Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Stifling Creativity" AKA The Profitable Ingenuity Of The Lawless

Applying bricks-and-mortar laws to the internet would "stifle creativity" and prevent "the sharing" of "information" and generally "end the internet as we know and love it". Such is the gist of the so-far-successful opponents of the controversial copyright law that was just rejected by the EU Parliament.

"Critics said the laws would stifle creativity..."

Allow this author to translate. The "creativity" that would be stifled" by a reform of European copyright laws is not the genius of authorship, musicianship, cinematic film making, or the artistry of a photographer or painter. No, it is the profitable ingenuity of thieves.

"Sharing"..."information", is usually a matter of monetizing stolen creations of others. Pirate sites don't publish and distribute helpful advice or uncommon knowledge. Their "information" is more likely to be illegal copies of movies, games, works of fiction, music. And, they don't "share" like one neighbor does to another over the garden fence. They broadcast (like tossing seeds in a wide arc over a ploughed --or plowed-- field), usually for the purpose of payment from advertisers.

Legal blogger Gill Grassie for the law firm Brodies LLP  examines what is legally or logistically unacceptable about the draconian Article 13 of the EU proposal.

To wit, bigger platforms might have been obliged to prevent copyright infringing work from being uploaded by users.  Additionally, websites might have had to pay a license fee for displaying  snippets of text snagged
(my term) from published  articles.

By contrast, and from the sharp end, here's a fine video analysis of piracy by film maker Ellen Seidler of who profits from piracy, and how, and why. (It's from 2012, but still relevant.).

If lawmakers were to intellectually follow the money, they might do a better job of protecting creators. Perhaps the wrong Congressional and legislative bodies are looking at the problem... and of course, too many lawmakers are campaign-funded and lobbied by entities that find piracy profitable.

Aatif Sulleyman for the Trusted Reviews site examines the reasons produced in a 2018 survey on why Britons steal online.

It seems to boil down to the love of a freebie. It's free, and it's convenient. Or at least, that is the popular perception.

(But, all this "free" stuff is ruining musicians' livelihoods. A musician debunks the idea of touring and T-shirts as an adequate substitute for record sales, and points out that concert performances provide zero income for songwriters: )

Aatif Sulleyman wrote this, about watermarking.

This author never expected a search for "remove watermarks on copyrighted content" to produce any search results at all. Wrong!

Colour me shocked.
On the other hand, the same socially responsible purveyors of useful information will also assist bricks-and-mortar perps.

I should probably now clear my cookies... and so, dear reader, should you.

The host of this blog (Blogspot) puts cookies on visitors' devices, and conveniently infers that visitors agree to deer-tick-like cookies piling on and burrowing in. Most sites to which this article has linked make the same inference.

Although "Cookie Consent" is the new panic according to legal blogger Eduardo Usteran, blogging for Hogan Lovells, blogs and websites have been obliged to let visitors know about their no-opt-out cookies
since an EU directive in 2009.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sword and Sorceress

I'm thrilled to announce that I've had a story accepted for this fall's SWORD AND SORCERESS 33 anthology, published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley estate and edited by Elisabeth Waters and Deborah J. Ross. I submit a story most years but don't often make the final cut, so it's exciting to win a place in the book. As you may guess from the title even if you haven't read any of the previous volumes, the series comprises "sword and sorcery" fantasy with female protagonists. Here are the contents of the forthcoming anthology, which we're encouraged to share:



HAUNTED BOOK NOOK by Margaret L. Carter

THE HOOD AND THE WOOD by Lorie Calkins

SINGING TO STONE by Catherine Mintz


LIN’S HOARD by Deirdre M. Murphy


ALL IN A NAME by Jessie D. Eaker

DEATH EVERLASTING by Jonathan Shipley

BALANCING ACT by Marella Sands


THE FALLEN MAN by Deborah J. Ross


THE SECRET ARMY by Jennifer Linnea



MAGIC WORDS by Alisa Cohen

CHARMING by Melissa Mead

My tale features a ghost in the library of a magical university, with a bit of humor.

SWORD AND SORCERESS has had a complicated publishing history, perhaps symptomatic of the shifting tides of publishing in the past few decades. It began as a long-running series of mass market paperbacks from DAW Books. After DAW and SWORD AND SORCERESS parted ways following MZB's death, a lapse of a few years was followed by several volumes in trade paperback from a small press. Finally, up to the present, the annual trade paperbacks have been published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust itself.

A few years ago, the Trust also resumed producing Darkover anthologies, a project that had been dormant for a long time. Now they're publishing a new one each May, in trade paperback rather than the former mass market format.

Most of the works released by the Trust are also available as e-books. Moreover, many stories from the anthologies, plus some other short pieces by anthology contributors, are sold on Amazon as stand-alone e-books. You can find them here. (If you scroll down far enough, you'll find a selection of my short stories.):

MZB Works in Kindle

Another anthology series from the Bradley estate, now on its fourth volume, is called LACE AND BLADE. It contains swashbuckling tales of adventure with touches of magic and romance. I would characterize the first volume as "perfectly targeted to Zorro fans," although subsequent anthologies have gradually widened their scope.

You can find out about the various books and series at the link below. Also, the Trust produces some audiobooks and CDs. In short, they offer a prime example of taking advantage of the full range of available media and formats to reach fans:

Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reviews 36 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg Comparing Expository Techniques

Reviews 36
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Comparing Expository Techniques

Reviews posts have not yet been collected into an Index post.  Some other blog series also discuss novels of Romance and/or Science Fiction and/or Fantasy/Paranormal all mixed or separately.

In general these Tuesday posts are about writing techniques, and though techniques are not (as course instructors will insist) the same in all genres, we float techniques across genre lines to blend genres seamlessly.

One of the techniques common to most kinds of fiction is taming the Expository Lump.

The lumping together sentences, paragraphs and whole pages of explanation of what the reader needs to know before they can understand the story, the plot, or the Characters' motivations and emotions, is a mistake beginning writers make because they have no other tools to convey the necessary information.

That information may be fascinating, and completely engrossing to the target readers, but unacceptable, unreadable, or just too much work for the readers at the edge of the target.

To broaden the swath of readers a story might reach, engage and stimulate, the writer has to find other ways to explain things -- entertaining ways.

This is necessary to establish a byline in the commercial marketplace.  The new byline has to earn the trust of readers who finish the book, and then finish the sequel, so the reader knows for a fact this writer will deliver on the promises of Page 1, and deliver big time.

The satisfaction readers experience at the end of a novel is what they pay for, it is the writer's product.  That emotional payoff is what the writer has to sell, but it first must be manufactured.

The final satisfaction has to be packaged to grab attention of readers browsing for something to read, and it has to stimulate the reader to mention it to friends (or Facebook Friends, people they don't know who don't know them, but share interests).

However, once a byline is established as one that delivers all it promises in the cover blurb, flap copy, and genre logo, and the writer is three long, complicated books into the Series, editors require Expository Lumps.

Of course, editors will declare unequivocally that there must be no expository lumps.

Then they ask the writer to make sure new readers who have not read the previous books can just pick up the series here, right in the middle.

Writers tend to go bald pulling their hair out over this one.  To keep the series in print you have to explain the previous books' adventures, but to engage a new reader you must SHOW DON'T TELL all that explanation.

WORSE!! Editors take the manuscript to committee, it gets accepted provided it is half the size that was turned in.

What goes?  The action?  The exposition? 

There comes a point in a long series where you just can not both explain what happened before, why it happened, and what this oddball universe uses for physical Laws, and still advance the plot a novel's worth of events.

So today let's look at the effect various solutions have on readers.

Here are two Series to compare. 

The 19th book in C. J. Cherryh's FOREIGNER series -- 6 trilogies and book 1 of another trilogy.

And Book 3 of Bradley P. Beaulieu's THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS series.

FOREIGNER is set on a planet where a lost-colony ship from Earth left humans stranded to cope with the native Alien civilization.  It is all very tight point of view, though bits come from the point of view of an alien child being groomed to rule the world.  The story is about the human linguist interpreter, Bren Cameron , and most is from his point of view while he works through Human/Alien politics.

The "romance" angle is that he sleeps with one of his Alien Security Guards, though there aren't many sex or bedroom scenes and very little "relationship" -- still the warmth and firm bonding is vivid.

Book 19 in this series is shorter than some previous ones, and filled with Bren Cameron's long, intricate thinking about the Situation that has emerged from the previous trilogy's interactions with a third Alien species -- and doesn't mention the secret Bren carries (except obliquely) that he met a human who is a captive of these (formidable and menacing) Aliens.

The political situation is coming clear to "The Young Gentleman" (the Alien kid who will rule when his father dies).  He's only 9, but obviously more broadly mature than a human 9 year old.

Between Bren's adventures on one continent and "The Young Gentleman's" adventures on another, we understand why these new Aliens are a disaster waiting to happen -- they have left orbit, but their influence reshapes this world.

Bren "sold" the world as peaceful, but in truth it is a powder keg that will explode.

The specific threads of plot from the previous 18 novels that are going to mature in this trilogy (or the next) are all described in long expository lumps, couched in terms of Bren Cameron's new and changing understanding of the broader Situation.

Here's the challenge: If you have not yet read any FOREIGNER novels, or read only a couple and have forgotten, pick up EMERGENCE and see how hard it might be to slog through the exposition of Events past that you have not read.

Ask yourself as you struggle with names, places, and event sequences Bren is thinking about as he makes decisions, is this stuff interesting?  Do I write like this -- all about what has happened, not what is happening? 

Mark points where your eyes glaze over with a, "Who cares?" 

My secret is that I gobbled down every word of that exposition, loving the ride in Bren Cameron's head, whooping with joy at the Young Gentleman's maturation (when he takes over the House command position and orders servants to prepare a welcome for his mother and baby sister - he is perfect, so you know what is going to happen!)

I just love this series, and I have every confidence that C. J. Cherryh did not put a word in there which will prove unnecessary. 

Now, if you have not read THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS, try diving in with Book 3.

I have not read the previous books, do not know Beaulieu either personally or by previous writing.  I have no particular affinity for the oddball Fantasy world with a crazy-quilt of complicated "powers" that this story is set within.

I did not finish reading this thick novel. 

Why?  Expository Lumps - couched as narrative, and a wild and pointless floating point of view.  Bits and pieces in different locations involving different people whose actions are not clearly the result of, or connected to, what happened in the previous chapter from another point of view.

In other words, by page 118 of 582, I had no idea what this novel is ABOUT - who it is about, or why it might be interesting. 

Yes, the unique "powers" and the complex political revolution against entrenched and powerful "Kings" is fascinating.  The deep and odd bonding between two of the main characters is intriguing.  The basic material of this series is meat and potatoes to me.

But I bounced out 20% through.  Why?

Does it matter why? 

Yes, actually, it should matter to the author and maybe the editor. 

If the writer's skills were a "hit" with me, I would have gone searching for Book 1 and read from the beginning.  That would sell 2 books the publisher wants to move off the warehouse shelves -- maybe more if I tout the book on Facebook.

I would have been caught up in the series if there were any indication why these events are happening to these people -- or if there were fewer people so there is enough time to get to know them before the next group is introduced. 

I would have been caught up in the series if there was something about the main Character to show she deserves what is happening - that her efforts, and the backlash of responses from forces around her, will lead her to revising her innermost Character, make her grow stronger, understand where she's been wrong about "right and wrong and the difference between them."

In other words, the third book has to have a "hook" into the heart and soul of the character indicating why this is her Karma.  

In my real life, life and the world make sense -- if only you can get the right camera angle on yourself (see yourself as others see you).

In C. J. Cherryh's novels (all of them) the Characters fit their lives, learn and grow stronger for the hammering they take.  There's a comprehensible logic underlying events, however odd.

You can find that underlying logic right at the beginning of each of her books, and even if you disagree personally, you can comprehend the Characters innermost Souls because it is clear why they live the life they do.

In A VEIL OF SPEARS (lovely title), as the Characters come on stage, there is no hint that their souls belong in the lives they are living, and no awareness that belonging in your life is possible or desirable or that the Characters are working to get to a life where they do belong. 

So as I read, I never was compelled to ask myself, "What would I do in that Situation?"  I barely understood the Situation and had no idea why this Character was in that pickle (pretty marvelous pickle, could have made a great book.)

Eventually, I did ask myself, "Why am I reading this?" 

You never want your readers to ask themselves that! 

I love the material Beaulieu has created, but after about a hundred pages I still have no confidence in the writer's ability to deliver on the material's promise because the skills we have discussed on this blog over the years are not evident.

For example, there is no plot-or-story reason why the point of view changes except a lazy writer who can't be bothered to tell the story.  There is nothing to follow from one chapter to the next, no story at all, so why turn the page? 

Of course, if in the previous book, you were engrossed in these other characters, you might be pleased to go visit them.  But the writer's job is to engross you in the Character whose story this is -- and there's no hint whose story is being told. 

Contrast with the flipping from Bren Cameron to The Young Gentleman -- Bren is striving mightily to keep the human friends of The Young Gentleman happy, healthy and safe, while The Young Gentleman is getting a grasp of the threats that are coming -- and will need those human friends all grown up and well educated.  The Young Gentleman on one continent and the human friends on the other form the lynch pin of the world to come.  These people belong in their lives but have to grow into them. 

I love the FOREIGNER series, and don't want to read THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS. 

This is odd because both the Cherryh and  Beaulieu series are from one of my favorite publishers, DAW BOOKS (OK, prejudiced -- I've had some titles from DAW, too).

I like and admire these editors. 

Note that both writers here are creating intricate plots involving complex relationships between human and Alien (or not-quite human) and both involve a vast canvas of history, war, regime change -- all focusing the abstract topics we have discussed in this blog as ripped from the headlines.

DAW has created a collection of works that will appeal to similar readers, and they've done a great job of it.

I don't doubt that Bradley P. Beaulieu has an avid following that will devour this third novel in this series with rapt attention.  Knowing the payoff coming at the end, it won't seem like a difficult read.

But in general, widening your readership, grabbing new readers into a series as you go along, is the more commercial strategy.

So, if you are faced with a writing situation requiring exposition explaining what happened in previous books, make that exposition a precursor to what will be not a rehash of what was. 

Use exposition to explain how a Character now sees the same events from a new perspective.  What those Events portend for the Character's future differs from what readers of the previous books expected. 

Without spelling it out, show-don't-tell how many things might go wrong, how many different paths might lead out of the current pickle, and more why that how these Characters got themselves into this pickle.  What aspect of soul is begging to grow and learn this new karmic lesson?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Guest Post: "The First Pirate Hurts Most" by Addison Brae

Today, Addison Brae shares a debut author's rude awakening.

The first pirate hurts most
July 8, 2018
By Addison Brae

Digital piracy is rarely discussed in the publishing world, so seeing an unauthorized PDF of my book for the first time for free download was a shocker. Then add the extra punch that the site owner invites people to pay to join, and the first month is free. How did this jerk get the PDF? And what nerve to sell something that isn’t theirs.

The even bigger bombshell is how many authors have given up on chasing down pirated copies of their books. Last time best-selling crime writer Sue Coletta ( checked the pirate sites, her books neared 1,000. “If I wasted time trying to get every book off these sites, I’d be sending copyright notices full-time, with no time to write another book, never mind market my existing ones,” Sue said. “Sometimes we need to pick our battles.”

Piracy is cybercrime. It drastically changed the music, movie, and book publishing industries, and it’s spawned other industries to help stop it. But why does piracy continue?

My theory? No one’s looking. People do it thinking no one will notice or care.

A June 6, 2018 Digital Music News (  article says 53% of UK adults surveyed felt accessing media content illegally is wrong, but did it anyway.

It takes two. One steals the file and makes it available. You have a say in whether pirates are successful. Don’t download from shady sites. Besides, if they steal what they’re selling, they’ll steal and sell the personal information you provide.

Someone I know recently captured an unauthorized version of my book trailer ( from the web to play for a group. The intention was good, but the video quality suffered since it was pirated.

I found the first copyright violation instance with a simple Google alert on the book title and author name. I spent about an hour contacting the company that owns the site, and they disabled the link three days later, but hundreds of other titles remain. It was time I should have spent writing or doing something else productive.

Authors overwhelmingly use Blasty ( to monitor for copyright infringement. Monitoring is free, but the company charges $156 per year to blast the violator with automated notices about DMCA—the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It took me about a minute to set up a free monitoring account. Another author recently shared with an author email group, “They have taken down over 4k pirates offering my work in the last year.”

Wow. I’m not endorsing the service, but speechless at the number of people who will steal content for their own profit.

Please consider carefully before you swipe a book, piece of art, video, song, or anything without paying.

Think twice before you download!

A version of this post first appeared on Addison Brae’s blog ( Addison’s first novel is Becker Circle (Tirgearr Publishing, March 2018). Read more on her website (

Thank you, Addison!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Illusions of Safety

Last week, five people on the staff of our local newspaper were killed by a gunman who attacked their office because he had a long-standing grudge against the paper. (It's worth noting that the paper did not skip putting out a single issue.) Naturally, the rector of our church preached on the incident. He drew upon Psalm 30, which includes the beautiful verse, "Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning." To reach that epiphany, however, the psalmist has to recall a time when he felt confident in his security but then experienced the apparent loss of that safety and protection. Our rector talked about how we might have existed in a "bubble," thinking we were safe from such unpredictable mass violence, that it would never strike where we live. Now the bubble has been burst.

That reflection reminded me of what the media repeatedly told us after 9-11: "Everything has changed." Then and now, that remark brings to mind an essay by one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis, "On Living in an Atomic Age" (collected in the posthumous volume PRESENT CONCERNS). Lewis reminds us that such catastrophic events change nothing objectively. What has changed is our perception. That idea of safety was always an illusion. To the question, "How are we to live in an atomic age?" Lewis replies:

"'Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.' In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways."

As he says somewhere else (in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, maybe), the human death rate is 100 percent and cannot be increased or decreased. The bottom line is NOT that, knowing the inevitability of death, we should make ourselves miserable by brooding over our ultimate fate. It's one thing to take sensible precautions, quite another to live in fear. Just the opposite—we should live life abundantly. Lewis again:

"If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

Steven Pinker's two most recent books, THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, offer an antidote to the mistaken belief that we live in a uniquely, horribly violent age. Although Pinker and Lewis hold radically different world-views (Pinker is a secular humanist), both counsel against despair. Pinker demonstrates in exhaustive, rigorous detail that in most ways this is the best era in history in which to live—and not only in first-world countries. The instantaneous, global promulgation of news makes shocking, violent events loom larger in our minds than they would have for past generations. (But what's the alternative—to leave the public uninformed?)

We can deplore evils and work for solutions without losing our perspective.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Depiction Part 37 - Depicting Dreams: Male Or Female by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 37
Depicting Dreams: Male Or Female
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts in the Depicting series are indexed here:

Research into Dreams - beyond superstitious interpretation and into scientific observation of brain activity during sleep - continues to find new things. 

Dreams are not only an eternal fascination to people in general, but a powerful story-telling technique to add insight into the psychological pressures driving a Character's behavior.

The focus on the importance of Dreams is engraved on the Priestly Blessing that Aharon the High Priest and his sons were Commanded to pronounce over the Jewish People  in the desert.  It is still practiced today, with no reason to believe it has changed (much) over millennia.

Here is a video of how it is done:

During the last 3 words sung by the Cohen, the congregation prays (aloud while the Cohen sings a wordless melody) to have their dreams changed from good to better or from what we call nightmares or just bad dreams to "good.  The prayer references the way G-d changed the curse that Balaam was commissioned to pronounce upon the Jewish people to a series of huge Blessings.  So we pray to have our nightmares be transformed to Blessings.

The Torah records how, after being thoroughly humiliated by his talking donkey, Balaam, the non-Jewish sorcerer and prophet commissioned by Balak King of Moab to curse the Jews, found himself incapable of cursing them. Instead, he bestowed on the Jews four tremendous blessings, some of which we even recite in our prayers today, and the last which foretells the Messianic redemption.

-------end quote-------

Tracing how a nightmare or bad dream a Character remembers can be turned, step by decisive plot step, into a Blessing, can allow the writer to depict the nature of Dreams, and thus explicate a vast bundle of Themes which can support a long, complex series of novels.

The nature of Dreams in your World will clearly Depict your Theme - so you never have to state it except in that one, single, clear statement near the opening.

For writers of Romance Novels doing Science Fiction Romance, we now have a deep and rich source of real, concrete science to incorporate into the emotional and often mystical plot element of the Dream.

Here is an article describing a book, titled Superhuman, which you can use as a source of science on Dreams.

Science Is Getting Closer to Understanding What Goes on Inside The Mind When We Dream
Here's why dreams matter.
8 APR 2018
2018 © The Washington Post

What you dream about and the emotional tone of the dream probably reflects what your brain considers important.

Research shows that if you play Tetris all day long, your brain will decide that Tetris is what you need to dream about. If you are anxious about something, your brain may well give you a dream with anxiety as the dominant emotion.

--------end quote--------

They needed research to figure that out?  If I drive all day, I dream of white lines whizzing by.  If I write scenes all day, I dream the next scene at night.  In text flowing by.

Earlier in the same article:

There's a good reason dreams are so skittish and peculiar. Memories of life events – "episodic memories" – are stored in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, and in rapid eye movement (REM), sleep signals coming out of the hippocampus are shut off.

That means we can't access specific memories of things that happened in the past while we dream.

But we can still access general memories about people and places, which form the backbone of our dreams.

At the same time, activity in brain regions involved in emotional processes are cranked up, forming an overly emotional narrative that stitches these memories together.

-------end quote---------

The significant parts of this picture of the brain shifting functional areas (also turning off critical thinking during dreaming) is simply that when you are plotting and crafting scenes with conflict and action, there is no room in your narrative for extensive exploration of Characters' emotions-- especially not conscious "thinking about emotions" in the heads of male Characters.

In general, people don't know why they feel what they feel, so when reading about Characters the reader doesn't want to know (consciously, explicitly, in narrative) why the Characters feel what they feel.  The reader just wants to FEEL what the Characters feel the way they would if they were the Character.

So including 1 visually rich, emotionally explicit dream in your narrative can help the reader understand in their guts rather than in words what the Characters feel and why, what is important to the Character and why.  All in a few, short, vivid images, you can bring your readers into the story.

When using dual point of view, male and female, (each might dream), it is useful to keep in mind that modern research is revealing that the Dreams of men are different from the Dreams of women (who knew???).  The results of very expensive research that verifies this difference are yours for reading a bit of non-fiction.

Again from the same article:

A couple years ago, Christina Wong and colleagues at the University of Ottawa, wrote a computer program to differentiate between the dreams of men and women.

The program correctly predicted the gender of the dreamer about 75 percent of the time. This suggests there may be gender differences in dreaming – but for now it's too soon to say why.
-----end quote----

And of course this suggests that research into trans folks finding their dreams shifting as they change could be worth while.

Here's the book that prompted this article:
Hooper is managing editor at New Scientist, from which this is excerpted. His book "Superhuman: Life at the extremes of mental and physical ability" will be published in May, 2018.

So if you want to tell a story of Soul Mates finding each other from opposite ends of the Universe, and include science along with mysticism (e.g. Paranormal Romance), using Quantum Entanglement and Dream Research could create a hard-science Plot for your novel.

Science Fiction Romance is a hard label to earn.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 01, 2018

On Cheating: To Win Or Not To Win... That Is The Question.

According to science, "Some winners really are losers,"  Carol Pinchefsky concludes for GEEK & SUNDRY, discussing scientific findings on why persons who identify themselves as winners will cheat, especially in competitive situations.

In other words, if they are a winner in their own mind, they feel entitled to win, and will cheat to preserve their winning status. Philosophically, those guys are probably Consequentialists. (The good ends justify the means.)

On the other hand, goal-focused guys tend to play fair. They are more interested in doing their personal best, rather than feeling that they deserve to score better than someone else.

There's an interesting --albeit archived, so you cannot join in-- thread on Reddit about why people bother to cheat at video games.

For someone needing inspiration for character building or motivation of an endearing cheat, this author found it to be a fascinating resource.

I've written of a hero who cheats. At chess. Just as some persons of influence and power use a game of golf to get the measure of a potential ally or employee, one of my heroes used a board game for interrogation and character assessment.

One of the reddit gamers mentioned the delight of annoying other people (by cheating to win). Another Machiavellian player in battle-games asked himself,  "How many enemies do I have to kill so I don't get caught by the cheating filter?"

For him, the thrill of the game appears to be in finding out how few enemies he could kill before he was ejected from the game by the algorithms for not fighting.

However, aside from the ethical and self-esteem and character aspects of cheating, there can be legal repercussions.  Using "cheats" can be copyright infringement or even a crime.

United Kingdom legal blogger Alistair Symes for Taylor Wessing explains how cheating is becoming "a revenue issue" for games developers and publishers.

As Alistair Symes explains, the game developers own the copyright to their games. Anyone who copies the game or modifies it (by adding "cheat codes") or publishes their adaptation to the public... is infringing the developers' copyrights. "Cheat" makers who sell or rent out infringing copies of software code are also committing a criminal offense in the UK.

In the USA, a teenager's mother tried to assert  an "infancy" defense for him after he had allegedly posted videos on YouTube (allegedly since removed) in which he allegedly promoted and distributed cheat codes to an online game. The copyright owner is not backing down from pursing legal remedies against the alleged copyright infringer and repeated violator of their TOS.

Jason Gordon and Virginia Pavlik, blogging for the USA Law firm Reed Smith LLP detail the case, and suggest that game creators ought to require age disclosure and parental permission slips before young persons may create online player accounts. 

If a teenager is disposed to cheat, and to breach contracts, and flout Terms Of Service, will he not also be disposed to lie about his age?

Happy Fourth!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Superpower Pros and Cons

A new Marvel superhero TV series recently premiered, CLOAK AND DAGGER. Tandy ("dagger") can materialize a knife out of light. Tyrone ("cloak"), associated with shadow and darkness, can teleport. So far, the powers of both protagonists pop up spontaneously, with little or no control. Also, each can read minds, sort of, in a limited sense. With skin contact, Tandy sees visions of people's hopes; Tyrone sees people's fears. My initial thought upon watching the first few episodes (although I do like the series so far) was that these aren't terribly impressive superpowers. Teleportation does have versatile possibilities—once he learns how to control it instead of leaping from place to place at random when confronted with danger. Materializing light daggers, however, seems of limited benefit unless the character gets into a lot of knife fights or aspires to become an assassin. Moreover, her magical knives wouldn't do her much good in combat without training and practice in using them. The latest episode demonstrates, though, that the conjured blade can cut through anything, a potentially versatile feature. She would be even better off if she would develop an ability to create other kinds of objects, too. As for the empathic visions, because they transmit images of people's hopes and fears, they can't be counted on to convey factual information. It's an appealing facet of the story, actually, that discovering their paranormal gifts doesn't automatically and immediately make the heroes invincible.

As I see it, many superpowers that seem cool at first glance wouldn't, by themselves, turn their bearers into superheroes. There was a TV series I never watched (so I may be misjudging it) whose protagonist couldn't feel pain. I got the impression that this trait was presented as a gift. No, it would be a handicap. In real life, people with defective pain perception live in constant danger of getting badly injured. Immortals in the "Highlander" series come back to life within minutes of getting killed unless they're decapitated. Living for centuries has its appeal, and if you work in a dangerous occupation or devote yourself to rescuing victims and protecting the innocent, immunity to most modes of death would confer a definite advantage. The gift has downsides, though. Like vampires, Highlander immortals are frozen at the age they'd reached at the time of their first death, so there are a few children and adolescents stuck with centuries of life in which they never grow up. Immortals aren't necessarily any more intelligent or ethical than ordinary mortals; whether they learn anything over the course of their extended lives depends on their individual characters. And even though they heal fast and can survive horrible injuries, getting killed still hurts. Furthermore, an immortal trapped at the bottom of the ocean or locked in a dungeon with no drinking water will die and revive over and over indefinitely.

Flying would be impressive but wouldn't make a hero invincible by itself. He or she could get to the scene of a crisis in a hurry, especially if the power included being able to fly faster than normal human running speed. But once the flying hero got to the site of the trouble, if he or she didn't have any other paranormal gifts, the success of the ensuing fight or rescue would come down to ordinary human strengths. Super-strength alone would seem pretty useful, once the hero learned to use it efficiently, but if that were his only power, he could be wounded or killed like anybody else. Flying and super-strength together would make a better combination, yet the hero could still get hurt—unless he or she were also invulnerable. Now you're approaching the qualities of a multi-gifted superhuman such as Superman himself. Spider-Man, with his leaping, climbing, and web-spinning, also has the capacity to travel quickly to otherwise inaccessible places; however, his ability to trap villains in webs probably needed to be honed through practice.

What about invisibility? An invisible character can sneak into places, explore without getting caught, and (if so inclined) steal small objects. Unless his or her powers include walking through walls and closed doors, though, the invisible man or woman still needs to access enclosed areas in the normal, physical way. Furthermore, invisibility in the strictest sense has obvious drawbacks. Do your clothes disappear with you? If not, you have to endure the discomforts of nudity. In H. G. Wells's classic novel, anything eaten by the invisible man remains visible until digested, so the time periods during which he can be truly unseen are limited. More effective might be a gift for clouding the minds of observers, like the Shadow; in that case, cameras would still reveal the hero's presence.

The most versatile type of superpower might be a multifaceted psychic talent such as the ability to read and control people's minds (provided you could shield against the thoughts and emotions of others at will). There we get into some deeper ethical problems, though.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Believing in the Happily Ever After Part 9, Why Strive to Fulfill Your Destiny by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Believing in the Happily Ever After
Part 9
Why Strive to Fulfill Your Destiny?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index to the Happily Ever After series is:

"Youth is wasted on the young." 

That is one of the oldest (maybe wisest) adages you will hear, and a cautionary tale in one succinct line.  Most Romance novels, science fiction romance, paranormal romance, are about young people.

Romance is, obviously, the dominant feature of life when you are young -- looking for it, wishing for it, wanting it, seeing others attain it, yearning to have your life-path changed by an encounter with a true Soul Mate.

Youth, especially the teen years, is peppered with giant miseries.  Or they seem giant at the time -- rather smaller in retrospect.  Still, such teen-angst is very real,  very potent, and very life-determining. 

How an individual responds to an angst or misery, a situation of being tormented, bullied, oppressed, or outright abused, of being trapped, forced, and desperate, seems to determine where that person's life will go -- the "destiny" of that individual.

Is "destiny" something you choose by choosing your response to your teen-challenges?

Or is destiny something you are born to -- as the Ancient Greeks depicted -- a decree of "the gods" which, if defied will result in something even worse?

In other words, whether a Character views their Situation (miseries and all) as a springboard into a (very real, tangible, and actual) Happily Ever After lifetime, may depend on their religion, creed, culture, or cussedly defiant Nature.

Is "Destiny" -- a Happily Ever After life is one possible Destiny -- something you can attain only by fighting, battling, risking life-or-death, desperately striving for?  Or is "Destiny" something that just happens, and can't be avoided (as the Greeks believed).

What exactly is Destiny? 

If it is something you will reach, and have no choice about, then why strive? 

If it is something you might attain, if you work hard enough for it, then it is a choice.

In either case, Youth is the inflection point -- somewhere between maybe 15 years old and possibly 29, critical choices are made.

For example, choose to go to college when you are 15, then hurl yourself wholly into academics and win a scholarship, devote every waking moment to studying (not going on Dates), and make it through a Ph.D. -- but in what discipline?

Another choice, then, would be a choice of career, or career direction, and once made, these early, (youthful) choices are very hard to set aside.

Many people, in later years, regret mightily their choices in their teens.

Is the choice, made in ignorance, by the teenaged self actually the real Destiny of that Soul?  Or is the actual Destiny chosen in later life -- say 35-45 years of age (the second marriage is the typical Romance novel motif).

This idea is rooted in the concept of Destiny as something that is the consequence of choices made in innocence, ignorance, and Youth.

Suppose in your Paranormal Romance universe, Destiny is set by Birth, written in the genes, or perhaps the Social Status of the Parents?

Once set, once carved into the developing person before the age of 7 years, can it be changed?  Should it?  What is the price of choosing a different Destiny than is expected of you?

Why should you strive to fulfill the expectations of "others" (parents, siblings, teachers, Authority, Society)?  Don't you have anything more important to do? 

The answer to that question -- "why should you" -- is a theme.

We've discussed THEME in almost every post -- it is the origin of the opening scene, the Middle Pivot Point, and the final Climax as well as the last word. 

Theme is this novel's statement about the nature of the reality the Characters must navigate to get to their Happily Ever After situation -- and what makes those Characters Happy is not necessarily obvious to the reader without a very clear ILLUSTRATION of the theme by the writer's use of symbolism.

Theme is energy of Culture - and it resides in the non-verbal part of the mind, or perhaps pre-verbal.  Theme is what you know about the world that you have no idea you ever learned.  But you did.  You learned your Reality before you were able to form words.  That is why few writers begin shaping a story by stating the theme to themselves.

Theme is often something you discover while working through a final polish draft -- and suddenly realizing you need a major rewrite to communicate that Theme to the readers. 

If the readers understand the Theme, the Characters will never seem "one-dimensional" or "cardboard" or "out of character to do that stupid thing." 

The Character's motivations will be excruciatingly clear to most all there readers to can grasp the Theme -- the single-pointed center of the Character's "reality."  The Origin Story of their reality.

So the Origin Story is very important to followers of the exploits of the Superhero.

Two TV Series Superhero properties based on Comics illustrate this point.

ARROW - based on DC Comics superhero Green Arrow, about a scion of a wealthy family Oliver Queen, thought drowned in a shipwreck who survived on an Island learning Martial Arts.

IRON FIST - about a scion of a wealthy family thought killed in a plane crash who survived by being rescued by Monks from "another dimension" (where he learned to control chi and make his fist glow with Power). 

IRON FIST is a Marvel property, done as a Netflix Original,
Marvel's Iron Fist: A Netflix Original
2017 TV-MA 1 Season
Danny Rand resurfaces 15 years after being presumed dead. Now, with the power of the Iron Fist, he seeks to reclaim his past and fulfill his destiny.

Do an in-depth contrast-compare study of the first seasons of these two series.

Both these are typical Superhero Characters -- somehow striving to fulfill a Destiny.   Broken from their "past" (like Superman was sent to Earth in a capsule as a baby). 

They appeal to the youth in us all with the dream of a better life earned by striving.

In the best of these mythical universes, one gets a better life by making the world a better place (fighting crime, evil, whatever invading forces want to ruin good things).

The dream of striving to fulfill a Destiny is mostly a thing of Youth, and with decades of life behind (think Gandalf) most humans realize they never will "make it."

But some (like Gandalf) get another chance before age robs them of abilities.

So to convince your Readers that the Happily Ever After ending is realistic, craft a thematic answer to the question about the nature of reality in your Characters' Universe -- "What exactly is Destiny, where does it come from, does everyone have it, does anyone need it, or even want it, and is Destiny worth striving for because it is Destiny or because it is the HEA condition we all yearn for?"

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) Offers Career Mentoring To Emerging or Isolated SF Writers

Open to non-members of SFWA as well as to members of SFWA is a new mentoring program to help with professional development and community connectedness.

It's not a critique program. It's all about helping with the Career, not with the Content.

Even successful professional novelists might be matched up with a mentor, if they are changing their career focus and the type of writing they do. It's a six-month commitment.

For those who wish to apply to be a mentee (recipient of mentoring), check out this form.

For those who would like to be a mentor, fill out this form.

The deadline for submitting forms is July 31st.  And, yes, one can be both a mentor and a mentee!
Moreover, it bears repeating, one does not have to be a member of SFWA!!

Thanks to Julie Rios and Jessica Cole Jackson for coordinating this new program for SFWA.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Spoiler Tolerance

Last week I reread Agatha Christie's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (again) after watching the newest movie based on the novel. Some people might wonder why anybody would read a murder mystery more than once. After all, you already know whodunnit! I enjoy rereading books, even detective novels, for the pleasure of watching the characters work things out when I know where the plot is going. While I wouldn't want to know the criminal's identity the first time I read a mystery, otherwise I don't mind being "spoiled" with details of a story before reading it.

One member of our family is so spoiler-averse he tries to avoid even blurbs if possible. (And, in his defense, sometimes an ineptly written blurb can give away secrets it shouldn't.) I, on the other hand, confess I sometimes peek at the end of a book to reassure myself that a favorite character will survive—or, if that character is doomed, to brace myself for the blow. Before the series finale of the vampire police procedural FOREVER KNIGHT aired, I read advance summaries of the plot, and I was glad I had. I was prepared for the downer ending and actually found it marginally less dire than I'd expected from the description.

There's a pop culture phenomenon TV Tropes labels "It was his sled" (alluding to CITIZEN KANE). That phrase refers to a detail that was originally meant as the revelation of a major secret, but now everybody knows it even without viewing or reading the work itself. What mystery fan, even if he or she hasn't read Agatha Christie's novels, doesn't know the astonishing twists in the identities of the killers in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS or THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD? Upon the first publication of DRACULA, readers who didn't pay attention to reviews would have been surprised when the title character was exposed as a vampire. Relatively few horror fans are aware that in Stevenson's original STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, Hyde's identity was a mystery solved near the end of the story. Now everybody knows what a "Jekyll and Hyde" character means. Ambrose Bierce's "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" depends on a twist ending, but rereading it can still bring pleasure, since the second time around we can appreciate the irony.

Does it "spoil" ROMEO AND JULIET to know in advance that it's a tragedy? Would anyone skip HAMLET or KING LEAR because of the certainty that almost all the major characters will die? Granted, in some circumstances I don't want advance knowledge of a plot. In the latest-aired episode of STEVEN UNIVERSE, for example, I wouldn't want to have been told the shocking revelation beforehand; I would have missed the thrilling rush of, "Wow, this changes everything!" Now that I know, though, I can enjoy re-viewing earlier episodes and noticing the secret clues that were there all along.

On the subject of rereading, C. S. Lewis says that the first time we read a book, we tend to rush through it to satisfy the "narrative lust" of wanting to know how the story turns out. In later readings, we can pause to savor the intricacies of plot, the nuances of characters and relationships, and the writer's style. Rereading books I loved the first time around is one of my favorite activities. How do you feel about rereading, re-watching, and spoilers?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Astrology Just For Writers Part 15 Mercury Retrograde Plot Twist

Astrology Just For Writers
Part 15
Mercury Retrograde Plot Twist
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries on Astrology are indexed here:

There is a reason we cover our eyes with our hand when we say the words asserting that the Creator of this world/universe/everything is ONE.

This key idea, One as the Origin, has to be the foundation of how we interpret absolutely everything we see, hear, feel, do, perceive with our flesh -- all we want and all we do about what we want (wanting being the condition of not-having) is configured around One.

But One is an IDEA first and foremost.  Once you grab hold of this idea, everything in your life changes significance and you make different choices.

Neurologists have discovered that our brains re-circuit in response to experience, and "learning" (intellectual activity) changes the way our brains light up neurons.  Learning creates new neural pathways.

But no matter what, we live welded to a physical body, so we weight what our physical eyes see heavier than what our mind thinks.  "Seeing is Believing."

Thus, when relearning twice a day, that all is Created by One, we have to take our eyes out of the brain-circuit, by covering them and closing them, so the Idea registers louder than visual impressions.

Astrology (as the precursor of modern Astronomy and Astrophysics) is based on empirical evidence gathered entirely by sight -- naked eye sight, before telescopes.

Over centuries, from Egypt onwards, using parchment and fast-fading ink, industrious geniuses recorded, correlated and experimented with two databases, one of what they could see in the sky, one of what they could see in people's lives.  Their project was to connect these two databases.

Along with these scientific, empirical observation databases (one of the stars/planets and one of human behavior ) curious humans imagined various correlations between the two.  Mostly nonsense, but over centuries of corrections, the imaginary explanations distilled down to some pretty reliable facts.

Once you get the ONE concept wired into your brain, these factual databases of Astrology become as useful as Astronomy but for a different purpose.

You need more to untangle this complex world.

You need to factor in human Free Will and Creativity -- the decision making process and the choices we make at the end of that process.

So our eyes "see" Mercury go Retrograde.  That's what the naked eye sees - Mercury (a dot in the sky) stops and goes backward.  So what?

Today, we all know the planets do not "go retrograde" -- we all ride our orbits around the Sun (oval, not circular, and not even all in the same plane!), and the Sun zips through the circuit of this Galaxy, which is  moving away from some point at an INCREASING rate.  The universe is expanding at an increasing rate!  That factoid has just been discovered and announced in peer-reviewed literature, but nobody really knows why or how this is happening, and you can not discern it with the naked eye.

This dizzying, rapid, systematic but mysterious movement is one reason that our repetitive tasks (like re-asserting twice a day ONE - JUST ONE AND ONLY ONE) are actually not repetitive.  Each time we wash dishes or drive carpool, it is done in a new place, and affects that new place.  Then we move on.  Like plowing a furrow, you don't stop after making a 1-ft long trench.

The human eye sees, and we live or die on the basis of our decisions made from seeing.  Tiger!  Run!.  Avoid getting in front of that Uber autonomous car.

By repetition of this Idea of One we try to grasp that what we see is not what is really there.  Decisions made by factoring in what is really there work better.

Today, most all of Science is founded on what is "really there" as opposed to what the naked eye sees.  Particle physics to advanced agrochemical applications, we live or die on what we understand but can't see.

So Astronomy and Astrophysics lets us understand some of what we can't see, but does not explain (or even try to explain) the observed and documented connection between what we see in the sky with the naked eye, and the decisions and actions of people, individually and collectively.

Fiction, especially fiction involving emotion and soul-growth, is based on "theme."  All themes are based on some theory about that connection between "the stars and planets" and "human decisions."

It is all "imaginary" -- or Idea based.

The one Massive Idea that human imagination barely sketched by itself is the Idea of the Oneness of The Creator.

Egypt had their Sun God and tried to arrange a religion around just that one -- but it didn't work.  Humans tried in every culture all over the world to figure this thing out.  It is said that the Creator offered the Torah to all the other Nations before coming to Abram - because only Abram accepted the Torah simply because it was the Creator offering, and never mind what would be required of him or what consequence or reward might come of it.

That Idea had to be given, to be inserted into our Reality -- we couldn't imagine it.

So when studying Mercury or any "Planet" appearing to go Retrograde (as observed from Earth), we have to start tracing the connection between that Observed Event and the Observed Human Response by understanding what a human is.  To do that, we must start with One.

I once learned in a course that the Soul enters material reality through the dimension of Time.

That one statement rearranged my entire understanding of what everything is about.  It rang true to me because of decades of study of physics, math, chemistry, Tarot, Astrology, human behavior, etc.

The Soul can't be verified by physical instruments because it has no physical dimensions.  It exists only in Time.

Astrology and Astronomy both portray our existence on Earth as riding on one "hand"  of a giant clock, the Earth.  We live inside a clock - the solar system.

That is all the universe is - a clock.

Time is the key idea.  Lately, speculation about whether the "speed of light" is a constant throughout the Universe is disturbing physicists.  We know about Time Dilation, and we know what Gravity does to stretch space.

We also know (though many don't like this idea) that human lifespan is limited.  We "start" somewhere on the clock and eventually we end somewhere on the clock.  The clock ran before we started, and it continues after we leave.

Time Marches On.

But as we live our little segment of Time, we make and implement choices.

Thousands and millions of choices during a lifetime, big choices we are consciously aware of, and little choices which are components of a larger project, habitual choices.

For example, we are driving to the supermarket, but there's a Yellow light -- choose to stop or choose to go.  Chances are, with the Creator's help, you will get to the supermarket regardless of which little choice you make in that split second.

But the consequences of a yellow-light decision can be life-altering.

Thousands of years of observations correlating Mercury with Small Decisions, short and routine trips, smaller movements of all kinds, show that there is a vague ( very vague) correlation between  the Retrograde and the success of tiny decisions that seem on the surface to be trivial.

One time in your life, you decide to run the Yellow, and BANG, you need a new car and five years of litigation.

Mercury goes Retrograde in different places several times a year - but only once in a 100 year lifespan will it produce a significant Event.

It is well known that trivial annoyances mount during a Retrograde Mercury - the airline loses your luggage for 3 days, your car needs a new tire, the dress you ordered for an Event comes the day after.

Shipping snafus don't register on shipping company computers because it just doesn't affect that many people that way.  Only a few times in an individual's life will such snafus pile up and up and up until you want to scream.

It is not Mercury Retrograde that "causes" snafus.  Rather, it is the accumulation of small decisions made over many years - of habits, and of responses to other forces operating in your life, most notably the way you relate to The Creator, conditioning yourself to see the One behind it all.

A hundred times, you'll make it through the Yellow light.  One time, other planets will line up (Uranus, Mars, Saturn, Neptune) and unexpected, aggressive, irresponsible, or drunken drivers will tangle with you.

How you come out of it is up to your Creator.

We live in a clock with 9 Hands (or more) -- which move within our lifetime.  The "fixed stars" don't move visibly in 100 years, but the planets go round and round never coming back to the configuration when you were born.  Nobody lives to see a Pluto-return.  The planets tick off "aspects" to that birth configuration, indicating what "time" of your "life" is going on right now.

It is just a clock.  It tells you what time it is, not what to do about that or what will "happen" because of it.

For example, at a Mercury Station (short trips) on your Natal Saturn (bones), you may have a dentist appointment.  You may run the Yellow light and get there on time, without running out of gas.  But the Mercury clock doesn't tell you whether you will have a cavity or not.  Brushing your teeth regularly (short, frequent, repetitive actions are Mercury) will have contributed to that, but not determined it.

Your genes, your nutrition as a child, and dozens of other small variables will contribute to healthy teeth - The One determines the outcome.

The outcome of the Dentist discovering a small cavity may be a Big Blessing because it averts some more irksome course of events.

But Mercury and other planets' position does not determine whether the Dentist will be in to be at your appointment, nor how long you might have to wait if he's dealing with an emergency, or how long it will take once he gets to you, or how much the bill will be.

Mercury is just one "hand" of the clock we live inside of. The clock has no content.  It is an empty appointment calendar you have to fill -- or not fill.  The clock has no content, no outcome.  We must live our lives providing that content.

Mercury is about small, repetitive things that don't seem to us to "matter" until they annoy.  So Mercury is also about Practice Making Perfect (Gemini and Virgo).  Repeat a minor action, practice practice practice, and you end up at Carnegie Hall.

So at the Stations of Mercury, when they fall at particular points in the Natal Chart, you will find that what you have Practiced will manifest.

If you've practiced getting your brain circuits to see One behind the visible reality of your life, that will manifest clearly, loudly, emphatically, and precisely one time in your life, and very likely at or near a Station of Mercury.

When a planet "goes retrograde" it also eventually stops and goes "direct" again -- as the Earth moves in its orbit relative to the planet that seems to go backwards.

Both points, the retrograde and direct, can coincide with a clear Event.

It coincides because it's time for that Event to happen.

For example, if you're trying to buy a house, you start by saving a down payment and scoring high in Credit.  As you are saving, things happen (often at a Retrograde station) to make you spend some of what you've saved.  Then you keep pushing and scrimping, and trying, and POP you start to see the savings account grow.  That goes on for a year, then interest rates get reduced.  Then you get a raise so you save more.  Someone gives you money, and you save it.  And it goes on and on, three steps ahead and two back.

That's "life" and everyone knows it.  And that is the pattern of the planets, direct and retrograde, ahead and back.

Mercury retrograde often corresponds to a time when you have to do things OVER --you fill out a form, and the office loses it, so you have to do it over.  You pay with a check, and the bank bounces it by mistake, and you have to make a new one and pay a penalty.  You ship a box, and it comes back addressee unknown, and you see you put the wrong number in the zip code.  Retrogrades are also second chances -- when you mess up, you wait a while, and take another whack at it.

So you're saving up for a house, and interest rates tank, houses go on sale, you bid on one -- and Mercury goes Retrograde and your mortgage paperwork doesn't go through.  You try another bank, and a few weeks later Mercury goes Direct, and the mortgage goes through -- but the house got sold out from under you.  So you quick bid on another house, and actually like its location better, and you get it and hold your breath through the Closing.

These are the plot-twists of the story of your life -- and everyone else's.

Fiction writers can use Mercury Retrograde effects without ever mentioning Astrology or Mercury or any such related concept, just by replicating that on-again-off-again-do-it-over pattern in the plot of the Main Character's life.  Everyone recognizes it as real, so you evoke verisimilitude by using Plot Twists based on the twist of what we see planets doing (as opposed to what is really happening.)

Note the intervals between Direct and Retrograde on all the planets, and how many years each takes to complete an Orbit of the Sun.  That is the benchmark fiction writers use (because everyone knows it whether they know Astrology or not) to "pace" the spiritual and emotional maturity of a Character.

If you try to convince a reader that an Event caused a Character to change behavior at a pace different from the master clock we live inside of, the reader won't believe it.  You will seem to be writing a Comic not a novel - the Characters will seem cardboard.  It takes Time for a Soul to change their grip on their body.  TIME is the key.

Life has a rhythm, dramatic Events have a place, framed by life events.  Lives have a shape, pace, and direction.  Read a lot of biographies to pick that up.

You can depict Wise Characters by revealing how they see that pattern in pacing of Events as all to the Good - as a pattern gifted us by the Creator with a message, with information embedded in it.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dangerous Embedfellows And... Death Of The Meme?

Imagine you happen to be in the right place at the right time, and you snap the perfect photographic scoop of a famous person doing something newsworthy.

In your excitement, you share your photo with a few friends on Snapchat. You forget that, while once upon a time, Snapchat was a place where you could show a photo to chosen friends for a few seconds, and then the photo would vanish, now those friends can capture and keep those tantalizing shots.

Then, it dawns on you that you could probably sell or license that photo to a newspaper.

Too late. One of your erstwhile friends snags the sneak peek, and uploads it (thus infringing your copyright) to Twitter. Twitter does not warn your sneaky friend that he (or she) must have written permission from the copyright owner before they can legally upload a picture. Now, by virtue of Twitter's TOS, that thieving friend has given Twitter a limited license (albeit perhaps a license that friend had no right to give) to further publish and distribute that photo.

Then, a news network (perhaps even the last one on this planet to which you would willingly give free content, or perhaps your first choice for a juicy sale) embeds that valuable picture to illustrate a story, and they publish it. Now, your chance of selling that photo is gone forever.

Breitbart believes that, because they merely "embedded" a Twitter thingy, and didn't host your .jpg on their servers, they are free and clear of liability. Maybe not.

The inspiring predicament is discussed in real life detail by Jack A. Wheat blogging for the law firm McBrayer McGinnis Leslie & Kirkland PLLC in Court In Copyright Case: Don't Embed That Tweet!

Apparently, the court decision in favor of the photographer is being appealed. Eventually, it may go to SCOTUS.

For our UK readers, the law is similar. If you did not take the photograph, beware sharing it. UK legal bloggers Jill Bainbridge and Nicola Rochon for Blake Morgan write a really helpful article titled Sharing photos online - the risks of Copyright Infringement.

Just because a social media platform makes it possible, nay easy, for you to upload someone else's stuff to their site does not mean that you should do so, or that you are legally on safe ground if you do so. It would not be hard for Facebook, Twitter, Google, Ebay, et alia to develop a pop-up before you physically could proceed to upload a photo: "Did you take this photo yourself?" Yes/No  "Do you have written permission from the person who took the photo?" Yes/No.

There ought to be similar pop-ups on other user-generated-content reliant sites. "Did you write this e-book?" For instance. "Did you write all 100,000 ebooks on this DVD?"

Saquib Shah, writing for the Sun, warns UK readers (and the rest of the world) that Memes may be in mortal peril.

The problem with memes is that they rely on often-copyrighted images or movie clips that are appropriated by busy internet users, "transformed" (not very much) by users who add text or other edits to communicate amusing social or political commentary.

Can people no longer communicate without disrespecting other creators' copyrights? Would it be respectful to that fine actor, DeNiro, to take his recent stage pose with fists at shoulder level and edit in a MAGA banner between his raised hands? Do actors who roll their eyes in one context necessarily welcome their eye roll being used as commentary on any topic?

Here is a link to the proposed EU law.

It is perhaps a sad state of affairs if those who object to the proposals really believe that people cannot freely and clearly (and wittily) put their thoughts and opinions and knowledge into writing.... or emojis.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 14, 2018

On Creating Something from Nothing

Kameron Hurley's new LOCUS essay, "On Patience, Goal-Setting, and Gardening," meditates on the analogies between pushing to finish and edit a book and transmuting three "dead city lots" into a garden. Both kinds of creative activities, she says, are "about transforming a vision in my mind into something tangible that others can see":

On Patience

The essay focuses on the tension between two concepts, the power of imagination and the hard fact that imagination alone can't produce anything without patience, perseverance, and a lot of often frustrating work. And this time-consuming work "costs you other opportunities." She's reminding us that we have to really want our goal strongly enough to exercise the "patience" mentioned in her title. To avoid getting overwhelmed by the scope of the work lying ahead, we should focus on accomplishing the project "a piece at a time."

I'm reminded of the familiar saying about the nature of genius—10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration.

Two of the best lines:

"It’s the ability to envision something that doesn’t exist, that, perhaps, makes us believe in the act of creation."

"I’m creating something from nothing but thought."

No wonder Dorothy Sayers in her book on the Trinity, THE MIND OF THE MAKER, chose the analogy of creative artists (especially writers) to structure her exploration of that theological concept.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt