image border bottom

Mono-Gender Politics Gone Bad

July 31, 2010 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, Setting, STUFF BLOWING UP IN SPACE, The Craft  2 Comments

From my world building notebook for Stuff Blowing up in Space.

A female-only species similar in appearance to humans, the sish reproduce by drinking the blood of a male carnivore when they ovulate. They are sexual predators in the biological sense, that is, they entice their prey with pheromones and simple seduction. They are biologically advanced, physically and mentally, and are even more genetically diverse than humans because of the DNA sequencing used to fertilize their eggs.

While sish are omnivores, their sexual response is tied not only to each other, but also to feeding, making other intelligent species their prime source of live blood and amusement. For the loss of some blood, other species in return receive mind-blowing sex. Sometimes, however, a sish will feed until her source of food dies, either on purpose or by accident, making travel in sish space both pleasurable and dangerous.

Sex dominance is always an issue with sish. Lovers always have a dominant/submissive pairing, and the social structures they form are more advanced than humans, but not necessarily more productive.

Sish seduction biology can create symbiants out of females from other species, exchanging blood for sexual pleasure on a regular basis instead of the infamous sish one-night-stand. Such bonding is rare, but as humans and sish mingle, the number of symbiants has increased steadily over time.

To sish, live food is sex, the more intelligent the live food the sexier it is. Sex is also power, and while the sish consider themselves biologically superior to other species, culturally it could be argued some of their core planets are stagnant, as this excerpt shows.

Princess Oneesha, heir to the throne of Jephinae, could not believe what she was hearing from the Queen.

Oneesha had been crying. Crying for her sister. Crying because she was hungry. Crying because she needed sex. Crying in frustration. Now she was crying in anger as the Queen assailed her ears, angry because Oneesha would not answer her summons and that the Queen had to come to the Princess’s bedchamber.

What the Queen had to say shocked her, all the worse because she almost said yes. Now, Oneesha was angry with herself more than the Queen. “Mother, I cannot partake in the ceremony now! It is out of the question! Crazy humans have kidnapped my little sister! How could you think of such a thing?”

Her mother backhanded her. Hard. She fell to the ground, spots in her vision. The Queen was a very strong sish, and her face throbbed as if it was on fire.

“Do not prattle on with your insolence! You don’t understand the tenuous hold we have, we need to bond the power-players to you or there may not be another ascension ceremony! Ever!”

From the ground, Oneesha stared at her mother. That’s when she knew.

“You’re pregnant,” she blurted out.

The Queen flinched back as if she received a punched in the gut.

“That is no concern of yours, daughter,” she said dismissively.

Oneesha stood up. “It’s true! You were starving her! My sister snapped because she has chaste sickness. It doesn’t matter that I’m older; she was always stronger than I was, more developed. Yet you went ahead and arranged my ascension knowing she was dying! You decided since you were pregnant, you didn’t need her around anymore. That having her die of chaste would make people fear you!”

“People do fear me, as you should.” The Queen advanced.

Oneesha drew her ceremonial dirk and pressed the button on the hilt. Dark fire ran up and down the blade, the deadly hum of its vibro-blade filled her bedchamber.

The Queen stopped, eyes narrowing. “I can take that blade from you, child. Do not be stupid.”

“Lay hands on me again and I will cut that daughter out of you and feed her to the servants.”

The Queen stared.

“So it’s come to this? Treason?”

Oneesha burst out laughing and turned the blade off, sheathing it. “It’s only treason if you admit your weakness to Palace Security. Then what? You’d have no daughters except the one in your belly. Your hold on the nobles would come crashing down sooner rather than later.”

She turned and walked from the room.

“Where are you going? Come back here!” the Queen shrieked out.

Oneesha turned and looked over her shoulder.

“I’m going to find my little sister,” she lied, the first lie she had ever told the Queen.

“Good bye, Mother,” she said, walking away.

201 Words of Space Opera Goodness

July 14, 2010 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, STUFF BLOWING UP IN SPACE, The Craft  2 Comments

“She’s doing what?

“The Fleet frigate has changed course. She’s on an elliptical acceleration intercept!” her captain practically yelled at her.

Admiral Neiva d’Oaneia couldn’t believe it. She looked at the plot and the intercept arc appeared.

Right for the Deadly Azure.

Right for her.

And the frigate was moving fast. Insanely fast. That type of speed was impossible!

That’s when she noticed the acceleration curve was such that the Azure could not escape. They were in the frigate’s intercept envelope. They were nowhere near the FTL line—they could not FTL for over an hour at their present speed.


“Weapons free! All ships intercept! Emergency deceleration, engage at maximum range!”

The orders were, of course, useless. Such was the acceleration of the frigate that they would soon be measuring it in percentages of  light speed. It would be like shooting at the wind on a stormy winter day on the Islands.

She felt warm liquid on her leg. She looked down. She had peed herself. She hadn’t put on ship suit because it didn’t occur to her that they would be engaged in combat in their home system.

The Princess was right after all.

The human captain was insane!

Fleet Staff Meeting Gone Wrong

July 10, 2010 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, STUFF BLOWING UP IN SPACE, The Craft  2 Comments


I’m on a roll.

Terrans, as the table assembled before him proved, were a decidedly mixed lot.

XO Lieutenant (Sr. Grd.) Ola (no last name) was a waif of a woman. Small, black haired, pixie-ish. Despite her girlish figure, Tilbrook knew she was an older woman, having joined fleet a decade out of college. She was worldly and cosmopolitan.

The doc was her opposite. Tall, pale-skinned, with flaming, unruly red hair, green eyes and a body she seemed uncomfortable with, as if she woke up one day and saw that she had a wonderful feminine figure.

Actually, considering Winnie’s youth, that may be exactly what happened.

Gunnery Sargent Charles Kim was something else entirely. It was as if someone took the biggest Korean, searched for the biggest Samoan, and bred them to produce a 127.3kg monstrosity of pure muscle. Which proved the old Fleet maxim—space is the great biological equalizer. His job was to blow things up, not bust heads.

Staff Sargent Sergei Koltsov, commanding his six person marine squad, at least looked decidedly normal—average in every way, except for his unarmed combat scores and his deadly effectiveness with just about anything remotely like a weapon. His family came from a long line of County Safety officers, and here he was in Fleet. Everyone called him Sarge, although Tilbrook thought of him as “Mr. Security.”

They had just watched the exchange of between him and the shish brat and now everyone looked contemplative, especially after Ola briefed them on the upcoming coming-of-age party for the shish’s older sister.

He didn’t want contemplative. He wanted options.

“Winnie, could you give me some insight on what possibly could be going on to cause Princess here to act completely irrational? I get that her position is political and she is young. That aside, even a mediocre politician should know better than to assume we’re a bunch of dorks. What’s her problem?”

Winnie actually chuckled. “Permission to speak candidly, sir?”

“Winnie, this is a brainstorm session. I need your brain, not your built-in military courtesies. In this room, I expect candor 24×7. That also means call me James.”

Tilbrook knew Winnie might need a more delicate touch when she blushed scarlet, but Hernández’s clock kept ticking down the minutes. The ship was fast. Time was short.

“Aye, um, yes, um, James. Anyway, it’s pretty obvious what the problem is.”

She paused, looking apprehensive. Tilbrook decided to not cut her off at the knees and give her some time to compose herself and spit it out.

“Anyway, the problem is you,” she said in a rush.




He sighed. He contacted the shish station by the book. Only when the Princess, for the most part, called him a liar did he depart from protocol. In fact, given the circumstances, Tilbrook was sure a less experienced…

“You’re a hottie, James,” Ola broken in.

“Excuse me?”

“A total hottie, to be exact,” said Winnie, blushing even redder.

“Indeed,” said Guns, “while I myself am a heterosexual, I have heard from the female crewmembers that your backside is very esthetically pleasing.”

“My backside.” Out of all the tracks he thought this conversation might go, this one was completely unexpected.

“That means you have a nice ass,” said Sergei.

“Thank you Sarge, I get that. While now I am inwardly cursing that I demanded informality, I would like to state the obvious that my butt was in no way pointed towards the Princess during the entire conversation. Thus, whatever powers said butt might have, they were not in play here.”

“James? Really? You had no idea you were a hottie?” Winnie was looking at him as if he was nuts.

Suddenly Ola nodded. “Ah, makes sense. Skipper here is from Lupa-12, they do things a bit more formally there. I bet you went to an all-boys school during puberty?”

“Look, while I’m sure you Earthers love making fun of the country boys with your 6.8 billion population, you all know I have an apartment in Paris right? And for a reason.”

“You have browner-than-brown hair that looks like if you grew it out it would curl, your eyes are a vivid, and I mean a vivid sky-blue, and you have the eyelashes any teen girl would envy, and I ought to know,” said Winnie. Now instead of looking completely embarrassed, she looked whimsical.

“Let’s not forget, Winnie, that when he works out in the gym shirtless, you seem to find yourself there,” Ola quipped.

“And I would like to point out, Ola, that you are there too.” Winnie quipped back, only looking slightly annoyed.

Tilbrook sighed, loudly, and looked at Sarge and Gunny for sympathy, or at the very least, to bail him out.

“I give the elected MOILTF no sympathy,” said Guns.

Sarge looked blank.

MOILTF? Male Officer I Would… He sighed again. “Fine. I see how you all are. I like to work out. So what? And my looks, I can assure you, are quite vanilla compared to most of the other men on Lupa-12.”

Ola immediately sat up straight. “Really?”

Winnie gave herself a little shake, as if her brain was in the gym. “Anyway, there a total and very disturbing attraction parity between human females and shish. Everything human females find attractive, shish find attractive. Only, the attraction is much more visceral for the shish because, as we all know, their sex-response is biologically tied to feeding.”

She seemed to enter her lecture mode and turned to him. “So, without knowing what political and family monkey business is going on—put yourself in her place. She’s sexually frustrated, that’s a given. Her sister is going to get laid for an entire week, basically have the best sex a shish could have—short of the symbiotic bonding process or the feeding/mating protocol—while she has to work. Indeed, tradition does not allow her to participate in the family orgy because of her position. Now a human male, aka The Hottie, shows up in the spiffy Fleet uniform with a fantastic tale of pirates in a system no pirates should be in, with a more impossible tale of a new jump point. She loses it. Her body is telling her to get you alone, seduce you, then bite you, and suck your blood if she likes you. Dismember and toss you into the pot if she doesn’t.”

“Oh, come on. She is a thinking person. She’s not some eating machine ruled by instinct,” Tilbrook protested.

Guns shook his head. “Rationality means something completely different to a shish. She’s young. She’s low-boob on the totem pole, and she could be hungry. And you’re a walk’n snack that conveniently can get her off before she fills her tummy with a warm happy meal.”

Tilbrook sighed yet again. “Fine. The age-old human-shish socialization problem. What are our options?”

“There’s another social dynamic in play here, that may give you the answer,” Winnie said, nodding to Guns. “Everyone likes to focus on how shish are hyper-sexual beings. That is a mistake. Shish are, for the most part, biologically superior to all other species in the galaxy. They consider themselves at the top of the food chain, and biologically speaking, they are. The only advantage humans have over them is our culture is superior, and I don’t mean that in a racist way. We are more productive, we produce superior art and technology, and our system of governance, such as it is, provides humans with a cultural flexibility nobody can match.”

Suddenly James got it.

“Ah. Being differential and polite wasn’t enough. I was sending her a very specific signal by assuming I was in charge of the situation.”

“Exactly,” said Winnie. “So now your options are, and keep in mind I’m not a shish expert, merely a well-read layman, is to assume a submissive position, or metaphorically pop her in the jaw and assume control. She’s totally going to bite you for sure on the former, the latter is difficult because she is stronger, not to mention most likely telekinetic, and all that aside, she is way smarter than you.”


This Book Sure Looks Like Plant Food to Me!

March 30, 2010 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, The Craft  8 Comments

In the world of semi-automatic firearms, when a pistol or rifle fails to move a round into the chamber properly, causing a malfunction, we call this a “failure to feed.”

Not to be confused with my cat Iris, who, if I fail to feed when her dish is empty, will whack me alongside the head when I pass the kitty condo.

But I digress. Failing to feed has consequences.

I’ve blogged about this topic before, but sometimes, as a writer, I have this instinctual need to read, and if I ignore it, my creativity suffers. But there is always the “time thing.” I have a job, I have kids, a dog and the Wife Unit who loves to play video games with me (how awesome is that? It’s awesome, I tell you). There are so many hours in the day, and I when I get tired, I go to bed.

I never suffer from writer’s block (anymore), but yet again, I’ve caught myself slowing down in my editing and writing.

That is, until I increased my reading. It was fuel to the fire.

I love books. Sometimes, even bad ones are inspirational. I just finished a book, from a much respected author, and the ending was so terrible. So very bad. We’re talking I will probably never buy another one of his books without reading a review again, and I have every single one of his hard covers in my library.

But it had value, to me, as a writer. Creative value. It fed the mechanical side of the narrative, sacrificing the entertainment. Indeed, if I wasn’t a writer, I would have stopped reading right when I saw The Big Lazy Cop-Out.

But this book fed me. It made me think about the mechanics of storytelling and how vital the contract with the reader is. There are many ways I draw inspiration, I will never lack it, but the core of my literary soul is a book in my hands and a good story, and failing that, inspiration to not fail in the same way.

Feed me Seymour!

Ding Novel is Done

December 20, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

I finished my work in progress in the wee hours of the morning, The Wælcyries Murders.

What a fun novel!

The novel, according to conventional wisdom, should not be—it’s a sequel to a book I haven’t sold yet, which, according to some, isn’t a good idea.

Like much of the advice written on the Interwebs, a person has to be very careful not only consider the source, but also the context.

One reason it’s not a good idea is that your first book may never sell. Your agent or editor may also suggest changes to the first novel that render the second one invalid. Thus you’ve wasted your time.

Or have you?

I learned so much writing this novel. It took me six months to write. What did I learn in six months?

  • I learned that there are tricks and techniques to writing your first novel so the second novel in the series gels and flows with the first
  • I leaned about advanced characterization beyond a self-contained novel
  • I learned how to write a sequel
  • I learned new things about world-building and continuity
  • I learned that even well respected writers and industry can over-generalize

Out of all of these points, the most valuable to me is the characterization I learned. What’s my main character’s motive, beyond solving the mystery? How does she grow? Where do the other characters fit?

This is my fourth novel I have written; with the caveat the first novel was a pure writing exercise with no basis in publishing reality. So, it’s more novel number three. I will repeat this to myself until it is true. Heh.

The first book in the series could never sell.

I can guarantee that if I do sell a book, and my publisher asks for a sequel, the process of producing that creative work will be much better. I learn by thinking about things and doing in an iterative process.

Next post I talk about the wok itself and the other things I learned.

Girly Stuff

November 09, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

I like to believe, as a male writer, I write a good female protagonist. In my Investigator Lexus Toulouse sci-fi murder mysteries, Lexus is a three-dimensional character that seems to resonate with my female readers in a way that I don’t quite understand.

Actually, I take that back. Part of the reason I can write a three-dimensional female character is because I have done research pertaining to women in lawn enforcement, and I’ve met female police officers while on duty while doing this research.

Research is vital. It is not enough to look into the heart of a female character and try to bring that to the page. The setting and plot details need a basis in reality. Lee Lofland writes to this in his latest, “Female Police Officers: Are They Really Wimpy, Or Do You Just Write Them That Way?” This article really resonates with me, because Lee often gives great tips around certain themes, themes that appear in his blog over and over again. Essentially, what he tells his blogs readers is to write life as it is, rather than life as you think it is.

Sound familiar? It should. Rachelle said the same thing:

“I get the feeling many people are so saturated with media (books, TV, movies) that they are writing not from life but from their perception of life as shown in media. They’re writing stories I’ve seen and heard a hundred times before.”

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: Fiction Writing: Craft and Story

Back to Lexus (because, this post is all about me, me, me, me), Lexus is a flawed individual. You can make a compelling argument that she is mired in psychosis. She certainly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. She has an addiction-prone personality.

These are flaws.

Lexus is also an emotional creature. She has a deep sympathy for people with problems and a strong intolerance for injustice. She takes injustice personally. She approaches problems with logic, but does not have tight reigns on her empathy. She feels. She feels a lot. As a woman, she has feminine emotions.

This is not a flaw. That is part of her strength. Too often, I read characters where the author went out of her way to make sure I, as a reader, understood the character was not flawed because she had boobs and lacked a penis. Yet the character is still a cliché; essentially she is an immature girl compensating for being female.

There is strength in femininity, just as there is strength in masculinity. I can write the strong female main character because I play on my strengths: observation and research. Sometimes I write the obvious in a way that is appealing to women simply because I’m an outsider and am providing a fresh, outsider voice.

Or something like that. I don’t fully understand it. I’m certainly not blazing new territory. My running theory: women are powerful creatures. As technology progresses and makes physical strength not even worthy of a secondary characteristic, the era of the woman may be upon us.


Conflict in the Year 21: Tokyo

August 29, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  2 Comments

Oh man, the absurd situations I foster on my poor main character.

As a ex-NI soldier and pilot, I was naked on base many a time. There were times where if I had anything touching my skin I would just lose it. It’s a common side effect of neural implants. My sensitivity to touch is higher than a normal person is, and sometimes that’s a disadvantage.

Today, nudity isn’t common, but it isn’t rare either.

So it was with some nervousness Kaoru is escorting me to the front of the hotel lobby where I can summon Thor, because I’m wearing nothing but a pair of spaghetti-strap fuck-me heels. Each step is a sparkly slither of the naked sexy.

And people are staring. Conversations stops, mouths hang open, women pause, men drink me with their eyes. Oh, this was a mistake. I feel self-conscious and stupid that I, of all people, feel self-conscious.

Kaoru is following behind me carrying a locked case containing my purse, PDA, and needler. She is smirking at the reactions to her handiwork.

Thor is suddenly at my side. Never have I been so grateful to see him. “I can take that, Miss Kaoru-san,” he says. She hands the case over, bows at me, and when I return her bow, she grins and leaves.

The lobby is still silent. Thor puts his hand on my arm.

“Look, Lieutenant, I want to be up front this was not my idea. I told them no. I might as well have been speaking to a rock.”

“What?” This doesn’t sound good. No, not good at all!


I plant my heels and almost fall over. “Thor, I am naked, wearing only scandalous heels and an absurd amount of credits in diamonds. Spit it out!”

“There is a crowd of people outside waiting to escort you to the Palace.”

No! Damn it!

I feel faint, on the verge of hyperventilating. I don’t do well with crowds. “Crowd? Can I slip out the back? Can we VTOL over? How many people are we talking about here?”

I detect a wisp of a smile from the normally stoic Thor.

“All of them, I think.”