Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review of "Half The World" (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrombie.

Half way into "Half The World", it struck me that this book reminds me of "Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers" with Eowen's story folded into it. With bodily functions.

Not that I hadn't noticed the Eowen theme since page 34, if not before, when she meets her equivalent of the Lord of the Nazgul. The "no living man..." meme or trope was repeated rather too many times, and if I hadn't enjoyed the "thusness" and complexity of "Half A King" (Shattered Sea #1), I might have set the book aside, assuming that I knew the ending. I'm glad I kept reading.

From the set up, I half expected that eventually the warrior heroine Thorn Bathu would fight the very formidable Grom-Gil-Gorn (a Gilgamesh-like figure, who built the walls of Uruk... what fun to play word associations!) like Legolas fighting the Oliphaunt, on a smaller scale.

By the way, Mariah Huehner's "'I Am No Man' Doesn't Cut It" is an excellent commentary on the difference between the Eowen of the book and the Eowen of the movie. I looked it up after reaching my own conclusions, and was very taken by analysis.

Bottom line, if you loved Eowen, you'll probably like Thorn Bathu. Thorn begins her journey by fighting three boys (and being judged to have not only failed the unequal test, but sentenced to death when her battle is most unpleasantly interrupted), and she progressively fights more and more men simultaneously. To fight one invincible warrior seems almost an anticlimax after some of her adventures.

The backstory of the elves is built upon in this middle book in the series, with elf relics playing a bigger role. What kind of elves, though, toted shotguns? I have to read "Half A War" to find out if I'm right. I also want to know how Yarvi gets to kill Grandmother Wexen.  As with a Romance, which this is not although there are romantic elements, the greatest interest is the How, not the What or the Why.

The bad faith diplomacy and cut-throat intrigue of the courts of the various high and low Kings, Queens, and of the Empress of the South is highly entertaining. Father Yarvi, the Minister is very like the Queen (or Grand Vizier) in a game of chess, and his uncle, King Uthil (who was "Nobody" in the first book in the Shattered Sea series) is a surprisingly limited mover... like Theoden. In this book, Yarvi seems older, and nicer, but of course, he is mostly seen through the narration of his two pawns, Thorn Bathu and the muscular and morally courageous Brand, and one must remember that Yarvi is "a deep-cunning man." In a complex and complicated series such as this, one should never underestimate the unreliability of a young and unsophisticated POV narrator, especially when it is a virtuous teenager.

All the same, I think that Brand will have to be killed off in the next book. He knows too much. Father Yarvi tells him too much.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Death of the Midlist

A blog by horror author Brian Keene offering the most thorough explanation I've seen lately about the root causes of the death of the midlist:

How the Mid-List Died

In brief, he blames "corporate stupidity" and changes in publishing. His overview gives an interesting brief history of those changes. He doesn't mention one other source of the problem, alterations in tax laws that made it more expensive for publishers to store large inventories of backlist books.

He discusses the importance of an author's having books available through online sales, independent bookstores, and what's left of the nationwide chains (if possible). That said, he pessimistically expects Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million eventually to go extinct as Borders and Waldenbooks did.

Here's Keene's follow-up essay on the practical aspects of diversifying as an author:

Making a Living in a Post-Mid-List World

Again he emphasizes the need to avoid putting all one's creative eggs in the same publishing basket. No longer can a non-bestseller expect to earn a living wage by writing for one or two publishers, as Keene did at the beginning of his career.

He mentions that he started getting published twenty years ago; from this bit of data, I infer that he's younger than I am. When my first book was published (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), I broke into the mass-market paperback realm by selling an anthology of vampire stories, CURSE OF THE UNDEAD (you can find cheap used copies on Amazon), to Fawcett. In my early twenties, with no professional publication or editing track record whatever, I got a contract to edit an anthology—a type of book nowadays considered a very hard sell—for a major genre publisher. Not only that, I received an advance (in 1970 dollars) almost half as large as the one Harlequin paid me (in 2005 dollars) for my only mass-market novel, vampire romance EMBRACING DARKNESS (still available as an e-book).

Verily, the past is a different country.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Marketing Fiction in a Changing World Part 18 Amazon Makes Some Bad Marketing Decisions

Marketing Fiction in a Changing World
 Part 18
 Amazon Makes Some Bad Marketing Decisions
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Amazon has a rule against writers "reviewing" books by other writers.

I'm an Amazon Vine reviewer, and a writer, and of course I know a lot of writers on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It's almost impossible for me to read a book by anyone who isn't a friend, friend of a friend, member of one or another writer's group -- somehow connected online.

Amazon's snoops can find those connections.

So they assume I'm just shilling for my friends' books.

Well, a lot of beginning, self-publishing writers do get their friends to post 5-star reviews, so they can amass 500 5-star reviews to brag about.

But guess what? If you know a person and are friends with them, if you LIKE a person, chances are very good you will indeed like the books or stories they write -- even if they aren't very well written, but just great stories that thrill your bones.

That is the nature of fiction. Fiction transmits from the subconscious of the writer to the subconscious of the reader -- when there is some sort of harmony of the notes between you, you LIKE each other's fiction.

I've spent a lot of time on this Alien Romance blog talking about writing craft, and how the writers' perspective on "headlines" and especially politics, and social movements, is vastly different from the perspective someone just living in our civilization experiences.

Writers see the universe as differently as Graphic artists do.

Writers experience reading fiction differently than non-writers do.'

You know you're a writer when you have lost all enjoyment from reading books, and then all of a sudden find yourself enjoying books again, but seeing something totally different.

Writers enjoy well crafted stories that shine with artistic brilliance.

Non-writers never get to experience that brilliance full on.

CAUTION: there are people, readers, who have never written or never published a story, who are nevertheless writers in this sense. They see, and revel in, the technical craftsmanship of novels.  Many such people end up working as editors. Even more are professional reviewers, librarians, teachers, and personal friends with lots of published writers.

So production of stories in text format is not the criterion I use, but it is the criterion that Amazon seems to use to purge the comments on a novel of any really useful information you might want before you buy a book.

If you're a professional writer, editor, publisher, etc. Amazon doesn't want you to inform the public about the brilliance or the flaws in a work someone might want to buy.'

But as it happens, the ONLY people capable of both enjoying a friend's works and judging that work objectively enough to inform a general reader are the very people Amazon prohibits from performing that service.'

In other words, Amazon has made a very bad marketing decision.

On the other hand, Amazon does own, where writers and readers can interact.

So there is method to their madness, but it does not serve the general fiction reader browsing for something to read.

One of the most informative bits of information a prospective book buyer can have is a list of which other writers this new writer is friends with.  Who hangs out with whom.  Which new writers have been inspired by the writers you grew up loving most?

The generational hand-off of traditions in writing is one thing Librarians taught me to look for, when I was learning to browse a public library.

So today, I'm giving you a book series by a writing student I started on a long and varied career who is now garnering top awards attention.

Here is what I wrote on Facebook (back in February 2016) about the third book in his award winning series:

Here is Book 3 in a Series that is garnering vast amounts of Award attention, and with good reason. It's about a human polymath from Earth who because of a labyrinth of political machinations ends up leading a First Contact and First Deep Contact mission into a well populated (and war-torn) Galaxy.

The worldbuilding is detailed, the space-war-armament development superlative, the aliens suitably strange and amazing (and mysterious), and I'm smitten with the portrayal of a polymath at work. Anything more I might say could be "spoilers" for some, so take a good look at this novel and dive right in. It's easily readable even if you haven't read the previous ones.

This series is getting Nebula attention. In some ways it reminds me of Cj Cherryh 's galaxy-building visions, or Janeen O'Kerry - in fact the galactic history building in Janeen's series on THE SALIK WARS and THEIRS NOT TO REASON WHY is similar, though Janeen is known for her Romance novels.

I can only wonder if Robert J. Sawyer has read this whole series. In a way, the concept reminds me of Jack McDevitt with overtones of Jack Campbell Taylor Anderson - Author of The Destroyermen carrying on in the tradition of Keith Laumer and Poul Anderson.

So far the series is not a Romance, and does not feature a Love Story -- BUT Caine as a character is one grand hunk, and like Spock will become a focus for many Romance style stories.

---------end quote----
You will note that is Book 3 -- there is a 4th coming soon -- and if you have been following my series on Worldbuilding, you will find the Caine Riordan series extremely interesting.

Now, to an example of what kind of information Amazon wants to deprive shoppers of.

Here below is a comment made on Facebook by Charles Gannon after reading the anthology of stories written by writers other than Jean Lorrah and I -- contributing new characters and new angles to the Sime~Gen Universe.

Here is the book I gave him a copy of in exchange for a copy of his Raising Caine --- a common practice among writers, severely frowned upon by Amazon.

---------from Charles E. Gannon --------
If you are a fan of series and universes that unfold themselves over the course of multiple books and stories, creating a world in which you get immersed, then you need to be aware of this if you are not already:

The Sime-Gen series launched by Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Intrigue, exploration, adventure, house politics, and under it all, much larger, lurking questions of where different societies are able to find synergy--and where they are likely to tumble into devastating conflict.

Does this sound like a paid-for advertisement? Well, in one sense it is...because, you see, I have a debt to (gladly, joyously) repay that I will never be done repaying: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, for reasons I will never fully understand, took me under her writing wing when I was 12 years old. The attention and enthusiasm she lavished on those early efforts of mine was nothing short of Herculean. In a file cabinet not more than 25 yards from where I sit writing this, I have her first 7 pg (single space, Corolla type-written) critique of a story that was, maybe, about 80 % as long as her critique.

I knew at that moment what good fortune had descended upon me in the form of her mentorship. Or so I thought: until you actually are working in this field, you cannot fully appreciate the way a good mentor's initial lessons keep paying dividends, kept showing up to guide you like a footman's lantern down the better path.

It was also only later on that I fully realized what an extraordinary craftsperson she is, and how far-sighted her vision was of attempting to tell a story across a variety of media, over time: an exercise in world-building that preceded the gaming industry's discovery of just how many ways you can sell world-expansion and development products that create a total narrative in which the once-focal adventure products become small specific events that subtly push the warp and woof of the much bigger world-tapestry that has been created.

So, as advertisements go, this one sucks. It's too long, too personal, too gushing...yeah. I know all that. I worked in advertising. But you won't forget it--and that's the point. Because until you go and see what I'm talking about in the form of Jacqueline's extraordinary Sime-Gen saga, you won't know the extraordinary voice and vision that gave rise to this long paean of praise.

So: go here--and find out what I'm talking about.

And here's the Amazon page that is your gateway into this incredible world:

The newest entry in the Sime-Gen series Fear and Courage is at the bottom of the page, and features some of the other many persons who Jacqueline has mentored, who have brought the voices she helped them find and refine back to this wonderful world in order to expand it even more.

Don't miss out.

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

So you see, tracing the connections among writers can give you an amazing amount of information about whether you will enjoy a book or not -- all having little or nothing to do with the blurb on the book, the content, story description, spoilers, or other readers saying "I liked it" or "It was a page-turner."

As a beginning writer, cultivate connections with writers whose work you admire.  I learned from the generation previous to me. It is a long-long tradition going back to cave dwelling days and stories around camp fires.  We are bards.

Here is a permalink to Chuck's post on Facebook.  Glance through the comments for mentions of other writers his fans read.

And here is a permalink to my Facebook post about RAISING CAINE so you can see the comments there.

It turns out I made a mistake picking names from the FB dropdown, and Janeen O'Kerry corrected me, adding Jean Johnson to the list of writers you should check out.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Oh, Arrgh and Blasty!

There's a new service on the horizon to help authors locate and scupper pirate links on Google. It's in Beta, so is free to the patient and those willing to provide feedback... and to the impatient for a fee of $19.99.

Note, it is dot co , not dot com!

So far, I am impressed. When I applied, I was asked to name one of my titles, and to give my author name. Once I was accepted, I was allowed to create a password, upload my covers, add the rest of my titles, and to start "Blasting" copyright infringing search results on Google.

The site only works with Google Chrome. One can apply without using Chrome, but the findings and the choice whether to Blast any given link or whitelist it only work in Chrome.  I am not clear whether the service actually sends a takedown to the hosting site, or only to Google so this service might be a supplement to a service such as or DMCAForce 

However, even if it removes Google search results, that makes it harder for most pirates to be found by "valuable traffic" and to make money off other people's works without paying them. Many of the links go to sites that are obviously hosted overseas, and that have no intention of honoring the DMCA in any case. Some post the legal blurb that they are required to post, and warn copyright owners of severe penalties for sending a DMCA notice in error.

Many post a cover and some blurb and big "DOWNLOAD" links. Authors should understand that they only have to have a "good faith belief". The DMCA does not require that authors download malware or infringe other people's copyrights (where multiple ebooks are hosted in one place) in order to suspect that their ebooks are being published and distributed in violation of their rights.  There are scam sites that probably don't have any ebooks at all, but hope that people who know they are behaving immorally if not illegally will provide credit card information to "subscribe", or else will download ransomware in hopes of a free read of something erotica.

(If you look closely at the blurry pages sites that purport to have a certain title, you may see a tiny disclaimer that they may not have that title, but will have something related and equally interesting.)

Surprisingly, some Google results are .pdfs that are pages of live links to where ebooks may or may not be hosted.  Anyone trying this service will have to take the time to look at all the results before taking the decision whether to Blast, to WhiteList or to leave it for later.

So far, I've Blasted 54 links, and although one cannot believe the copyright infringing sites' boasts about how many happy people have downloaded each book, it looks like I could have lost tens of thousands of potential sales (which, if on Amazon, might have resulted in tens of thousands of returns, to!!!).

My bottom line: after trying this new service for four days, I am inclined to heartily recommend it.  I would suggest, though, that if any alien romance authors (or authors from any other genre, but I like to hit my metadata!!!) that you copy and paste the urls you find suspicious and email them to yourself , because once they are gone from Google, you might want to see if they are still on Bing and Dogpile and the other search engines. Or, you might want to send DMCAs to some of them.

Happy hunting,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Real-Life "Superpowers"

Here are three lists of real-life extraordinary human anomalies from the "Cracked" website:

DNA Mutations That Make Ordinary People X-Men

Personally, I wouldn't classify genes for adventurousness and happiness as superpowers, simply normal variations. The Argentinians who have a supernormal tolerance for arsenic and the Inuit who process dietary fats differently from the rest of us, though, strike me as bona-fide extraordinary.

A sample of abilities everybody has in infancy but loses as he or she grows up:

5 Superpowers We All Had as Babies

A recurring theme of these infant "powers" is that growth requires pruning and focusing so that some abilities get lost as a necessary part of adjustment to the needs of adult life. For instance, pre-verbal babies can hear and produce all the sounds possible to the human vocal apparatus; when they learn to talk, however, they "forget" how to process the sounds their native language doesn't use. Reminds me of the scene in MARY POPPINS where we're told all babies understand the language of birds, yet as they learn human speech, they lose that gift.

How about a man who can touch live wires with impunity because he has seven to eight times greater resistance to electricity than the average person? Or the autistic savant with perfect visual memory, who can draw a whole city in accurate detail after seeing it once? The man who can control his autonomic body functions so well he can sit almost naked on ice without freezing and the man with reflexes faster than the human eye can follow also fit credibly into the "superpower" category:

6 Real People with Superpowers

If the environment changed radically enough in some distant future era, could one of these traits become so important to survival that it spread widely through the population, making individuals who carried that gene an elite group? In the back story of Tanith Lee's SABELLA, a human-like species evolved a form of gender dimorphism in which women fed on the blood of their mates, so that the population could survive dire, long-term food scarcity. How great a change in the environment would be required to generate alterations in human biology this extreme? Or the tendril-bearing, telepathic mutants of A. E. Van Vogt's SLAN or the Simes and Gens of Jacqueline's far-future Earth?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 12: What Makes Evil Seductive? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 12

What Makes Evil Seductive?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Is existence, all human experience, the condition of being human, a battle between "Good" and "Evil?"

Of such abstract questions are High Concept themes composed.

A writer is generally a writer because a born writer just can't not-write!

Writing, per se, is seductive.

But we still must somehow "make a living."  So it is with great trepidation that most of us realize that what we write is of no real use or interest to anyone else. What a bummer!

Still, life is not so terrible for born writers, provided one little trick is firmly mastered early in life.

The trick? REWRITING.

There are at least 4 Types of Writers (and any given person may morph from one to another throughout life).

TYPE A:  Isaac Asimov is a prime example. This type writes and sells "first drafts." Many beginners think that if their first drafts are not sell-able, then they "can't write."  But that's not true. It's just that they aren't TYPE A writers.  There are very few TYPE A writers working professionally in writing. Most of them are Journalists. Remember Asimov wrote mostly non-fiction best sellers.

TYPE B: Many more writers do their first drafts in their mind, then rewrite and refine it all mentally.  Eventually, they just type it up.  To an observer it all looks remarkably easy. When asked how they write such best selling material, they have no idea how to explain it.  This type of writer can't figure out what beginners don't know.

TYPE C: An even more populous category of writers first-draft mentally, then rewrite and refine by telling the story verbally to other people.  I've known a few who did that, but I am generally of a type.  Most of the Type C writers I know personally never publish.

TYPE D: The most populated category is the work-a-day writer who writes a first draft for personal satisfaction, then stores that in the proverbial bottom drawer and hammers out a sellable version of the story through the process known as drafting, or rewriting.

All of Type D's rewriting efforts that we will discuss today are done long before an agent or editor ever sees the manuscript. Much of the re-drafting is done before Beta Readers see any of it (or hear of it). Then Beta Reader input is digested and incorporated, producing more drafts.  Finally, after submission and acceptance, comes more drafting to hammer the work into shape for the specific publisher's existing market.

Here is a series of posts detailing exactly what an editor's job is from the point of view of a writer trying to appear professional.

Part VII contains links to previous parts.

So what has the type of writer you are got to do with What Makes Evil Seductive?

Well, types A, B, and C either already know or don't want to know.

It's Type D writers who have to learn, know, observe, dissect, analyze, and understand such abstract ideas that compose the core material of a theme.

When writing for yourself, for personal satisfaction, to craft a story about an interesting person, you don't have to SHOW DON'T TELL, illustrate or dramatize the utterly abstract notion of Good or Evil, or even the conflict between them.

You don't need a theory of Good and Evil - what they are, where they came from, which side your protagonist is on, which side wins, - or any conscious statement of these abstract, underlying principles of Creation.

You don't need religion. You don't even need to know if you have a Religion, never mind what your Religion is.

You just write your story, and it is yours.

But if you intend to monetize the time spent writing, rather than just tossing it away as "recreational," then as a Type D writer,  you will have to think hard about abstractions.

There are 3 things to study separately before combining them into a coherent Worldbuilding exercise based on a cleanly stated Theme so you can show-don't-tell how your Characters' World is fully integrated with your Theme.

If these 3 things are clear in your mind when you begin a rewrite,  you will be able to convey the Unity of  your World and your Theme in one, penetrating, unforgettable, quotable scene.

1) What your intended audience assumes about the nature of Good, Evil and how they conflict.

2) What you assume about the nature of Good, Evil, and how they conflict.

3) What your Characters assume ab out the nature of Good, Evil, and how they conflict.

Here's one example about what audiences assume:

"The Good Guys Win Because They Are Good."

That's an envelope theme, and can be broken out into thousands of more specific themes, such as Love Conquers All.

Yes, Love Conquers All is a thematic statement about the nature of Reality -- it is made concrete by assigning the value "Love" to the initial variable "Good Guys."

To be a "Good Guy/Gal" the Character must be
a) capable of love,
b) using that capability when we first meet the Character (saving the cat), and
c) losing at first, taking it well, coming back in middle, hitting his stride at the 3/4 point, and winning in the end.

In our culture, "Winner" = "Good"

Being enamored of the romance genre novel, we generally tend to be seduced by Love.

Romance is the hint of the hope of love.  Romance seduces even the most wayward Character into Love.

We live in a world where Love = Good = Winner.  And Love starts with Romance, the quick double-take, the captured attention, the incessant obsession, the surrender to Love.

So, if the Romance Genre Novel is all about Love,
about Good,
about being good or becoming good,
about falling in love with "The Good Guy" who is the Winner-Guy (big, strong, hunk, powerful protector),
then why is the Bad Boy Romance so seductive?

Why do we drool over an unshaven, torn jeans, tough-guy biker running from the law?

Why is Darth Vader so popular?  Why are there so many Evil Guy costumes at ComicCon?

Why did the Vampire Romance explode so fast big three publishers had to invent spine-symbols for those books on the Romance shelves? Most Vampires in Vampire Romance were pretty good Good Guys, or struggling to be so. Remember the TV Series Forever Knight and that hot romance with a woman Coroner?

Or conversely, why is Cozy Romance so popular?

If "Winner" = "Good" does that mean "Loser" = "Bad" ?

What makes Evil seductive?

Today, the genre tropes and tastes, even the sub-genre names and symbols have shifted to market to a new generation.

Today, the Fantasy Genre is churning out, in books, TV and film, endless variations on Worlds  built around "Meta-Humans" or other mutations, some from parallel universes, some with "magical powers."

One such example is the TV Series The Magicians.

"The Magicians" stars Jason Ralph ("A Most Violent Year," "Aquarius") as Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant grad student who enrolls in Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, a secret upstate New York university specializing in magic.

And of course, we have The Flash, Supergirl, and many others, both in comics, and now on TV and film.

The Worldbuilding provides the display case, the black-velvet backdrop, to show off the Strange People (the Aliens).  Some like The Flash or Supergirl are 'Good Guys" but in each case, there's some sort of "Bad Guys" for the Good Guys to fight.

What is so fascinating about these Variant Humans?

In most of the Built Worlds, "they" live secretly underneath or beside regular humans such as the reader/viewer.

In others, they have two identities, like Superman and Clark Kent.

Rarely are they publicly known and accepted, but we see that kind of Worldbuilding in novels today. I expect to see it on TV soon. We have had the TV Series Alien Nation where the aliens were known to have crash landed on Earth.

And there was the lovely TV Series Beauty and the Beast

So, today, the mass market audience has become accustomed to Aliens among or beneath us.

And the image of The Alien has morphed from Alien  = Bad Guy (early Hollywood, not cured by The Day The Earth Stood Still), to Aliens Are People, Too.

Thus today's Aliens (magical, Vampire, Supernatural, other dimensional, meta-human mutants by accident or genetic experiment) come in Good Guy and Bad Guy flavors.

Remember the TV Series V ?

What made that series interesting was the single Alien who saw how Evil was encroaching on his people and defected to the Human Resistance fighters (Good Guys).

So you see a group of 1980's TV Series here that etch the outlines of a cultural shift in the way your Romance reader audience regards and defines Good and Evil.

Perhaps the entire world culture has be 'seduced to the Dark Side of the Force?'

I doubt there is one, single, answer that a writer of any of the 4 Types can use to reach "all audiences."  But you don't need a General Relativity Theory to market a novel.

You don't need all answers or "the" answer -- you just need "an answer" that your Protagonist discovers he/she knows and believes, uses and applies to his/her problem, and WINS.

Happily Ever After is a plausible ending, a "win" if it is the optimal answer to the question posed on Page One, usually in Paragraph One.

The Good Guy/Gal is introduced on Page One at the moment in life when the general Battle of Good Vs. Evil impacts his/her life.

It is a pivotal moment that makes or breaks a life.  Some audiences lust to see a life broken, especially the life of a Good Guy/Gal.  Others yearn desperately to experience what it would be like if the "Good" quality of a human being CAUSED (because-line = plot) that person to Win.  The sure sign that winning happened is the moment when Romance turns to Love.

So what is seductive about Evil?

Find out what your audience thinks, what you think, and what your character thinks about why Evil is seducing them -- then craft the moment when Good chooses to do Good despite the apparently inevitable, and devastating cost.

Fabricate your fictional world in such a way that the Evil in it can be converted to Good, then show don't tell the process of converting.

For Romance Genre, that usually means taking your Bad Boy Hero and showing him what life is like on the Good Girl side of the tracks.

Let your Good Girl be seduced by your Bad Boy, leave him despite the cost in lost love, and by that leaving, awaken the Goodness within the Bad Boy.  The Awakening is shown not told in the moment when he 'saves the cat' at the end of the book. (Remember Darth Vader's death scene.)

That is the High Concept story we all love so much -- as in the TV Series V -- a minion of the Evil Guys has an epiphany and throws in with the Good Guys. He's a traitor to his Oath to Evil, but we see him as a Good Guy because of it. Poetic Justice.

In Romance genre, what makes Evil so sexually seductive is the potential for converting it to Good.  But what happens when Good is converted to Evil?

If you've first drafted such a novel, on rewrite, you need to write down very clearly, what is Good, what is Evil, and why they can't co-exist without conflict. You need 3 definitions to each of those three elements - your audience's, yours, and your Characters' definitions.

Conform each of the scenes in the novel to that set of definitions. The set of definitions is your Theme.  Theme is the core element in the Type D writer's rewrite process.  First Draft may be haphazzard and chaotic, dramatic power viciated by  contradicting themes. But the finished product must be pristine, single-pointed, clarity personified.

The Theme is what the book is about, what it says about Life, The Universe, and Everything. It is the Truth as the Character comes to see it at the end. The transition from delusion to truth in the Character's perceptions is the source of reader satisfaction.

In other words, the writer's job is to deliver the "Aha!" moment of illumination to the reader.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Imagine pores in a human skin. If you wish, imagine blackheads in pores in human skin. Now imagine each dark pore is teeming with life forms, and each one contains a slightly different and isolated ecosystem.

You'd have a one disgusting world, wouldn't you?  Or myriad disgusting microworlds.

There is a similar phenomenon in the world's glaciers, and there is a 3-page, illustrated story about it in this month's DISCOVER magazine. The authors of that article mention man-made global warming, and say that the cryoconite phenomenon is exacerbating the melting of the glaciers.

As I read about the sticky airborne bacteria flying through the air, gathering up dark dust and fragments of salts and minerals and black waterbears, then landing on glacial ice and absorbing sunlight into the dark matter and thus melting tiny holes the ice like road salt does on iced roads, I thought of all the recent volcanic activity.

I don't think the article mentioned volcanic ash, but the focus was on how the tiny dark pools form, and how ecosystems are created and fed by sunlight and photosynthesis, and how the dark dust sinks to the bottom, attracting warmth and sunlight, and increasing in size, and life thrives and evolves.

Volcanoes seemed more likely to me, especially since there was Eyjafjallojokull in 2010 (which shut down most of the European airports for several days) and then the biggest series of Icelandic volcanic eruptions in centuries through 2014, and more in 2015.  One can find a list of which volcanoes are currently erupting here: and more about volcanoes here: 

How can one talk about dark dust on glaciers and not talk about volcanoes?

So, I googled "volcanoes + cryoconite", and sure enough, someone--Patrick R Dugan PhD-- has written an excellent and highly informative book about the effect of volcanoes on "climate change" and on glaciers.

With my copyright activist hat on for a moment, I have to express my astonishment that Google displays over 40 consecutive pages of a 64 page book that is in copyright and for sale on Amazon. How that is an insignificant snippet of the work that cannot affect sales... is beyond my comprehension.

As one might expect, volcanoes throw up an uncommon mixture of minerals, salts, fragments of rock,  ash, dust, and no doubt bits of whatever happened to be living on the top or side of the mountain before it erupted. That explains the waterbears in the air!

As a writer of alien romances, I imagine alien worlds from time to time, and --forgive me if I've mentioned it previously-- I like the idea of multiple ecosystems developing in parallel, and in otherwise hostile surroundings.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Prehistory of Artificial Intelligence

A brief historical survey of automata:

Frolicsome Engines

Machines that imitate voluntary movements, operated by hydraulics, go back at least to the first century. Later, similar mechanisms were also operated by clockwork and by cylinders with pinholes. Pinned cylinders, of course, led in a direct line to punch cards used in automatic looms and eventually to computer punch cards. Charles Babbage, in the 1830s, modeled the operations of his Analytical and Difference Engines on automatic looms.

As the article describes, many of those early automata performed frivolous activities such as soaking unwary visitors with water, not to mention the famous artificial defecating duck mentioned in the title. On a more serious level, medieval automata enacted religious motifs such as mechanized tableaux of Paradise and Hell. In the eighteenth century, pinned cylinders allowed mechanical figures to play musical instruments and produce speech.

Contemporary observers were intrigued by automata on the grounds that perhaps they "genuinely modeled the workings of nature." Automata foregrounded the philosophical theories of the time about "animate versus inanimate matter, willful versus constrained motion, mindless versus intelligent labor." In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, living processes were interpreted in terms of clockwork. Nowadays, we often think of the brain as an organic computer. Our concepts of how life and thought work are heavily influenced by our technology.

Of course, the animated machines of past centuries don't display "intelligence" in any sense we recognize. Yet at the time they inspired speculation about the nature of voluntary versus involuntary action. How much independent action does an artificial device have to be capable of before it transcends the status of a toy to become a robot or an AI? When our older granddaughter was a preschooler, we gave her a talking doll that probably had more brain power than our first computer.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Theme-Conflict Integration Part 2: Battle of Ideas - A Grifter, A Shyster, and A Priest Walk Into A Bar

Theme-Conflict Integration 
Part 2: Battle of Ideas
A Grifter, A Shyster, and A Priest Walk Into A Bar
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 - about J. J. Abrams and sexism is here:

Last week we discussed Theme-Marketing Integration, and this week we'll look at a particular best selling writer's recent novel for examples about how Theme and Marketing can be Integrated using Theme-Conflict Integration.

So what if the "Bar" that the Grifter, the Shyster, and the Priest walk into doesn't serve liquor, but justice? What if the Bar is the Court of Law?  Or perhaps, the Bar is an Alien  Court of Law?

Art is an selective depiction of reality.

That selectivity is best illustrated by the cartoonist's art.

Here's an example from Dick Morris Reports back in January, 2016 when Trump and Cruz went at each other on stage at the Fox Business Republican Debate.


Note the YELLOW hair - strokes vaguely evocative of Trump's haircut.

Note the nose-to-nose post, squashing both (in reality different) noses flat against each other.

Note the bloodshot eyeballs shooting out of their heads.  Conflict is "eyeball to eyeball" in modern parlance, but it is not meant literally.  Here in this selective recreation of reality, you see it literally.

Note the boxing gloves, posed fist to fist -- the suggestion is of a "hit" but each hitting the other on the very well armored protection of the glove.  "The Gloves Come Off" is a metaphor for bloody fighting, fighting for real, not prize-fighting.

Note how this selective graphic representation somehow conjures "reality" in your mind's eye. That is exactly what writers do when "hooking" you into a novel.  That is a graphic representation of how to create an  opening paragraph. It is also an entire essay on how to create a book cover.

Remember the line, used politically earlier than January, "this is not a cage-match."  Meaning, it's not for real. Nobody's whole life is in danger. It's just a game played until the winner gets a prize -- it is not a grudge-match, it is a Game.

Politics is called, "The Game Of Politics."  Internationally, The Great Game - where politicians use spies to maneuver nations into a Hobson's Choice, or Prisoner's Dilemma.

It is not called the "Literature of Ideas."  Nor is politics termed, "A Meeting Of Minds."  It is a Game.

So who are the "players" of this Game?

Maybe it is "Politicians" vs. "Voters?"

And what is the name of the Game?

The Protection Racket?  The Confidence Racket (or Con Man)?  Snakeoil Salesman? Scammer? Phishing?

Note the title of this piece -- A Grifter, A Shyster, A Priest.  These are three Attributes that are  components of every living person.

We all know what a grifter is from watching the TV Series Leverage.

"Shyster" is a derogatory term for lawyer, or sometimes any businessman who relies on deception or fraud.

"Priest" here means your Inner Priest, your conscience, spiritual sensitivity, sense of right and wrong, of fair and just. That Inner Priest configures your personal individual identity by patching together the crazy-quilt of beliefs, rules of thumb, maxims, old wive's tales, and cliches by which you live your life and make major spur of the moment decisions.

So grifters and shysters pretend to be something they are not.  Do writers do that?  Do writers have to do that?  Is all back cover copy fraudulent? Does being in the business of self-publishing make you a shyster?  After all, you're selling the "snake oil" of the Happily Ever After Ending.  Are writers all con artists?

What exactly is a Con Artist?

Most people probably think that all politicians are con artists, except the one oddball who seems trustworthy.  Many bar fights start from disagreements over which politician is trustworthy.

Here's an article that explains what an app detected in voice analysis of Presidential candidates:

And here's another article that explains the same thing from a different perspective.  Compare these two articles and any others you find about this app, and reconstruct - as an archeologist does - the original press release.

Both articles seem to be made from the same press release, a publicity barrage that has to have had immense amounts of money behind it, yes, but also a marketing genius leveraging the USA political calendar (these articles appeared deep into January, right before the Iowa Causes.)

The company was trying to sell you an app.  And they went on a campaign to trick you into wanting it by tying it to the headlines of the day - the most popular and riveting spectator sport of January - the Presidential Primary Season. (just like Basketball Season or Deer Season.)

When you see articles announcing something like this app product -- not paid ads, but ARTICLES that might as well be paid ads, that sell you on wanting something better than a paid ad could sell you -- you are looking at marketing.  It is a whole profession, usually incompatible with the skills of a writer. Today, we conflate News with Publicity.

Each newspaper or magazine editor requires the writers to take these topical press releases and craft an article "slanted" toward their special readership's interest. So each article is ostensibly about something different -- but the core content is the press release.

Fiction writing skills let you take a press release and craft a newspaper or magazine article from that release.

In writing fiction,  you learn to take a huge mass of data (your story Idea) and re-arrange it into a straight-line (plot) that will interest (story) your particular target readership.

Writing such a release is an entirely different profession.

Today's self-publishing novelists need to master both skill sets because "publishing" means PUBLICITY, or press-release.  Getting widely distributed "news" sources to focus their readers' attention on your novel is very hard.

Writing an article from a press release is very similar to writing an advertisement, or 'cover blurb' from a press release.  Both craft skills require sorting through a jumble of facts to "bring to the surface" or emphasize certain "selected traits" (like the blond hair in the cartoon above) to "characterize" the novel.

You characterize a novel as belonging to a particular genre, appealing to a specific reader.

You selectively recreate the reality of what is in the novel, drawing a caricature, a cartoon, of the novel itself.

And like the two articles linked above, each depicting a larger reality, you take your own "larger reality" of the novel you have written, and whack-and-whittle it down by selecting TRAITS (like the trademarked "hair") and leaving out all the rest.

It is what you leave out that (for you) was the whole point of writing the novel to begin with. In fact, that most important part or point is often edited out before publication by a major house.

You can learn a lot about what to  "select" for your cartoon representation of your novel, and what to leave to the imagination, by studying the Battle Of Politicians and the Race For The White House (will they ever paint it another color?).

What you learn has to do with not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Just like that cartoon does not "tell the truth," and just like the two articles about an app being publicized do not "tell the truth" about the app.

You 'select' the traits of your novel that connect  best to your target audience.  Thus, since Trump's hair was the subject of so much attention at first, his trademark became his hair-transplant comb-over style.

So look at your Theme, state your theme a number of different ways until you hit on vocabulary and imagery that "depicts" the topic the readership has been most deeply involved in lately. In other words, rip your theme from the headlines.  Make your THEME recognizable to your target audience, so book browsers see it and say, "I love that kind of book."

The Conflicting elements have to be depicted in your blurb, too.

Note in the cartoon how the eyes pop -- I mean, really!  I wouldn't believe that image of Aliens -- but one non-verbal glance and you know what that popping eyeballs image means, even if you miss the gloves.

Donald Trump's college degree is in Business, not Law.

Cruz made a neat point of that by saying he wouldn't take legal advice from Trump.  But we all know that Trump got the advice he's spouting at Cruz from his own Lawyers.  Lawyers get to know Presidential candidates in hopes of a Supreme Court appointment in the future.

So the "conflict" in that cartoon is "lawyers vs. lawyers." The lawyers are using the politicians to fight a "proxy war."

Lawyers are famous for a) picking fights (as in divorces that would have been amicable if not for the lawyers getting involved) and b) backing people into a corner so they will "settle" whatever lawsuit.

Lawyers are also famous for charging a lot of money -- but nothing like what Publicists charge.  Lawyers, though, being lawyers seem to get to keep a bigger chunk of the fees paid.

Under current law in the USA, it is virtually legal for lawyers to behave like grifters.  To become a rich grifter, get a law degree.

What do lawyers do that is patterned on what grifters do (or is it vice-versa?).

If you've won the lottery or been in a traffic accident, a building collapse, or sold a product that some odd individual got injured using, you will find yourself surrounded three deep by Lawyers looking to "protect" you - trying to scare you with visions of people attacking you or denying you justice.  Lawyers will promise you, as the erstwhile victim, not only their protection but a windfall profit, a huge sum of money for doing nothing but "suffering."

A majority of Lawyers don't behave that way.  The small segment of that population that does "ambulance chase" and victimize the victims, are often called shysters, though not all shysters are actually lawyers.

The Idea that Grifters and Shysters have something in common is like Trump's hair - a vivid item that can be extracted from a confusing mass of information and used to depict something that a lot of people remember.

But it is an abstract Idea.

So the title of this piece is A Grifter, A Shyster and A Priest.

The "Priest" is a symbol for a person who is steeped in ideas, motivated by the abstract, and very selective about objectives.

The Grifter and the Shyster operate via emotion.  They get their mark or their client to do something the mark/client would see as self-destructive if not for the emotion aroused.

The Grifter and the Shyster play on emotion, and they both choose the emotion they evoke in their target.

The Grifter arouses Greed.

It is always said, and I've found it to be true, that if you have no Greed in your soul, you can not be fleeced by a con man.  If the price is "too good to be true" - it is not the price you will pay.   Everyone knows that intellectually (the Priest Within You told you that).  Don't fall for a bargain - because it is not a bargain.

So when Politicians offer you something for nothing -- or point to someone else they will trick into paying so you can get something -- you only fall for the trick if your Greed is in charge of your opinions.

The Shyster arouses Fear.

It is always said that you have nothing to fear but fear itself -- and that is such a truth that all your readers know it.  When you're afraid, you twitch and jerk around in ill-coordinated actions that are more self-destructive than self-protective.

So when Politicians offer to allay your fears, to deal with what threatens you, to protect you from ( big bad corporations; alien invaders; your neighbor who owns a gun) you only fall for the trick if you are afraid.

When you are afraid, the Priest Withing You who is more focused on Ideas, Intellect, principles of faith, can't shout loudly enough to be heard.  Fear is a brain-noise that will always take charge of your actions.

So a theme can be expressed (cartoon depiction of your novel for a back cover blurb) as "The Masses Can Be Manipulated."

"The Masses" would refer to the old political theory that most people are illiterate, stupid, and behave like a herd of sheep,  or cattle.  The Leaders can easily trick the Masses into doing whatever the Leader wants simply by arousing certain emotions.

Romance novels turn on a variation of this. Everyone wants to be loved, so the declaration, "I love you" changes everything.

There is such a thing as a Greed For Love - someone so desperately hungry to be loved that they believe the grifter's offer, "I'll marry you and cherish and protect you forever if you'll just have sex with me now."  You can translate that dialog dynamic into Politics very easily if you see electing someone as handing them a blank check to your bank account.

The Grifter can use Greed for any missing emotion to manipulate the unsuspecting into self-destructive behavior.  Some people have Greed for Power -- offer them Power without a price-tag (like discipline and responsibility) and the mark will do anything.  Remember Spiderman -- with great power comes great responsibility.  Well, what if it didn't?  What if great power could be had without responsibility?  Then you have the novel about the ne'er-do-well Scion of a Great House who gambles away his inheritance and goes into debt.

To integrate a theme such as "The Masses Can Be Manipulated" you can define the conflict as Leader vs Follower.

Take the famous maxim, "A Sucker Is Born Every Day."  That's a theme.  What if humanity meets up with Aliens who don't bear suckers every day?

Or reverse that - and what if humanity were not producing a new sucker every day, but aliens at war out in the galaxy are?

Jean Johnson's prequel to her famous series Theirs Not To Reason Why is called The First Salik War, and Book 1 is titled The Terrans.  Book 2, The V'Dan is now available.

Here's my discussion of The Terrans:

And here's where to get The V'Dan

It's a First Contact novel with leading Characters, an Alien Prince in a psychic/sexual bond with a human woman who is a Politician, a Prisoner's Dilemma maneuver, and clash of notions of what constitutes Honorable Behavior.

On Jean Johnson's future Earth, humans have finally come to their senses and eliminated discrimination by skin color, elevated honesty in Politics to a level where failure to be honorable and truthful means corporal punishment by public caning, and utter physical humiliation.

In other words, fear keeps power-lust in check for law makers and especially law-enforcers and military commanders (this book introduces a Caning law previously applied only to police to be used to hold military commanders and new recruits in check). Every morning, each government official has to recite an Oath to be Honorable.  It's long, complicated, abstract, and the repeated recitation has a similar effect that prayer does. It is designed to engrave on the psyche that when you act in the name of others, you are responsible for the consequences.

Greed is controlled by Fear.

The expected signature behavior that proves Greed (for power, money, sex, anything) is in complete check by fear of Caning is Honorable Behavior.

"Honorable Behavior" is presented, in this series, as a set of rules that is objectively true, as clear and precisely determined as any scientific fact.

For most readers, the word "Honorable" means something hard, absolute, easily understood and recognized in the behavior of others.

Blake Snyder illustrates the core-value shared across the USA as "honorable behavior" as "save the cat" (take a personal risk to save the helpless).  Compare the thinking behind Snyder's image of "saving a cat" to the thinking behind that Trump/Cruz cartoon.

The thing is, in the USA today, we do not share a common creed of Honorable Behavior.

What is honorable to one (murdering a daughter who refuses to dress correctly, thus insults her parents and dishonors them) is considered death-penalty-material to others.

The difference between an illegal alien and a drug smuggler is that while they might both promise to sell you heroin, the drug smuggler will deliver.  Which one is the Honorable one?

Generation to generation the definition of what behavior is Honorable changes.

For example, in the early twentieth century, an apology was considered false and worthless if given in response to a demand for an apology.  In the 19th century, if someone uttered an insult about another person, ("You're a Horse Thief!" or "You Cheated At Cards!") the insulted had the right to deck the insulter (or shoot him dead).

In the 21st century everyone takes offense at any statement (true or not) and demands an apology, which, when choked out bitterly is still regarded as valid, and the matter as settled.  There was a time when the statement of a truth could never be considered an insult, however rude it might be.

In fact, this "I'm offended, so you must apologize even if you didn't think you did anything wrong" attitude now governs international affairs.

Heads of State demand apologies from other Heads of State -- not individual to individual, but whole countries to whole countries, involving people who never knew anything about it and have no idea what is true in  the matter.

Jean Johnson, in The V'Dan, has noticed this rise of a new custom regarding insults and apologies.

Johnson has shown (not told) how the "I demand an Apology because I feel offended and therefore you must act to assuage my feelings, never mind how you feel, only my feelings count..." attitude can be used by an Interstellar Ambassador from Earth to illustrate Earth's superior Morality.

Because Earth's Inner Priest's sense of Honorable Behavior is so superior, the lead character is Honor Bound to force Earth's behavior norms down the throats of aliens during First Contact negotiations.

All of this is rationalized by the fact that the Aliens are treating the Earth humans as if they were children, not adults -- not allowed to spend large sums of money to buy supplies for the Earth Embassy building, not allowed to buy liquor, not allowed to drive.

It is a genuine First Contact issue (and absolutely hilarious to read).  But the reason the issue is an emergency to be taken up immediately with the Alien head of state is that these Aliens keep insulting the humans by treating them as children.  Other human groups might consider the Aliens' penchant for protecting children to be a sign the Aliens are kind, considerate and honorable.

Johnson's Earth humans take offense, and because they feel offended, are honor bound to force the Aliens to apologize and adopt Earth's then-current human standards.  This novel series is full of such absolutely gorgeous work.

The way Johnson depicts interstellar politics plays into the current USA fear of being irretrievably emotionally damaged by the words of others.  It is, from this, very clear why Johnson is a national best selling author.

To the target audience for this novel, mere words are an existential threat that must be countered by wielding force majeure.  An insult flung can cause a mortal wound.

The V'Dan depicts with searing accuracy how the reader's Earth currently manages international affairs.  And this novel portends, just as our current election-cycle portends, that change is seething below the surface, about to erupt perhaps violently.

The enemy in the interstellar war of Johnson's series is a species that eats Alien sentients. The tastiest type of food they know is the flesh of sentients of species other than themselves (though I believe they do eat each other).  It doesn't matter how alien the body chemistry is, these Salik will eat anything sentient.  The Salik are Greed Personified.

The V'Dan are humans whose ancestors left earth almost 10,000 years ago, and colonized a planet (now a lot of planets) so far away from Earth the region has not been explored by Earth's budding interstellar united planets.  Somehow, many earth plants and animals were carried with the humans who eventually colonized a planet and became The V'Dan.

The V'Dan have many non-human allies in the fight against Greed Personified, the Salik. But that coalition is losing the fight against the Salik, and they know it.  They are Afraid.

So, Jean Johnson, a very well known National Best Selling author, has crafted theme and conflict around Greed, Fear, and The Priest Within.  It's a beautiful mix of carefully selected attributes, brought to the fore just like Trump's hair and the popping eyeballs.

That's what Best Selling Writers do!  Dissect any Best Seller, and you will find a pattern just like this -- something that reflects what is the most prominent Theme in the headlines divided up into recognizable adversaries who naturally conflict.  Personification and Dramatization are subsidiary techniques. Ripping theme from the headlines is the primary requirement.

The conflict is the exact conflict inside all of us -- the Grifter's Mark who believes in something for nothing; the Shyster's client who sees something to be afraid of, and The Inner Priest who knows "the right thing to do" but is not in charge.

The basic human animal will be emotion-driven, though the human spirit reaches for the ineffable.

Our current civilization has surrendered to the animal nature of humanity.  We see that in the rise and sustained popularity of Romance novel plots turning on the absolute irresistibility of sexual urges.  The V'dan and its prequel The Terrans, turns on the formation of the psychic bonded pair that will literally die (both of them) if denied sexual intimacy. Star Trek did something similar with Pon Farr, but Star Trek got that from much older science fiction works.

That inner dichotomy between the animal body and human spirit can easily be roused into Conflict.

All audiences recognize the Greed & Fear vs. Voice of Reason or Righteousness.

Look again at that cartoon.  Why do you understand what it says?

Yes, people will disagree about what it means, but everyone can see what it says.

That's what Jean Johnson accomplishes to earn the appellation, "Best Selling" writer.

Now, go watch the Politicians hurl insults at each other and demand apologies as if they are in the grip of Greed for Power and Fear of Humiliation.

Remember your early childhood. Did you ever lust after enough power to make your parents stop preventing you from doing what you wanted to do?  "When I grow up, I'm going to stay up all night!"

Greed for Power (especially over your own life and destiny) is absolutely basic to the human animal.

Now think back to your childhood, and remember how you eventually learned to refrain from some action, "...Mommy won't let!" you would tell  your friends luring you into misbehaving (then you'd probably do it anyway, then lie about it).

Eventually, you learned to do it anyway, lie about it, and not get  caught in the lie.

And beyond that,  you learned it's really better not to do that anyway because it's counter productive.

The different self-perceptions of Child vs. Adult is the pivot upon which the novel The V'Dan turns.  Just how insulting is it to  you to be treated as a child? Then why do you treat your children that way?  Does truth have anything to do with it?

Only with many decades under your belt do you arrive at "mature" considerations.  You no longer lunge greedily after the proverbial Free Lunch -- because you've learned the price.  Therefore, you have nothing to lie about.

To arrive at a life-stage where you're not greedy because you have all you need, not fearful because the worst has happened ( bankruptcy, divorce, being fired, whatever) and you handled it, you have the luxury of listening to what that Inner Priest has to say about right and wrong, truth and lies.

With enough years and enough experiences, we all turn into Gandalf or Yoda -- serene, confident, wise, having resolved that conflict between Greed, Fear and the Inner Priest.

When someone slings insults at such a Gandalf/Yoda Figure, that Figure is not insulted.  Such a Figure is not insulted by being treated as a child. Knowing that what comes out of a person's mouth says more about the speaker than about the topic being spoken of, the Figure does a kind of Emotional Judo.

Judo is based on the physics of using the opponent's strength and momentum to defeat the opponent. Many techniques of Judo and Karate are based on just not-being where the blow lands.

That's not a technique of "dodging" a blow.  It's a matter of letting the force the opponent emits expend itself on the opponent, not on you.

That's what the mature learn about insults. Let the insulter hoist himself on his own petard and hang there in humiliation.

Demanding an apology is an admission that the blow landed on its target -- it is an admission of guilt.

Demanding an apology often seems childish, petulant, an admission of weakness before the superiority of the insulter.

In emotional judo, the target flows aside and lets the force of the insult boomerang onto the insulter.

Look again at this article about stress level measurements in Presidential Candidates voices:

The article notes that the only candidate they measured whose voice rarely shows the kind of emotional stress (expected of Greed or Fear or lying) is Donald Trump.  He's gotten more insults and death-threats than most of the rest combined by now.  He sometimes offhandedly mentions that someone should apologize, but he rarely "demands" apologies except where appropriate.  His attitude toward apologies seems to be that they are good for the soul, so do it for your own sake.  If not, no skin off my nose. (note the nose-to-nose posture in that cartoon.)

He's old enough to know those who attempt to destroy will destroy themselves if you just stay out of the way.  For that matter, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (and Biden and Bloomberg) are old enough to have arrived at that maturity.

Perhaps this article's observation of relative voice stress indicates what the pundits have missed in analyzing Donald Trump's initial, wild popularity. They have assumed the voters are "angry" (anger is most often the emotional response of the coward to feeling fear, so calling voters "angry" is an insult).  Maybe they were wrong?

The pundits have assumed the voters are  "the masses" (sheep, followers, herd animals), instead of individuals. When panicked, the masses, the voters, stampede after a "bell-weather" or leader.

The pundits identify Trump as the leader.  The voters are just blindly following this leader out of simple minded anger.

The article shows, somewhat scientifically, that Trump's trumpeting is not stoked by anger.

He's the calm one.

Voters chose him as the best in the field (OK,  not necessarily any good, just the best of the lot, until he disqualifies himself) because he's not afraid and he's not lying.  What he says may not be true or factual, but he believes it sincerely.

He's not stressed when he says he can handle all the President's problems. (Little Does He Know!)

He is confident and relaxed, not running in fear or greed for power. He's not a "Leader" -- he's not greedy for power or fearing he'll lose. He's a goal-oriented achiever, not caring if anyone follows him.  He just goes and does his projects. He doesn't need followers.  He hires specialists.  He's undaunted, calm, confident because of his life experience, and he (unlike the other candidates who have this trait) lets it show. And that's why he's popular --  you can hear it in his voice in person. He's not stressed.

Study Trump's antics on stage, especially his epic "equal opportunity insulter" tactics, and try modeling your Leader/Hero Character after him and see what you get.  Understand the insult as a social instrument by reading a lot of Regency Romances written thirty years ago (mostly free on Kindle). Drawing Room insults are an artform well worth reviving in the interstellar era.

Such a novel won't work in today's market, as Jean Johnson well knows.  She's a best seller because she does  not use Trump as a model.  Such a Character would not be plausible to her target readership. Trump is a salesman, a marketer, a branding master.  His target audience responds to him, just exactly the way you want your target audience to respond to your Romance Novels.  So study him.

The lesson about non-stressed, confident Voices prevailing over anger, greed, fear and panic is the core theme used by Gordon R. Dickson in his long, exemplary, much celebrated best selling series, The Dorsai.

Confidence backed by real strength is a military tactic -- great strength, used properly, never comes to blows. Wars are won by maneuvers, by what the adversary knows you can do, not explosions. Destruction is counter-productive.  The Romans learned that and coined the term Pyrrhic Victory.

Combine Gordon R. Dickson with Keith Laumer's Retief novels, ..

...about professional diplomat Retief engaged in official interstellar diplomacy, much like Jean Johnson's characters but far more effectively, and find a Theme and a Conflict you can Integrate into a Best Selling Series.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Hope For A Copyright Small Claims Court

According to the Authors Guild, it costs approximately $150,000 for a copyright owner to take a copyright infringer to court.

As I pointed out in a recent post, as long as Copyright law on the internet provides that, if a Takedown notice is ignored, or if a counter-notice (even a bogus one, or a misinformed one) is filed in response to a takedown notice, the copyright infringing work will stay up and continue to make money for the pirate and the pirate's hosts for ever, unless the author can spare $150,000 to pursue a lawsuit.

The Authors Guild reports that a Congressman in Washington has promised to introduce a bill, perhaps to set up a small copyright claims court.


In other copyright infringement news, my novella ebook Mating Net apparently remains illegally available--ignoring multiple Takedown notices from me-- on and the alleged copyright infringer from Ontario, KellyKing29 has now apparently uploaded over 20,000 copyrighted ebooks to the site.

Of course, it could all be ransomeware!

A quick visit to the page  will show you how "AdChoices" makes copyright infringement profitable for Mobilism and its users, displaying pitches from Sterling Heights Dodge Jeep  also Parkway Chrysler Dodge (astounding how Google knows what is close to my IP location, but cannot distinguish a pirate site by its content and traffic!)

Another pirate site newly on my radar is . This site has an interesting blurb on any page stating that their tactics will make publishers sad.  They appear to post book titles, but mix up the authors' names, so for instance, I might find that one of my titles has been authored by Daphne Du Maurier (but the cover art shows that it's my book by me).  You might find that you've downloaded ransomeware if you try to download an ebook.

Authors should know that the law does not require you to download potential ransomeware in order to have a good faith belief that your copyright has been infringed.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Realms of Darkover

The latest Darkover anthology, REALMS OF DARKOVER, has been released:

Realms of Darkover

My husband, Leslie Roy Carter, and I have a co-written story in it, "A Walk in the Mountains." It features search-and-rescue and St. Bernards. I suggested the plot, he wrote the first draft, and I edited. Here's an interview with me about our contribution:

Interview on "A Walk in the Mountains"

My very first professional fiction sale, "Her Own Blood," appeared in an early Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology, FREE AMAZONS OF DARKOVER. It's a joy to be included in the "next generation" of the anthology series.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Theme-Marketing Integration Part 1, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Theme-Marketing Integration

Part 1
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Today, we'll examine why Star Wars: The Force Awakens was such a runaway box office success, even as Twitter and blogs filled up with anguished criticism. Facebook, likewise, overflowed with malaise and ennui, disappointment and boredom.

The film was a runaway HIT with some people, and a complete failure with others.

You've seen that with Star Trek "reboots" as well, and even felt it.

You love a film, and walk out of the theater giddy with inspiration, say something on Twitter and get flooded with negative comments.

Why this division of opinion?

Why so many see the film again and again, even if it is boring?

It is possible the answer to that question lies in Theme-Marketing Integration - a topic we have not discussed in detail, though we've explored Theme and Marketing.

If you think about it, Theme-Marketing Integration techniques are also being applied to the Presidential Election race, and the division in the audience runs similarly -- vehement opposition countered by enraptured worship.

So let's see if we can figure out why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is so popular and so disappointing at the same time.  What happened? What did "they" do ( well, J. J. Abrams who is also an architect behind Star Trek reboot).  Once you understand what they did and why, you can decide for yourself whether you want to do that with your own Science Fiction Romance.

Yes, Star Wars has all the ingredients of Science Fiction Romance, but does not exploit them for plot or story purposes.  The reason for that may become clear as we examine Theme-Marketing Integration.

This new series, theme-marketing integration, is a spinoff from Marketing Fiction In A Changing World.

The world changes, is changing, will change.  Nothing in fiction is set in stone -- including Stone Age Drawings.

Cave Painters aimed their art at their current audience (not at us), and depicted what they knew, what they wanted others to remember, and what they needed their children to know.  Cave Paintings have theme.

Short, pithy article noting this may be a depiction of a volcanic eruption, prevalent at that time. That is a theme - hunting is dangerous.

Consider, Cave Painters and shamans of the time didn't live very long, and "lore" got lost as parents died before children reached adolescence.

Those Cave Painters may be the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution we live with today -- because their Art transmitted Information to those who were infants at the time it was painted, or perhaps not even born.

In other words, as the old saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants.  This is true in novel writing and all artforms.

It is because of the knowledge and understanding gained by our ancestors that we have the easy life we have today -- and the hard life.  It is because of the records they left us and our effort to comprehend and build on that record that we have this modern world.

Today, our art is more ephemeral, preserved mostly just as electrons, perhaps illegible to future devices.  But we are depicting the pithy essence of our world and the life we live now.

Here is the Index to the series on Depicting:

The foundation for understanding Marketing is the understanding of "Demographics" -- separating and classifying people by age, gender, income level, education, native language, and then "targeting" something members of each group have in common with other members of their group.

Obviously, everyone is a member of all those groups, and when you assemble all the groups you are a member of, you find you are unique and don't march to the same drummer that others do.

However, sales statistics do reveal commonality.

Statistics only work in one direction -- predicting behavior of large groups of people.  There is no way to use statistics to predict the behavior of any specific individual, so therefore, to marketers individuals do not matter.

Grasp that firmly and never let go.

OK, given that Marketing is about hitting the largest number of a particular group or Group of Groups, with something they all want, lets look at one clue that we've discussed previously about how to understand why certain movies or books become popular.

Here's the previous post where we discussed Pluto and Plotting:

Here is a quote from way down that long post:

Pluto takes 250 years to circle the sun, but it's in each sign (or 30 degree swatch of the zodiac) for different lengths of time.

Remember to add say 15-20 years to see when these folks would have an impact on amusement markets because they have disposable income.

PLUTO IN LEO 1939 - 1957 (Became The Flower Children of 1960's and '70's)

PLUTO IN VIRGO generation 1958 - 1972 (Gen X)

PLUTO IN LIBRA generation (assimilating out of justice?) Late 1971 - 1984 (Gen Y? sort of)

PLUTO IN SCORPIO generation 1985-1995 or so (video game generation?)

PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS generation 1995-2008


The popular press uses the 20 year swatch for a "generation" usually, or a demographic bulge of kids all born within 10 years to define a "generation." But think about the list above and see if it doesn't make better sense than the popular press definitions.
---------end quote----------

This Pluto cycle is the best explanation for the Generation Gap effect in taste that I've ever come across.

Pluto, in Astrology, can be understood as the Power that drives action. Other elements in a Natal Chart or transits will define goals, strategy, tactics, wishes, needs, ideals, drives and ambitions, but once all those elements carve out a path of action, Pluto is the source of power.

Mars triggers or starts action, Pluto finishes it.

So, as a writer always thinking Character and Story, I think of Pluto as "at all costs."  What will a character do to achieve a given goal (that's the plot, driving toward a goal), at all costs?  What is a Character willing to pay, to give up, to attain this specific goal at all costs?  The implacable, ruthless drive toward a goal is the signature of Pluto in action.

When targeting an age-demographic, a marketer looks (usually unconsciously) at the "at all costs" mechanism driving that age-group.

So look again at the Generational Positions of Pluto -- and remember, any given individual may have other planets, signs, aspects, that divert Pluto's energy in their life into something totally different than their age-mates, and Marketers just don't care about those individuals.

Remember, 20 years after birth, a generation makes its first mark on the world -- today, it may be more like 18, the voting age.

PLUTO IN LEO 1939 - 1957 (Became The Flower Children of 1960's and '70's) The flower children were all about "doing your own thing" at all costs. Drop out, at all costs. Pluto is related to sexuality, and Leo is The King (sovereign), so free choice in sexual practices as a big generational theme (and still is).  Pluto in Leo is personal sovereignty at all costs.

PLUTO IN VIRGO generation 1958 - 1972 (Gen X), Yuppies, materialism, white win, discrimination in food, and car and clothing brands. Virgo is the neat housekeeper who sees their house as messy.  All white apartments furnished in chrome and glass. So this generation wanted a NEAT WORLD at all costs.

PLUTO IN LIBRA generation (assimilating out of justice?) Late 1971 - 1984 (Gen Y? sort of)  Libra is the picky eater, and the conflict avoider. Balance, harmony, justice at all costs.  Peace at all costs -- so avoid getting the USA embroiled in another war at all costs, even surrender.

PLUTO IN SCORPIO generation 1985-1995 or so (video game generation?)  Scorpio is the Natural 8th House, connecting Sex for its own sake (not for love or Romance) and Death, Revolution, Change.  Pluto rules Scorpio, and thus when transiting Scorpio as this generation was born (who are now 20 years old from 2005 to 2015), Pluto was at the height of its power to affect Natal Charts and the world.  Thus we have a new-adult generation willing to die for Revolution - to CHANGE THE WORLD.

This Pluto in Scorpio generation has produced a determined generation. Each person, and sub-group of people, is determined to do something different from the others -- but they are all implacably determined to do whatever they'd chosen to do.

Thus we have young people organizing college campuses to impose political correctness, and the same generation equally determined to oppose that same political correctness.

The Pluto in Scorpio natal position also explains why a scattering of Americans and people all over the world, male and female, are susceptible to recruiting by Isil or Daesh - or any other totalitarian movement.  Pluto in Scorpio is totalitarian at all costs.  Or free at all costs.

PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS generation 1995-2008 -- comes of age in from about 2015 through 2028.  Since the key attribute of Sagittarius is honesty, even brutal or tone-deaf honesty, we can expect "honesty at all costs."  Remember, truth is not the same thing as honesty.  Honesty does not distinguish between emotion or intellect. Jupiter is about International Treaties, all kinds of Legality, growth, inclusion, benevolence.  Small wonder the welcome matt is out for refugees no matter how mixed with invading soldiers the refugees may be.  Remember, Pluto is about "at all costs" and Sagittarius is about growth and honesty. Sagittarius is the Natural 9th House, foreign lands, International Law.  Welcome at all costs.

PLUTO IN CAPRICORN (now - 2023). These people will come of age in 2035 onwards. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, which represents Rules, Law, Government, and the organized part of Organized Religion. Saturn is all about discipline, strict record keeping.  These people will want predictable security and privacy "at all costs" -- so perhaps they will finally do away with hacking.

The signature element of the Pluto Natal Position is not the target chosen, but the "at all costs" attitude.

The current 20-something generation is so susceptible to Daesh because Daesh also advocates chaos as the precondition for the End of Days being summoned.  Chaos per se appeals to that young generation because it is an extreme cost that fulfills the "at all costs" attitude fueling movement toward a goal, in this case the goal of revolution.  "At All Costs" is Pluto, and Scorpio is about change, (death being only one example of a change), and thus revolution.

Remember, the goal itself does not matter -- it is not encoded into the position of Pluto.  The only information Pluto encodes is the degree of determination, that easily escalates to implacable ruthlessness.  That attitude, running full bore and ungoverned by common sense, is fulfilled in acts of rape and murder.

When well leashed by life-long discipline, Pluto's implacable determination to achieve a goal can reshape the world for the better.

The choice of destruction or construction is entirely individual.  Nothing can compel a person toward construction or destruction -- it is a freewill choice.

Now mark this point because you will find it in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Construction vs. Destruction.  It is important to understand the "at all costs" element and the tactic of "construction or destruction."

Think back over how we have investigated the ways to account for personal taste in art.

With a film like Star Wars: The Force Awakens we are talking about the Marketers nailing the "taste" in entertainment of several generations.

As George Lucas planned, the main actors reprised the roles they played in their youth once again in their elder years.

Thus, though George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, Disney nevertheless did fulfill the promise of the original project and brought us the future lives of the main characters, played plausibly by the same actors.

It was an epic plan, and well accomplished.

A lot of people complained that Carrie Fisher looked her age, 59, at the time of Star Wars: The Force Awakens being released.  Carrie Frances Fisher was born October 21, 1956.  Star Wars original Trilogy (1977–1983) was done when she was 21 to 32 years old.

The youngest part of the audience Disney aimed The Force Awakens at are a new generation - a generation born around the year 2000.  People born in 1995 (a baby-boomlet year) are 20 year olds.  The original audience for the first film is now in their 60's and 70's.

So the youngest part of the current film's audience is dedicated to change-at-all-costs.  The eldest, with Pluto in Leo, personal sovereignty-at-all-costs.

The favorite theme of the elders was revolt against tyranny, and how the individual can be the Hero on his own personal Journey.  The first Star Wars trilogy was structured on the Hero's Journey, which at its core has the assumption, a thematic assumption, that Life Matters.

Whatever you do in your life, it makes a difference. Free will choices (Leo, the King, the Sovereign) make a difference. You can (and must with Pluto in Leo) win.

But that world of can-and-must-win and free will choice makes a difference is not the real world the current 18-35 year olds live in.

They have come of age in a world where "you didn't build that" and "you can't succeed without government help" and "the system is broken" and "you can go to college, yes, but you will then be in debt the rest of your life."  A college degree might get you a minimum wage job, maybe.

In other words, they live in a world where life is futile.

To get that younger viewer to suspend disbelief and enter a galaxy far-far away, Disney changed the theme of the original Star Wars trilogy for a new theme aimed at the younger viewers.

To get anyone to suspend disbelief, a writer has to provide something in the world that is being built that the audience recognizes as real.

Since this series is about interstellar war, it is all about winning and losing -- or not.

The older generation would believe that the Good Guys would vanquish the Bad Guys -- that Good Always Wins.  If that premise were depicted, everything else would be believable and enjoyable.

The younger generation needed to see Revolution, Pluto style, destruction, especially by explosion.

And Disney went for the explosion-spectacle the younger generation wanted, Revolution By Explosion.  Given the state-of-the-art of digital film today, the result was something orders of magnitude more impressive than the original Trilogy.

Thematically, the Good Guys Win Sovereignty At All Costs, the Hero's Journey, is replaced with a clear vision of a core theme of "Life Is Futile" -- there is no personal sovereignty, and no decision matters.

Where do we see that?  Princess Leia is still fighting the same war, albeit as a general now.  Hans Solo is still scavenging.  Luke Skywalker is a failure, off on the periphery somewhere, and does not count.  Nothing he did mattered.  The Galaxy is still in the same state it was before -- tyrany reigns.

The theme is The Hero's Journey is Futile.

So a good chunk of the elder audience found this new film boring, dull, slow, pointless, and disappointing if not laughable.  They pointed at the "lame" dialogue sandwiched between action scenes with scathing comments.

And a major chunk of the in-between and younger audience loved it  for the explosions, destruction, the spectacle, the state-of-the-art visuals, and the reprise of the original trilogy's situation.  They liked the fact that nothing had changed.

The ending, with the young girl with a Lightsaber going off into the wild blue yonder seemed pasted on.  Obviously, it is meant to hint and foreshadow future films centered on her efforts to do what the previous generation failed to do - oust the bad guys.  But it does not grow organically out of the portrait of her when we first see her - scavenging for a mob-boss.

She is not driven, she does not have a goal, she is not  actively establishing personal sovereignty.  She is just existing, with no expectation of getting out of that situation.  She accepts the futility of life.

In the end, she's off with Chewy to seek her fortunes in far places, but there is no plan, no strategy, no tactic, no ambition or expectation of succeeding heroically.  She is free, but she can't see any reason to be free.  Freedom is futile.  It is just a reprise of Skywalker's emergence from his desert.

During the film, nobody builds anything, invents anything (the signature element of science fiction is SCIENCE, where discoveries and inventions are created to solve life-problems), nobody makes a better Light Saber, nobody  creates anything.

During the film, explosions, destruction, and futility are pictured and  mirrored -- the symbolism is world class art, but it symbolizes the futility of building,  not the Happily Ever After.

So the theme of Star Wars has changed from Life Matters to Life Is Futile.

When you change the theme, you change the target audience.

The same thing was done to Ursula LeGuinn's Earthsea Trilogy when it was made as a TV Feature.

It is what is always done to books made in to films -- because the target audience of the marketers of films is different from the target audience of  novelists.

That difference exists because of the difference in cost of making a film vs. making a book.

That gap in cost is shrinking.  The people born with Pluto in Capricorn may live to see video-processors as easy to work as word processors.

For now, though, the box-office success and failure of Star Wars: The Force Awakens should be studied.

For now, Life is Futile and Love Is Impotent are the dominant themes.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg