Sunday, July 13, 2014

Passion! Or, Why I Write What I Write

My To Be Sinclair series is rather hard to describe, especially since it covers 54 years, 12 main characters, dozens of secondary characters, and hundreds of topics I've researched.  It is undoubtedly science fiction romance, yet I have even marketed it as 'futuristic Imperial romance' to make it palatable to romance readers.  Since mixed genre novels tend to be difficult to sell, especially in two genres often considered 'opposites' like science fiction and romance, the potential reader has to decide whether being subjected to the other genre is worth enjoying his or her preferred genre. Perhaps this blog post will help your decision-making process!

Depression is Apathy, Squared and Cubed
Although my first nervous breakdown was in 2003, I had been diagnosed with depression a few years before that. If the meds helped at all, it was because they doped me up so badly I couldn't think how to kill myself.

That's okay; a nervous breakdown is like dying, anyway.  For about a week, I literally did not understand a word anyone was saying -- I remember staring at one lady I worked with as hubby took me to clear out my desk, chatting merrily (to see me, I suppose), and I burst into tears because I couldn't remember language, or even my own name. What else is like death if not loss of ego?

You can't do anything without shaking or needing help -- I recall crying over dropping a steak dinner, which the hubby promptly cleaned up only to split his steak with me.  I couldn't watch TV for about six months because the images moved too fast for me to process, so I would get nauseated.  Riding in a car, I closed my eyes because I couldn't tolerate all the decisions my husband was making about traffic, or even process the businesses passing by in a flurry, lest I get carsick. I pretty much have tunnel vision to this day.

I would say the worst part of a nervous breakdown are the false sensations you get from your damaged nerves. Dropping things is the least of it. I had a 'snake-in-the-brain', curled up in the back of my head, and occasionally it would uncurl itself to settle into a new position.  I could swear I 'heard' the cerebro-spinal fluid sloshing around at those times; I certainly felt it, wondering whether it would slosh out of my ears or down my spine.  I also had these flushes, starting about heart level, quickly going up my neck and down my arms, occasionally reaching my face.  Although women have suggested I was undergoing The Change, hormonal data said otherwise. In addition, I don't think hot flashes happen several times a minute for hours on end.

I have dragged you through this disgusting tale for one reason: to show you how easy it is to lie in bed all day and ignore everything happening to you.  Depression is utmost apathy, not sadness; you cry when you realize you don't care about anything anymore, not even being alive.  You want to care, you know it's the 'human' thing to do, but you simply can't. You are in the darkness (light is too stimulating, and you can't process information over a few feet away anyway), and your mind has slowed to a snail's pace (if you retain words at all), and nothing your senses tell you makes sense, so you try to ignore it all.  To ignore is to not care, deep down in your soul where you intellectually know you are supposed to care, but you can't.

The opposite of the deep soul-apathy of depression is PASSION. I knew that, intellectually, so I had to find something I was passionate about.  I have described in many interviews how, after going back to work and having a second breakdown in '08, I decided I had to drastically change my lifestyle and find something I could get passionate about.

One day, I decided to have conversations between the 'old me', alpha-teacher desperately disgusted with a system that forced me to judge kids constantly and over whom I had authority I didn't want, with the person I wanted to be, studying science at the university level until I had the expertise to invent cool things I had only read about in science fiction.  Those dialogues took off so fast that I began writing them down, then developing characters around them, and the To Be Sinclair series was born.

Passion!  I had it, at least for writing down these dialogues in my head. But, what else could I say I was passionate about?

Science Fiction, Life Simulator
I had read a few fantasy books in high school, but when a political science professor required Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy to demonstrate the principles of balance of power, I was hooked.  I consumed the sci-fi classics and pondered the utility of science fiction-as-simulation, answering the question, "What if...?"

Great science fiction is not simply an exposition of projected scientific inventions and their benefits, disadvantages, and limitations, which is what non-sci-fi people fear, as if science is just too hard to understand. Its value as literature is in the way people might act and react to the science involved. Writers write for people, therefore science fiction is basically a social thought-experiment.  "If this is a given, then how do people...?" is more accurately the question of great science fiction.

As an author of science fiction romance, I am attentive to the needs of my romance readers. I do have a few sciences I've 'created' for my series, though I only develop the big one, stargate or stelluric science, completely over the span of four separate books.  I mention just enough to 'go on' at each stage in the story, and go more in-depth in later books as necessary.

So although you get several descriptions of the Empress' thought processes as she develops stelluric science, you only get a two-paragraph description of quantum transmitters in book two, Majesty, whereas in book seven, Nobility, the main character needs to know how to disable them, thus a lengthier description.  I barely mention one princess studying sociology, who 'matrixed' social trends, and show a character in a later book learning how to matrix with his family. Important from book one, Dignity, the logic of how jump point beacon station crews do their tasks after jumping through a wormhole only gets described in book six, Loyalty, when a character is suffering frustration because a jump point crew is late.

To be sure, I include many sciences all throughout my series! But I only go into enough personal detail from the character's point-of-view to forward the plot.  So I describe the pain, but not the oozingly gory details, that Princess Anne's severe burns in the ship attack cause her -- only while describing how the medics get her to their tiny sick bay, why they can do some things for treatment but not others, and her physical therapy in the following weeks enough to get her home.  And each scene beyond the first ones is specifically to develop intimacy beyond lovemaking in her relationship with her future husband.

The Many Manifestations of Love
Ah, love!  We all want it; I daresay we all need it.  I recognize that the most important decision you will ever make is over whom you want to spend your life with.  Since that is an exciting prospect, I knew my books had to be romances at heart.  It is also the most enormous genre of them all, and ultimately the entire purpose for why we are having human experiences in the first place.

But frankly, as a loving, spiritual person, I thought long and hard about how I could show my love to my readers, and made some very specific decisions along the way.  I looked around and could not name anyone I had ever met who was inexcusably, outright, 'I-choose-to-be' evil, so I rejected writing Good vs. Evil dichotomies.  I also have great hopes for the human race, so I rejected dystopian futures.  I thought about what people really wished they could do in life, and I kept coming up with, 'invent a such-and-so that makes people want to do this-and-that', so I concentrated on inventions I would love to see happen.

In addition, since my premise focused on the greatest ruling family in the history of the galaxy, I knew it had to be a family filled with love.  Love for each other, love for their chosen fields, love for their people -- such a family had to have measures in place to perpetuate that love.  So Family Night was born, the Empress actively rejects unpleasant people who offend the Imperial Family, and the parents give their complete support to their children, who give their complete support to their siblings, etc.

The few squabbles I show between characters do not touch the fundamentals of their family lives, the loyalty that makes a family out of mere blood relatives.  The final book, Morality, specifically deals with how 'blood relatives' can become family, as well as a dozen moral issues about love and sexuality, such as gossip and slander, bisexuality, categorical rejection, and even defense and self-defense.  If you are a political figure and you love your people, to what lengths would you go to punish an enemy who destroyed your loved ones?

I even strove to find a balance between the fervor for erotic descriptions of my romance readers, and the intellectual disgust of those science fiction readers who know the mechanics of sex and would prefer those descriptions be 'behind closed doors'.  Each book has at least one description of a sexual encounter, and although it always advances the plot, I do not use 'purple prose' to make it sound more romantic.  The most vulgar word I use is 'cock'; I prefer scientific terms such as 'vulva' or 'labia'. To make my romance readers happy, I added 'Easter Egg' short stories to most of the books, and they tend to be more erotic and descriptive, so they even have a warning page for those sci-fi readers determined not to sully their minds!

Above all, I try to show the entire spectrum of love throughout my series.  Straight, gay, bisexual; people with disabilities, people who had been abused.  We are all worthy of love, and a Happily Ever After does not occur when two people finally bed each other, but rather when they have suffered together and still choose each other. And through it all, I try to show my love for humanity, for the reader who has spent good money for my literary experience, for the points-of-view of secondary characters whose lives weave themselves into the story, for the respect and love the main characters hold for each other.

The Results of My Passion
At nine books, the To Be Sinclair series is complete, although people have expressed interest in more books, since I do leave the finale wide-open.  However, if I do write other books, it will be a new series, and only after my two prequels are finished.

The prequels are about the trials of colonization, and I consider them to be more science fiction than sci fi romance.  Enter the Goddess takes place some 150 years in the future, 500 years before the series.  Although it does have a lot of implied sex, it is about a young woman's rise to social power, how it affects political power, and it is principally about how to love properly.

Undying Dawn is roughly 170 years in the future, where the billionaire inventor Kyan Sinclair and his partner plan the colonization of their new planet.  It, too, has romance and sexuality, but it is a scientific and political novel, first and foremost, as I delve into Kyan the scientist's perspective on how to build a new society distinct from the struggles of the old rulers of Earth.

I have a third book in progress, titled The Redemption of Asael, set perhaps 60 years in the future, though on a parallel dimension to ours and not necessarily in the Sinclair universe. Although many of the trials stem from the future I project, in which environmental stability is regularly threatened and humanity must be educated on what we all must do to survive, I explore a tiny yet highly elite class of telepaths who do what they must in order to survive the political structures of their world.

My advice to one and all: FIND YOUR PASSION, and everything will flow from there.  Writing is the toughest, most rewarding work I have ever done, but I am glad I finally dedicated myself to it.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to entertain you!

For things such as back covers and psychological profiles, please visit the To Be Sinclair series on Facebook, or my website!


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