Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Carol Buchanan On Writing Tricks And Tips

On twitter #scifichat, we got to talking about worldbuilding and various (really good) writers gave tips and tricks describing the end result of what a new writer must accomplish in order to sell.

I kept asking infernal questions about exactly how you go about (inside your head) truly accomplishing this kind of projection of a 3-dimensional world using cold text.  .

Carol Buchanan who has done a Guest post here after I raved about her historical novel, Gold Under Ice,... ....

See APRIL 12, 2011 and APRIL 19, 2011 Tuesday entries in this blog.

...has joined #scifichat from time to time because I convinced her that writing SF/F is pretty much like writing Historicals (which is her field). 

Carol said in a tweet that you have to draw the reader into the story by drawing them into the character.  So I asked her well, but HOW do you do that? 

Most new writers believe they have accomplished it and proudly present their manuscripts to publishers, then explode in rage at the "gatekeepers" who won't buy their work. Your first rejection slips are bewildering, usually because they really lack an explanation of why.

Most editors (as I have noted in a blog series on editing)
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-exactly-is-editing-part-vii-how-do.html 
really aren't trained or talented in explaining WHY and what to do to fix the problem becuase they're not writers and don't know where the problem comes from in the creative process.

So I asked, and Carol answered with a list of procedures that is actually the list that I learned years and years ago.  (no wonder I like her work).


 ---------FROM CAROL BUCHANAN---------
I think of what I’d want to know when I’m reading a book.
1.      Where are we? To me, that implies landscape, weather. I wouldn’t describe snow falling, but have something happening in the landscape, such as a man driving a team and wagon while a breeze blows away the stench of the frozen corpse in the wagon bed. (God’s Thunderbolt opening) Or the ice breaks (Gold Under Ice).

Carol Buchanan on Amazon

2.      What’s happening? Plunk the reader down in the middle of the story: riding with the man driving the team, rescuing the man in the midst of thick broken ice, holding a glass when a stray bullet shatters it (new novel).

3.      Introduce characters by what they do. William Palmer searches for someone who recognizes the corpse he found (God’s Thunderbolt); Dan Stark rescues the man in the creek (Gold Under Ice); Dan Stark holds the glass that shatters (new novel). [This is as far as the numbered list went.]

4.      Always, always try to keep out of the story. Let it tell itself by what characters do (exterior POV), then think, feel, say (interior POV), one at a time and not too many of them. Stay in characters’ voices.

5.      Don’t rush it. Worst thing too many writers do is to get in a hurry to get their books out there, as if the world will end before they publish that novel. It won’t. But a hurried novel destroys careers with poor writing. When I was a Spur judge I read some real dreck and some heartbreakers, that if they had gone one more draft or maybe two, they would have been so much better. (That year we didn’t award a Spur in that particular category.)

Carol Buchanan
Author
Gold Under Ice
(Finalist, 2011 Spur Award for Long Novel &
Sequel to God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of MontanaWinner, 2009 Spur Award for Best First Novel)http://www.swanrange.com
http://www.swanrange.com/blog
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarolBMTbooks
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carol-Buchanan/54660179059
----END CAROL BUCHANAN------------

Print that out and put it up on the wall over your desk, stare at it while you're thinking. 

Internalize it, do it.  It works.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

Hoping that everyone stays safe today, no matter where you are or what (or whom) you are serving.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

DVD Copying Issues Link

This one should work:

DVD Copying

DVD Copying Issues

Here's an article (slightly clipped) about the legal status of converting movies on DVD for viewing on devices such as iPads:

DVD Copy Protection

Apparently, although it has always been okay to convert music between formats for personal use, doing the same with DVDs is still illegal. Who knew?! Here we have another angle on the tricky interface between the buyer's right to free enjoyment of the content and the seller's copyright protection.

The article mentions Amazon's new Cloud Player, which supposedly allows more flexibility. Have any of you tried that system yet?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Should You Make Up A Pen Name - Part II

Last week we looked at Sarah A. Hoyt and her multitude of bylines in various genres, a list that's still growing and not causing her much problem yet.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/05/should-you-make-up-pen-name-part-i.html

This week, I have a note from a member of Backlist eBooks (http://backlistebooks.com  which has an Amazon store which lists most of the members' titles http://astore.amazon.com/backlebook-20 ), Patricia Rosemoore, who is pondering a career with multiple bylines woven through a collaboration, a career that's still growing and branching out.

If you're just starting out in publishing, even if you are tossing out one or two trivial projects into the ebook market to make your bones, you really should ponder Patricia Rosemoore's point of view, make it your own, see what your career will look like in retrospect, before you type in a byline under the title of your first work.

Even if you've already started publishing, it might not be too late to re-think your overall business branding strategy for the body of work you intend to create and the audience you expect will discover that body of work amidst the flood of ebooks.

Patricia Rosemoor writes Dangerous Love; Kindle ebook "reprints": available from Amazon -- The McKenna Legacy:SEE ME IN YOUR DREAMS, TELL ME NO LIES, TOUCH ME IN THE DARK; from Harlequin Intrigue: BRAZEN; http://PatriciaRosemoor.com

-------QUOTE--------
My former writing partner and I are going to try to get rights back from Harper and Dell and maybe even from Silhouette. We wrote as Roslynn Patrick and Roslynn Griffith for Harper, Lynn Patrick for Dell (and for HQ) and Jeanne Rose for Silhouette. And I write as Patricia Rosemoor.

Here's my question--how would any of you who have multiple identities handle the backlist?

Should we pick one of the pseudonyms or use the originals? The only problem with using one pseudonym is that the books aren't all alike. Both Dell and HQ were Lynn Patrick -- some humor with our romance, a few with light suspense. But Silhouette Shadows were the precursor to Nocturne and the Harpers are really dark RS, three of the five being paranormal.

Whatever we choose to do, I'll probably want the cover to read something like (in small print) Patricia Rosemoor and Linda Sweeney writing as (and in big print) selected pseudonym. The idea is that since I have 60 some books as Patricia Rosemoor, and since I'm already backlisting a few Patricia Rosemoor books, it would probably generate more sales that way. For example if someone looks up Rosemoor on Amazon, they'll get those other pseudonyms.

Or is that too weird? What is anyone else doing?

Thanks,
Patricia

---END QUOTE---

So far I haven't seen more in depth discussion of this problem with definitive answers.

The problem is that most widely published writers have this problem in one form or another.

As discussed last week, bylines are often created at request or demand of Agents and/or Editors -- i.e. of marketers, not readers or writers.

And those bylines were created by Agents and Editors who never planned for the ebook world, or the self-republishing world, or Amazon's computers with tags, customer reviews, and so on.

How can you plan for what will be twenty years from now? 

What will change and what will stay the same?

The only answer I have so far is that you can't.

My sometime collaborator on my Sime~Gen Universe novels didn't plan for Amazon, but their system is working out splendidly for us.

We put both our bylines on each of our collaborations, but followed the academic convention and put the originating author first.  That is, when I first-drafted a novel that Jean collaborated on, my name came first.  When she first drafted a novel that I collaborated on, her name came first.  When we wrote independently in Sime~Gen, the byline was the single name.

The result drove bookstores totally nuts (the more they computerized, the nuttier it got), and we sold really well only at the science fiction and mystery specialty stories where the owner and clerks actually read the novels and recommended them to specific customers.  We gathered a lot of librarians, teachers, bookstore managers and owners who became fans.  .

Oddly, Amazon's method is now working wondrously well in just the way the indie bookstores did, recommending to those who would otherwise miss a title because of the odd bylines.

Jean Lorrah wrote a number of Star Trek novels for Pocket (which are all now in ebook, too) plus a series called Savage Empire, also being reissued by Wildside Press in ebook and paper.

I have a number of other titles, my Vampire Romances from St. Martin's Press, and others with complicated publishing histories including translations.  And now, two collections of my short stories have been issued, Through The Moon Gate and Science Is Magic Spelled Backwards.  

But the publisher, Wildside Press's Borgo imprint, is re-issuing the Sime~Gen novels in order of publication not in internal chronology order because numbered series in order of publication now sell better as ebooks!  (they have the computer evidence to prove it!)

So here's how they bill the Sime~Gen Universe on the inside cover listing:

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)

AND THEN NEW ONES!

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)

Now, as most readers here know, Sime~Gen is not a "series" but a Universe.

It covers several thousand years of future-history, and only a few of the books revisit a given character's life.  Most are set in different eras, to tell the story of the Universe through the intensely personal growth experiences of a given individual who lives in that time.

The Universe postulates (invisibly to the reader) that reincarnation is real, so many of the characters in later books are reincarnations of previous characters, Souls that have learned hard lessons in previous lives and now are free to go on to new lessons (harder ones).

The internal chronology is cast onto what we call the Unity Calendar, which actually has a Year Zero:
------------

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

So why am I belaboring this chronology issue in a blog about creating a pen name?

Because it all goes together, and needs to be considered if you're starting a series.

What's selling now, really well, is Series that are published in the internal chronological order.  I've reviewed a large number of those.  It's probably connected to the shift from the "anthology" TV series which had to be viewable in any order because of technical broadcast reasons, to the "story arc" TV series which is possible because of DVD's, On Demand, and Tivo.

But will it always be that way?  Can the computerization of databases and google algorhytms make some other method work better for readers?

The Pen Name issue is all about letting the reader find what the reader wants at that particular moment.  Kindle allows instant gratification by mail-order! 

One of the methods we're using to help readers figure out buying Sime~Gen in Kindle and/or paper is the Amazon store approach. 

We are making a store with the NEW Sime~Gen novels, along with a page for other titles by Jean Lorrah and by me. 

Here's the URL:

http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20 

Consider - will you need an Amazon store? (or a "store" from some other outfit, like B&N?) or all of the above?  What will you call it?

We're trying to keep our store as simple as possible, with more of the stories behind the various covers and editions explicated on the SimeGen Group on facebook.

The Amazon Store is a tool nobody would ever have predicted twenty years prior to its appearance. 

What tools will you have to market your body of work?  What flexibility can you build into your concept that will make that tool easy and natural to use?

Does byline matter? Does sub-title matter? Does order of publication matter? Does interval between new books matter? (i.e. should you write 10 novels before letting #1 come out?)

What is the best way to leverage today's marketing tools? 

Here's a blog by a writer that I was pointed to by @victoriastrauss on twitter:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/best-practices-for-amazon-ebook-sales/

That's today's Amazon - and if you read that blog, you'll see how "marketing; branding; byline" all fit into it.

So will tailoring your fiction to that method limit what you can do with tomorrow's tools?

How will social networking change the underlying principles of marketing and branding?  And what comes after social networking?

What should you be preparing for?

Oh, we have a lot of work to do on this blog!  And as we work, we may stumble on the key to that whole genre-prestige issue. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Big Brother Is Watching You

 
Google-Eye... in the sky
My "Google-Eye" byline is a reference to a song I recall from my youth which was about a big fish with ugly protruding eyes.

Google Eye lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

It's not just Google photographing your home from the street view. Microsoft may be claiming copyright over a low level aerial view of your home. Google or Bing your own home address, and be amazed at how much information about you and your finances is a matter of public record. These low level spies may well be responsible not only for any roof leaks you've suffered in the past couple of years (there's a date on the photo they took) but also from those baffling calls from "Card Services" urgently offering to improve on your mortgage rate of interest.

Talking of spies,
Eric Schmidt is alleged to have once said
"We know where you are," he once said during a discussion on privacy. "We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about."
The quote is included in an article about Google and copyright, which is how I happened upon it, but sauce for the goose...

Also, in my morning peregrinations, I noticed that Julian Assange thinks Facebook is spook heaven.
Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/02/julian-assange-facebook-is-spy-machine_n_856313.html

And Facebook rebutted:
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange recently said in an interview that Facebook is "the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented." Alleging that the social network is vulnerable to "pressure" from U.S. Intelligence, Assange said that the government could potentially exploit user data stored on the network.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/03/facebook-julian-assange-_n_857197.html

Here's the irony, as I see it. Big Brother is most definitely watching you. Once your medical records go on line, some perverted hacker could probably watch your colonoscopy.... yet we cling to a cherished mirage of our rights to Privacy.

What privacy? Are we kidding? So, why do we cling to all the fake user names on various social sites?

Eric Schmidt is said to have said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

I think he has a point, although quite possibly Mr Schmidt was not talking about copyright infringement online. Maybe, everyone who uploads --UP-loads-- anything should have to use their real name or their official dba.

If the author- or artist- name on the product does not match the uploader's name, the OSP or ISP should automatically flag the upload as potentially infringing, unless and until the uploader submits a counter-DMCA notice.

This would be the absolute reverse of the way things are done right now, where anyone can use an inscrutable identity, and is automatically presumed to be the copyright owner and in compliance with every legal site's TOU and TOS.




The way things are done now, the "uploader" enjoys the automatic presumption that he owns the copyright to ebooks and music no matter how preposterous that presumption might be, and it is the burden of the author or creator to prove otherwise.



The technology surely exists. Norton/IE auto flags new websites with those grey "unverified site" blobs. Why not automatically "blob" my imaginary "mizCopyrit3vi0lat3r" until she proves that she (or he) really and truly is Nora Roberts... and James Patterson. And JK Rowling.

I wonder whether the unintended consequences of that would be a rash of identity theft. Would it give a free pass to namesakes. There are, for instance, 25 Colleen Thompsons; 23 Paula Graveses; a couple at least of Mark Zuckerbergs.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. In the 1960s, Dystopian science fiction was on the curriculum. It's baaack (if it ever went away). The irony is, that it's not really fiction this time around. So, perhaps we have to twist it.

Perhaps we all need invisibility cloaks! Maybe we need roofs that use NFL field technology, with grids of heat tape running through pallets of grassy sod for environmental friendliness and the thwart the heat mappers in outer space.


PS
I don't appreciate why Microsoft, and Bing, and NAVTEQ, and Pictometry Birds Eye etc etc should feel that they are able to copyright a photo they took of my house (and my skylights have leaked ever since their helicopter flew over and its wash popped the rivets), so I will tell Mac owners how to snag the photo of their own roofs.

This is actually funny. Just try to copy their copyright wording, either onto an email, or into a .doc

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Vampire Novella

I've just had a new erotic vampire romance, "Blood Hostage," published by Amber Quill:

Blood Hostage

A man from a long line of vampire hunters captures a female vampire in hopes that she'll help him rescue two young people from a homicidal rogue vampire. This is only my second vampire romance in which the woman constitutes the nonhuman half of the couple. (The other is "Night Flight" from Ellora's Cave.) Like the majority of paranormal romances, most of mine pair a human female with a nonhuman male. With vampires and werewolves in particular, the typical set-up in which the man plays the "alpha" role, stronger than the woman (at first glance, anyway), seems to fit the conventions of romance better when a human woman falls in love with a "monster." It all goes back to the "Beauty and the Beast" archetype. In "Night Flight" and "Blood Hostage," I had to reconcile the heroine's superhuman abilities with the need to keep the hero from looking weak by comparison.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Should You Make Up A Pen Name? Part I

Last week we talked more about changes in publishing, and how long established, famous writers are retrieving the rights to their own novels from the big publishers and issuing them as ebooks on their own.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/05/doranna-durgin-on-changes-in-publishing.html
The organization that Duranna Durgin (oh, you gotta read her books) founded is Backlist Ebooks, just for writers trying to learn the ropes of self-publishing.  The dues are steep but worth it, as with any organization of professionals. 

Yes, famous writers with big followings are self-publishing!

And in fact, some writers just now breaking into print are having a problem selling titles they post themselves, or titles published via indie or e-book-only publishers because the big publishers are now flooding the market with the newest books by big names, while the big names are posting their own backlist titles.

It's sometimes hard to tell the difference when shopping an ebook catalogue, so various entrepreneurs have launched various projects to re-engineer the fiction delivery system.  Everything is changing so fast that new writers -- and even long established writers -- need to think carefully before wading into the chaos.

Not all members of Backlist eBooks are using Kindle. Some just post their novels on their own website. Some distribute to a lot of formats through smashwords, and hit Kindle that way.

Doing all this self-publishing work requires climbing a very steep learning curve, and takes a lot of time away from producing actual new novels.

Along with covers, and ISBN numbers, and formatting for this-and-that system, and other such mysteries, comes the decision of whether to republish a novel under the same byline it was originally published under.

Many writers have several bylines, or pen names, as they were called in the days of pens.

How does that happen? If you've never published anything yet, should you create a bunch of bylines?  Do you have to do it? Should you stop doing it?

The name you put under the Title of your work is a "brand" -- as marketers are teaching writers to call it these days. Writers have to be branded as well as genre'd!

For example, my Agent decided I needed a different byline for my Military Science Fiction novels just when he read them. He decided to market them with the challenge to the editor, figure out who wrote this from the style. The editor who bought the two couldn't figure it, then decided I should pick a male byline for them.

They are Hero and Border Dispute, which came out as Ace Mass Market novels at the peak of the military SF boom under the byline Daniel R. Kerns (before Daniel Kerns made a name for himself - that Daniel is not me).

So because of the similar and confusing byline issue, when I reissued the two novels as an omnibus Kindle edition, I put my own byline on them even though they're not the usual science fiction romance I write. They are relationship driven, human/alien stories. The problem that drives the relationship is an interstellar war -- but not against an "enemy." That's the SF twist that's so Lichtenberg -- rethink the entire meaning of "war" and "action."  Find them here.

Hero & Border Dispute

So that's an example of a science fiction byline bleeding over into a sub-genre, military science fiction. Many wouldn't consider military science fiction a "sub" genre at all since science fiction started as a male-action sub-genre. Do you need a new byline for a sub-genre?

Can one byline work over many genres, and for fiction and non-fiction as well -- for non-fiction in different areas (such as Biography vs. say, Tarot)?

This is an especially sensitive question for writers of SFR, Science Fiction Romance or PNR, Paranormal Romance, vs. plain contemporary Romance, vs. Historical Romance.

My main topic on this blog has been how to raise the level of respect for the various Romance Genres in the minds of the general public -- even people who don't like or read Romance should view the genre as a high precision, demanding genre that arouses the thirst for education in a wide variety of highly regarded professions.  Today, though, a byline known in the Romance genres carries a stigma that is not honorable.  So should you use your own legal name?  Or make up a name for your byline? 

Publishers have a "legacy wisdom" from the days of printing presses, that insists one byline famous for Romance simply will not sell to Mystery readers. A byline famous for Mystery might sell to Science Fiction (Asimov comes to mind as the exception that proves all these rules) but a byline famous for Science Fiction will never, ever make it in Westerns or Romance.

The more famous your byline in one area, the more resistant publishers are to using it in another.

Take Nora Roberts for a big example of how that legacy wisdom is not applicable any more.

She wanted to write a series of sort-of-SF-Romance novels set almost in the future, called the IN DEATH series (I really like that series a lot!) So the publisher and/or Agent, or someone, decided she needed to avoid sullying her prominent Nora Roberts brand name with that icky science-fiction crap.

I don't know if it was her idea or theirs, but they put the J. D. Robb byline on the In Death Series and hid the Nora Roberts attribution from most readers.

IN DEATH didn't sell well at all, even though it was Nora Roberts style and made it into most libraries in paperback.

That's an object lesson in marketing. Content doesn't matter to sales. Brand does.

So after a few In Death novels, they "came out of the closet" (rumors abounded online about "who" J. D. Robb really was) and put the Nora Roberts byline on the front covers.

And they sold.  Are still selling, big time.

Isn't that interesting? Against all legacy wisdom of publishers, science fiction romance sold to an enthusiastic Romance readership -- not so much at all to the science fiction readers, and not to the fantasy readership.

Something changed, and I think it's an important something.

Now, I have to be a nasty critic here and state that the IN DEATH series is really crummy science fiction, if you judge it as SF. (I don't, so I actually like those novels!)

It's plain vanilla Nora Roberts romance, hitting the middle of the Romance market - nothing much to talk about except "I keep buying these things and I don't know why."

So is IN DEATH different enough to warrant another byline? Apparently not. And that was in 2004. Note IN DEATH #1 is now on Kindle, and has over 200 reviews on Amazon.

Here's Treachery in Death

Note the high price on the Kindle edition whereas many members of Backlist eBooks are posting their own novels for $2.99 (and many write as well or better than Nora Roberts in my not-so-humble opinion)..

Byline and branding is all marketing, not supply and demand. After all, ebooks come with unlimited supply. Stores don't run out of copies!

Now, about the byline problem.

Which brings us back to the stigma problem.

I think the major publishers have the computerized sales results to substantiate their insistence on separate bylines for separate genres, but especially for authors who sully their brand with SCIENCE FICTION.

So I'm going to talk about a friend of mine, Sarah A. Hoyt -- we're friends on facebook. She's been sending me review copies of some of her books for a while now. Her publishers don't understand why a reviewer for a New Age Magazine (me) would rave about murder mysteries, steampunk, historicals, etc etc. But I can find something esoteric in anything because the reality behind the art is all about Love Conquers All.

I reviewed some historical mysteries Sarah A. Hoyt wrote under a different byline Sarah D’Almeida about the Musketeers:

http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2009/

and in 2010
http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2010/

Death of a Musketeer by Sarah D’Almeida, Berkley Prime Crime Mystery, 2006

Dying By The Sword by Sarah D’Almeida, Berkeley Prime Crime Mystery, 2008

There are a couple more and Sarah expects to get them out as ebooks with new ones in that series. (see the problem? Sarah who?)

Here's a note from her about bylines:
----------
The mysteries are an open pen name. Also, the first musketeer's mystery has been re-released with a small press: http://nakedreader.com/

Amazon it should have this version up by now. If it does well, I will finish novel #6, The Musketeer's Confessor. I've just delivered A Fatal Stain (the third of the refinishing ones.) I'm now working on Darkship Renegade, which apparently will have a "sister book" that takes place on Earth with different characters. (I didn't know this. The character mugged me one fine morning... :/ so now I have to write him.)
-----

That's how writers keep up with each other's work -- notes on facebook.

And then there's a series of well, Steampunk-ish novels Sarah did that I loved -- more or less fantasy, maybe.

Heart of Light is one of the titles.

Here's a whole list of Hoyt titles:

Sarah A. Hoyt

I've just read DARKSHIP THIEVES by Sarah A. Hoyt, and it's REALLY GOOD SF-Romance in the Linnea Sinclair tradition -- a lot of running around in space ships and space stations, but no non-humans. This one is a break-off human colony with genetic modification issues. And a really good star-crossed lovers story.

FULL DISCLOSURE - you all know I'm a reviewer, and I get free copies. I don't review everything sent to me, only 5-star worthy items.

However, there's a bit of a brag on this one - there's a quote from me on the back cover of DARKSHIP THIEVES.

(Totally aside, in Amber Benson's new Ace Fantasy, Serpent's Storm (a Calliope Reaper-Jones novel), there's a quote from me on the front-inside-page with many other reviewer quotes, but that one only credits The Monthly Aspectarian, the magazine I review for. -- the point being reviewing is not an "objective" business.  You can get my attention by quoting me and by giving me freebies. As far as I know Amber Benson doesn't have any other bylines. This is the actress/director/writer Amber Benson, a brand name in itself.

As Sarah A. Hoyt says above, she's working on a sequel for DARKSHIP, and that too would be for Baen.

Oh, and I'm not done with Sara yet. Hold your hat.

She's ALSO a mystery writer with byline Elise Hyatt!!! That's the reference to "refinishing" above. (and yes, this, too is great stuff you ought to read, and nevermind the genre label).

Elise Hyatt publishes with Berkley Prime Crime mass market paperback, two titles I've seen so far,

Dipped, Stripped and Dead,

and

French Polished Murder

The series, subtitled A DARING FINDS MYSTERY is contemporary setting, ho-hum yawn normality -- but the lead character is a woman who's divorced and raising a boy from her first marriage as she gets involved with a new boyfriend.

I think these 2 books made me a fan of "Cozy Mystery" -- there's nothing hard-edged, and a lot of character depth. The Relationships while dramatically charged, are more "normal" than I've been seeing lately.

Here's the thing - DARING FINDS is science fiction in disguise.

Why? Because this lead character, Candyce Dare, is living on subsistence income from refinishing furniture and selling it on the "antique" market.  Her attitude is pure SF-Hero stuff.

Trust me, there's more than one science involved in her body of knowledge. It was a hobby she cultivated while married, and now is making a living from it, learning the hard way, gaining associates in this industry, and showering us with the science of it.  This is the oldest, classic SF motif of a young person without format education in a subject becoming an expert with "outside the box" thinking. 

Without the extraordinary skill at science fiction worldbuilding and information feed (topics I've discussed at length in these blogs -- you can find most of my blog entries on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com by searching for the tag Tuesday), these Elise Hyatt mysteries would be incredibly boring. Instead, DARING FINDS is a series with a luscious hook, and page-turning fascination, sizzling romance angle, and lots to learn.

The DARING FINDS mysteries is the very best science fiction romance with a mystery plot. Both books satisfy on every level.

OK, you don't get to the HEA because it's a series, but you know you will get there. The writer's hand is so firm and disciplined, it's like riding with a supremely accomplished rally driver.

Good grief, by now you're so confused you don't know which writer I'm talking about.

See?

Brand. Byline. Stigma. 

Readers want to grab hold of a SYMBOL and know that anything sold under that symbol delivers what the other things under that symbol deliver.  And that's the re-engineering of the fiction delivery system that Backlist eBooks is participating in.  How can a reader navigate this avalanche of ebooks and find just what they want when they want it? 

Publishers want to know which readership to spend money promoting a byline to -- mystery, SF, Fantasy, historical -- marketers see these as separate readerships. My contention is that this was true, but is less true with every passing year.

So here we have Sarah A. Hoyt, Sarah D’Almeida (also from Berkley Prime Crime, notice?) and Elise Hyatt, and there are other bylines of this author.

On the Elise Hyatt byline, she says:
-----------
I wanted to use Alice (my name pre-citizenship was spelled Alice, pronounced Elise, hence Elise Hyatt for Daring Finds, because I will answer when called that.) Alice Rye... because they asked for "white bread" -- I'm a horrible woman. Mind you my pre citizenship name was Alice Maria da Silva Marques De Almeida, (my grandfather spelled it D'Almeida) which means there is A LOT there to use. But... no. It had to be "white bread." Ugh.
-----------

But - (hold your head and groan) - she's starting yet another byline! Here's what she says about the new one:

----------
I've also just sold (but not announced yet) a series under Sarah Marques which also has the musketeers but very different musketeers than the mysteries (like alternate versions of them. Yes, it's weird to have both in my head, but no, it's not confusing) I don't have samples up, yet. The first book is called Sword And Blood.

SWORD AND BLOOD: the first in a series in which the Three Musketeers battle vampires in an alternate France where Cardinal Richelieu is one of the undead. In order to "save" France, a deal has been made to turn the churches and a good deal of the power over to the damned. Athos himself has been turned by the wife he thought he'd killed, who is in fact one of the vampires, and must fight his bloodlust while battling for his soul.

They'll come out under Sarah Marques simply because I think my Baen sf fans would choke if they picked that book up by accident. What do I mean choke? Well... it has a lot of sex. Woman-on-top (well, vampire on top) sex. Which hasn't been in my other books. Because of THAT I think it's fair to give fair warning. As it were. So I'll let people know it's mine and it's coming, but why it's under another name. THAT one was my choice. (The book also features a pagan priestess, the battle of evil having forced the good sides to unite, as it were, and forget their differences -- she's Madame Bonacieux and the religion is meticulously researched and reconstructed, not the least from the local workings I grew up with, which, while not in France, had a lot of the remains of Celtic religion [I come from a region known as Heights Of Maia -- Alto da Maia -- which was a Cultic center of the Celtic Common Wealth as well as the site of an annual bardic festival in pre and I presume early Roman times.] Although there's still humor in this book, it's quite different from the humor in the Musketeer Mysteries. One of my friends called this the "laughing in the teeth of H*ll" type of humor.

As for why I write so much? Heaven help me if I know. Rumor has it I'm compulsive. Of course, I never believe rumors.

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

This multi-byline author has also been discussing in public a Marlowe and Shakespear guy-on-guy thing she wants to write but doesn't think anyone would buy it. If it sells, though, that would likely need yet another byline.

Academics discussing this writer are going to have several Excedrin Headaches at once.

To help you track down some of these items, the author gives us a whole list of URLs with samples and descriptions:

----------

Here's a web page with her novels and she gives us a list of URLs with sample chapters.


----------------
http://sarahahoyt.com/novels.html

Samples of Darkship Thieves: http://darkship.sarahahoyt.com/dst-excerpt.html

Magical British Empire: http://empire.sarahahoyt.com/

Musketeer Mysteries: http://musketeers.sarahahoyt.com/

Daring Finds: http://daringfinds.sarahahoyt.com/

Shifters -- I have a third one due this year, and so far what I know for sure is that by the end of the book, Kyrie is pregnant (whee) -- http://shifters.sarahahoyt.com/

My career started with this, which now reads incredibly clumsy to me: http://shakespeare.sarahahoyt.com/

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

IT'S ALL GREAT STUFF YOU SHOULD READ!!!

Now, this byline musical chairs thing is a marketing ploy that the big guys have been very successful with.

This is very old traditional methodology, and there are times when it makes perfect sense if you understand byline as brand.

In fact, in the Science Fiction magazines of the 1930's and 1940's -- you'll see a table of contents with 4 or 6 bylines, and it's all by 2 people.

Pen Names are one of the oldest inventions in publishing, going back to hand-copied manuscripts.  

Are they still a relevant marketing tool today, in the world of Amazon, Kindle, Nook, B&N, etc. etc.?

If you're starting a writing career, consider carefully.

Is it cheating your reader to change the book title and re-issue it? (believe me, that's an old tradition in science fiction publishing!) Is it cheating your reader to change the byline and reissue it? Will you have to do that at some point in the distant future?

Do you want to be known for doing that?

Will you ever want to tie your body of work together under one byline?

Asimov and Heinlein, and now C. J. Cherryh and some others write "future history" -- a single universe, many novels with different genre-signatures, but hidden underneath it all, a single vision, so they all need a single byline.

Sarah A. Hoyt admits she, too, has constructed a "future history" but only because she thought it was required.

How will your fans find and follow you?

And what happens if fiction delivery system technology changes in ways you can't anticipate now?

For more considerations and dilemmas of other writers forging the way ahead, see Part II next week.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Are Your Earliest Science Fiction Memories?

A thread on the LinkedIn group  "Science Fiction readers, writers, collectors, and artists" has caught my imagination. Discussion starter Joseph asked "What or Who Influenced You Most To Become an SF Fan?" and the answers take me back.

Some movies and stories I never considered SF, until Orson Scott Card's book "How To Write Science Fiction And Fantasy" explained what was what. For instance, I enjoyed the superhero comics, not so much Captain America, or Batman, and I was slightly ashamed of liking Superman (probably because he wore his underpants outside his trousers), but I did like the Norse-god influenced heroes.

Would one say that Batman and Spiderman were not SF, but Superman was, because he was an alien? Or did Batman's tech make him SF, too?

Asimov's Foundation series needed no definition by OSC, but maybe I wouldn't have thought of John Wyndham's The Day Of The Triffids as SF.

It was written in 1951. When it was written is neither here nor there, except that it was already a course book in the 1960s. I must have read it in the Upper Fourth. I think "Lord Of The Flies" was also on the agenda. We read the dystopian classics in the Sixth Form (but called them "Modern Depressing" at the time!).... 1984, Brave New World, and others.


On TV, I watched Dr Who with the original William Hartnell and the persistent Daleks. Occasionally, I look at R2D2 and amuse myself with a mental compare and contrast session. I also recall thoroughly enjoying (alas!!!) Thunderbirds. 


When my contemporaries might have been fancying one of other of The Beatles, I had a crush on a marionette named Scott. Oh dear! 


Captain Scarlet did not have the same appeal for me. My fancies had moved to the dark side, and "This is the voice of the Mysterons" haunted my dreams. Then, along came Star Trek, and I preferred the tall, dark and continent --or perhaps I should say, logical-- Spock. But the truth is, I don't like a promiscuous hero.... which is probably a terrible thing for a romance author to admit.


Another dark crush was James Mason as Captain Nemo in "2000 Leagues Under The Sea".


I cannot put a date to when we saw "Battlestar Galactica" on British TV, or to The Twilight Zone, or The Other Limit, or Tales From The Crypt. Or to when I read "The Andromeda Strain". I'd left Britain by the time "Dark Skies" was shown, of course.


Musically, I liked Rick Wakeman's epic SF/F albums, especially "Journey To The Center Of The Earth", and some, but not all, of David Bowie's SF period. I dimly recall that Hawkwind "did" space rock, and Pink Floyd were also known as space rockers, but only Dark Side Of The Moon was on my radar.


What about you?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Winding Up a Series

I just finished reading THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES, the final book in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series, which started with CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR several decades ago. If an author produces an open-ended series like Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, the Star Trek universe, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, or Jacqueline's Sime-Gen future history, the stories don't necessarily ever have to stop. A "closed" series, though, has to come to a satisfying end. In theory, Auel could have gone on writing about Ayla and her family and friends indefinitely. Life, after all, doesn't have a definite end (as I mentioned last week); art creates that illusion. But Auel chose to set the climax of her heroine's life story at the point where Ayla achieves her goal of becoming a Zelandoni (spiritual leader and healer) among the people of her mate, Jondalar. In my opinion, this book is a bit weak on plot. Fans of the series will probably enjoy, as I did, reading about the geology, fauna, flora, life, customs, foods, medicines, and crafts of the Stone Age and meeting familiar characters again. Somebody who hasn't read the earlier books would be lost. The story meanders along from one easily overcome obstacle to another until a strongly defined conflict appears in about the last 100 pages. The novel is held together by thematic elements, echoing Ayla's growth throughout the series, and by the phases of her Zelandoni training. Her status in this book reminds me of a reviewer's comment about the characters in Robert Heinlein's later works: They don't have problems, only transitory difficulties. Fortunately, Ayla doesn't feel like a Mary Sue because she's puzzled by other people's astonished reactions to her, doesn't consider herself extraordinary, and shows awareness of her own mistakes and flaws. Auel's conclusion to the series has Ayla emerging from the rite of passage of her "call" as a Zelandoni with a life-changing new Gift of Knowledge for the people.

This week, coincidentally, the TV show SMALLVILLE airs its series finale. The conclusion of this story cycle has to be less theme-focused than plot-focused. We've known from the beginning that as the climactic final event, Clark has to publicly assume the role of Superman. Since the basic premise of the series was "Clark Kent as a teenager and young adult in his pre-Superman years," I originally thought it would end with the end of Clark's boyhood, when he started working at the DAILY PLANET alongside Lois Lane. I was a little surprised when the series continued past that point, and personally I haven't found the last couple of seasons as absorbing as the earlier ones. Nevertheless, I'm eagerly looking forward to the grand finale. Glimpses in trailers and reviews have assured us we'll see Clark transforming from the Blur to Superman and, almost as important for some fans, marrying Lois. Their romance and the unveiling of Clark as the hero he was always destined to become constitute the story arcs this program has to resolve in order to satisfy its audience.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Doranna Durgin On Changes in Publishing

C. J. Cherryh introduced me to Doranna Durgin on Facebook because Doranna had begun a Group called Backlist eBooks.  Here below is more from Doranna Durgin directly. 

Backlist eBooks is a group of professional writers who've been working in Mass Market and Hardcover (many in Romance) now posting their own novels in eBook at bargain prices.  Here's an Amazon store full of their work:
http://astore.amazon.com/backlebook-20

You can see the list of names at the left, click and see a list of their eBook releases.  Amazing! 

Helping build this Group has been an adventure, and I don't regret a moment of the time spent on it, though the last few weeks I've been ignoring all the List posts from Backlist eBooks. 

I will get back to participating in the Group's projects (which are legion, and include an anthology I'm probably going to be in) now that I've finished the 118,000 word novel, THE FARRIS CHANNEL (Sime~Gen #12) and now it's in production.  The previous 11 Sime~Gen novels are already available in eBook and POD.  You can find them listed neatly here:
http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20 

Margaret Carter said nice things about Sime~Gen on this blog:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/04/new-sime-gen-books.html
Since I met Doranna I've read one of her novels, THE RECKONERS from Tor and reviewed it (rave; 5 star) for my column scheduled for August 2011 http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2011/

Yes, she writes our kind of stuff. Get to know her! 

.She says of herself:

~~
Doranna Durgin writes across genres to include fantasy, mystery, tie-ins and various flavors of romance--from the action-oriented Bombshells to STORM OF RECKONING, her latest paranormal release; she also manages the Backlist eBooks project with author partner-in-crime Patricia Ryan. She spends what's left of her time hanging around with horses, dogs, and wildflowers.

For more about Doranna's books, you can catch up with her at her webstead, FaceBook, Twitter, or her blog. There are also free bookmarks to be had!

-----

And here she is talking about what I talk about a lot here - CHANGE!

-----

Caught in the Airstream
by
Doranna Durgin

Publishing Industry changes--boy, is there a lot of talk about that! We've seen them coming, watched them loom close, and now they've caught us up in its airstream on the way by (complete with doppler train sound effects.) They’ve also left us spinning around in their wake, and really, the only question is…where are they going to spit us out?

I have now used up my big meaningful metaphors for the day. Ow.

The obvious point is, we're doing our best to land on our feet.

Of  late--as professional authors who have always channeled our work through big house publishers--we've had more tools to do that. We've got online digital options to publish that book that never quite sold no matter how we believe in it, or the manuscript that lingered because it fell short not in quality, but market predictability. And we've got online digital repubbing options for out-of-print favorites.

And because publishers have pushed and pushed and pushed, dropping ever more responsibility on our authorly shoulders, we also have the experience with marketing. So, that big bugaboo of taking on the e-production chores…? In exchange for the freedom of muse and the freedom from absurdly low royalty terms, the payment delays, and the struggle to regain the rights to our own work when our publisher is no longer supporting it? To plenty of us, it seems a decent trade.

That's why long-time friend Patricia Ryan and I have started a project called Backlist eBooks, featuring the author-repubbed work of experienced writers. We have a FaceBook page (okay, who doesn't?), and we have a web page, and in both places we keep a list of members--where to find their books (all the formats, with plenty of DRM-free options) as well as a groovy Kindle store for convenience.

We've also got a permanent web site under construction, and once that launches in late spring, each author will have a page, each backlist ebook will have a page, and each of these will have direct links for purchase at all available options. There will also be the occasional original--a chance to see what we would have written in these past years, if we'd had a chance. The books that wouldn't let us go.

It is going to be WAY COOL. (There's a newsletter sign-up form if you'd like to keep in touch about the sales we run and the web site launch.)

And while I've waxed poetic about what this particular revolution means to us as authors, that point was abruptly and completely driven home to me within the past weeks…and suddenly it all means so much more than it did before. Because my beloved ConneryBeagle--my performance partner in many sports, primarily agility and of late, tracking--is in prime of his life...and he's sick.

He's always walked a brittle line, coping with a questionable immune system with great heart and enthusiasm, and I've always also worried that one day I wouldn't be able to meet his needs. And now...here we are. He needs testing; I'm at the long end of a long string of publisher delays: late payments and contract slow-downs that push the next income further and further out regardless of my work delivery schedule.

So--thanks to the new publishing options and the experience I've gained with my backlist ebooks--I'm compiling The Heart of Dog collection, the proceeds of which will provide the procedures to help us understand what's going with him, and the means to treat whatever it is. The story collection is full of not only my best spec-fic dog goodies, it has a bundle of donated work by Jeffrey Carver, Julie Czerneda, Tanya Huff, John Mierau, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Roberson, Kristine Katherine Rusch, & John Zakour .

It's work I had available within a month of conception, and the pre-orders quickly made all the difference in the world to us.

So…do I still wish for the old days, when I could simply write, and when writing the very best possible story encompassed the sum of my job? In fact, I do. Like most authors, writing isn't something I do; it's something I am. And that means I'll do what I have to so I can keep doing it. If what I've learned saves my dog's life in the process?

Priceless.

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

So now you've met Doranna Durgin. Notice she knows the writers we know? Does that tell you something about the world of cross-genre publishing? And the future of cross-genre Romance?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Hardship And Injustice

Hardship and injustice pack a powerful punch, and are among a novelist's most effective tactics for engaging the reader's sympathy... say for the hero or heroine.

Truism, right? Too obvious to mention?

One of my favorite things about alien romances is that we can rip a modern hero out of the headlines, disguise him most cunningly, and translate him into an alien villain. Or vice versa. We don't have to be swayed by populism or political correctness. As long as we are not caught.

I wonder whether I am cowardly to even think such a thing. Do you censor a powerful story in your head for
fear of reprisals or mere obloquy? I have to be honest. I do.

When does a great human story become propaganda, or character assassination, or sleazy opportunism? And, does the modern writer have any kind of moral responsibility?

I admired George Orwell, particularly his essays. Do you see echoes of "1984" in the news every now and then? Remember the torture using rats... or the threat of rats? Whatever is the worst thing in the world for you, the interrogators will discover what it is, and threaten you with it. Is it torture if the rats don't bite you? If the scorpion doesn't sting you?

I think that one can learn a lot from Shakespeare... but not all of it is something to be emulated. Shakespeare wrote to please and flatter his sovereign. Therefore the enemies and rivals of Elizabeth Tudor and her forefathers were vilified.

Macbeth. Richard III. Their reputations were besmirched for generations. Who knows who really killed the princes in the Tower, or how physically attractive Richard might really have been?

In Church this morning, we considered the Book of Esther. Several details of the story intrigued me, as a modern Anglo-American romance writer.

The Persian king (pre-Iran) might be Ahasuerus or Xirxes. His true identity does not matter. He had a wife, and also concubines. He asked his wife to do something dishonorable and possibly dangerous.

According to our Minister, the King and his friends had indulged in a seven day booze-up and were roaring drunk, which is why the queen declined to go into the man cave so the guest could see how beautiful she was. Wikipedia doesn't mention the inebriation, but says that the queen was ordered to go to a party that had lasted 180 days, and to remove her veil so the all-male guests could see her beauty.

Maybe the veil was a burquah?
Can you imagine a party lasting 180 days?

The queen refused to remove her veil. The trophy wife refused to be a trophy. For fear that the other women in the kingdom would hear of the queen's disobedience and follow suit, she had to be punished. The wise men agreed. So, the queen Vashti was divorced or banished or set aside... but no one says that she was executed, but the Minister said she was lucky to get out of the marriage alive.

The Minister claims that the King became lonely. Why he didn't marry one of his concubines, I do not know. Apparently he had a harem. The Minister said that the King decreed a beauty contest, and that the most beautiful girls in the land spent a month getting beautified.

Wikipedia says that the kingdom's best-looking virgins spent twelve months (a year!) in the royal harem getting beautified. What could take a year? Whole body threading, maybe. There has to be more to it than two 6-month regimens of sweet smelling oils.... or, one has to doubt Wikipedia's sense of timing.

The next bit sounds rather like the Arabian Nights. The King entertained a different virgin "beauty contestant" each night, and after their night in the King's bed, the girls were sent back to the harem unless the King asked for them again by name. Apparently, he asked for Esther, and made her his queen.

Did he? Who knows. No disrespect intended. Out of fairness, did he continue to try out the other virgins who'd spent a year being anointed, and plucked, and instructed in his harem? We're not told. I've read that a man with many wives (and concubines are often counted as low-status wives) is expected to treat them equally, and give each of them equal time in bed.

We are told that some time passed, and for at least 30 days, Esther was not summoned to see the King and had no chance at all to talk to her new husband. Obviously, he wasn't sleeping with her. She might, of course, have been pregnant, but that isn't mentioned.

It struck me as rather peculiar. Why marry a beautiful young stranger on the sole basis of her beauty and a one-night stand, and then not go near her? Anyway, Esther had to speak with him to alert him to a planned mass murder. Apparently, any woman who went into the King's presence without a specific invitation, could be killed on the spot by his guards. Even his wife!

Imagine a marriage like that!

There's one more detail from this savage story. The King allegedly gave Esther's people permission to arm themselves and to kill not only those who had plotted to kill them, but also to kill those conspirators' wives and children. According to Wikipedia, the Jews showed admirable restraint, and did not kill the wives and children. It should be noted that "The story as a historical record must be definitely rejected" according to the Jewish Encyclopedia."

What shocks me is the apparent callous acceptance that wives and children can be killed in cold blood, for revenge, along with their allegedly guilty husbands.

What kind of choices do we imagine those Old Testament women had, given that even a queen could be divorced or struck dead for pretty much looking askance at her husband, entering his presence uninvited, wearing or not wearing the right veil?

I suppose that I must be a feminist. So much of what men do makes me very, very angry.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Endings

Last week I was working on a fantasy story, and my reader suggested the ending was a bit weak, though he couldn't pinpoint why. What's required to make a strong ending for a short story, other than (obviously) a satisfying resolution to the plot problem? A final surprising twist? A snappy, dramatic, or otherwise memorable last line? An indication that the protagonist has learned something or grown in some way as a result of the action? My reader also felt that the protagonist in this story succeeded in her mission too easily, so I added some more obstacles, in hopes of fixing the "too easy" perception and thinking that change might make the ending feel stronger, too. I won't know whether the changes worked until I hear from the editor to whom I submitted the piece.

Speaking of endings: Bin Laden. (I'd already planned to discuss my story's "ending" problem before the raid was made public.) While it's wrong to gloat over the death of any human being, I admit my first reactions were the "relief" and "euphoria" mentioned in the news articles. Right after 9-11, I remember feeling a sort of nervous suspense, of wanting it to be "over"—and knowing that, although the media's claims that "the world has changed forever" were exaggerated, there wouldn't be any "over," only a gradual shift to a "new normal." Everybody recognizes that the death of bin Laden represents a symbolic victory, not a crushing blow to terrorism, which will always be with us in some form. If this incident were the culmination of a story arc on a TV series, the investigation would have taken only a few episodes or at most a season, the mission would have been shown through the viewpoint of either the President and his advisers (WEST WING) or the heroic Navy SEALs (a series along the lines of NCIS), an invaluable hoard of secret documents would have been discovered, and after the dramatic fall of the mastermind, his organization would have collapsed. A historian at CUNY was quoted in the local paper to the effect that these things never have real "beginnings and endings." It's the job of art to carve a piece out of the amorphous lump of experience we know as "real life" and impose structure on it, including beginnings and endings. I'm wondering what the inevitable movie based on the elimination of bin Laden will look like.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Social Networking Is A Learning Tool

Way below I'm including the image of the back cover of an ARC which tells reviewers how the book will be promoted. If you've never seen one, try to load the full size scan.

Last week I showed you some of the connections I had stumbled into via "social networking" and recommended you read some of my previous posts on the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/04/social-networking-is-not-advertising.html
The impact on society of the Internet and social networking -- and whatever comes next -- is far bigger than anyone now realizes.

We have a violent debate going on worldwide between philosophies. 

The level of violence is exemplified by how Bin Laden was taken out, and the dancing on his grave by those he wronged while others plot revenge for his murder.  In Chess or War, the side that takes out the other side's leadership wins, and violence stops, healing begins.  Not happening this time.

Note that at the time of the take-down of Bin Laden, Mars and Jupiter were conjunct in the sky -- see below for more astrological connection.

Also note how twitter broke the news first because someone in the town where Bin Laden was tweeted about US helicopters overhead, then followed developments until a local news service picked it up.  Only then did US media pick it up.  This is a new world, but humans still do violence the same way for the same reasons.

To have "violence" you have to "polarize" -- or state the topic of debate as two polar opposites.  You have to factor the issues down to just 2 things, and only 2 things, or the majority of people won't understand what you're yelling about and won't care enough to "take sides."

I.Q. 100 is the "norm" because it's the "norm" -- but maybe I.Q. is a totally incorrect way to sort human ability????

That's an issue with so many shades of gray you would not believe what it means unless you study it back to the origins, then follow the developments through the decades.

But it's been shown again and again, that the most powerful "messages" -- such as used in commercials -- are "simple" (sound bytes.)

In film entertainment, often the title and starring actor are forgotten as the "one-liner" ("Make My Day") becomes a household cant.

Remember we're talking ART here not POLITICS; the artist's task is to "see" deeper into matters than most people will at a casual glance, and thus "reveal" hidden truth.

So one of the polarizations I see might be stated thusly using Astrology:

See my posts on Astrology Just For Writers
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/01/astrology-just-for-writers-part-9-high.html

That post has 8 previous posts linked in it.

So using what we learned there, think about the Headlines and think thusly of dichotomies--

We're exploring the anatomy of constructing a Theme in such a way that the plot will sort out into a natural conflict that will come to a natural resolution creating a saleable story you can describe on a social network in such a way that people will know what it is and want to read it.. You can learn best how to do this by examining "reality" and looking to current events to see how people interpret them.

So let's find the natural dichotomies people (even those who don't know Astrology) use to parse the pea-soup of "reality" into a conflict they can understand and take sides about. 

a) 1st House vs. 7th House -- Self vs. Public responsibility

b) 2nd House vs. 8th House -- Personal Values and finances vs. Public, family or collective fiances

c) 4th House vs. 10th House; Safety of "Home and family" stability vs. Vocation, Purpose of Life, Public Reputation

These are dichotomies that are inherent in the structure of human life, whether you "believe in" Astrology or not.  Most other systems of psychology will show you these dichotomies, and those systems work just fine for story-construction.

Remember we're talking ART here not POLITICS; the artist's task is to "see" deeper into matters than most people will at a casual glance, and thus "reveal" hidden truth.

So the futurologist (which the Science Fiction Romance writer needs to be) looks at the impact of social networking, now accused of fomenting riots and government-destruction worldwide, and wonders how to write a story that will still read well 25 years from now.  How do you write a "classic" when the world is spinning like this?

Is it enough to delineate the conflict as this vs. that?  Is this capitalism vs. socialism  -- is the democracy vs. republic?  Is this "the individual can and must govern himself" vs. "the majority has the right and obligation to govern the individual."

What is government for?  Is it for making everyone "safe" especially from themselves? Is it for determining the collective values?  Is it for insuring everyone has enough money for everything? Is it for forcing individuals and especially corporations to live up to their responsibility to the whole society?

Each of those questions can generate a plot-conflict that can tumble to a nice, neat "resolution" -- and in the process reveal many more questions for the reader to think about.

Presenting a reader with a moral dilemma makes the reader memorize your byline (I was asked about that on #bookmarket chat on Twitter and couldn't answer in 140 characters or less.)

That's the trick that both Gene Doucette and Carol Buchanan (both of whom I met on twitter) pulled off with me.

Gene's book, Immortal and Carol's book Gold Under Ice, each left me curious about what more they might say about the moral dilemma their characters were struggling with.  No sooner is one solved, than the solution creates yet another dilemma very relevant to this whole tumbling world we're living in.

I discussed Gene's Immortal here:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/01/constructing-opening-of-action-romance.html

Gene commented on that here:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/01/gene-doucette-discusses-his-novel.html

And I revisited Gene's points in
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/04/gene-doucettes-immortal-revisited.html

And here we are again discussing this novel.  I told you then that you needed to read Immortal because it illustrates a decision every writer must make from the heart and from the gut, maybe more than from the mind.

Go quick and read the commentary on "constructing opening of action romance" post linked above.

That commentary raises a social networking issue, the Web 2.0 issue, the issue of the "Indie Publisher" where you find a property like Immortal being right at home, and of the "self publisher" where you mysteriously find books that should have a wider audience, such as Gold Under Ice.

In my post, I pointed out why Immortal is a perfectly turned out novel, solidly executed, and fine just as is. But I could see why this novel could not be accepted by the large, mass market or hardcover publishers, why it would not get big publicity bucks pushing it into your perception with advertising.

The one thing that I personally disliked about Immortal was the use of Point of View -- it used the present progressive for current action and the usual past-tense voice for flashbacks, alternating.  This is what I consider a fancy literary affectation that has no effect other than pure irritation and distraction from the story.

But Gene executed the trick of it perfectly, flawlessly.  I judged it inappropriate artistically, but he made it work artistically, which earned my undying admiration.

Then I went on to completely turn Immortal inside out, rewriting the very structure by changing the point of view, and ignored the literary device gimmick.

I wasn't "reviewing" Immortal, I was dissecting its mechanism to make that writing technique more accessible to the practicing writers who are aiming for a career writing Science Fiction Romance.

That's why the piece was not titled "A Review of Immortal by Gene Doucette."  It was titled Constructing The Opening of Action Romance.

Immortal is not (and was never intended to be) Romance, but it has a sizzling hot love-story in it.

That love story lies there, all potential and very little realization.

The piece I wrote was intended to show you how to create action Romance out of such a story idea simply by changing the point of view to the woman, leaving the man as The Immortal.

I contended that this shift would widen the potential readership into the Mass Market breadth.

People who had read and really loved Immortal just the way it was written (which I never said wasn't great) jumped into the discussion defending book with the feeling that as written it should be a huge best selling success because it's GOOD.

My contention was not that it wasn't good, but that the publishing industry doesn't care that it's good -- only that the main character is incorrectly chosen for a mass market exposure.

To hit mass market, you must have a "sympathetic" and "likeable" (better yet, lovable) main point of view character.

Gene's readers felt that was unfair, wrong, and just plain hostile to his artform, and I was not being reasonable but authoritarian and autocratic.  Nobody used those terms, but I'm bringing them in here because of the "social networking" angle I'm discussing.

I pointed out that I used Immortal for this writing lesson because it is so very, VERY well written that it can be studied, re-engineered, learned from, deconstructed etc -- it's an invaluable resource for the writing student. An example this good is extremely rare.

Now, in July 2011, a book will be published that is almost exactly the novel that I twisted and inverted Immortal into during that writing lesson.

It's super-duper-promoted Mass-Mass marketed by Hyperion.

It's called Original Sin, A Sally Sin Adventure -- Wife, Mother, Spy by Beth McMullen (go pre-order it).

To learn this lesson well, seat it in your subconscious where it can become usable by your artistic processes, do a detailed contrast-compare between Immortal and Original Sin.

The decision you have to make as you write your own novel is what market it is to entertain - and how it is to reach that market.

If you do not have a Best Selling big name byline, you won't get this kind of big promotion from a big publisher for an unsympathetic main character (unless you have some other sort of connection to the decision maker at a publisher. It does pay to go to the right cocktail parties, if that's your objective).

I got Original Sin free from the Amazon Vine program, just because I liked the 1 parag description -- sounded like one of my favorite TV shows, Scarecrow And Mrs. King.  It isn't quite, but it's good.

You should find my review in the stack gathering at Amazon. I gave it 4 stars.

Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure

As you read Original Sin (no it's not about Religion, but that's the association the promoters wanted with that title; maybe it was the author's choice) just think of the guy who kidnaps Sally Sin repeatedly as "The Immortal" and think about my twisted rewrite of Immortal.

Instead of writing from the point of view of the unlikeable, nasty, wasted male, write from the reluctantly enamored, fascinated (no, I AM not fascinated by you) female.

Sally Sin is married (not to the kidnapper) and has a 3 year old she adores, and loves her new retired-from-spying life.  But she knows she has enemies. They lurk.  She's paranoid?

Original Sin is written with the same tricky, literary gimmick as Immortal - different verb tenses for flashback and present tense, and it uses the present-progressive that (for me) ruins the narrative.  But it's done exceptionally well, just as with Immortal, so the story, the book, is excellent and it shows.

Original Sin is almost (except it has no fantasy element) the exact same novel as Immortal, but it sold to a top publisher and is getting top-drawer promotion.

This ARC (Advance Reading Copy) for review, is bound like a regular trade paperback, with the cover that will appear on the book, but with printing along the bottom saying ADVANCE READING EDITION - NOT FOR RESALE -- and that warning is there because the text hasn't been copyedited (there are a few typos) nor has it been edited (for continuity and glitches).  But we're trained to read-over the rough spots and ignore them in judging the book - just assume they'll be fixed.

The BACK of the ARC though is always very different from the published book.  The back of an ARC reveals the publisher's plans for promoting the book, a secret from readers.

The idea is that reviewers at newspapers with the widest circulation choose only widely publicized books to review (by decree of the editor or owner of the newspaper - no "obscure" books are allowed in certain papers, or certain columns.)

So the publisher is pitching this novel at the biggest circulation venues for review.

Here is the back cover of the ARC of Original Sin.


Click the image, then when it loads full size, use the + tool to magnify the Marketing Campaign, and you may be able to read it.

The only conspicuous difference between Original Sin and Immortal is the point of view character's likability - the absence of drunkenness in characters that are supposed to be admired, and the upbeat, determined, goal-directed heroic spirit of the point of view character (the exact opposite of Immortal).

In both books, torture, murder, drug dealing, unarmed and armed combat are frequent elements.  Ugly dark stuff happens and is confronted frankly, no punches pulled.

Sally Sin admits she has killed, and even takes us through her memories of being willing to off the bad guys. The only difference between books is her attitude and opinion, and the language she uses in her head when she thinks about these things, which bespeaks her likable personality.

Every mother can identify with her (and most fathers resonate).  Many others can wish to be her because the threats their children face are as formidable as Sally Sin's own enemies, and we all wish we could do what she does to protect our children.

Not so with Immortal.  There's no point of contact offered in Immortal -- and Doucette explains carefully why he chose to do that, and his readers explain vociferously why they enjoy that book so very much.

Again the only difference between these two books is very simply and very clearly - the likability of the main character via the eyes of publishers wanting to hit with a very wide audience.

Certain fans of Immortal will find Sally Sin revolting.  But that's not the point.

Immortal doesn't have this publicity muscle behind it.  Sally Sin does.

When you frame your own novel, think about how the choice of point of view and characterization determine the amount of publicity money that will be devoted to it.

The change that social networking has made in "The Arts" and will continue to make is all about this "publicity money" issue - the business model of publishing that I've been discussing repeatedly the last few years.

The business model of Hyperion requires sympathetic main POV character in order to be worth big bucks publicity.

The business model of Indie Publishing does NOT require the same "lowest common denominator" structure for a novel to hit big time with the readers that can be accessed via social networking.

The self-published has a bigger dilemma.  You must promote with your own money.  I've seen statistics on self-published authors who are selling 1,000 copies a month with only social networking, blogging, etc -- but that kind of sales statistic comes at the price of writing in a "popular genre."  The only successes like that which I know of are in Romance mixed-genre, such as Paranormal Romance.

So, blogging is social networking, and you're reading this blog.  Are you learning?

Immortal might be seen as an example of the conflict dichotomy a) above -- Original Sin might be seen as an example of c).  What do you think? 

Writing exercise: Parse the Bin Laden events into dichotomy b) above. 


Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (for current novel availability)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Clouds

Clouds fascinate me, and in building alien worlds, I certainly want to use them.
I'm in good company. One of the most memorable uses of clouds was in the Mike Hodges version
of "Flash Gordon" (the version with several members of the old Department S cast, and a very
young and gorgeous Timothy Dalton, and Brian Blessed, and Topol.)

That Empire had cloud worlds, with castles literally in the clouds. Then, there is Bespin,
the gas world, with a Cloud City where Lando rules.... sort of.

The floating islands of Pandora in Atavar behave like clouds. I did not pick up whether they
float because they contain unobtainium, or because unobtainium is below them. Or both.

Dramatic use of cloud cover was evident in Independence Day.

So much for the movie fangirl stuff, if I can say that without unintentionally offending anyone.
What would an alien call clouds? This is where it gets interesting to me.

Did you know that we name our clouds according to how high they are and what shape they are?

Cirro or cirrus means "high up", for instance.
Cumulus comes from the Latin word for a "heap".

Cirro-cumulus would mean "high up heap".

Find a synonym for high, and a synonym for heap, and you have world-building.

By the way, I just heard a student read a modern, Politically Correct definition of "smog". If smog
were the result of "exhaust gases", why isn't it "exhog" ?  Historically, it is smog because it is "smoke" + "fog". The smoke was from dirty coal smoke from chimneys.

Political correctness is another rich seam to mine for plots and conflict!