Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blake's Run


I'm reading a thriller called RUN by Blake Crouch, and it occurs to me that
the difference between science fiction and other genres is a matter of degree as
regards the reader's suspension of disbelief.
 
Here’s Blake's pitch:
 
Picture this: A landscape of American genocide...
 
5  d a y s  a g o
A rash of bizarre murders swept the country…
Senseless.  Brutal.  Seemingly unconnected. 
A cop walked into a nursing home and unloaded his weapons on elderly and staff alike. 
A mass of school shootings. 
Prison riots of unprecedented brutality. 
Mind-boggling acts of violence in every state.
 
4  d a y s  a g o
The murders increased ten-fold…
 
3  d a y s  a g o
The President addressed the nation and begged for calm and peace…
 
2  d a y s  a g o
The killers began to mobilize…
 
Y e s t e r d a y
All the power went out…
 
T o n i g h t
They’re reading the names of those to be killed on the Emergency Broadcast System.  
You are listening over the battery-powered radio on your kitchen table, and they’ve 
just read yours.
 
Your name is Jack Colclough.  You have a wife, a daughter, and a young son.  
You live in Albuquerque , New Mexico . People are coming to your house to kill you 
and your family.  You don’t know why, but you don’t have time to think about that 
any more. 
 
You only have time to….
 
R U N
  
One would only have to change or add two or three words, and this could just as
well be the pitch for an imaginary sequel to ALIENS, for example.
(That comment is not intended to pejorative.)
Blake Crouch adds in his note to reviewers and fans:
 
This isn’t horror in the same way DRACULAS was...this is a story about a family thrown into a nightmare none of us could fathom and how they pull together to try and survive. This is a fast, scary, pedal-to-the metal ride, but it has a real heart beating at its core. It’s about a family’s love under the worst conditions imaginable. I’ve been working on this book for over two years, between other projects, and I’m more excited about it than anything I’ve ever written.
 
An interesting, anchoring technique that Blake Crouch uses, and that I think would adapt well to
science fiction is his use of real quotations from historical figures such as

"There's no decent place to stand in a massacre."
~Leonard Cohen

Crouch also makes great use of imaginary reportage from realistic-sounding newspapers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Redefining Sin

Here's an article about a professor at the University of California, Irvine (where I received my doctorate in English, which is why I happened to become aware of the article) who teaches courses and is writing a book about how our society's ideas of what's moral or immoral have changed over time:

Vice and Virtue

The quotes in the article refer to areas where behavior that used to be condemned has become legal (and acceptable to most of the public), e.g., gambling, divorce, premarital sex, abortion, stem cell research, etc. I wonder whether the forthcoming book will go into regional differences. For example, gambling isn't equally acceptable everywhere. Recently I had a brief conversation with someone who'd moved here from one of the Deep South states, and she remarked how different the political "conversation" in Maryland is from what she was used to. Her example was gambling; last year Maryland approved the limited establishment of "video lottery facilities," i.e., slot machines, and is now debating whether casino table games should be allowed, too; the state this woman came from is still divided on whether to permit—church bingo!

To cite a limited sample I've been exposed to, I notice wide differences in opinion on current social trends among various online communities. For instance, prevalent attitudes on the S. M. Stirling list (tending to a majority of agnostics and pagans, as far as I can tell) and the C. S. Lewis list I subscribe to (mostly Christian) toward controversial issues are very different.

That article in the UCI magazine doesn't mention the fact that, for most issues, the group that considers a certain change an advance is usually balanced by a group that condemns the same change. One example given is the death penalty—some people would welcome its abolition as a great advance in civilization, while others think we'd benefit by having it applied more frequently and widely. Liberalizing of laws and attitudes regarding abortion and same-sex marriage is regarded as a good thing by many people but as a sign of decadence by many others. The latter occasionally cite such developments and the perceived overall increase of rudeness and coarseness in our society as examples of "defining deviancy downward." However, in other areas the past few decades have defined deviancy upward, becoming more strict and condemnatory rather than less. Remember when domestic abuse (before the term itself was invented) was a matter to be kept "in the family"? When excessive drinking was thought a legitimate subject for slapstick humor? When most adults smoked, and they did it EVERYWHERE? When heavy industry and high-powered cars were signs of prosperity, with no thought of possible negative consequences?

When we contact other species on distant worlds, their mores will differ from ours. Probably one faction will advocate a "Prime Directive" approach, forbidding Earth's space travelers from interfering with other cultures, but an opposition group might condemn cultural relativism and advocate active intervention on a world that practices such customs as slavery or genocide. Dealing with rapidly shifting mores in our own culture might be good practice for making those future decisions.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Star Trek / Loveboat Mashup And Soulmates Part II

This series of posts illustrates the thinking process inside the writer's mind. The exercise here is to target an audience and develop a jaw-dropping TV Series premise from a very vague concept.

I recommend reading previous Parts first.
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/02/star-trek-loveboat-mashup-and-soulmates.html
As requested by some readers of this blog, I'm breaking this very long (abstract) post into parts to make short posts. If you don't like this approach, do please let me know.

I do want to tell a story in Part VI & VII that could become a TV show. But first, follow this thinking, argue against it, find the flaws, find different data, concoct your own Concept, and generate your own premise as we work through this.


-----PART II --------

Well, of course in elementary school, our first exposure to the "word problem" is rigged.  They make those up to be easily stated and solved. 

The one we're tackling here is, ahem, virgin territory.

Since we were originally trained on rigged problems, and most of us learned science the same way - in high school and college labs with "experiments" the results of which are well known and reproducable - we have no clue "how" our minds tackle raw, virgin "reality," parse it into a statement in a language (yes, they discussed linguistics as a science and discarded it as fundamental) and "solve" the problem.

That brings us to "How do our minds work?"

And that brings us to "What's a mind?"

And that brings us to "Is there such a thing as a Soul?"

And that brings us to the definition of soul, the definition of soul mate, and how to find your own soul mate. 

Oh, you can wander into a fog of vagueness where "reasoning" doesn't help at all. 

I submit that it isn't possible to convey "information" about the soul-based-universe concept where Love Conquers All in the English language, or indeed most other languages.

That's why poetry exists.  It's an attempt to use words to evoke unspeakable concepts in twin minds.

Think about the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

"The Elephant" is the symbol for "raw reality."  Each of the scientists examining raw reality finds, measures, quantifies, and describes in words one part or piece or aspect of the elephant.

It's a post. It's a long skinny worm with a pom-pon on the end.  It's a hot-air emitting tube. It's a wall with bristles. 

Each one is right, very precisely and unarguably right.  You can prove it scientifically.  This is what is here in my lab to measure. 

But the mystic, the one sighted man, standing way back, can see the whole object and proclaim that it's an elephant.

The concept "elephant" can not be explained (in words) to those who have each studied, measured, quantified and adored their piece of the reality, their most fundamental branch of science.

They can't be convinced they're wrong, because they're not wrong. Therefore the person who tries to tell them it's an elephant is mouthing superstitious drivel and must not be listened to at all.

These scientists, (being human) will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to discourse about elephants. They have a low threshold for anxiety.  They need concrete answers they can use now. Real happiness, they are convinced, comes from immediately useful answers, and from things that can be proven.

To me, standing way back and looking at a whole herd of elephants, trees they're eating, monkeys and cheetahs and crickets and vultures, a sun rising and moon setting, stars and clouds, it isn't clear what would be improved for those scientists if they could see what I think I see (think, mind you -- maybe what I see isn't "real" and maybe that matters, or maybe it doesn't.)

In fact, what would be improved for "all humanity" if we didn't have our blind men studying their parts of our elephant?  They've produced an awful lot of very useful things over the few centuries since Francis Bacon set up the rules of "science." 
----------
FROM WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount Saint Alban, KC (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist and author.
-------

And also from Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baconian_method

The Baconian method is the investigative method developed by Sir Francis Bacon. The method was put forward in Bacon's book Novum Organum (1620), or 'New Instrument', and was supposed to replace the methods put forward in Aristotle's Organon.

---------

BTW - I only use Wikipedia references when they agree with what I know from other sources.  I give you the links here because my sources wouldn't be available to you, maybe not even on amazon anymore.  Wikipedia is not "authority" but it is helpful to keep us talking about the same subject.

---------

Bacon's work is widely cited as the origin of "modern scientific method" -- and there's no way to disprove its usefulness in sorting out "reality" into practical segments you can study and use.

But note his credentials.  He was a "philosopher" and his contribution to the scientific method was to replace the thinking methodology of Aristotle, a previous philosopher.

Science is philosophy. 

All branches of modern science have their origin in Bacon's work.

Therefore philosophy is THE most fundamental branch of science? 

Well, what's philosophy a branch of?

There's the kind of philosophy that asks how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and there's Natural Philosophy that wonders why things always fall down not up.

Alchemy is a branch of Philosophy - and evolved into Chemistry after a fashion. 

Alchemy wonders about the connection between what we think of as chemistry today (compounds reacting to form new compounds, elements neatly arranged in a table) and The Soul.

Philosophy today talks about such things as "logic" and the non-falsifiable hypothesis.  God and The Soul are non-falsifiable hypotheses.

There is no "proof" that can be offered in the reality of the scientist that can establish there is such as thing as a Soul.

There's no way to identify, quantify or calculate Souls.

You can't decide that you and your husband are going to conceive a child who will have a Soul with certain properties. But today you can select for certain genes.

You can't find your Soul, analyze it and feed it Soul Vitamins to make it healthier.

And if you can't do that, then the idea of two Souls bonding into One and begetting a child (like Hydrogen and Oxygen combining to make Water) is just plain superstitious drivel and anyone who believes that is incompetent.

But....

OK, there we leave it hanging in suspense until next week, when we'll tackle Part III comparing Star Trek and The Loveboat.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taking the High Road To Mars

Perhaps I am taking the "low" minded road.  I've been torn all day between blogging about The Naked Man Festival in Japan... as an example of exotic Festivals around the world that might be used as inspiration for world-building; or about Innovations that every science fiction author has freely given away in their work, only to see it also appear in someone else's work; or about sex.

I'm plumping for sex. Or rather, abstinence therefrom.

http://journalofcosmology.com/Mars144.html

You should follow that link.

The scientists'  "Recommendations include the possibility that male and female astronauts on a mission to Mars, should fly in separate space craft."

The scientists presuppose that both space craft will land safely. I think... if I were organizing the expedition,
and I really felt that the astronauts could not be induced to abstain from sex, and if hibernation were not to be a viable solution, I'd send along some deep-frozen embryos on the males' space ship, and some deep frozen semen on the females' space ship, just to hedge my bets.

The scientists' concerns stem from real life experiments aboard the Mir, and isolated in the Antarctic, and they conclude that "rape, murder, the monopolization of female astronauts by one or two high ranking males" are highly likely, and would be absolutely beyond the power of NASA (or the Russian space agency) to control.

Possibly Doria Russell was on to something, in THE SPARROW, when she sent Jesuits on space missions. What would be the calming effect and influence of an astronaut man --or woman-- of God on such a mission?

On the other hand, why not sent a latter day Noah's Ark? If there are to be three males and three females, why shouldn't they be stable and happily married couples? One of the consultants suggests that we send married couples, but the scientists worry about divorce.

Maybe, a different demographic would be a good idea. I'm just throwing this out. If sex is such a potential problem, what about a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and a straight couple? Wouldn't that be the perfect team for a long term, one-way, colonizing mission to Mars?

There must --surely-- be qualified couples.

If you are interested in SFR, you really should (IMHO) read this study.
http://journalofcosmology.com/Mars144.html

As for naked men, I don't know whether a .mp3 audio podcast can be shared via a Blogspot blog, but if it can be, here's the internet radio show I did yesterday with bestselling author Sally MacKenzie about her Naked Duke, and soon to come Naked King, and also with Mia Marlowe about her thoroughly distracted Duchess (Distracting The Duchess) who was expecting a nude model suitable to pose as Cupid, but a definite Mars revealed himself to her instead.

Have a great week.

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Decoding Rejections

I'm feeling a little down because a piece I've had out on submission since November was just rejected. So, as one often does, I'm trying to puzzle out what the rejection message means. Since the answer arrived by e-mail (I love e-mail submissions! -- not only faster and easier than snail mail, but free of expense), I can't tell at a glance whether or not it's a form letter.

On the positive side, the editor apologized for the long wait for a reply, even though it fell within the outer range of their predicted response time. That's something I don't get from publishers very often!

I know "it does not fit our needs" is generic language. But what about the statement that they hope I'll consider them for future submissions? Do they say this to everybody? Or does it mean they actually see my fiction as promising or "almost there"?

A brief indication of what, exactly, about this work wasn't quite right would have been helpful, but of course major publishers seldom supply that information. The result, alas, feels sort of like throwing darts at a target blindfolded. And this is an outlet where I'd really like to get published, so I hope to try them again eventually.

At these times I can sympathize with Snoopy (in "Peanuts") when he gets a response to his manuscript along the line of, "We can't think of anything good to say about your writing." To which he mentally replies, "I have neat margins."

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Star Trek / Loveboat Mashup And Soulmates Part I

This series of posts illustrates the thinking process inside the writer's mind. The exercise here is to target an audience and develop a jaw-dropping TV Series premise from a very vague concept.

-----Part I----------

So I've been thinking.  That's always a dangerous thing.

A couple months ago, on facebook, one of my writer friends asked which, among all the branches of science, is the most "fundamental."

This being a very popular writer, there were a lot of answers, and when it settled down, I think every branche of science I'd ever  heard of had been mentioned.  Of course I chimed in with Chemistry, then thought more and decided to go up the tree of history to the origin of science, and I said "Philosophy" which drew objections.

OK, this fellow who posed this magnificent question is a hard-science-fiction writer, and his fans are working scientists with an anti-religious bias.

I actually resonate well to that anti-religious bias (even though I'm definitely a mystic with a working religious philosophy). I don't see a conflict between the two views of reality, as I've explained in my 20 posts on Tarot which are designed to give writers a working acquaintance with the Kaballah.

The most popular among those posts are:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/six-of-swords-love-conquers-all-as.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/7-of-swords-conflict-avoidance.html

Yep, "love conquers all" and six of swords seem to be a popular google search. Psychological self-crippling mental tactics discussed in Seven Swords is likewise a topic of avid interest.

But the entire core concept behind Tarot is flatly rejected, scorned, scoffed off the map, by a group of hard-sf fans.  Why?  It makes no sense to me that sharp, deep-thinking people should be so blind on one side of their minds.

About the same time this facebook discussion raged, I was in a  #scifichat on twitter where we were discussing Starship Captains.

Somehow the whole "hunk" aspect of captains got glossed over so Linnea Sinclair didn't get mentioned.  Because of the hard-science, adventure-hero slant to the conversation, nobody squealed when one guy noted he'd be extremely averse to a Star Trek/ Loveboat mashup.

Oh-boy.

Well, that was a twitter chat.  140 characters just wouldn't do it.  So now part of it is this 7-part blog series.

These two groups of hard-science readers are in fact the exact audience who should be utterly captivated by the science fiction romance novel.  A lot of guys read romance novels or like romance in a story.  A lot of guys do Tarot.

Some guys are scientists and do Tarot. I know that's true because I've taught Tarot for decades and most of the students who turn up in my classes speak fluent science.  That makes it easy to learn Tarot and astrology too.

It's not the "guy" aspect of the person that's shunning the  science fiction romance.  There's something else going on.

Here we are with our prime readership for the romance novel shuddering away at the thought of a Star Trek / Loveboat mashup and rejecting "philosophy" as a science.

These are widely educated people who know full well that philosophy is the origin of science, historically.

So you and I have a lot to talk about here.

The central topic I've been pursuing with this blog is how to raise the regard for Romance, and particularly SF-Romance and Paranormal Romance in the eyes of the "general" public.  How do we get this publishing field to garner the respect you and I know that it deserves.

Clearly, there were two groups I was interacting with, people who should automatically hold our core subject matter in high regard, don't.  They won't.  They don't want their minds changed.

Does that mean there's something wrong with "them?"  Probably not.  Something wrong with "us?"  Well, apart from the usual, probably not.  So where's the problem?

If we can't ask the right question, we'll never solve this problem of audience receptivity.

Since we haven't solved it yet, obviously we haven't asked the right question, or phrased the question in a useful way.  This thing is the quintessential word-problem!  The very thing mathematicians (another branch of science mentioned immediately as fundamental) cut their teeth on.

How do you take a "real world" situation and reduce it to an algebraic equation that can be "solved?"

Once before in this blog I tackled a long involved topic and broke the post into parts.  A number of people liked that "short posts" approach, so I'll try it again this time and leave you in dire suspense until next week when we'll look at ways to turn this word problem into an equation of some sort.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The E-Book Royalty Mess (courtesy of Authors' Guild)

As I read this, I felt it was really important to share... and permission is granted... because I see a lot of misunderstanding by members of the public about e-books and what "sharing" does to authors.

Does it make a difference, if people know that many authors are being shafted at both ends of the business?



The E-Book Royalty Mess: An Interim Fix
 
February 11, 2011. To mark the one-year anniversary of the Great Blackout, Amazon's weeklong shut down of e-commerce for nearly all of Macmillan's titles, we're sending out a series of alerts on the state of e-books, authorship, and publishing. The first installment ("How Apple Saved Barnes & Noble. Probably.") discussed the outcome, of that battle, which introduced a modicum of competition into the distribution of e-books. The second, ("E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins") took up the long-simmering e-royalty debate, and showed that publishers generally do significantly better on e-book sales than on hardcover sales, while authors always do worse.
 
Today, we look at the implications of that disparity, and suggest an interim solution to minimize the harm to authors.
 
Negotiating a publishing contract is frequently contentious, but authors have long been able to take comfort in this: once the contract is signed, the interests of the author and the publisher are largely aligned. If the publisher works to maximize its revenues, it will necessarily work to maximize the author's royalties. This is the heart of the traditional bargain, whereby the author licenses the publisher long-term, exclusive book rights in the world's largest book market in exchange for an advance and the promise of diligently working to the joint benefit of author and publisher.
 
Now, for the first time, publishers have strong incentives to work against the author's interests.
 
As we discussed in our last alert, authors and publishers have traditionally acted as equal partners, splitting the net proceeds from book sales. Most sublicenses, for example, provide for a fifty-fifty split of proceeds, and the standard hardcover trade book royalty -- 15% of the retail price -- represented half of the net proceeds from selling the book when the standard was established.* But trade book publishers currently offer e-book royalties at precisely half what the terms of a traditional proceeds-sharing arrangement would dictate -- paying just 25% of net income on e-book sales. That's why the shift from hardcover to e-book sales is a win for publishers, a loss for authors.
 
The Pushback
 
The publisher's standard reply to this -- which we heard yet again after last week's alert -- is a muddle, conflating fixed costs with variable costs. Let's address that before we move on.
 
For any book, a publisher has two types of fixed costs: those attributable to the publisher's operations as a whole (office overhead, investments in infrastructure, etc.) and those attributable to the particular work (author's advance, editing, design). The variable costs for the book are the unit costs of production. These costs (print, paper, binding, returns, royalty) tell a publisher how much more it costs to get, say, 10,000 additional hardcover books to stores and sell them. The publisher's gross profit per unit (unit income minus unit costs) is the amount against which the author's royalties are traditionally and properly measured. With this sort of analysis, a publisher can compare the gross profitability per unit of, for example, a hardcover to a trade paperback edition.
 
Investments in technology change nothing. Publishers never argued, for example, that hardcover royalties needed to be cut when they began equipping their editorial and design staffs with expensive (at the time) personal computers, buying pricey computers and software for their designers, tying those computers together with ever-more-powerful Ethernet cables and routers, and hiring support staff to maintain it all. Publishers simply took their share of the gross profits from book sales and applied it to all of their costs, as they always have. What remains after deducting those costs is deemed the publisher's net profit. Similarly, authors take their share of the proceeds of their book sales and apply it to their overhead (food, clothing, shelter, and computer technology) and costs (their labor and out-of-pocket costs to write the manuscript). What remains is the author's net profit.
 
The proper question is this: how much better off is a publisher if it sells a book, print or digital, than it is if it doesn't? That is what we measured. We then compared that to the author's print and digital royalties per book.
 
Publisher's E-Gains + Author's E-Losses = E-Bias
 
Applying standard trade hardcover and e-book terms to Kathryn Stockett's "The Help," David Baldacci's "Hell's Corner," and Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken," we found that publishers do far better by selling e-books than hardcovers (realizing "e-gains" of 27% to 77%), while the authors do much worse (suffering "e-losses" of 17% to 39%). Publishers can't help being influenced by the gains; e-bias will inevitably drive their decisions.
 
Some simplified examples show how e-bias plays out in publishing decisions:
 
1. Promotional Bias. Assume a publisher is contemplating whether to invest a portion of a book's limited marketing budget in stimulating the sale of digital books (paying for featured placement in the Kindle or Nook stores, perhaps) or in encouraging print sales through a promotion at physical bookstores. Either way, the publisher expects the investment to boost sales by 1,000 copies. A sensible publisher would spend the money to promote digital books, pocketing an additional $1,570 to $4,170 on those sales compared to hardcover sales. Such a decision, however, would cost Ms. Stockett, Mr. Baldacci, and Ms. Hillenbrand $1,470, $1,570, and $670, respectively, in royalties.
 
2. Print-Run Bias. E-gains of 27% to 77% become irresistible when a publisher looks at risk-adjusted returns on investment, as any businessperson would. Once a book is typeset for print, the publisher must invest an additional $30,000 to have 10,000 hardcover books ready for sale, using the figures from our prior alert. Once the digital template is created and distributed to the major vendors, on the other hand, there is no additional cost to having the book ready for purchase by an unlimited number of customers. Even the encryption fee (50 cents per book, at most) isn't incurred until the reader purchases the book. In this environment a publisher is nearly certain to keep print runs as short as possible, risking unavailability at bookstores, in order to decrease overall risk and maximize the publisher's return on investment.
 
Publishers, in short, will work to increase e-book sales at the inevitable expense of hardcover sales, tilting more and more purchases toward e-books, and their lower royalties. Publishers, as sensible, profit-maximizing entities, will work against their authors' best interests.
 
An Interim Solution: Negotiate an E-Royalty Floor
 
This won't go on forever. Bargain basement e-royalty rates are largely a result of negotiating indifference. The current industry standards for e-royalties began to gel a decade or so ago, when there was no e-book market to speak of. Authors and agents weren't willing to walk away from publishing contracts over a royalty clause that had little effect on the author's earnings.
 
Once the digital market gets large enough, authors with strong sales records won't put up with this: they'll go where they'll once again be paid as full partners in the exploitation of their creative work. That day is fast approaching, and would probably be here already, were it not for a tripwire in the contracts of thousands of in-print books. That tripwire? If the publisher increases its e-royalty rates for a new book, the e-royalty rates of countless in-print books from that publisher will automatically match the new rate or be subject to renegotiation.
 
So, what's to be done in the meantime? Here's a solution that won't cascade through countless backlist books: soften the e-bias by eliminating the author's e-loss. That is, negotiate for an e-royalty floor tied to the prevailing print book royalty amount.
 
Turning again to our last alert for examples, here are the calculations of e-losses and e-gains without an e-royalty floor:
 
"The Help," by Kathryn Stockett
Author's Standard Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $2.28 e-book.
Author's E-Loss = -39%
Publisher's Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $6.32 e-book.
Publisher's E-Gain = +33%
 
"Hell's Corner," by David Baldacci
Author's Standard Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $2.63 e-book.
Author's E-Loss = -37%
Publisher's Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $7.37 e-book.
Publisher's E-Gain = +27%
 
"Unbroken," by Laura Hillenbrand
Author's Standard Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $3.38 e-book.
Author's E-Loss = -17%
Publisher's Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $9.62 e-book.
Publisher's E-Gain = +77%
 
Here are the calculations with an e-royalty floor:
 
"The Help," by Kathryn Stockett
Author's Adjusted Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $3.75 e-book.
Author's E-Loss = Zero
Publisher's Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $4.85 e-book.
Publisher's E-Gain = +2%
 
"Hell's Corner," by David Baldacci
Author's Adjusted Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $4.20 e-book.
Author's E-Loss = Zero
Publisher's Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $5.80 e-book.
Publisher's E-Gain = Zero
 
"Unbroken," by Laura Hillenbrand
Author's Adjusted Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $4.05 e-book.
Author's E-Loss = Zero
Publisher's Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $8.85 e-book.
Publisher's E-Gain = +62%
 
While this wouldn't restore authors to full partnership status in the sale of their work, it would prevent them from being harmed as publishers try to maximize their revenues. This is only an interim solution, however. In the long run, authors will demand to be restored to full partnership, and someone will give them that status.
 
Part 4 of this series will look at online piracy and book publishing.
 
--------------------------------
 
*A traditional industry rule of thumb was that the price of a hardcover should be five or six times the cost of production. (John P. Dessauer, Book Publishing: What It Is, What It Does. R.R. Bowker 1974, p. 92). To keep the math simple, let's assume that it's priced at five times the cost of production, that there are no returns, and that the bookseller pays the publisher 50% of the list price for the book. Of the 50% the publisher receives, subtract 20% for the cost of production (one-fifth the retail price) and the net proceeds are 30% of the retail list price. Split that in two, and one arrives at the author's standard hardcover royalty, 15% of the retail list price. (A current rule of thumb is that the cost of producing a hardcover is about 15% of the retail price, but the actual costs vary widely.)
 
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Living in the Future

You've probably heard about the video clip of the hosts of NBC's TODAY show, in January 1994, trying to figure out what this new thing called the "Internet" is. Here's an article on that topic by columnist Leonard Pitts:

Leonard Pitts

Pitts contrasts the rate of change in the present day with that of the nineteenth century by imagining the reaction of a person who went to sleep in 1850 and woke in 1900. He'd notice lots of exciting new technology, but the world wouldn't look unrecognizable. But suppose someone fell asleep in 1961 and awoke today. The difference would be orders of magnitude greater. The columnist's point: "We are experiencing greater change at a faster pace than ever before."

FUTURE SHOCK predicted something of this phenomenon, of course. Now we're living it. Pitts suggests that the only reason we don't notice is the "fish in water" syndrome; it's all around us, and we flow with it. I'm reminded of an ANALOG article I read years ago, when e-mail was still relatively new. (I can't find the paper copy I thought I had, and I don't have any useful keywords to search with; if there's an archive of old ANALOG editorials, I can't find it.) The author wrote a letter that might be sent by a contemporary woman to her parents, substituting a nonsense word for every term that would have been unknown in (I think) 1900. E.g., the sentence "When are you going to get e-mail?" replaced "e-mail" with a bit of gibberish. The result sounded like an epistle from an alien planet. The author pointed out, also, that many of the words and phrases he left alone would have been unintelligible to the people of 1900 because they were used in novel ways, e.g. "answering machine." Not to mention the strangeness, to the 1900 reader, of such things as knowing the sex of an unborn baby.

We'd hope fans of science fiction would be less unsettled by the accelerating rate of change than the general public. As Asimov mentions somewhere, "escapist" SF writers and fans were concerned about such matters as overpopulation, environmental disasters, and nuclear war long before the average person noticed those potential problems. What do you think? Does being an SF reader help one adjust to the onrushing future? Now that SF has a higher profile among the mass audience, especially SF in visual media, would most people be more adaptable to a high rate of technological and social change than earlier generations were?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Vampchix and Worldcon in Reno

Now there's a combination of topics, but it'll make sense in a moment.

On the day after New Year's 2011, Michele Hauf invited me to do a guest post at her bog VampChix - which is about what it says it's about. 

Of course I said yes without thinking -- after all, Vampires are my beat.  You see a lot of familiar names over at Vampchix.blogspot.com

I was at that moment preparing for the annual IRC Chat with the Sime~Gen fans and domain crew folks.  This year we announced the reprints and new volumes of Sime~Gen novels that the Borgo Press imprint of Wildside Press plans to bring out in 2011.  We have turned almost all of them in -- my original novel FARRIS CHANNEL (not First Channel, that's a reprint -- this one is FARRIS Channel) will be the last turned in some months from now.

Wildside wants to list these novels as a series with numbers, and chose the following list:

THE SIME~GEN SERIES from The Borgo Press
House of Zeor, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#1)
Unto Zeor, Forever, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#2)
First Channel, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#3)
Mahogany Trinrose, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#4)
Channel’s Destiny, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#5)
RenSime, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#6)
Ambrov Keon, by Jean Lorrah (#7)
Zelerod’s Doom, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah (#8)
Personal Recognizance, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#9)
The Story Untold and Other Stories, by Jean Lorrah (#10)
To Kiss or to Kill, by Jean Lorrah (#11)
The Farris Channel, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (#12)

Here is our chronology internal to the fictional universe:

-533 First Channel by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
-518 Channel’s Destiny by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
-468 The Farris Channel by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
-20 Ambrov Keon by Jean Lorrah
-15 House of Zeor by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
0 Zelerod’s Doom by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah
1 To Kiss Or To Kill by Jean Lorrah
1 The Story Untold And Other Sime~Gen Stories by Jean Lorrah
132 Unto Zeor, Forever by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
152 Mahogany Trinrose by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
224 Unity – “Operation High Time” by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
232 RenSime by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
245 Personal Recognizance by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Both chronologies are being printed in the Borgo Press editions and will be used to create promotional material.

-------------

The full chronology with details is available at
http://www.simegen.com/CHRONO1.html

So then I went to http://vampchix.blogspot.com/ and looked closely at what folks had been talking about lately.

Oh, way too much to say on all that.

Besides Michele had invited me to do a post for February 7, 2011 (yesterday), and I'd no idea what might be discussed in the meantime.

But reading recent posts on VampChix brought a new focus to the Sime~Gen project.  So I decided to write about Jean Lorrah's fateful review of the first Sime~Gen novel, House of Zeor, titled VAMPIRE IN MUDDY BOOTS.

A few days later, I did that and sent it off to Michelle for the February 7th posting.  At the same time I was in the middle of the weekly #scifichat on twitter where Bob Vardeman was the Guest @bobv451 (go check him out on Amazon - he's amazing).  Like Jean, he'd written a couple Star Trek novels for Pocket Books, and the topic for this chat was Starship Captains.  

Someone else on that chat commented about how averse they were to the concept of a Star Trek/Loveboat mashup.

Guess what I want to talk about here next?

Meanwhile, I'm trying to lay plans to go to Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention.

Gene Roddenberry gave the first sneak-debut of Star Trek at the 24th Worldcon, Tricon, in Cleveland in 1966 with about 850 in attendance.  (more than 1,100 people have read some of my posts on this blog). 

So anyone planning to be at Renovation, drop a note here please or email me.

Oh, and guess who turned up on Backlist Ebooks group -- Vonda McIntyre.  C.J. Cherryh is also a member.  The members who have Kindle versions of their backlist novels available are listed at
http://backlistebooks.com/ -- click the "store" tab at the top.  It's a who's who of writing craft. 

So you see, 1966 to 2011 -- it's all about social networking, only today our networks are much bigger. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Word From So-Called Pirates

"Please note: We are a 'Non-Profit' organisation, our mission is solely to help those people who struggle to make ends meet, by providing them with a few little treats they could normally not afford! We are not the 'hosts' of any books etc, neither did we upload them to any hosting provider. We simply search for links to books etc, that are freely available on the web and share our findings with our members, however, IF YOU HAVE A DMCA or ABUSE COMPLAINT about a particular item listed on our pages (eg; if you are the author/publisher!) and would like it removed, please send an email to: dmcainvestigations@gmail.com letting us know which item you are refering to, from what page it is listed on, and your association to the item, we will then investigate the issue and permanently remove the item in accordance with DMCA rules"

These good-hearted providers of little treats use only FILESONIC.

Does anyone seriously believe that these people are not affiliates? Check out what affiliates are paid.
Up to $60 for 1,000 downloads!
That is 6 cents per download.

If these not-quite-pirates did not upload the books to FILESONIC (their sole source), I wonder who did?

If they search the web for freely available books, why does every search take them to Filesonic?

It would be really interesting to know who on the site (currently a yolasite) hosts the Amazon review descriptions. Possibly these people don't realize that they may not be infringing copyright by posting links to Filesonic, but they are infringing copyright by hosting allegedly plagiarized reviews from Amazon.

These "little treats" occasionally consist of a systematic "sharing" of ten or more books written by one author in one "collection". In this author's opinion, if you share an entire series, you are not offering "a little treat", you are maliciously and deliberately attacking an author's life's work and undermining his or her future ability to earn a living.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Net Neutrality and Writers

Cory Doctorow talks about net neutrality and "leverage" for writers in the current issue of LOCUS:

Net Neutrality

So far, we've heard mostly about the burden a non-neutral Internet would place on the average user, which Doctorow illustrates with an analogy of the phone company's putting your call to the neighborhood pizza joint on hold but fast-tracking your call to Domino's. What he discusses in this article, however, is the potentially disastrous effect on artists trying to market their creations. Copyright, he maintains, supplies "negotiating leverage" for "a writer whose mere name can sell books." For those authors, copyright constitutes "a moderately successful tool for extracting funds from publishers." For the rest of us, though, the wide-open field of the Internet serves a similar function, a concept that never occurred to me from quite that angle before. Now we can reach an audience without going through the "gatekeeper" of a large publisher. At the "bottom of the market," the traditional institutions have to compete with someone besides each other. Here's Doctorow's striking summary of the beneficial effects of a neutral Internet:

"A negotiation in which the two choices are 'Do it my way' and 'Go pound sand' is not one that will end well for the supplicant. The mere existence of a better option than 'Go pound sand' raises the floor on our negotiations."

I'm not so sure I agree with this optimistic viewpoint. Even at the bottom of the market (where, as Doctorow points out, the majority of us will spend most of our careers), I'm not convinced major publishers are always aware of the niche publishers' existence, let alone affected by it. Nevertheless, I do greatly value having somewhere other than New York to offer my work, and of course I feel strongly about net neutrality.

This issue of LOCUS features a whole section of essays from various authors about "SF in the digital age," which I haven't read yet. I'm eager to find out what they're saying. (My first reaction was, "LOCUS recognizes the digital age? About time"—considering their reluctance, so far, to review e-books, an odd approach for an SF magazine.)

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How To Change Perception Of Romance

OK, the November election is long over and everyone has simmered down.

But nobody, even the winners, are really satisfied, and the people who voted for the winners aren't even satisfied.  Those who voted for the losers are gearing up to "fight again."

Most of us look at "politics" as a toxic swamp that functions more like a field of World War I muddy foxholes than like a managerial team.

But just as I pointed you toward studying the phenomenon of Glenn Beck -- NOT Beck himself, mind you, but the generating mechanism that caused the phenomenon which impacts so many in such a strange way -- I now have to point you to the study of politics.

This is an exercise in what screenwriters call SUBTEXT.

Philosophers, linguists and semanticists have other names for it.  But we're fiction writers here, and we're trying to solve the problem of how and why the HEA, Romance and particularly Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance got such a horrid reputation among those who never (ever) even read it.

I mean, if you don't read Romance, how can you have an opinion about it?

See where I'm going with this?

People don't know politicians, but have opinions about them.

People don't understand economics, but have opinions about it.

Even professors don't understand economics -- they're making it up as they go along and winning Nobel Prizes for it, but they're all clueless about how economies actually work.  If that were not the case, we wouldn't have a problem with the economy would we?

Does that sound like the field of professional fiction writing?  Everyone has an opinion, but nobody understands it. 

Yes, "economics" and "politics" and "government" and getting elected are an "artform" and actually close to writing because working as a politician is being a performing artist.

As I've told you, Alma Hill clued me in to the actual category of the writing craft -- writing is a performing art.

Well, so is politics.

And "selling" a politician or even just a political idea or stance (not even the whole philosophical package behind those ideas -- the whole "theme" of the created piece the politician is performing) works just exactly like selling books.

It's all about popularity.

And as any screenwriter will tell you up front, to get a film over the hump and into "popularity" one must be a virtuoso at subtext.

If your dialog is "on the nose" (putting the subconscious assumptions into delineated, direct, conscious expression) it won't work.

Men (or the masculine tendencies in everyone) are especially put off by this.  Emotions must not be articulated.  Emotional content has to be sub-subtext or they will run away before you can make your point.

Subtext carries the message, the theme, the point of the whole thing.

And that can be just tone of voice, or choice of vocabulary.

Actors master this early.  You can say one thing, but convey another, and the audience will pick up on and believe the other.

Now if you've been studying commercials as I suggested long ago in these writing craft pieces, you already see this point.

The key to selling product in a commercial is tone of voice, music, -- the images and articulated message are there just to distract the audience so that the real message can be rammed into the subconscious where it will control behavior against the audience's will.

That's how it works, and it is now a practice reduced to a mathematical formula.

The Overton Window that I talked about is derived from that mathematical study of the behavior of large groups of people.

Individuals can't be controlled.  But large groups can.  The more uniform the individuals in the group, the more easily the larger group can be controlled -- like cowboys herding cattle.  That's why they're called "cowpokes."  They poke here and there, and five of them can control a thousand head of cattle.

Now what's happened on the political scene in 2010 was the result of a court decision regarding how money spent supporting candidates can be collected, spent and accounted for.  In effect, the laws instituted to try to "clean up" elections turned out to be unconstitutional.  So that opened the spigot for all kinds of funding to flow in all kinds of ways that the general public is not to be allowed to know about.

It's raining on the field of World War I muddy foxholes and the battlefield just got a whole lot more toxic.

As any writer knows, to generate a really great mystery plot, just re-analyze the events in terms of "follow the money" -- that's where murder motivations seethe.

Publishing likewise is all about making money.

Winning high political office sets people up to become wealthy themselves -- and I'm sure most of the deals they swing are perfectly legal which is what lures them into swinging shadier deals and eventually getting caught.

Lots of plot ideas in that, but let's stand way back and watch the publishing field as the color Nook and Barnes & Noble rule the roost for a while before they get shot down (maybe by Amazon?)  It's warfare, trench warfare in publishing now.

And it's all about advertising.

Advertising is the war against readers.

The point of advertising is to get a reader to buy a book they don't want, just as advertising lures people into buying all sorts of other things they don't want or need.  We are now an admittedly consumer driven economy (which I don't think is the best thing to be, but that's another discussion.)

Remember we're writers, and we write stories.  The essence of story is conflict -- conflict generates both plot and story, and how that conflict plays out to a resolution states the theme.  In other words, conflict is theme-driven.

Think back over this election and all the particolored junk that came in your snailmail and the flashing advertisements on TV, the posters and bill boards, handbills given out at grocery stores, and so forth.

Advertising is the war against voters.

Advertising is done by someone who wants to change someone else's behavior to be in accord with the benefit of the advertiser -- REGARDLESS of whether that benefits the recipient of the advertising or not.

And sometimes it does benefit the recipient.  Here's a better cold remedy.  Here's a way to get spots out of your carpet.  Here's a more delicious coffee.  Here's a really cheap shampoo that works better.

Sometimes ads tell the truth.

Sometimes they don't.

Regardless of the truth contained, advertising is more efficient at herding humans than cowpokes are at herding cows.

Cowpokes use bovine instinct to get results.  Advertisers use subtext.

To become a popular writer, you must master the use of subtext.

To "sell" (by advertising) the theme "Love Conquers All" to those who disbelieve it, you must bury it deep in subtext and use it in your advertising (i.e. what screenwriters call a pitch).

That means you must study successful use of subtext in advertising.

The most efficient way to learn something is to watch someone else use it.

They still teach the Medical Arts by the "See One, Do One, Teach One" method, and there's a reason for that buried in the human brain's learning process.

But in writing, the best way to learn a technique is to see it, do it, and teach it in an artistic context different from the one where you intend to apply it.

That's why I did the long series of 20 posts on the Tarot which I hope you've finished reading and absorbing by now.  Instead of focusing directly on writing techniques, you learn by focusing attention elsewhere and absorbing the essential lesson on writing from the subtext.

That's the drill that's most effective in absorbing any writing technique I've discussed "on the nose" in previous posts here.

So now look closely at the field of political advertising and the effectiveness of it, and think in terms of the "message" we are trying to get across about the HEA.

Here below is a brief excerpt from an email begging for contribution money for a "cause" rather than a "candidate" - just substitute HEA for the cause.

Note I chose this one, but the exact same language and subtext are in every one of these fund-raising emails -- I subscribe to one or two from every flavor of the political spectrum and study them for techniques.  (one day you might need to write one as part of a plot, so study carefully.)

--------FROM DICK MORRIS--------

From the desk of Dick Morris

Dear Reader:

Let me tell you about the devastating ad we’re running right now to defeat THREE Pelosi Democrats from Arizona. It’s called “Stop the Arizona Three!”

You can be proud of this ad because donations from friends like you made this ad possible.

The ad is simple. It exposes the three Democratic politicians for voters to see. It says that Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell, and Gabrielle Giffords:

Voted for Obama’s massive healthcare takeover
Voted for a $500 billion Medicare cut
Voted for $1 trillion in wasted stimulus funds
Supported Nancy Pelosi
The ad ends with an appeal to “stop Obama’s tax hikes, his amnesty for illegals, and his job-killing policies.” And it closes with these words: “Vote for the candidates who share your values.”

The beauty of this ad is that we hit three birds with just one stone! For the cost of one ad, we can defeat three Pelosi Democrats!

And, thanks to your donations, we’re also running similar ads against Pelosi Democrats in Florida, West Virginia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and elsewhere. The ads all follow the same successful formula.

 --------END QUOTE---------

Did you detect the subtext?

It's the same subtext you see in every single political fundraiser.

"I can get people to do what you want, not what they want, and all you have to do is give me money."

Now if you're any kind of writer, you've also studied carefully all the techniques used by grifters, confidence artists, to finesse you out of your money.

This is the same subtext used to victimize the retired folks who don't have enough money.  "give me your money and I'll double it."

This is the same subtext used to hoodwink anyone into doing anything that is against that person's best interests.

MONEY CAN BUY ANYTHING.

And it's a subtext that's believed by a lot of people, but it's especially believed by the pragmatic people who pay attention to politics.  The winner is always the one who has raised the most money.  That's how we got George Bush as President. That's how we got Barak Obama as President.

And all the lesser offices work the same way.

It is so rare that the under-funded politician wins that when it does happen it's a national news story even if the office is local.  It's the "man bites dog" story -- when "dog bites man" is not a news story.

I can make things the way you want them to be if you pay me money.  Well, that wasn't enough money, give me more.  Confidence men (women) can get people to give them entire fortunes a little at a time -- it wasn't enough, give me more.  It's working, see?  Every ponzi scheme works that way.

The pragmatic truth is that as politics is run today, political offices are for sale to the highest bidder. (this isn't new)

That happens not because of campaign funding laws, but because of the mathematicians behind The Overton Window.

Here's where I wrote about that:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/10/glenn-beck-didnt-invent-overton-window.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/10/worldbuilding-with-fire-and-ice-part-i.html

These people are changing the behavior (NOT THE MINDS) of vast herds of people by snapping a whip over their heads.  (whip-snapping can be described mathematically).

Parents know the subtext technique because it's taught by all the parenting books and coaches and advisers about how to defuse the fights with teenagers.

This behavior control via subtext is built into human beings.  (what if an alien species comes along that doesn't respond?)

So one of the elements we must master in order to change the perception of the romance genre in the eyes of the larger, general public (especially men) is subtext.

Dick Morris's (and the other fund-raisers) message is "give me money and I'll make the world the way you want it to be."

As I read it, that is the exact opposite of the message the Romance Genre carries.  I've rarely encountered an HEA ending that carries the theme "money can buy happiness."

Nevertheless, the vast majority in America does behave as if money can buy happiness.  Look at all the hundreds of millions of dollars given to political campaigns.  Lots of it is given by businesses, and they know they will make a profit on that investment as will the politicians.  (Look at those who give money to their own campaign chests!)

Look at the very rich who give away all their wealth to a "Foundation" -- well, even though other names may appear on the letterhead the person who gives the funds to the foundation controls the way that wealth is used.  Giving it away doesn't lessen their "power" -- it increases it.  And the maneuver keeps the control of that wealth from the government.

Control of money, "power" can buy happiness, satisfaction, or an HEA.  But "Love" can't.

That's the behavior.

That behavior is at odds with the professed, "on the nose" statements articulated by these same people.

Everyone says they accept the scientific studies that show health, long life, satisfaction and a sense of being "successful" come from binding family relationships. But faced with an email like Dick Morris's - they readily give money.  (by the millions of dollars, too)

Is the problem with the Romance HEA that it's "on the nose?"

How do we get HEA and Love Conquers All into subtext, then bullet point it into an advertisement modeled on Dick Morris's successful fundraising campaign?  Controlling all those millions of dollars gave Morris's organization (a non-profit) the kind of "power" that comes from controlling money.

Why does controlling money bestow power?

That question brings us to the philosophical core of the essence of all fiction, but it's especially relevant to Romance because the flip-side of "Romance" is sex, and sex is power personified (for humans; maybe aliens function differently?)

When a person harbors a belief that is at odds with their behavior, you have the main ingredient for a main point of view character for a novel.

When you can define the exact conflict between the belief and the behavior in such a way that it mirrors a conflict resident and active in a large demographic, you have a best seller that can be made into a blockbuster, opens-everywhere film such as Blake Snyder analyzes in his Save The Cat! series.

Ultimately, the resolution of that conflict between belief and behavior bestows upon an individual power over their lives.

That is the essence of the HEA -- power over your own life.

People may be futilely pouring money into poltical campaigns responding to the subtext promise that this act will gain them power over their own life.

Since it never happens, how can those same people buy a Romance novel and expect to read how to resolve their conflict in such a way that they will gain power over their own life and thus achieve the HEA depicted in the novel?

We need to move the Overton Window (I do hope you've read my post on that and the links in it or you won't understand what I'm talking about here) -- we need to alter the perception of what is possible and how to achieve it.

Look closely at the Soul Mate concept and you will see that the philosophy behind it, (the Soul exists), implies individuality and a unique individuality at that.

Each of us is half of some whole.  The other half is our Soul Mate.

Read the Tarot posts, or remember them. Here are 2 posts listing the 20 Tarot posts.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me_23.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me.html

The writer learns to parse people into characters to write about by distinguishing between what we all share in common and that carefully defined uniqueness of individuality.  Lots of philosophies do this, but I've round Tarot the fastest way to learn to use it in writing.  (not fortune telling or telling the future -- understanding the present nature of human experience)

That Soul Mate concept makes no sense to people whose individuality has been worn away.  It makes no sense to the nail that stuck up and got hammered down - to those taught "conform or die" and "different is dead."

If you believe that individuality is wrong, and that the individuality of others is a danger to you and must be controlled by "the government" or whatever instrumentality you fund, the whole HEA concept will just not seem plausible, realistic or desireable.  It certainly won't be entertaining.

Love is a phenomenon of the uniqueness of an individual.  Love happens when you percieve that uniqueness in another.

See my post "What Does She See In Him" for more on that.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-does-she-see-in-him.html

The terrible urgency of Romance derives from the uniqueness of the experience of this ONE INDIVIDUAL PERSON in your life.  There will never be another.

That's the love that generates Romance leading to an HEA where the couple mutually and individually exercise power over their own life.

The ambience of "Romance" blurs the very existence of "the real world" around one so the individuality of That One Unique Other is the total focus.  You don't see how we are all the same when you are focused on that uniqueness. 

That "blurring" is the result of a Neptune Transit which represents a very spiritual state that not everyone can handle well.  Either you see reality with utter clarity for a time, or you become completely befuddled and confused.

Here is a list of some of my posts on Astrology Just For Writers that discuss how a writer can use Astrology as a plotting tool by understanding how it describes the elements in us all that bind us, that make our life experiences identical.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me_30.html

We are a herd of identical people.  Exploiting that attribute of humanity makes these political fundraiser efforts successful.

We are unique individuals.

Exploiting that attribute of humanity makes the Romance Genre, the HEA and the Love Conquers All theme profitable for publishers.

Study the political fundraising techniques and the results.  Study the popularity of Glenn Beck and whatever new phenomenon personality appears on the scene. Don't study the text Beck presents, study the subtext and more important than the content of his subtext study how his promoters use that subtext.

Apply your discoveries to your writing.

The younger your target readership, the bigger the effect you will have on the future of humanity, so be very careful what you encode into subtext.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com