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Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"Lightning Strikes My Hero And Other Cruel Tricks of Fact, Fate and Fiction"

I'm always on the lookout for unusual, but plausible tricks to play on my heroes, although I balk equally at doing permanent damage, and at torments that result from stupidity.

Above all else, I require my heroes and villains to be intelligent, effective and competent. Therefore, if my hero is going to suffer, it has to be a richly deserved come-uppance for his own arrogance, vanity, over-confidence, bad habits, or sexism. More often than not, I will strike him creatively below the belt, but my heroines… won't.

I love to start with a scientific fact, and weave it into an intelligent but humorous, character-driven science fiction Romance plot. For instance:

"Males are struck by lightning four times more than women."

Why is that? Scientists suggest this might be because males spend far more time in the great outdoors, swinging metal objects: swords, axes, hay forks, shotguns, rods (fishing rods), golfclubs… and thereby inviting disaster.

My own opinion is that men bring Nature's wrath upon themselves owing to their size, physique, nature, and inclinations. They tend to whip out their whizzers and attempt to kill trees and offend dryads when Nature calls.

They do this standing up, creating a grounding arc of conductible matter, standing under trees (which is known to be ill-advised when a storm is brewing.) Ladies with a going problem on a golf course usually squat, if they cannot wait, which is considered a much safer attitude.

However… being of an inquiring mind, I have just Googled [Men struck by lightning while urinating]. My search was highly satisfactory, not to confirm or refute my theory (which it didn't, at least on the first two pages), but because my search led me to some fascinating bits of esoterica.

The burning question (more specific than mine) Has a man been struck by lightning while urinating off a cliff... went unanswered. I'm sure that was asking for too much information, anyway!

Apparently, a child "was struck by lightning while urinating on an electric cattle fence in rural Texas". And the same happened to a man in Montana. Then, there are men who mow the lawn during a storm, while listening to their ipods, and when struck, sue Apple.

Now, that's conduct unbecoming of a compellingly attractive Romance hero (or Romance villain.)

I came across several eminently sensible Navajo Taboos about appropriate behavior during thunderstorms, and also about poetic justice for those who are cruel to very small animals.

"Do not do a rain dance during a rainstorm because you will be struck by lightning."

In fact, I am working on a twist to this one for "Grand Fork". My heroine does the equivalent of a rain dance. The hero is struck.

"Do not urinate on an anthill because you will have trouble going to the bathroom."

If there were any truth to that, maybe as part of Health Care reform, patients might be required to wash away a few anthills before their treatment could be escalated to a prescription for Flowmax (or whatever it is called!)

PETA might object. So might the EPA…. Imagine! Perhaps you can see why my imagination has been described as Monty Pythonesque on more than one occasion.

Even more to my taste is this site:

WISCONSIN – "A man will spend 20 days in jail for urinating on an ATM machine. Apparently [the gentleman] became frustrated when the machine wouldn't give him any money and proceeded to pee all over the machine. Unfortunately, for [the gentleman], a security camera recorded the whole thing...."

He was lucky. A skinny dipper in New York State came away with less than a whole "thing" when

"… a giant snapping turtle used part of [the gentleman's] anatomy as a meal. [The victim] later stated, "I felt this excruciating pain in my groin and when I got my bearings, I realized a turtle had bitten my testicles and swam away with them…."

Of course, I cannot introduce a successful snapping turtle into a Romance novel, because his happiness would tend to interfere with the traditional HEA of a Romance, which ought to involve marriage and the prospect of children.

However, there was a dangling bait element in Insufficient Mating Material (my second novel in the god-Princes of Tigron series).

I'd been intrigued by Discovery Channel documentaries about canderu (a bloodthirsty little fish from the Amazon river) being attracted to urea and mistaking a man's equipment for the gills of its normal prey.

The true science inspired me to write the "a fish nibbled me" scene. Now, I don't approve of doing permanent harm to my heroes, so I might as well tell you that the teeny weeny willie fish was a plot device, dreamed up by the hero because he wanted the heroine to take a close look at his wedding tackle… He had a very good reason for that.

Djetth, hero of Insufficient Mating Material, faced a lot of challenges, including a broken jaw at the beginning of the book, and being marooned with the heroine on an island without running water or toiletries, and being hunted by a swat team of assassins. His story was immense fun to write, and although the book was categorized as a fantasy, there's a great deal of hard (well, sound) science in it.

Tarrant-Arragon led pretty much a charmed life, but he did experience an unpleasant moment, thanks to an alien version of the "Teddy Bear" cactus, which I learned about on a corporate team-building trip to Arizona. (I also discovered on that trip that I am a fantastic shot with a six-gun.)

The cactus's fruits have papery spines that are attracted to liquid, and it can kill a rabbit or any other animal by sinking deeper and deeper into the flesh. If you remove the spines and peel the cactus –which our guide did—it tastes a bit like kiwi, and is a very good source of Vitamin C. We were also told (after I'd been the group member who volunteered to sample it) that it was simultaneously a powerful aphrodisiac and laxative.

Since I cannot possibly leave you on a low note, I shall end with a phobia.

Keraunophobia : an abnormal fear of being struck by lightning.

NOTE FROM JUDY: You never did say whether the powers of the cactus were as described to you ;-).


My goal as a Romance author is to give good value. I expect to provide my readers with six to eight hours of amusement, a couple of really good laughs, a romantic frisson or two from the sensual scenes, a thoroughly satisfying Happy-Ever-After, and something to think –or talk-- about when the book is finished.

Rowena's books should be read in the following order:

Forced Mate

Mating Net ( a short prequel, optional)

Insufficient Mating Material

Knight's Fork

Visit Rowena's Preditors and Editors "Author's Site Of Excellence" award winning website for excerpts, reviews, interactive family tree, interactive jigsaw puzzles of barechested hunks, tips for writers, research tips, and more

Value Buy: Get the electronic version of Forced Mate for only $1.85


debbie haupt said...

I love this question ; ) Has a man been struck by lightning while urinating off a cliff... .
Sometimes I wonder about the minds of an author, very creepy things going on there sometimes.

Lady Jane said...

Interesting, unfortunately after reading it all I can think about it Ren and Stimp's game "Don't Wizz on the Electric Fence".

robynl said...

My dh knows of a guy who urinated while up an electrical pole(he was an electrician)and he was electrocuted.
I like what you said about wanting to give your readers a couple of good laughs - I enjoy receiving them.

LeslieJane said...

I also thought about the Myth Busters episode where they tried to see if a man could be electrified by peeing on the third rail of a train. (They couldn't) But I think it would be just punishment for some men!

Virginia C said...

Lightning Rods : )

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

RowenaBCherry said...

Ah, the powers of the cactus...!

Someone very considerately remarked: "And that's why it's called 'the screaming sh@ts'!"

Excuse the quote. Sometimes, graphic language can be an incredible turn off. Nevertheless, I spent an uncomfortable few hours during the rest of the tour of the Arizona desert wondering what on earth I would do if affected.

RowenaBCherry said...

Debbie, thank you so much for your comment. Let me clarify. It may not have been an author who asked specifically about urinating off a cliff.

On the other hand...

RowenaBCherry said...

Good one, Virginia.

Did you read about the tattoo on my hero in Insufficient Mating Material?

RowenaBCherry said...


Did your dh's acquaintance recover?

Rowena Cherry said...


I noticed the MythBuster link, and seriously considered following it. I enjoy Adam and Jamie's experiments very much...also their wit!

Sherry Gloag said...

Thanks for the laugh! Great post. Now I'm off to follow those links!!
Best wishes for 2010

Rowena Cherry said...

Thanks for commenting, Sherry. Enjoy the links, and also your New Year's Eve celebrations

sherry said...

I really loved your post I think I probably had a few not very nice words to say to your guide he should have gave you a warning before you tried it.