Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Writing boys, girls, and cats

My girl children are older now, but for a long time they would only write stories or draw pictures featuring ... girls. When I asked them why they never wrote or drew boys, they looked horrified. Then about oh half a puberty ago, one of them approached me and asked for tips on writing boy-POV.

At first I was like, eureka! -- they finally get it that our species has more than one gender! But then I thought about it a little more and... you know what? I don't really have any advice for them. Or for anyone.

Because the honest truth is that I write people. Sometimes cats and sometimes robots, true, but almost always people. And I define a person like Mary Shelley did: as an entity who communicates. Somebody who has a story to relate.

Yes, some of those character people have uteruses. Some have penises. Some have prehensile tails, galactic masses, or skin made of bubbles. But all of that is just frosting and glitter, folks. When it comes to writing, the person inside is the thing that matters. That's where all the angst and conflict and growth is at. Uteruses and penises don't essentially angst. They aren't stories.

So, about writing characters differently because of their gender: well, I don't.

Please leave all assumptions at the door and wipe your feet when you come into my universe. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Male, Female, Nonbinary: Not All Characters Are The Same

Male, female, and nonbinary characters, how do I write them to show their differences?

Let's back up a step to casting. Once I've chosen the protagonist(s), the next step is assembling their Scooby Gang. Each member represents an archetype (and when you're writing a series where all the characters evolve, remembering the archetype will prevent you from evolving the characters into the same person with a different face). Each archetype is meant to push or pull the protagonist through the story via actions and conversations.

Now it's time to assign gender to those archetypes. Making those choices comes down to the protagonist, their personality, and their history/backstory/all the stuff that happened before the book starts. Take authority figures: who is the protag most likely to respect, and who is the protag most likely to resent? The "why" behind those answers defines gender, age, sexuality, race, religion, etc. The process repeats for each archetype.

With the gang decided, I go through a similar process for the antagonist(s), but this time the plot plays a heavy role in determining what type of Who that will be. 

The first round of casting done, I look at team-composition balance. If the only female in my book is my protag, then I need to make some tweaks. (I also need to give my protag a personality adjustment.) Some stories will have casts that are more dude-centric, some more female, those decisions come down to plot. Since I write series, I do try to alternate. Admittedly, I haven't written a story that is nonbinary centric yet, which is something I should change.

Ah, but the question of the week is "how do you write the genders differently?" It all goes back to the characters' relationship to the protagonist. See, it's not about writing the genders differently, it's about writing the characters so they're unique.

In my IMMORTAL SPY series, I have one character who is a body thief, Drew. Drew is a nonbinary creation by an Under World goddess. In the lands of the living, Drew is genderfluid in a rather literal sense; Drew's gender (and species) changes based on the body they occupy. While Drew changes bodies more than once during a book, there is never any doubt that the entity inside that body is Drew. It's speech patterns, phrasing, impulsive actions, fierce loyalty to the protagonist, and a little too much glee in inappropriate moments. Small details. Personal tells. Individual tics.

Remember: Our genders don't make us who we are, our character does. Same holds true for the characters we create.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Writing MCs of Various Genders

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: "Heroes and heroines – how do you write them differently."

This is apropos for me, having just returned from the RWA Conference, as the topic of language and how we reference the "hero and heroine" came up. People pointed out that referring to the hero and heroine reflects a cis-het bias. They suggested "main character(s)" (MC) or "protagonists." In Romance stories we could say "love interest(s)" or LI. Even this question implies the binary, that there are heroes and heroines, and that's it.

I'm going to try to make this change.

Otherwise, my answer to the question of how I differentiate when writing various genders is short: I don't.

At least, I really try not to.

Whenever I get asked for advice on writing "strong female characters" - which, I'm not even all that sure what that means, as opposed to writing doormats? - I say to write strong characters, full stop. Gender, etc., should matter FAR less than everything else about a character. When writing females, maybe remember that they have menstrual cycles and have to deal with getting pregnant. Though I'd love to see males written who worry about dealing with getting someone ELSE pregnant.

Otherwise... Yeah. I don't write them differently. Still trying.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

What Trends Do I See Coming in #SciFi Romance?


This week’s theme: where is the SFF genre headed?

Since I write scifi romance, not the bigger world of science fiction and fantasy, I’m going to keep my scope for this post on a smaller scale as well.

I do a weekly New Releases post on my blog where I gather and curate a list of scifi/fantasy/paranormal romance new releases for the week. I have many different sources for identifying these books so every week I’m exposed to the trends in my three favorite genres, based on what I see being released, the reviews, the rankings etc. (Here’s the link to my latest such post if you’d like to see how I present the ones I choose to list.)

There’s a certain through line of SFR that’s adventure-oriented with a strong romance running through the plot and varying levels of steaminess from almost closed door to pages of inventive sexy times with tails and tentacles and other interesting appendages. I write somewhere in the middle of the range, with your basic human heroes and heroines and two or three lovemaking scenes per book as their relationship deepens. I’m descriptive about the sexy times but not at great length. I did endow my genetically engineered Badari Warriors with some enhancements the ladies enjoy but did not go as far as some authors can capably go in their inventiveness. There’s a lot of action and adventure in these novels, not only mine but those of other authors. I think this kind of ‘bread-and-butter’ SFR will continue to be written and voraciously read.

In no certain order, some other thoughts on this:

I’ve been seeing more and more authors bringing their own past gaming experience to their SFR novels, either as avid game players or as developers or both. I think that trend will continue.

I’ve been seeing more superhero style plots, which is probably inevitable given the immense success of the Marvel Universe movies.

I think the alien abduction theme will continue to be very popular with SFR readers. It’s currently a staple of the genre and the hot seller lists.

I haven’t seen as much reverse harem (RH) appearing in SFR as I’d expected, given how hot the trend is in paranormal romance, although there is some. I think SFR lags behind PNR on trends, in terms of whatever is trendy in PNR shows up later in the SFR titles. Dragons are one example that comes to mind immediately. Lots of space going dragons, dragon-like and dragon shifter heroes now and not as many in PNR.

PNR RH is definitely going into a ‘bully academy’ direction right now, where the heroine is stuck as school with a lot of bullies (duh) but finds her five true-hearted men, be they shifters or mages or demons – well, you get the idea -  and lives happily ever after eventually. So far I’m not seeing that in SFR but I bet it’s coming. Bullies at the Space Academy any day now…

I’m seeing more diversity in SFR, on the covers, in the novels and in the authors. I hope that trend will continue and grow!

I’m also seeing more LGBTQ SFR but not in a tidal wave…

Currently I’m seeing an emerging trend in the bigger Romancelandia world to have heroines on the autistic spectrum, so I can imagine we might see the same in SFR at some point.

I’ve seen something of a trend for PNR authors to take the ‘category romance’ type plots and apply those to their shifter stories – the bear shifter billionaire’s baby nanny (made that title up as far as I know – only meant as an example). I could imagine that trend translating into SFR and have seen some titles along those lines but not a rush of them as yet.

There also seems to be a huge market in PNR for 'cozies' - stories set in small towns, maybe with a light hearted romcom touch, and I have yet to see much if any in SFR. Something to watch for...

Dark romance and also the omegaverse type plots are appearing more and more. Issues of consent and power are the big hook in dark romance, along with anti-heroes, breaking taboos, etc. In the Omegaverse, typically (but not always) males known as ‘omegas’can become pregnant. Or the book may feature women who are ‘omega’ and sexual prey for every ‘alpha’ out there, and the ‘romance’ can be quite dark and brutal at times. Or you can have a blend of all of it. It’s not my personal thing, although I’ve read some dark romance and some Omegaverse, but I know many readers love it.

I’m seeing some authors who have not written SFR before coming in and attempting to “write to market” in the genre, with varying degrees of success.

And finally, I think Kindle Unlimited, which dominates SFR currently, will continue to be a major player, as long as Amazon continues to offer the subscription service. SFR readers are voracious inagoodway and evidently the subscription model of KU works well for them. Many weeks when I’m doing my new release post, I only have 2 or 3 SFR books I can report as being sold “wide” and all the rest are KU exclusive.

(You can still buy the ebooks outright from Amazon for your kindle of course, if you’re not in the KU subscription program but you can’t find them on other ebook seller sites like Barnes & Noble, Apple Books or Kobo.)

There’s a whole debate to be had among authors about the merits and issues with KU and I have no desire to get into all of that here, but I do think it’s a noteworthy aspect of the scifi romance marketplace, being so heavily committed to KU.

My books are all ‘wide’ and I’ve never been in KU. I have an instinctive aversion to putting all my eggs in one basket and I like the fact my readers can purchase the books on whatever platform they prefer. I understand I might be leaving all kinds of royalties and bonus payments on the table by not being in KU but the joy of being self-published (for all of us) is that we can make our own choices for our own reasons about how we want to define and pursue “success”.

What do you think is going to be the next hot trend in scifi romance?

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Return of the Bug-Eyed Monster

Are any of you old enough to remember when aliens *weren't* cute-ish and semi-benevolent? 

SF in particular has been through a couple of stages, all of which reflect the fears of the era each of them represents. 
  • Bug-eyed monsters
  • Terror of Technology/Science
  • Social Issues
  • Nuclear Annihilation 
  • What it means to be human
There are nuances and shadings to all of them, of course, but if the purpose of science fiction is to mirror the hopes and especially the fears of humanity, I suspect we can extrapolate the future of the genre from it.

Given the issues facing humanity as a whole - the rise of nationalism and the associated cruelty and violence, climate issues and the precipice humanity is fast approaching - we have a lot to process as a collective consciousness.

So yes. I expect more dystopian (think Fallout 4). I expect more utopian - and by utopian, I mean the stories people tell from the depths of their faith in humanity (Star Trek at its most idealistic.) I expect angry, murderous armies of aliens swarming humanity where ever we can be found. I expect stories of small bands facing overwhelming odds. Sure. I figure we'll all be slaying our Nazis in whatever cathartic form makes us froth in glee.

I'd like to think I'm seeing a glimmer of resurgence in interest in actual science. I'd like to think. If that's real, I'd expect to start seeing more stories about how science saves the not just the day  and our intrepid band of cyborg warriors, but the entire world (which is *kinda* what SF is supposed to be - science saving or destroying the day, but I digress and it's possible that's far too narrow a definition of an entire genre.)

Personally, I long for the stories of oppressed populations (human, nonhuman, cyborgs, robots, aliens, what have you) using the power of science and intellect to throw off chains - whether those chains are physical, emotional, mental, or environmental. Rising by the power of thought rather than sheer physical might (though there's fun in that, too) feels super empowering to me. Even though I be no great wit. :) I'm certainly no great physical power, either, so maybe there's that.

Where will the genre go? Where ever our fears and our hopes and our dreams as a species go, that's where.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

What Goes Around Comes Around

Please welcome the fabulous Jennifer Estep to the SFF Seven! I loved her fantasy (with an awesome slow-burn romance) KILL THE QUEEN, and now the sequel, PROTECT THE PRINCE has released and hit the USAT bestseller list! Highly recommend you check this series out. 

Jennifer is guest-posting this week's theme: Genre predictions – where is SFF headed?


Hello! First of all, I want to thank Jeffe for inviting me to guest blog. Thanks, Jeffe! J

Where are the science-fiction and fantasy genres headed? Ah, that’s the million-dollar question, especially if you write science-fiction and/or fantasy books.

My first book, Karma Girl, a paranormal romance, was published in 2007. Back then, paranormal romance was *the* hot genre. Everybody was writing about vampires, werewolves, witches, and more.

But like many things, publishing is cyclical. When a genre suddenly becomes popular, publishers want to buy books in that genre. But as more and more books in a particular genre hit shelves, the genre quickly gets oversaturated. It becomes harder and harder for new/debut and even established authors to stand out, and sales of that genre often start to wane as readers turn to other books. Then another genre will suddenly become “hot,” and the cycle will start all over again.

It happened with paranormal romance. These days, you would probably have a much harder time selling a paranormal romance than you would have 10 years ago when the genre was hot.

I’ve seen several genres come and go over the years. After paranormal romance, urban fantasy was hugely popular for several years. Then it was young-adult books. Then new-adult books. In more recent years, thrillers/psychological suspense books have been extremely popular, and 2019 seems to be the year of the rom-com.

So what does that mean for SFF authors? It’s hard to say. There will always be a market for science-fiction and epic-fantasy books, especially since those are the two mainstays and cornerstones of the SFF genre. As for what other SFF subgenres might rise in popularity, well, that is anyone’s guess. We won’t know until it happens.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other genres/tropes start to mix in more with SFF books, especially epic-fantasy books. For example, I think we could see a melding of urban fantasy and epic fantasy. Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince in my Crown of Shards series both feature a first-person, urban-fantasy-type voice, but in an epic-fantasy world/setting. I certainly hope those kinds of books become more popular. Fingers crossed! LOL.

But I could see other genres merging with SFF – like a whodunit murder mystery set in a castle, or a heist book set in space. Or a dozen other different genre combinations. I also think that SFF romance will become more popular – books that give readers all the action, adventure, and world building of a traditional science-fiction or epic-fantasy book, but with more romance/relationships and happier endings for the characters.

And it’s not to say that these kinds of books don’t already exist – they do. I know several authors, including Jeffe, who write fantasy romance, among other things. But I think publishers will be looking for more and more unique and interesting twists on the SFF genre and that readers will be searching for books that give them more than one sort of story/reading experience – again, something like an epic-fantasy mystery or a sci-fi heist book.

There are no guarantees in publishing, and trying to predict trends is a tricky business, at best. The only thing that is certain is that trends come and go, and that a genre that seems dead right now will probably rise from the ashes like a phoenix a few years down the road.

All it takes is one book to start a trend, so I say write the SFF book that *you* want to write. Who knows, maybe your book will be the trendsetter that ushers in a new wave of popularity for SFF books.

Happy writing and reading! J


Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. 

Jennifer writes the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series. Protect the Prince, book #2, was released on July 2. 

Jennifer is also the author of the Elemental Assassin, Mythos Academy, Bigtime, and Black Blade fantasy series.  

For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter,

Twitter:  (@Jennifer_Estep)
Amazon author page: 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Future of SFF: Kill Your Heroes

Science fiction and fantasy give us the heroes to fight the world that scares us. Captain America and Luke Skywalker fought Nazis. Tolkien’s heroes fought industrialization and the ravaging of nature. Post-9/11 heroes fought a previously incomprehensible level of destruction: how many movies and books in the decade or so afterward involved buildings or even cities crumbling?

So when I try to think of where SFF is heading, I’m really trying to think of what scares people, what they want to fight, what they need to fix or stop or tame. Plenty of recent fiction has been about, for instance, rebuilding a world altered by climate change. Afrofuturist works seek to fix the wound of colonialism.

But I wonder if the thing we fear most right now is the hero himself. If you saw the Star Wars movie The Last Jedi, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It was a film about the nobility of failure and using that failure to grow as a person. Every day on Twitter, some long-admired icon is revealed to be undeserving of their heroic status and is mass-cancelled: Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Joss Whedon, man… I could go on. Even the minor monsters horrify us. But what horrifies us even more is that we idolized them to begin with.

Possibly, then, the next movement of SFF will follow The Last Jedi. No, not in the sense that it will declare that self-annihilation is the only true expression of heroism. I mean rather that the heroes will come with a qualifier: don’t look up to me, don’t admire me, I’m just doing a job. And the other characters will heed the warning, because no one likes to see their heroes fall. Or maybe the only heroes will be the masses, the groups made of imperfect pieces who only succeed when they work together.

Regardless of the form it takes, I think fighting the hero is a nuance that SFF is absolutely able to achieve. And I expect to see more of it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Future of SFF is a Reaction to Current Real World Events

Where is SFF headed? I think we're going to continue to see more stories rooted in non-western cultures. I think we're going to see more robust casts where the straight white guy is the token (and not as the Great White Savior). I don't think diverse stories are a passing fad, rather they're a change in consumer demand encouraged by Hollywood making consumers aware that representative entertainment is available to the mainstream.

I think as long as real-world politics is shit, that'll the demand for HEA in SFF is going to increase; that includes breaking grimdark's stranglehold on the bestseller lists and waning popularity of irredeemable anti-heroes. I think there will be an uptick in mass-anarchy themes, where the quests change a nation rather than bestow individual glory. I also think humorists are going to come back to SFF to shine a shaming light on the corruption and frustrations of the real world.

I'm looking forward to all of it, as a reader and a writer.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Where Is SFF Headed?

This week, the SFF Seven contemplate the SFF genre and where it's headed.

Coincidentally enough, I just returned from San Diego Comic Con and - wow! - was that an education in fandom. Of all the conferences I have attended, this one had the most wildly enthusiastic fans who were excited to put their money into those fandoms.

Sure, there was a lot of Game of Thrones cosplay - the above Daenerys was my favorite - and Marvel, but also characters from every SFF, and SFF-adjacent, storyline you can think of. The SFF publishers had booths that crawled with readers. Grace Draven and I both did signings with long lines and books that practically evaporated. In my signing, person after person told me how excited they were about THE ORCHID THRONE and how much they appreciated authors coming to comic con.

I'm thinking... these kinds of events are where it's at.

Sure, there's a lot of stuff focused on games, movie, and streaming franchises - but in the minds of people who love the stuff, it's all intertwined.

It puts me in mind of a conference I attended back in something like 2012. I asked a panel of TOR editors if they thought the HBO Game of Thrones series would galvanize popular interest in fantasy novels. (Yes - a totally self-interested question.) They were junior editors, but all looked startled, maybe even a little confused, and finally answered.... Maybe? Then they explained that they'd of course known about the A Song of Ice and Fire books by George RR Martin for so long that it hadn't really occurred to them that this could have a *new* impact.

Even then I thought... REALLY? Because I think it's obvious now that the hunger for SFF in all its forms is growing.

So where do I think the genre is headed? I think it's going to be about multi-media. I think the subgenres will continue to proliferate and blur, and that the craving for more stories with fabulous worlds of all kinds will continue to grow.

I'm definitely planning to attend more comic cons!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Using Fairy Tale Tropes in My #SciFi Novels


This week’s topic: What fairy tale would we pick to rewrite and why?

I’ve written a couple of fairy tale themes into my books – probably most notably with Trapped on Talonque, which my SFF7 buddy Vivien Jackson was kind enough to mention earlier this week. Sleeping Beauty has always been one of my all-time favorite stories, both Disney’s version and the more general folk tale, so I thoroughly enjoyed taking the concept and running with it. I relished doing a scifi take on the story… Bithia, the ‘sleeping beauty’ in the novel is from an ancient, spacefaring  civilization. To make the story work I had to think long and hard about why such a person would be left behind on a more primitive planet by her own people and how she could survive without aging. Then I got to have fun imagining what it would be like to be her, and finally be set free…but thousands of years into her future. Suffice it to say nothing is as she hoped or expected.

There’s no prince, only my gallant and resourceful Special Forces soldier, Nate Reilly. He becomes fascinated with Bithia, needs her help to survive and rescue his men, and of course falls in love with her. Instead of helpful fairies, we have a clan of priests and priestesses who know many of the secrets of the Sleeping Goddess, as Bithia is called on Talonque, but have their own agenda.

And how long can even the best alien technology keep functioning with no maintenance? (I did enjoy throwing problems at this group of characters.)

I’ve also invented my own fairy tale, that of The Princess of Shadows, for the scifi romance Mission to Mahjundar. Here’s how the novel’s heroine Princess Shalira explains the story to the Sectors Special Forces soldier who of course will be her handsome ‘prince’: “It’s an old folktale about a girl of royal blood who hid from her enemies in the shadows of the palace walls, disguised as a beggar, until her true love rescued her.” Gesturing to her eyes, Shalira said, “It’s meant as an insult to me, since I can’t see, not even shadows, and I’ve lived the past fifteen years on the fringes of the court, out of the ‘sun.’ I’m tolerated, protected only because my mother was the emperor’s Favorite till she died."

The hero is of course thoroughly captivated and determined to help her.

My personal favorite fairy tale is Cinderella. I’m not that big on the Disney animated version because frankly there isn’t enough of the prince in it. I enjoyed the Disney live action version more, principally because I loved Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. In my opinion they did not do justice to the waltz in that movie though. The dress, although impressive, was too big to allow the prince to really dance with her. Mostly he spun her around to make the dress’s skirt flare out. Okayyyy….

 But the best version I’ve ever seen was Drew Barrymore’s movie “Ever After.” Let me pause a moment and bask in my happiness s over that retelling! I love to rewatch that one. A close second for me would be the Rogers & Hammerstein stage musical, as performed by Lesley Ann Warren in the role of Cinderella for television. So many good songs, such a handsome prince, and oh the WALTZ.

(I also enjoy the version of the waltz scene the Broadway cast of ‘Cinderella’ did for the 2013 Tony Awards.)

I’ve actually written a take on Cinderella, set in my ancient Egyptian paranormal romance world, entitled Healer of the Nile. I had fun figuring out how to work the key elements of the fairy tale into my Egyptian framework and I was determined to have Pharaoh be the ‘fairy godfather’ who made things right for Mehyta, my heroine, and Tadenhut, her disabled soldier hero.

One of the oldest versions of the story actually is from ancient Egypt, about 2400 years ago, in fact. But my story for Healer was entirely original and didn’t involve anyone having to fit into any particular sandal!

Soooo…I’ve basically already written versions of my two favorite fairy tales. Not saying I won’t ever write another book using a fairy tale type trope but I don’t feel particularly pulled to do it. I’d say my third favorite story is Beauty and the Beast as done by Disney in the animated version but at the moment my Muse doesn’t feel inspired.

I will also say that frankly the Brothers Grimm version of anything was too dark, violent and scary for me as a child. Someone made the mistake of giving me a volume of their tales when I was a kid, not the cleaned up, pastel cheery Disney versions and I was horrified. Scarred for life to some extent! So I’m just really not a huge fairy tale fan. I leave that genre to others!


Friday, July 19, 2019

Transformative Fairytelling

It's been a busy, messy week involving surgeries (one complicated and expensive, the other not so much), a drama queen, an all-nighter (which was last night - I'm running on two hours of sleep so no warranties expressed or implied as to the coherence of my post). Oh yeah. And a book re-release.

I wish I'd worded this little piece of pretty differently, but what the heck. 

I was also invited to step into a podcast to talk about the creative process, the excuses that derail it, and how to approach overcoming those. If you want a listen, check out Creativity Quest on Sound Cloud or on If you prefer video, the episode is also available from the Creativity Quest YouTube channel. Truth: The sole reason for vid was the opportunity for kitty photo bombing. Which happens. Now you can make an informed choice.

We're writing about fairytales - which ones inform our work and which ones we want to write. I come from a Jungian background, which translates into having followed the work of Joseph Campbell for more years than I want to admit. I love the fact that a folklorist made the psychology myth and fairytales so accessible that he and his work entered popular culture. Most of us are familiar with the hero's journey cycle. It's the basis for most TV, movies, and genre fiction in Western culture. But there's also a heroine's journey. It's very similar to the hero's journey in most respects. There's the call to adventure, the descent into the Underworld, mentors, gatekeepers, everything we're familiar with. It shifts near the very end. In the hero's cycle, the hero has to conquer the monster(s) facing him or her. (The great thing about these story cycles is that gender is meaningless - you could just as easily say 'protagonist' rather than hero if you don't want to get hung up on gender.) In the heroine's journey, rather than conquering or defeating the monster, the protagonist's challenge is to transform the monster(s). It's a subtle shift, but the implications can be really profound both from a character standpoint and from a plot standpoint. How do you overcome someone or something you can't kill (because to kill or destroy would also wreck your character arc and you would fail your quest). I feel like the romance genre spends a lot of time and page space exploring the differences between hero's and heroine's journeys and I love when I run across a book that unabashedly gives all that transformational power to its protagonist.

If I get to play around with fairytales and myths in my stories, I want it to be from within the confines of the heroine's journey. I'll admit that Enemy Within didn't make that benchmark. It is solidly a hero's journey rather than a heroine's, but that's my aspiration.

As to which fairytale I prefer? I'm an author trying really hard to grab my own glass slipper. I'm comfortably certain you can work that one out. :)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Rewriting The Little Mermaid (AKA Giving Women a Voice)

 By Maxym M. Martineau

There’s been a lot in the news lately surrounding the casting choice of Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s upcoming, live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. Let me be clear: this article is NOT about that. (For the record, I’m 1,000% in support of Halle playing Ariel. I’m also here for either Lizzo or Tituss as Ursula.) I was asked to write a guest post picking an old fairy tale that I’d love to rewrite, and truthfully, that has always been The Little Mermaid for me.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid

I’ll be honest, my desire to rewrite this tale stemmed from the 1989 animated Disney version I first saw as a child. I can’t remember if I loved it or not as a kid (I probably did, given I was a competitive swimmer for 15 years and constantly in the pool, dreaming of having fins). I know I didn’t have an Ariel doll. I know I didn’t identify with her (I always felt more like a Belle). And as I grew up and rewatched the film, I disliked it more and more. It wasn’t the hidden phalluses dotting the landscape (I’m a romance writer, if anything, I find that funny). It was the way Ariel found love.

I have a whole slew of FEELINGS about Ariel having to give up her home, her life, in order to fully accommodate that of her lover’s. There’s never a moment where she wonders if Prince Eric would come to her. There’s never a thought of compromise, of the potential where he could grow a sparkly tail and join her world. The immediate, knee-jerk solution is for her to give up everything that made her, her, and abandon the uniqueness of her identity to fit into the mold of Eric’s society.

But let’s pretend for a moment that that’s okay. That yeah, she’s a freaking mermaid, and she physically can’t live on land and he can’t grow gills, so the only option for her to experience true love (which, bigger issue, she’s never even talked to the guy at this point and is willing to throw EVERYTHING away for him) is to become a human via a spell from the sea witch. As a romance author/reader, I can understand the central theme to sacrifice for love (it should be from both parties, but I digress).

No, for me, the biggest and most unsettling issue is that Ariel literally gives up her voice in exchange for the chance to fall in love with a man she doesn’t know.

Her voice.

Her ability to speak. To articulate thoughts and feelings. To stand up for herself. (Quick disclaimer: this is not to say that those who are mute are incapable of expressing themselves. They can, and should, be seen/heard and respected. This is simply a breakdown of the events that transpire in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and my interpretation of what Ariel willing gives up for a man.)

By giving up her voice, Ariel is perpetuating the theme that women should be seen, not heard. That our thoughts don’t matter. That we are meant to fall in line behind men and quietly accept their decisions without ever providing our opinions. This. Is. Dangerous. I mean, just listen to Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” when she tries to convince Ariel to give up her voice:

“The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yet on land it's much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle babble for?
Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who gets a man…”

What in the actual flying eff. No less, this convinces Ariel to go through with the exchange. Girl. I don’t even have words.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid

Knowing that Disney’s rendition was loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s work, I decided to read the original for comparative reasons. And yes, in both versions, the mermaid (we’ll call her that since she’s never named) sacrifices her voice for the chance of love. However, I think there is one vital and very important difference that completely and entirely changes the tone of Andersen’s story: the mermaid does so out of a longing to acquire an immortal soul.

Let’s review this passage between the mermaid and her grandmother, who is telling her all about the human soul and immortality:

“‘... We [mermaids] sometimes live to three hundred years, but when we cease to exist here, we only become the foam on the surface of the water, and we have not even a grave down here of those we love. We have not immortal souls, we shall never live again; but, like the green sea-weed, when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish more. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, lives after the body has turned to dust.’”

Grandmother goes on to discuss the kingdom of heaven, and how does the mermaid respond? As one might who just discovered there is nothing for her beyond her limited existence:

“... ‘I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.’”

So while her initial interest in becoming a human and leaving her kind is certainly sparked by a handsome young prince whom she saved from drowning (that’s the same), it becomes something so much deeper, so much more profound, that I’m less annoyed when she willingly sacrifices her voice to the sea witch for a chance at immortality.

In defense of the sea witch, it’s the necessary price to pay because of who the mermaid is—the mermaid’s greatest gift, her voice, in exchange for the greatest possible outcome, an immortal soul. When you’re the loveliest singer in the sea, I suppose that’s a fair asking price. Oh, and for kicks, every time the mermaid moves on land—i.e., walks, runs, dances, basically does anything on her feet—she’ll feel intense pain like knives or swords. Because what childhood fairy tale isn’t terrifying in one way or another?

All that aside, she still needs to “win” her immortality, so to speak. It’s only granted to a mermaid who can get a human to love her with his “whole soul” so that she in turn will gain a soul of her own (without stealing the man’s soul, so little risk for the man in this situation, go figure). And while it’s not crystal clear, I believe the only reason she is forced to give up her voice is because of its power (i.e., a terrible singer would sacrifice something else in exchange for this opportunity, because her voice isn’t as valuable). Either way, a voice is still inherently powerful, in my opinion. Oh, and no lovely spell, either—the witch literally cut out the mermaid’s tongue.

Now, spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you the end of the book. There’s no way around it. I apologize in advance.

The prince doesn’t fall in love with her. Instead, he falls in love with the maiden who “rescued” him from his near-drowning experience (which should be the mermaid, but as she can’t tell him this, she’s SOL). To him, it’s the first woman he saw when he awoke, who later turns out to be a princess. (Of course. Good for him.) And while he permits the mermaid to live in his castle and dotes on her, he never loves her that way. (Even though he kisses her. Jerk.)

Anyway, cut to the morning after the prince marries, the mermaid is about to die (since she couldn’t get him to fall in love with her) and she’s facing a life of nothingness. She has the opportunity, through the sacrifice of her sisters (who only had to give up their hair while bargaining with the sea witch to fashion a special blade), to kill the prince and cause her legs to change back to fins, at least granting her remaining years as a mermaid with her family. Of course, because she’s selfless and still loves him, she tosses the blade aside and dives into the ocean to die.

And she does. Sort of. She becomes this last-minute daughter of air being that apparently, after 300 years of good deeds, can gain an immortal soul and go to the heavens. So she’s happy and the story ends.

Andersen Wins

So, how does that make me feel? Well. Better than the Disney version, but also still mildly peeved her voice was sacrificed for a chance at love (though again, slightly less irritated because of the immortal soul factor). And yet… I love that she finds her own happiness, despite the fact it requires her to die, that isn’t dependent on a man who treated her like a child, never returned her affections, and basically cast her aside the moment he found his true love.

I also can’t help but think Ariel from Disney’s version would’ve been SO much more relatable to me if this other, more important factor (immortality) was woven into the plotline. Who wants to turn into sea foam and cease to exist when there’s an opportunity for forever somewhere else?

If it were me rewriting the piece, I’d steer clear of the voice sacrifice all around. I just think that we, as women, have had our voices squandered so much that re-popularizing this idea with a remake, one we know children will flock to, is potentially harmful. The act of the mermaid sacrificing her voice is much more meaningful and powerful in Andersen’s version, so I guess if it’s “needed” for the sake of the story, then honor the original.

To put it plainly, I’d hone in on the mermaid herself and why she’s sacrificing her voice (i.e., the notion of equal payment in exchange for the wish granting) and amp up the costs for anyone else who deals with the witch to reiterate that fact (i.e., maybe her sisters could’ve lost something MORE significant than their hair when attempting to save her life). Hopefully, that would alleviate some of my distaste for the story.

About the Guest Author:  Maxym M. Martineau

Maxym M. Martineau is a staff writer and editor by day, and a fantasy romance author by night. When she’s not getting heated over broken hearts, she enjoys playing video games, sipping a well-made margarita, binge-watching television shows, competing in just about any sport, and of course, reading.

Following her passion, Maxym earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. She is represented by Cate Hart of Harvey Klinger Literary Agency. Her debut, Kingdom of Exiles, is out now.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Hey, Fairy Tale, I Know Your Type

Back in university, when I took a class on folk tales, our chief text was a a shelf-length set of books in the undergrad library that comprised the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index. Those original two guys, Aarne and Thompson, sorted through scads of European and Near Eastern folk tales, and later on some dude named Uther (for you Arthurian aficionados, yes, that's really his name! ) added stories from a few other languages and cultures.

(Aside: I still suspect the collection is super limited because it does not include East Asian, African, or Native American tales. However, I haven't studied the Uther update, so maybe he added some?)

Anyhow, these folklorist guys broke down tales into their elements -- princess in a tower, supernatural helper, persecuted heroine -- and assigned numbers to each type. Then they noted which type-numbers tend to occur most frequently together. For instance, the Cinderella story contains both the persecuted heroine and the supernatural helper. 

At one point, I thought about writing a story based on the categorization system itself -- super meta! But then I read Seanan Maguire's Indexing and thought, well, somebody did that and did it well.   

I also always wanted to write an ATU type 410: a sleeping princess, but, you know, with some kind of twist. Like, she's in space or the coffin is really a Winnebago or something similar. Then I read... well, lots of Sleeping Beauty riffs: Veronica Scott's excellent (and in space!) Trapped on Talonque, David Eddings's Elenium trilogy, a gorgeous unpublished romance by Alison Williams, Anne Rice's erotica series. I started to feel like, well, this has been done, so I put my dimension-hopping, time-pausing, intergalactic queen on ice.

But you know what? There might be a reason why these tale types are done over and over, why they transcend culture and language, and people discuss them in a meta way in universities and academic what-ifferies. So maybe I could have another go at type 410 and no one would mind. We'll see. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

It's Not A Happy Fairy Tale When Your Shadow Wants You Dead

If I were inclined to rewrite a fairy tale, which would it be and why?

Yea though one might think me a Grimmlet, I'm more partial to Hans Christian Andersen's darker fairy tales. The Little Match Girl will forever break my heart, but it's not the one I'd retell. No, I'd pick:

Nope, not referring to Lamont Cranston, though "what evil lurks in the hearts of men" is definitely a shared theme. The Shadow by HCA is a story of a "learned man" whose cowardice and curiosity about a beautiful woman he espies briefly in the neighboring apartment leads to the divorce from his shadow. It's pertinent that this rending of man and reflection happens in the "hot countries" where "people become as brown as mahogany all over." (Yes, this "learned man" is from the "cold countries.")  There's so much to be read into that culturally, plus the wending of seemingly diverse mythologies...

Anywhoo, dude returns to the cold countries without his esteemed shadow. Years pass. He grows a new shadow...and then his old one returns --arguably corporeal, wealthy, healthy, and in sartorial splendor. The two have a gentlemanly chat about what happened that fateful night. On the surface, the conversation pleasant, yet the shadow is a bit like "that" friend, you know, the one who goes to exotic places, meets exciting people, then rushes home to rub your nose in it? Yeah. The Shadow departs and returns over the years, each conversation adopting a more sinister tone. Oh, and the shadow has a hang-up about using the word "thou," it insists on the word "you." (Again, relevant, your honor.)

What the shadow really wants is for the learned man to travel with him, all expenses paid; the learned man has only to give up a bit of his dignity to have the time of his life. The natural refusal and cajole happens with each visit until the learned man--aging and in ill health--finally agrees. Shit unravels in a dastardly manner from there as the shadow convinces those around them that he is the man and the learned man is his shadow. The learned man is passive throughout--from the beginning to the end of the story--which ends with the shadow marrying a princess and the princess executing the learned man.

There are ALL KINDS of stuff to unpack from this story and spin out into a larger paranormal world, possibly modern, probably LGBTQ+, and...~shhh~

Should I pen this retelling of a fairy tale? Only The Shadow knows. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Retelling the Fairy Tale

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is which fairy tale would you pick to rewrite and why?

It's kind of a funny question for me, because it's starting to be more accurate to ask me which fairy tale I *haven't* rewritten yet.

So far I've done retellings of Beauty & the Beast (PETALS AND THORNS) and The Goose Girl (HEART'S BLOOD).

Then there are all the books that incorporate fairy tale themes without being direct retellings. For example, the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy began with the idea of the three princesses, daughters of the High King, each more beautiful than the last. All of the books in that trilogy and the Uncharted Realms and Chronicles of Dasnaria spinoff series play with various fairy tale themes. My first fantasy romance series, A Covenant of Thorns, also plays on fairy tale themes, that time about a person being transported to Faerie.

 As for the ones I still want to do... two have been on my list for a long time: Rapunzel and Cinderella. I have ideas for Rapunzel, but nothing yet that really gets to the feel I want. Cinderella poses its own challenges, but... I think I may have it now. :D

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Unwritten Projects Are (Briefly) in the Spotlight


This week’s theme: Name three writing projects we've been planning to work on for a long while and haven't yet touched.

First would be the second book in my Magic of Claddare series. I definitely have sequels planned and even have the cover for book 2, The Shifter’s Witch, but fantasy romance isn’t my main genre and so I keep bypassing this one to work on science fiction romance novels, which is where my readers are to be found for the most part. In the meantime, I have all kinds of other plots in mind to set in this world. Time is always my issue!

Second would be the sequel to Dancer of the Nile. I
have the plot in my head and a cover already purchased but in this case other ancient Egyptian plots have been shinier and I’ve written them instead of continuing the story of Nima the dancer and her noble Egyptian general. I feel like I might be sneaking up on this one though and might even slot it into my writing schedule for this year. We’ll see.

Third would be the sequel to Escape from Zulaire, which readers do keep asking for. I have a plot – or as much of a plot as I ever have prior to sitting down and writing a book. I usually know the beginning, the ending and a few major scenes in between, and of course who the hero and heroine are. In this case it’ll be Mitch the sergeant who gets his own story. And surprise, surprise, I don’t have a cover already bought for this one! Which is probably a good indicator of how far off I am from deciding to write the book.

If we’re supposed to discuss entirely new projects, unconnected to previous books or specific series…this week’s topic caused me to remember a proposal I’d sent to Carina Press in 2013 when they and I were exploring what else I might write for them since they were no longer doing Ancient World (at that time. For all I know, they’ve since gone back to that genre. Things change in Romancelandia!). I dug through my old files and found the document – here were some of my suggestions to them for a new series from me:

Chloe, Allie and Maureen are modern day descendants of the Three Fates from Greek mythology….
(Apparently I’d even found a way to work a Navy SEAL into the plot somewhere…hmmm.)

Rosalie Drake is an aspiring young actress with a classical theater background and one commercial to her name, who supports herself with temping…
(I remember now part of my inspiration for this was an actress who worked for me at NASA/JPL as a temporary secretary off and on for a couple of years. It was always so cool when she’d go off to be in a movie for a few days and then return to us…eventually she dropped out of sight…)

Taryn has been out of college for over a year, unable to find a good job with her newly minted Liberal Arts degree, living at home.  Her older sister is a Head Keeper at the Zoo of Hollywood and gets Taryn hired as assistant publicist…
(I’d probably just paid my LA Zoo membership that week and felt inspired…)

Interestingly to me now, #2 and #3 were apparently envisioned as straight forward contemporary romances, which is so not what I actually write. I probably would have put a scifi or paranormal twist on the actual books when I sat down to write them…thank you, Carina Press for not biting on any of them! 

I think I’m much happier the way the world turned out, with me going on to a full time career writing scifi romance and self-publishing, and continuing to write my ancient Egyptian paranormal romances and self-publishing those. I learned a lot from Carina and my wonderful editors there, but I really prefer to run my own author business and set my own deadlines as it all turns out.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Dream List

Y'all, I just turned in The Book I Thought I'd Never Finish. Does that one count? No? Okay. Projects I want to work on:

1. For a decade I wanted to finish the arc of the SFR series I started in 2010. Now, thanks to The Wild Rose Press, I get to do that. We'll see whether it was worth the wait. At this point, there are only two books left to write - one for Colonel Kirthin Turrel and one for Her Majesty Queen Eilod Saoyrse. That's about all I can say about those books at this point.
2.  There are a couple of hot novellas that happen in the same story universe as the SFR novels. I have two of those stories at least half done. Now I want them finished. The sexy shorts are a lot of fun. I find them to be great palate cleansers after the bigger novels. But these guys don't have a contract. The novels do. So these two take a number and stand in line.
3. There's a little piece of weird sitting on my hard drive called The Curse of the Lorelei - It's spy versus spy during an oddly haunted Civil War. It's meant to be a slow burn romance that takes a couple of books to pay off. I have the first book done, but it needs a little finessing before it sees the light of day. But. Contract for other books, right? Again. This book takes a number and stands in line.

All of this is predicated on the notion that I never again have an idea that grabs me by the throat and threatens me into writing it.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Off the back burner and into the story oven

I'm super nosy, so I'm always asking folks what they're working on. I'm sure it's super annoying. How fortuitous, though, that this week our SFF Seven topic is "three stories I might have abandoned but would like to work on someday," which is pretty much permission to be as annoyingly nosy as possible, right!? Bliss for Miss Nosypants! So naturally I thought of Chandra Ryan, a writer who used to pen some of the awesomest sci-fi romance around, dropped out of the biz for a while because life, and has just started re-releasing old stuff and starting a brand new series about space dragon shifters (Golden: see pretty cover). She was kind enough to answer my questions, as follows:


As an author, I’ve found that one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How do you come up with your ideas?” Which is a great question with, unfortunately, a decidedly boring answer, “They just come to me.” Granted, sometimes I hear a song that makes me experience an emotion and I decide I have to write something to capture that emotion (Bond Betrayed), sometimes I’m working through issues I have within my own life and I use the writing process in lieu of therapy (Ink in the Blood), or sometimes we’ve just had a horrible, horrible election that makes me so mad I want to throw a temper tantrum and break things (Golden) but most of the time an idea or character just pops into my head and I run with it.

A question I’ve never been asked, however, is, “What ideas have you had that you haven’t written yet?” At least, that was true until last week when a great friend and amazing author, Vivien Jackson, reached out to me about writing this blog. One simple question had me going through my mental notes. It really got the creative juices going and got me excited about some projects I’d put on the very, very back burner. So thank you!!

So which projects have I been dragging my feet on?

The easiest answer for me to come up with, the one that immediately popped into my head, was the third book in my Community series. I don’t even have a title for it. And that series has been out for, well, forever. Ink in the Blood, the first book in the series, was the first book I ever had published. It was the book that started it all. And I’ve known what the next book in the series should be for years. Isaac’s sister needs to have her story told. She was betrayed, kidnapped, and held hostage in Bond Betrayed, for Pete’s sake. If anybody deserves a happy ending, it’s her. I just haven’t been able to sit down and tell it, however.

The second project I thought of was a retelling of Rapunzel I’d dreamed up about two or three years ago. Only, instead of it being a fantasy setting, it would take place in space. Because everything is better in space. Stay with me here. So Rapunzel is the crown princess of a planet. This planet sees hair length as a social status. The longer your hair is, the more prestige a person has. Being crown princess, Rapunzel has the longest hair. Her tower is a metaphorical one. The walls she’s had to build around herself because she is royalty.

The third project was a horror romance where the heroine buys a book at a second hand store that is cursed. I don’t remember much about the plot, though. It was shortly after my mom gave me our family Bible. Which was weird because I’m not terribly religious, but my sister is. So I asked her why she gave the Bible to me and not my sister. As you’ve probably guessed by now, she said, “Your sister thinks it’s cursed because your father bought it.” So she gave it to me instead. Ummm… Thanks?

So there they are. Three of my projects that I hope to get written someday but haven’t as of yet!! Huge thank yous to The SFF Seven for having me on their blog today and thank you to everybody who stopped by.

If you wanted to check out all the things I’ve actually completed, feel free to stop by my website: 

And to find out about all the things I’m in the process of completing, come hang out with me in my reader’s group: Chandra's Clubhouse

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

My next projects and some sexy aliens

As Tom Petty said, the future is wide open, and I'm a rebel without a clue.

Yesterday, the final book in my cyberpunk romance series was released, and now I'm free to work on anything I want to. Woohoo! Which of course has had be going back through my "In Process" folder and perusing stories in various states of dishabille. People, there are SO MANY stories in this folder. So. Many. But because you don't want to be reading this blog post for the rest of your day/week/life, I'll pick just three to sum up:

1. Twenty years after they allied heroically to defeat the necromancer, all the kings of Eyath are... gone. Disappeared. Missing. Dead? It falls to the next generation, led by a princess who should not exist and a tree who cannot die, to uncover what happened, repair the damage to their land, and confront the sins that led them all to this doom. (I've never pitched this one, so I don't have a back-cover-copy write-up of the story. This little bit will have to do.)

2. (Did pitch this one -- it didn't pass committee -- so here's the extended version.) Metallurgist Gal Gutierrez takes a job to examine and retrieve samples of a material that even the archaeological dig lead won’t touch. But Gal has no such qualms. She’ll touch it, bag it, bring it to her lab, and science the shit out of it.

Until she gets to the site and, uh, meets it.

Ashim, the Destroyer of Worlds, is a prisoner on this backwater planet Earth, strapped to it by a radiation barrier that protects all these pre-evolved life forms from the dangers of space. And keeps him from anything like stretching. He hasn’t flexed his power in ten thousand revolutions of this ball of iron and tedium, and lo, it begins to wear upon him. He’s paid for his crimes, and his sentence is drawing to a close. There’s just one thing he has left to do: blow this place and get out.

But when the human woman steps into his cavern, touches him, speaks to him, all his plans are whatever and he can think of nothing other than touching her right back. Sifting the aura that surrounds her. Listening to her delicious voice and inhaling her intoxicating scent. No matter that those physical things would require him to reduce himself to human form.

O, Great Bang, he is lost.

3. My riff off of Guardians of the Galaxy wherein a secret prince busts out of an orbital prison with help from a tech-smart but whiny teenage rebel, a double-crossing security guard, and whatever Olorin is (a science experiment? a cosmic god?). Anyhow, they steal the exact ship they oughtn't, meet a quantum-entangled chinchilla, and hie across the galaxy with all the law on their tails to save Davon's mom, the queen, from an alien threat that wants to kill her and the planet she rode in on. Good times.

As I mentioned, there are others, but these have the most words done, and I should probably finish them. Now that I've done the self-publishing thing once, I'm less worried about what my agent will find sellable, which frees me up to write whatever crazysauce pops into my brain. And hoo-boy, there are some things.

So, hooray for next projects! I just got to pick one.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

#SciFi #Romance Release Day: MORE THAN STARDUST by Vivien Jackson

It's a celebration today as our Wednesday blogger Vivien releases the third book in her sexy Wanted and Wired Sci-Fi Romance series

Wanted and Wired, Book 3

Chloe, a self-aware, highly illegal nanorobotic artificial intelligence knows a thing or two about wanting.

The growing Machine Rebellion wants her to become its god.
The technocratic global Consortium wants to cage her, take her apart, and reverse-engineer her.
Her family wants to keep her a secret.
Her best friend Garrett wants her safe.

Chloe is a thing made of wants.
It's time the world knew hers.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | B&NKobo

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Island of Lost Book Projects

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is all about the things we want to do. We're asking everyone to name three projects we've been planning to work on for a long while and haven't yet touched.

It's kind of like the writer version of the Island of Lost Toys. Ever so sad.

Except that these kinds of lost projects still have hope of being rescued. I keep them in two subsections of my overall tracking workbook (in Excel spreadsheets!) called "Tabled" and "Potential." Really, the tabled projects don't count for this topic, as it specifies they must be untouched. The tabled projects are ones I at least started to write, then back-burnered for various reasons.

In the potential section, however, I have seven projects listed. One is a contemporary romance trilogy that I did start to write up a long time ago - relatively: six years ago - so technically it's a tabled project. Being a purist for these things, I moved it to that subsection.

That leaves four projects in there - one a more or less total surprise because I forgot I was ever going to do it. And really... I'm not going to. It's the third book in my Blood Currency series. See, the deal is, way back in the mists of time, I'd submitted PETALS AND THORNS to several publishers. Loose ID bought it and when I notified Ellora's Cave about the offer, they gave me a weird, disorganized answer. (In retrospect, this was a harbinger of their eventual implosion.) Later, the EC editor contacted me to buy it. I had to disappoint her, but she asked me to her write something else. That became FEEDING THE VAMPIRE. She asked for more and, because EC had this weird thing about there having to be three books in a series before they gave you a series title and something better than their one-size-fits-all reusable covers (and we wonder why they went out of business...), I pitched her a third idea for the series as well. I wrote book two, HUNTING THE SIREN, but by the time it came out the implosion had begun and I never wrote the third book. I don't even remember what the concept was, though I'm sure it's on my laptop somewhere. Anyway, I've bundled the first two books into one volume called BLOOD CURRENCY (the name of the series).

I really doubt I'll write more. Nobody has asked for more, so that says something!

Another project is taking one of my very first fiction stories, PEARL, and working it into a novel. I might still. I took down the story because it has a tragic ending and I figured that was off brand. But I'd love to have that tragic moment be a black moment prequel to a happier outcome. It could still happen.

The other two projects are kind of in the same bucket: anthologies I'd discussed doing with Megan Hart and that we kind of dropped for various reasons. One was an anthology of fairytale retellings and the other was an erotic anthology called SIN CAVE, a followup to THE DEVIL'S DOORBELL. Both titles are a play on misogynistic terms for female genitalia and pleasure. I'm kind of sorry we never got around to doing the followup of SIN CAVE, but I also think that if projects fall apart that way, it's for a reason. They don't have enough energy to carry them through. Also, with SIN CAVE, several of the authors in THE DEVIL'S DOORBELL are no longer writing. Maybe someday with a new cast?

I should caveat, too, for those of you with fingers poised to type outraged comments about the stories you're waiting for in my other worlds - this doesn't include those! Those are absolutely on the stove and simmering.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Visiting a Ship from My STAR CRUISE #SciFi Romance Novels


This week’s topic: What place in your own books do you most want to visit and why?

I had to ponder this one a bit because in my books it’s not really about the place, as it is about the planet or the ship…or ancient Egypt, sometimes.

Another cool spaceship from DepositPhoto
I’ll leave ancient Egypt for another post because I decided for today I’d choose my interstellar cruise liner of the far future, the Nebula Zephyr, which  has featured in a number of my science fiction romance novels. She’s run by an AI named Maeve, who’s a bit terrifying. She’s actually a military AI, who used to run a huge Sectors battleship and who would have been terminated when her ship was decommissioned except for Captain Fleming. He was the last captain of Maeve’s battleship and he managed to somehow have her transferred from that ship into the brand new luxury liner he was taking command of upon his own retirement. Maeve does a great job of running the luxury liner of course but remains military at heart and little glimpses of that attitude show through in some of the stories.

The CLC Line is run by veterans,  in part to provide good jobs for veterans, so they’re quite understanding of some of the things my captain and crew do in the course of the books. As Captain Fleming explains in Star Cruise: Stowaway, “I always had Special Forces Teams as key elements of my strategy when I commanded a battleship,” he said as he sat and stirred cinna spice into his drink. “When I agreed to join the CLC Line, I saw no reason not to have a similar capacity on board. As we’ve seen in recent years with the rise in space piracy and other challenges, even a civilian vessel may need a core of well-trained operators at some juncture. Jake Dilon is one of the finest Special Forces officers I ever met, and I back his decisions. Anything he and his team did for you was under my authority. I’m the man in command, and the responsibility is mine.”

 I always admired the Flying Tigers who came home from World War II and set up their own airline, so the CLC Line and its corporate policy was my little tribute to those pilots.

Maybe someday I’ll tell the story of Maeve and the captain, which readers frequently ask me for, but it’s not on my list of upcoming books.

I never really define what the Nebula Zephyr looks like from the exterior. Partly that’s so I can use whatever stock photos are available to me for the cover art and not upset anyone too much. I do have a detailed layout of the ship in a notebook that I refer to fairly often. Suffice it to say she’s a huge ship, with twenty decks or levels, which gives me a lot of room to have adventurous plots.

Below the bridge deck, Level A has the huge casino, the observatory (where Maeve can order up any galaxy or star system a passenger might wish to see), restaurants, shops, the theater where the Comettes dance troupe performs, a host of other amusements and entertainments for the passengers and a state of the art sickbay, presided over by Dr. Emily Shane, heroine of Star Cruise: Outbreak.

Nebula Zephyr carries cargo as well as passengers, with two entire levels devoted to the cargo hold, run by Cargo Master Owen Embersson, who took the lead in Star Cruise: Stowaway.  In this respect I adopted the Titanic era model, where the vessel was a luxury liner and a working cargo ship. Captain Fleming is very deferential to the Cargo Master, because transporting interstellar freight is a highly lucrative business and the CLC Line does expect its ships to turn a nice profit.

Level 5 is the beach, with the entire space given over to an ‘ocean’, with special water and sand brought from the resort planet Tahumaroa Two and elaborate holograms projected  by Maeve for the enjoyment of passengers and crew. It’s not a holodeck like the Star Trek concept, where all kinds of adventures can occur, but it’s a great site for parties, volleyball and late night strolls. My characters go there often. The water gets quite deep, there are waves and everyone seems to have a good time there. Mostly.

Movement between levels is via antigrav tubes, although there are some retro stairs for passengers with an aversion to antigrav.

As you might expect the Nebula Zephyr has a five star chef in charge of fine dining and all food operations. I always enjoy working Chef Stephanie and her kitchen into the plot – it gives me a chance to draw upon all those seasons of watching ‘Top Chef’!

There’s a lot more to the Nebula Zephyr (and new features come up regularly in the books) but I think I’d really enjoy my time aboard the ship, mingling with the other passengers, who range from the very rich in First Class -the ‘Generational Billionaires’ and ‘Socialites’ (also very rich but young, heedlessly arrogant and constantly pleasure seeking) to the solid  and sturdy Second Class of your more every day Sectors citizen. (There is no Third Class in the Sectors.) I’d devour Chef Stephanie’s gastronomic delights, take in a lot of shows, gamble at the Casino, get to know the members of the crew I write so much about…maybe even have a romance and HEA of my own with one of the ex-Special Forces Security Officers (Jake Dilon alas is spoken for, being married to Dr. Shane.)… I think I’d probably want to stay aboard forever, maybe as their Writer in Residence, which as yet the ship doesn’t have!