Tuesday, June 02, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 8 - What Do Readers Do

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 8
What Do Readers Do?

Previous parts of this series are indexed at:


There are moments in life when a writer is objective about their own work, really the best judge of its value.  Those moments are rare, and some people never experience one so they believe there are none.

But you don't have to attain objectivity to figure out the value of what you've written.  Of course, there's the hurdle of getting published by a publisher who has captured the market you are writing for, but after that there are still many confusing stages.

One way to know if you've hit your readership is the feedback you get from readers -- today, it's Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, etc.  There will be a flurry of comments, and then they die down.  You've written a good book, but just one among many that readership enjoys.

Beyond just enjoying, and commenting, what can a reader do?

Well, in the old print-on-paper-snailmail days Star Trek invented the fanzine with fiction content.  Old Science Fiction fandom had lots of fanzines, many with commentary on current and older novels -- but it was essentially a non-fiction medium.

Star Trek, a TV Series, changed that.  The first Star Trek fanzine was published by Devra Langsam, who is still Trekking today.

From there, non-canon respecting Trekzines broke new ground, invented new categories, and even established the hetero-romance category,  I think this may be the first in that category


This Star Trek Romance series likewise inspired and welcomed writers other than the one who first crested it.

My own fanzine series, Kraith, had 50 creative contributors to its alternate-universe vision of Star Trek.


Star Trek inspired fans who created alternate universe Star Treks,  like Sahaj Collected, and Jean Lorrah's Night of the Twin Moons, which inspired and welcomed even more writers.

Classics have usually not done that before cheap offset printing and connected groups who hold conventions and sell each other fanzines.

Sherlock Holmes fandom picked up that cue and ran with it, and now we have a multitude of professionally published Holmes novels and spin-off TV Series, too.  It's a wonderful time we live in.

When I was researching for my Bantam paperback STAR TREK LIVES! about why fans like STAR TREK, before anyone but fans knew about Trekzines, I used my own first-published hardcover novel, HOUSE OF ZEOR, ...

 ...to illustrate the point about why people like Spock.

Simultaneously, fans were writing stories in my HOUSE OF ZEOR universe, dubbed the Sime~Gen Universe by Jean Lorrah (who became my collaborator and co-owner of Sime~Gen Inc.), and fanzines were proliferating.  As the internet just barely started to become the fanzine distribution medium, we moved online, and now you can find most of that early fanfic plus a lot of written-for-the-website fiction at


Meanwhile, Jean Lorrah sold a series of novels titled SAVAGE EMPIRE, and others have written in
that universe, including one Star Trek fan with his own series about Uhura, titled Captain Uhura.


And many years later, many of those early Sime~Gen fanfic writers had turned professional but were still thinking and creating Sime~Gen.  So the current publisher, Wildside Press, asked for an anthology of their stories set in the Sime~Gen Universe.  It is Volume 13

So, it seems to me the signature of a "Classic" is how it inspires other creative people to create, what they create inspires more people (who might not actually know the original source material) to create and capture the imaginations of yet another generation.

In other words, a Classic propagates.

In Part 5 of this series of posts, we noted the Classic Caine Riordan Novel, Marque of Caine,
written by a writing student of mine, nominated for the Nebula Award in 2020.


The Caine Riordan series passes this "inspire readers to write" test by having inspired professional writers to create stories set in the Caine Riordan universe, carefully moderated by dedicated fans keeping all the details close to canon.

The first anthology by those writers is on Amazon

So you know if you've written a classic by how your readers react -- often over decades as they grow up and become professional writers (in various fields).  If they create in your world, you experience a thrill of recognition you couldn't duplicate in any other way.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 31, 2020

You Think?

Cue the fanfare for the common creator of copyrighted works of music, art, and literature.
The Copyright Office has concluded that Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the Safe Harbor section) is unbalanced.

Over the last twenty years, the scales seem to have become weighted in favor of the tech giants OSPs, and in disfavor of rightsholders. It may come as no surprise that the biggest issues with Safe Harbor arise from a lack of clarity and legal agreement about what the criteria are for when an OSP has "red flag knowledge", and how many times and to what degree an infringer can infringe before he or she qualifies as a "repeat infringer".

This author has been complaining about those issues since 2005!

Legal bloggers Jason P. Bloom, Joseph Lawlor,  Lee F. Johnston,  and Wesley Lewis, representing the law firm Haynes and Boone LLP pen a very nice summary of the Copyright Office's 200 page report and major recommendations.

Original link:

Lexology link:

One can only hope that EBay and Twitter will take note. You think they will?

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday  

PS. This gofundme link has nothing to do with copyright, or big tech. Sharing it anyway.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Spooky Tutti Frutti

I'm delighted to announce the release of my lighthearted ghost story, "Spooky Tutti Frutti," from the Wild Rose Press.

Spooky Tutti Frutti

It's part of their summer reading e-book series, "One Scoop or Two." With ice cream as the unifying element, these stories range from 7500 words to novella length and had to include the following features: ice cream central to the plot; a setting in a waterfront tourist area during the summer; an ice cream flavor in the title. It can be fun to write a story in response to a highly specific call for submissions. At the bottom of my e-book's product page, you can see a row of other releases to date in the "One Scoop or Two" series and appreciate the clever titles other authors have come up with. My story takes place mostly in a 1950s-themed ice cream parlor, and I think the bright, perky cover captures the ambiance quite well.

I knew I wanted to contribute a ghost story, since all of my fiction is supernatural or paranormal in some way. Waterfront resort area? Annapolis, where I live, is one of the sailboat capitals of the East Coast. I got the editor's assurance that this location fits the criteria, even though it's on a river rather than an ocean beach. The idea of using a sailboat race as the basis for the heroine's problem came naturally, since boat races are a common summer event in this kind of locale. Preparing to set up a stall at the dockside celebration on race day, the heroine wants to create an original flavor. A friendly but slightly odd girl she hires as a temp comes up with the perfect flavor, but why is the new employee, although brilliant on the subject of ice cream, clueless about many details of everyday life?

I wanted my piece to be light and mildly humorous, so I gave the heroine a problem that's serious for her but not dire or life-threatening. Between the title and the strange girl's behavior, I assume the reader will guess soon enough that she's a ghost. I hope readers will have fun waiting for the heroine to figure out the truth and decide what to do about it.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Theme-Story Integration Part 6 - Crafting The Epiphany

Theme-Story Integration
Part 6
Crafting The Epiphany

Or put another way - The Story changes The Plot

Previous parts in this series are indexed at:

In Part 5 we discussed a book about how to change anyone's mind, reviewed and summarized in the Wall Street Journal:


The Wall Street Journal article

When trying to change minds, organizations or even the world, we often default to a particular approach: pushing. Boss not listening to that new idea? Send them another PowerPoint deck. Client isn’t buying the pitch? Remind them of all the benefits. When people are asked how they’ve tried to change someone’s mind, my own research finds that the overwhelming majority of the answers focus on some version of pushing.

The intuition behind this approach comes from physics. If you’re trying to move a chair, for example, pushing usually works. Push it in one direction and it tends to go that way. Unfortunately, people and organizations aren’t like chairs; they often push back. Instead, it helps to look to chemistry, where there’s a proven way to make change happen fast: Add a catalyst.

Catalysts convert air into fertilizer and petroleum into bike helmets. But most intriguing is the way they generate change. Instead of adding heat or pressure, they provide an alternate route, reducing the amount of energy required for reactions to occur. Rather than pushing, they remove barriers.

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

Of course, someone who has fallen in love with a person who doesn't "notice" them at all will want to change that person's mind.  They set out to seduce, woo, astonish, impress and get noticed.

And a corporate executive faced with a rival corporation -- or maybe a lawsuit, as in the TV Series, SUITS, -- will start their campaign with "pushing," and "push-back," and escalate the psychological violence to force the other to act in compliance with their own company's best interests.

Two countries at odds, each needing to change the other country's mind, will end up in war of some sort - Hot, Cold, Cyber.  The first and only recourse is FORCE.  Makes a great action movie or science fiction novel.

Science Fiction has been termed Action Adventure Genre. 

I don't believe that to be the case, which is why my Sime~Gen Series includes novels from all other Genres -- most all of them Love Stories, but including many Romances.


Is 14 of them, but we are up to 15 volumes and counting.  Here is #15

The first 8 Sime~Gen novels published were Action-Adventure with the Love Story or Romance hidden under the cover of Action because otherwise we would never have been able to sell them.

The world changed.  Science Fiction is now allowed to have Relationship Driven plots, and Science Fiction Romance became a recognized sub-genre.

Each of these novels, and most of my other novels,

including Those of My Blood, Dreamspy, Molt Brother, City of a Million Legends, and the Romantic Times Award Winning Dushau, Farfetch and Outreach all contain turning-point moments involving an epiphany of some sort.
Find them all at:

The epiphany makes you think something like:  Reality is not what I thought it was.

The epiphany moment is a Rising Action moment, a moment in the Story where the viewpoint Character changes his mind, and as a result changes the way the world appears.

A good, recent, example of needing to revise a theory is from Australia:

Australia's Bushfires Completely Blasted Through the Models

The wildfires weren't just unprecedented—scientists didn't think such catastrophic conflagrations would happen until the end of this century. ------end quote----------

This change allows the consideration of courses of action which were hitherto literally unthinkable.

The epiphany moment is usually the exact middle of the novel (count the pages).  In a film script, it is the 2/3rds point or the 3/4 point.  It is the "worm turns" moment, the Aha! scene, or the "Oh, no, you don't!" scene.  It is the scene where, as the potential lover turns to mount the steps into a plane, the viewpoint Character runs up the stairs, too, not to be left behind.

At that moment, the inexorable plunge, the true adventure starts.

In some novels, this moment is in Chapter One -- the moment the main character realizes there actually are ghosts and she's haunted by the sexiest off them all, or the moment when the viewpoint character stumbles on a crashed UFO with a hand groping through a crack.

The epiphany moment is when the world changes.  Some novels have two or even three such moments as new information changes the main character's understanding of the situation.

Mystery genre is endlessly fascinating simply because the detective keeps discovering clues that "change everything."  Usually not an epiphany for a hardboiled detective, but can be one for the reader.

So most fiction we see today in films, TV Series, streaming or broadcast, and big box office are "action" in the sense that the two main characters or sides in the battle use "push" to overwhelm and dominate, to win, to make the other feel helpless, powerless, and compliant.

Bullies have discovered how to emasculate their victims, and Rapists use similar techniques of overwhelming power (comply or I'll fire you and your mother won't be covered by your health insurance for her cancer therapy).

HOW TO CHANGE ANYONE'S MIND suggests that figuring out why a person won't change their mind, then introducing a new factor, a catalyst, that alters that reason will cause a re-examination of the problem, and alteration of behavior.

Take away the barrier to changing the mind, and the mind will change itself.

This strategy has become a widely used advertising strategy, and is the way Politicians and Publicists worm their way into a population's general consensus.  It's gradual. It's progressive.  Or maybe insidious depending on your opinion of the direction of change being prompted.

"Why doesn't she love me?"

Figure that out.  Remove the reason.  She'll come to love you.

Do you want to change her enough to be willing to change yourself?  If you do "change yourself" for love, will it stick or will you come to feel you are an imposter living someone else's life and it's all her fault?

Consider religious conversion for the sole purpose of getting married in a particular tradition.  What a tangled web that weaves.

So, considering the weaponization of mind-changing others to suit your own idea, and the morals and ethics involved in that which generate thousands of wondrous Romance novel themes, consider the general state of humanity.

Your main Characters are both unique and representative of your target readership.  To create verisimilitude, you need that quirky dimension as well as the illusion of the Character being "the same as" the reader in some way.

That "the same as" dimension is termed the Objective Correlative -- someone to identify with, to understand on a non-verbal level, to resonate to.

The "unique" dimension is what makes the Character interesting.

So what can you use to find a "unique" element that would be stunning, original and memorable to your Readers?

To discover that element, look at studies of "humanity" -- just across the board, everybody.  Find out what everybody (in your readership) thinks is true of everyone else, and create a Character has that trait, and changes his mind, and thus the trait.

The moment when he changes his own mind because of new information is his epiphany.  For example, "I'll never get married," firm and absolute.  In walks a woman just hired to work in the office next door.  "Um. Maybe live-with?"  The mind begins to change because of new information.

THAT depicts a Hero, a man of Wisdom, the raw material of Good Husband, Trusty Father, and Worth The Bother.

According to a famous study, only some people are like that, able to reassess an opinion when contradictory information comes to light.

The study that you have to combine with THE CATALYST: HOW TO CHANGE ANYONE'S MIND has been dubbed the DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT.



Dunning and Kruger used a similar methodology, asking hobbyists questions about gun safety and to estimate how well they performed on the quiz. Those who answered the fewest questions correctly also wildly overestimated their mastery of firearm knowledge.

It’s not specific only to technical skills but plagues all walks of human existence equally. One study found that 80% of drivers rate themselves as above average, which is literally impossible because that’s not how averages work. We tend to gauge our own relative popularity the same way.

It isn’t limited to people with low or nonexistent skills in a certain matter, either — it works on pretty much all of us. In their first study, Dunning and Kruger also found that students who scored in the top quartile (25%) routinely underestimated their own competence.

A fuller definition of the Dunning-Kruger effect would be that it represents a bias in estimating our own ability that stems from our limited perspective. When we have a poor or nonexistent grasp on a topic, we literally know too little of it to understand how little we know. Those who do possess the knowledge or skills, however, have a much better idea of where they sit. But they also think that if a task is clear and simple to them, it must be so for everyone else as well.

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

If you don't know what love is - you don't know that you don't know.

If you don't know what happiness is - you don't know that you don't know.

The same goes for "ever after."

People who are firmly convinced there can be no such thing as "Happily Ever After" have that stubborn, firmness of conviction spoken of in THE CATALYST.  They just aren't going to change their mind because they are experts who already really know.

Hey, likewise, we who are convinced there is a chance for HEA are just as expert in our ignorance of why there can't be any such thing.

Read that article on Dunning-Kroger Effect which explains it so clearly you will immediately recognize it in people you know, and then posts on Facebook.

If you subscribe online to the Wall Street Journal you can find the article, or it is/was available on Apple News:

Or look up some reviews of the book THE CATALYST.

Most of both these articles contain nothing you don't already know.  As a writer, you've been a student of human nature all your life.  But it is possible you have never seen these simple observations of human behavior codified, and laid out in a way that it is clear the knowledge is being weaponized by the media to "control the population" -- peasants have to be controlled by their betters, right?

What do you know that nobody else knows?  What do they know that you don't?

What is the barrier in you that keeps you from changing your mind? You're already an expert?

What if what you know isn't actually so?

And ultimately, what would it take to change your mind?  What proof would you accept that you've been wrong all your life?

The Hero is the one who knows why he thinks what he thinks and thus readily re-thinks when evidence to the contrary appears.  Sometimes he arrives back at the same opinion, maybe by a different path, but the Hero is distinguished by the glee with which he re-thinks anything and everything he knows.

The Hero does not capriciously ditch his conclusions when someone contradicts or disapproves.  The Hero stipulates judiciously and develops new hypotheses, then runs tests to determine the best theory to try next.

The Hero has no barriers to changing his mind, so none of the strategies delineated in the book, THE CATALYST: HOW TO CHANGE ANYONE'S MIND, has any effect on his actions.

The Hero has a grasp of the overwhelming extent of his own ignorance, and sallies forth into life knowing he will take pratt falls and willing to laugh at himself.

Does your main Character want to marry a Hero?  Or does she need convincing?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 24, 2020

In Dispraise of Haste

Which "haste-related" cautionary proverb comes first to your mind?  I thought of "Marry in haste, repent at leisure," which was a socially relevant warning in Britain and Europe for several generations thrust together and torn apart by World War I and World War II.

In recent eras of living together, and relatively easy divorce, there probably less need for "repenting at leisure," so that proverb has lost its power.... which may be why it is ranked #30/35.

Source: Inspirational Stories.com proverbs on haste.

Are proverbs still taught in schools? For that matter, are the different names for the males and females of animal species still taught? "Tiger / Tigress", maybe but it seems doubtful that "Cob / Pen / Cygnet" for swans, or "Hart / Hind" (of red deer) and "Buck / Doe" (of roe deer) are taught.

Animal names

"Click-through in haste..." might be a modern day proverb.

The ever-interesting Mark Sableman, blogging for the law firm Thompson Coburn LLP, discusses online contracts (with a topical pun about contracting disease), and explains the different degrees of how inextricably to bind a visitor, or to be bound as a visitor, to a contract that --in their haste-- they have not read.

Original Link:

Lexology Link:

It reminds me a bit of a marital pre-nuptial contract!

Seriously, if you surf the internet a lot, or if you have your own website, or blog, you ought to read Mark Sableman's explanations of browse-wrap, click-wrap (or click-through), and sign-in wrap.

European readers of this blog should understand that the authors of this group blog do remind readers periodically that Blogspot will drop cookies on you, (it's browse-wrappy), and Google does post generic notices about the terms of use that you are inferred to agree with and to by sticking around.

Online contracts can be very secure, and safer than you would think, and they hold up well in court.  Thus, one should read an E-sign contract very carefully indeed, and not merely click merrily away to provide 7 (or however many) initials and 2 signatures in your choice out of 5 available fonts.

Legal blogger Tyler G, Newby, writing for Fenwick & West LLP, gives a fascinating historical overview of contracts, going back to the signet ring and hot sealing wax to the present day Docu-Sign (or its rivals such as Authentisign), and explains that such convenient services provide a time-and-date stamped audit trail  that may include the signer's IP address.

Of course, too, there is the clickwrap or click through and sign in protection for the professional who sends a link in an email to the expected signer.

For readers interested in how much copyright infringement has increased during the Covid-19 shut down, MUSO has a free, downloadable "white paper". It comes with click wrap, you have to give them your name and email address... but it might be interesting enough to be worth giving them the data, and possibly receiving follow up emails from MUSO.


Talking of privacy, and marketing (which I do, often), Zarish S. Baig, blogging for Squire Patton Boggs, discusses the suspicions of some that third party marketers may listen in on private smart phone conversations.


It would appear, the above average internet user is also expected to read any ISP's Privacy Policy, especially if they purchase and use a device capable of recording anything.

Apropos hastiness and insecurity, if Zooming, or Facetiming, or otherwise broadcasting a live video of yourself, bear in mind that more of your background than you might expect might be exposed.  We've all seen the accidentally-on-purpose naked roomies caught over the shoulders of vloggers; the over casual anchor without his trousers who spread his legs a little wide under his desk, and his bare thigh crept into view; and then there is the prince who did not realize that he had official secrets on an open file in his background.

Derek M. Stikeleather, for Goddell DeVries Leech and Dann LLP shares Kim Kardashian's tips for looking fabulous while teleconferencing, and much more.


All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Series Binge Reading

The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION carries a regular column called "Plumage from Pegasus," by Paul Di Filippo, satirizing aspects of the writing life and the publishing industry. The article in the May-June 2020 issue, "Faster, Publisher! Binge! Binge!", imagines a near future in which the federal government has "outlawed serial fiction in all media, in response to its obvious debilitating effects." One exception, the trilogy (a "one tolkien" unit) is still legal, but that can't make a dent in the addictive cravings of the narrator, a self-confessed hopeless "codex-head." Piers Anthony's Xanth series lasts him only three weeks. He takes longer to get through the nearly 100 Perry Mason mysteries, but they don't last forever, nor do Enid Blyton's approximately 700 books. In desperation, he subjects himself to the ultimate hardcore aversion therapy regimen—reading the entire Perry Rhodan franchise in the original German.

All dedicated bookaholics probably identify with the thrill of discovering a new favorite author who has dozens or scores of books to read through. Some series can be read in any order, while others don't make sense that way. When I first got into the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, I didn't realize that, while many of the novels can be picked up at any point, the ones featuring Harriet Vane have a definite story arc. I read BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON (which begins with the marriage of Peter and Harriet) before the earlier books in the arc and was bewildered for the first chapter or so, because I had no idea who Harriet was. I read many of J. D. Robb's Eve Dallas futuristic mysteries out of order (until I caught up and began buying them upon release), which works for most of the books, although one gets more out of them by following the recurring characters from one story to the next. However, the first three novels, in which Eve meets and marries Roarke, really do need to be read first for optimal appreciation and just to avoid confusion. Fans of the Narnia novels disagree on whether they should be approached in internal chronological order or original publication order. Encountering Narnia for the first time in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE offers an experience of discovery that's lost if one starts with the chronologically earlier THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW. Although the systematic side of my mind favors chronological order, I have to agree that for a first reading, publication order works best. In subsequent readings, I would start with THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW and insert THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in its proper place right after THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE.

The aforementioned Perry Mason books, from what I know of them, seem to stand alone in any order. So do the books in Agatha Christie's voluminous mystery canon, except that I'd advise postponing the final adventures of, respectively, Tommy and Tuppence, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple until you've become acquainted with those detective characters in a few earlier novels. After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet," which introduces Holmes and Watson, you can enjoy the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in any order, aside from the tales dealing with his "death" and return. As far as I can tell from memories of reading a few of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, those series can be dipped into at random, being written by ghostwriters under house pseudonyms and lacking any story arcs or character growth. On the other hand, the far better and undeservedly obscure Judy Bolton mysteries, by Margaret Sutton (a real person, who based the settings on the area in Pennsylvania where she lived), has characters who age from one installment to the next, graduate from school, and get married.

I recently decided to reread C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series. Discovering we didn't own all the novels, I ordered the missing volumes in secondhand copies. Then I had to wait for some of the gaps to be filled, because I want to read the books in internal chronological order. Like the Narnia series, however, they weren't published that way. The original Hornblower trilogy is set at the peak of his career, when he's captain of a ship of the line. The author later filled in the hero's life story with numerous prequels and sequels.

And then there's the frustration of discovering a publisher has allowed some earlier books in a series to go out of print. Thank goodness we now have easy access to out-of-print materials on the internet. How do you approach rereading a series? Do you follow it from start to finish or pick out favorite stories to savor?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Outsiders and Outliers

I'll be brief. Thanks to Les Stroud, aka Survivorman, (who --many years ago-- was gracious enough to write the cover quote for my alien-survival-romance Insufficient Mating Material), I discovered research "gold" today on YouTube.


Les Stroud, aka Survivorman, shows a wide variety of survival scenes in popular movies and points out what they did right, and what they got wrong. His insights are remarkable.

Seduced by the sidebar, intellectually speaking, I then "discovered" the fascinating Jonna Mendez, a CIA mistress of disguise, who walks viewers through a variety of action/spy movie clips, with commentary. Apparently, Tom Cruise got one of his Impossible Missions badly wrong, no matter how wonderful he looked in a long black dress. There are three professions that the secret services will never use as a disguise, and Jonna Mendez explains.


Former FBI agent Jim Clemente discusses how the FBI detects lying and deception. Topical, that.

Apparently, most liars are caught because they don't lie with enough detail. Jim Clemente asks the sort of question that every would be author plotting a well-developed hero (or any other character) ought to ask and commit to note cards.

When nosing out the truth, a good agent cannot rely on myths, and short cuts. Just because I cover my mouth with my hand does not mean that I am a liar.... I might have bad teeth! (He did not say that.)

Another former FBI spy catcher and body language expert, Joe Navarro, explains how to read body language.


As Romance authors, we know about the different stages of touching, from the first brush or shake of the hero's and heroine's hand. Joe Navarro explains how and why touching is important.... and if we are all doomed to never shake hands with a stranger again post Covid-19, at least we will know why we are missing what we are missing.

Finally, a real expert archer, Cameron Hanes, critiqued a selection of bow scenes, and gave particular props to  Legolas actor Orlando Bloom for his technique. Skip to frame 17.25, if extensive footage of bare chested John Rambo with bow and arrow is not your cup of tea.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mating Season

I enjoy watching the various "Planet Earth" series narrated by David Attenborough on the BBC America channel; I've seen bits of some of the episodes multiple times. A vital aspect of life on Earth, especially animal life, is, of course, producing the next generation. Mating and the care of offspring occupy a lot of footage on those programs. A constant viewer soon notices that most animals other than primates have fixed breeding seasons at particular set times. Once a year, for however long the process takes, all members of a given species enter the mating period. They all focus their total attention and energy on finding partners and producing offspring. For the rest of the year, they return to whatever constitutes "normal life" for their species, perhaps now with young to care for. It's striking to watch films of thousands of penguins or seals, for instance, crowding onto beaches for their annual mating rites. Some of them, such as penguins, practice lifelong monogamy, yet they engage in sexual activity only during that brief period.

Suppose a sapient species had a similar pattern, everybody in their society becoming fertile at once, all of them compelled to mate within a period of a few weeks or miss their chances to become parents? Wouldn't the entire society essentially shut down for that period, sort of like an extended Mardi Gras but with no sober police force or other authorities to keep the madness under control? The hermaphroditic humanoids in Ursula Le Guin's LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS go into "heat" for a few days every month, but they don't all enter that condition at the same time. How would an entire alien culture subject to an annual, universal breeding season handle it? Maybe people become infertile after a certain age, and the elders in their society have the responsibility to keep civilization running smoothly until citizens of reproductive age get back to normal. Would civilization as we know it have taken longer to evolve on that planet, with the yearly mating frenzy as a distraction?

In the opposite situation, some species have only one breeder or breeding couple in a group (e. g., bees, naked mole rats, wolves). An alien society with that reproductive pattern would presumably display none of the preoccupation with sexuality that drives so much of human law, custom, and emotional life.

Wildlife documentaries offer a wealth of information about exotic (to us) biological traits that could inspire alien species.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Theme-Story Integration Part 5 - How To Change Anyone's Mind

Theme-Story Integration
Part 5
How To Change Anyone's Mind

Previous parts in the Theme-Story Integration Series:




Part 4 - Rag-Tag-Band Ensemble Story

To sell Hollywood a script, you have to master Character Arc -- how much change can a human exhibit under the impact of how small a prompting, and after how short an interval of "processing" the new information.

Humans are elastic, to be sure, but have limits.

To sell science fiction, you have to depict scientifically plausible rates of change (and some of the scientists reading your science fiction are psychiatrists, sociologists, specialists in human behavior).

To sell Romance, you have to depict humanly plausible reasons for initial "attraction" (or "repulsion.")  You have to show-don't-tell what she sees in him, and what he sees in her.

Here is What Does She See In Him?


The ability to "see" something in another person develops in the Teens, usually through those endless conversations parents have little patience with.  Seeing your own world through the eyes of another is a major breakthrough in maturation.

That is your starting point, when you realize that you understand where someone else is making a mistake.  "Don't date that guy. He's a loser."  And you try to change the other person's mind, change what they see -- usually, in the teen years, you try to change the other person's opinion without changing how they see, just what they see.

The assumption is that what you see is better, or more correct, than what the other person sees.

How do you change another person?

Many marriages start with the Neptune-fantasy induced idea that you can change the other person, rescue them from themselves, get them off drugs or whatever they are addicted to, alter their behavior.

It does work sometimes, but usually not for the reasons the marriage happened in the first place.  Most often such marriages end in divorce, which gives Romance writers the chance to explore the Second Time Around - where wisdom over-rides the urge to change another.

What you can do is change yourself to match the other person.

Find that a cringe-worthy idea?  Yeah, so do they!

But the truth is people change.  If people are too immature when they marry, and change-rates haven't settled down, they might grow toward each other, or might grow apart,  Apart usually leads to divorce.

Minds can be changed -- that is, the conclusions a person reaches can be questioned and discarded.  But how they reach those conclusions usually doesn't change after a certain level of maturity (reached at different ages).

The young/old couple pairing often gels nicely because the older person functions in a reliable manner, which relieves uncertainty, and stress for the younger who is still hunting for a thinking method.

We live in a world of professional (and well paid and well funded) mind-changers.

Profit seekers have weaponized psychological tricks for changing minds.

Can you get someone to love that which they currently hate?

Maybe.  Some people study this process for a living.

It is based on the assumption that what you are leading them to accept is better than what they currently accept.

Here is a 2019 non-fiction book detailing the results of many years of such well funded studies.

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind Kindle Edition by Jonah Berg


Use these techniques, combined in different ways, and you can convince most readers that your Character is a real human being (or an Alien with enough in common with humans to make an excellent mate).

Today, people are accustomed to being targeted by these mind-altering weapons, and many ordinary people use them routinely.

Using this book as a checklist for making sure your Character doesn't arc to quickly, or too easily, or too slowly, to be believed will add verisimilitude to your Romance.

Now comes the thematic question of whether the user of these techniques is pristinely ethical -- or the blackest villain.

Who should be in charge of what others believe?  Teachers?  Children?  Authorities?

In Part 4 we looked STARS BEYOND...

...with an ensemble cast striving to survive in a world built on Genetic Modification for health and/or fun/art.  The Characters didn't arc - but their world did.

There was no thematic discussion (in show don't tell) of the issue of modifying another person on a basic level.  None of the conflicts involved who gets to say what you look like.  It was just, smoothly, assumed that in every case, the one being changed was totally in control of the outcome of their changes.

The one (intriguing) exception was when the Aliens saved a human's life by changing the eyes to a different visual spectrum, and incidentally and conveniently for them, changed linguistic center of the brain. Other humans, without objection, underwent the linguistic center modification.

Huge opportunities for conflict and resolution - for Character Arc and many other thematic discussions were overlooked, and I think it's because this gigantic story was compressed into one slender volume.

Here is the Theme-Character series, a jumping off place for constructing a Story Arc.

Read STARS BEYOND and keep in mind the potential for applying the principles of "The Catalyst" to produce a long series of long novels which are all pure Romance.  Love Conquers All, but this novel is set after all the conquering so there is very little real conflict.  I think that's because they (the collaborators) started the story too late in the thematic arc.

Is it our genes that need modifying, or is it our minds?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Ignorance of Podcasters

Back in the heyday of MySpace, many authors (not this one), played current musical singles in full one their MySpace pages without paying any royalties and without seeking any kind of permission or license from the famous musicians.

MySpace, allegedly, made it possible to play John Legend (for example) on their pages, so site owners assumed that MySpace had the rights covered.

Maybe, if you are reading this and have a long-forgotten MySpace presence, you should check your old page and see if you still could be infringing a musician's rights.

Legal blogger, David Oxenford, for the Broadcast Law Blog has a couple of salutary posts that are well worth reading for podcasters and site owners.



As George Harrison sang with such prescience, but not with reference to authors and the need to create compelling and attractive promotions: "You Know It Don't Come Easy."

Meanwhile, authors on the internet should be cautious of gaining a following by saying mean things about others.
It's interesting to say mean things, of course, and may get one a following.

But, as Charlie Smith wrote recently for Straight.com, defamation suits can be profitable for the defamed, especially in the truly English speaking world (that is, not in America!)

Also as City News Service reports:

Happy Mothers' Day!

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Urban Flight, Epidemics, and Demographic Change

In recent weeks, many people who can afford to do so have fled the congestion of cities for suburban, rural, or resort areas. Some such prized destinations have taken aggressive action to exclude non-residents:

Second Homes

It's being speculated that the flight from cities may lead to a permanent shift from urban to suburban living, for those who have the luxury of choice. The work-at-home trend may continue and accelerate after the present crisis ends. One commentator (see "Great American Migration" below) says, “You’ll still have urban centers. But they’ll be less intense and more dispersed. You’ll no longer have to choose between unaffordable, overcrowded cities and incredibly boring countryside. There will be a more attractive middle ground.”

Great American Migration

Other observers point out that the 1918 flu pandemic didn't cause the downfall of cities, and predictions that people would retreat from large urban centers after 9-11 didn't materialize. In fact, most cities have continued to gain population regardless of these and similar crises. Cities may have to adapt, but they aren't likely to empty:

Will the Pandemic Empty the Cities?

During the plagues of the past, people frightened of disease have often tried to escape the lethal overcrowding of cities. Boccaccio's 14th-century DECAMERON introduces a group of young, wealthy gentlemen and ladies who flee from the Black Death to a villa outside Florence. In antebellum New Orleans, upper-class families annually retreated from the city to country homes during "fever season." Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" portrays the gruesome fate of a prince who barricades himself and his cronies in his palace for a nonstop orgy while taking refuge from the titular epidemic.

As Arno Karlen explains in MAN AND MICROBES, his book on the evolution of infectious diseases from prehistory to the era of AIDS and Ebola, the phenomenon of epidemics began with the invention of agriculture and cities. Agriculture allowed the same land to support a much higher population than in hunter-gatherer or nomadic societies, but with negative trade-offs. People eating a monotonous diet of mostly grain tend to be less healthy than hunter-gatherers (as archaeology confirms). The resultant overall decline in health impairs the immune system. Moreover, by living in close quarters with domestic animals, they fall victim to animal diseases that mutate to prey on human hosts. With the growth of cities, for the first time in human history enough people lived together in a congested environment for epidemic diseases to flourish. Before modern sanitation and medicine, cities were deathtraps compared to the countryside (for the poor and working class at least).

We think of our contemporary world as being dominated by urbanization. Yet rural, agricultural communities still flourish, too. Herding and hunter-gatherer societies still exist, even if pushed to the margins by industrialization. Some people enjoy cutting-edge, high-tech conveniences and comforts, including smart houses, while others don't yet have indoor plumbing. This subject reminds me of a weakness in much SF that depicts contact with extrasolar planets. Too often, the alien world seems to have only one level of cultural and technological development that's uniform all over the planet, as well as one religion, a universal language, and, sometimes, a single ecology (the ice world, the desert world, the jungle world, etc.). Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover offers an example of doing it right; we see a variety of languages, climates, landscapes, and cultural customs on Darkover. Think of what different impressions of Earth extraterrestrial explorers would get if they landed in New York, Tokyo, Yellowstone Park, central Africa, the Australian outback, or northern Alaska and didn't bother to look any farther than their initial touchdown point.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Theme-Story Integration Part 4 Rag-Tag-Band Ensemble Story

Theme-Story Integration
Part 4
Rag-Tag-Band Ensemble Story 

Previous parts in the Theme-Story Integration Series:




Part 2 of this series ended off:


Only in children's stories or "comics" (not graphic novels) do people just suddenly, and without explanation or motivation, change into the opposite of what they've been seen to be in a plot-sequence.

So, bit by slow, detailed, bit at a time, you reveal the inner structure of your world that you built -- and make it clear how your world differs from everyday reality such that this "impossible" thing is possible.

In our Reality - "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is a true statement about human nature. Also the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is true of humans.

What is different about your World that makes those two statements about Human Nature false?

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

Story-arc is the track, the because-line, parallel to Plot where Characters CHANGE because of the impact of events caused by their own decisions or actions -- or events they might never have noticed without some new level of insight triggered by an epiphany precipitated by a Plot Event.

Increased sensitivity to events is a Character Arc.

People do change, but it is rare.  More common is how people change their mind, their conclusions or opinions about something.

The "something" is derived from the Theme - the "change" is the Story.

How this can happen, when, where, why, with whom.

Without a Character Arc traced by a Story-line, a Plot just seems like a waste of time to read.

If an Arc is foreshadowed - something that could happen in a future volume, then the Arc can be the suspense-line in the Story.

All this is deep, abstract, and way too intellectual for simple entertainment.

Often people read to participate in a world where there are no coherent emotional pressures urging them to "Arc" in their own real-life world.

THE STARS BEYOND by S. K. Dunstall (the pen name for a writing team of two sisters who have written several books I enjoyed),

is an example of the "ensemble" cast, but because of the scope of the story - almost galaxy wide, many locations, many astrophysical oddities, plus an entire worldbuilding element about genetic manipulation, then adding brand new Aliens - there weren't enough pages in the book to delve into each point of view Character's Arc, Story, personal progress, and Relationships.

Each Character scintillates with possibilities, and none of them get a chance to grow before our eyes, to convince us we can become better people, and that Relationships are the key to that.  None of the Characters have enough space in the book to show-don't-tell us how LOVE CONQUERS ALL.

The book didn't set out to be a Romance.  There are Relationships, but mostly business-based, and maybe a little charity (or pity) tossed in on the side as people get their fannies caught in bear traps.

The bear traps (like losing a job, behind denied contracted bonuses) resolve way too easily, and all the main characters end up potential rich (due to a mineral discovery made because of a recovered memory.)

None of this is easy, and each step of the plot requires ferocious dedicated, disciplined, and risky actions by the Point of View Character used for a given chapter.

It paints a vast mural before our eyes, and it is a grand read.

But the "world" that is built of these pieces is more the hero of the story, not the Characters.  It is the "world" (galaxy-spanning-economy-based-on-gene-modification) that "arcs" -- this is the story of a civilization, not the individuals whose fates change that civilization's potential to survive and continue meddling with genes.

So far, there's nothing grotesque or cringe-worthy in the results of the gene modification professions.  There is a full blown healing application, but the rest is an art form that just lets individuals who can afford it become their fantasy selves.

None of the clients go into the gene-modification machines for love, or to reveal or actualize the reality of their Soul, or to venture onto planets hostile to human life.  Yet this volume introduces the potential (an unlivable planet with Aliens who also find it unlivable) for such modification.

Humans are modified, but so far there's no mention of modifying plants or food-animals to live on uninhabitable planets.

Gene modification has been strictly limited by lack of elemental resources that make it work.  The discovery made at the end of this volume teases future volumes about the impact on this disciplined civilization by unlimited access to such a natural resource.

So far, with all the male and female characters in the story, I don't see the foreshadowing of a true Romance, but this Series really needs one volume that tracks the Character Arcs of a pair becoming mates by being changed.

So writers should ponder human civilization, in whatever epoch you want to write in, and figure out the mechanism that lets one human "change" another human's mind, heart, soul -- opinions.

Part 5 of this series makes a suggestion.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 03, 2020

What You Don't See (May Bind You)

First there was the "fine print"; then there was the probably intentionally mind-numbing scroll of all caps print, page after page of it; then, there were sites such as EBay that forced you to join their club and agree to all their Terms (which of course meant that you held them harmless) before you could defend your copyrights; now --perhaps-- you have to agree to THE TERMS before you can read them.

Perhaps I misread this from Peloton to musicians:
"Click HERE to log into your MusicReports.com account and review the proposed license agreement. If it is acceptable to you, simply check the box to confirm you have read the agreement, then click the “I Agree” button to accept the terms. You can then download a full copy of the agreement from the “My Licenses” page in your account."

Credits to

The tentacles of Mark Zuckerberg reach into your portfolio, and lift your copyrights, and there is nothing you can do about the filching of your photographic rights if you post a picture on Instagram.

"A New York federal district court has dismissed a photographer’s copyright infringement claims after finding that the photographer gave Instagram the right to sublicense her photograph to the accused infringer, Mashable, Inc. Mashable used the photograph at issue on its site by embedding a link to an Instagram post published on the photographer’s public Instagram profile. In Sinclair v. Ziff Davis, the court decided that, by including the photograph in a post on her public Instagram profile, the photographer had..." 

... unintentionally given Instagram a legal license to "share" her intellectual property.

Legal bloggers David W. Holt and Ryan J. Letson, writing for the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, discuss the unsuccessful copyright infringement complaint by the photographer, Stephanie Sinclair, against Mashable Inc.

They offer great constructive advice, but the bottom line is "User Beware".

Legal bloggers Radhika K. Raman and  Jeff Van Hoosear examines the perils of snagging someone else's photograph, even if the photo is of oneself.

"Social media managers, celebrities, and individuals alike should exercise caution before posting photos online for which they do not own the copyright rights. Often, a simple source attribution, or a small licensing fee, can save months of legal trouble later. While many disagree with the public policy or reasoning prohibiting celebrities from re-sharing photos of themselves..."

OR, find the photo on Instagram, and embed the link.

Mark Sableman says as much about the same Sinclair/Mashable disagreement, in his legal blog for Thomson Coburn LLP"It's not infringing if it's an authorized embedding."



Facebook also, somehow, can snag Zoom users' information, even if the Zoom users don't have a Facebook account, or so it is alleged, and reported by legal bloggers for Troutman Sanders LLP Anne-Marie Dao, Wynter L. Deagle, and  Yarazel Mejorado.

Allegations include:

"Zoom sending data from users of its iOS app to Facebook for advertising persons [sic], even if the user does not have a Facebook account; The Windows version of Zoom being vulnerable to attackers who could send malicious links to users’ chat interfaces and gain access to their network credentials; Zoom not requiring a user’s consent before allowing the host of the meeting to record the session; The presence of a security flaw that would enable hackers to take over a user’s Mac..."

There are some precautions that Zoom users can take.  Read more on Linked In:


Or on the Troutman blog:

Legal bloggers Warwick Andersen, Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham, Allison Wallace and Max Evans collectively point out not only that some have alleged that Zoom's Privacy Policy does not disclose its leaks of users' data to Facebook but also that Windows users' passwords may be snagged.

Original link:

Lexology link:

So, even if you do everything right, and read all the "agreements" and "terms" and "policies" before joining someone else's Zoom meeting as an invited guest, your privacy and more is still likely to be violated.

It's more a case of seller beware (rather than caveat emptor) when it comes to Amazon. The Authors Guild provides a  perspective on Bezos behaving badly towards publishers and authors.

And CopyrightAlliance continues to fulminate against immense copyright infringers and the senator who shields them.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Joanna Russ on Feminism and SF

I've been rereading TO WRITE LIKE A WOMAN: ESSAYS IN FEMINISM AND SCIENCE FICTION, by Joanna Russ. Although released in 1995, it contains many essays published earlier, as far back as the 1970s. It's still available new on Amazon, and you can view the table of contents with the "Look Inside" feature:

To Write Like a Woman

Of particular interest in reading these older works is noting how the image of women in popular fiction has changed since the 70s—as well as recognizing some problems that linger on to the present day. We can hope we've moved beyond the status quo described in "What Can a Heroine Do? or Why Women Can't Write" (1972), in which Russ argues that most of the plot and character archetypes familiar in novels written by and for men don't apply to female characters. An outcome defined as success for a man constitutes failure for a woman. A fictional woman (like career women in real life, at least at the time the essay was written) is apt to find herself stuck in a classic double bind; if she strives to fulfill her ambitions and actually succeeds, she's condemned as "unfeminine," but if she behaves the way a woman is traditionally expected to, she's viewed as weak. Consider how the history of "Alexandra the Great" would read. A female character in male-oriented fiction tends to fall into stereotypical categories such as the Bitch Goddess and the Maiden Victim. She can act as a protagonist in only one kind of story, a love story. Three principal genres are exceptions, according to Russ, giving characters true agency regardless of gender—mystery, horror, and especially science fiction.

Other essays of special interest are two pieces about all-women or women-dominated societies. "Amor Vincit Foeminam: The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction" (1980) surveys a batch of stories about such societies, written by men. It's amazing how silly most of them sound. Typically, the basic self-contradiction in those dystopias, which embody masculine fears about being dominated by females (in these tales, giving women equality always leads to feminine tyranny), is that women are portrayed as so powerful they can crush men completely (aside from the hero, of course), yet so weak they can be subdued and enlightened by "real" sex or even a passionate kiss. Numerous counter-examples appear in "Recent Feminist Utopias," which analyzes a selection of more nuanced, humane female-dominated societies, all but one written by women. Russ includes Marion Zimmer Bradley's THE SHATTERED CHAIN, presenting the Free Amazon subculture as one such society, even though it's embedded in the patriarchal culture of Darkover as a whole. I would have liked to see a discussion of Bradley's true feminist utopian novel, THE RUINS OF ISIS, but perhaps it hadn't been published at the time of this article.

The first three essays in the book examine science fiction as a genre and try to construct a working definition of its "aesthetic." "Someone's Trying to Kill Me, and I Think It's My Husband" provocatively analyzes the paperback Gothics so popular in the 1960s and 70s. The other pieces range over a variety of topics, including a merciless dissection of the film version of Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog." Despite the age of the material in this collection, it remains fascinating, thought-provoking, and relevant to the current status of the field. Also recommended: Russ's incisive work HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING. ("She didn't write it"; "She wrote it, but she had help"; "She wrote it, but look WHAT she wrote"; etc.)

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Theme-Conflict Integration Part 7 - Romance Without Borders

Theme-Conflict Integration
Part 7
Romance Without Borders

Previous parts in Theme-Conflict Integration are indexed at:

Romance, just like Science Fiction, is a genre without borders -- there is literally no story that can be told that won't be improved by adding Science and scientific thinking to a Character, and likewise, there is no story that won't be improved by Romance.

We all know what Romance is.  It is what we love to read.

And as with science fiction, thousands have tried to describe what makes a Romance novel a Romance novel -- has anyone actually succeeded and defining this human experience?

Is there anyone who can define happiness?  What is the formula for a good life?  How do you choose a mate?  By how you FEEL?  By who your parents approve of?  By whose parents your parents approve of?

Arranged marriages, usually about property, heritage, Royal Titles, or settling ancestral feuds (or wars), can actually be about the Parental generation observing details about the young adults to find which personalities blend with least friction.

Arranged marriages can be successful when the elders doing the arranging are able to see, and understand what they are seeing, the youngsters from a perspective the youngsters don't know exists.

Look around this world of today, and you will find few, very few, elders who have any idea what the marriage-age generation is about.

It's called a generation-gap for a reason.  There is simply no connection or contact across that gap because of the way young people's brains develop to process information.

This, of course, starts in infancy, or maybe even before birth, as the human brain its very plastic.  Yes, it changes a lot through experience of the world, and keeps on changing far longer than science used to believe.

So let us postulate that Romance, and the potential to experience true Romance, the potential to recognize a Soul Mate (even in an Alien from another planet), the potential to bond firmly with a mate chosen by Older And Wiser matchmakers, is rooted in the experiences of infancy.

Infancy is the root of the ability to fall in love?

Or possibly infancy is where we learn there is no such thing as a Happily Ever After.

In infancy, we experience the passage of time as a percentage of all the time we have been aware.

Thus the second day of life is 50% of all existence.

By the time a person is 20 years old, you have lived 7,300 days, so a day is about 0.01 percent of your life.

As you get older, the percent of your life that a day represents gets smaller, so the Events of a day become less and less significant.  You have good days.  You have bad days.  Nothing wallops you over backwards if it lasts only 1 day.  The things that matter are the things that have long-range (years) consequences.

So the experiences of the world that have the longest range consequences happen in infancy, toddlerhood, and yes the angst of the teen years.

A Matchmaker who knows the business will be able to match 20 year olds with a good mate for a solid marriage, a marriage that will end in Romance, not begin there.

But to pull this off, and it is chancy, the Matchmaker has to remember how the parents of the 20-year-olds were treated as infants, and how the twenty-somethings were treated by those parents all their lives.

And the Matchmaker has to know a lot of people, their biographies, and how they turned out, and what they went on to do after having their kids.  The successful matchmaker has to understand life-long trajectories, the business of living a good life.

This was possible when we all lived in villages small enough that everyone knew everyone, that children went into the same profession as the parents (blacksmithing, farming, trading, weaving, tanning, etc) or were apprenticed out to a better profession.

That much information just isn't available today, three generations into a highly mobile world where family ties to neighborhoods were broken as corporations moved workers around the country.  You had to move your family to climb the executive ladder.

Nobody, at that time, was thinking of that process in terms of how it would affect the eventual ability to experience Romance.

Let's theorize that it did.

Would that explain why we have about half the world convinced there is no such thing as a Happily Ever After in real life?

Children whose significant Relationships, at 3, 5, 10, even 14 years of age are broken may be traumatized (brain development issue, more than just emotional) in such a way that their Character is scarred.  Scars, physical scars on the skin, heal, and even disappear with the decades, so it is possible scars on the brain could likewise become invisible.

Skin scarring does retrain insensitivity for years after it becomes invisible, but healing can happen with enough time.

The brain is likewise pliable, responding to environment and experience.

Today's children are being raised "online" -- and I know some, personally, whose dear friends from Elementary School have moved away, but maintain contact via FACETIME or video-chat of some sort -- and yes, Facebook or other chat platforms.

In the 1940's only the relatively affluent had telephones at home, but by the 1950's it was common for a house or apartment to have ONE telephone.

The classic joke of the 1950's and 1960's was how Teens monopolized the single phone line (even or especially if there were "extensions" in the house) just talking snd talking to their friends about what seemed to the parents to be nothing at all important.

It was only the affluent who had extensions, and most phones were on a short wire attached to the wall.  That phone line had to be kept open for incoming "important" calls the parents wanted to be available for.

Long distance phone calls were massively expensive.

So if a child's friend moved away, to another state for example, ALL TIES were broken.

Today, even lower income households have dumb phones, if not smart phones.  But penetration is in full swing, and in 20 years or less, everyone will have a wider world to live in.

WITHOUT BORDERS is the way to think of the current generation gap.

Humans experience the "freedom" of living without borders, without having to re-establish credentials and licenses for professions (Nursing, M.D.'s, Electricians, Plumbers, Teachers, etc) by passing state tests each time you move, as a wonderful thing.

Humans experience the freedom of leaving home for college as a wonderful thing.

Humans experience the freedom of getting a driver's license and being able to borrow a parent's car as a wonderful thing.

Freedom - the ability to transgress boundaries without adverse consequences - is treasured by humans.

Happily Ever After without FREEDOM is Misery Ever After.

But Freedom is dangerous.  Give a 3 year old freedom, and he'll run out in the street and get run over, or drown in the backyard pool, or fall down a Well, or get stuck in a storm drain.  It happens.

Freedom is dangerous, but it is essential to the Happily Ever After goal.

Managing risk is the skill-set parents have to start teaching their infants on day two of life.  The mother's hands holding and feeding the newborn start the process of configuring the brain to get what you want/need within the risk-borders best chosen for the situation.

As with all primates, humans learn to parent by being parented.  How those mother's hands hold the newborn begins the process of acquiring the ability to parent.

It is a long process of acquisition and is accompanied by many other skill-sets being acquired.

But it is the parent's influence on the newborn that the matchmaker has to know.

Today, only God knows.

The chain of parenting culture/habits/practices has been broken -- in the early 1900's by the advent of experts writing books on how to parent, and in the early 2000's by the advent of email (OK, programming the VCR became the joke of the 1990's) and other online activities.  Children could do things their parents could not learn to do no matter how hard they tried.

It has always, throughout human history, been the opposite -- parents with years of experience could do things the children could only hope to master some day.

Thus we have a generation of parents who, as children long ago, escaped the "limits" -- the borders of discipline, their parents set for them.

Romeo and Juliet enshrined the archetype of children associating with people their parents disapproved of.

Children always hate, resent, and expend enormous energy beating at these borders parents put around them.

Look at the 1 year old who stands up in his crib and falls out.  Look at the 10 year old who runs away from home.  We all spend our formative years trying to escape.

Kids do that. Parents remember being like that, seeing the world as a trap, and like cows in a pasture, pushing toward the greener grass on the other side of that fence.

Parenting fashions have begun to change rapidly in the last century, as what children are capable of doing has expanded (but common sense acquisition has not), so we have new books on "how to" parent coming out every decade or two, with conflicting advice based on science.

The parents (and grand-parents) who weren't parented with strict boundaries, physical borders, psychological and sociological limits, are now raising children.  These new parents may know, but not have personal feelings and memories for, living within strict boundaries, and trusting their parents to set those boundaries appropriately.

The parenting process that might be producing the skepticism about the Happily Ever After lifestyle goal is the process of delineating borders.

Parental border setting is all about "controlling" who your child associates with.

As infants, we learn to recognize Mother's face, Father's face, and then others who provide and handle us, feed us, change diapers, put us in a playpen, allow this but not that behavior.

As we grow, our circle of recognition grows.

Good parenting consists of observing this particular child's growing ability to form and hold associations, and carefully enlarging the circle of acquaintances, managing the establishing of friends (these days through "play dates,") and adding people from this type of household but not that type.

By High School, children should have acquired the ability to assess the risks of this or that Relationship, and to understand their own sensitivity to risk, their ability to tolerate emotional impacts that come inevitably from having friends.

The problems today come at least partly from the parent's inability to teach these skills.

They can't teach them for two main reasons: A) they weren't taught, B) what they were taught, and what they learned, aren't relevant to the world today's children live in.

The generation gap caused by technology has ripped apart the parent-child relationship.

In families where that has happened, you will see a rising percentage of people who just can't see happiness as anything stable, long term.

Humans yearn for long-term as much as for freedom, so the trend will reverse.  Currently, your prime readership for Romance (teens-twenties) may be in the stage of being unable to form long-term Relationships, so "Happily" means something, but "Ever After" just does not.

Being dependent or having dependents is not a "happy" situation from the point of view of a young person who grew up as a single child, or maybe just two, possibly in a one-parent situation.  The view of life, of what it can and should be, that children with 7 or 10 siblings have is very different.  Happiness is a noisy mob, and freedom is running with that noisy mob faster than Mom can capture you.

Children raised in a noisy mob generally have parents who have many siblings, so aunts, uncles, cousins form an even noisier mob, and happiness is having them over as company -- or being over to their house to play with more cousins.

The point of getting married is to create a new noisy mob.

Children raised in a noisy mob start infancy with a much larger circle of intimates, and learn to deal with compatible and abrasive personalities very early in life.  Such children will have less trauma dealing with an ever growing circle of acquaintances, greater resistance to bullying, more tools for creating social harmony.

Today, families have shrunk, so even three generations back children don't have the noisy mob of uncles and cousins.  Where they do exist, often families just aren't in touch because they long ago moved to different places, even countries.

The parenting skill of allowing a child's number of associating children to grow at the rate that child needs is no longer being transmitted in the majority population.  For the Romance writer, this means the potential readership is thirsting for a vision of life with those skills.

Think about the popularity of the T V Series THE BRADY BUNCH.  Or consider the Cop-Family depicted in the TV Series, BLUE BLOODS (2019-2020 season is #10 in this family gritty drama series).

Or think about the work-family formed at the core of TV Series like NCIS or BONES, or the much older Series, THE WALTONS or LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.

There is an audience hungering for broad group-dynamic Relationship stories -- maybe because families have shrunk and humans prefer larger families?

Romance readers will be wanting stories about large families where, right before our eyes, humans learn the art of conflict resolution via close, personal, intimate relationships that are not romantic (e.g. siblings, cousins).

It is in the larger family dynamic that humans master the tools of conflict resolution, or perhaps even conflict generation.  Ask yourself what is the optimum family size for humans -- then explore what the reproductive dynamic of your Alien species would dictate for their early life acculturation.

Themes involving deep, personal, unique and individual Relationships easily embrace the problems of having many siblings.  Humans compete with siblings (gotta kill that kid brother!) -- but do your Aliens?

Parents try to police that sibling rivalry, but do they know how if they had no siblings?

Many of the Conflicts that drive humans out into the workplace, and hurl them into love affairs, originate in early life, even infancy and toddlerhood.

The borders we internalize as our parents enlarge our circle of acquaintances, how to behave toward a friend, how to fend off attacks from an aggressor, how to accept, how to reject, how to know when to do which, are the foundation off all subsequent Romance.

How a child responds to being "socialized" with these borders around behavior shows the Matchmaker what groups to look at to find the Soul Mate.

That's what Matchmakers are supposed to do - find the Soul Mate and introduce them.

A brief introduction is all that's necessary when a Relationship can "click."

Sometimes that Soul Mate just isn't alive to be found, and then the Matchmaker's job is to find another bereft lonesome who can blend easily into a Happily Ever After life for the couple.

It can be done.  It has routinely been done throughout human history.  But today the shattered family structure has prevented the nurturing of the Matchmaker skill sets.

The internet, live video-chat, and other tools may heal the extended family and shift the cultural matrix toward the more stable "village" of associations.

In a thousand years, humanity may look back on this shattered-family period as a difficult aberration in the human search for peace.

Do we have to wait that long to open hailing frequencies with Aliens?  Are they waiting?  Or are they already here?

If an Alien was adopted into a large human family, what inevitable conflicts would develop?

THEME: humans are innately combative, competitive and hostile to anyone "different."

THEME: humans are innately gentle, curious, and loving toward all, but the animal body striving to survive in a hostile world warps these innate tendencies toward hating that which is different.

THEME: love can free such a warped human psyche to roam beyond the torturous internal borders adopted for survival.

All three of these themes can generate Romance Novels - but they are especially suited to the Second Time Around Romance, as the more mature Characters have relevant backstory that shapes their conflicts, internal and external.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg