Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Genre: the Root of All Evil?

I've just finished reading P. N. Elrod's latest installment in the VAMPIRE FILES, DARK ROAD RISING.

Dark Road Rising (Vampire Files)

It's a vampire series with a little bit of a love-interest on the side but not as a major focus.

So it's not Vampire Romance, but that doesn't keep me from loving the series! It is Intimate Adventure with a good-guy vampire.


Jack Flemming is a Reporter who had an affair with a female vampire, then got killed by the Chicago Mob (in the 1930's), and tossed into the lake, to wake up on the shore cold and hungry and unexpectedly a vampire.

He was befriended by a human Private Eye (British living in Chicago) and went to work being a detective for the Private Eye. He made some money fighting the mob with his self-discovered vampire powers, and bought a (haunted) nightclub. He's been successful ever since, but his life just gets more and more complicated because of the mob connection.

As he has mastered his Talents and used them (for good), he has been pulled deeper and deeper into the dark mists of vampirism, fighting to stay himself.

So what is this novel? It is so criss-cross-crossed genre it couldn't have been published before the Vampire Romance became distinct. It's the Vampire-As-Good-Guy, with no real HORROR genre in it, but most of the plot isn't directly about the problem with being a vampire. It's about the Chicago Mob circa 1933.

It's a historical gumshoe/chicago-mob story.

It's a hard-boiled mystery story (Flemming was a NY Reporter, and that means TOUGH).

It's a Mob Politics story.

It's a deep, complex character study via pure drama using themes about human nature.

It's an Intimate Adventure, where the plot is driven entirely by the Relationships, and the main character learns and changes because of the people he (or she) knows and cares for. You can't do that in an action novel because it's against genre rules (or used to be!)

It's an Hard Boiled Action story with lots of explicit blood and gore, but no horror. A little sex but not too explicit by modern standards.

It's Fantasy.

It's Urban Fantasy in the modern vein.

In other words, this series is my FAVORITE kind of reading because it has no category, no genre, or it's a genre of its own.

DARK ROAD RISING is lightly and artistically laced with anachronisms appropriate to Chicago in the 1930's and a little maybe from Hollywood. Every once in a while, Elrod drops in a perfect bit of archaic slang that makes you feel you're THERE in the 1930's. And she avoids modern slang, and even 1950's slang.

But like really great writers, she uses this slang sparsely, for flavor, and never to confuse or confound the reader, nor to impress everyone with her scholarship. The word meanings are clear from context, and of course many readers remember anyway. All that is the ART of this word-usage thing.

There's an artistic hand behind this word usage as well as a scholar, and the blend tickles me and makes me laugh, hoot, and giggle my way through the book searching for the next word.

When a writer begins to get advice on writing, the one thing that comes up again and again is DO YOUR RESEARCH. But the truth is, the story comes out better if you don't do so much research. Writers often try to cram in ALL the neat stuff they've learned doing research, instead of carefully choosing just a bit here and a bit there to spice up the narrative but not display their scholarship.

P. N. Elrod has gotten the spice just right!

In this entire novel, I found only ONE word out of place.

On page 371 of 389 in the trade paperback, a cigarette is smoked 'down to the filter' -- after so many pages of perfect-perfect-perfect anachronisms, I almost leaped out of my chair over that one. I "knew" there were no filter cigarettes until the mid-1950's.

BUT GUESS WHAT??? She's right!

By my memory, the FIRST filter cigarette came in the 1950's.

But Wikipedia says the first filter cigarette was invented in 1927 (but uptake was slow).

Google also produced the factoid that R. J. Reynolds Tobacco produced the first filter tipped menthol cigarette (Salem) in 1958, which is what I remember.

That this character would go for this experimental and obscure type of cigarette actually reinforces his character portrait.

My problem then is the blase acceptance of the onlooker, who likely had never seen a filter cigarette (people used ivory HOLDERS back then, not a paper filter attached to the cigarette and designed to be thrown away after use.)

But I learned something, and it was only in that one spot that the factoid or anachronistic language stopped the smooth flow of the narrative for me. I rather doubt anyone else would even notice if they don't remember the 1950's.

So THE VAMPIRE FILES by P. N. Elrod is an exceptionally smooth blend of genres that reads with an easy, natural rhythm for modern readers.

If you have read anything written in the 1940s, you know the difference.

Dashle Hammet's Sam Spade is a case in point. You should try to find some of Hammet's work and read it for the flavor and style remembering it was for an audience that had NEVER HEARD any of this invective or slang. The readers and their friends just didn't talk like that, and people who talked like that didn't read novels.

Here is a neat website with loads of information about the evolution of genre.


I've written a number of posts on genre for this blog and have more to write. But recently, a connection on LinkedIn asked me to define genre, and for quite a while I drew a blank on that. Then I came up with this sketch.

Genre is a term which focuses on the reader's taste as seen by the editor, and creates a trope the writer dares not break because readers want it unbroken and editors know that.

But ideas don't come to writers (usually) in genre format.

In my previous post here,

I began to discuss finding the readership, and writing for a readership which is the key to the perennial success of the Romance genre.

I intend to take a very close look at readerships and their composition, plus the reasons why certain types of stories become popular with certain demographic segments.

If you look at that Vintagelibrary.com site about pulp fiction and think about it, you may get ahead of me in sorting readerships out.

But let's look again at the differences between genres -- this is not absolute, but just one way I have of looking at it.

To understand the explanation of differences among genres, you have to be able to distinguish what I call "plot" from what I call "story" -- nomenclature varies among writers and the reason for that is in one of my writing posts.


With that in mind, we can think about genre ingredients.

"Action Adventure" has a plot driven by "Adventure" (which is defined as the main POV character moving from inside a comfort zone (such as home) to outside that zone, (such as a foreign country).

One example is Bilbo Baggins by his fireplace; then climbing through a wilderness scared to death but brave in a good cause.

"Action" genre signature is also plot defined. The plot's basic problem has to be solved by PHYSICAL (not psychological) action (shooting people, rescuing dangling people, RISKING LIFE AND LIMB to TAKE CHARGE).

Typically the blurb for Action/Adventure (A/A) says something like "only XYZ can save ABC from WQ"

And the hero must rise to the occasion by going outside the comfort zone of home and risking "everything" to do whatever.

Vigilantes (Batman) are a perfect example -- the law says you can't touch this criminal. OK, we'll do it ourselves and risk getting caught, or we'll just defy the lazy Sheriff and get the criminal and nevermind "rules of evidence" in court. Courts fail, the argument goes, because they let real criminals go free. So it's up to the citizens to keep the neighborhood clean.

CRIME FICTION has the plot driven by the crime and the need to either prevent the crime or punish it.

Like SF, CRIME has a huge plethora of sub-divisions. The Detective and the Private Eye are only two. And there are novels that show the crime from the criminal's point of view with the criminal being the sympathetic hero.

But the thing to remember is the genre is defined by the nature of the plot.

Now you can do CRIME SF too -- Asimov's Black Widow series is a perfect example.

Gumshoe fiction. Private Eye fiction. Detective. Mystery (Murder She Wrote). Police Procedural (where the plot is driven by the need to keep the evidence trail clean and make a court case that will stick because it's better to let a real criminal go than to convict an innocent).

Each genre is named for the single most prominent plot element.

HORROR is defined by the Hero or main POV character being an innocent victim of something huge, overwhelming, unstoppable, unbeatable. The key plot element is that the Hero can NOT WIN (which is the exact nuance that turns a dream into a nightmare). It's not that the Hero is not capable or brave or strong. It's that the Evil stalking the Hero is a part of Nature and by definition can't be destroyed. At the most, it can be immobilized for centuries, (silver chains, sigils, incantations, magic jewels, djinn bottles) but never destroyed. The Hero can not win but only put off defeat to future generations.

Take a regular Action/Adventure story, but make the adversary an Elemental that can not be destroyed, and the Hero can not win. Leave out "winning" and that turns A/A into Horror.

My personal sorting definition is that genre is not defined by what you put in, but by what you LEAVE OUT.

By selectively leaving out many obvious issues, you create a genre that is focused cleanly and clearly on one thing.

Now the genre lines are changing as cross-genre like THE VAMPIRE FILES is (finally) coming into prominence. (YAY!!!)

But take Romance for example. It has to have a certain Neptune driven "mood" and an HEA ending. You break the "romance" mood if you sprinkle in a lot of really ugly issues that people feel strongly about in real life. (politics; religion; Death; Failure; Depression; Suicide).

Neptune is also the main driver of "Horror Genre" -- where "the unknown" is "unknowable" and "unconquerable" and creepy.

The feeling of falling in Love is very similar to falling into Hell. The plot dynamics of the story are also very similar which is why you get things like Jurassic Park with a love story, a scientific based puzzle, and the genie breaks out of the bottle and you have UNSTOPPABLE wild animals. The couple might escape the wild animals THIS time, but Science is still out there ready to spring another uncontrollable surprise on us.

There is a whole sub-genre of tech-phobe fiction that is essentially horror turned into SF. Star Trek: The Original Series episode CAPTAIN DUNSEL is a case in point. Technology replaces people ruthlessly. Science or Technology becomes the root of all evil.

The difference between Horror and Romance is that in Romance you can win, and you have Love on your side which conquers all evil. In Horror, you can't win because the force that conquers all good is on the OTHER side. It is exactly the same plot, from a different point of view.

It used to be that if it had a Vampire in it, a story was automatically Horror genre. Today very dark Vampire characters are Romance heroes because there is a sexy attraction to the "other."

Look again at the Pulp Fiction site. See how the sheltered and protected public embraced a sanitized depiction of some distant part of their world.

The hard boiled detective was a character who had to live on the mean streets of the city where fighting, drinking, swearing, poverty and death were all part of life. This new type of detective had to balance the day to day needs of survival against the desire to uphold the law and assist justice.

And part of the trope was the detective's ability to turn vigilante and see justice done with his own independent hands.

Since I've been talking about how we can change the world's attitude toward the Romance genre, possibly with a TV show or a film, let's note here that Dashle Hamit had the exact effect on his world that we want to have on ours, just with a different subject matter. What we're trying to do would rewrite that quoted paragraph like so:

The Soul Mates are characters who have to live on the clean suburban streets of the suburbs where consideration, folk dancing, careful speech, razor-thin financial margins and home-hospice care are all a part of life. This new type of Soul Mate couple has to balance the day to day needs of their family and neighbors against the desire to uphold the law and assist justice.

What do you think? Try a rewrite of that paragraph for yourself and see if you can invent the Romance genre anew.

Don't forget there's a genre called Action Romance that's well recognized, and often blended into Futuristic Romance.

Note how "Futuristic Romance" is not SF Romance.

SF Romance plots are driven by a scientific puzzle or scientific fact that turns the plot, and that you must understand the science of in order to understand the story.

"Futuristic Romance" can be based on any silly vision of the future with or without any scientific understanding. It's just romance set in some future. For me, these novels succeed to the exact degree that the futurology does, and so J. D. Robb's future doesn't work well for me, even though I like the In Death series.

So genre names are all about the plot driving mechanism, and what you must exclude in order to keep the mood and focus on that driving mechanism.

CRIME can be ugly as sin (True Crime) or sterile and intellectual (Sherlock Holmes).

Rarely is an author allowed to challenge the very premise of the genre within a story in that genre. Genre is based on ASSUMPTIONS that are not challenged. That's my definition. Things you leave OUT define the genre, and one of those things is the same in all genres -- don't challenge the genre premise in the plot.

In Romance, it's Love Conquers All that must not be challenged.

In SF it's Science Conquers All that must not be challenged.

In Crime it's Crime is Wrong that must not be challenged.

In Adventure, it's "the solution is not here but somewhere else" that can't be challenged. (home is not a fun place to be).

In Action, it's "There Is No Other Possible Solution Than To Kill The Bad Guys." You can't make friends with the bad guys and turn them into good guys in an Action genre story. (all the rules are changing, remember?)

I'm an Amazon Vine Voice (a pre-release reviewer) and they send out a newsletter listing books reviewers can choose from. One thing I've noticed lately is that many of the books just labeled fiction, not SF or Fantasy, have strong SF elements or Fantasy settings. SF/F has actually become recognized as MAINSTREAM. You can get away with putting a vampire, or a supernatural creature such as a djinn, into a plain fiction story and it won't be labeled Horror or Fantasy by publishing.

Since Star Trek and Buffy, the general reader/viewer has become more accepting of the supernatural. Genre barriers are breaking down. They will reform in a different configuration.

This is the biggest chance Romance has had to redefine itself as legitimate, respectable literature in decades. To pull that off, Romance writers (and readers) need to understand what is happening in genre and publishing, and not just let it happen but take charge of the direction of change. Romance needs a Gene Roddenberry.

Here's more on genre you can find on this blog. Not all these posts are by me.







Genre is a lot like style. It's very hard to explain because it's always changing. Identifying it is more art than science.

And every once in a while, a book or series becomes VERY popular, so that publishers run around trying to get authors to imitate the elements in that popular series. When the editors succeed, a genre is born, and publishers vie for the privilege of naming it.

Today new criss-crossing mixtures of genres are breeding new genres faster than they can be named, and because of the Web and social networking, publishers no longer have the sole power to identify and name a new genre.

It's vitally important that new writers (even those writing "best sellers" and general fiction) understand genre.

Only at the moment, there may be nothing to understand.

Readers create genres by popularizing certain titles, and editors create genres by trying to figure out why this title sold so much better than that title.  What do readers like about a particular story?  Why is it popular?

By letting genre definitions become so rigid, publishers have fooled themselves into thinking they're making more money than they could without genre requirements.  Publishers have only now begun to consider (with a sense of horror) publishing books like P. N. Elrod's Vampire Files.  Note her track record though with other books.  That's why she gets the chance to do this series. 

As a result of genre rigidification, many really magnificent books used to go unpublished.  Today there are e-books, but that industry is still in its infancy (and thus an opportunity).  Readers aren't accessing it well enough yet, and much of what is produced is not well written enough to be satisfying and worth the money and effort. 

So Genre has been the eclectic reader's horror nightmare.  "What great stories am I missing?" 

Requiring writers to produce within marketable genre categories, yet being wholly unable to define those fluid categories, may make genre into any writer's root of all evil, the unconquerable adversary that can only be stuffed into a bottle for future generations to deal with.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Good twin, bad twin

I'm stuck.
It's guy trouble. 
Would you mind if I brainstorm a little?

Working my problem through in public might help clear my mind, though it hasn't worked in a .doc

I've put my heroine between a rock and a hard place before, in Mating Net. I like the idea of look-alike hunks as the personification of the rock (the solid, worthy twin) and the hard place (the bad, dangerous, sexually ready twin).

Now we come to a story that I will probably NOT be permitted to call "Family Fork"! (It is another chess term, but it sounds grossly unhygienic in these days of H1N1 when we're being urged not to share.)

Devoron and Deverill are identical twins, and while they may not be inseparable, they do most things together. In my first alien romance, Forced Mate, they were banished from Earth after they both simultaneously showed signs of being rut-raged over Djinni-vera. Before any harm was done, 'Rhett intervened, and with his characteristic, elegantly brutal efficiency, put their lights out.

In Insufficient Mating Material, Devoron begins acting a little bit strangely, mostly off stage.

In Knight's Fork, suspicions surface that Devoron has a mild but chronic case of the rut-rage, and his behavior is like a juvenile delinquent elephant in musth. Happily for my gentler reader, most of his misbehavior is off stage.

While Devoron is hurling insults and picking (and losing) sword fights, no one is watching Deverill, whom the reader would be pardoned for taking as the good twin. Thus, Deverill has the opportunity to be presented with a cure for the "rut-rage".

Devoron is otherwise occupied. Deverill has to be the one that gets the "cure". I do need a "cure". Under the rules of the rut-rage that I set up in Forced Mate, Devoron and Deverill both ought to be fixated on Djinni. Still. Even eight years after they identified her as their scent love.

Yet, surly Devoron is the one who appears to have the frustrated hots for an undiscovered scent love back on Earth. (He has been to Earth recently.)

It is possible for males to be permanently fixated on their scent love and ready to fight to the death for mating rights, yet aware that another female is in heat. I've established that. I've also hinted that there must be a cure, but what it is has not occurred to any POV character so far.

At the end of Knight's Fork both Devoron and Deverill could be in the vicinity of Earth. They're not both supposed to be there, one of them is supposed to be on the Shadow Asgaard, and the other is on the Nirvanah. One of them is saddled with an inconvenient assignment.

So, which twin is going to locate (presumably by her scent) the new heroine? The cured-of-Djinni twin? Or the twin-in-musth who smelled her first, but who shouldn't be cured-of-Djinni ?

Does the good twin abduct Demetra by force? Or does the bad twin?
Which presents the greater danger to the heroine?

Which twin (good one or bad one) ought to come roaring to the rescue like an avenging .... djinn, furious that his brother has abducted his scent love.

(The ambiguity with the masculine possessive pronoun was deliberate.)

Maybe they should both be bad?

By the way, this is envisaged as a LoveSpell.  It's not "Justine".

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Mating Net is now available as a Kindle (for $2 )


Thursday, September 24, 2009


I’ve just finished reading Linnea’s recent novel HOPE’S FOLLY, and it’s a treat you shouldn’t miss. It’s a companion work (technically a sequel, in fact) to GABRIEL’S GHOST but stands on its own. The story kept me engrossed from start to finish; my attention didn’t even drift much during the battle scenes—unusual for me. Linnea has a gift for creating the illusion of a fully realized, complex universe of places, events, and people surrounding her onstage characters. For a STAR TREK fan, the action of this book will have a delightfully familiar feel in some ways, for instance in the scenes with the ship’s engineer, who pulls off miracles in the face of looming disaster. The hero and heroine, Admiral Philip Guthrie and former Imperial Security officer Rya Bennton, stand together as equally strong, likable characters. I fervently rooted for them to survive the threats menacing them and their ship and to overcome the emotional traumas obstructing their union—not to mention military taboos on intimacy within the chain of command. I like the fact that Philip is a mature man, not a barely grown boy, and his concern about the difference in their ages as well as their unequal rank comes across as realistic. Rya’s passion for fine weapons is an appealing trait that forges a special bond between her and Philip right from the scene where they meet again for the first time since he was a junior officer and she was his captain’s preteen daughter. (And since I’m not one bit of a gun buff myself, it’s amazing that the author entices me into feeling that this enthusiasm is sort of cute.) Another great bonus feature of the story is the ship’s cat, Folly, who plays a believably feline role in saving the mission. All SF fans who enjoy lovable characters of strength and integrity in emotionally gripping relationships, rush out and get this book!

By the way, Michele Hauf's Vamp Chix blog posted a guest essay by me yesterday, on "The Vampire as Alien."

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Targeting a Readership - PART ONE

Readers often watch TV or go to the movies. Today, movie-goers and TV/DVD watchers are less inclined to read books, unless they're spinnoffs.

Now, many TV shows have fan games and actor-blogs on their websites along with recent episodes to watch on your computer or handheld.

On the other hand, Amazon's Kindle seems to be attracting readers who shunned other e-book readers, even though the Kindle version can't do animation, full color, 3-D (which is growing big time now), and sound.

Still, a single title in text does not reach nearly as many as a TV show, and if you want to change the general attitude toward a genre such as Romance, you need to reach a very wide audience.

There is a new movie being advertised as a Romance, LOVE HAPPENS, which on imdb.com has (at this writing) garnered only 5.5 stars out of 10 -- half the audience doesn't like it. And the people who do, think it's mediocre, possibly because the trailers I've seen on TV sizzle with ROMANCE, but I'll bet the movie itself doesn't. But it is getting some big buck advertising.


That's a theater release, and it will eventually be on DVD and TV, reaching even more people. But will it change their minds about Romance? Chances are good, the film is actually a "love story" more than it is a Romance.

Maybe Theater to broadcast TV is not the venue for a writer to aim at to get the largest possible audience?


Is a report on the Emmy's broadcast drawing about 12.3 million viewers, and the presenters joking about the paltry numbers.

The population of the USA has gone up and up -- new census this year may turn up 330 million in the USA. I think it was about 9 or 8 years ago that the population hit 300 million, right after the last census.

For a broadcast TV show to draw a comparable audience to what TV shows of the 1960's drew, they would have to pull in about 100 million people to sit and watch the box for an hour.

Yeah, people used to sit through the commercials and not move for one whole hour. They wouldn't answer the phone, and that was before recorders and voice mail.

Can you imagine anyone doing that today? Not even answering their cell phone because the TV was on?

Today DVR's let you answer the phone, then roll back the show and catch what you missed even if you're not recording it, and fast-forward through commercials (though Congress wants to prevent the FF through commercials part).

People used to pay attention.

Imagine 100 million Americans (nevermind the rest of the world which might also see a show by satellite) all paying close attention to the same thing for one hour once a week. 100 million is about half all adults in the USA. It's not a lot of people, actually.

Then the next day they'd discuss it at work, in elevators, on twitter.

What if you hadn't seen it? Imagine the discussions you would be shut out of. Do you think you'd watch it next week?

Who cares what 12 million people are watching? That's 4% of the USA not 33% or 50% of adults.

The gist of the article on the Emmy's broadcast is that broadcast TV is losing to cable and the internet. The audience has become dispersed, so that today we have NOTHING to discuss in elevators.

Twitter and other social networks though are gathering the paltry few million with something in common to talk about, almost like fandom once was.  Today it's not called "fandom."  It's called a "niche." 

Jay Leno was pulling a whopping 7.7 million viewers in the 18-49 age group last week.

The Guiding Light has been canceled. That soap was on longer than I've been alive!

The 2009-10 season is expected to decline another 10%. (this is from Nielsen Ratings online at
It's a handy site for finding the numbers)

What are people doing? And why are they doing it? How can we capture their attention and hold it for an hour a week? If we could do that, would we have the ability to change an attitude?

OK, with DVR, DVD, and Web distribution too, it may not be the SAME hour that everyone pays attention to one thing.

Mystically, that simultaneity counts big time in creating change in what people think, or what they spend time thinking about.

Right now, however, we've lost simultaneity (which started to go away when they deployed kinescope to record shows broadcast in New York then rebroadcast them 3 hours later in California).
http://www.kinescope.tv/kinehistory.html gives a quick history and this picture of a kinescope recorder -- something I've never seen in person even though it revolutionized my life because I grew up in California!  Go to the website for a larger image where you can see the mechanism.  Wow.    

So we as writers have to go for subject matter.

The idea is to rivet your audience in place, hold them spellbound and deliver entertainment that fertilizes the subconscious, and makes people talk to each other (relationships is our business, remember) and think about what they've seen.

Have you watched any eps of DARK BLUE? It's about undercover cops, with lots of shooting and and ugly emotions, but it has a very high percentage of people-story woven into it. The undercover cops are emerging as real people with real angst and family ambitions -- and some of the perps they're trying to nail are deep enough as people to have recognizable life ambitions even if they are criminals and worse. It's an action series with complex heart.

Remember, we learned from Blake Snyder, May He Rest In Peace, that you put the real story you want to tell, your real theme, your heart, into the B story while the A story is the High Concept. DARK BLUE is a good example.

But any Romance in Dark Blue will turn up in the B story. We, however, are trying to figure out how to get the Romance into the A story, hitting a wide enough audience to convince the commercial interests that Romance is a respectable vehicle.

The only place (so far) that the writer can make that choice herself is text narrative. Webisodes, web-strips of still graphic novels, animations like machinima, are usually beyond the content creator such as a writer. And they cost too much, so far.

Google's project of putting POD machines into bookstores so you can print on demand some ancient public domain book you really want was discussed in Wired Magazine recently


And the article has a NICE picture of a POD machine that costs about $100,000 (half the price of a house) and makes a 300 page book for about $3 in about 4 minutes, (the bookstore and google get paid on top of that expense so it costs you about $10.)

The article said:
Dane Neller, On Demand Books CEO, says the announcement flips book distribution on its head.

“We believe this is a revolution,” Neller said. “Content retrieval is now centralized and production is decentralized.”

And Dane Neller is correct that this absolutely inverts the fiction business model, just as Kinescope decentralized broadcast.  Change like this shifts whole civilizations, slowly but inexorably. 

Publishers, warehousers, distributors, all had to centralize to produce physical objects economically (huge printing presses doing print-run after print-run of books), organize them and put them before the eyes of potential (only potential) customers. Hit or miss, you never know if you'll sell what you make.

Writers all learn early the term "sell-through" and what that means for a career.

Now publishers only have to organize the information in a central place, and potential customers will browse through and find what they want, instead of going to see what's on the shelves and available.

Then the customer, no matter where she is, only has to wave her credit card and CLUNK a book falls out of the slot at her feet, or downloads onto her e-reader.

Just imagine all those old-old Romance novels that every author and publisher thought were read-and-toss, never to be reprinted trash will now be available in every bookstore. How will they find the writers to pay us? Will they even bother to try? The Google project issue is still in litigation and settlement status. Who knows what they'll do next.

"Home Entertainment" is undergoing the same kind of decentralizing revolution with "On Demand" programming that Google is bringing to publishing.

That revolution is basically the adoption of the internet model -- index it and let people pick what they want when they want.

As a society, we no longer march in lockstep, captive to the schedule devised by commercial interests. (that lockstep started with Radio and early moving-pictures)

Broadcast TV, Cable, Satellite, Internet, reality shows, "news" and "news commentary" shows, documentaries, travel, the food channel, scripted stuff like HEROS or HOUSE, M.D., drama or comedy, dramedy, and talk shows that let the audience have a podium, or talk shows with celebrities posturing, has fragmented "the audience."

Not even a third of the country watched the Presidential campaign, and that was home entertainment too. I think I remember the ratings indicated maybe 60 million or so at the peak, out of more than 200 million adults.

Home entertainment delivery is a huge industry becoming more diverse by the day. It includes video games you buy on disc, and access via the Web, play alone or against living opponents in real-time. Home entertainment includes anything people do for fun at home (with or without viagra).

Fiction, our kind of Alien Romance and oddball futuristic romance, or paranormal romance, is only a tiny fraction of a percent of that Home Entertainment industry.

But consider. "Novels" (not books; they may be gone for good already) may Novels, however, may not be HOME ENTERTAINMENT at all, because they're portable.

We already have a category of novel called a "Beach Read" -- and you all know what that is. It's not home entertainment. It's a mood for getting away from home. (of course, nobody will sue you for reading it in your backyard.)

A whole publisher's imprint called 'POCKET BOOKS' was founded in 1939 (and has passed through several owner's hands), with the concept of a book that would fit in your pocket. Bantam likewise aimed to make SMALL books to carry around with you.

Here's some history of publishing gathered neatly on the web.

Can anyone figure out why a site called absoluteastronomy.com would host a topic on publishing? I only found that through google.

To succeed at this strategy both Pocket and Bantam aimed for the MASS MARKET -- to publish nothing but best sellers. They wanted every book they published to be something everyone would want to read. The mid-list came later, but genres started as mass market (the Dime Novel western).

Nearly a hundred years ago there were still so few books being published that almost everyone could read almost every book, so people had something in common to discuss. In 1935 not everyone even had RADIO -- nevermind TV which was more a laboratory toy than a practical device.

The e-book was on the way to fitting in your pocket when suddenly Amazon and Sony and others made readers that not only don't fit in your pocket (or even in my purse), but they don't bend so you can force them in.

People carry DVD players around, too, to watch movies on the commuter train for example, and that's not even touching on ipods.

I think the entire field labeled by marketers as HOME ENTERTAINMENT needs to be re-labeld PERSONAL ENTERTAINMENT.

When you start thinking about it as PERSONAL entertainment, you can begin to solve the problem of where everyone went.

And the answer is simple. Everywhere. Everywhere but home.

Why don't these broadcast TV shows, cable shows, shows on the web etc, pull in at least a third of the adults (or a third of the kids, for that matter). Why are audiences so small?

Why do ebooks sell a few HUNDRED copies (unless they have huge advertising behind them) instead of at least 10's of thousands?

And given this fragmentation trend, how do you as a writer find an audience to target?

What do we all have in common?

If we don't have commonality, can we be a community? And if we're not a community, where does Romance fit into things?

Rowena Cherry has been talking about dominance games in galactic politics, the clashing of civilizations or at least societies on a giant scale, and how the resulting fragmentation is giving rise to individuals who are drawn to conquer in order to re-create order. We've seen that scenario playing out in the Balkans and now in what had once been Persia, was conquered by Constantine, and sub-divided with a ruler by Britain, leaving the resulting tribal feuds for you and me to sort out.

We've seen civilizations crumble in History, and on CNN. Rowena and a host of others are writing about interstellar civilizations crumbling. Is that because our own civilization is crumbling about us?

My theory is that love and romance are what hold civilizations together. How do we tell a story that will hold this civilization together?

There are some big questions to think about here, so do some thinking and eventually I'll take up this topic of audience cohesiveness and Readership identification again.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, September 21, 2009

WORKSHOP! Sharpen Thy Keyboard...

Since I'm once again in deadline hell (with a short story for a Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin anthology...), I'm going to use my blog space to promote the RWA Fantasy Futuristic & Paranormal chapter's upcoming writing workshops. THESE ARE OPEN TO ALL and conducted online, so you can learn whilst wearing your jammies! Check out these upcoming offerings and stay tuned throughout 2010, when your truly will be teaching as well:

\\*****Permission to Forward Granted and Encouraged******//

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Special Interest Chapter of RWA Presents:

"Building Blocks of Fiction: Entwining Characterization and Plotting" Led by Author Tambra Kendall

November 9, 2009 through November 23, 2009

What: Learn how characterization and plotting weave together to make your story come alive. Knowing how to blend together characterization and plotting is essential. Being weak in either area can keep you from obtaining the contract you seek. This course will cover character development using GMC which in turn leads us to plotting. Other areas such as scene and sequel and the architecture of a novel are discussed. Please join me as we journey through the development of characters, archetypes plus more. More class material may be added. Discussion/questions throughout class

Who: Tambra Kendall loves writing paranormal romance. She is published with Red Rose Publishing, Aspen Mountain Press and Whiskey Creek Press Torrid. Over the years, she's taught online classes for various RWA chapters, other online writing organizations and has been an adjunct professor at San Jacinto College. Her most recent publication is "Cowboy of the Night" in "Legends of Loving Texas" series from Red Rose Publishing.

Where: This workshop will be conducted via a Yahoo! email loop. Email invitations will be sent 48 hours prior to the beginning of the workshop. Just register for the workshop and complete the payment process via PayPal. The cost is $10.00 for FFnP members and $20.00 for non-FFnP members.


\\*****Permission to Forward Granted and Encouraged******//

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Special Interest Chapter of RWA Presents
How to Write Power Sentences Presented by June Diehl

November 2, 2009 through November 16, 2009

Description: Power Writing will focus on multiple elements needed to build powerful sentences and paragraphs. From strong word choices, varying sentence structure, to putting sentences together to create dynamic paragraphs, the workshop uses examples, including some from published novels, and from the participants' own work, in strengthening the words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs on the page.

NOTE: This is not a grammar / punctuation workshop.

The workshop will cover the following:
Strong word choices (use of powerful, active verbs and specific nouns),
Phrasing and sentence structures, including cumulative sentences,
Using the sentence fragment in narrative and dialog,
Paragraphs (rhythm of sentences, combinations of long, medium, and short sentences, using one and two word sentences)

NOTE: There will be assignments for the various subjects covered during the workshop. The participant will be using his/her own writing for some of the assignments.

Instructor Bio: P. June Diehl is the Editorial and Senior Editor for Virtual Tales, the Senior SF Editor for ePress-Online, and also coaches authors. Author of THE MAGIC & THE MUNDANE: A Guide for the Writer's Journey, she teaches/mentors writing classes online at Writer's Village University and for Pearls of Writing as well as having conducted workshops on various elements of creative writing. She is enrolled in UCLA's Writing Program, focusing on long and short fiction. Ms. Diehl has published poetry, short stories, and articles online and in print. She's finalizing a novel and working on four others. The author lives in Virginia with three cats and a dog.

Where: This workshop will be conducted via a Yahoo! email loop. Email invitations will be sent 48 hours prior to the beginning of the workshop. Just register for the workshop and complete the payment process via PayPal. The cost is $10.00 for FFnP members and $25.00 for non-FFnP members.


For more information contact: workshops@romance-ffp.com


Linnea Sinclair
// Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//
Available Now from Bantam: Hope's Folly, Book 3 in the Dock Five Universe
Coming March 2010: Rebels and Lovers (Book 4)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Space Snark remarks....

... with a very deep bow to George Orwell... that Big Brother is watching your tweets. (Or could be.)

This is purely speculation. That's what I do. I write fiction, Romance, alien romance, in outer space, with sex, thickly larded with political satire.

For the grammarians, imagine if I'd omitted the Oxford (or Harvard) comma!

Social networking is an amazing and baffling phenomenon, as Jacqueline and I have mentioned. It could also be pretty scary. I'm sure the cyber punk writers are all over it. I don't write or read cyber punk, but I'm pondering it... or would be, if I weren't writing a different series set in 1995.

It would be very interesting to update "1984". No, I'm not thinking of calling it "2012". I'm thinking of calling it "Mating Net Revisited"! For one thing, I hate to be wrong, and would not like to date myself before the book is out.

A work of fiction called "2012" would be too close to "1984" for my comfort.

Think of the parallels.  The tapping of phone lines. Eavesdropping on private conversations. Cameras everywhere. Tracking chips in everyday objects you carry with you everywhere. The torture of civilians who are alleged to be enemies of the state using the threat of hungry rats. The Ministry of Truth in charge of propaganda and equivocation,  the Ministry of Peace as the war making arm, Big Brother on big screen tv... TVs you cannot turn off, TVs that are two-way so the broadcaster can see you, too. Woe betide a latter day Winston if he were to put his feet up on the table in front of the goggle box, assuming that showing the soles of your shoes (or feet) would be an insult in an imaginary 2012 world. I'm allowing my imagination to run riot, of course. Absurdity is one of the tools of the humorist

I'm interested in the nitty-gritty of tyranny. I write fiction about an alien royal family who are self-styled gods. They have a few things in common with our mythical genies and demons in that they are superb equivocators. If there is a loophole in a promise, they know all about it. If you make a wish, be careful how you word it because they'll make it come true in a way you never expected.

My god-Princes have a few extra senses, and some abilities that we'd call paranormal, but basically, they are rich, good-looking frauds. At some point, especially if I tell the rest of god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos's story, I ought to delve into the mechanics of tyranny, and how a very clever person with a few exceptional abilities could pass himself off as a god... and maintain the illusion.

Do you need to be at war for a successful tyranny? War is a great pretext for suspending constitutions and other protections of civil liberties. I cannot think of a better way to look benign while worsening the condition of one's subjects. The trick would be to make sure the war never ends. (My god-Princes are good at not signing peace treaties.)

In "1984", three great powers were continually at war, although sides changed, and it was always two powers against one. Three is probably a good number. That's why I introduced the Volnoths in addition to my Tigron Empire, and my coalition of Democrats and Republicans as the Saurian alliance.

The other obvious pre-requisite for successful tyranny would be something like the two-way tv. Social networking would do as a way of spying, especially micro-blogging. Micro-blogging can be addictive, spontaneous, thoughtless.  For example: "I need to go to the bathroom...Bye."

No, I haven't seen that as a status update, but if I (in the persona of my tyrant emperor Djohn-Kronos) lingered long enough, and followed people likely to post that (maybe starting with #crapnamesforpubs as a likely thread since pub-goers tend to drink a lot), or if Djohn-Kronos made use of the search function for a word like #bathroom, I'll bet he could.

I'd give my god-Emperor his own page on the micro-blogging site. He'd have his minions search for every micro-blogger who mentioned a few key words in their potted bios, such as "politic". He'd follow them. They'd be flattered, no doubt. Would they follow Djohn-Kronos back out of courtesy? It wouldn't matter. Moreover, everything posted by Djohn-Kronos's followers and those he followed would end up on "his" page to use as he saw fit....because citizens voluntarily put it there.

I wonder what Djohn-Kronos would do if he discovered that one of the interesting people he'd been following had blocked him? Gosh. Would it be an unwritten crime to "block" your emperor? A Thought-Crime, perhaps?

Covert spying is all very well, but the point in "1984" was that it wasn't covert. It was a tool of intimidation and repression. The people of Winston's world knew that everything they said or did was watched, and would be punished harshly if Big Brother didn't like it. So, they were afraid to speak out of line.

My Djohn-Kronos's empire hasn't gone that far. It may not, for the same reason that most magicians never reveal how they do their tricks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Small Addendum

I didn't notice that lyric page for "Welcome to the Future" needed another correction. The mangled line about where we're going when should actually be something like:

"Wherever we were going, we're here."

I ardently wish I could have pasted the lyrics into my post and corrected the silly errors. I would have linked to a different page, but all the other sites were less accurate than this one.


Random Musings on Progress

Here’s a passage from an article by humanitarian aid worker and author Eric Greitens, mostly about Rwanda, in the latest issue of the Phi Beta Kappa KEY REPORTER:

“In the refugee camps, I met a 16-year-old who was the leader of a group of boys. I asked him to tell me about the other boys in his group. He pointed, and an aid worker translated: ‘This one,’ he said, ‘is very powerful with making fire and cooking. This one is very powerful with the soldiers from Zaire; they like him. This one is very powerful with singing.’ And as he went around the group, he described each boy as powerful in some way.”

I like the metaphor of “powerful” here, the message that any personal quality or strength can embody “power.” It doesn’t have to mean physical force. The passage reminds me of the Vulcan principle of IDIC, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.

Also, reverting to the subject of country songs, here’s one I really like, “Welcome to the Future” by Brad Paisley:

Welcome to the Future

That line incomprehensibly labeled “incomprehensible,” by the way, is one of the best parts of the song. It’s clearly, “The world they saved has changed, you know.” Another site has it as, “Will they say it’s changed a note,” and yet another version is even sillier. (I wanted to copy and paste the verse to correct the “incomprehensible” bit, but copying seems to be disabled on that page.)

One dazzling piece of cognitive dissonance, for me, is a query someone posted on a different site, one that answers questions about song lyrics. The poster actually did not understand the reference, “They burned a cross on his lawn for asking out the homecoming queen.” There is really hope for this country!

I’m much more in sympathy with this song than with other recent ones that wax nostalgic about the good old days. “I miss back then”? I wouldn’t go back to the 1950s for less than a million dollars with compound interest. Segregation, job listings divided by sex, women fired at the employer’s whim for getting pregnant, only three TV channels, no car seat belts, no ingredient and nutrition labels on food, no Internet banking or buying—heck, no Internet! THOSE good old days? One of those songs celebrates baloney sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread, a combination that turned my stomach even when I was a kid in the fifties. Now our small city has dozens of ethnic restaurants, including at least four or five places that serve good sushi, a dish unknown in the U.S. outside Hawaii and California until a couple of decades ago. I love now! (Even if we never got flying cars, not that I’d want one; traffic is dangerous enough already. But I’m still waiting for my housekeeping robot.)

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dragoncon pics

Two blogs in one day--an all-time record for me. But I wanted to get these up before I forgot which file they were in!! These were taken at our booth at Dragoncon.

Blog Tour, free books

First I wanted to tell all of you that my publisher is running a blog tour for me. If you do a bit of searching you'll find places to win free copies of LUCAN all over the Internet. And to get you in the mood, I thought I'd post some pictures.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Marketing Via Social Networking

NOTE: I did not get the idea for this post from Rowena Cherry's post on Book Marketing this past Sunday, Sept. 13. But I expect she may have something to say about this post on marketing strategy and the social media, too.

A friend of mine has been studying "marketing strategy" and recently led me to a treasure trove of Marketing Instructions explaining how to "use" social networking to promote a product.

It made me ask why that sentence makes my hair stand on end. I had to figure out why it makes me want to puke. I have, after all, been pounding away on this blog about how a writer must analyze and understand their MARKET before structuring their story. And I don't see anything wrong with that.

Marketing via social networking is a whole new topic in the Marketing business. These instructions make little sense until you delve deeper into the whole lump of lore called "marketing" (which is much bigger than just "advertising.")

There are whole schools of marketing, and they're all a subset of "business" which is also a whole lump of lore you need to understand in order to understand marketing. Advertising is a tiny sub-set of marketing. So to grasp any of it, you need a smattering of it all, because the thing is one of those patterns made out of pixel sized dots. Get far enough away, and the array of dots make a picture.

The pattern I suddenly saw while cruising through all these sources on "marketing" shows why marketing via social networking is doomed.

The itinerant trader (picture the gypsy wagon; the tinker with a mule loaded with needles, pots, bowie knives, and other things rural households couldn't make for themselves) - the itinerant trader may in fact be a profession older than "the oldest" profession.

After all you can't sell yourself well without marketing yourself.

So "Marketing" might be older than Storytelling, too, because the itinerant paddler's travels beget stories to tell, stories which need a "market."

Storytelling (even the Shamanistic variety) is not only marketing, but also a sound business model.

Telling a story is not just saying what happened. It's a selective recreation of reality selected with the audience in mind.

So the "business model" of the storyteller is to create something intangible out of nothing and sell it for room and board for a night.


So the essence of storytelling (if not story itself) must be marketing.

And in fact, my thesis presented on this blog, is that stories contain elements of marketing.

Only since the invention of the printing press has marketing of stories been subcontracted by writers to publishers.

Today, writers are taking back that function.

Blogs are full of discussions on how this trend is totally new, and something writers have never done so we have to learn how to do it.

But it's not new. It's OLD, older than any records show.

(I'm just skipping over the period when artists of all stripes (musicians, painters, playwrights) had to find a rich patron to support them while they produced art. That's actually a reasonably similar business model, just a bit more personal, but much more like "social network marketing.")

Stories, our stock in trade, contain elements of marketing, but they also contain characters and relationships. Romance is particularly focused on how relationship moves plot. Where there are characters and relationships there is "society" -- and "society" begets social networks.

So we're talking about the intersection of two professions, distant cousins but definitely related: marketing & social networking.

A society, Wikipedia notes, is a group of individuals bounded by interdependence. "Bounded" could be visualized as "circumscribed" -- like a lasso holding hero and heroine together on a really hot Western Romance cover.

No, social networking is not new! It's just bigger than it used to be, and binds together interdependent individuals who don't really know each other very well, but have a common interdependence (an interest or a goal).

In pre-printing societies, and even today in many illiterate societies, villages, regions and whole countries operate entirely on who you know, not what you know. In fact DC isn't far from that model, and Hollywood certainly admits to it up front.

Take away long distance communications, bottle people into a communications net of a few hundred individuals, and living successfully becomes all about who you know, what you know about them, and where the skeletons are buried.

If one of those small town people happens to be a writer telling stories, word will get around especially if a character in those stories is almost recognizable. (I'm thinking of a MURDER SHE WROTE episode where a gossip blew the lid on some clandestine affairs gossiped through the Beauty Shop.) Gossip goes viral.

Marketers are teaching each other "how" to "use" social networking to move product by "going viral."

Writers are teaching each other how to use marketing tools such as Advertising to cost-effectively move product.

They both think they're doing something new. But they're both doing it with OLD tools, or are reinventing the wheel.

The age-old principles of advertising have refined down to a method of constructing a message, and of constructing a product about which such a piercing message can be written.

The age-old principles of storytelling have refined down to a method of establishing rapport with an audience (SAVE THE CAT!) and the key element is a grasp of how these strangers are just like you -- are bound to you in interdependence. (High Concept is a statement of that interdependence binding force.)

MARKETING starts with one seminal message from which all other principles are derived and all actions motivated.


STORYTELLING starts with one seminal message from which all other techniques are derived, including the characteristics of your potential readers.


As with acting, the writer (Alma Hill's adage: Writing Is A Performing Art) must reach deep down inside and find a hint, a thread, a shadow, an inkling of each character. Each potential reader who will be fascinated by that character resonates to something within the writer's own psyche and experience.

See the comments on Linnea Sinclair's post
for a discussion of "taste" in character by KimberAn. She truly makes my point perfectly and I didn't put her up to that.

The writer infuses the character with "life" for a reader via an element, however tenuous, of interdependence with the reader, of BEING the reader.

As KimberAn points out, not every character of every writer will resonate -- because they're made of different elements inside the writer and "reach" different audiences. The sense of identifying with the writer's characters is what draws a reader into a story. The writer is the reader, on a deep, mystical and fundamental level.

That's how all communication works.

The marketer (salesman) remains clinically distant by pretending to reach rapport with the customer who is not the salesman.

The writer pretends to be clinically distant, but actually reaches rapport with the reader who is another version of the writer.

The writer forms a social bond, an interdependence, a society that includes reader, writer and the characters too, as if they were people in a social network.

The objective of both marketer and writer is to lower the customer's resistance (or psychic or psychological barriers) in order to deliver a payload.

The difference between marketer and writer is who benefits most from the delivery of the payload.

The marketer walks away with a profit, whether the customer actually got value for their money or not. (often the customer makes out like a bandit!)

The writer walks away with a tiny profit only if the reader got value for their money (because otherwise the writer's next book will be rejected).

Writers have always been social-networking champions. First the writer has to create a society of the writer + characters, then INCLUDE the reader(s) in that society by making them feel welcome, sharing identifying characteristics.

Social networking is how you win the Nobel Prize. It's all about what parties you attend and how amusing you are to the elite.

In addition to being champions at playing The Recluse, writers are social animals by nature. Even when alone with a computer, a writer is surrounded by a whole teaming society of characters circumscribed by interdependence.

Marketers are not social by nature, but by design.

In a social-network (be it small village or twitter, facebook, myspace, etc) there is give and take until you "know" these strangers you've met online. It's all about finding things in common, sharing likes and dislikes, (from politics to brand of baby-bottles). The network solidifies and becomes a channel for diffusing information via what we have in common, how we ARE each-other.

Society is all about what connects you to others.

Marketing is all about the disconnect "you are not your customer."

Marketers are "outsiders" by definition.

Their mission in piercing the membrane you've laboriously created around your social-network online is to treat you as not-themselves.

They are the stranger among you who will not blend. They are the stranger among you who may pretend to blend, and thereby win distrust.

This all makes no sense. Marketer and Customer are naturally "interdependent" and should form a society. Trade should be even, value for value.

But the key maxim of marketing is "You are not your customer." And that prevents the marketer from becoming a member of the social network that contains his customers.

Therefore (consequentially) the marketer's advertising message is auto-rejected by any social network simply because the marketer defines himself as not-you.

The only messages the networked people trust come from those who define themselves as you. A Newcomer who passes your tests for "like me" will be accepted and blend into the network (just try being accepted in a small town with generations of history behind each family!)

That blending will not happen if the newcomer knows that "I am not my customer; you are all customers; I am not you."

Internalizing the attitude "I am not my customer" makes a great marketer, but it is very similar to the attitude drilled into soldiers in the World Wars by the use of pejorative nicknames for various nationalities. These nicknames were meant to dehumanize "the enemy" and thus make it OK for nice guys to kill them and still remain nice guys. That practice is frowned on today. Today post-traumatic stress syndrome is rampant. The we/them dichotomy is necessary to the human psyche. Within "we" there must be "I am you" or there can be no "we."

Defining yourself as not-your-customer de-marketerizes your customer and makes it OK to trick them into doing what you want, not what they want, and you can still remain an upstanding marketer.

Online social networks are still young and churning with turnover.

Marketers think that disorganization gives them entre they would not have in an old small town.

Marketers don't understand why their marketing ploys are labeled spam and subjected to instant rejection and excoriating derision. They keep trying to find a way around this rejection of their messages.

They teach that a marketer must ease themselves into the network, listen and post on the topic under discussion, work to blend in, give free samples, run contests, etc. Some even say you have to recruit members of the network to speak for your product. (members who accept that will be instantly rejected by the network)

Marketers are completely missing the point.

I do admit that their tactics produce apparent profits. But it's more like clearcutting forest instead of harvesting trees.

Marketers must learn a big lesson on a fundamental level. First though, they must unlearn "You are not your customer" because that is the source of the whole problem.

The new explosion of online social networks has to change MARKETING as drastically as it has changed PUBLISHING.

I've discussed the changes in publishing in a number of prior posts. Here are a few.




Publishing subcontracts marketing or out-sources it. Larger houses have in-house marketing operations, but those people really don't read the books they are selling to book distributors so they may as well be sub-contractors.

Publishing is (very gradually) changing its business model because of the rise of the e-book, yes and Kindle the 900 lb Gorilla, the blog, and social networks. Amazon has created "Communities" which are boards for social networking of readers and writers.

Hollywood is changing its model too with the rise of websites that "vet" scripts then hang them up for producers to browse through, so it is becoming less about who you know and more about what you know in selling a script. Book publishing has not been that inventive yet, but bloggers are moving in that direction with installment-novels.

Even the biggest publishers have begun to shift the burden of marketing back onto the writer.

The first efforts of writers online have been (naturally) to use social networking to announce their newest book.

People like Linnea Sinclair who started with an e-book project and took it to Mass Market paperback have been successful - and marketers can't figure it out. (Because they didn't read the books and wouldn't understand them if they did because "You are not your customer.")

Marketers have not changed their methods. They have adapted, yes, but they consistently apply the oldest methods to the new problem.

And they are successful in making a profit! Those old methods are old because they work. Those methods can sell snow to an Eskimo.

What marketers don't understand about viral marketing success stories like Linnea Sinclair is that one, oldest, core principle of marketing they rely on will not ever reproduce Linnea's success.


Marketers, like doctors, feel they must maintain distance from their customers and clients.

Marketers aren't selling to people just like themselves.

Writers are.

Writers are studying to change their methods to "you aren't your customer" but marketers are not learning that they are indeed their customer.

Here's a tweet about spammers being banned from twitter. I found it by the keyword search Twitter Anymore from the list of "trending topics" twitter supplies on each person's homepage.
zumbaba You Won't See these Spams on Twitter Anymore -Twitter Updates its Terms of service to Eradicate Abusive Users http://bit.ly/Twitter-Spamers

That tiny url is actually this article

And it lists 10 KINDS of abuser who will be banned from the twitter service. These are all "marketers" applying the theory "I am not my customer."

Look at that list and imagine where they got the idea to do these anti-social things on a social network in expectation of making a profit.

And these marketers probably think banning them is a hostile act on twitter's part. It's not.

These marketers are mystified because they are not their customer. They think war has been declared upon them. It hasn't. It isn't a contest that aggressively applied strength can win.

The marketers can't understand that their behavior strikes people like the behavior of a nerd at a party, always trying to yank the conversational reigns from whatever cluster he's standing next to and not joining.

The marketers can't see themselves behaving like 3 year olds, jerking their parent's elbows while the parents are having a conversation about the trials of raising a 3 year old. The marketers can't see themselves because they are not their customers looking at themselves from another point of view.

Writers quickly master POINT OF VIEW, because it's a key component of being an adult. In the "socialization" of the toddler, there comes a point where the toddler begins to understand that other people get tired too, that other people feel pain when you pull their hair, that other people EXIST. That's the first step in "socialization" -- and marketers have adopted a maxim that denies the real existence of "others!"

YOU ARE NOT YOUR CUSTOMER prevents you from making that crucial step in socialization, understanding another point of view.

Online social networking can, will, and even must change "marketing" as much as it has already changed "publishing" -- if not even more.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, September 14, 2009

REBELS AND LOVERS: the making of a cover

Interesting that we're getting visual here lately...
Bantam did something recently they're not done before: they asked for my specific input on the cover for my next book. Yes, they do always as for verbiage: is she a brunette, is he a blond? I always send photos I've snipped from celebrity sites or iStock. This time, for REBELS AND LOVERS, they sent me actual model shots.

Whoa Nellie.

I've had a very clear picture of what Devin Guthrie looked like since before I started writing the book. He's my geek (that's GEEK not GREEK) hero. Straight out of THE BIG BANG THEORY but cuter. I used as a template the character Michael Weatherly played, not in NCIS, but Dark Angel (which I have NEVER seen, sorry). The geek with the spiky hair and glasses.

Yes, I know this is SFR. But eyeglasses have been around for centuries and I do believe they will likely be around a bit longer, laser surgery notwithstanding. I mean, I wear them. There are a variety of reasons why people opt for glasses as opposed to surgery or contacts, and when you get to know Devin, you'll know why.

Just as a world building aside, I don't think that "alternate high tech society" (or "future Earth") equates with All Problems Solved. If you asked someone in 1642 what he thought 2009 would be like, I'm sure he'd guess life would be perfect, disease free and so on. Reality shows that life doesn't work that way. We still have the common cold. While, yes, we have iPhones, we still have pencils. If there's an assumption I dislike in SF/SFR, it's the flat, perfect high-tech world or future. Given humans (or other sentients), and given history, it's unlikely.

So, yes, Devin wears glasses. And travels in personal starships.

Kaidee (Captain Makaiden Griggs) was, to me, a Katee Sackhoff in Battlestare clone. These are actually the images I sent to my editor at Bantam--just as I've done for seven books before.

What surprised me was what they came back with.

BEEFCAKE! I had the tough decision of wading through about a half dozen professional male models' images ::fans self:: and ended up with the one below for Devin.

I wasn't given a choice for Kaidee but I think they did fairly well:

So here's the book blurb and the cover:

REBELS AND LOVERS - Linnea Sinclair

March 2010 Bantam Dell

Book 4 in the Dock Five Universe

For these two renegades, falling in love is the ultimate rebellion…

It’s been two years since Devin Guthrie last saw Captain Makaiden Griggs. But time has done little to dampen his ardor for the beautiful take-charge shuttle pilot who used to fly yachts for his wealthy family. While his soul still burns for her, Kaidee isn’t the kind of woman a Guthrie is allowed to marry—especially in this time of intergalactic upheaval, with the family’s political position made precarious by Devin’s brother Philip, now in open revolt against the Empire. And when Devin’s nineteen-year-old nephew Trip goes inexplicably missing, his bodyguard murdered, this most dutiful of Guthrie sons finds every ounce of family loyalty put to the test. Only by joining forces with Kaidee can Devin complete the mission to bring Trip back alive. Only by breaking every rule can these two renegades redeem the promise of a passion they were never permitted to explore At risk? A political empire, a personal fortune and both their hearts and lives...

I think they matched my vision of the characters very well.

Linnea Sinclair
// Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//
Available Now from Bantam: Hope's Folly

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pioneering use of social media?

What do you think of single purpose videos? I've made one to ask for votes in a social networking contest (where Twittering for votes is allowed). Does this do a good job? Does it make you want to support me with your vote?

Goddessfish.com did it for me, and it cost me $40

You've seen the title, cover, and blurb. That's all you're asked to vote on.

Thank you for voting here:

Post script.
While I was uploading on YouTube, I came across a fascinating video with a catchy rap.

Report piracy and you might win $1,000,000 (but only if it is movie, game, or music!)


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Books on TV

So far, TRUE BLOOD, based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, has been wildly successful. This fall at least two new fantasy series derived from books will be launched: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and EASTWICK. I liked L. J. Smith’s “Vampire Diaries” YA books very much when they were originally published, so I’m looking forward to this adaptation (it starts tonight). There are enough novels in the series to carry on a television show for several seasons. I’ll be interested to see what kind of program will be made out of THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. In this case, because the source work’s story comes to a decisive conclusion, the closed plot of the novel will have to be converted into an open-ended situation that can continue indefinitely if the show becomes popular. I suspect EASTWICK will turn out to be one of those works that I like much better as a TV series than as a book or movie, like THE PAPER CHASE (and MASH, but I haven’t read MASH and can’t claim to have given the movie a fair chance; it took only five minutes of viewing to realize I’d probably dislike the film, which seemed to differ widely in tone from the TV program I loved).

To make a good TV series, a book—or, better yet, a book series—probably needs to contain a world wide enough, with a potential variety of characters and-or events large enough, to support an indefinitely prolonged run. Or, if the story has a built-in definite conclusion, such as graduation from law school in THE PAPER CHASE, the progress toward the conclusion should take long enough to allow the story to grow over several seasons. (Another of my favorite shows, THE WEST WING, although not based on a printed work, illustrates this principle well. The series logically ended with the inauguration of President Bartlet’s successor. Since the story began in the first year of his presidency, that plan allowed a seven-season run.) THE DEAD ZONE, based on the Stephen King novel, was one show I followed devotedly each summer until it was canceled. To make this tragic story into a viable open-ended TV series, the writers did what I expect to be done with EASTWICK; elements of the novel were rewritten so that the protagonist didn’t have to die to achieve his goal of saving the world from a dangerous politician. That change left him free to use his powers to solve many mysteries instead of the few he encountered in the novel.

If such a change isn’t feasible, a novel transferred to television becomes a mini-series. One of my cherished fantasies is someday seeing a mini-series made from THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY by Suzy McKee Charnas. The novel comprises five sections, each with a distinct storyline. The last two are both set in New Mexico, and the fourth is considerably shorter and simpler than the other sections. Therefore, a four-hour miniseries would be the perfect film venue for this novel, with the last two sections combined into the last hour of film.

As for open-ended fiction, a cartoon series was made from Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels, set in a multi-generational world with nearly unlimited room for stories, even if the show had eventually used up the existing tales in the books (which I don’t think it did).

What other book series would make good open-ended TV series? There are quite a few I can think of that contain worlds rich enough to sustain a series for many years. Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah’s Sime-Gen universe, of course. Special effects now permit realistic depiction of tentacles. ALIEN NATION demonstrated that a mass audience could accept relationships between two different kinds of humanity as a subject for prime-time TV. I’d love to see a series based in the Sime-Gen world right before and during the period of Unity. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover. Either the period of THE FORBIDDEN TOWER and SHATTERED CHAIN or the events of a generation later, around the time of THE BLOODY SUN, would work. I think I would go for the earlier period, when Terrans and Darkovans are just starting to learn about each other. The world of the Change in S. M. Stirling’s series that begins with DIES THE FIRE. In the late 1990s, all advanced technology mysteriously and instantaneously stops working. The people who survive the initial collapse of civilization have to build a new society based on pre-industrial culture. Naturally, some have a head start, e.g. survivalists, historical re-enactors, and members of organizations such as the Society for Creative Anachronism. The series comprises six books now, with, apparently, more to come. A couple of short stories set in the same universe, with different settings and characters from those in the novels, have also been published. This fictional world has room for an infinite number of stories, and given that there are at least two post-apocalyptic TV shows premiering in 2009-2010, its theme that would probably appeal to producers and audiences.

With so many fantasy and SF programs on the air (and cable) this year, we may be entering a golden age of spec fic on TV. We can only hope.

What books do you dream of seeing made into TV shows?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Futuristic Romance, Susan Kearney

Hi All,
I promised to bring back some pictures from Dragoncon and I have them. But first I wanted to give you some good news. All over the conference I heard how futuristic romance is the up and coming genre. And lots of readers were buying LUCAN. If you haven't picked up a copy, please do.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Are Commercial Writers Born or Made?

Can you "become" a writer? Or is it just something you are that you can choose to exploit, or not, like any other Talent?

I haven't thought about what it takes to launch a writing career in many years. Neither of my children had any interest in writing for a living.

I've done a number of email interviews with High School kids doing the assignment "contact a writer and find out (whatever)" but when this newest request came in, it made me think about what this new world I've been describing on this blog (the E-book, self-publishing or at least self-promoting, Web 2.0 world of social networking) looks like from the point of view of someone in High School wondering if they can make money as a writer.

It's a fascinating point of view and I was rather surprised at my answers.

I found a number of basic human traits that a writer needs, that aren't actually widely distributed among the general population. These traits aren't "talent" for writing, just essential traits necessary for a writing career. Many of these traits are the same now as they were in my grandparents time. The changes and additions are all in the skills and techniques area, not basic personality traits.

And it isn't enough to have these traits, and write a few books, or even sell a few that actually do well in the marketplace. The real question is whether this profession actually chafes your nerves, making you get up every day forcing yourself to do something you'd really rather not do -- or whether you get up each day and mostly just do what you want to do because that happens to be what you have to do.

Then of course, as in every profession, there are "those" days when you just have to do what has to be done.

I have often said of myself that I don't "want to write" -- I "want to have written." As far as I can tell, there's only one way to get to where I want to be, and right now I've got a lot of published material behind me, some on the table in front of me that will be published, and a whole lot more in the compost heap of "Ideas and Concepts."

So here are the questions this High School student thought up for me to answer. Read and think first how you would answer. I did include a number of links with my answer, but here I'm adding a couple more since not everyone reading this post is as familiar with the material as this High School student.

1. Who are you and where were you born?

(This one really threw me for a loop. I could write an entire treatise on the concept of "who" and "are" and in fact have written many Review columns on the problem of "Identity" as a mystical component of "Character." But I decided to use my standard short bio instead.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg, a life member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, (http://www.sfwa.org ). She is creator of the Sime~Gen Universe with a vibrant fan following (http://www.simegen.net ), primary author of the Bantam paperback Star Trek Lives! which blew the lid on Star Trek fandom, founder of the Star Trek Welcommittee, creator of the genre term Intimate Adventure,


winner of the Galaxy Award for Spirituality in Science Fiction with her second novel, and the first Romantic Times Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel with her later novel Dushau. Her fiction has been in audio-dramatization on XM Satellite Radio. She has been the sf/f reviewer for a professional magazine since 1993. She teaches sf/f writing online while turning to her first love, screenwriting focused on selling to the feature film market.

Screenwriting: http://www.slantedconcept.com

The above is my 200 word bio expanded with hotlinks that appears in program books at conventions, in newspapers, and websites where the URLs can be permitted.

I "am" a great deal more than just "what I've done." One day I may write my autobiography to try to convey some of "who" I think I am. Or not.

2. What was your childhood like?

(Again an entire book worth of answers swarms to mind. But I decided on a brief answer -- well Lichtenberg-brief)

Compared to world famous celebrities, I had a plain vanilla childhood with no real traumas or dramatic events. I was born in New York, grew up in California, lived in a 2 bedroom house with my parents, was an only child, and basically did as little as possible other than read books.

I lived in the same house with the same parents and went to school in the same public school system from Kindergarten to HS graduation, then on to the nearest University (UC Berkeley), commuted to campus from home, and graduated from that one school. All in a straight line.

When I was in 5th Grade, I was failing badly, failing reading in particular. My mother snuck me a book from the adult library. It was science fiction. Battle On Mercury by "Erik Van Lihn" which I learned later was yet another pen name for Lester Del Rey (founder of Del Rey publishing company that popularized adult fantasy).

Search for it on amazon, there are a few used copies. 

Pen names proliferated for that entire generation of SF writers because there were fewer writers than there were market slots.

With that book in hand, and my mother's refusal to read it TO me, I taught myself to read nearly overnight and read through the whole adult library SF collection, and tried to read most of the books in the children's library but, except for Andre Norton's titles, they were pretty awful. I also liked the Rick Brandt series but detested Nancy Drew and Nurse Nancy.

Rules in libraries about what kids could and could not read were much more strict then, so I had the collusion of my mother (a Reader) to support my habit, but she drew lines in the sand, too. I did the same raising my kids.

I used to sit on the floor in the stacks at the adult library waiting for my mother to choose a book and gaze at the titles of the books and imagine what the stories I wasn't allowed to read would be.

Then I grew up, got my degree in Chemistry from the University of California, (because a lot of my favorite SF writers had a degree in Chemistry and the University didn't offer a degree in Science Fiction Writing) then I worked in Chemistry for a few years, did some globe-trotting (all the biographies of writers that I'd read showed they had done globe-trotting, so I made that a priority) then got married, had 2 kids, and began writing those books I hadn't been allowed to read.

3. Who or what influenced you to become an author?

Here is a list of the writers I grew up wanting to write like and some anecdotes about finally meeting them professional to professional.


When I was in 7th Grade, I read a good story in an SF magazine but the illustrations were just plain all wrong, not at all what the words described.

At that point, my Dad had bought our family our first typewriter, and he taught me to type over a Christmas vacation. He was a professional teletype operator and taught me the way he had been taught, for speed and accuracy.

I later copped an A in a HS typing course without learning anything, in fact could teach the teacher a thing or two but of course what teacher would allow that?

In a fit of indignation, I pulled out the family typewriter (a manual portable) and typed (without handwriting a draft first) and blasted off a couple paragraphs of a letter lambasting the magazine for daring to publish inaccurate illustrations.

They published the letter, my first publication. HOOKED!

But it only worked to 'hook' me because I was already a 'writer' which is why I could blast out a few succinct but vivid words without a second thought (when I was not-quite in 8th grade mind you) and get my words published in a letter column that was strictly for adults and nobody knew that I was a kid. I made many SF fan friends over the next few years who never knew I was 15 years younger than they were.

The big disappointment? When I finally sold a story to that magazine, the illustration was even more badly messed up than the one I'd complained about some 15 years before.

They also published my name and address with that letter (at that time, there weren't the nasty predators out there who would stalk and attack anyone whose identity was made public.)

After the magazine came out, my parent's mailbox became stuffed with dozens then hundreds of letters from SCIENCE FICTION FANS!!! Which I duly answered. On the typewriter because in SF fandom, handwriting is impolite. Like a Kingdom a Fandom has a culture of its own.

Pause here to see Rowena Cherry's post on cultural dissonance. Entering SF fandom at that time was massive cultural dissonance, but at the same time it was a homecoming. Every strange thing was just "right" and "familiar" though I'd never imagined it before.


I discovered there was a whole, organized, huge, active, brilliant, rollicking, dynamic and just plain wondrous group of people who were interested in all the things I was interested in. In fact they thrived on what I couldn't share even with my parents.

I discovered something I could do that I wanted to do. I just had to figure out how to make a living while doing it because there was (and actually still is) no money in Science Fiction writing.

A QUESTION YOU DIDN'T ASK: my first sale.

Here is the story of my first sale.

That short story is now posted online for free reading.

It's the first published fiction in what was to become my Sime~Gen Universe novels. There is an omnibus of three novels in that universe that form a trilogy:

4. What does it take to become an author?

My second, and really key, mentor in the art and craft of writing was Marion Zimmer Bradley (look her up on Amazon).

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Marion Zimmer Bradley taught that anyone can write fiction and sell it, provided they have acquired one single skill. The ability to write a literate English sentence.

It's spelling, punctuation, and grammar, plus a huge vocabulary. Today add keyboarding and a facility with word processing programs, especially the tech underpinnings that allow you to manipulate text into various formats (from Word, or Open Office document, to html, to pdf, to Plain Text, to the newest version of whatever software).

A facility with building websites, manipulating images, and an eye for design can be helpful, but if you make enough with your writing, you can hire someone to do that. You will likely not be satisfied though unless you can at least edit the website they make for you.

Online social networking skills, Web 2.0, 3.0, and soon 4.0 plus whatever comes after that is going to be a primary necessity for writers in just a few years.

Public Speaking training. Join anything at school that gets you on a stage before an audience, the more hostile the audience the better.

The ability to throw a party, organize food, invite guests that blend well, attract Media Attention to it, create an EVENT (you may have to throw your own book-launch parties for a while). Training for this can be had by volunteering to run money raisers for charities or your school.

You need experience at being the center of attention at an Event, at being totally ignored and irrelevant to the Event, and at being in charge of the Event. You need to do this over and over until getting dressed for that special night is exactly the same as getting dressed to spend the day lounging around the house all alone. Practice until speaking to 2,000 people, or on a TV talk show, is the same as talking to one person.

All of the above modern skills are the equivalent of "writing a literate English sentence" on a typewriter.

Writing is basically just talking to someone who isn't there at the moment, but you know pretty much who that person is. You always write for a particular audience, fiction or non-fiction you must write to your audience, not above their heads, and not beneath them, just to them.

So start to learn to write by learning to talk. Learn the fine art of conversation, too, not just the art of the monologue. Elocution and Rhetoric are the core of these disciplines, but so is Deportment.

Finally, to become a professional writer, you need to amass a huge amount of trivia, bits and pieces and an understanding of the principles that relate those pieces into a whole. It doesn't have to be the RIGHT principles according to what anyone else thinks. It has to be internally CONSISTENT in your own mind.

In other words you need to study philosophy, anthropology, sociology, criminology, pre-history, archeology, linguistics (diachronic linguistics especially), Law, every bit of science you can lay hands on, and learn every possible culture you can find to learn about. You need to learn all about human behavior, and the human nervous system and brain functions. You need to learn all about Religion (all of them!).

You need to cultivate an attitude toward learning such that it never, ever, occurs to you that this or that subject is out of bounds, or you won't study it because you don't like it. And you need to set yourself a curriculum which you make up and then actually execute to your own specified deadlines.

A good role model from today's modern Romance market is my co-blogger here, Rowena Cherry, whose blog entry on cultural dissonance you just read if you followed the link above.

As Alma Hill my first writing mentor met through Science Fiction Fandom, taught me, Writing Is A Performing Art.

Robert Heinlein taught me the oldest stage adage: "Sounding Spontaneous Is A Matter of Careful Preparation."

To "become" a writer is impossible.

To recognize that you were born a writer, is possible. How do you tell if you're a writer?

Writers write.

That's it. That's the whole thing. Those who can't stop writing have to make a living somehow and the only recourse is to sell what you've written.

My blog post

Gives you a chance to get a grip on the 'business model' of the independent contractor which is what a professional writer is.

To 'go pro' you have to prepare yourself to do everything it takes to run a small business from incorporating to book keeping to management to advertising. You will be 'self-employed' and that means usually doing absolutely everything with your own hands, at least part of the time.

Marion Zimmer Bradley had a sign over her desk:

"Nobody ever told you not to be a plumber."

Meaning, plumbers make a lot more money more reliably and with a lot less effort than writers do.

Anyone who can be discouraged from "becoming a writer" should be discouraged resoundingly.

Robert A. Heinlein (look him up on Amazon)

Robert A. Heinlein

said that only people who literally couldn't do anything else should consider writing as a career.

He, himself, was actually physically disabled and had no other way to support himself, so he began selling his stories. He always looked at it as competing for some guy's beer money.

Every successful writer I know follows his 3 rules whether they attribute them to Heinlein or not.

1) write it
2) finish it
3) put it on the market and keep it on the market until it sells

I learned those rules when I was a teen.

So what does it take to "become" a professional writer? A certain amount of cussedness, a blazing fire of determination, an ego beyond all bounds of polite society, and a wide and deep understanding of humanity, life, the universe and everything.

5. What's the most rewarding part of being a writer?

As a professional reviewer I get tons of free books from all sorts of publishers which is one way to feed a reading-addict! I just saw a tweet on twitter from a writer who advised new writers that if you don't read, you can't write. Writing means READING. So if you're not addicted to reading, find another way to make a living.

So the biggest kick I ever get from all this work is when I read a book some publicist for some publisher has sent me and love it, then review the book in my review column, send it in to the magazine that pays me for the column, and email a copy of the review to whichever publicist sent it to me, and get an email from the author flipping out over my review because some of my novels had been the inspiration to them to launch a writing career.

The kick is from finding out how this writer I've just become a fan of grew up as a fan of mine! Wow.

This has happened consistently throughout my career, but I only recently started keeping track and asking permission to list the writer online.

So here's a very abbreviated list of some of the authors who will admit in public that I influenced them.

6. Is there anything you dislike?

Oh, that's way too open ended a question.

Of course there are many things, but the objective of training yourself to be a professional writer (meaning you not only write for money, but you also can and will write whatever they will pay for) is to whittle the list of dislikes you amass as a teenager down to almost nothing by the time you're thirty.

Broad tastes, wide experience, a zest and even lust for life in all its glory is the attitude a writer needs to cultivate.

If you haven't read it by now, do please read Rowena Cherry's post on cultural dissonance.

I didn't tell her to write that post and put it up right before this one. It just "happened" like so many of the connections on this blog. Rowena is prescribing just exactly the medicine a writer needs to become able to create scintillating characters and conflicts.

When you must create a character who is very different from yourself, you must be able to put yourself in his/her shoes and walk a mile in those moccasins. Likes and dislikes are part of the characterization of that character and to make a character consistent, you can't just choose those likes and dislikes at random or just pick what you, yourself like or dislike.

The characteristics or traits of your characters must form a pattern that bespeaks the essence of the character and the theme of the work.

To achieve that, you need to learn to like things you dislike, if only for a few months at a time while you write that book. Using your own personal likes and dislikes creates an effect in the work that labels it amateur.

If all this learning, studying, broadening, self-cultivating, degree work at university, lifelong course taking, lifelong dedication to learning-learning-learning sounds arduous, then you're not a writer.

If it all sounds irresistible, a life of pure vacation time, you might actually sell your work for money one day.

And in fact, that means you are already a writer. Possibly, if you have the right attitude toward the words you produce, valuing those words as if they already were worth money, being willing to barter words for valuable returns, then you may in fact be a professional writer without yet having sold any words.

Professionalism in any profession is all about attitude.

7. What other careers have you had besides being an author?

I trained and worked as a Chemist, but that wasn't another career.

The secret of the universe is that there actually is only one career.
We all write the story of our own lives.

Shakespeare wrote: "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts."

That was engraved over the stage in my High School's auditorium and during meetings all I had to do was stare at it and ponder.

It is so true. Your story is your History.

So no matter what all a writer does to get money to live on, their career is writing, and all the rest is waiting to write.

8. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to become an author?

As noted above learn everything, master a language, then as many others as possible, and if committing yourself to a life of learning at an even faster pace than you are now learning in school seems to be a burden, DON'T be a writer.

Try everything. If there's anything else you can do, do it.

If you can stop writing, then stop.

9. Was becoming an author something you always wanted to do?

I didn't do it and don't know anyone who has though most of my friends are writers.

It's something you are, not something you become.

And it does not depend on having "talent." The traits I've listed above are not a "talent" but just a quirk you can't get rid of if you have it. You can use those traits to achieve a wide variety of things in life. They don't compel you to sell your writing.

So there is that one additional trait. A writer is a person who can't not write and can't not read even if there's no audience and no pay involved.

All the books of advice will say, 'Write what you know.' But the truth is that's not a good idea.

The better you know something, the less likely you are to be able to convey it well until you've acquired a huge range of skills in the writer's toolbox.

However, it's also true that you really should not expect to go do some research, learn something, then put it in a novel or non-fiction book.

Yes, you must research as you write, to check facts, but just to CHECK.

The research for a novel is done years and years before the novel is even an idea in the back of your mind. You use that storehouse of eclectic trivia as the potting soil to germinate ideas, and when you go to write, your subconscious will arrange that trivia into a pattern that will be art.

In fact, you get 'ideas' because some of that trivia is intrinsically interesting to you.

What you've just learned today will be of artistic use to you in about 20 years. So the sooner you start learning, the sooner you can start turning out publishable material with artistic merit.

A writer is an observer. Most especially, a writer is an observer of people. Like actors, because Writing Is A Performing Art, a writer should cultivate the habit of sitting down at the mall or in airports or other public places and just observe people and divine their life-story (like Sherlock Holmes or Psych) from details.

People-watching is the main avocation of actors and writers. They are allied fields.

10. As a child, did you have any favorite stories?

See my list of authors that influenced me.

All their work was favorite but I did reread Andre Norton's Star Rangers 16 times before I lost count.

For more on that story see the forward to DUSHAU, the first book in the Dushau Trilogy


The Dushau Trilogy's origin is recounted in the forward. I wrote them at Andre Norton's request as a kind of sequel to her novel Star Rangers though in a different Universe.

Star Rangers was the original title of Last Planet -- they used to reissue books with different titles to get you to buy them twice.

Star Rangers

All writers are readers, though not all readers are writers.

A writer is a compulsive reader who will read cereal boxes, toilet paper wrapping, billboards, license plates, even the fine print in contracts and installation instructions. Writers are read-addicts.

If you're not a read-addict, you likely won't make many sales of your words. You'll run out of material fast.

11. Did any life events inspire your works? If so, which ones inspired you most?


I write Science Fiction and Fantasy.

It's all imagination.

12. What is your motivation for being an author?

If you need a motivation, you're not a writer.

But there is one thing that spurs extreme bursts of effort. The promise of a paycheck if you meet a deadline does amazing things.

Deadline training is another skill set writers must acquire.

If you're in school, learn to meet every assignment deadline with plenty of room to spare (days or weeks if possible). You won't get a paycheck if you don't make the deadline.

Keep bugging teachers to give you the assignments for the whole quarter on the first day of class, and work ahead in the textbook, and get ahead and ahead of the class's position.

That's what writers do. You don't need teachers to teach you. You teach yourself and check the teacher's presentation to be sure you didn't miss something important. That way you learn to teach, and every book you write (fiction or non-fiction) is TEACHING which is also a performing art.

If you are a writer, and you accept the teacher's usual reluctance to provide this information (which they do have, no matter what they say, but won't admit it because they're taught in teacher-school that it's bad for students; most students aren't writers so mass-production schooling doesn't accommodate us), so if you are a writer and you accept no for an answer, you will find yourself getting grades way below what you really deserve because you are a different kind of learner than the others in your class.

Writers work ahead of deadlines wherever possible, and manipulate the world around them to allow for that. As a self-employed entrepreneur you can't afford to get sick and not have your work done ahead of the deadline so you can just send it in ON TIME and go barf in private.

13. Does your family support you in what you do?


You'll see many songs of praise in the Acknowledgments of books about how the family supported the writer through the ordeal of creating the book. Much of it is literally TRUE, but few writers actually experience the truth of that until after the ordeal is over. Generally, Acknowledgments are written an hour or two before you send off the final-final rewritten manuscript. By then, the truth of support has come home.

A main complaint of beginning writers is that the family demands time that needs to be spent writing. And that's true. Family doesn't understand what writing is about. But even worse, the writer doesn't "get it" when the family complains.

Many articles have been written about striking that fine balance between competing needs. No two writers solve it the same way.

One of the skill sets a writer needs is Team Leader. This requires the ability to amalgamate disparate people into a team driving toward a goal, and keep them focused until you get them there. Notice in the acknowledgments of the best selling books how many people are involved on various levels, professional and personal. That's a team, and the internal politics pretty much replicates any team (office or sports).

I've never met a writer whose family was actually actively supportive in a way the writer could feel during the writing process except two who are very exceptional: Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose husband was a writer actually wrote an academic book about her writing.

And I know a veteran Romance writer whose husband wrote mysteries and so knew what she went through writing romance to deadline.

But even there, the relationship is not so much supportive as tolerant and understanding.

Most writers never experience any local support, at least not until vast success has been earned, and then there's always the suspicion they only flock to you because you are famous, not because you are you (actors have the same problem, so do Olympic athletes).

If that kind of stress deters you or chisels down your output volume, you're not suited to being a commercial writer.

14. What is a lifelong dream of yours?

I've pretty much fulfilled most of them. Read what I've pointed you to, and follow the links in those pieces.

15. Do you expect to keep producing novels and stories for the rest of your life?

Maybe, or maybe scripts, or non-fiction which I?m working on now (a 7 or 8 book series), or whatever I can find a market for.

---------------END INTERVIEW QUESTIONS----------

So I sent this treatise to the High School student and she answered:

I was expecting responses but not responses that would make my head swim.

But I learned a lot that I had never even considered before. I do have the start, though, I think. I love to write. And I have a long ways to go.

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my questions. I'll go through them and edit the answers. The paper needed to be a minimum of three pages but you've given so much more which will be very helpful to me. It was saved immediately to my computer.

Now, I ask you, is she a writer, or not?

I told her editing was yet another skill writers need.

I've edited this and added links and side notes to what I sent her, too.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg