Thursday, January 27, 2022

Creative Fakelore for Fun and Enlightenment

The January-February 2022 issue of SKEPTICAL INQUIRER includes an article by statistical ecologist Charles G. M. Paxton, narrating his experiment of creating an imaginary water monster to masquerade as an authentic legend. He was inspired by an account of an eighteenth-century ghost in London that turned out to be a hoax promulgated in the 1970s. Paxton wondered whether his lake monster could gain similar credence. One intriguing thing about this experiement, to me, is that not only did his invented sightings get retold as genuine by multiple sources, new reports of alleged historical sightings sprang up, independent of any effort on his part.

He decided to create, not a generic sea serpent like Nessie in Loch Ness, but a "monstrous aquatic humanoid." He located it in two freshwater lakes in England's Lake District that, as far as he knew, had no existing tradition of monster lore. Paxton named this creature Eachy and devised a false etymology for the word. He also invented a nonexistent book to cite as a source. After he had an article about Eachy uploaded to Wikipedia, references to the monster began to spread. Although the Wikipedia article on Eachy no longer exists, the Cryptid Wiki has a straightforward page on him or it as a real piece of folklore:


The Cryptid Wiki piece mentions the earliest reported appearance of Eachy having occurred in 1873, an imaginary "fact" taken directly from Paxton's material. Moreover, in 2007 the monster sneaked into an actual nonfiction book, a cryptozoology guide by Ronan Coghlan. By January of 2008, Eachy T-shirts were being sold on the internet by someone unconnected to Paxton. At the time the Wikipedia Eachy page was deleted in 2019, it held the status of second-longest surviving hoax on that site.

What do we learn from this story? Paxton proposes that "the tale of the Eachy tells us the dangers of how Wikipedia can be subject to manipulation." As he mentions, however, in more recent years Wikipedia has tightened its standards and introduced more safeguards. On a broader scale, the Eachy hoax demonstrates the danger of how easily recorded history can be distorted or even fabricated from nothing, then accepted as fact. An important caution I'd note, as Paxton also alludes to, is the hazard of uncritically believing what appear to be multiple sources when in truth they're bouncing the same "facts" around in a self-referential echo chamber, repeating what they've picked up from previous sources in endless circularity. That phenomenon can be seen in a field I'm somewhat familiar with, scholarship on Bram Stoker's DRACULA. For instance, after an early biography suggested that Stoker might have died from complications of syphilis, numerous authors since then (in both nonfiction and novels) have accepted without question the truth of the assumption, "Bram Stoker had syphilis, which influenced the writing of DRACULA." The tale of Eachy also reinforces the obvious warning not to believe everything you read on the internet or even in books.

It's fascinating to me that a legend can be invented, disseminated, and perceived as authentic so quickly. Some authorities believe the story of Sawney Bean, the alleged patriarch of a sixteenth-century Scottish cannibal family, first reported in the NEWGATE CALENDAR centuries after the supposed events and repeated as fact in numerous publications since, was just such a fictional legend. And Sawney Bean's tale became deeply rooted in the public imagination long before the internet. In our contemporary electronic age, the chilling scenario in Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR comes to mind. If history is whatever is written, what happens when history becomes so easy to rewrite? That's one good reason why, even if it ever became possible to digitize and make available on the web every book in existence, we should still hang onto the physical books. Ink on paper can't be altered at whim like bytes in an electronic file.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Allowed Fool and the Law

In Tudor England, the only relatively safe way to tell truth to power (to coin a phrase), was to be reliably and consistently amusing about it. Kings, Dukes, dictators and tyrants have been understood to like a good laugh, and to very occasionally tolerate a really good joke at their own expense.

It helped for the longevity of the comedian if he could be excused for his impudence because it could be attributed to a harmless mental disorder.

An elegant modern term for such a repeating disorder might be "brain fart". 

College professor and Shakespearean scholar Steve Werkmeister writes an excellent blog about the allowed fool in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (January 6th), and suggests some contemporary comedians who perform this role.

Some blogs age well. Observations made in June 2016 might seem even more perspicacious in January 2022.

The blog No Sweat Shakespeare offers a self-styled ultimate guide to Shakespeare's fools... and a heavy larding of irrelevant advertisements.

Drew Layton writes a fascinating analysis of a song lyric copyright case (in which the plaintiff did not prevail). The words in a sentence may be identical, but copyright depends on original expression that has been created independently and separately from another work.

The same analysis might apply to jokes.

The defence in the lyric case was very well served because the defendant had kept very good records of his creative process, and had sound recordings of early versions of the song, including experiments with a variety of phrases (beginning with "tell me that...") before settling on the phrase in question.

Titles cannot be copyrighted, for instance, but documenting ones experiments might be a good idea.  The same might apply to punchlines.

Intellectual Property attorney Milord A. Keshishian of the Milord Law Group wrote an interesting blog about copyright litigation between an extremly popular comedian (and others), and an author who published a complilation work of other peoples jokes.

The author made the monumental mistake of giving attribution by name to the comedians whose jokes she transcribed, published and distributed without permission.

One might use the search term "compilations of jokes" and find a great many YouTube videos of individuals telling jokes, but beware of appropriating them.

All the best,

 Rowena Cherry 





Friday, January 21, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Blurbs Series, Part 3: Crafting Blurb Basics

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner 

Based on Writing Blurbs that Sizzle--And Sell! by Karen S. Wiesner 

Blurbs Series, Part 3:

Crafting Blurb Basics 

This is the third of six posts focusing on writing effective blurbs for your books. 

In Part 3, we talked about writing series blurbs. Let's continue. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single author in possession of a good book must be in want of a blurb. But writing blurbs is hard and it's something a lot of authors put off until the last possible minute. Two of the most basic blurb questions that might be circling right now are: How long should a blurb be? What's the best time to write a blurb? 

First, we should establish that writing blurbs requires an entirely different mindset than writing stories. That might be a good reason for not writing one as soon as you've finished writing the book. Give yourself time away, just enough so you've still got the story firmly in mind, but you've gained sufficient distance to allow yourself to go at blurbing like a fitness coach to make it lean and mean. 

Second, yeah, I'm going there: Facts are facts, and the fact is some authors are just not good at writing blurbs…for whatever reason. Too many think that just because a blurb is generally short, it's inconsequential, as evidenced by this quote from Ben Cameron in his 10 Top Tips on How to Write the Best Book Blurb article: "You've just put your feet up when you get a reminder from the designer that they still need text for the back cover. Another small decision at the end of a long line of decisions, you knock something together in a few minutes and send it off. You may have just doomed your 75,000-word masterpiece…" Did he learn to regret his former blasé attitude about blurbs? Probably. 

Others are simply too deeply involved with their own work--therefore, everything is important and must be mentioned. Those authors need to look at the story from a reader's perspective and have a disciplined method for getting down to the heart of the story. Some authors can learn to be better or even good at blurb writing with a solid process and practice behind them.    

Finally, there are authors who are given literally no say in what makes it on or into their back cover blurbs. The publishing house does that work, and sometimes that's a relief and actually carries rewards. Other times, especially when blurbs are misleading or just downright wrong, that may lead to a lot of embarrassment or even loss of sales. The best case scenario would be for the one who knows the book best (the author) to write the first draft of his own blurb then send it over to a professional blurbologist (that's a real thing!) to revise into something sizzling, and lastly, the blurb goes to a marketing expert to finish it off with whatever a blurb needs promotion-wise. But, let's face it, that situation doesn’t happen too often these days. Learning how to do it yourself is probably the way to go for the vast majority. 

There are techniques (discussed in-depth in my book and workshops titled Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell! as well as touched on in my many articles on the topic of blurbs) that can help and may even infuse you with the same enthusiasm I have for writing blurbs. I am wildly, wonderfully in love with writing, revising and evaluating book blurbs--for my own books and for the books of other authors, regardless of the genre. Even the most shockingly underwhelming blurbs I've been asked to write or revise have thrilled me with their challenge. For most authors, that's inconceivable. 

Let's go over the two most basic questions authors have when it comes to writing blurbs: How long they can and should be and when to write them. 

How Long Should a Blurb Be? 

Ultimately, it doesn't matter a whit if a blurb is long or short or somewhere in-between. We have a misconception these days that being short by definition makes a blurb good and effective while a long blurb is by default in opposition of that, but both flavor-of the-day trends are illusions that you can't afford to rest on. You can have a thousand word blurb that's so amazing readers devour it and immediately want to read the book just as you might see a short, punchy blurb that's incredibly well-written but doesn't make someone want to read the book. Hence, effectively good means it's both well-written and makes a person want to read the story inside the pages, not just the back--want to enough to actually pay money to do it. If a blurb isn't good enough to make someone want to open the book and read, it's not effectively good. An effectively good blurb either is effectively good in making a reader open the book or it's not. That's the bottom line, and all that matters. A blurb can be good and not effective, or effective and not good, but either it's both or it won't work. End of story. 

As we alluded to previously, there's a huge trend going on these days about short blurbs. I personally believe distributors and a certain high-profile publishing company associated with one of the major book distributors in the world is behind this trend. Many publishers, printers, books packagers, distributors and book promote websites actually do have a limit on how many words can be included as a description. You might have noticed at Amazon, if you want to read any more than the first, say, five sentences, you have to click "read more"--twice, if you can believe that!--to get the full amount that was allowed to be put in by the publisher or author. At Lulu, a printer, you're given a very small amount of space for your blurb and you can't go over that maximum no matter how much you might want to (and you will want to!). 

I don't deny that if your blurb is short and punchy, it’s practically guaranteed to be intriguingly memorable. But it's a fact that short is not always best. A too-short blurb may be less than dazzling. Instead of being memorable, it can lack details to capture true interest in readers. Once, I was revising blurbs for two different authors. One gave me about five total sentences. The other gave me five long paragraphs. Guess which one I enjoyed the most? Yes, I've admitted I prefer long blurbs, but with the short blurb, I couldn't find anything to connect to. Not enough information was given for me to feel any intrigue and desire to read more. The five long paragraphs weren't enough to satisfy me for the other book. I loved everything I read and I was just eating it up! But, as a blurbologist, I knew it was far too long for the average reader, so I did suggest cuts. My point is, an effectively good blurb isn't going to fit into any word count minimums or maximums because the point isn't about whether it's long or short. All that really matters when it comes to blurb size is whether it's effectively good. 

Genre will play a part in the size of your back cover blurb. Science fiction, fantasy, and historical books (especially if part of a series) may have longer back cover and series blurbs: up to four paragraphs instead of the standard one or two. That's because the blurb may have to make sense of whole worlds, cultures and philosophies, which, in many cases may seem vastly different from what a modern reader is used to. Less weighty genres set in time periods and worlds modern people are accustomed to--such as romance, suspense, general fiction, maybe even speculative stories--rarely have more than two paragraphs that make up the back cover blurb. So, here's a go-to list of our size figures for each blurb type: 

A high-concept blurb is rarely more than a single sentence long but can be up to two sentences in length. Actual word count is certainly not a factor in this unless your sentences are long enough to be shocking. Most are rarely more than 20 words long. 

A back cover blurb can be anywhere from one to four paragraphs long. Back in the day when there were only print copies of books, they used to have to fit blurbs solely on the back cover of that physical book (whether it was a mass market paperback, trade or another size). Depending on the size of the paperback, 200-450 words was about the maximum comfortable fit on a back cover. Anything longer and the font would have to be made smaller, or less "blank" space would be available for margins. It is possible to fit about 425 words on a trade size paperback and still have it look attractive and be fairly readable. I've done it with my own. But, as we said, this can be at the expense of a largely readable font size and open space.  

A series blurb can also be anywhere from one to four paragraphs in length--but preferably one unless it's for a genre that requires a bit more room, as we've already covered. 

Between the high-concept, story and series blurbs, you generally have an absolute maximum of 450 total words to use, but 250 or less for all three combined is recommended. 

Promotional considerations are the major and the main reason for having short blurbs. I don't believe a blurb that includes only high-concept blurb will ever be effective in making the reader jump right to buying the book. With that kind of thinking, authors have skipped an absolutely vital step. This is very definitely a progression. The reason for a high-concept blurb is to lure the readers in with a punch of intrigue so they'll want to read the rest of the blurb (which will hopefully make them want to read the book). So the high-concept blurb tempts the reader to read the back cover blurb and the back cover blurb incites the reader to make the commitment to read the story. When I see a book promotion that has a high-concept blurb that really speaks to me, makes me want to know more, I'll go looking for the back cover blurb. I rarely skip right to buying the book because I need to know more in order to make the commitment to buy. Think of it as an equation (the arrow stands for "leads to"): 

High-concept blurb PUNCH --> Back cover blurb to find out more information --> Commitment to buy and read the book 

Authors need to be aware of this progression to be effective in distributing and marketing their books. If you don't have any limitations, go with the most effectively good combination of all three blurbs for the proper application, whether it be distribution or marketing. 

In Part 4, we'll talk about when to write your blurbs. 

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!

Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection 

Happy writing! 

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Presently Tense

Does anybody really like fiction narrated in the present tense? Apparently, to my bafflement, many people actually do, since that device seems to be a currently popular fad. Not only do authors write it, lots of editors accept it. Of the two most recent Ellen Datlow anthologies I read, each contains multiple present-tense selections. The January-February issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, which I just finished reading, includes twelve stories, of which five are told in present tense. To skew the balance further, one of those is the longest piece in the issue. Only one story strikes me as possibly justified in its narrative choice, being framed as a sequence of day-by-day news-as-it-unfolds reports.

Many years ago, I read a horror novella that enthralled me except for one feature: It was written in present tense and second person. "You walk to the top of the barren hill and find the ruins of an ancient stone circle. . . ." kind of thing. (Just an example, not a quote. The bizarre narrative style is the only specific thing I recall.) I've seen second-person-present-tense work very effectively in an occasional short story. At novella length, it was excruciating. An author I follow on Facebook dislikes present-tense fiction so thoroughly that it's an automatic downcheck for her. While I don't go that far, in my opinion present tense has only a limited justifiable use. It works well in the aforementioned rare short stories in second person. And if an author wants to leave open the possibility of a first-person protagonist's death, present tense can discourage the reader from meta-thinking along the lines of, "He can't die, because he's telling what happened in the past." (Only in a short story, though, not inflicted on us for the length of a novel or even a novella.) There are few other circumstances in which present-tense narrative doesn't annoy me. Sometimes it makes sense when used to distinguish current action from flashbacks, as Stephen King does in his recent thriller BILLY SUMMERS. I didn't mind it too much in that book, although I don't think it was necessary.

Why do fiction writers use present tense? I assume the idea is that telling the tale as if it's happening at this moment is supposed to enhance suspense or create a feeling of immediacy. It's probably meant to give the audience a sense of being immersed in the action. In my experience as a reader, that style has the opposite effect. Present-tense narration draws attention to itself and away from the story. It most often generates distance rather than emotional involvement. Conventional past-tense storytelling is "transparent" because it's what we've been conditioned to expect. When reading, we look through it, not at it. My advice, for what it's worth: As a writer, don't mess with what traditionally works unless you have a strong, specific reason for the change.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sauce For The Gander

Sauce for the gander...

In other words, “Lube for the schlong  but not so much for the cooch” (my words) is discriminatory and wrong, but it seems to approximate to the advertising policy on Facebook regarding adult products or services. The Center for Intimacy Justice cries foul.

Pleasure is verboten. So, too, are remedies for feminine maladies that Menlo Park men would rather not contemplate.

Legal blogger Jeff Greenbaum for Frankfurt Kurnit Klein andSelz PC looks into the complaint.

Original Link:


Applicable to sauce with a different meaning (though, I will not get around to hooch), divorce and family law specialist and very fine blogger, Kirk C. Stange Esquire of the Stange LawFirm PC  counsels lawyers on how to get social media likes and follows.

Original link: 

Kirk C. Stange's methods, rationale and advice should work just as well for authors, especially the suggestions about blatant self promotion. He looks like an interesting person to follow for any author interested in source material for divorce or family law /family court matters.

Saucy e-book pirates bite the dust in court.

Ukraine is home to the saucy  e-book pirating site KISS LIBRARY, which was sued by Amazon, PRH, and Authors Guild on behalf of 12 authors  in 2020 for pirating e-books at discounted prices  under,,, and other domain names.  The court recently awarded 7.8 million in statutory damages to the plaintiffs.

Let’s hope Ukraine makes sure that the damages are paid promptly, and that their pirate sites are shut down.

Speaking of money, January is the time to send out 1099-MISC and 1099-NEC.

Authors, if in the course of your business you paid your webmaster or webmistress (whom I suppose the new, Microsoft Officious app may now suggest we now call webexpert and weblover ) $600 or more, you need to fill out a 1099-NEC.  Copy A must go to the IRS with a filing form 1096. Copy B must go to the webexpert or weblover.

Ditto if you paid a lawyer.

Incorporated businesses usually do not need 1099-NECs. PCs, LLCs, and individuals do.

This $600 threshold is probably why the IRS is now empowered to look at bank accounts, so it is probably more important than ever before to send out these forms and fill them out correctly.

Original forms are free from the IRS, and also from some public libraries.  If you have fewer than 10 forms, and do not own a typewriter or file-online account, you may use handwriting as long as you remember to use block printing, in black ink, and do not run over the outlines of the boxes on the forms.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 


EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday   



Friday, January 14, 2022

Karen S Wiesner: Blurbs Series, Part 2: Series Blurbs

 Writing Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Based on Writing Blurbs that Sizzle--And Sell! by Karen S. Wiesner

Blurbs Series, Part 2:

Series Blurbs

This is the second of six posts focusing on writing effective blurbs for your books.

In Part 1, we talked about writing high-concept and back cover blurbs. Let's continue.

Part 3: Series Blurbs

At its crux, a series blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of your entire series that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s), perhaps as a group or some other concept (the driving force of the story). A series blurb will be a generalized sentence or paragraph that accurately covers, reflects and describes every single book in the series. A series blurb can make or break the sale of an entire set of books. Many publishers and certainly readers buy the first book in the series and every single one after it based on a sizzling series blurb that convinces them they absolutely have to read not only the first book but all of them in that set!

Let's first establish that the point of a series is that readers who follow it from one book to the next will get a richer, more complex, and emotional experience than those who only read a single book in the series. Those readers will understand the subtle nuances that one-time browsers won’t pick up on. For that reason, the author has to make enough vital connections from one book to the next in their series or readers will lose the purpose in reading that series at all. Therefore, the first step to writing a series blurb is to figure out what ties the books together.

Types of Series Ties

If each book in a series doesn’t somehow tie together or have a touchstone that helps the reader figure out how they’re connected, you could hardly call these books a series. There are three distinct types of series ties, but always keep in mind that authors frequently combine one or more of these in a single series.

·         Recurring Character or Central Group of Characters

·         Premise/Plot Series

·         Setting Series

The series ties will also help us figure out what the "who" aspect is of our series when filling out the next section of the Blurb Worksheet.

Finding the Focus of a Series: Story and Series Arcs

A story arc is introduced, developed, and concluded in each individual book of a series. In a series story, a story arc is short-term because it will be neatly tied-up in a single book within the series.

A series arc is the long-term thread that's introduced in the first book in the series, is developed in some way in every single subsequent book, but is only fully resolved in the final book in the series.

The series arc is usually separate from the individual story arcs, but both are crucial and must fit together seamlessly. As an example, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the story arc is the chamber of secrets plotline. The overall series arc, in the most simplified terms, is good (Harry) overcomes evil (Voldemort)—and that’s true for every book in that series. The series arc runs beneath the individual story arcs in each book.

Certain types of series don’t really need series arcs because they’re open-ended. No clear end is in sight, and therefore there is less need for a tightly delineated series arc that must resolve in the final book. In an open-ended series (such as some sleuth mysteries with a single recurring character—i.e., Hercule Poirot and the like), each book in the series is a standalone.

The series blurb should tell readers how all the books in that series are connected. If the series blurb is done well enough, those sentences will accurately reflect what every book in the series is about in a concise, intriguing summary. If readers don't understand the premise of your series in the blurb, they may not bother try reading the first book.

Now that we know what a series blurb needs to include, we can use a short form to provide the jumping-off point in crafting one of our own on the Blurb Worksheet:

Basic Series Information: Fill out as completely as possible, keeping in mind that you may not use all, much or any of this in your final blurb.

Series Title:


[Who] Series Tie(s):

       Recurring or Cast of Characters Series

       Premise/Plot Series

       Setting Series

Basic Series Arcs:

[What] Conflict or crisis that sets the series in motion:

[Why] What's the worst case resolution scenario to the crisis situation?

We're going to use a modified variation of our "formula" for the series blurb:


(Series Tie)


(Conflict or Crisis)


(Worst Case Resolution Scenario) 

Note that resolutions are not usually needed in the series blurb, since you don’t want to defuse the intrigue or tension, but sometimes a resolution will work well in the overall series blurb. Play with it to see all the alternatives. 

Let's fill out the form and formula, this time with The Expanse Series. The books don't technically have a series blurb--not a definitive one anyway--the way the TV series does, but I've put together a slightly hybridized version below. 

Series Title: The Expanse

Genre(s): Science Fiction

[Who] Series Tie(s): Premise/Plot Series (though it could fit in other categories as well), in this case a futuristic galaxy that humans have developed and colonized. I.e.: Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. 

Series Arcs:

[What] Conflict or Crisis that Sets the Series in Motion: The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places.

[Why] What's the worst case resolution scenario to the crisis situation? A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth's rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark. 

We're going to use a slightly modified variation of our blurb "formula": 

Who (Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places.) Series Tie 

What (A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth's rebellious colony on the asteroid belt.) Conflict or Crisis 

Why (Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark.) Worst Case Resolution Scenario 

Here's the blurb for The Expanse Series: 

Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places. A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth's rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark. 

Remember the axiom we fixed in our minds earlier: If the blurb isn't effectively good, making you want to read the story inside the pages, it won't work. The goal is to get readers to read the book. Apparently, Tolstoy downed a gallon or two of vodka while trying to write the blurb for War and Peace. Truly, here is no better way to test an author's ability to write concisely in a way that engages and entices the reader into wanting more than with these three different types of blurb. Time to get down to that Blurb Hokey Pokey. 

In Part 3, we'll talk about some basics of crafting blurbs. 

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!

Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection 

Happy writing! 

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: