Capclave 2015

I’m going to Capclave, and I am now in possession of an email with my schedule. Here it is:

Friday 4 PM-4:50 PM Antagonist Vs. Villain
Friday 5 PM-5:50 PM Where Are The Happy Futures?
Friday 11 PM-11:50 PM Erotic Fiction vs Romance – How Far Can You Go?
Saturday 11 AM-11:50 AM Writing A Spacefaring Society
Sunday 10:30 AM-10:55 AM Reading – Christie Meierz
Sunday 2 PM-2:50 PM Andre Norton

I will, of course, be reading from Farryn’s War.

Which, by the way, releases in two days. I’ve got pre-release jitters!

Guest Post – Sam Cheever on Good Versus Evil

USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever joins me on the blog today. Her work includes over 50 published novels of romantic suspense and fantasy/paranormal under several noms de plume, celebrating the joy of love in all its forms. Take it away, Sam!

Good Versus Evil — Why This Type of Story Speaks to us

The good versus evil fight has fascinated mankind from our earliest days and has infused some of the best fictional books ever written. Book series such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games, have transformed and kept the discussion alive through great stories that we can relate to and embrace.

So why are we so fascinated with the concept? I think it’s because reading a story where fictional characters manage to outsmart and overcome evil gives us power. It infuses us with the belief that it is possible to rise up against something terrible and not only survive but even thrive. It provides us with a sense of hope in a world that sometimes sucks the feelings of hope right out of us.

When the good vs. evil story includes critters from our oldest history—such as biblical creatures like devils, demons, and angels—the battle is even more fun, because we consider these creatures to have the ultimate power for good or evil, which makes their flight across the pages of our fiction even more fascinating.

I write a lot of stories founded on the concept of good versus evil. Like many people, I’m fascinated with the notion of evil. Is there true evil in the world? Or is evil really just a series of layers, ranging from charcoal gray to a lighter gray? I personally believe evil does exist. Which is why I enjoy creating stories where good tromps evil…at least for a while! #:0)

Guest_Sam Cheever_Bedeviled&Beguiled_300x450In my Bedeviled & Beyond series, I created a warrior race that walks the line between good and evil and, though my heroine, Astra Q Phelps, works mainly with the angelic realm to defeat evil, she also has a foot in the world of devils, specifically the rulers of the dark world, the Royal Devils. This dichotomy makes Astra’s story interesting and creates a built-in tension that brings the stories to life for the reader. Since I began the series, which has grown to include 6 books and some short stories, I’ve written a lot of books about different paranormal creatures with the concept of good versus evil. But what about contemporary romance? Can the same concept be applied to people in real situations, set in a real world setting? I believe it can. In fact, it might even be easier to understand when put into the context of real world experience.

In my soon to be released romantic suspense, Slow Burner, the hero and heroine find themselves haunted by true evil, in the form of a nemesis who uses fire to kill and gain revenge. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, Hilda Bennet and Duncan Yves will struggle to stay alive even as they fight to hold onto the love they forged over a decade earlier…a love the monster who calls himself The Artist hasn’t yet managed to destroy. Though he’s certainly tried.

Guest_Sam Cheever_slowburner_300x450The book is part of a 7-Author box set about sexy firefighters, which will release on September 29th. Here’s a little taste of this sexy, exciting romantic suspense:

A love that burns slowly burns longest, creating the greatest heat.

Though they haven’t seen each other for fifteen years, Duncan Yves has never forgotten Hilda Bennet, or the feelings of love and protection she engendered in him when they were kids. So when she becomes the target of a madman who kills with fire and calls his deadly work Art, it seems perfectly natural for Duncan to try to protect her. Unfortunately, he soon learns that protecting Hilda just might bring the past crashing back down on both of them.

Hilda was just a girl when she last saw Duncan, and her childish dreams of living with him behind a picket fence were squashed when he went away. But when they finally find each other again, the past that separated them all those years earlier still seems determined to keep them apart.

Can they nurture the embers of a love that was forged in childhood into the full-fledged inferno it seems destined to be? Or will the destruction of yesterday’s fire finally smother that blossoming flame, and leave their love in ashes?


He’d watched as Yves crouched in the yard, running the fingers of one hand over the frozen ground. A moment later the other man had straightened, his gaze sliding around the yard. Pressing more deeply into the shadows at the back of the yard, the watcher felt his pulse spiking as irrational anger surged.

Yves was like a Chihuahua on the back of his leg. Teeth buried deep, shaking hard. He was always a few steps behind, challenging him to climb to even greater heights of artistry, making him long for the notoriety his art deserved. Forcing air into his lungs, he made himself exhale softly. And felt better.

Yves might suspect that the recent spate of fires were arson, but he hadn’t been able to prove it yet. And the cocky young investigator wouldn’t prove it. Because he’d met his match this time. And, after the watcher climbed deep inside Yves brain and played with his confidence for a while, he’d make him pay for being a son of a bitch.

He’d pay in the only way that made sense.

That day was coming. Soon. But before he could feel the joy of Duncan Yves’s destruction, the Artist had work to do.

And a fine body of work it would be.


Shiver…evil has many faces. But once recognized, evil doesn’t stand a chance against the force of love. Well…at least in my world. That’s why I like writing good versus evil. Because I love being the one to smack evil upside the head…and let the light of goodness scorch it from existence. I hope you’ll join me in that battle!

Guest_Sam Cheever_AnthologyINTO THE FLAMES: Firefighter Multi-Author Boxed Set Anthology
Release Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2015
ISBN: 9781626228832 (Seaside Publications)
Seven smoldering stories. One great price. Only .99!

Firefighters. The word ignites bold images of heroes in dust covered helmets and ash stained turnouts who defy the odds and press on in the presence of danger.

Men and Women of Valor. A dedicated brotherhood of first responders whose honor, strength, and courage overcome obstacles to save lives.

Into The Flames. Seven NYT, USA Today, bestselling and award-winning authors offer romantic suspense, contemporary, historical, and paranormal tales of tough, iconic heroes who risk it all for their communities—but at the end of the day, seek the tender embrace of the one they love.


Rescue Me by N.J. Walters
When firefighter Frank Ellis rescues an old flame from a burning building, sparks ignite. He’ll do anything to protect her, even if it means she discovers he’s a mythical phoenix.

Flashpoint by Desiree Holt
…When everything explodes

Where There’s Smoke by Cindy Spencer Pape
Firefighting in the 1920’s is dangerous business, but so is falling in love.

FireBrew by Liz Crowe
Fate throws them together. But the horrific memory of a fiery disaster could tear them apart.

Hook Me Up by Adele Downs
Firemen don’t free cats from trees anymore—until a pretty schoolteacher gets trapped on a limb with her kitten and the county’s hottest firefighter comes to their rescue.

Slow Burner by Sam Cheever
A love that burns slowly burns longest, creating the greatest heat.

Uncontrolled Burn: A RISEN Team Novel by Nina Pierce
A woman forced to live a life she didn’t choose. A vampire bound by honor to protect humans. A deadly game of revenge that threatens both their lives …

Amazon | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

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Sasquan was not my first WorldCon — that honor goes to Constellation, which took place in Baltimore in 1983, and where I met my husband. Our first date was cruising the art show, and discovering we liked all the same pieces of art. So, 30 years later, we went to LoneStarCon for the 30th anniversary of our meeting, and of course we had to go on a date through the art show to commemorate it. But I digress.

Sasquan was my first WorldCon as a pro. And that was very exciting. I served on three panels, and I had a Kaffeeklatsch at which REAL ACTUAL GENUINE TOLARI SPACE FANS showed up. For that, color me astonished. Weighing the number of books I’ve sold against the odds, I figured it would be a few years yet before I would actually run into someone at a con who had read my books. As introverted as I am (I am an extreme outlier on introversion scales — it’s very hard to get more introverted than I am), I have been fine with that. I prefer not to be noticed, in real life.

The other cool thing that happened, along those lines, was when a young woman came alongside me, walking down a hallway, to let me know none of the book dealers in the hucksters room carried my books. She’d gone looking for them there, because she wanted to have a paper copy for me to sign.

Wow. Just wow.

I spent some time in the SFWA suite, usually keeping an eye on the smoke out the window. Friday was definitely the worst day for that; that day, authorities announced that air quality was unhealthy for all groups, as you can see in this pic I took late Friday afternoon:

The View from the SFWA Suite at Sasquan

The View from the SFWA Suite at Sasquan

I never thought I’d go home to cleaner air in Pittsburgh than in Washington state, but that is the case. The whole state of Washington seems to be on fire, and the situation is serious, with deaths among the firefighters (may they rest in peace, and my sincerest condolences to those they left behind).

And — the Hugo Awards. By now, anyone interested knows the results: the Puppies were shut out. The name-calling has begun, we who voted against the Puppies are “CHORFs” and “SJWs” and whatever epithet occurs to the Sad Puppy leaders (a spectacle of grown men whining because they’ve never won an award), and Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) posted a mushroom cloud on his website/blog/whatever.

Remind me, please: What grade are we in?

It all puts me in mind of the many, many times, as I was growing up, that I voiced an opinion my father didn’t like, and he demanded, “Who told you that?” as if I was utterly incapable of thinking for myself. The Puppies insinuation that some shadowy group is controlling the Hugos is insulting to you, me, and all of fandom. There is no cabal, there is no conspiracy, there is only Fandom, a diverse group of people, all of whom have minds of their own. And Fandom rose to the challenge presented by a small group of males who want to control what the rest of us can vote for on the Hugo ballot.

(A small number of men trying to control our choices. Where have we seen that before?)

Fandom defeated the Puppies. Soundly. The Puppies are, of course, claiming victory. Losing is winning, and winning is losing, dontcha know, and it’s hard to make out a human shape in all that contortion. No matter what the Sads say, this isn’t about bringing back a golden age that never existed, this is about a small group of petulant losers who tried to take our award away from us, and we said No, you can’t have it.

Guest Post: Veronica Scott on Her Love for Disaster Movies

This week, award-winning author Veronica Scott shares a snippet from her latest book and talks about how disaster movies inform her writing. Take it away, Veronica!

Why I Love Disaster Movies

I love disaster movies, the bigger the better. Although small works for me too. I’m always fascinated by the idea of ordinary people suddenly being thrust into some catastrophe that they then must fight their way out of. If there’s romance involved, so much the better. Unlike the movie “Speed,” where the Sandra Bullock character says romances formed under such intense circumstances never last, I choose to believe they DO.

There are definitely tropes to disaster movies. First you meet the characters rather briefly because unless you see them pre-disaster, how are you going to care about this subset of people in the midst of flaming chaos and danger on all sides? There should be some foreshadowing and foreboding that perhaps the characters don’t pick up on but we, the readers (or viewers in the case of a movie) go “Uh oh.”

There’s a hero and a heroine – and in my books they’re both strong individuals who work together to save themselves and the others. Think Ripley and Hicks in “Aliens,” which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Although it did need more romance…but I digress! There should be some people who need saving, and who do their best to do the right things….and at least one, maybe two people with their own agenda, or who do the completely wrong thing at the wrong moment. And a LOT of heavy obstacles stacked against survival.

I’ve written two science fiction romance novels that I feel are pretty classic disaster movie format – Wreck of the Nebula Dream, set on a large luxury liner that meets a Titanic-like fate. This story was in fact loosely based on the Titanic tragedy but set in space, in the far future. I’ve had reviewers tell me I spent a bit too long on the intro phase (which is their experience of course – obviously I liked it) – someone quantified it for me, saying the first 19% of the book was set up and then hold onto your hats because it’s nonstop thereafter inagoodway. For my second such story, Star Cruise: Marooned, just released in June, I decided to tell a story about the crew and passengers of a much smaller luxury charter ship, who venture onto the surface of a nature preserve planet for a scheduled beach party.

At first things go pretty well and by the book, although surprisingly the ranger station is deserted and there aren’t very many other tourists, which is decidedly odd. But the crew members’ main worries at this point are keeping the customers happy so the tip at cruise end will be generous, and not running out of food or ‘feelgoods’. Then the other ship’s party enjoying the beach receives an urgent call back from their captain and leaves so hastily they abandon all their equipment…concerned, my heroine, Cruise Staffer Meg Antille, tries calling her ship to check on things but the conversation is mysteriously interrupted from the other end….then a passenger is bitten by a venomous creature that ought not to be there on the friendly beach….and events spiral from there.

I like upping the stakes a few times before the adventure concludes. Think about “Speed” (spoilers I guess although it’s an old movie) – the psycho who put the bomb on the bus can also watch them from a hidden camera. In “Aliens”, the creatures cause the crash of the dropship, marooning Ripley and her few companions on the planet. In the remake of “Poseidon Adventure”, the big air bubble bursts and the ship starts sinking faster…In the first “Jurassic Park,” it’s the huge storm that throws everyone’s plans and lives into jeopardy…

So in Star Cruise: Marooned, after the shuttle suddenly takes off, abandoning Meg and her party on the planet, there are some definite raising of the stakes moments. I won’t do spoilers, but I’ve had a number of people tell me they ended up reading the book late onto the night, to find out what happens. That’s music to a story teller’s ears!

Here’s a short little excerpt for you:

Guest Veronica MaroonedFinalOn the beach, there was chaos. An eel, easily two feet in diameter and eight feet long, lay convulsing on the sand, Red’s hunting knife buried to the hilt in one eye. The crewman had the medkit open beside him and was struggling to staunch the blood flow from Sharmali’s lower leg, while she lay on a red-stained towel and moaned. Callina was standing beside them, trying to help. The other men and women milled on the beach nearby, drinking and talking in too loud voices. As Meg headed for the injured passenger, the Primary intercepted her.

“Miss Antille, I demand to know how something like this could happen.” Purple in the face, he waved a hand at Sharmali. “I paid top dollar, if not an exorbitant price, for a safe, enjoyable cruise for myself and my guests, and now the poor girl’s had her foot eaten!” He was so upset he was spitting.

“On behalf of the Line, I certainly apologize, sir. We do everything we can to ensure the safety of our guests under all circumstances, but if she swam beyond the sonic barrier—”

“She was standing in three inches of water right next to me,” Finchon said. “That monster could have just as easily gotten my foot.”

“The barrier’s off,” Red informed her, not glancing up from his task. “Can you argue with him later? I need your help.”

Meg ran to his side, the Primary matching her step for step, yelling at her about lawsuits and refunds. She tried to stem the tide of his vitriol so she could concentrate. “Sir, please, let us assist Sharmali, and then I’ll be happy to discuss the legalities.”

Trever, the retired pro athlete, came forward and took his host by the arm, shoving a drink into his hand and drawing him aside. Meg took a deep breath of relief and knelt beside Red. “What do you want me to do?”

“Apply pressure to the wound for a minute while I see what antivenom we’ve got.”

Gulping against her nausea, Meg set her hand on the makeshift bandages and pressed hard. “You said the barrier was off?”

“Must be. There was more than one of these things right in the shallows at the beach. We were lucky no one else got attacked. I got her out of the water as fast as I could so the blood wouldn’t attract other predators.” He sat on his heels, frowning, holding an inject. “This is only a generic. Will it work on eel venom?”

“It’s all we’ve got on the shuttle. It’ll have to hold her until we get to the ship’s sick bay.”

As he gave Sharmali the inject, Meg eyed the wound with deep misgiving. The woman’s leg was definitely swelling and there were ugly purple streaks advancing toward her knee. “This is my fault,” she said.

“How do you figure?” Red applied a light tourniquet.

“I should have known if the ranger station was closed, the barriers might be shut off, but I didn’t check.”

“Well, keep your voice down, the Primary is pissed off enough right now. Don’t add fuel to his fire.”

Want to read more? You can find Star Quest: Marooned at:
Amazon     iBooks     Kobo     Barnes & Noble

Guest Veronica Scott square photoBest Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Three time winner of the Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!

Veronica’s Blog   Veronica Scott on Twitter  Veronica Scott on Facebook


First Impressions of Windows 10

Windows 10 finally came to my machine this morning, a little late in the game, to be sure.

At first, the promised jump lists did not function. For Word, for example, a little arrow appeared beside its entry on the start menu, but neither mousing over it nor clicking it had any effect. One reboot later, and the jump list was back! I am so so happy not to have to create a desktop or taskbar shortcut for each and every manuscript to which I want quick access. So, yay for that.

Boo for the look. Win 10 is, if anything, uglier than Win 8. Flatter (whose idea was that?). Just as 64-ugly-colorish. With no options to get a 3D look back. What, was someone afraid that if they gave users a choice, we’d reject their bug-ugly idea? I clicked on the clock in the lower right-hand corner to check a date, and the nice compact little calendar had turned into a great, flat, ugly gray thing.

It’s really, at first blush, not terribly different from Win 8.1. Reintroduce the jump lists, stick the metro screen on the start menu, flatten the look even flatter than it was, and voila. I’m wondering if we’ve all been snookered.

Guest Post: Betsy Dornbusch

Authors talk about worldbuilding, but have you stopped to think about the why of it? SF&F author Betsy Dornbusch tackles that question.

Writing in Secondary Worlds

Betsy Dornbusch

 I write all my current work in secondary worlds, short fiction and novel length. My current trilogy, Books of the Seven Eyes, is written in an entirely made up secondary world with seven moons and little direct relationship to our world at all. I did pick and choose my elements from our world (I like horses so there are horses. I like sailing, so there are ships.) But the races aren’t human, despite their humanlike tendencies toward prejudice and war and necromancy.

Ha. Thought I’d slip that in.

But I never really examined why I write in secondary worlds until I was asked the question for this blog post. As with most things worth examining, the answer is complicated.

We’ll just get my totally la-la romantic view of European Middle Ages out of the way, though I doubt my reasons are all the same to why others romanticize it.

Here I’ll toss out a disclaimer that I’m aware all the reasons I like it are myth, grounded in story. I also know I’m no historian and my memory for dates and names sucks, so my knowledge of the era is middling at best. But I’m a story teller. It’s my religion. So I give stories and myths a lot of credence, not only from a cultural aspect, but a spiritual one. Stories feed the soul, especially secondary world stories. They have done practically since people told stories.

I do like gallantry and knights and gowns and swords. And cloaks. I have a thing for cloaks. (Yes, I’ve worn one. Yes, I know they’re as unhandy for doing anything besides wearing one as they look.) Really, though, I like the simplicity of an honor code (yes, yes, still with the myth, I know) and the notion of knowing one’s role in the world from birth (much less myth).

As annoying as a caste/class system is to almost any current thinking person, as a middle-aged, Western woman I often find myself floundering for my One True Role in Life. Wife, as much as I can. Mother, all the time. Housemaid of a messy house. Cook of adequate meals. Feminist…but how much of one? Writer, when I am able. Editor, always behind. Christian, untainted by too much church-going. Privileged in birth, family, health, money, home. How spoiled am I? How spoiled should I expect to be? How much guilt should I suffer for it? Should I give more? (I should give more.) (But when?) And those are just the preliminary questions today’s life asks; I didn’t even touch the Internet.

Fear not, we will.

In light of all these typical, problems-of-privilege dilemmas from living a modern Western life, it’s easy to romanticize the idea of Knowing One’s Place.

But there is one other inviting aspect of writing in secondary worlds: It limits the ability for others to judge. It mires issues and themes in purely made up (or sometimes imitation) cultures that builds a sort of safety fence around my thoughts. It’s not a solid or really high fence, but it’s enough of a barrier that real criticism of what I’ve done with it takes some thought.

Two reasons for this protective instinct:

One, I’m a writer with a tender ego. The only writers without tender egos deep down are the ones who aren’t any good. Ha. That’s mostly a lie. We all have tender egos. Some of us fake toughness better than others. Sometimes it’s an overinflated sense of self-worth. Sometimes it’s a lack of empathy. Sometimes it’s pure smoke and mirrors.

Two, the Western, particularly American, predilection to judgement. People like to accuse the Internet of starting it, but it’s been going on for a long time. Because of who our White forbears were, judgement was dragged across the ocean and held up like a shield like an accredited geek at a comic con full of muggles. Judgement, she be a fickle beast. On the one hand it can help people examine things. On the other, it can keep people from really seeing. Creating a veil through which my statements on the human condition must be scrutinized cuts the nescient from the thinkers. Because even as hard as it is to bear sometimes, I do want to see thoughtful criticism and discussion of my work. I want to improve as a writer and as a person.

And then there’s just this whole other simple reason for writing in secondary worlds: It’s really freaking fun.

Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and three novels. She is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of Sex Scenes at Starbucks. She can be found at and all the usual haunts online.

Knitting a Story

I have, at various points in my life, been a knitter of some small skill. I learned the art while I was expecting my third child, and took to it like a house-afire, knitting sweater after sweater for those I love, some of which are still in use.

They say that when you first begin to knit, you merrily knit away, churning out project after project at a very quick pace. Then as you gain skill, you slow down, knitting and re-knitting problem areas, practicing your frog stitch (rip-it, rip-it!). Your projects begin not only to fit their intended recipients, but to fit them well. Finally, as you approach mastery of the art, you speed up again.

It occurred to me recently that this could in some ways describe my writing experience. The Marann went very fast, as did Daughters of Suralia. The Fall — well, I think I wrote and rewrote that novel at least three, perhaps four times (I’ve long since lost count). I have definitely hit the middle now, slowing way way way down.

I don’t really believe the million word myth, but it stands to reason that even the most talented individual must hone his craft. Athletes must spend time honing their bodies. Artists must create art. Even Stephen Hawking had to study when he was young, though probably not as much as the rest of us. 🙂

And so I write. Where I’m at in the process of mastery is anyone’s guess, but I am definitely in a slow patch.

Perhaps attending Confluence will shake things loose? I hope to see some of you there.

Jael Wye on Aliens

How do you make an alien alien enough without making them too alien? SFR author Jael Wye has some thoughts on that topic in our second guest post.

Edit: I apologize for any delay in approving comments; I have a family member in the hospital and I’m spending the bulk of my time there. Please be assured that I will approve non-spam comments as soon as I can.

You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?
By Jael Wye

Aliens are tricky. Whether they’re the smokin’ hot kind bent on ravishing Earth women, or the repulsive slimy kind trying to infect the galaxy, they test the limits of an author’s imagination. How does the human mind conjure up a character alien in the full sense of the word, a being biologically, socially, and psychologically other?

Science fiction writers usually use one of two methods of dealing with their aliens. There’s what I like to call the Prosthetic Forehead method, and there’s the Sociobiology 101 method.

The Prosthetic Forehead Method

The usual problem with aliens gets an added twist in science fiction romance. Too much world building may put the development of the romantic relationship at risk, so in order to keep the focus on the protagonists, an author can choose to base her universe on template already familiar to her audience.

For example, take Linnea Sinclair, one of my favorite science fiction romance authors. In her books such as Games of Command and Gabriel’s Ghost, she uses the science fiction conventions of popular television shows like Farscape and Star Trek as a kind of shorthand to establish the world her characters move in.

Other authors use other easily recognizable models for their futuristic worlds, like European feudal societies, or the American Old West. Even Star Trek itself was based on the culture of the U.S. Navy. However, alien characters that follow these established conventions rarely achieve otherness. They might seem unearthly on the surface, with blue skin, or pointy ears, or no vowels in their names, but they are easily understood nonetheless. We know what to expect from these aliens, because we’ve seen similar ones before, and that’s fine. We’re reading for the adventure and the romance, and if the alien landscape doesn’t provide any profound insights into humanity’s place in the universe, well, it’s not meant to. It’s meant to be an exotic-looking backdrop for our heroes.

The Sociobiology 101 Method

Contrast this approach with that of the great Ursula K. LeGuin, whose books, such as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, have been widely praised for their profound insights into humanity’s place in the universe. LeGuin’s background in anthropology allows her to construct complex alien societies that raise important social and moral questions for the reader.

But anthropology is far from the only scientific discipline that goes into creating “serious” aliens. In order to plausibly depict the social structures, technology, and physiology that the inhabitants of a different planet might evolve, an author has to put real study into physics and biology as well. It’s a lot of work, but infusing the imagination with a strong dose of the hard and soft sciences insures that a character isn’t just another 21st century American in alien drag.

However, it’s important to note that many science fiction authors like LeGuin who put a lot of effort into creating unique and plausible aliens couldn’t make it as romance writers. Their characters are simply too alien to identify with or fall in love with. (At least for most readers. When it comes to hentai fans, all bets are off.)

Bringing Balance to the Force

So which approach to creating aliens should a science fiction romance author take? Personally, I don’t see why it can’t be a little of both. In my newest book, Game Of The Red King, my hero Max and heroine Sita are both descendants of humans who colonized Mars. They are a blend of human and alien, of the familiar and the foreign. Because they grew up on a planet with low gravity and a thin, carbon dioxide atmosphere, their bodies are different from any human born on Earth. Their society, composed of people of every ethnicity and based on a highly refined economy and technology, has evolved away from the Earth societies that first generated it. Max and Sita are no longer Earthers, but Martians.

And yet, they are still recognizably human. Their emotions, instincts, and desires are the same ones we have here and now. Their appearance also falls within the normal human range (if you consider sexy supermodels normal.) Though they are alien, that doesn’t keep the reader from identifying with them and their romance.

And romance, one of the most most fundamental of human experiences, is what my books are all about. I love to speculate about the possibilities we face in the future and out there in space, but in the end I think I’m really speculating about human nature. LeGuin recently said that the characteristic gesture of science fiction is to give the reader a new place from which to look at the old world, and she’s right. For all our scientific theories or flights of fancy, when write about aliens, ultimately we are writing about ourselves.

So tell me, what is your favorite flavor of alien?

More by Jael Wye
Game of the Red KingGame Of The Red King

On a ship sailing to undreamed shores…

Martian doctor Sita Chandra left her rich and powerful lover Max Ross years ago to protect their child from his enemies, never thinking she’d see him again. But now she and Max are stuck together on a space ship traveling from Earth back home to Mars, and the passion between them is as hot as ever before–and just as dangerous.

Max has never forgotten Sita, or forgiven her for breaking his heart. Now that the beautiful, infuriating woman is back in his life, he can’t lose her and his family again. But the shadows that darkened their past together may yet destroy their future.

When a madman targets Max for a diabolical experiment, threatening the lives of everyone on the ship, It will take all the skill and all the heart Sita and Max possess to survive his deadly game.

Jenn's Portrait 1Jael Wye grew up on the American Great Plains, went to school in the Midwest, and now lives in beautiful New England with her family and her enormous collection of houseplants. For more of Jael’s unique blend of futurism and fairy tale, don’t miss her ongoing series Once Upon A Red World.


Confluence is Pittsburgh’s local science fiction convention, so of course I’m going! Here’s my schedule:

Friday, July 24

Confluence for Introverts

Convention-going advice – come on, come on, it’s worth a try, right?

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading

Readings by members of Broad Universe, a nonprofit international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. For more information: .

Saturday, July 25

Gender in Fantasy

Heroines are certainly a lot more active than they used to be. What assumptions are left for fantasy authors to work with? Is there any structure at all?

Not Just Anglos

With China and India in space, and others to follow, what might a multicultural solar system look like?

Reading – Ken Chiaccia and Christie Meierz

Readings by Ken Chiacchia and Christie Meierz.

Sunday, July 26

Agents: To Have, or Have Not?

Is that fifteen percent or so really worth it?

Creating conflict

No matter how we try to avoid it, struggles are vital to good stories.

What comes after humanity?

Trans-humanism, post-humanism, extinction? Homo sapiens in the Big Picture.

It’s not too late to plan on going! Be there or be… not there! 😀

Guest Post: Corrina Lawson on the Balance of Power

Starting this month, I’m hosting guest articles! To start us off, my first guest is author and Geek Mom Corrina Lawson, on how to create balance when you’re writing powerful characters.

Balance. Readers always need it in fiction. A protagonist has to be balanced by an antagonist. A hero’s strengths have to be complimented by a heroine’s strengths and the same for their weaknesses, or else they wouldn’t work for each other.

But that’s not always easy, especially when creating superheroes. For instance, DC has a Superman problem. They don’t know how to write a hero who’s so overpowered that he can fly into space, toss around cars, and is basically invulnerable to harm. Instead, in movies and in comics, the go-to solution is to depower him or make him angsty or unconcerned, so he doesn’t want to use his powers to help mere Earthlings who don’t understand.

Neither of these solutions work. The best Superman stories are the ones that show him as that good guy from Smallville, the one who can say “Don’t worry, miss, I’ve got you.” Superman is the hope of humanity, our best self. That’s his strength. It’s also his weakness because his enemies will often use his concern for others or his refusal to kill against him. That conflict is what makes a classic Superman story.

Or take a darker character, Daredevil. His obvious weakness is his blindness but, of course, that also provided him with his other strengths. Emotionally, like Superman, he wants to help people but, unlike Superman, that need to help is balanced by the “devil” inside of him that enjoys violence. He’s at war with himself and ultimately comes out on the right side. His mirror self, the Kingpin, ultimately falls on the wrong side.

These are the types of tradeoffs that have to be considered when creating a superhero. For example, too much power, and there are no good antagonists. Worse, the ego of an overpowered hero can run away from him. (Though this weakness makes for a good villain: see Doom or even Tony Stark on his bad days.)

How to solve the conundrum? Well, first, don’t create a zillion types of Kryptonite that change your character’s personality, especially don’t create one that turns him gay for laughs. (Yes, look up Kryptonite in Wikipedia. All types are in there.) In short, a plot device isn’t the answer.

The solution always comes down to character.

When I created my first superhero, Alec Ramsey aka Firefly, for Phoenix Rising, I tossed a lot of power at him, making him not only a powerful telekinetic but a firestarter as well. He can deflect bullets with him mind. He can control a raging fire. He’s handsome and confident and he loves his abilities. He’s almost too perfect.

But on the flip side, Alec’s been raised in isolation by a man who wants to use him as a weapon. He has little knowledge of regular life. He doesn’t even know how to drive. He especially doesn’t know how to relate to people who might be afraid of his powers. Alec’s problem is not how to use his abilities. It’s about where and when he should use his abilities.

To make things harder for Alec, I tossed a heroine at him who has the ability to switch off his powers. Beth Nakamora is a powerful telepath but she also has issues, such as being scared of her gift, because she ‘heard’ her mother die when she was a child. Alec loves his power. She’s terrified of what her telepathy can do to others as well.

It was important to strike the right balance, to make sure strengths and weaknesses balanced out with Alec and Beth, with each other and even within themselves. I also did one other thing.

I made sure not to forget about the “hero” part of the superhero label.

These are people who want to do the right thing. When Beth hears about Alec being raised in isolation, her first instinct is to rescue him, even if she risks her telepathy being discovered by the villain. Alec was sold a line about having the ability to save the world. He took that literally. Once he knows the truth, he’s not bitter or angry. He’s going to be the hero he always thought he was.

Most of Phoenix Rising’s reviews note how much they adore Alec because he’s alpha but he’s a nice alpha, one who’s eager to learn about the world he can save. That’s the kind of superhero that I love, somebody like Steve Rogers/Captain America, a person good at heart, even if they struggle to stay on the right side of that line and even when they have the power to cross it with impunity.

That’s the kind of balance that all fictional characters need but it’s especially necessary when creating a characters who can drop a mountain on a city or take over your mind or knock aside bullets with the twitch of a finger.

The more emotional dimensions they have, the more real they become.

Wonder  Woman resizedCorrina Lawson is a former newspaper reporter with a degree in journalism from Boston University. A mom of four, she now works from home writing romance novels with a geeky twist and as the Content Director and co-founder of And, every now and then, she’s Wonder Woman.