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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Believing in Happily Ever After Part 8, The Writer's Optimistic Voice

Believing in Happily Ever After
Part 8
The Writer's Optimistic Voice
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Index to the Happily Ever After series is:

Doomsayers, and "end of the world" or "end of the world as we know it" people rely on stirring up fears of an uncertain future.  This awakens and energizes an intrinsic (and healthy) part of human nature.  It grabs human attention because this is the paramount survival mechanism -- fear-fight-flight.

So doomsaying has become the most lucrative business model in human history -- maybe.  Maybe in pre-history, too.  I do know many fortunes have been made (and lost) on doom crying .  Doom is big business.

Doomsaying may be the inciting incident in a Romance, or a Science Fiction novel, or a Science Fiction Romance.  It works wonders to get a story started.

But if the doom happens at the end of the book, the book will be a vast disappointment to the Romance reader.

Some version of the doom may happen -- and in fact, should materialize because it takes "show don't tell" to communicate convincingly to readers.

But that is the pivotal MIDDLE of the story -- and the last half shows how people of determination, faith, good cheer, and above all optimism, overcome, avoid or stop the doom from affecting them and their loved ones.

The most important element in convincing readers that the Happily Ever After ending can and routinely does happen in Real Life is the writer's sense of optimism.

To convince yourself that doomsayers are scam-artists exploiting an element of human nature, trying to part folks from their money or resources, look at some recorded details of what actually happened after Doomsayers paid Publicists to spread the word.

Some of the Doomsayers are actually convinced, have credentials to support their opinion, and really -- really -- see the doom coming.  They are not just sincere, but have the best interests of their audience at heart.

What the audience needs to learn from reading Romance novels is that Experts don't know everything.  Humans can extrapolate trends that can be measured, but do not necessarily take into account human free will, and other elements of science that are unknown at their time.

Here is one example -- there are many!



The Population Bomb Has Been Defused
The Earth and humanity will survive as fertility rates fall almost everywhere.
By Noah Smith
March 16, 2018, 4:00 AM MST

In 1968, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote “The Population Bomb,” warning that unchecked population growth would lead to mass starvation in the 1970s. He was just as wrong as Malthus. Global population did surge, but food production managed to keep up.


Still, as overall world fertility has fallen, overpopulation concerns have shifted from global to regional. If some regions continue to have big families forever, they will eventually outgrow the regions with limited population growth, causing the overall world fertility rate to go back up. People who worry about overpopulation are now concerned that some cultures will simply always have more kids.

So far, those concerns seem to be unfounded. A decade ago, many believed that Muslim culture, with its emphasis on traditional gender roles, would defy the fertility transition. But then fertility rates in majority-Muslim countries plunged. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Indonesia have mostly completed their fertility transitions, while Egypt’s and Pakistan’s are underway:

Of course, it’s worth noting that lower fertility won't immediately defuse the population bomb. The number of people in a country continues to rise for years after young people stop having lots of kids -- a phenomenon known as population momentum. Thus, the United Nations continues to project that global population will rise from about 7.6 billion today to more than 11 billion by the end of the century:

-------END QUOTE------

Other doom cries include the Debt Bomb, and things such as asteroid strikes because Nasa's CURRENT plan isn't big enough to deflect a strike due after 2100.

Straight line extrapolation of any trend always ends up predicting something that does not actually materialize.

Why don't these dooms materialize?  It's simple.  Love Conquers All.

Love catapults the most pessimistic type of person into a frame of mind to accept the possibility of success.  By shifting "mood" the human being can cause success.

Failure does happen - in life and in Romance novels.  Romance novels often start with a person at the bottom of total failure -- and they "get rescued" by some outside force or person.  Why is this popular?  Because it is real.  It does happen.

And it does happen on the largest, grandest scale - the scale that redirects human history.

Science Fiction Romance is about applying the principles of science and the study of our reality to the problems faced by our Spirits searching for a Soul Mate and an HEA.

Happiness doesn't mean having no challenges.  Happiness doesn't mean always winning.  Happiness is achieved by each individual in their very own, unique, way.

Take your Characters through Experiences that allow them to define and achieve their own specific "happiness" criteria -- not a situation your readers want, but a situation the Characters need for fulfillment.

The initial key element in shifting the mindset of your Characters is the dawning realization that doomsayers are scam artists, grifters, exploiting the raw animal impulses built into the primate body.

Once they understand they are being victimized, they will stand up for themselves and avert the doom, or turn it back on the doomsayer.  But that will be convincing to your readers only if your own personal attitude (your Voice) is founded on this understanding of the nature of Doom.  Use Poetic Justice.

That Doom averting process is the main plot element in my novel, Zelerod's Doom. 
This attitude shift from pessimism to optimism is the core theme of Zelerod's Doom.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Sufferin' Ink Slingers

"It's The Author Who Suffers" reports Porter Anderson on Mary Rasenberger's remarks at Book Expo about copyright issues and authors being last and least to be paid.


Book Expo was about book authors, but other authors, such as songwriters are also suffering.

Part of the problems are driven by technology, and ever increasing exceptions for "fair use" and "modernization" of copyright and music, and "access", and more, driven by legislators who are funded allegedly by technology.

Such as the sometime Shyllz trombonist, who appears to be no friend to ink slingers and singers, as discussed by the trichordist advocates for creators.


By contrast,  Senator John Cornyn opines, "I do believe that the intellectual property that you create is just that. It's property, and you ought to be protected..."

Terrence Hart appears to wonder if Congress bends over so far to please the populists (who would rather not pay the actual creators anything) that is amounts to unconstitutional "taking" from some to give to others.


The Copyright Alliance supports the MMA, but Chris Castle of Music Tech Policy  has some questions about the business plan, and who will get stuck with the massive bill.


Do you remember how a certain tech titan described "snippets" of a permissionlessly scanned book to a judge as being approximately three lines of text? With this much available of the only 9 pages of required reading by this author for a University course, it's not astonishing that author incomes are down. One would have to be insane (or insanely honest) to pay $31.72 to read 15 pages when 12 are free, and only 3 are redacted..


Perhaps the lack of reviews is telling. Perhaps only those who purchase books write reviews.

On the brighter side....

The Copyright Alliance is offering Gold Membership subscriptions to creators of all stripes who wish to either fund more copyright activity, or to learn more about their rights. It's $30 per year, but for Authors Guild members, there is a $10 discount.  There's a discount for members of other industry groups, too.


The Authors Guild is opening regional chapters. For members. After their recent strong advocacy for authors under trademark attack, and now, their assistance with authors who have a bone to pick with Amazon, it might be even more worth joining the Authors Guild.

To find out if there is to be a regional chapter in your area:

Finally, and only for graduates, Bill Gates is giving away a book. Factfulness by Hans Rosling.


The ebook costs $14.99 if purchased, and it looks pretty interesting.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Common Assumptions

In his essay "On the Reading of Old Books" (written as the introduction to a 1943 translation of St. Athanasius's book on the Incarnation), C. S. Lewis explains why he thinks it vital for modern people to read old books:

"All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, 'But how could they have thought that?'—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth."

Therefore, says Lewis, we need the literature of past ages to awaken us to the truth that the "common assumptions" of one era aren't necessarily those of another, and ours might actually be wrong. Speaking of the "contemporary outlook" of Lewis's own period, through much of the twentieth century experts in psychology and sociology held the shared assumption that no inborn "human nature" existed, that the human mind and personality were almost infinitely malleable—the theory of the "blank slate." We meet versions of that belief in works as different as Lewis's THE ABOLITION OF MAN (where he views the prospect with alarm), Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD, Orwell's 1984, Skinner's WALDEN TWO, and Heinlein's first novel (published posthumously), FOR US, THE LIVING. Later research in psychology, neurology, etc. has decisively overturned that theoretical construct, as explored in great detail in Steven Pinker's THE BLANK SLATE.

Whatever our positions on the political spectrum, in the contemporary world we embrace certain common assumptions that may not have been shared by people of earlier periods. We now believe everybody should receive a free basic education, a fairly new concept even in our own country. In contrast to our culture's acceptance of casual racism a mere sixty years ago, now racial prejudice is unequivocally condemned. Whatever their exact views, all citizens except members of lunatic fringe groups deny being racists. Outward respect for individual rights has become practically worldwide. Dictatorships call themselves republics and claim to grant their citizens fundamental human rights. In our country, all sides claim they want to protect the environment and conserve energy; disputes revolve around exactly how to go about reaching those goals. Everybody in the civilized world supposedly respects and values human life, even if in some regions and subcultures there's little evidence of this value being practiced. One universally accepted principle in the modern, industrialized world is that children and especially babies are so precious that we should go to any lengths to protect them and extend their lives. For instance, expending huge amounts of energy and money to keep a premature baby alive is considered not only meritorious but often obligatory. The only differences on this topic among various factions of our society involve how much effort is reasonable and where the cutoff line should be drawn (e.g., how developed a preemie should be to receive this degree of medical attention, at what stage and for what reasons abortion should be allowed, etc.). Yet in many pre-industrial societies, it was obligatory to allow a very premature newborn or one with severe birth defects to die; expending resources on an infant who would almost certainly die anyway would be condemned as detrimental to the welfare of the family and tribe. The development of advanced medical technology has probably played a vital part in changing attitudes like this to the opposite belief we hold in contemporary society.

It's likely that alien cultures we encounter will have different universal assumptions from our own. In Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, Mike (the human "Martian") reports that on Mars competition between individuals occurs in childhood instead of adulthood. Infants, rather than being cherished, are cast out to survive as best they can, then re-admitted to the community after they've proven their fitness. To creatures who've evolved as units in a hive mind, the value we place on individual rights would make no sense. A member of a solitary species wouldn't understand the concept of loyalty to a group. Where might the "characteristic blindness" of our time and place in history be lurking?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Theme Element Giving And Receiving Part 2 Science of Science Fiction by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme Element Giving And Receiving
Part 2
Science of Science Fiction
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 is here: http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/05/theme-element-giving-and-receiving.html

Scroll down through Part 1 (which doe not have a "part" label) and you will find a list of previous posts discussing Giving and Receiving -- which is the subject of the Science Article published in 2018 that we will study in this post. 

We shall have to discuss "Strong Characters" in greater depth in future posts, but the source of Character strength in story, especially Romance, is Theme so we will analyze this science article in terms of science fictional themes it can be used to generate, giving your Romance Couple-to-be an obstacle to conflict with and conquer. 

The obstacles you can generate from this science article are genuinely "ripped from the headlines."  People are grappling with these problems, groping in a fog, trying to chart a life-path for themselves in spite of living in a world in turmoil.  Propose a useful analysis and they will memorize your byline and Tweet about your novel.

Where a Character stands on an issue (a theme) makes that Character a memorable individual whose name readers remember, and even make symbolic (like the strong and memorable Character,  MacGyver).

MacGyver refused to carry or use guns, so when he needed a weapon, he created one out of whatever innocuous bits and pieces were in reach.  This clearly demonstrates:

THEME: tools do not cause behavior.  Anything can be a weapon. 

The Strong Character's stance on a specific Headline Issue generates the Conflict for your story.  Your story opens when the Character takes up his stance on that issue to fling him/herself against some opposing Force or Obstacle, in order to achieve a Goal.

The Duke's Daughter fleeing an Arranged Marriage is one cliche that illustrates how a Strong Character can be depicted "taking a stance."

The segment of a Character's life that is "His Story" is the segment where the Character leaps (willingly or willfully) toward the bottom rung of the karmic ladder dangling from the Divine Helicopter come to the rescue. 

It is that vision of "this is what I must do in this life" -- this is what I will achieve that is worth my life -- that sends a Character into "his story" in do-or-die mode.  That is this individual's reason for living.  All else is commentary or gravy, or just noise (Red Herring) to distract.

Note how all of this is about Character, about people (human or not-so-much).  It can be about an AI - an artificial intelligence, a robot.  You could have a strong Character who is not biological.

The opposing Character also has a goal.  The nature of that Goal is what gives the reader a clue about whether the opposition is a Villain or just a different sort of Hero who can be won over.

But it is not just the nature of the Goal that defines a Villain.  Generally speaking, we view those who "want to rule the world" as Villains.  It is the methods the Characters are willing to use that distinguishes Hero from Villain.  Generally speaking "the end justifies the means" defines the Villain.

Thus MacGyver is viewed as a Hero because he finds other means to thwart his opposition rather than guns and killing.  He hurls himself into danger, takes insane chances, depends on his physical strength and agility - but never neglects to protect and rescue. 

So is MacGyver a Republican or a Democrat?  Is MacGyver a Conservative or a Liberal?

When the TV Series first came on the air in 1985 (keeping in mind "development" would have been 1980-1984)
the definitions of "Conservative" and "Liberal" were totally different than they are in 2018.

In fact, the two-party system in the USA causes the parties to redefine themselves continuously after each election.  So the definition of "Republican" and "Democrat" changes, as do those who "register" with one or the other party.  Most people probably don't bother to change registration as they change their minds and the Party changes definition. 

Few vote in Primaries which is all Registration matters for, so bottom line for a Science Fiction Romance Writer (even writing contemporaries) is that there is no definition of Conservative or Liberal -- you have to make up your own.

That means you have to know more about the philosophy behind "Conservative" and "Liberal" than your readers do. 

The stances on issues reverse rapidly between Conservatives and Liberals. 

As noted in previous posts, humans tend to subjugate themselves to a Group in order to "fit in."  This process is painful and what makes High School sheer hell for most. 

Culture-clashes are the meat and potatoes of science fiction -- the very definition of "Alien From Outer Space" is "From A Non-Human-Culture."  If the alien's culture complements the human's, it can work out peacefully.

But most humans, of any culture, are not so accepting.  What exactly does it take for a Strong Character to set aside preconceptions and explore the Alien?  Here are a few posts nibbling at the edges of that topic.



Currently, a number of scientific studies of human brains vs political leaning are trying to show a scientific basis for the right-ness or wrong-ness of certain views of what government is, what it is for, what it must not be used for, and why humans keep inventing government.

The "we have to get organized" chant that erupts whenever a random group of humans comes together to pursue a common goal (we must get Federal funds to fix this bridge -- we must attract a company to build a hospital in our town -- we must elect this fellow to get better funding to Community Colleges.  Whatever the community goal, "we" have to get organized.

Throughout human history, it has been shown that the better organized groups "win" or prevail in some way.  A single human really can't do much until or unless he/she attracts a following that "gets organized" to support him/her.

In other words, humans choose "leaders" and the followers get organized.

Labor Unions are a good example.  Mobs yelling and throwing bricks didn't do much good until they got organized.  Now they can hold huge companies hostage during a strike because the individuals all move together.

So science has been studying the difference between Good and Evil using "liberal" and "conservative" as proxies, trying to peg the brain configuration that defines the difference.


There have been a lot of studies on brain development which I've mentioned in passing, showing how experiences rewire the brain, how learning develops different brain regions, how sensory deprivation shrivels other brain regions, and how traumatic experiences change the brain and even genetic expression.

Human beings are among the weakest animals on this planet - no shell, no pelt, poor hearing, so-so eyesight, not very fast runners, very tasty eating.  Many have concluded that our main survival trait is our brains.

The idea is that the ability to think, to theorize, to make and use tools and language, to create records and teach the young, is our survival trait. 

At the moment, our tools and technology seem to be killing us (pollution, global warming, species extinctions among our food supply, over-hunting/fishing). 

So maybe our brains are not our biggest survival advantage.

Perhaps it is our adaptability that will get us through this?

The blows hammering our children from the environment reshape the children so that the resulting adult thinks differently.

Cyberbullying, tackled in...


...will, no doubt, produce a generation more adapted to the larger social structures forming online -- utterly alien to Middle Ages Villagers.

But as Science Fiction Romance writers, we are futurologists.  It's not enough to look back and find trends rooted in the 1980's like MacGyver (now revived).

We have to look deeply at the present and project what trends will become visible to the public 30 to 50 years from now.

One big trend is the movement to substitute Science for Religion.  Since it is "Settled Science" that humans caused Global Warming, anyone who doesn't believe that human activity is causing human extinction is a) stupid, b) evil, c) The Enemy of Civilization -- or d) worse.

If you think Global Warming is caused by human activity, you are excluded from the group.  If your conclusion is the result of thinking from facts, you might change your mind.  Those desperately dedicated to stopping Global Warming and saving humanity from itself can not risk that.

You must believe because Science says so -- just as Galileo was required to believe because someone said the Bible said so (which it didn't, and he knew it.)

Believing means taking someone else's word as truth, replacing what you think with what they believe.  Humans urgently desire this kind of agreement with their Group -- survival depends on being integrated into a Group (e.g.
getting organized).

Suppose that is the trait your Aliens do not share with humans.  What kind of Strength of Character will your Main Character (MC) need to Love across a gap like that? 

To discoverer where to find such traits in human nature, examine this research on the human Brain and political leanings.


Scientists have discovered the key psychological differences that can make you liberal or conservative by 
Hilary Brueck  Feb. 26, 2018, 10:50 AM

... Being scared can make you more conservative.
Being scared can make you more conservative.
Decades of research has shown that people get more conservative when they feel threatened and afraid

....A conservative brain is more active in different areas than a liberal one.
Brain scans show that people who self-identify as conservative have larger and more active right amygdalas, an area of the brain that's associated with expressing and processing fear. This aligns with the idea that feeling afraid makes people lean more to the right.

...On the other hand, feeling safe and endowed with strength might make you lean a little more liberal than you otherwise would.
Groundbreaking research that Yale psychologists published in 2017 revealed that helping people imagine they're completely safe from harm can make them (temporarily) hold more liberal views.

...Liberals are less squeamish about looking at yucky stuff like vomit, feces, and blood.

A 2018 study of college students showed that those with more socially conservative views were quicker to physically look away from disgusting images — like pictures of blood, feces, or vomit — than their liberal peers.

...Conservatives tend to display more ordered thinking patterns, whereas liberals have more "aha" moments.

A 2016 study at Northwestern University found that when conservative and liberal college students were given word problems to solve, both groups managed to arrive at some correct answers through gradual, analytical analysis. But when feeling stuck on a problem, liberals were much more likely to draw upon a sudden burst of insight — an 'aha' moment, like a lightbulb turning on in the brain.

...Liberals tend to follow the wandering gaze of others more often, while conservative eyes stay more focused on the original subject they're looking at.

In 2010, researchers at the University of Nebraska tested whether conservatives and liberals physically see the world in different ways. They found that when it comes to matching the gaze of other people, the two groups differ.

...Holding conservative views seems to make people more resistant to change and help them explain inequality.

A 2003 review of decades of research on conservative people suggested that their social views can help satisfy "psychological needs" to make sense of the world and manage uncertainty and fear.

...Liberal and conservative tastes in music and art are different, too.

Studies from the 1980s showed that conservatives preferred more simple paintings, familiar music, and unambiguous texts and poems, while liberals enjoy more cubist and abstract art.

...Liberals are more likely to describe themselves as compassionate and optimistic, while conservatives are more likely to say they're people of honor and religion.

A 1980 study of high school students found conservative students at that time were more likely to describe themselves as "responsible," "organized," "successful," and "ambitious," while liberal students might describe themselves as "loving," "tender," or "mellow."

...Conservatives believe they have more self-control.

One 2015 study found that conservative students were often better at focusing their attention on a cognitive task called the Stroop color and word test. The common psychological study tool asks participants to quickly name the correct color of a word that's written on a different color background.

...Liberals and conservatives extend feelings of compassion to different people.

New research shows that conservatives tend to express compassion to smaller social circles than liberals.

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

I just cropped some headlines from that article.  If you can find it, read it all, or just read up on the studies cited, and more recent follow-up studies.

All these studies suffer from the same flaws - A) assuming that statistics works both ways (if a Group has a Characteristic, all members of that Group have that Characteristic), B) Recruiting College Students to study, who are typically young and still being "formed" by "life" then applying results to 60-somethings.

But those flaws can be used, in fact leveraged, by Fiction Writers to great advantage.

A novel needs a target audience, and audiences are defined most easily by studies such as these listed in the quotes above.

College age students are most likely to be the readers for Science Fiction and for Romance, and Science Fiction Romance.  They love Fatansy, Paranormal Romance and all the mixed genres.  It was college dorm TV's that were turned to Star Trek on first run -- thus missed by the Nielsen rating service.  Studying college students tells you more about what will happen 20 years from now than about what is happening now.

If you are writing Science Fiction Romance that will be a "Classic" -- you should aim at what current college age people want to read.

So consider how the definitions of Conservative and Liberal have morphed over decades.  Then consider how both Republican and Democrat Parties have both Liberal and Conservative members, and how they agree or disagree on different issues.

A given Character can be Liberal on Gun Control and Conservative on Federal Reserve Policy -- and not see a contradiction.

Is there a contradiction?  Can you find a pair of issues which do contradict?

Where would your sexy-hunk Alien From Outer Space stand on Video Game Violence causes children to grow up violent?

A number of studies have shown that kids are more prone to solve social problems with force after playing a Video Game that uses force as the solution, not the problem.

That is solid, settled science -- but is it true?  Maybe it's true of humans but not your Aliens? 

Maybe it is true of 21st Century American kids but not of 21st Century human kids raised on an Alien Planet among Aliens (or in the far future or a parallel Earth?) 

We have science measuring the effect of violent video games on children -- but not a lot of research on anti-violent video games played by children.  Are there any? 

Now consider how "threatened" the kids growing up in the war-hammered Middle East (Syria and so on) -- the terrorist threatened European cities flooded with migrants -- will Syria and Europe (the bastion of modern Liberalism) suddenly turn Conservative 20 years from now?

Or will the threat be over and all those people who grew up under danger and threat suddenly turn Liberal because they feel safe at last?

These issues reflect the Theme Element of Giving and Receiving. 

People "feel safe" when they are "given protection." 

One goal of parenting is to give your children a good childhood, free of the life-or-death concerns of adulthood, 

So feeling "safe" is defined as the psychological condition of childhood - of being "innocent" and not knowing how dangerous the world is, or how easy one mistake can destroy your life.

People "feel powerful" when they are "giving protection."

One of the sexiest bits of dialogue in Romance is, "I will protect you."  We write a lot about rescuing.  We love the scene where the big, strong, muscled Hunk places himself between the slender, near-naked Princess and takes the bullet for her.

Our culture regards being protected as the female goal in life, while doing the protecting is the male goal.

That cultural assumption is under attack, and is morphing before our eyes, faster than 40-something parents can adjust (adapt, changing their brains).

The most important element in Romance is RISK.  We write about "bearing the Soul" in the lead-up to the "I love you" scene.  Saying it first is the biggest risk most people take in a lifetime.

We write about the muscled Hunk who vanquishes amazingly horrible threats but can't take the risk of saying, "I love you." 

Which is the stronger Character, the one who says it first, or the one who says it second? 

Who is the Hero - the one who feels safe and thus freely gives compassion at no risk, or the one who feels threatened and thus freely gives safety at great risk? 

Which brain is the lover, and which brain is the beloved?

We talked about how people consider Political affiliation as a deal-breaker element on Dating Sites in this post: 


The THEME element of giving and receiving, and how it functions (male to female) in a Relationship is vitally important to the HEA ending of your Romance, but it comes into even greater importance when the Couple is raising children.

Children, we hold in our culture, must be "protected" -- and they must "feel safe" (i.e. have their brains configured for Liberalism).  Thus we explode at each other over issues related to School Shootings, School Safety and even "what" may be taught in the curriculum.  (can a High School host ROTC? Riflery Team?) 

Who has Power -- someone must because we can't have civilization without someone holding Power to force others to behave properly.  Left to themselves, humans just won't behave properly. 

Ponder that quote from the article saying that "Conservatives" (defined by those with a more active amygdala ) believe they have more self-control.  It does not say, but seems to follow that Conservatives expect OTHERS to have more self-control.

Conservatives may discipline their children to develop self-discipline and thus admire and strive for self-control.

If you read Romance novels from pre-MacGyver 1970's and then read on by year, you will likely find the preponderance of Romance novels shifting to the "irresistible" model of human nature.

Lust, sex, and the intense attraction to the Soul Mate is "irresistible" -- and the excuse for having inappropriate sex is "I could not resist." 

We can't resist the urges of the flesh.  The body has power over us.  If it feels good, do it. 

These are themes rooted in the philosophical context of the "Self" that has "Control" being the animal body.

"Irresistible" is a word that depicts the entire philosophy behind the World the writer has built.  Sex, lust, CAN NOT BE resisted.  The "self" that has all the power is the animal flesh.  If there is a Soul, it is powerless.

If, on the other hand, the author uses the wording, "I could not resist" - there is the admission of guilt, of not having developed a Strong Character.

And here we come to the definition of Strong Character in the fictional sense.

What is Character -- not the fictional representation of a person, but in real life, the attribute of a complete human called Character?

Here is an idea to ponder until it becomes a THEME in your mind.

Character is the Relationship between body/flesh and soul/identity.

A Strong Character is a Soul that has made a strong ally of the Body -- so the Soul feels safe and the Body feels safe.  Neither needs to bully or be armed against the other -- Inner Peace reigns.

A Weak Character is a Body that dominates and bullies the Soul, seizing any opportunity for instant gratification of bodily lusts (for food, sex, money, power). 

Delayed gratification is the sign of a Body/Soul on the path to being a Strong Character.

A truly Strong Character, completely matured, has no inner conflict.

Remember, External Conflict is a reflection of Inner Conflict in the Character who will "Arc" (or morph or change or grow or learn) during the story.

The truly Strong Character has no internal conflict, and thus is way past where his/her story happens do him/her.

So Main Characters who are "Strong" are not strong in every trait.  They have lessons to learn, chiefly the lesson "I love you." 

But perhaps, in Science Fiction Romance, the biggest and hardest lesson to learn is never to believe in science.  Science is about thinking, so new evidence can change your thinking.  There can be no believing in Science.  In Romance, the biggest and hardest lesson is to Believe in the Beloved -- through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, never waver in belief in that beloved Soul's innate spirit. 

Can "belief" span the political gap?  Can Love conquer Politics?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Only The Loneliest....

... know how to erase their digital footprints.

The anonymous people at Final Prepper have some fine advice on disappearing, deceiving (which might really mess up those who like to target their advertising!) and hiding behind free extensions.


For those wondering whether or not they can exploit someone else's works, for instance (my instance and harking back to the Final Prepper advice), if Facebook suggests to them that an author is 113 years old, and an EBay seller falsely tells them that a collection of ebooks by living authors is "public domained", they might enjoy "Copyright Term: When Does A Work Enter The Public Domain?" by  legal blogger J. Dustin Howell for Workman Nydegger who explains the stages by which copyright in the USA came to be "life of the author + 70 years" and how creators no longer have to register and re-register in order to protect their intellectual property from prematurely entering the public domain.


For anyone who missed the ruling in the case of the infamous poultry-related TRO attempt:


Also, for an excellent example of how IP lawyers argue and back up their case, this is a "thing of beauty":

Of topical interest, Joy R. Butler  of the Law Office of Joy R. Butler explains "When Another Company Duplicates Your Tagline".

One wonders how many authors have taglines but have never registered a trademark on them! Something to consider, for authors is that one seldom puts taglines on cover art... however, one might use it on websites and blogs, as well as in signature files, on bookmarks and letterheads.
Finally, The Copyright Alliance is calling on all creators to speak up (to their Congress persons) in support of HR 3945 the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act.


Twitter topic tags for those who like to tweet are #MyCASE4Copyright  and #MySkillsPayBills.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Value of Curiosity

Astrophysicist Mario Livio has recently published a book titled WHY? WHAT MAKES US CURIOUS. He maintains that curiosity is "the most human characteristic":

Why We're Curious

Livio identifies two types of curiosity, which differ in their observed effect on the brain. Encountering something "novel or bizarre" can activate the part of the brain associated with conflict. By driving us to investigate the strange thing, thereby relieving the mental conflict, "curiosity might be our way of reducing unpleasant feelings." The other category springs from being "motivated by the love of knowledge for its own sake." In that case, the satisfaction of curiosity activates the brain's reward center. Of course, what we know about evolution suggests that we wouldn't have developed a love for knowledge unless learning new things gave us an advantage.

Some interesting points brought out in the interview with Livio: How can curiosity be a "defining characteristic" of humanity, when many animals are curious, too? What about "Curiosity killed the cat"? He says animals aren't curious about the "how" or "why." He cites an experiment contrasting the responses of chimps and human four-year-olds to an odd phenomenon. Also: Curiosity is at least partly genetic (studies suggest about 50 percent inherited). Curiosity in the sense of "novelty-seeking" declines with age (after all, so much of the world is new to children, so they have to question almost everything), but the "thirst for knowledge" can be a lifelong pursuit. Curiosity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for creativity (to create, you also need "drive and persistence and talent").

Most memorable line: "Curiosity is the best remedy for fear."

If it's one of the most important traits making us human—setting us apart from other animals—could we use the presence of curious behavior in an alien species to determine that they are sapient? Would we ever expect to meet intelligent aliens who aren't curious? That seems unlikely, because the drive to investigate and learn about the environment should be a necessary survival feature for an intelligent being.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Reviews 34 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg The Imposters of Aventil by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Reviews 34
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The Imposters of Aventil
Marshall Ryan Maresca 

My Reviews posts have not yet been indexed, and I do discuss many novels in the context of various other skills they illustrate, not just in posts titled Reviews #X.

I discuss novels that writers in the mixed genre realm, especially Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance -- well, yes, any version or subdivision of fantasy-romance -- should pay attention to.

Today I want to point you, once again, to the novels of Marshall Ryan Maresca.

I encountered him on Twitter, and friended him on Facebook

So far, I think I've read all the novels under his byline, Marshall Ryan Maresca.

We have discussed his work previously:



He's doing Series that is growing fast -- different series, with different characters, set in the same Fantasy-style world, in a large sprawling urban area surrounding a navigable river.

1) Maradaine
The Thorn of Denton Hill
The Alchemy of Chaos
The Imposters of Aventil
2)Maradaine Constabulary
A Murder of Mages
An Import of Intrigue

3) Streets of Maradaine
The Holver Alley Crew
Lady Henterman's Wardrobe

And many more coming.  See here:

The setting is plausible, and he gives dates on their calendar of 1100 or so -- but the technology and sociology is not our European-Earth's 1100's.

Like Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series, he uses the idea that Magic is real, and well known, with only certain people able to do it at commercial levels.  He sets a University of both Magic and Mundane Science in the midst of the urban construct.

All of that is fairly standard, including the Urban Gang social structure -- some of them decent people, some real rejects.

The outstanding signature of this body of work is not the background, the magic or the lurking technology of Magic (objects that store magical power), but the Characters and their complex Relationships.

It is a human society with a wild variety of different looking people from far away -- you can easily imagine some of them aren't actually totally human.  The social and political structures are widely variant -- but commerce, trade, economics, create "strange bedfellows" and opportunities for the "rejects" of society to make a mark.

There are gangs, gang bosses, and a command structure hierarchy.  And there's a government (with police) who consider themselves the legitimate rulers.  The rulers hold wars, pretty much as usual with wars.  The Gangs seem more interested in just surviving or in organizing for profit.

The main plot spanning most of the novels is about Characters outside the social power structures who have been wronged by those in power, and who seek justice, one way or another.

The focus on the Characters' drive and ambition is not revenge, but justice -- what they deep justice to be.

The Imposters of Aventil is full of magic, the toll doing magic takes on Characters, and the street-fight against drug-runners.

But it is also full of Relationship driven decision making - and there is a good bit of Romance among those Relationships.  It is not pure sexuality or lust but the grand intrigue of learning to know the real person behind the facade of body, and the bonding of souls via treasuring the other's unique qualities.

These are Strong Characters -- a topic we will have to revisit after you've had a chance to catch up with this 3-series-in-one-world work of art.

The themes are about Power - and the use and abuse of Power.  The Characters are well drawn, complex, and driven by their own agendas.  The reader is invited to take sides, to root for the Couples to cement their Relationships, and for the town (or neighborhood) to solidify into a safe place to raise children.

The world Maresca has built is ripe for transformation, for being conquered by Love and morphed into a family friendly place.

I keep reading these series, in spite of the shifting point of view that I do not like, because this fantasy world has verisimilitude.  The people create themselves the same problems we have created, and a few set about solving those problems pretty much as we would tackle ours.

Maradaine is real.

If you want to write novels that convince the reader (however temporarily ) that the Happily Ever After ending is possible in real life, study what Maresca has done here and watch what he does next.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trademarks Plunge Into Murky Waters

Trademarks are intended to be a "source identifier". They are not intended to be a restraint on anyone's vocabulary.

Imagine a science fiction world where certain words or phrases could be used only by certain individuals, and anyone who used a "marked" dictionary word could be punished severely. In my alien Djinn romance worlds, I did this with a clothing color.... but I digress.

There's an interesting (potentially game changing) trademark case "District Court In California Recognizes Plausible Trademark Rights Over Fictional Star Wars Board Game."

This ongoing case is about the presumably made up name of a fictional card game within the Star Wars franchise, that has been mentioned in the scripts, but allegedly has never been trademarked and turned into real world merchandise by Lucasfilms Ltd.


For Hogan Lovells, legal bloggers  Julia Anne Matheson and Gabriel Guerra Medellin offer analysis of the complexities and difficulties of claiming rights over a word, based on its inclusion in the scripts/books, and the game's importance to Han Solo's career.

Suppose that instead of calling the game Sabacc, Lucas had called it CockyPoker.

Another trademark battle has been fought and won/lost concerning whether or not the casual observer can distinguish the silhouette of a taurophon from a griffin (or griffon).

In "General Court Considers Likelihood Of Confusion Between Mythical Creatures", a European court (apparently not fans of the Harry Potter world... or of Vauxhall Motors which has a rampant griffin for its symbol) fret over how well known a griffin (or griffon) might be.

Apparently, the intellectual elites believe that the undiscerning population could be disastrously confused by even a low level of similarity, and so, a taurophon may not squat in silhouette with its tail raised.

Legal blogger Karen Dorsey for Taylor Wessing explains the Court's remarkable thinking.

For those interested in seeing if anyone is trying to trademark words in your book titles, follow cockybot.

Victoria Strauss shares trademark attorney Brad Frazer's comments on how far you can go when trademarking words to perform a source identification function.


It's invaluable advice for single title writing authors.

Also helpful, from early 2017, Melissa Thompson wrote for Business.com "5 Trademark Cases And What You Should Learn From Them".


Who knew that one has to be careful when describing a hero as the short form of "superlative"... at least as a source identifier.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry


Saturday, May 26, 2018

AI Trove... PS

Since I wrote about AI last week, there was the "Alexa-misunderstanding-a-conversation-as-commands" issue, and there is an advert about starting a car with a voice command.

For the latter, I immediately started plotting a futuristic murder suspense work of fiction, involving tape recorded voice commands that would start a lethal train of events...

On Facebook, I notice that it is still impossible to prevent a tagger wishing one "happy birthday"... although the information can be hidden from one's timeline, it can still show up beyond the reluctant birthday celebrant's control.

I also notice that facebook.net and facebook.com still disregard "Do Not Track" requests from persons who are not logged in to Facebook, and have not visited Facebook.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 24, 2018

YA Genre Fiction

Michael Cart, author of YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE: FROM ROMANCE TO REALISM, had an article on this past Sunday's editorial page of the Baltimore SUN proclaiming that YA literature is an American invention. The essay summarizes the highlights of the history of twentieth-century fiction for teens and the emergence of novels written specifically for them as a distinct marketing category:

YA Literature

Since this author is clearly an expert in the field, and the Amazon blurb for his book's third edition mentions that it covers horror, SF, and dystopian novels, it strikes me as particularly puzzling and annoying that he dismisses all fiction for teenagers before the late 1960s with remarks such as these:

Quoting S. E. Hinton, author of the classic THE OUTSIDERS: "The world is changing, yet the authors of books for teenagers are still 15 years behind the times. In the fiction they write, romance is still the most popular theme with a horse and the girl who loved it coming in a close second."

And Cart's own summary of the pre-1960s literary landscape: "Before these two novels [THE OUTSIDERS and Robert Lipsyte's THE CONTENDER], literature for 12 to 18 year olds was about as realistic as a Norman Rockwell painting — almost universally set in small-town, white America and featuring teenagers whose biggest problem was finding a date for the senior prom." Cart praises novels such as THE OUTSIDERS, THE CONTENDER, and those that followed them as "hard-hitting, truth-telling fiction" that "embraced real world considerations like abortion and homosexuality." Not that there's anything wrong with that. Doubtless nobody denies that novels reflecting life as experienced by their target audience and grappling with contemporary problems are a Good Thing. But not all children and teenagers want to read about characters like themselves who face problems similar to the ones they have to cope with every day, nor should they be obligated to. (See the topic of "escape," discussed here recently.)

Can Cart possibly be unaware of the early "juveniles" by Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein, in which young adults venture out into the world (in their cases, the universe), take on jobs of real importance, and accomplish meaningful contributions to their societies? Does he think for some reason that these books don't count in the history of teen literature? This ignoring or dismissal of an entire genre reminds me of an article I once saw lamenting the death of the short story. So, for that author, the short story was dying or dead? He or she had never read ANALOG, ASIMOV'S, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, CEMETERY DANCE, or WEIRD TALES (to name a few genre magazines flourishing at that time, before online publications)? Had never suspected the existence of the many original short-fiction anthologies published annually in fantasy, horror, and SF? That mourner of the short story's death looked for thriving markets in the wrong places. Likewise, judging from that one editorial article, Michael Cart is looking for pre-1960s YA fiction more "realistic" than "a Norman Rockwell painting" (not that there's always necessarily anything "unrealistic" about that, either; some of us DID live in lily-white suburbs in the 1950s and 60s) in the wrong place.

For a more comprehensive viewpoint: Speculative fiction scholar Farah Mendlesohn has published two books about the history of fantasy and SF for children and adolescents, THE INTER-GALACTIC PLAYGROUND and CHILDREN'S FANTASY LITERATURE: AN INTRODUCTION. Both are great reads, lively and informative. Although THE INTER-GALACTIC PLAYGROUND unfortunately has no reasonably priced edition (by my frugal standards; I read a library copy some time ago), the book on fantasy is affordable and well worth delving into.

On a completely different subject, have you been watching the PBS series NOVA WONDERS on Wednesdays? They've covered topics such as the microbiome inside us, AI, creating life, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Check it out if you can.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blurb Writing 101 - Part 2 - The Query Letter

Blurb Writing 101
Part 2
The Query Letter
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Part 1 of Blurb Writing 101 is posted here:


The "blurb" is the text on the front page or back cover (or for a hardcover, the text on the inside flap of the dust jacket). 

It is a "pitch" but not to the gatekeeper editor, rather directly to the reader.  Usually, the blurb is written either by the editor or the marketing department, very possibly from your query letter. 

The blurb is an ultimate, short description of the book which should cue a reader about whether they have read this book before, or read another in this series.  It should tickle the reader's imagination with the THEME -- which as noted in recent posts here, is a key delineator of Genre. 


Writing blurbs, pitches, elevator pitches, summaries, plot summaries, is a chore creative writers dread because it needs a total change of point-of-view.

As the "writer" (the one who imagines and crafts the telling of a story with depths, shades, nuances, rounded Characters, poetic justice) you know the reason you want to write this particular story is the reason the readers you are seeking to engage will enjoy reading it.

None of what you know is relevant to WHY a book-buyer buys a book.

And most marketers don't know and don't care why book buyers buy books.

All a marketer needs to know to succeed in turning a profit on a product is what other packaging sold recently.  That is closely guarded, proprietary information, even in publishing -- and film, TV, etc -- unless you hit the big time and earn bragging rights.

Marketers operate on the assumption that selling books is something they can do on purpose. 

Readers operate on the assumption that what is before their eyes to choose from is all there is.  Or at least, it is all there is time to consider -- people are too busy to seek out their entertainment.  In fact, if you have to work to find an entertaining piece, chances are you'll be too tired to enjoy it.

In other words, writers work in the invisible depths of Theme, Marketers work in the land of the bewildered, and Readers work in the surface image of what is available.

Fiction marketing (and music) is one place this changing world is most visible.

The way physical objects were marketed through "book stores" (B&N bricks-n-mortar outlets, retail like B. Daltons) is almost gone.

Retail is the link in the chain between wholesaler and individual purchaser.

Think of Retail as the guy driving a horse-and-wagon loaded with needles, thread, material, pots, pans, and other things a farm couldn't produce for themselves.  He is a trader. 

Retail is still based on this model.  The Retailer (Wal-Mart, Costco) picks out a tiny percentage of what is being produced, transports it, and offers it to individuals to buy.

Amazon broke that entire business model.  The breaking-point is the process of CHOOSING A TINY PERCENT to present to individuals in a given location.

Amazon carries everything.  Amazon (didn't used to) is not narrowing your choices.  After developing their warehousing and fulfillment process, Amazon turned to the old retail model of getting publishers and producers to PAY FOR AD SPACE on the "top page" presented to certain individuals.

So Amazon was able to break the "retailer selects only certain items for buyer to choose among" model, but not get rid of advertising.  Amazon needed the profit.

This disappointed me.  But now, though the Big Advertisers still shove the little guy out of the way, Amazon is helping readers (and buyers of other things) to find products that are not being advertised. 

In my experience, products with no advertising muscle behind them are of a much higher quality than products with huge advertising.  In fact, it is proportional to some extent -- the more advertising, the lower the quality. 

The exception is of course the "self-published" level.  But that, too is changing in this world.  Self-Publishers quickly learned the value of Beta-Readers (editors) and copyeditors.  Readers notice errors the original writer just can't see until they are pointed out.

But self-publishing (or small e-book publishing operations) still need to reach individual buyers.  And once reached, cultivate repeat business.  Just like any business model.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Just as Amazon was forced to adopt the underhanded and dishonest advertising tricks developed over centuries of marketing, so too the Indie Publisher or self-publisher must somehow "advertise."

There are new tools for that, and some of these tools are beginning to reshape book marketing.  As that happens, the inventors of these tools sell their little business to big businesses (like Amazon.)  Amazon bought Goodreads and Audible, and is still buying startups as they challenge the business model. 

The email Newsletter, discounts and free-first-in-a-series are two well used tools being perfected.

Here is one popular newsletter, Book Bub,
that started small, just showing you a small selection of free or 99cent titles each day -- and now has an elaborate website, divisions into categories you can subscribe to, and has become very choosy about what books they promote and in which order. 

Read and explore ALL THE LINKS at the bottom of that page.  Note the section, PUBLISHERS & AUTHORS.  Note the business model you can see reading those linked sections.  It's all about old fashioned marketing morphing into this changing world where individual customers have more choices -- too many choices.  Customers don't like "too many" choices. 

Indie writers now discuss "how to" get listed on book bub's daily newsletter, strategies for reaching the BookBub featured lists, and so on.  They are eager to "score" with Book Bub because sales spike when they do.  Even some of the Manhattan Big Three Publishers pitch in Book Bub's newsletter because it works.

But it only works if the blurb next to your cover, title and byline connects to a reader's imagination.  And writing that pitch, that blurb, is the Indie writer's job.

Book Bub only limits the size of the blurb.

So here's how to learn how to WRITE such a blurb.  Subscribe to their (free) email Newsletter, and read the blurbs every day.  Read the blurbs in your genre.  Notice which are written by Manhattan publishers. 

Two things to learn from this exercise. 

How to construct a blurb to place your novel into a genre that can be sold to an existing readership.

How cross-eyed bored editors (publishers, film producers) get reading pages and pages of blurbs.  There's no depth in them.  The really interesting stuff doesn't show.  Why bother?

Once you've written your blurb to be just like all the rest (which is necessary to sell at all) -- then you have to add or subtract (or both) something to distinguish yours from all the others. 

It is the old Hollywood plea -- "The same; but different!" 

Your product has to "match" the market shape, but have a unique color.  Or have the same color with a unique shape.

So here is the exercise: 

Identify an idea you have for a novel.

Read a lot of these newsletters.  Study the blurbs.  Study the one that stands out to you.  Get that book.  Read the book.  Match the book to the blurb (does it deliver what you thought the blurb promised?).  How do you feel about the author after reading the blurb then the book?  Find an author whose blurb/book match pleases you.  Figure out what bit of that match tickles you pink.

Do this with a lot of books pitched by blurbs -- maybe explore the series started with the pitched book.

Before you set out to write your novel, write your blurb. 

Reduce your story idea to a concise, interesting, the same but different, blurb.

Do this repeatedly (without writing the novel) to train your subconscious to produce ideas for novel projects that are pre-configured for your target genre, with theme/blurb relationship. 

Write the pitch FIRST.  Then do a 1 page summary.  Then an outline with scenes and chapters.  THEN write the novel.  This way you have written your query letter before you suffer the bewilderment of how to explain your fleshed out novel.  The pitch, summary and outline are your query letter -- but your novel must deliver on them, and they must be understandable to your readership at first sight.  The editor reads your query letter as much to discover if you know how to write as to figure out whether this novel fits the "line" or imprint she is editing for.

This post has a list of previous 6 posts on the editor's job and how a writer can use that knowledge to sell to an editor.  The trick is to change your point of view from the writer to the editor.


You will find many hugely successful writers who will explain they do not do it this way.  Dig a little, and you find most of them do all this pre-configuring non-verbally in the subconscious.  Some people learn it early and don't know they do it this way -- others train to do it later in life.  This is the interface between creating a story and conveying that story to the readers who will love it most.

Take a Best Selling novel in the genre you want to sell into, analyze it chapter by chapter, extracting the structure scene by scene, chapter by chapter.  Extract the skeleton of the novel, then use that skeleton to support the flesh of your novel. 

The skeleton (shape) is "the same" -- but the flesh (identity, individuality) is "different." 

Theme generates plot, and plot is the "the same" element.  Theme generates story, and the story is the "but different" element.

The Plot/Story structure can be cycled through all the genres by bringing one or another aspect of the theme to the foreground.  The "foreground" is the blurb and all the rest is commentary. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg