Sunday, April 11, 2021

On The Shady Side... Of Green

Greenwashing has been a "thing" for some time. Now shareholders are making proposals based on it.

What is greenwashing? My spellcheck doesn't like the word. Apparently, it is the environmental equivalent of whitewashing, and it's been in use for thirty years.  With whitewashing, one spins something "bad" to sound "not so bad".  With greenwashing, one spins something not environmentally friendly to seem... environmentally responsible. It's mostly a PR and honest advertising issue. It may involve oxymorons such as "clean diesel", maybe "clean coal", and "100% organic".

Legal bloggers for Jenner & Block LLP  Todd Toral and P. J. Novack penned an interesting explanation of greenwashing, and a groundbreaking attempt by Greenpeace and others to use the old Green Guides offensively against a Big Oil company for, allegedly, misleading consumers about the greenness and social responsibility of its work.

Speaking of Honest advertising, the legal blogsphere is buzzing (a little bit) about dishonest influencers.  Apparently, the public is not smart enough to figure out that if a celebrity endorsement looks like for profit product placement, sounds like paid product placement... it most probably is a glorified advertisement.  The thing is, ones greenback-related motivations have to be disclosed every time, and perhaps the same goes for book promotion.

For the IP Law Watch blog of law firm K&L Gates of Boston, blogger Keisha Phippen discusses the topic of responsible influencing, and offers excellent and easy tips for how to avoid acting on the shady side of the law.

Finally, for today's loosely linked theme of shady doings, green stuff, money and deception is a great green gem about ransomware put out by Stephen Noel O'Connor of Leman.

Go here for the full article as a .pdf
Or read the extract here:

Did you know that in some countries in may be illegal to pay ransomware? 

Oh, and if you got the letter from Kroger about their pharmacy records being hacked at Accellion, remember there is a time limit (window closes May 31st)  to take up that offer for 24 months of Experian "Identity Works" id theft coverage. Separately, American Anesthesiology was compromised in a phishing attack. It might be wise to freeze your credit (free to do, easy and free to undo as long as you retain your PIN).

Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Experian 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
All the best,

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Starting Afresh

Kameron Hurley's newest LOCUS column discusses making a fresh start with the turn from winter to spring:

Plotting the Way Forward

Noting that the ancient Romans marked the New Year in March rather than January, Hurley muses about the signs of spring that show up in March. This year, she finds particular hope in the change of seasons because a potential end to the COVID crisis may be in sight. She ponders what is meant by "returning to normal": What will go back to the way it was? What will have changed permanently? As she puts it, “'normal' is a shifting target. After the last year, our world will not be quite the same."

One change she welcomes is the decline of shopping malls. Here I disagree. I'm a big fan of malls, even though with online ordering I haven't frequented our local mall in recent years nearly so much as I used to (especially after its chain bookstore closed). Sure, a green-space town center with a cluster of shops, within easy walking distance of home, would be lovely. But that's not likely to sprout up out of nowhere near us (all the ground within walking distance being occupied by houses or, if one has the stamina to hike one-point-three miles to the main road, existing stores). Nor does it describe the neighborhoods where I spent the years between age eight and moving out of my parents' home to get married. We lived in the suburbs. There was nowhere to walk except other houses and, a longish trek from our home, a major highway at the entrance to the development. A very long bike ride could take us to a shopping strip with one large store and several smaller ones. When the first actual mall opened near us (in the greater Norfolk, Virginia, area), in my teens, I was thrilled about the concept of shopping at a bunch of stores in the same location, with plenty of parking, under a ROOF! That last was a big deal in one of the more rainy regions of the country. And I still think malls are a great idea in places where most people depend on cars to get anywhere, which describes every city we've lived in throughout our married life.

But I digress. Some of the changes Hurley welcomes, I can agree with. As for the ambition to "re-think our crowded buildings in crowded cities that have few to no greenspaces," that sounds desirable, but such a revolution can't occur with the simple wave of a wand. Shifting many jobs to remote work is a change I'd like to see made permanent, if only for the sake of our grown children who've benefited from it. What about universal mask-wearing? I look forward to not having to do that all the time, yet I agree with Hurley on the advantage of getting sick less often. I could embrace a custom of wearing masks out and about when suffering from a mild illness, as many people do in Japan. As a probable side effect of the COVID precautions, I haven't had a cold in over a year. Hurley also looks forward to future advances in medical science as a result of discoveries made in the course of vaccine research. Like wars, pandemics can produce occasional positive technological side effects.

I've missed attending church in person, but I hope after we resume live gatherings our church will continue to record Sunday services for availabilty to people who can't be present for one reason or another. The pandemic has compelled us to try many such innovations that would be helpful to hang onto. The ubiquity of restaurant meal ordering, for example—it's become easier than ever before to get home-delivered meals from a wide variety of our favorite places, on websites instead of over the phone, prepaid with a credit card. With the success of virtual conventions in the past year, maybe some of them will continue to provide an online track for fans who can't make it to the physical location. However, there's at least one minor negative about the increasing shift to electronic media, from my personal viewpoint: More and more periodicals are switching to digital-only. I like magazines I can hold in my hands and, if worth rereading, store on a shelf.

A related trend that predated COVID but may have accelerated recently is the convenience of being able perform many activities such as financial and government transactions over the Web. No need to drive to the bank to transfer funds, the post office to buy stamps, or the motor vehicle office to renew a car registration. This trend is likely to continue and expand. Of course, the downside involves less convenience for people who don't have a computer (my 90-year-old aunt, for one, but many citizens lack computers and their associated functions from poverty, not choice) or adequate internet access. As has often been pointed out recently, computers with internet connections are no longer luxuries but household necessities on a level with water, electric, and phone services.

Hurley concludes by invoking March, which heralds spring in much of the northern hemisphere, as the time "when we celebrate surviving the very worst the world could throw at us, and plot a new way forward." Or, as Brad Paisley says in his optimistic song "Welcome to the Future," highlighting modern marvels formerly enjoyed only in the realm of science fiction, "Wherever we were going, hey, we're here."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Theme-Story Integration Part 8 - Game Theory And Public Relations The Epiphany Revisited

Theme-Story Integration

Part 8

 Game Theory And Public Relations 

One way to craft an immersive world into which to drop Characters is to take two elements of the "real" world, combine them, and let your blood boil until you're angry enough to ask a question your readers have not (yet) asked themselves.  

This process won't lead you directly to a "narrative hook" or the beginning of a story, but it will begin to reveal the theme that is rooted in the guts of your being, and that will yield a narrative hook.

Mostly, when you start this process, you become utterly inarticulate -- you can't put a word or a name to what you're feeling, and have no idea why it disturbs you.

It is your own internal conflict arising to compel you to write your story - the magnum opus of a lifetime.

It is the theme of your life, and inside that theme lies the point which connects you to all other humans of your generation, particularly those younger, or those less experienced.

Vocabulary must be expanded to cope with the nascent thoughts that churn upwards disturbing your view of the world.  Sometimes just randomly reading a dictionary or encyclopedia like Wikipedia can bring the vocabulary, and thus the tools with which to think the thoughts that will define your story's theme, into sharp focus.

A story isn't a plot, and it takes both to create a novel. A story by itself might yield a vignette or series of them - a randomized tapestry of scenes, not connected by anything.

A story is all about how emotions churn, become powered, arise and command actions (often ill chosen decisions).  A story is the evolution of wisdom within an individual.

But to craft a novel from a Story, the writer must find a PLOT.

A plot is the sequence of actions the Character initiates that cause Events, which cause more events, until the consequences of the initial action splash back on the Character and trigger an epiphany.

The epiphany in an action novel happens at the 3/4 point in the book -- in a Romance, ordinarily the "that's my man!" epiphany happens at the 1/3 point -- and in other sorts of drama, that turning point is the 1/2 point.

Knowing which genre you are writing in will help you find the narrative hook, the opening line of page 1, and the Conflict you must define on  page 1 and resolve on the last page.

By placing the epiphany that redirects the main character's thinking, and feeling, and thus action according to the genre, you will zero in on the Narrative Hook -- and within that Narrative Hook's choice of vocabulary, you will find the seeds of your epiphany.

Following this method of generating immersive novels will likely launch you into a 20 year writing project.  I have witnessed a few writers struggling with a novel they feel they must write and rewriting it for decades, eventually coming out with a theme-story integrated work of Art that is head and shoulders above previously published works.

It is the topic that makes your blood boil that leads to being able to finish a 20 or even 30 year war with the words of your novel.

You'll get the words right only if you're mad enough when you start, if what you have to say is gut-wrenchingly important to you, and you know how to explain that importance to your readers.

As noted above, one fertile source of such ideas is Wikipedia. Much of what you find there is not actually, wholly, true -- but the contents of wikipedia do reflect what a huge swath of the population thinks is true.

What is true vs what a majority thinks is true is a quintessential Conflict which works marvelously for Science Fiction and for Romance genre.  

The discovery that what you think is true, is in fact not true, is an "epiphany."  Or what is now termed "woke" - a state of mind where your eyes suddenly see something different than they did only one blink previously.

The world has not changed, but your method of interpreting it has.

You can study this effect just by staring at one of the optical illusion memes that streak across the internet from time to time.

Blink and it's two vases - blink again and it's two faces. The lines of the drawing haven't changed!  

When you've been hoodwinked, scammed, fooled, made into a patsy, robbed blind, victimized by disinformation, and don't know it, it is two vases -- but suddenly you know it, and it's two faces.

The scam and your position as a victim hasn't changed -- you have.

That change in you is your STORY.

How, why, and when you BLINK (blinking is an action) is your PLOT.

Here is a Wikipedia juxtaposition of well known processes that, if understood in a wider context, can lead to that sort of EPIPHANY at the core of Theme-Story Integration -- the realization that you have been fooled that comes because you have changed, not because your world changed.


Wikipedia - the place to find what people think is true

Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among rational decision-makers.[1] It has applications in all fields of social science, as well as in logic, systems science and computer science. Originally, it addressed zero-sum games, in which each participant's gains or losses are exactly balanced by those of the other participants. In the 21st century, game theory applies to a wide range of behavioral relations, and is now an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers.


Public relations (PR) is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public in order to affect the public perception. Public relations (PR) and publicity differ in that PR is controlled internally, whereas publicity is not controlled and contributed by external parties.[1] Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications. Public relations aims to create or obtain coverage for clients for free, also known as 'earned media', rather than paying for marketing or advertising. But in the early 21st century, advertising is also a part of broader PR activities.[3]


Conflict arises (thus plot arises) from discovering how decision makers have "gamed" you by carefully curating the information you have access to.

If you do something about it, they will do something to you.  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Piling On

Income for "creatives" is estimated to have dropped 42% in the last decade, according to the Authors Guild, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and some of the Southern States are not helping at all.

Take Georgia's SB 226.  Apparently, it would allow school principals to post copyrighted works in their entirety, online, free to all, with no apparent compensation to the authors or other copyright owners/holders, for up to four years.

What could possibly go wrong?  

How could an author sell a book if one teacher who wanted the book on the curriculum could lodge a claim that the book is objectionable or harmful to minors, and then the State or local board of education could over-rule that teacher's objection, and for the next four years, no school or student would have to purchase or rent that book?

Georgia may be safe from infringement suits. It would appear that the Supreme Court of the United States permits States to violate the copyrights of authors and photographers and other creatives with impunity... if the South Carolina Blackbeard case is precedent.

All the best,

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Special Days

Here's a website that lists all the official, quasi-official, or just plain weird celebratory and commemorative days in the year:

National Day Calendar

Every date has multiple entries, so you should be able to find a special day for just about anything you want to celebrate. The explanatory page for each entry includes the commemoration's origin. Some that aren't official holidays have been established by individuals or organizations, while for others the website says it's still "researching" the source. In other words, they don't know. Since apparently anyone can register and add a day to the calendar, it's possible some of these "special days" are simply things made up by people who thought they would sound cool. They're fun to contemplate, anyway.

Here's a page on the history and possible origins of April Fool's Day:

April Fool's Day

These are just a few of the many "days" listed for this week in 2021, in addition to April Fool's Day and the Christian observances of Holy Week events: March 29 -- National Nevada Day, Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, Mom and Pop Business Owners Day, Vietnam War Veterans Day. (I suspect this last one is real for sure.) March 30 -- Take a Walk in the Park Day, I Am in Control Day, Virtual Vacation Day (probably a new invention for the current situation). March 31 -- Bunsen Burner Day, Clams on the Half Shell Day, Manatee Appreciation Day (founded by an organization dedicated to protecting endangered marine animals). This year April 1, April Fool's Day, is also dedicated to sourdough bread and burritos, as well as the regular annual National Take Down Tobacco Day, whose exact date varies. April 2 -- World Autism Awareness Day and National Reconciliation Day, plus an occasion to appreciate ferrets and peanut-butter-and-jelly (presumably not together). April 3 -- National Chocolate Mousse Day, Find a Rainbow Day, and Love Our Children Day (always the first Saturday in April, according to the website). April 4 -- in addition to being Easter Sunday this year, it celebrates school librarians, newspersons, geologists, and vitamin C, among other entities worthy of recognition. It's also listed as National Walk Around Things Day. Well, that's preferable to Tripping Over Things Day. :)

I can enthusiastically support Chocolate Mousse Day, for one. As for today, it's also designated National One Cent Day. The website doesn't identify its origin, but they offer an interesting overview of the history of the U.S. penny, of which we keep a can-full in a drawer, as many people do:

National One Cent Day

When my husband and I got married, in the mid-1960s, some gumball machines sold candy for one cent, and a retro bargain store near our first apartment carried a few items priced at a penny each. The value of a penny faded to essentially nothing long ago, yet we still understand what's meant by the proverb, "A penny saved is a penny earned."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sime~Gen praised on Twitter by Forgotten Realms writer Ed Greenwood

Sime~Gen praised on Twitter


Forgotten Realms writer Ed Greenwood  

The title says it all. 

I was participating in a Twitter Chat ( #scifichat) one Friday when Ed Greenwood ( ) of Forgotten Realms fame (and glory!) ...

...was being interviewed.  He has over 20 thousand followers on Twitter.  

The following exchange happened quite spontaneously.

JLichtenberg @JLichtenberg

#scifichat an article I did for a Trekzine called SPOCK'S KATRA will be included in the WRITERS ON THE MOON project, so my byline will be in a time capsule on the Moon!

TheEdVerse's avatar

Ed Greenwood @TheEdVerse

Replying to @JLichtenberg

Awesome, indeed!

And being as you're here, I want to thank you VERY much for all the great Sime/Gen reads you've given me down the years. I re-read them!

Virtual hugs,


JLichtenberg's avatar

JLichtenberg @JLichtenberg

Replying to @TheEdVerse

#scifichat thank you for doing this interview at the chat today -- it was fascinating, and hard not to interject comments.

TheEdVerse's avatar

Ed Greenwood


Replying to @JLichtenberg

Don't refrain from interjecting, please! More the merrier! I'm a reader first, a fan second, a writer third, and I LOVE hanging out with creative folks!

(I live in a small village where if someone suggests a book as a gift, the reply is usually, "Nope. She already has a book.")

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Reputation and Privacy

In Russia, they have "Face Pay". One pulls down one's mandated Covid-19 mask to be recognized, and ones bank account is debited, or whatever.

Apparently and allegedly, Amazon forces its delivery drivers to consent to biometric spying.
Large pharmaceutical businesses in America have a highwayman-like approach to would-be recipients of the Covid-19 vaccines, expressed as "Your data or your life." 
Apparently, and all kudos to EFF for this insight, all over America there may be a secret sale of fingerprints and other biometric data going on, largely without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the fingers, retinas, and other body parts and secretions.

The Kroger company has recently sent out letters to inform customers that their personal pharmacy and clinic information has been hacked. 

We have also heard that some of those genetic/DNA companies that we all thought were for tracing our relatives and our Neanderthal-or-not origins with a reasonable degree of privacy have been sold for "research" without our knowledge or consent.  They keep trying to get our consent retroactively. That research might be like the Japanese kill and eat whales for "research", or it might be the whooohaaan type of research, all the better to eat our collective lunch.

EFF also reveals some information about where advertising is going.  It is something to do with a flock of birds and predatory targeting.

Legal blogger Michael Yates, representing Taylor Wessing and a whole slew of high net worth celebrities no doubt, has a very interesting article. He gives reputation defending professionals five really good tips to protect their high powered clients, but published authors can use the info for themselves. We're public figures, too, and because our books' back matter usually contains photographs and biographical information, and there's a perception that we are perhaps younger and more financially successful than we really are (which is good for business, but not so good for flying under the radar) Michael Yates's tips might be worth bookmarking.


One good bottom line might be to freeze ones credit. It's free to do, and like a thong, you can take it off any time you like, and put it back on afterwards.

One last tip, for privacy if not reputation, an absolutely excellent You Tube review if you will of how secure your home title might be, as presented by the go-to Quiet Title lawyer.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Virtual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

Last week, from Thursday through Sunday, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts held its annual conference (normally in Orlando) virtually. Last year they skipped it completely. It was nice to get back "together," if only online. Unlike virtual ChessieCon in November 2020, with only live sessions (because, as usual, almost all were extemporaneous discussion panels) except for a slide show on costumes, the IAFA conference prerecorded or uploaded all the paper presentations. Only discussion panels, author readings, and events such as meetings weren't recorded.

You can check out the organization here:


Disadvantages of the virtual con: Missing the hotel stay, the Florida weather, and the lavish meals. Not being able to watch all the "live" panels one might want to, because they weren't recorded for later viewing. No opportunity to see people face-to-face and talk at length. Also, one couldn't devote undivided attention to con events for the entire four days. Being physically at home, I could hardly pretend I wasn't there and ignore the pets, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.

Advantages: Much cheaper than the traditional conference. No need to leave home; I don't like traveling. The great pleasure of having flexibility on when to view most of the presentations. The complete program, with live links to prerecorded / uploaded papers and talks, was posted well before the actual weekend of the event and will remain on the website until the end of March. I think I got exposed to at least as many papers as I do when attending in person, maybe more. I also managed to fit in the few live sessions I felt a strong need to watch, e.g., the Lord Ruthven Assembly vampire panel, the LRA annual meeting, and the IAFA business meeting and awards presentation on Sunday evening. The best feature was being able to hear or read papers whenever convenient, without being forced to choose between them if they happened to be scheduled in the same nominal time slot—what a luxury!

I listened to Jean Lorrah reading from a forthcoming Sime-Gen novel, which of course I wanted to get right away. We have to wait, though, since it's not finished, much less published yet. The Lord Ruthven Assembly (our vampire, revenant, and Gothic division) had a lively panel on vampires called "The Dead Travel Fast," with a lot of discussion spinning off from the differences between the traditional folklore undead, usually bound to the vicinity of their mortal homes and families, and the wandering vampires of much fiction from Lord Ruthven (1819) on. Even though my computer doesn't have a microphone and camera, Zoom allowed me to watch sessions passively with computer audio, and the text chat sidebar enables written comments. I liked that method; it was nice and simple. A presentation on superheroes saving the world, referencing the widespread "Thanos Was Right" meme, brought up the concept of "fan labor"—how fan reception and response add value to commercially produced films and literature. Like many papers and discussions, this talk tied into the conference theme of the "Anthropocene," which inspired many presenters to discuss human impact on the environment as reflected in fantasy and science fiction. In other areas of interest to me, there were several papers each on Stephen King, Harry Potter, and Terry Pratchett. A talk focusing on Tolkien featured a slide show of maps. An advantage of viewing such material online is being able to see details better than one can from a seat in a meeting room. One of my favorite papers dealt with Delia Sherman's FREEDOM MAZE, exploring issues of identity and the "decentering" effect of the time-traveling teenage protagonist's landing in 1860 where she's mistaken for a slave, instead of a white Southern girl from a "good" family as she's been taught to think of herself in 1960. That presentation inspired me to reread the book, as a good piece of literary criticism ideally does.

The weekend concluded with the business meeting and awards on Sunday evening. IAFA's officers are considering the feasibility of offering some kind of virtual track every year, which would be useful to many members who can't travel to Florida for whatever reason. The plan faces potential problems and complications, however, not least the risk of seeming to establish a two-tier system of participation and the possible impairment of the deal with the hotel, in which perks such as meeting spaces depend on selling a certain minimum number of hotel rooms and meals. At any rate, this year's con seemed to rate as a brilliant success; it definitely was for me.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Star Trek Fanzine Takes My Name, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, To The Moon

Star Trek Fanzine

Takes My Name, 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 

To The Moon 

I have an article in the fanzine, SPOCK’S KATRA, which will be sent to the MOON! 

Here’s the announcement I got via Facebook from Kirok L'stok


Good news everyone! We're all going to the Moon!


At the end of January my good friend, writer, poet and all-round creative, Bron Rauk-Mitchell, signed on for the "Writers On The Moon" Project created by Susan Kaye Quinn, 'a rag-tag fleet of stories for a Lunar Time Capsule' which is going to be on the Peregrine lander.

Bron was allowed 20MB but has graciously given up some of her space on the mission to fellow creatives and I was lucky enough to be one of them. As you can guess, space was at a premium so only one book/file could go so I picked Personal Log 3, Spock's Katra, the Trekzine we put out in December, 2015 to commemorate the passing of Leonard Nimoy.

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

My article is titled Spock's Katra and starts on Page 49 of Personal Log 3, Spock's Katra.  The names of the authors are at the end of the 'zine. It's free to download.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Blown By The Wind

David Oxenford's Broadcast Law blog is always informative, well written, and copyright-related. Recently, he discussed why, perhaps, "The Wind Done Gone" was a transformative adaptation of "Gone With The Wind", but the bold insertion of Star Trek characters into the Dr. Seuss story, "Oh, The Places You Will Go" was copyright infringement.

Oxenford does not delve into whether or not the JibJab political cartoons based on copyrighted songs were fair use or not. His analysis is thought provoking.

One wonders whether or not a mash up of news footage was inspired by the CME newsgroup advertisement How The World Advances with Brittany Lincicome (she drives a golf ball and it ends up at the feet of Sir Richard Branson on a large plane's staircase).  Is inserting a golf ball or three into a news clip "fair use"? 

Just because you make a funny version of a copyrighted work does not mean you are safe from a copyright infringement claim.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Animal Regeneration

Here's an article about sea slugs that purposely decapitate themselves:

Decapitated Sea Slugs

It's believed they occasionally "jettison" their bodies to get rid of parasitic infestations. The abandoned torso (if that word applies to slugs) swims independently, sometimes for months, before eventually decomposing. The severed head, however, grows a whole new body, often within three weeks. Meanwhile, it continues to feed on algae as if it doesn't notice it has no digestive system, not to mention other essential organs such as a heart.

Self-amputation, called "autotomy," shows up in other species, such as lizards who let their tails detach to escape predators, then grow new tails. Starfish can generate new arms to replace severed limbs, and in some case a segment of a dismembered starfish can develop into a separate animal. In my high-school biology class, we bisected flatworms to watch the pieces regenerate over several days. Sea cucumbers sometimes eject their internal organs under stress and regrow the lost organs. Mammals, in contrast, have limited capacity for regeneration, but (according to Wikipedia) two species of African spiny mice shed large areas of skin when attacked by predators: "They can completely regenerate the autotomically released or otherwise damaged skin tissue — regrowing hair follicles, skin, sweat glands, fur and cartilage with little or no scarring."

Why do plants regularly lose limbs and grow new ones anywhere on their trunks, while most animals are much more limited in this respect? Why the difference in regenerative capacity between lizards and mammals, although they're all vertebrates? The sea slug's self-decapitation makes tales of vampires and other monsters that can re-grow lost appendages seem more plausible. The slug's independently moving detached parts remind me of a vampire novel by Freda Warrington in which a decapitated vampire regenerates a complete body from his severed head. Meanwhile, the headless corpse grows a new head; however, the resulting individual rampages mindlessly like a zombie. In the science fiction genre, I once read a story whose protagonist hosts a visiting alien at a house party. This alien's species has detachable limbs, so losing an appendage is no big deal for them. Also, this particular ET has a totally literal comprehension of English. When the protagonist compliments a concert pianist with the remark, "I wish I had her hands," the alien tries to do the host a favor by amputating those hands and presenting them as a gift. . . .

It's hoped that understanding the sea slug's remarkable ability "could one day lead to advances in regenerative medicine and other fields." Many science-fiction future technologies include medical treatments that enable injured patients to grow new organs and limbs. Maybe that vision might eventually come true.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Reviews 63 - A Peace Divided - Peacekeeper #2 by Tanya Huff

Reviews 63

A Peace Divided

Peacekeeper #2


Tanya Huff 

Here is a 2017 title by Tanya Huff, A Peace Divided.  

It is #2 in a Trilogy, which is a follow-after series about Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, hero of the 5 Book Series that starts with Valor's Choice where she is a Staff Sergeant.

She is a Space Marine, through and through, complete with her opinion of the Space Navy.

I would suggest reading all these novels -- Tanya Huff is just one of those bylines you grab without reading the back of the book to find out what the thing is about.  She's just that good a writer.

However, simply as a stand alone novel, A PEACE DIVIDED works fine. It is one long drive toward completing the mission of rescuing hostages. The hostages predicament is a result of the various war-stories in the 5-book series VALOR.  

But it's simple enough to understand as a plot driver.

The important thing for Romance writers is to plumb the depths of the Relationship (yes, love, but camaraderie and respect and reliance, and much more) between Torin Kerr and her exemplary Pilot with an ego from here to there and back.

This is not a Romance, but it is Relationship portrayed with speculative potential you must not miss.

Gunny Kerr has mustered out of the Space Marines - where she was trained and conditioned to solve problems by destroying things and people as necessary -- into the PEACEKEEPERS where destroying things is frowned on and destroying people forbidden (and the definition of people has been enlarged.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 14, 2021

"Merely" Really?

Margaret Carter's post "Problems With Monopolies" on Amazon, DRM, and Cory Doctorow struck me as so interesting that I am devoting my blog time to a reaction.
 "A rentier is someone who derives their income from 'economic rents': revenues derived from merely owning something."
Apparently, Doctorow called landlords "rentiers" and claims that landlords are able to set rents without regard to the market. I don't think that is accurate. Studies by Zillow (and others) find that renters will move on if their landlord raises the rent. Advertise a rental for much more than the competition is offering, and that overpriced rental will sit empty.

"Merely owning...?" There's nothing "mere" about owning property. One has the initial cost, the financing, the insurance, state and local taxes, maintenance and upkeep, utilities bills, commissions, permits and licenses, and more.

Following Doctorow's logic that DRM is like rent... it seems to me, breaching DRM is more like Home Title Fraud (where someone steals the homeowner's identity and makes it appear that the homeowner relinquished their rights to their property.)

Perhaps those with a DRM beef should look into The Right To Repair, which is covered by legal blogger Oliver P. Couture PhD  representing McKee Voorhees and Sease PLC , and spend their time petitioning the Library of Congress, particularly if they happen to need to repair game consoles such as the Xbox 360 which Microsoft no longer supports (but which it will still lock if someone attempts to repair it).

To find out about the exemptions that the LOC already has granted, read this:

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Problems with Monopolies

Cory Doctorow's LOCUS article for this month delves into a lot of background about markets and monopolies that's new to me:

Free Markets

He begins by explaining that the classic threat to the free market wasn't considered to be government control, but corporate monopoly. Adam Smith in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS warns of the power of rentiers, which Doctorow defines as follows: "A rentier is someone who derives their income from 'economic rents': revenues derived from merely owning something" -- for example, a landlord. Doctorow extends this concept to companies such as Amazon and Google, "Big Tech" in general, with the power to control "access to the marketplace." A monopolist, in this view, isn't simply a corporate monolith with limited competition; it's an entity "who can set prices without regard to the market"

The primary example Doctorow focuses on is, not surprisingly, DRM. In addition to the alleged purpose of preventing copyright infringement (at which he maintains DRM utterly fails), the relevant law "felonizes removing or tampering with or bypassing DRM, even when no copyright infringement takes place." Therefore, a buyer of an e-book (such as a Kindle novel) can't read it on any device not authorized by the seller. As a result, Big Tech, not the author who owns the copyright, gets "permanent veto over how my books can be used: which devices can display them, and on what terms." However, since all e-book platforms (so far) make DRM optional, Doctorow and his publisher have the power to sell his work DRM-free.

He discusses at length the very different status of audiobooks. Amazon requires all audiobooks released through its Audible program, whether produced by Amazon itself or some other publisher, to be "wrapped in its proprietary lockware." That's something I didn't know, since I don't have any audiobooks on the market and never buy books in that medium. In response to that policy, Doctorow turned to Kickstarter to release his books in audio format, and he analyzes in detail how that project worked out. He also explains how much more complicated it is to download and play an audiobook with an independent app than to buy it through Audible. I previously had little or no awareness of the hard line the Big Tech companies take toward "noncompliant apps."

I have an ambivalent reaction toward Doctorow's stance on Amazon. In principle, I acknowledge that dominance of a market by one company isn't desirable. In practice, as a reader I love knowing I can find almost any book I've ever heard of on a single website. It's a vanishingly rare occurence when I can't find a book listed there, no matter how long out of print. I also turn to Amazon first for many items other than books, music, and visual media. I like buying from it because of its reliable, usually fast delivery and because it already has our credit card on file, so I don't have to enter the information on unfamiliar sites. As a writer, for my "orphaned" works I like the ease of self-publishing through Kindle and the fact that the vast majority of e-book buyers are likely to read the Kindle format. At least one of my publishers feels the same way, having pulled their products from all other outlets because those sales were negligible compared to Amazon sales. Yet I do understand having qualms about being at the mercy of one powerful commercial entity's whims.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Reviews 62 - Battle Ground by Jim Butcher - Dresden Files #17

Reviews 62

Battle Ground

Dresden Files #17


Jim Butcher 

Reviews haven't been indexed yet.

Here are a few previous posts discussing Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series and worldbuilding with theme.

Battle Ground is like part of a book, or the middle of a long book. 

It starts with a night time approach to Chicago with dread in the air, gives a quick (nice and smooth) reminder of where we are in the long-long Dresden saga, then plunges right into magical battle preparations, explosions, destruction, blood-blood-blood, David-vs-Goliath battles, squad actions, cooperative attacks and defenses, followed by more and more and more strategy, tactics, execution, collective injuries, and deaths.

It ends with several issues and affairs yet to be settled, but the initial problem is resolved (mostly).

Remember that Harry Dresden himself was dead and a ghost for a good, long, adventurous stretch of time when Jim Butcher colored in the details of how Dresden's multiverse differs from ours, or what we think ours is.  

So though some characters we remember clearly from previous books die, we're not so sure they won't be back.

There are a lot of characters, and most of them we remember from Dresden's previous adventures.  They are given introductions that remind you of them, but don't explain who they are to Dresden.

This is all very well done -- but the craftsmanship won't be apparent unless you've read the previous  books.  

I don't recommend starting to read The Dresden Files with this entry - but I do recommend the Series very highly. It is not Romance, but has Love Story and Relationship dynamics driving the plot and the character motivations, interspersed with whopping good magical combat scenes, and plenty of not-so-magical brute force combat.

Dresden is a Hero - old school style, with guts, determination driven by the love of people, and particular persons more than others. But mostly he is a Champion, a defender of humanity - which is always under attack by other-dimensional Beings and magic users from our every day reality.  Then there are the simple crooks to be thwarted. Like Sherlock Holmes, Dresden - as Chicago's only professional Wizard - is hired to solve cases for people  who desperately need help. He just can't resist a plea for help.

So now, when he needs help to save all of Chicago, those he's helped rally round, and even take over. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Ebby Flowy

One thought... and a second one.

My first thought on hearing that EBay has the will and the ability to remove all Dr. Seuss books from sale was, "Does that prove that they have the ability to eliminate ebook piracy, if only they had the will? Is this the proverbial camel's nose under the tent?"

I spent yesterday afternoon surfing the Bay, looking for piracy. To EBay's credit, I did not find much compared to my last survey. So, my second thought was to give EBay kudos.

What is the betting that the EBay bookburners will not find this ? (Which may or may not contain bootlegged Seuss... I'm not going to buy a copy to find out.)


Not everything advertised as "Gutenberg" is really Gutenberg.  I see a lot of living authors whose work is surely not out of copyright.  

I also see a lot of ebooks being offered on DVD, and I see that some sellers offer electronic delivery as an option, whether for individual works or for collections.

Speaking of collections, one might smell a rat with this link, not for piracy, but for plausibility.  Eight full sets?

EBay seller ratings are not reliable, I have found in the past, so when buyers take the time to leave something more than a minor constellation of stars, it's worth sniffing around.  To find ratings, click on the hyperlink to Seller Information, then click on either Positive, Neutral, or Negative to read reviews.

Reviews are only viewable for items sold in a limited, recent timeframe.

All the best,

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Visualizing Characters

Any Superman fans here? I mostly enjoyed the first two episodes of the new series SUPERMAN AND LOIS on the CW network, although for me neither this program nor the older series SMALLVILLE measures up to LOIS AND CLARK. My husband complained about my griping over Lana Lang's black hair (same objection I had to that character on SMALLVILLE). Everybody knows Lana is a redhead, just as everybody knows Lex Luthor is bald (eventually ending up bald even if he doesn't start that way). Her hair is one of the iconic traits of her character in the comics. It wouldn't have been hard to have the actress wear a wig—flame-red, auburn, strawberry blonde, any shade within that general category. A visual image of a fictional character so jarringly different from expectations interferes with my immersion in the story.

Many actors have portrayed Count Dracula, the classic character I'm most familiar with, probably lots more than I've gotten around to watching. Christopher Lee and John Carradine come closest to my image of Dracula, although even Lee never performed him in a script fully faithful to the novel. Among the myriad attempts at adapting the original, the Dan Curtis TV movie starring Jack Palance makes a pretty decent try, but Palance in the title role made it hard for me to suspend disbelief. In my opinion, he's the least suitable Dracula I've ever seen.

For fans of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries, the adaptations broadcast on public TV under the umbrella title MURDER MOST ENGLISH dramatize the novels with a high degree of fidelity. Ian Carmichael, however, doesn't quite fit the image of Lord Peter Wimsey as described in the books. Still, he comes close enough not to undermine my suspension of disbelief. As far as Sherlock Holmes is concerned, for me Jeremy Brett was perfect (until he began to gain a little weight in the later seasons, but he can hardly be blamed for that). And from my perspective, Anthony Hopkins IS Dr. Hannibal Lecter, probably because I'd seen clips from the movie (although not the entire film) before reading the book.

How much does the appearance of an actor who plays a character from a novel or comic series matter to you? Does it make a difference whether or not print illustrations (as in comics or on book covers) exist to provide a template? If you view the movie before reading the original text, do you visualize the character as looking like the actor?

For writers, this topic bears on how much visual detail to provide in describing characters. Some novelists touch very lightly on physical appearance. The only characters in DRACULA described thoroughly enough to draw portraits of them are Dr. Van Helsing and the Count himself. Robert Heinlein sometimes delineates characters in detail, but not always. Although the clothing and body paint of Eunice in I WILL FEAR NO EVIL are often described, we get very little hint of how she herself looks except the "telling" rather than "showing" remark that she's very beautiful. According to Heinlein, she's meant to be Black, but the actual text of the novel says nothing to indicate that fact (nothing to contradict it, either, though). As a reader, I want to know what fictional characters look like, preferably early in the story. It's jarring to imagine a character one way and later receive information that invalidates the image I've formed. It also bugs me to visualize a fictional person as a particular gender and then find out well into the story that I've been mistaken, unless the author has a sound narrative reason for the ambiguity. As a writer, I know it can be difficult to work in descriptions of characters—particularly a viewpoint character—with grace and subtlety rather than producing a "wanted poster" list of traits. It's especially hard to manage this task with a first-person narrator, of course. If she gazes at herself in the mirror and says things like, "I brushed my luxuriant blonde hair," she'll come across as insufferably self-absorbed. That's probably a major reason why I use third-person limited rather than first-person narrative in my fiction.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

How To Learn To Write - Part 2 - How do writers influence their audience

How To Learn To Write

 Part 2 

 How do writers influence their audience? 

Part 1 is

Part 2 is my answer to a question on Quora.

On Quora, George Ireland requested my answer to the following question:

How do writers influence their audience?

John Joss a nonfiction and novel writer, journalist, answered very correctly, 


Writers in any medium—technical writers, journalists, poets, advertising copywriters, PR writers, film and television writers, speech writers, business-proposal writers, nonfiction or novel writers—influence their audiences by having mastery over grammar, syntax, spelling and vocabulary. They also have a clear understanding of the needs of their audience(s). Then they apply pen or pencil to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and write the correct words that address the subject with brevity and clarity in terms that they know that audience can grasp and will ‘act’ upon.

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

And all of that craftsmanship and skill set acquisition applies equally to fiction writing. 

However, fiction never works well if the author writes consciously to influence the reader, or spur to a specific action the writer has selected.  It comes off preachy, exposition heavy, abstract, and even insufferably arrogant (read Ayn Rand for examples).  Characters seem wooden, two-dimensional, stiff, cardboard, and cliche.  

Reading fiction is taking a ride in a Character’s head — or perched on a shoulder.  

Reading fiction is always an adventure, leaping out of the everyday existence and into a situation or problem entirely outside the reader’s experience. It may be a situation the reader would like to visit in reality (such as a Romance) or it may be one they’d never, ever, want to visit (a cautionary tale such as Orwell’s 1984).  

The writer defines the Character, and the resources of material goods, talents that may lie hidden, skills already proven, aspirations driving the character toward a goal, just as the player does when entering a Game. 

Within these parameters of personality and resources, the character must solve the problem, resolve the conflict, and make some progress toward the aspiration.  If you can’t get there from here, the novel is about going somewhere else to start over.  But it is progress.

The novel may be about redefining what goals would be satisfying or worth while — such as a Law Student who drops out of school to raise kids.  Sequels might be about the Law Student joining the PTA then running for School Board, then Legislature, maybe national office after that - maybe finishing the Law degree while the kids are in High School.

A reader whose life is stalled always enjoys working the problem of a Character who is acting to break out of a stall.

Such an adventure inside the mind and life of a Hero might seem like it is an  “influence” spurring a reader to pick up the pieces of their own broken life and move on.  But that isn’t what the writer is doing.  

The writer is selling FUN - entertainment - and if you don’t have FUN you can’t sell it, and you certainly can’t deliver what you don’t have in stock. So the writer is not selling INFLUENCE when writing fiction — it’s no fun to “be influenced” — it is lots of fun to gain a more dimensional understanding of yourself, your world, and the goals you might choose to drive toward. 

By reading fiction, a person can gain enough perspective on the world to define their own real-world options as a problem to be solved. Riding in the head of a character who is working out (usually by trial and error; sometimes by being instructed) a methodology of problem solving and techniques of conflict resolution, can inspire (not influence, inspire) a reader to attempt some real-life experiments. 

Now here’s the trick. 

The writer must have a clear vision of the “world” they are inviting the reader into. The writer must evoke (not describe, summon) the fictional world in such a way that the reader can recognize it as possibly somewhat like their own everyday-life, but different. The writer must know, understand, grok, comprehend that difference so completely that, without effort, the writer transmits the specific, singular, vividly portrayed difference that distinguishes the fictional reality from everyday reality while at the same time asking the question — is it distinctively different?

This is what I learned from Gene Roddenberry while doing the multitudinous interviews for STAR TREK LIVES! 

— good fiction doesn’t TELL the reader the answer to the mysteries of life.  Good fiction asks questions.  Good fiction re-phrases the questions the reader has been pondering. Good fiction questions the viewer’s assumptions about reality, about life.  Good fiction poses old questions in new forms and leaves the viewer to chew it all over.

Good fiction does not choose the answer for the reader, or limit what the “right” answer might be.  

Good fiction, I learned from Leonard Nimoy while doing interviews, is “open textured” — giving an outline and inviting the viewer to fill in with their own imagination.  

Good fiction does not “influence” but rather inspires and motivates.  Robert Heinlein inspired, as did Star Trek, many readers to major in math, science and engineering. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Faceblock... or Whither Groups?

 Disclaimer: my title does not refer to either the Qualcomm tool, nor to the Polandball character (who is, apparently, "easily offended by questionable content"). I made the word up, then did a ddg search and discovered a coincidence or two.

Yahoo recently dropped its Yahoo groups. Here is a splendidly comprehensive discussion:

Also, going-going-gone perhaps... or perhaps not are the Facebook groups. Angela Hoy of BookLocker writes a fine summary of the coming and going of Facebook's groups, and their usefulness or otherwise for authors:
Angela Hoy suggests that authors will find MeWe more useful. Others seem to like io groups.

Google Groups seem still to be around, and it is well worth taking a moment or two to check ones privacy and security settings.  Allegedly, doing the same on Facebook is not going to take just a moment or two.  Allegedly, it is hard to do, perhaps by design. 
Google also has a freshly minted web creators community that might be worth a look.
As for Facebook, the legal bloggers at the Cadwalader Wickersham and Taft LLP law firm report on official concerns that even users' medical information is not safe.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in the apps.

"After investigation, the New York State Department of Financial Services ("NYDFS") found that Facebook routinely obtained sensitive data, including medical information, that was collected through consumers' use of third-party applications."

Apropos of nothing, if you wrote a media tie-in novel during NanoWriMo or at any time during 2020, the International  Association of Media Tie-In Writers is accepting submissions for the Scribe Awards.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Tackling Revisions

Since I'm currently revising a paranormal romance novella under consideration by one of my publishers (addressing changes the editor requested), naturally I've been thinking lately about the process of revision. Professional advice about revision and rewriting varies widely; writers can find many different approaches and suggested procedures. There's an often quoted precept to the effect that, "Writing is rewriting." One of Robert Heinlein well-known rules for writers, however, states, "Never rewrite except to editorial order." He seems to mean that it's better to devote time and energy to a new project than to undertake a massive rewrite of an old one. (I assume he doesn't include as "rewriting" the unavoidable polishing on the sentence level.) At the other extreme, I've read advice from a bestselling fantasy novelist that assumes a fledgling writer should expect to produce multiple, extensively overhauled drafts before allowing a work to see the light of day. That expectation risks the author's turning into one of those aspiring writers who spend years on a single novel in a quest for perfection and never get around to submitting it, much less starting any other work.

Among many resources about revision available online, here's one example, very lucid and detailed:

8 Awesome Steps to Revising Your Novel

Some of the advice strikes me as well worth following, such as setting the book aside before one starts to edit (although not everybody has the luxury of "stepping back" for the month or more this article suggests) and then doing a preliminary read-through to list problems that stand out. Overall, the questions suggested for interrogating the work are definitely useful, too. Some of the recommendations, though, seem mainly directed at "pantsers." When the article explains how to evaluate such elements as plot complexity and consistency or character arcs and motivations, I instantly react with, "Why didn't you take care of all that in the outlining phase?" To me, "pantsing" would feel like an exhaustingly time-wasting method of producing a book, although I realize many writers can't work any other way. Stephen King and Diana Gabaldon, to name only two bestselling examples, demonstrate what amazing creations sometimes result from that approach.

Some writing-advice articles explicitly recommend a separate read-through for each element of editing (e.g., plot, character arcs, grammar and style, spelling, etc.). If I tried to do it that way, I would get sick of the story long before completing the process, as well as getting so familiar with it that I would probably cease to see errors. Also, the not uncommon advice not to bother with minor corrections during the first editing pass, because you may scrap or entirely rewrite that scene anyway, doesn't apply to me, for two reasons: I've already planned the story or novel scene by scene in the outline, so if a particular section didn't fit, I would have noticed before writing a full draft of it. Second and really primary, I'm constitutionally unable to read a chunk of prose without noticing and correcting errors as I go. No doubt that's a side effect of having worked as a proofreader for over twenty years.

Anyway, all writers, after seeking out and absorbing the advice most relevant and helpful for their own temperaments and stages of growth, develop their own individual revision processes.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Reviews 61 - Forged an Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

Reviews 61


An Alex Verus Novel


Benedict Jacka 

Reviews have not yet been indexed.  To find them search for the Label, Reviews.

We looked at MARKED, #9 in Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus Series.

And here is #11 in the series, FORGED,  - which ends off with a lot more adventures in store for the intrepid team which the hero, Alex Verus, has put together.

This is not a Romance Series, but the plot is driven by iron-clad Bonds among individuals, some male, some female, some not human.  In this entry to the Series, we meet a self-aware Artificial Intelligence who willingly joins Verus's team after being rescued from the bad guys.

The whole novel (and series) is composed of fast-paced action scenes - with astonishing and unexpected weapons, skills, attacks, and mishaps appearing out of nowhere.  

It all makes perfect sense when you understand that Alex Verus is essentially a "good guy" with his fanny caught in one horrendous bear trap and his goal merely survival.

He's not out to destroy, expunge, or vanquish the bad guys.  He doesn't want power over them.  He doesn't want to become the boss of the world or correct all the wrongs of the world. He just wants them to stop trying to kill him and his friends.  To move toward that goal, he has killed many, sometimes dishonorably. 

In the ensuing battles, some of his friends get killed, some captured and tortured, (sometimes rescued by him or his other friends), and the total situation of the massive war that scampers across alternate-Realities changes with nearly every blow landed in combat.

The real meat of the story, though, lies between battles, between attacks, in the quiet moments when Verus cements his bonds with his friends, frenemies, and even former enemies, and potential Lovers. 

This is well written, easy reading, with deep characters whose predicaments make you ask yourself hard questions about your own life, and what you wouldn't do to survive.

And it does pose good questions about how or if Love can actually conquer "All."  By the end of this Book 11 in the Series, it does seem that friendship has a serious chance at stopping the violent attacks, and might forge new alliances.  

If you are trying to write a Romance, this is a good Series to study for ideas about what sort of "All" your Characters' Love might have to conquer.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Talking Trademarks

Time is short for those who might like to sign up for a free Trademark Basics Boot Camp webinar run by the USPTO. The deadline to register is February 22nd (Monday!).

The event is on Tuesday February 23rd from 2pm to 3pm Eastern Time.
Click the link for more information, please.
I believe it is expensive to apply for a trademark and be denied, so before you apply, for instance, to trademark a catchy phrase you should do some research, and perhaps even some soul searching. Does that phrase uniquely describe your book series, your brand as an author, your range of products and their source? 
Writing for the Baker & Hostetler  blog that focuses on IP Intelligence (as opposed to the other nine or ten blogs that this prestigious law firm owns),  Robert Horowitz details several tales of trademark application woe and offers some very wise advice to would-be trademark owners and to those advising them.
For those seeking advice or representation, the World Trademark Review conducted a series of interviews with leading TM attorneys.  Here are three links:
Note also the informative right-margin sidebar with topical, trademark-related Tweets!
Question: What do Sexual Performance, Wind Power, and Trademarks have in common? 
Answer: "Use it or lose it!"
All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Survival in the World of Publishing

Kameron Hurley's new LOCUS essay reflects on her first ten years as a published author:

How to Survive a Decade in Publishing

Her first series went through three publishers, the last of which folded when one of the owners allegedly absconded with the royalties that were owed. She notes that "publishing is weird," a conclusion supported by her examples from her own career and those of some other writers. Knowing "the one thing we can control in this wild business is the words on the page" (and not always even that, where the finished product released to the market is concerned), we have to accept that the "glorious highs" and "very low lows" of a writer's life depend heavily on many outside factors, including luck.

Her remark that all her adventures as an author since then have been "measured against that first foray into the publishing world" resonates with me. I had two very different publishing experiences at the start of my career. My first two books were mass-market paperback anthologies, CURSE OF THE UNDEAD and DEMON LOVERS AND STRANGE SEDUCTIONS. The sale of anthologies edited by someone with no prior writing or editing experience to a major publisher was an amazing stroke of luck then and would be impossible now. At the time, I thought I would thereafter (1) make lots of money and (2) sell everything I wrote. It is to laugh. The advances did constitute more money than we'd ever received in one lump before, although they were probably modest even by early 1970s standard. One of them did provide the down payment on our first house. Neither book earned out its advance, though, and the publisher didn't buy anything further from me.

As for the second expectation, my next publication was the first full-length book I wrote myself, a nonfiction work of literary criticism on vampirism in literature. After a couple of years of floundering around, still not very knowledgable about the industry, I contracted it with a small press that proved to be disastrous. They printed the book by offset from my typed manuscript, long before word processing, so the thing looked sadly unprofessional. It had a small print run, as typical for academic-oriented works, and it was exorbitantly overpriced. It cost something like $29.00 in 1975, when the average paperback went for $1.25 and most hardcovers for under $10.00. (I checked those figures by glancing at books from that decade on my shelf.) It's a wonder any copies ever sold. Moreover, after the first year or two the publisher stopped communicating with me, and I eventually resorted to a lawyer's letter to get them to disgorge a meager royalty payment. Years went by before my first professional fiction sale, to one of the early Darkover anthologies, and well over a decade between that monograph and my first novel, to a startup small horror press—which treated its authors well and even paid an advance. So, not forgetting that aforementioned ghastly vampire monograph experience, with later publishers I felt good about the deal when they actually answered mail and disbursed royalties on time.

Hurley reminds us that at every stage of a writing career, rejection will happen, and she recommends an attitude of "grim optimism." For surviving in this industry, she advises writers to "create a strong support network. Get a good agent. Understand that everything changes."

I've read that something like 90% of published authors don't live off their writing, but have another source of income such as a day job, a pension, or a well-employed spouse. Of the other 10%, few support themselves by writing fiction; most depend on occupations such as journalism or technical writing. Anyone whose principal goal in becoming an author is to get rich or even affluent is probably doomed to disappointment. To survive the highs and lows described in Hurley's essay, one has to write for its own sake. As Marion Zimmer Bradley famously said, nobody told you not to be a plumber.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt