. In particular, I understood the word 'join' which seemed to me to be a word of unsurpassed beauty. I told her that I had no money and she (her name was Miss Pole ) said: 'It is free.'

I joined the library. I did not only join it, I lived in it. I don't really remember when I began to read English as easily as German, but it did not take long. After a few weeks, I got to know the regulars - the tramp with holes in his shoes who came to keep warm and read the Racing News, the woman whose mother-in-law was driving her insane ... and my special friend, Herr Doktor Heller, who was a refugee like I was, only from Berlin, not from Vienna.

Dr Heller came very early in the morning and did not leave until the library closed. He came with a pile of medical books - The Diseases of the Knee, The Malfunctions of the Lymphatic system.The books were in English because this eminent specialist, who had been head of the department of obstetrics in Berlin's most famous maternity hospital, was not allowed to practise medicine in Great Britain without resitting every one of his medical exams in English.

He must have been in his thirties, not able to wander from one language to the other as I could, being a child. Sometimes, I heard him sigh - once I even saw him wipe his eyes as he thought of the hopelessness of his task - and then Miss Pole and I exchanged glances. She was very concerned for him, fetching down the German-English dictionary as soon as he came in. Sometimes, she shut up the library a little later so as to give him more time; he lived in a single, poky room which he could not afford to heat.

There were other crosses for him to bear. His wife, an Aryan, had stayed behind in Germany and decided not to join him. Yet he went on patiently, uncomplainingly, learning again, and in an alien tongue, what he had learnt and forgotten 15 years earlier.

Then, unexpectedly, I was offered a place at a Quaker boarding school in the country. I left London and so did my family. The library was closed and merged with a bigger one in a grander part of Hampstead. Then came the war. Miss Pole, who must have been younger than I had realised, joined the Wrens and the British government in its wisdom interned its 'enemy aliens'; those men and women who had come to them for shelter.

But for me, things went well. I left school, went to university and, in my last year, met and married a Burma veteran just discharged from the army. A year later, I was admitted to Queen Alice's Maternity Hospital for the birth of my baby. It was a stroke of luck - Queen Alice's was the most famous hospital in London with a formidable reputation.

The morning after my daughter's birth, there was a certain stirring in the ward, an air of expectation. The nurses stood up straighter, checked the bedclothes, patted the patients into tidiness. Matron rose from the chair behind her desk. And the procession entered. It was the specialist, the Great Man himself, come to do his morning round. No one will believe me when I describe what went on in those days when the specialist came into the ward. Spotless in his white coat, he was flanked by his registrar, his houseman and at least two students eager for his every word.

The great man moved slowly between the beds. I had determined not to speak to him - it would have been like addressing God - but when he came up to my bed, I couldn't help looking at him very hard, hoping and hoping that he would recognise me. And he did. For a moment, he seemed puzzled and then he smiled. 'My little friend from the library!' he said. And he turned to his retinue and said that I had helped him. That I had encouraged him and given him hope. I had done that!

But there's one more thing to tell. After I was discharged, I took my daughter to visit him and there, behind the teapot in his elegant drawing room, I found a woman who I knew. 'Reader, he'd married her!' He had done this most excellent thing and married Miss Pole.

Alien TV/Libraries Part 2

When I was a child, we had book mobiles that came around to the neighborhood. I was always ready to climb up the steps, to surge into the dark, cramped interior and head straight for the books I loved to read--anything to do with horses or wolves or adventurous children (I hadn't quite discovered SF at that point). I loved the book mobile. I loved the smell of the books, the way the adults and children treated them as if they were sacred objects. I loved the weight and texture of them. Sigh. I could easily have been a librarian but life led me in a different direction.

That's why when I read the following story on one of my other email loops, I thought I'd share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Unfortunately, there was no citation or I would have included it.

Alien TV Part 1

We know our astronomers have searched for radio signals from other worlds. It's only reasonable to assume that comparable alien civilizations do the same. And I know I've seen references in SF to locating/viewing ancient Earth TV shows far in the future and far, far away. Apparently that isn't too far from reality. There's a movement afoot to develop telescopes that will receive television signals from distant planets. See the article Alien TV

Again, it's reasonable to assume a sufficiently advanced alien civilization might have developed the same technology. They could be watching Fear Factor, Survivor or...Hell's Kitchen. If they are, perhaps that's why they haven't made contact?

Think about it.

Would you want to contact an alien civilization where the 'entertainment' consists of forcing people to eat obviously unsavory things? Or where fellow humans are abandoned in primitive areas to squabble among themselves--and what happens after the vote out ceremony done with all the pomp and formality of a death sentence? Then there's Hell's Kitchen where some insane human screams and vilifies an assortment of other harried humans and over what? Food?

Add to that the nightly news coverage of crime, war and dirty politics. Really, what's an alien to think? I sure wouldn't want to make friends with folk like that and if I saw them coming, I'd think 'There goes the neighborhood.'

On the other hand...maybe these sorts of television shows and news coverage entertain them. That's kind of scary. I'm not real sure I'd want to meet them {g}

To be fair, I understand that conflict--even violence or implied violence--is essential to most genre fiction. We want to see our heroes be victorious, to win the day. But our genre fiction has something these reality shows don't have--character growth. And good character growth can best be revealed guessed it! Books.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Guest Blogger: Patti O'Shea

Next week Patti O'Shea, author of Ravyn's Flight, The Power of Two, Through a Crimson Veil and, coming next month, Eternal Nights will be sharing this space with us.

I've known Patti for a long time. She's passionate about her characters, her plots and her writing. In fact, she's a hellavu TERRIFIC writer as anyone who's ever read one of her books knows. So stay tuned and feel free to ask questions or make comments.

By the way, Patti's website is Patti O'Shea just in case you wanted to stop by and visit her there.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Infinities of Potential

Jennifer asked what drives us to Science Fiction a few posts below. I thought that was a good enough question to wax philosophical.

It's the possibility that drives me. My folks took me to see Star Wars when it first came out in theaters (probably because they couldn't find a babysitter, LOL!) and Star Trek the Movie. We watched reruns of TOS whenever they came on. But my folks aren't big readers. In junior high, though, my friend Sarah (to whom I will always be in debt) introduced me to her older brother's dog-eared trilogy of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. That did it for me. From then on, I sucked up everything by McCaffrey, and whatever came through the library's SF shelves (most of it pulp SF from the seventies that I barely half-remember).

I loved the possibilities inherent in SF. What I remember of the pulp I devoured in junior high broke through boundaries for me. I read stories that mentioned things that were considered verboten in other literature (this I found out later) like alternative lifestyles, drug use, sexual and gender role shake-ups. SF took the aspects of society we take for granted and pulled them apart. Put them under a glass and examined the whys and whats both in and out of context. Thanks to SF, I learned to do the same. I broadened my horizons and gradually came to understand that even though everybody I knew in my suburban subdivision of Generica, USA was pretty much the same, there were still in existence other ways to be. That understanding has shaped my worldview, and extends deeply into every aspect of my life. And if I have the chance to open someone else's mind like that--then by the Gods, I'll jump at that chance.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Walk the Gangplank!

Warning: Spoilers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl!

Ahoy Mateys! Today's the day! Dead Man's Chest is officially in theaters, which means we get another helping of what we loved during the first go-round. In case you didn't catch that installment it offered swashbuckling galore, scary sea voyages, interplay between a miriade of characters, witty one liners and a love story for the girls. However I believe the original gained "big hit" status because it pushed the tried-and-true seafarer adventure story a tad WAY farther.

As the anxious worrier I am, I'm concerned about the extreme use of paranormal elements. During the trailer, I found myself asking how is this going to fly? Is Davey Jone's octopus beard and a shark headed first mate going too far? And those examples are plastered (not peppered lightly) throughout the tidbit we've been hooked with to rush out and see the movie. Like everyone else, it also made me wonder--What else does Dead Man's Chest hold in store? Because if you loved Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl's huge twist, where we found out that Jack Sparrow is an undead skeleton trying to save his hide, then you know there will be an uber twist among this plotline.

Taking the concept off the big screen and in between those fabulous black and white pages, how far do you think the envelope is pushable? Do you think walking too thin a line between conventional and outrageously out-there is grounds for a one-way walk into the toiling sea?

I try to have some real-life basis for the flights of fancy my imagination takes. Not because I can't think of the "weird stuff" myself, but because I feel it gives readers a jumping off point. But from all the reviews, blurbs and books I've read I see more writers' everyday pushing what's possible in our diverse marketplace. Traditional houses have propped open their doors, and e-publishers are proving that people will buy less mainstream works based on trips to whole new worlds within author's brains. In the spirit of Keira Knightly who asked for more swordfights because she's a kick-butt girl with `tude, I say, "Go for it! But tread lightly."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gender Wars

At the risk of sounding like a raging feminist seeing as I've posted on this subject before, I have to admit that the subject of 'alpha femaleness' has been on my mind today. While waiting for my morning latte (short and skinny) at the local coffeehouse this morning, I came across this article in today's paper. I was drawn to it for two reasons: the first that I'd written about alpha heroines before, and the second that it echoed my recently ended relationship of six years. Not that I consider myself an alpha female (I'm far too laid back) , and the break-up was very civilized - but then the BF wasn't a true gamma either.

The truth is I can't really tell who or what an alpha female or a gamma male is. The newspapers seem to be frantically trying to create labels for the latest sociological phenomenon - if it exists at all. I think we're all much more complex than that. We're not all alpha, just as we're not all gamma. I believe there are aspects of both in everyone, although in some people one aspect obviously predominates.

By all accounts, society is in a state of flux as gender roles are being re-assigned. We haven't gone as far as scrapping gender roles altogether and I can't see it happening in my lifetime. And to think that it all started with the invention of the birth control pill.

My ideal will always remain the society of Anarres in Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed, a novel which in large part is a commentary on male/female roles within differently structured societies. When the protagonist Shevek is questioned whether the women in his society are treated exactly like men, he replies that a person chooses work according to interest, talent and strength, and what has sex to do with it? And he ponders the obsession of superiority and inferiority in Urrasti social life.

Of course Le Guin is making a feminist statement about society in the early 70s, but it's still valid today even though the word 'feminist' has fallen into disrepute. Apparently we can't be feminists now because that's a word now reserved for lesbians and the rest of the female population have all moved on. I beg to differ. Women are still fighting every day for equal pay for the same job the men are doing. Romance is looked upon with scorn because women write it. Until this kind of thing is resolved, I'll consider myself a feminist.

The fact that we can now write about alpha females without being accused of "feminism" - and the fact that romance readers are avid to read about them - is one large step in the right direction.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Why Sci-Fi?

Although I often write about vampires, werewolves, Fae and witches, not to mention on rare occasion, just regular people who don’t live in magical worlds and cast spells or hunt creatures of the night as a matter of course, my first love will always be Science Fiction.

I come from a blended family – Dad is a Star Trek fan, Mom still isn’t certain the moon landing wasn’t a hoax. Guess whose side I favor?

Besides a genetic predisposition to feel at home anywhere the doors swish open at my approach, other factors have contributed to my ‘head in the stars’ state of mind. The pictures in this post are case in point. They’re all from the Hubble Gallery, a fascinating site that has tons of amazing views of the universe. Looking at images like this has always given me inspiration and made me wonder just what’s out there. What would a society develop into if its night sky looked like this?

Who lives here?

And what would they think of us? I’ve always looked up at the sky and wondered and that wondering led to creating stories about whom or what might be out there.

For those of us who write science fiction flavored romance, what inspired you? Were you born to it, or are you a convert? Is it a passing fancy, something you dabble in, or, like me, is it where your roots are buried?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Reading--Pleasure or pain?

I've been a reader since...well...since forever {g} On a good week, I can devour 3 or 4 books. Unfortunately I haven't had a *good* week in quite awhile. Between the day job, home life and my own writing, I've been lucky to get one book a week. That's probably true for all of us.

If you visit my website Lynda K. Scott or join my newsletter LyndaKScott-Newsgroup, you've seen books I've read recently and how I've rated them. What you won't see are books I've read that I absolutely hated. Why?

There are a couple of reasons. First: Any review-good or bad-is publicity for the author and her/his book. If I hate it, I won't be giving publicity to it. That simple. Second: A review is only one person's opinion. What makes my opinion any more important than yours? Nothing.

I've no desire to be the new Mrs. Giggles and I've no desire to trash a book no matter how bad it is.

So...what constitutes a bad book for me?
1. An inane or insane plot.

When I read a book, I expect to be able to follow along with the story's action without scratching my head wondering how in the heck did the hero get from here to there? Now...I love ff&p style books so I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief for long periods. I will, in fact, overlook a lot of things I classify as 'unlikely to happen'. But if an author tries to force an impossibility down my throat without even an attempt to explain.... The book will end up in the trash.

2. Unending sex scenes.

I love sex, okay? {g} And I love reading sensual, erotic scenes in our books. But sex scenes do not a plot make. And, worse, if there's no real characterization, I won't give a hoot about the characters 'doing' it. More than likely, I'll grow bored and the book will end up in the trash.

3. Scant characterization and this is the most important part.

I used to review books for the Writer's Club at AOL among other places. In general, I was a 'kind' reviewer. Very seldom did I blister a book--until I was given a book that was SO bad that I could barely force myself to read it. In fact, I was only able to torture myself up to the halfway point in that book (which shall remain nameless). Why? Because the author didn't make me care about his characters. Or the plot. His particular M.O. seemed to be--Hey, I know a lot of big words and I'm going to show you each and every one. Well, I've had more fun reading chemistry, calculus and {shudder} economics books.

I don't mind learning some new fact(s) while I'm reading and I don't mind picking up a few new words (I have a large vocabulary but it can always be extended)--I will, in fact, relish it. But I read for entertainment. I want to be transported to new worlds, new dimensions. I want to fall in love with the characters. I want to feel my heart pounding with anxiety if they're in danger or pounding with unbridled lust if they're making love. When the book comes to an end, I want to be able to put it with my already-too-extensive collection of Keeper books.

If an author can make that happen when I read their book, they'll get a mention on my site/newsletter. If not, they'll end up in the black hole of my trash can never to be seen/heard/remembered.

But, as I said earlier, what makes my opinion more important than anyone else's? What do you think makes a book good or bad?