Thursday, November 29, 2007

Martian Child Revisited

I've just read THE MARTIAN CHILD, by David Gerrold, the basis of the movie I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. I like the movie better, surprisingly. (I usually feel movies don't measure up to their book sources.) What I enjoyed more about the film were the quirky Martian-like behaviors Dennis performed. In the book, he's more of a mundane troubled little boy, aside from his claim to be a Martian. The concept of a "Martian wish," however, features in both the book and the movie, and in the book it plays a critical part in the very touching resolution at the end. The novella by the same title published in the 1990s in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION allows a lingering ambiguity as to whether Dennis is really from another planet. Both the novel and the movie make it clear that his Martian identity is a delusion (or a conscious pretense?) and a metaphor. Still, I find it a compelling metaphor, and one factor unique to the book that appeals to me is the author's memory of his own sense of isolation in childhood—because of being "the smallest and smartest"—along with his dream that someday the aliens would come and take him to his true home and people. Many of us share that childhood fantasy, especially those who read speculative fiction. At least, I know I strongly identify with it!

Like the film, the novel comes to the conclusion that we all begin life as "Martians" who need to "learn to be human." It's a quick read and yet emotionally engaging. Although this book is marketed as fiction, apparently it stays very close to the author's actual experience in adopting his son. It doesn't give any information on how far the story departs from the actual events. As one of the online comments I read asks, why did Gerrold bother to fictionalize it at all? Why not straight autobiography? I haven't come across the answer to that question.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

6 Pentacles - The Social Contract

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers looking to learn World Building and Alien Character building.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:

The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.

The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..

And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card.

For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or Google up some others.

I have been posting here since August 14th, 2007, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007. The 3 of Pentacles was accidentally posted dated Monday November 5th.


6 Pentacles

What goes around comes around. Yep, I'm still on cliches.

As much as the 5 of Pentacles is about isolation, loneliness and being unable to get anyone to listen, unable to get psychological validation from another human being, the 6 of Pentacles is about connectivity.

6's are about Love, and how love opens the psyche to receive Beauty.

The shock-and-awe of the apperception of the Beauty which fuels the Universe is the essence of 6, the center of the Tree of Life.

Look at the Jacob's Ladder diagram. We are now talking about the 3rd circle up from the bottom of the MIDDLE column.

Under that 6 of Pentacles lies the 10 of Swords, so these two processes are related harmonics.

6 of Pentacles is immensely complicated because it is in fact so very simple. It is love. We've grappled with this before, discussing the 6 of Swords.

In Swords, we did not discuss how the 6 of Swords overlays the 10 of Cups, and is overlain by the Ace of Pentacles. We just tried to tease out the meaning of 6 Swords without getting so complicated.

The 10 of Cups is a vast and stable emotional joy -- a psychological stability. The 6 of Swords is a journey to start over somewhere else, despite dragging your habits with you (good or bad habits, you drag them everywhere).

The Ace of Pentacles is the start of materializing something new (not always good, just materializing whatever project you've been working on).

Here in the 6 of Pentacles, we hit the 6-note again, harmonizing with the previous 6's and bringing it all down into concrete manifestation.

How do you concretize G-d's love?

Well, a good start is Charity.

But mostly people think of Charity as giving to those less fortunate, those who have less. And its often just physical things that get donated.

But very often, the most meaningful kind of Charity is done just within your own mind, quietly inside your thoughts and opinions, your thought-habits (10 Swords).

Political correctness requires that we not judge people's values, and most especially that we not judge on a double standard.

But it's very possible that true Charity requires a double standard.

Not everyone can do what you have done -- so should you require everyone to measure up to the standard by which you judge yourself?

Look at it backwards. If you find yourself wanting, should you necessarily judge others by a higher standard?

And some people "put others on a pedestal" in order to devalue themselves.

But if you judge everyone against the same standards, you aren't "handicapping" (as in golf or gambling). You aren't allowing for the inherent differences among us.

Charity may in fact mean that you judge each person you meet against their own ideal condition.

But of course, you not being Infinitely Wise, can't possibly know what that ideal condition is. In fact, you can't know what your own ideal condition is!

So what are we to do? Not judge anyone? Political correctness indicates that one should not ever pass value judgements.

Wouldn't it be nice if life were that simple? One rule that always applies.

Something about that idea makes me suspicious.

If life were that simple, would the Tarot deck need so many cards to describe the process of living?

In the 5 of Pentacles, we experienced solitude, loneliness, and learned self-reliance. We learned to get rid of some of our emotional baggage and other clutter to make room for that which others value.

That housecleaning left us able to re-enter social interaction after the long, quiet building process of 4 Pentacles.

What we built in 4 Pentacles we are now able to SHARE with others by accepting into the spot emptied by housecleaning, what they have to share with us.

So maybe we can't judge the value systems other live by as better or lesser than our own. So maybe all we can judge is how compatible someone else's values are with our own -- at this particular time.

Everyone changes all the time, though we change within the parameters delineated by our natal charts. We can become a better example of our self, but we can't become someone else or live someone else's life.

However, at any given moment, we can respond to compatibility -- that what the Other has to share fits nicely into the empty spot within us while what we have to share fits into their empty spot.

Cliche: You scratch my back; I'll scratch yours.

And that's the Giving and Receiving contract represented by 6 Pentacles.

Once again, the Waite Rider deck images miss the point somewhat. The essence of Charity is not the wealthy giving to the poor. The essence of Charity is the Social Contract. It's not about what I have and what you have -- it's about what we have.

Yeah, love is a contract -- a legal contract! Isn't that awful?

But in a way it's true. Every human interaction is based on a contract of some sort -- a "you do this; I do that" contract.

Mystically, G-d came to Avram and said, "Come walk in my ways and I'll make of you a great nation." That's a contract. And again at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments were given as a contract -- you do this; I'll do that. G-d interacts with humankind via a legal contract.

All human relationships mirror that, as do all civilizations.

The contract part is the concrete part, the Pentacles part of the deal.

6 is Love, the love of Beauty and the Beauty of love.

The contract of love is reciprocity -- to allow one's self to be affected, changed, as much as one offers to affect the other.

For the most part, the terms of the contract of love are unspoken, mostly subconscious and therefore un-speakable because you, yourself, don't know your own terms -- and therefore the whole contract is subject to misunderstanding.

That misunderstanding often manifests as co-dependence, sometimes in a healthy way, and sometimes not. See 5 Swords again.

So 6 Pentacles is about the individual's pairing contract mirroring the social contract which mirrors the mystical contract the Creator made with humankind.

So to figure out the 6 of Pentacles, we have to start at the top, the origin.

As we discussed in Swords, creation was Created by a Word. Much later, we learned what that Word was about via the Ten Commandments.

It's no co-incidence there are 10 Sepheroth of the Tree of Life and 10 Commandments. Trust me, no coincidence at all!

We learned that if we follow these 10 simple rules, there will be Abundance. Vast Abundance! The Universe is Abundant. It's a Law and part of the Contract. (remember the Swords discussion of the Zero Sum Game model vs. the model of Abundance).

So how come there are poor people and rich people? And the richest aren't always the best at following Commandments!

The theory is (more mysticism here) that the vast abundance flows into the world unevenly, and some people are challenged (remember, you can't judge other people very well, being a person yourself) to develop ways of redistributing the extra that they get. Yeah, being rich is (cliche!) no bed of roses.

Conundrum: If you find that you need to get more, the way to get more is to GIVE more.

So those who start out with extra and figure out how to give, (it's not that easy - look at the celebrity-gossip headlines!) find they have even more than they started with.

But it's also true that some of those who start out with too little have become prosperous after doing Charity.

Remember the movie where the fellow will inherit a fortune if he can figure out how to spend a million dollars in a short time? It was a comedy, but could be remade as an Alien Romance.

We all know from experience that giving doesn't bring more right away.

You can't (usually) get by deliberately giving for the purpose of getting.

Remember the discussion in 5 Pentacles of discarding some of the irrelevant bits accumulated in 4 Pentacles? You discard what you don't need to make room to accept something from someone else, something they cherish (an idea, a value, a joy, whatever).

Relationships are established and nurtured by exchanging such personal bits of individuality.

One of the most difficult principles of Kabbalah is Giving and Receiving. Receiving is very likely the single most difficult occult concept of all.

6 Pentacles is the process during which we complete the circuit with G-d, receiving the Love He gives and giving to others in reflection of that. This process leaves us more and more capable of loving G-d.

This process is not so simple. How many of us are even capable of letting ourselves be loved by another human being, never mind the Creator of us all?

It's a pump - you have to prime it.

Young people today don't know how to prime a pump -- all their sinks come with faucets and their cars don't have carburetors. How are they supposed to learn about love?

Well, by attempting to participate in giving and receiving, even by deliberately giving in order to get, we start to open ourselves up.

It is a stepwise process, taking many lifetimes. Eventually Pentacles can be understood in a whole new light. (when I get there, I'll let you know what color that light is)

Story characters, just like some people, often set out to get rich, to make money, to amass wealth. We like to read stories about the wantonly rich. The TV Show Colombo was about an ordinary Los Angeles Detective who investigated murders among the grandly wealthy the city is known for. His rumpled trenchcoat became an icon!

There is a fascination in how the "other half" lives. And in the USA, it is possible for the poorest among us to become the richest. So we're fascinated to a purpose.

Often, wealth is chosen as a goal. And we read many stories about people who became "hard-hearted" as they pursue that goal.

Cliche: Money Is The Root Of All Evil.

How can that be if one whole quarter of Jacob's Ladder, the path to Heaven, is formed of Pentacles? The Suit of Coins?

What's wrong with wanting to be rich?

Nothing, unless you choose having a lot of money as a goal.

Maybe that's the whole secret of it! Wealth is not a goal. It is a side-effect. Wealth is a side-effect produced by the pursuit of self-knowledge and spiritual health that lets you love and let yourself be loved.

Remember, Jacob's Ladder is the conduit down which G-d's love flows into the world, and it is also the circuit diagram of human personality-soul-spirit.

Perhaps wealth is chosen as a goal by those who despair of ever knowing love. Or perhaps they believe if they're rich enough, they'll be loved.

How many Romance novels involve a young woman yearning for the rich scion of a Titled family?

If wealth is chosen as a goal in itself, you may achieve it and never know you've made it. Or you may think you have it made only to have it all evaporate. Or you may star in one of those movies where the elderly Grandfather is dying in a huge four-poster bed, and the children are sniping at each other all over the mansion, vying for shares of the fortune.

We yearn for riches as much or maybe more than for love. Why is that? Why do we worship the almighty dollar which is represented in Tarot by the Suit of Pentacles?

There is a relationship between wealth and love.

When we feel G-d's love, we feel wealthy even if we don't have much. When we don't feel G-d's love, no matter how much wealth we have, we feel poor and use our wealth to batter at that internal barrier (hence celebrities with a $17,000/month party budget).

The 6 of Pentacles is all about puzzling out how that relationship between love and money works for you right now.

The key is to realize that money is not the root of all evil, but rather the conduit through which G-d's love flows into manifestation.

If you attempt to stand in the way of that downrushing flood more powerful than Niagra Falls, you will be swept away as surely as so many celebrities with wasted lives.

If you become an extension of that conduit, then the event that marks the 10 of Swords process (which underlies 6 Pentacles) will be a culmination of your actions resulting in filling you up with love to give.

Let's look in on our writer who gritted her teeth and started writing her first novel in Ace of Swords, and eventually had her packaging go all awry, then made changes, and finally began another novel in Ace of Pentacles and found herself building a career in 4 Pentacles and lost her confidence in 5 Pentacles.

Guess what's happening to her now that she's worked that second novel down to 6 Pentacles.

She's just been offered a FILM OPTION on her second book! That's 6 of Pentacles -- something you earned in a past life but didn't get, a big break, a leg up when you really need it, a boost you couldn't create for yourself, just "falls into your lap." I suspect many "rescuer" novels are primarily inspired by this kind of event half-remembered from a prior life and misunderstood in today's model of the universe.

To others our writer's good fortune looks as if a fumbling, incompetent beginning writer (they always blame the author for the cover) got unreasonably lucky with her second novel and got a film option. She couldn't possibly have earned it more than someone working for decades in the industry.

Well, she didn't earn it now. She drew some capital out of the karmic bank, or possibly a loan against collateral. Because of that, the right person for her got the editorial job and inherited her book contracts.

Or perhaps someone with a big karmic debt (not to her, but just a debt) was drawn to pay off that debt. The love that should have flowed to our writer splashed sideways and hit her new editor who happened to send an ARC to this producer who was moved to give because he loved her book.

Why did he love her book? Well, he didn't love her book. He just loved.

Now our writer is all excited and energized again, toiling away on her third and fourth books, working with self-confidence, once more sure that what she has to give will be well received.

And because she is glowing with all this love, she will do as well with these new novel contracts as her skills permit. If she worked hard enough acquiring skills before her first sale, she will now be able to deliver the goods. If not - she won't have the follow-up success needed to continue the build.

This writer has chosen as her goal to gift-wrap her heart and soul in order to give it away as stories. She has poured love into those stories, unstintingly, and when she's empty, love will pour back into her. Her chickens will come home to roost and lay many eggs.

6 of Pentacles Reversed happens when goals aren't chosen well, usually for lack of sufficient energy in the execution of plans.

6 of Pentacles Reversed feels like being held back a grade and having to repeat the lessons of giving and receiving, of charity and discipline of creating karmic credit.

In the Reversed process, wealth is not understood as a side-effect but as a goal on the road to power without self-knowledge.

It took knowledge of yourself to select the the right bits to discard in 5 Pentacles in order to re-enter the flow of the social contract in 6 Pentacles by receiving.

One last caution. Don't judge how well people are doing spiritually by how much wealth they have amassed, or by how "lucky" they are getting "all the breaks."

Someone can be doing splendidly in one area, with one project or one part of life, and be completely messed up in all the others. Humans are complex and develop unevenly -- and we all have challenges tailored specifically for our own lesson in this life right now.

The spiritually greatest among us can be the poorest or least lucky.

Remember that when you give to someone who has less money than yourself. You may be giving to the richest person on earth who simply doesn't have money for food at the moment in order to give you a chance to tap into abundance. You would be wise to give with respect.

There is no one answer that will work for everyone. Your right answer today will not be right tomorrow - because you will change. We'll look into that in 7 Pentacles.

But the basic principle is always there and objectively true. The universe is made out of love, and it's love that holds it all together via the social contract.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Star Trek

Its official, there will be a new Star Trek movie. And I'm not talking a coninutation of the original or one of the many spin-offs. The original Star Trek is being remade. The story is supposed to be Spock heavy and be about the origins of all the characters. It's interesting to see the new cast next to the old cast although I'm not familiar with Chris Pine who will play Kirk, I'm wondering if he can use the cheesiness that William Shatner has to the same effect.

Word is that Leonard Nimoy will make an appearance but no William Shatner which IMHO is a great snub. I'm looking forward to Zachary Qunito as Spock and Karl Urban playing against type as Bones.

The release date is Dec 08 which will be here before we know it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Holiday Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving! We can be fairly certain that wherever humanity goes in the future, we'll carry our holidays with us. Details may change, of course. Observation of marmots or hedgehogs for signs of spring in Europe became Groundhog Day in North America. The Irish custom of carving faces in turnips at All Hallows Eve became the pumpkin jack-o-lantern in the U.S. The party hats, exploding "crackers," and plum pudding of English Christmases didn't survive the transatlantic transplantation, but Christmas trees did. We have visits from Santa Claus (aka Saint Nicholas), while children in other countries await other gift-bringing icons such as Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and the Three Kings. Modern Jewish families may light electric menorahs instead of old-fashioned candles. When we migrate to distant planets, we may decorate exotic native plants or even crystal outcroppings rather than pine trees, but we'll surely decorate something.

For poetic meditations on the holidays in an age of interstellar travel, enjoy these filk carols on Suzette Haden Elgin's blog (divided into 2 lines because the software cuts off the end when it's displayed on our blog page):

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

5 Pentacles -- Bad Reviews

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. An updated and expanded version is now on Kindle:

The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.

The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..


And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card.

For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or Google up some others.

I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007.

The 3 of Pentacles was accidentally posted dated Monday November 5th.


5 Pentacles

We are now discussing the 2nd circle up from the bottom of the left hand column (your left, as you face the diagram) of Jacob's Ladder.

In 4 Pentacles we spent a long time building something.

The writer we've been following is building her career in 4 Pentacles, submitting outlines, getting contracts, delivering novels, doing galleys, juggling all this against family, health crises, and obligations. She is trying to resist all distractions. It rarely works.

In the 4 Pentacles processes, she's writing characters layer by layer, building one layer on top of another to create deep characters she can write long series of books about. She's creating intricate worlds, one layer at a time, one revelation at a time. All that is 4 Pentacles, the long apparently non-productive pause in the materialization of a project.

Now, in 5 Pentacles we come to a situation similar to what we found in 5 Swords.

Check Jacob's ladder again and note how both 4 and 5 Pentacles dangle out in space, without another layer of circles behind them. This section of the Ladder is fundamentally different from the top section of Wands, which also dangles out in space, and at the same time it is much more accessible to living people than the top. This is familiar territory.

So in 5 Swords, our writer presented her (overly long) novel to her critique group and felt their criticism as an attack. She fought back, defending her baby, and eventually felt their love and learned something (6 Swords). But the 5 Swords process was brutal.

So what happens to our writer now she's got it made, has a career, contracts, and can say proudly, "My editor told me . . .."

Her books start being published (Pentacles -- materialized) and her career hits the 5 process in Pentacles. What could be worse than a hostile critique group?

Now that she's self-confident and happy -- she gets a bad review, a scathing, scornful review that reveals loudly that the reviewer didn't even read the book!

Devastated, she can't write. She's lost self-confidence. She misses a deadline. Her editor is on her tail. Her family erupts in rebellion (You have to go to my recital! You can't miss my graduation! Some mother you are, nose in the computer while your kid has a fever!)

She emails pdf files to reviewers herself, but nobody has time to read her book. She asks for help on the book she can't finish, and nobody has time. Her editor won't return her calls.

On a fan listserv she has always relied on for support, she gets blasted by a newbie because, "That's easy for you to say. You're a professional writer!" And for the first time, nobody defends her. Her friends are gone.

She's in the 5 of Pentacles process.

This is actually a process we write so many novels about. This is the Initiation where you get sent into the desert alone, or dropped into a forest, or marooned on a desert island, all alone with nobody to depend on but yourself. It's a Teen Rite of Passage we repeat throughout life.

The lesson to be learned through this process is the one we harp on in so many Romance novels -- no man is an island. (yep, another Cliche) It's not about islands. Or men. It's about self-reliance. Not independence, but real self-reliance. 5 Pentacles is where you learn not to need help but to give help -- not to be dependent but to support others.

The 5's are associated with Mars, ruler of Aries, the natural first house.

It's all about ego, and ego strength. There's a difference between being strong and being a bully. There's a difference between being self-reliant or independent, and being isolated like a sociopath who can't make emotional contact with others.

Aries is the loner, the first-in scout, the explorer -- Daniel Boon or Captain Kirk. But a leader needs people to lead. And in 5 Pentacles, there's nobody following -- except others who are (cliche warning) "on the outside looking in."

Mars is the root of the meaning Martial Arts -- the arts of war. It is both defense and offense. It is the way of using force, power, position, tactics and strategy.

But Mars is also about sex. There is nothing more sexy to a woman than a powerful man in full possession and control of his manhood.

But what good is all that without the recipient?

And so love comes into the picture, and we see the lesson of 5 Pentacles is about the meeting and blending of two strong egos battered by isolation.

Think of all the fanfic about Star Trek's Spock! His time on the Enterprise was a 5 Pentacles period of isolation from his peers and estrangement from family. That loneliness made him seem intensely sexy to many women writers.

The first real "Alien Romance" novels may have been Star Trek fanfic about Spock.

In 4 Pentacles, our writer wrote and wrote, creating substance from her heart of hearts, sure her second novel would be accepted.

In 5 Pentacles she offers it to the world (Mars is the aggressive tendency that gets you out of procrastination and on the move.

Taking the initiative and contacting an agent or editor is a Mars function). But her new novel is ignored. Or maybe outright rejected. Or perhaps rewrite demands would distort it all out of shape. Or the ARC may get bad reviews. All of these events would be 5 Pentacles experiences.

She doesn't get the feedback she expected that indicates her heart is beating in tune with that of others.

So the loneliness of 5 of Pentacles is a lesson in Love -- the importance of it in our lives, the function of it even in the business world, the place of physical possessions or other material resources (such as time and heart) in Love. It is also about what lengths we would go to for social sanction.

Often we learn such lessons only by contrast, and 5 Pentacles is where the contrast is most stark.

As we learned in 9 of Swords, the whole physical world is a projection of our Ideas (9 Wands), Emotions (9 Cups) and Actions (9 Swords). All our material possessions, including our very life, are shaped on the Astral plane (the 9's) and are still rooted in that level of reality.

In a mystical sense, we are our possessions and our possessions are us. This is true not just of physical things (your grandmother's antique vanity mirror; your mother's sterling; your grandfather's Tefillin) but of all the things you've created. Your marriage, your children; your characters; your novels; your house decor; the critique group you founded.

Yes, there are things that pass through our hands without touching our hearts. But there are things we cherish in a very special way. Those things are imbued with our essence.

You know that romance has ripened to love when the things your lover cherishes become things you cherish -- even if you don't particularly like them. Because they have meaning for your relative, your S.O., your role model, your friend, they have a new, unique meaning for you.

Love cherishes the significant and defining creations and possessions of the Other, not for their intrinsic value, but because they are loved by the beloved.

Thus, when you offer something of yourself that is so significant to you, and it is spurned by those you expect it will delight, you experience a crushing blow akin to ramming into a brick wall (Pentacles; physical reality).

The spiritual lesson of 5 Pentacles comes after that crushing blow, when you are all alone, wounded and unable to get anyone to listen.

You throw a party and nobody comes.

You distribute a hundred review copies and get no reviews.

You win a contest and call everyone you know to tell them -- but nobody's home.

Here, in the total void, with all relationships absent, in the wake of your friends betraying you, your spouse leaving you, your children screaming out their hatred of you, you learn what a relationship really is.

What you have created with all your heart collides full force with what others have created with their heart. And there's no room in their hearts for yours.

Relationships belong to Pentacles. They are investments of a non-renewable resource. (Applicable cliche: "You only live once.")

In the 5 of Pentacles process you have to sort out what's important to you from what you can throw away (the baby from the bathwater) in order to make room inside you for what is important to others.

If you don't clear resources for what's important to others, nobody will have patience with what's important to you. But even if you do clear resources here, there is no guarantee others will treasure what is important to you.

Having space inside yourself for what others cherish is a necessary condition for building a Relationship, but it's not a sufficient condition.

Life is complicated in its sheer simplicity.

Martian energies often come on way too strong, so oddly enough the 5 of Pentacles Reversed (where there is less energy pouring into the 5 process) actually tends to work better.

In the 5 Pentacles Reversed, you get a few new chances or second chances to jump-start a new relationship. Maybe your editor didn't read and accept your manuscript because she was leaving the company rather than ignoring you. Now a new editor writes how she loved your book, but wants changes.

She says they're minor, but to you they're major.

Maybe instead of a new editor you only find a new hairdresser -- but that leads to meeting someone who knows someone, and you start to be included in a new network of relationships. Somebody will have time to read your newest book.

These little 5 Pentacles Reversed openings are caused by your discarding some irrelevant bits accumulated in 4 Pentacles to make room for something created by another person.

Once the vacant spot inside you is open and clear, very likely something will be attracted and fall into that hole. (not always a positive something, though, so be wary)

If you like being included, you may clear away more space inside yourself, and find you are able to attract more attention by paying attention to others. And this is a process that may take years -- 7 years or so is normal, as that is the interval Saturn spends in the "obscure" part of your chart where nobody notices you.

Again, as with the 9's, this is NOT a conscious process. Most of the work is done while you are asleep, out of body, visiting the astral plane, reshaping your life by re-imagining it.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reader Round Robin: What’s Important?

Since I'm being nibbled to death by deadlines at the moment, I asked readers on my Yahoo Group (which also includes some authors, so look for names you know!) what were the two most important things for them when reading science fiction romance. One of the reasons I asked that question (other than to have them do the work for me in thinking up what to blog about today) is that my group has an interesting mix of science fiction readers, romance readers and paranormal/science fiction romance readers. We're an interesting bunch (which is what happens when the "location" of the group is the Intergalactic Bar & Grille…somewhere out there, second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.) I often read with fascination missives posted by the science fiction contingent on various books (or movies or silly pet stories or…) and then watch how different the flavor is from the romance section. Or not. Sometimes the two factions—which one might assume could never meet, with science fiction being 'the intellect' and romance 'the emotions'—will actually agree.

So here, with their permissions, are some of the answers. Agree, disagree, comments?

1 - What are the two most important elements in a science fiction romance novel for you?

Marydot: Most important element in sci-fi romance for me? I prefer a strong sci-fi plot with adventure, gadgets, and abilities. I came from a romance background and am thoroughly bored with the conventions and gawdawful repetitious lines of dialog that turn up again and again.

Birgit: Most important factors aren't really much different from what I look for in any genre I read: 1. Engaging and believable characters that interact in believable ways--people I would be honored to call my friends and invite into my family. 2. Entertaining and complex plots with excitement and action, that resonate with complex emotions, that follow to their conclusion in a natural and not forced way. I like flashes of humor here and there as well, in all my favorite books, because life is generally like that. You get messiness and emotional pain, ,but then there are always lighter moments.

Jen D: Science Fiction = technology; I prefer it be mostly human not a lot of aliens with amazing supernatural powers, which takes it over into the realm of fantasy for me Romance = believable characters thrown into a situation that draws them together; romance/sex that fits into the storyline, not just 'time for some steamy stuff here'

Lynne Connolly: Believability and compelling characters

Vicky Burkholder: Since we're talking romance and not straight science fiction, that is the main part of a science fiction romance for me. The relationship between the hero and heroine are tantamount to the story. Then give me gadgets or scientific principles (the basis of a science fiction story) or a plausible alternate universe - either our own in a different time or a new one.

Misty R: That the story actually be science fiction and not just a romance that could take place in any setting but just so happens to be out in space somewhere.

Clara Bow: a) A sense of adventure. b) Compelling, larger than life heroes and heroines with sexual tension so sizzling that I'm left aching until they get together.

Robin Greene: Character development is always key for me with good plot and world building a close second. I use LM Bujold (as well as you) as an example here.

Mo: Well obviously since it's a romance, I want to see the romance grow between the hero and heroine, the sexual tension and the emotional connection. Otherwise, because it's also science fiction, I want to see other worlds, other cultures, aliens ;)

David Gray: 1. First and foremost, there must be an engaging story line. A hero's quest or action adventure setting works well for me in that vein. Secondly, I like a bit of lively humor, and my observation -- one of the reasons I so like this genre -- is that the romantic interaction between main characters can often provide this quite handily.

Kathy of Kathys Review Corner: 1) The Romance is the focal point - not the Science Fiction. 2) While there must be aliens, spaceships, new gadgets and otherworldly cultures, the storyline must not get too technical where it pulls the average romance reader (like myself) from the story.

Donna: Active space opera adventure! Strong fiery attraction between heroine and hero with hot consummation of same!

Gerard Gourion: a) the world building quality: the ability to give the reader a full world / universe with its societies, its technologies and its complexities **(Linnea's note: this reader of mine astounds me. He's in France, English is not his main language. Of all the genres to read in a second language, SF must be the toughest!)

Kathleen O'Neil: First and foremost - a GOOD story! With well developed characters in situations that feel real and tech that makes sense. And the story is driven by the growth and interaction of characters without pandering to the romance - the romance must seen real, not pushed into the for just because there's supposed to be romance.

Mary Fitz: The same elements that are important in any novel. The novel has to pull me into its world so that while I am reading it the universe of the novel is real to me. In SF romance it is important to me that both the SF and the Romance work. I don't want a heaving bosom historical novel that someone went through with a "find and replace" function changing castle to space ship and swapping sword for ray gun. I also don't want techno babble with some sex tossed in as an afterthought. I want a story that does not insult my intelligence, and characters more than cardboard cutout personalities.

Eileene Brady: It's hard to pick just two. Female characters that can hold their own and don't give in to the male characters. Romance not sex. There is a difference and I prefer to use my own imagination. It must be a believable part of the storyline, not just thrown in there because there has to be sex.

Mary K: A realistic and believable world. Realistic and believable characters with no TSTL heroines.

Tamara H: a)For me it's all about the character development with a believable romance that fits within a science fiction world. b) It should be a solid science fiction story where the romance adds to the story and is not just fluff on the side.

Patty Vasquez: 1. I like the creativity of world-building. I appreciate the intelligence and the believability of the writing and the fact that I have to think throughout the story. Secondly, I like the soul-deep connection the characters make with each other. It is complex, as humans are, but there are moments of humor, tenderness, anger, tension, and that final look deep into each others' eyes that has the reader sighing....

Mike Helfstein: 1 - It has to be a believable love story (I'm a closet sentimentalist) where the mc's really could fall in love that fast. 2 - The story has to be a "can't put this darn book down" kind of sci-fi story.

Elaine Corvidae: 1) Characterization! If I can't empathize with the characters, I'm not going to "feel" the romance. 2) Plot, because this is why I read SF in the first place. ;-)

DeAnn: Strong/Excellent storytelling (ie good plot, dimensional, complex characters, fine prose) A character that I can identify with (ie a good guy/gal, someone who isn't perfect, but who is intelligent and moral and does their dead level best to do the right thing for the right reasons, and is eventually successful)

Skipper skippy (note from Linnea: also known as the Owner, Overseer and Slum Lord of the Universe. IMHO he's worth the price of admission to the Intergalactic Bar & Grille…): Exploding space ships and sex, preferably both at the same time. If a space ship explodes while our hero reaches climax, then the fireworks he/she sees are real. Besides, explosions are ALWAYS cool, as is sex. That is my motto...write yourself into a corner, have the spaceship explode. Or, have the universe be saved if the hero/heroine have sex. It is a formula that will NEVER fail you. Oh yeah, and also add a boy wizard with a funky scar in your books, that will help also.

So, post your thoughts! ~Linnea, back to deadlines and oh, yeah, don't forget: THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES hits the shelves in the US Nov. 27th (pssst...I hear it's already out in the UK).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

FORCED MATE --what's the book about

A reader on the Amazon Romance discussion thread (about what Readers wish Authors would put on their websites... good thread!), asked me why there is no unbiased information about what FORCED MATE is about.

In a small, but not unbiased, way, I'd like to rectify the omission.

FORCED MATE is a chess term (all my titles are chess terms). Basically, the Black King and the White King race to make a pawn their Queen. It seemed a great metaphor for a romance where two powerful world leaders want the same girl.

Persephone is abducted (from Earth) by Hades (dark god of the Underworld) ... and kicks his butt.

My heroine, Djinni-vera (Jinny) Persephone, is psychic and a mind reader, and an intergalactic warrior in training who is being kept hidden on Earth until the time is right for her to marry her betrothed, the White "King".

The "Black" King (I am using my inverted commas deliberately) sees a picture of the heroine, and decides --much as Hades did-- that he has to have her. He also wants to make her happy --in some versions of the myth, Hades also was willing to go to great lengths to please Persephone and he turned his underworld into a dark version of Earth for her, but with a double bed.

Since the "Black" King has never had to woo a woman to get her into his bed before, he's a bit out of his depth. He consults unreliable sources, such as old, pirated James Bond movies, and Romance novels, and an embittered English mercenary, and tries almost every stock "Romance" situation, and is astonished and baffled --and annoyed-- when his romance is not an instant, outrageous success.

Of course, the White "King" does not take the abduction of the perfect pawn Princess like a gentleman and a sportsman. He objects. He wants her back. He does not give up gracefully.

This is a complex romance with many levels and layers. It's full of puns, miniature spoofs, good jokes (and bad jokes!), bathroom humour (I-tell-your-alcohol level toilets), political intrigue, one explicit consensual sex (think of England) scene, and a whole starshipload of interesting characters with their own ideas of what is really important and whose side they are on.

Some commentators have said this book is about the ultimate hunk.
Others have said it is about the heroine and her relationships with other females. Others have said it is about the humor.

For me, it was the book of my heart.

1. (paperback, also e-book)
2. MATING NET (prequel, short story, e-book only)
3. (paperback, sequel/spin off... story of Djetth (Jeff) and Martia-Djulia (Marsh)

Coming in 2008: KNIGHT'S FORK

I beg pardon for the self-serving post. Today, I mean to finish KF (before it is 3 months late)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Women and Children as Aliens

In an earlier post I mentioned the Kuttner-Moore story on which THE LAST MIMZY was based. The original story rested on the theory that children have mental processes fundamentally alien to those of adults. The new film THE MARTIAN CHILD speculates in a similar vein. Based on a book by David Gerrold, a thinly fictionalized account of his own adoption of a difficult little boy, the movie features a widowed writer who becomes the guardian of Dennis, abandoned as an infant. Insisting he comes from Mars, Dennis fears the sun's UV rays (when David first meets him, he spends all his outdoor time inside a large box) and has other peculiar habits, such as taking innumerable Polaroid photos and hoarding common household objects for his "mission." The plot follows this eccentric but highly intelligent kid's experiences in learning to be human. From what I remember of the short story from which the book developed, that version maintained some ambiguity about whether Dennis was really a Martian. The movie's climax, when Dennis proclaims that his mission is finished and runs away to await his rendezvous with the Martian ship, makes it clear that he's a troubled human child who finally becomes able to trust David's love. The closing lines of the script state that all children are aliens, with whom we must learn to communicate. Every one of us must, in a sense, "learn to be human." It's a very moving story; I recommend it. I've requested the book from the public library.

Many decades ago, Dorothy Sayers delivered a lecture titled (ironically, of course) "Are Women Human?" Men, she said, often think and talk about women as if we're some exotic kind of creature. Freud famously asked, "What do women want?"—as Sayers puts it, as if we were potted plants with a simple answer to that question, e.g. "They need lots of phosphates." Nowadays, we've been told men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Linguists still disagree on whether distinct "masculine" and "feminine" styles of speaking exist in American English. I've read somewhere that few women would recognize themselves in the Madonnas and Liliths who inhabit much literature written by men. Although, to be fair, we probably won't find many real-life incarnations of Heathcliff, Mr. Rochester, and Rhett Butler, either. And, come to think of it, why does the dominant critical consensus regard most such books by men as "classics" while relegating those written by women (with notable exceptions such as JANE EYRE and WUTHERING HEIGHTS, which aren't generally considered part of the topmost tier of Victorian literature; they're more like second-level classics) to the category of "popular fiction" or even "trash," even though masculine literature idealizing or demonizing women can't claim any greater degree of "realism" than feminine literature doing similar things with male characters?

If we tend to view the opposite sex or members of younger generations as "aliens," we often find ourselves thinking that way even more so about people from different cultures. The very phrase "illegal alien" emphasizes that natural human tendency to feel suspicious of the Other or, at least, have trouble understanding the Other. Maybe dealing with the Other in our own society—or our own household—if handled wisely, will be good practice for meeting other intelligent species.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

4 Pentacles - The Almighty Cliche

Prepending a note about Linnea's post of Monday November 5th, 2007:

Let's consider HOW to achieve the effect Linnea is urging new writers to strive for. There is a mechanism for it and another motivation to master that mechanism besides winning contests.

Linnea pointed out something I've noticed in every workshop I've taught that was open to beginners.

The use of language.

Believe me, she's not shilling for this column!

I really had no idea she'd post that right before I posted this 4 of Pentacles (written 2 weeks ago, and she didn't see it!) and focused this essay around the Cliche, and an in-depth discussion of the way a living language is wildly abused by spin-doctors (labeling progressive behavior as conservative; creating odious associations with words that actually are uplifting in their original meaning, i.e. jerking you around.)

Since the universe was Created with words, as noted in the series on the Suit of Swords, we must guard our usage of words carefully. Even words spoken without forethought have an effect on the universe as a whole, no matter how insignificant you may think you are.

Words written and read by others have a magnified effect. Our usage of language is one of our tools for soul growth. Abuse can lead to disaster because words are power. Remember this when reading my post later on the 6 of Pentacles.

Spin doctors re-label and twist the meanings of words using SEMANTIC LOADING. By changing the semantic loading, they can change your behavior. So can any fiction writer.

All new writers should google up "semantic loading." And read up on "General Semantics" -- it is an objective method of studying (an entire science) how words create emotional effects.

It is the science behind advertising -- and political campaign "talking points." How you say a thing determines how most (not you and me, because we're writers, but MOST) people will react emotionally to words and thus subsequently behave.

Yes, it's the science of how to jerk people around.

It's also the science behind storytelling in all forms, acting -- everything. It's how to cast an illusion.

There's another study which can replace a lot of the adjectives and adverbs that spoil a narrative -- BODY LANGUAGE. Learn that science.

In acting, that's called "business" -- such as when a scriptwriter specifies that the actor should twitch her nose in order to activate a magic spell. Or the "tell" as gamblers call it -- when a character is lying, he pulls his earlobe every time.

OK, those examples are way too broad. You have to be original and subtle when using these techniques -- semantic loading and business. There are many more techniques that can be learned handily by studying some basic screenwriting books.

Characters, like people, have unconscious habits that bespeak their emotional pitch. Use those habitual actions to SHOW the reader what the character feels (that the character may not even be aware of) without TELLING the reader with florid adjectives and overused unusual verbs.

To implement these techniques in your writing, you must ask yourself what you really meant by using a particular word, then try replacing that word in various ways. Eventually, the choice of word becomes second nature -- habitual (Suit of Swords), but to start out, there's a tried and true way to teach yourself to do this.

There are perhaps 10 or more language-control techniques (some involving sentence syntax) that a writer can use to paint an emotional picture behind the characters, so dialogue can carry the impact without explanations of what each person is thinking (creating the "heads" problem Linnea mentioned.)

Exactly how do you create a manuscript using these word-control techniques after you've gone and looked them up on the web?

You leverage the fact that you're using a computer not pen and ink. You don't have to make it read well in first draft, condemning yourself to months of copy-typing the manuscript every time you edit.

You can lay down each layer of the story, going over the text again and again, adding more and more color each time - deleting bits, tightening, wordsmithing, and actually spend less time producing final copy than ever was possible in prior generations.

So, FIRST you write the story in very plain English, no decoration, no sensory context, no depth of emotion. Plot-plot-plot.

Once it's laid out and you can see how long it has to be, you spot the points where your (ahem) climaxes must be placed. Then you go over the whole manuscript working the emotional tension up to those climax points subtly using those techniques -- and then use word-management techniques, syntax and vocabulary to REDUCE the tension dramatically at the climax points.

You add and trim back wordage so each emotional beat falls on the correct printed page.

Your finished product should have a succession of emotional peaks on precise pages (depending on your market), but in every case the peaks should march in a straight line UP to the final climax at the end when you pull out all the language stops and reach for the sky.

Stagecraft principle is "Less is more."

This diagram of marching climaxes managed by changing language-techniques holds across all genres, even Literature and especially Best Sellers, and in screenwriting. If you can discover the exact pacing of climax points most admired by your particular market, you will be a best seller within that market.

This part of the writing craft really is objective, cut and dried, pure science, and anyone who can craft an English sentence can learn to do this.

What can't be taught is the art of what story to tell in order to say what important thing about Life, The Universe, and Everything.

OK, now to today's work - the 4 of Pentacles and the use of language.


As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers looking to learn World Building and Alien Character building.

It should eventually be titled: The Biblical Tarot: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, but who knows? It has no publisher yet.

And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card.

For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or Google up some others.

I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007. By accident, the 3 of Pentacles was posted on MONDAY NOV 5, 2007. Look for posts in this series on Tuesdays.

ASIDE: Rowena posted on Sunday Nov 4th about "Uncivilized Behavior" -- well, here in 4 Pentacles we'll think a bit about what civilization is and what it requires of us. We aren't collaborating on these posts -- truly we're not.

4 Pentacles

We're now discussing the second circle up from the bottom of the right hand column of Jacob's Ladder. It does not overlay a Swords card.

Words get redefined continuously -- that's the nature of a "living" language, and it's a good thing. But it sometimes makes it hard to communicate across generations.

The slippery word to grapple with under 4 Pentacles is probably "conservative."

Politics and religion have ladled layers of non-meaning on top of the core concept there. It may take some thinking to strip away the negative semantic loading (the emotional content of the word) and begin thinking within the 4 Pentacles domain of definition.

Remember the 4's are all associated with the astrological meaning of the planet Jupiter which rules Sagittarius (ever so much about truth and honesty, painful blurt-it-out honesty).

Jupiter is about growth, expansion, reaching out to include (Saturn being about exclusion), and thus the Law (or legal courts system) and social order and organization.

Jupiter is about how things go your way when you "go with the flow" -- and thus about "luck," which is the result of being in the right place at the right time.

So what's Luck to do with "conservative?"

Ah, well it's hard to grow if everything you add gets thrown away before you add the next thing.

"Conservative" means to conserve, preserve, or keep. It doesn't mean to not-change. It means to BUILD, GROW, systematically improve toward a goal.

Even the dictionary says "conservative" means opposed to change -- but it doesn't. It can't.

You can't preserve something if you try to freeze it in place and refuse change.

Change is life -- life is change! Growth is an essential life process.

"Conservative" doesn't mean death -- it means systematic, targeted, purposive, true-to-the-origin growth.

But, as you know that's not what the modern English language uses it for.

Consider that you can't progress without conserving.

If you have a savings account and put money in to increase your savings -- what happens if you take out as much as you put in? Or more? You have to keep what you've got in order to grow your savings.

Pentacles are about material reality, the concrete level of existence.

4's are about the long, quiet, growth period between commitment and challenge. (see 4 Swords).

The 4 of Pentacles is about the long, quiet accumulation of material resources.

Saving for the vacation of a lifetime is 4 Pentacles. Taking the vacation might be 6 Pentacles.

5 Pentacles would be the part of the saving process where you make excuses to take out of your savings account for other things, or it might be where other people tell you what a miser you are and you believe they are justified in vilifying and rejecting you.

But having a savings goal isn't being a miser.

4 Pentacles is about building infrastructure. 4 Pentacles is investment of capital in growth.

What is capital?

Capital is not money, but it is perfectly represented by Pentacles.

Capital is accumulated (conserved) profit from prior operations.

It doesn't have to be material profit.

For example, your time (time is a Pentacles manifestation) can be capital.

You rush through your work day, gobble dinner, sit down at the computer and invest your saved capital of time by installing and configuring a new program. Your joy knows no bounds. You're now out of time, and have to go to bed to get up and save more time tomorrow, but for the moment you have invested your capital in future joy with this new program you haven't used yet.

Your computer should conserve that install-configure nicely until you get back to enjoy it.

What if it doesn't? What if someone just erases the program leaving your operating system messed up and crashing?

What if that person erased your time investment because they wanted to upgrade your operating system for you and they're mad at you for being so conservative you bull-headedly resist change?

When the expensive, irreplaceable accumulated infrastructure of your life is attacked, you will resist "change" too won't you?

The applicable cliche is, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." Don't discard a huge investment in order to get rid of the dross.

Now take another scenario. Suppose you installed the program, configured it, and then got to use it until it was obsolete (all too soon these days) and now you want to do things that this old program can't do?

Now you will uninstall it, and install and configure the upgrade. Maybe even upgrade your operating system, or even get a new computer.

You made an investment of capital (time) in your program, reaped more from it than you invested by using the program until it became obsolete, and now you are ready to invest more capital.

Conserving isn't anti-change. It is the fastest and most powerful change there is.

Take a longer, more impersonal perspective.

Knowledge (not ideas which is Wands, or feelings which is Cups, or actions which is Swords) knowledge is a manifestation of Pentacles. Knowledge is a concrete thing created from ideas, dedication, and actions.

Knowledge can be accumulated, and in fact it is said we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Civilization isn't just the business of living together in cities rather than following herds as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Civilization is vertically integrated through time.

Civilization means conserving all the knowledge so hard-won in the past by our ancestors, adding to that database, always investing and investing more and more of our intellectual capital for future generations. And so we grow.

High School students often feel that being dragged through old experiments that prove that something is true -- but today we know it's not true -- is a futile waste of time. But it's not. By walking through, hands-on, the experiments that led to new knowledge, subsequently proved false, we come to understand that today's truth is tomorrow's falsehood. What we have is theory which can be overturned at any time by new facts. And we learn how to explore the world to add to human knowledge.

Some people call the defenders of an overturned theory "conservative" -- but they're not "conservative" if the old theory really has been overturned.

The true conservative will grab for the new theory with both hands because it represents growth, just as the satisfied computer user above would gladly install the upgrade to his wonderful program once he's garnered his profit.

So we pass down our accumulated knowledge (our intellectual capital) from generation to generation, and that is the hallmark of civilization and the essence of 4 Pentacles.

We also pass down accumulated wisdom, techniques for managing human emotion, methods of living productive lives, procedures for developing sound relationships.

As science is still a work-in-progress, so is our wisdom. In fact, science used to be "Natural Philosophy" and Jupiter is Philosophy (ruler of the natural 9th House). All 4 of the 4's are represented by Jupiter.

As in both science and wisdom, what we have accumulated should not be discarded when something new is added, or you will have only the new tidbit and have to start the infrastructure build over from scratch, perpetually reinventing the wheel.

The body of wisdom can be enlarged (Jupiter - 4) to include the new, even when the new contradicts the old. We hold those two contradictory truths until a new one comes along to resolve them. If we forget the old untruth, then someone will ask if it's actually true and repeat the entire experimental research procedure, wasting capital that could be invested in progress.

So how do we pass down wisdom?

For the last thirty years or more, book editors and Hollywood film makers have forbidden the "cliche" from stories of all kinds.

As a result, few young people have even heard some of them.

Why are they cliches? Because they got repeated until people couldn't stand the sound of them any more. (me, too)

Why did they get repeated so often?

Because they are hard won, expensive lessons encapsulated for easy transmission. Learning the cliches is as unpleasant as learning the original lesson someone suffered through because they will be recited at you every time you make that old mistake. Repetition is the only way humans learn this kind of thing. So cliches are a treasure trove we have discarded.

That inventory of cliches is Wisdom Capital deleted from our astral plane hard drive.

Repeated cliches feel just as futile as the High School science lesson about a lab experiment that proves something is true -- when we know it's false.

In fact, cliches do sound false to those who have not learned the lesson by living through it.

A stitch in time saves nine.

But we don't mend things anymore. We throw them away and get new.

Think again. That cliche isn't about sewing or mending. It's about doing what you don't want to do NOW before your neglect causes you to have to do even more of what you don't want to do later.

That is, it's about procrastination -- which unfortunately will never be vanquished from human nature.

Featured on recent commercials: The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. (Be the hammer!)

That's not about nails or hammers. It's about the wisdom of conformity -- or seeming to conform -- or imposing conformity upon reluctant others. It's about individuality, the foundation of the philosophy of the U. S. A. pioneers. Note this one surfaces as a commercial when China is rising to ascendancy.

There are thousands of these wisdoms that have been banned from our media, with a few daring exceptions, and some uses in comedy.

Is it any wonder that younger people don't have the mastery of these techniques of life at the same age that their grandparents mastered them?

The capital of thousands of years of experience has been discarded, leaving only the one new thing in hand, and abandoning all these young people to reinventing the wheel instead of adding to human accomplishments.

4 Pentacles also describes the situation where you are building a business relationship.

Building relationships is badly disrupted today as people change jobs fast. Today's postman is gone next week. The clerk at the hardware store is gone. The hairdresser you like is gone.

Your doctor is gone. Your dentist is gone. Your editor or her assistant is gone. Your agent is gone. You spend thousands of hours developing relationships with them so they understand who you are and what you need so that when an emergency strikes, you get efficient responses without friction.

All that time-capital is wasted when the person moves on to another job or location. Or when you move. Capital is destroyed and you must start again from scratch.

Small wonder people today are not enthusiastic about building long-term relationships. But of course it's irrational to resist change. Change is good -- the ultimate good, progress! Right?

So 4 Pentacles is about the long, quiet accumulation of knowledge, wisdom, money, relationships, time -- the accumulation of capital which you will (in the future) profit from investing.

To accumulate, you must hold on to what you have while you get more. The cardinal rule of Wall Street is "don't lose money," more than it is "always make money."

The Waite Rider deck depicts 4 Pentacles as a figure with two coins under his feet, one in hand, and one over his head. Old, well built, solid capital under his feet, plans for new innovations over head, and a project in progress in his hands.

We know, from the second oldest profession (cliche!), accounting, that your liabilities (debts) are part of what you have. So 4 Pentacles is also about debt. Just as in business, in the rest of your life, you must borrow in order to grow, and then pay back.

Growth and real change is a long, systematic process. Once begun it can't be changed until completion. You must use the borrowed capital to make a profit, then return the capital paying off your debt. Then you can move on to the next process. Not before then.

In writing a novel, you have to finish it and polish it before you take it to your critique group (5 Swords).

Cliche: Don't change horses in mid-stream.

It's not about horseback riding or the nature of rivers. It's about commitment (the 3's).

Commitment is about the situation your project is in after the 3's processes have been passed through. It's about how change costs capital and sometimes isn't worth it, even if you made a wrong choice in 3 Pentacles.

Karmicly, you took this lifetime to be you for a while, wearing this personality, working through these life-events in this order. You can't become someone else or change your life into someone else's. You want to, though, because you almost remember being so many other people.

If you blow away this life, all the work of those prior lives is destroyed and has to be done over from scratch. You can't make progress going round and round, doing things over.

So Conservatives are about progress and progressives are about destruction to the extent they throw the baby out with the bathwater. To make progress you must build on what has been accumulated. (The 5's & 6's are about judging when you should clear everything away and start over.)

4 of Pentacles is about the accumulation of capital and debt, but remember Pentacles is the end-result, the materialization, of all the ideas, emotions, and actions that have gone before. Without what went before, (WRITERS: "backstory" goes here) there would be no value in these Pentacles.

And 'before' is not just this one lifetime -- but all prior lifetimes.

So 4 Pentacles includes your karmic credit and your karmic debt. 4 Pentacles is what you have been building at the soul level for lifetimes.

Thus when you find yourself in a position where what you are doing is costing more than it seems to be worth, it's possible you are in a 4 Pentacles Reversed situation of paying off a karmic debt.

4 Pentacles Reversed can be about procrastination (that's how you get karmic debts, you know, by not paying them off in the lifetime where you accrue them), or it can be about a failure to conserve, a failure to build on what has gone before. You may be discarding the wisdom contained in cliches just because it annoys you.

Psychologically, the 4 Pentacles Reversed can be the subconscious defending against a minor pain by using a major crippling tactic, keeping you trapped doing the same thing over and over.

In Astrology, Jupiter represents a happy, expansive, lucky, magnanimous and generous force for growth. Jupiter is all about accepting and including, and growing thereby.

Jupiter builds civilization both by enlarging it in the current day, and integrating vertically through time, binding past to future through the present. (Jupiter rules the natural 9th House which includes "higher education.")

Jupiter can expend wantonly, but Jupiter is never a miser. So though the Waite Rider deck's picture makes some sense, the typical interpretation clashes with the ingredients in the meaning, 4's and End-Result Pentacles.

Take our writer who started selling her work in the Suit of Swords. Now she's FOUNDED A CAREER (despite the lousy packaging of her first novel) with her second work started in Ace of Pentacles, worked down through 2 and 3 of Pentacles and now in 4 Pentacles she has contracts for two years of work ahead, -- because (note that because) she is building on the success of her first book which was built on years of struggle to master the craft.

Here in 4 Pentacles, she will be writing sequels, and thus capitalizing on her prior work. She will be incorporating the hard-won lessons learned in 8 Swords and 9 Swords, and she will be avoiding mistakes that cost grief before.

She will be investing in a professional relationship with an editor and publishing company. She will take pride in delivering product on time and in good condition. (Yeah, she has to upgrade her word processor, *sigh*).

She will be conserving her prior work, translating it to the new word processor, building on it, expanding on it, capitalizing on it. Even unpublishable things she wrote that are penny-dreadful (cliche!) can be mined for kernels of wisdom.

If someone came along and told her to change her byline and abandon all her prior work because change is progress, she'd probably punch his lights out.

And then she'd stand accused of being against change. But she's not. She's changing as fast as she can write, faster maybe than the world can keep up with her.

How many characters have we written who defend civilization against the forces of destruction?

How many times a year do our characters save the world, the universe, humankind, alienkind, etc.?

The motive of those characters is the 4 of Pentacles -- what has been invested can not be retrieved until the profit has materialized.

Perhaps a better image for the 4 of Pentacles would be the hen sitting on a nest of four eggs.

The hen's not against change, is she?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, November 12, 2007

More Is Not Better: Judging 3 Contests in November

(This blog also appeared on The HEA Cafe)

While the title of this blog may appear to reflect my sentiments at having three writing contests to judge in one month, it is (deliberately) misleading, with a tad of double-duty. Okay, three contests while in a howling deadline is tough. But that's not the more I want to talk about.

I want to talk about word choice and word use, because in judging three writing contests back to back, I saw a lot of the same problems, over and over. So if you're yet-to-be-published and using contests as a means to get feedback and a possible entry to an editor (a method I heartily endorse!), this is a blog you might want to take note of.

You can read my first blog on those issues on this Alien Romances Blog here. It's called "On a Score of 1 to 10", referencing the score sheets that accompany each entry. I wish I could give every writer a perfect ten. I wish I could have all their entries sent to the final judges, the editors and agents. I wish I could jumpstart all those careers. I can't. Three of those reasons: Flying Body Parts, Head-hopping and Dialogue Tag Usage, are detailed in that blog. You might want to start there, then come back here.

Ready? Okay. More is not better. More words, more description, more adjectives do not a better story make. Good writing is all about choosing the word that most succinctly and memorably imparts that image or sensation. It's not about dumping words on a page like a bucket of confetti.

I read far too many first-three-chapter entries in a variety of romance novel categories that suffered from this problem. At first I thought it might be because my poison of choice is science fiction and fantasy, and I'd lost my ear for contemporary or chick-lit. Not so, I realized, when I ran into a few entries—one was a lovely historical romance, another a contemporary with a distinct Texas-twang—that just flowed. They were tight, imagery was on-point, pacing was perfect. And they were in genres I normally wouldn't chose for myself. So if I can be beguiled by what I don't like, imagine how much easier it would be for me to be seduced by my preferred genres? And yes, I did judge a paranormal that erupted with so many adjectives I felt as if I needed to hose myself off afterward.

So it wasn't genre. It was word choice and word usage.

Noted science fiction author C.J. Cherryh calls the problem "Florid Verbs" and "Scaffolding and Spaghetti." The woman's books have won Hugos and Nebulas and she's been on bestseller lists for decades. When she gives writing advice in her Writerisms and Other Sins, I listen:

'The car grumbled its way to the curb' is on the verge of being so colorful it's distracting. {Florid fr. Lat. floreo, to flower.}

If a manuscript looks as if it's sprouted leaves and branches, if every verb is 'unusual', if the vocabulary is more interesting than the story...fix it by going to more ordinary verbs. There are vocabulary-addicts who will praise your prose for this but not many who can simultaneously admire your verbs as verbs and follow your story, especially if it has content. The car is not a main actor and not one you necessarily need to make into a character. If its action should be more ordinary and transparent, don't use an odd expression. This is prose.

This statement also goes for unusual descriptions and odd
adjectives, nouns, and adverbs.

I'd highlight the "odd adjectives, nouns and adverbs" here. And not just odd, but simply overdone. You can tell me (though I'd prefer you show me) that the hero has muscles. But the third time in two pages that I read something about his "hard, sculpted, sinewy, muscular" chest or forearms, I'm ready to scream, "I get it, already!" The heroine runs her fingers down his sculpted, muscular chest then over his sculpted, sinewy arms—which are rock-hard, by the way—and then notices as he puts the coffee pot on the shelf how his hard, sculpted, muscular, sinewy muscles ripple.
The heroine also has time to notice—in detail—her own appearance and attire, flipping her soft, silvery-blonde, lustrous and wavy hair off her slender, cashmere-clad shoulders with her slender, delicate, French-manicured fingers while her perfect alabaster complexion glows in the candlelight. Yes, all in one sentence like that. Not only do I hate her as a character, I'm in imagery overload.

Which brings me to another suggestion from Cherryh:

Words the sole function of which is to hold up other words. For application only if you are floundering in too many 'which' clauses. Do not carry this or any other advice to extremes.

'What it was upon close examination was a mass the center of which was suffused with a glow which appeared rubescent to the observers who were amazed and confounded by this untoward manifestation.' Flowery and overstructured. 'What they found was a mass, the center of which glowed faintly red. They'd never seen anything like it.' The second isn't great lit, but it gets the job done: the first drowns in 'which' and 'who' clauses.

In other words—be suspicious any time you have to support one needed word (rubescent) with a creaking framework of 'which' and 'what' and 'who'. Dump the 'which-what-who' and take the single descriptive word. Plant it as an adjective in the main sentence.

Flowery and overstructured. More is simply not better. Plus it lends itself to inaccuracies.

As a writer, your job is to be a wordsmith. Okay, I call myself a wordslut but it's essentially the same thing. You have to love words but you also have to know how to use them. You have to know what their use is, what their flavors and nuances are. Pretty does not have the same meaning and mind-image as gorgeous. Plump isn't the same as obese. Red, crimson, burgundy and rose are not the same shade. House, cottage, mansion and chateau all create distinctly different images.

Descriptives in your prose—be they adverbs, adjectives or phrases—are like spices. Too much and the dish is overwhelming and unpalatable. Not enough and it's bland. Spend more time finding the right adjective to attach to your character, rather than burying him or her in an avalanche of description that becomes, essentially, meaningless. Or worse, comical and cliched.

Better yet, show me your characters are beautiful and strong but putting them in action. Telling me your character is gorgeous is your opinion. How do I know your definition of gorgeous segues with mine? But if you have your gal walk down the street and every man she passes stops and stares, jaws-dropping...I experience her beauty through them. You don't have to tell me. You've shown me.

So go over those first three chapters you're working on for that contest with rake in hand. Scrape out the detritus, the word-weeds, the literary-litter. Then send it in. And I'll give you a perfect ten.

RITA-Award Winning Science Fiction Romance
The Down Home Zombie Blues, coming Nov. 27th from Bantam Books

4-1/2 Stars—Top Pick! From Romantic Times BOOKreviews: “Quirky, offbeat and packed with gritty action, this blistering novel explodes out of the gate and never looks back. Counting on Sinclair to provide top-notch science fiction elaborately spiced with romance and adventure is a given, but she really aces this one! A must-read, by an author who never disappoints.”— Jill M. Smith

“[Sinclair’s] exceptional attention to detail…and quirky slant on the genre highlights her solid world building and allows even passing fans of science fiction to enjoy the ride.” — Nina C. Davis for Booklist

Friday, November 09, 2007

Never enough time

I hate deadlines. Just the thought of a deadline makes me shut down in total rebellion. This must be done by this date or else! I've yet to see what the or else is and luckily when I haven't met my deadlines my publisher has been very understanding but still, I just hate them.

I think I understand the reason why now. When turning in my last book, Twist, which will be out in February, I ran up against the brick wall of deadlines. The book was coming along great and would have been done early when my editor threw a kink in the works and said take out all Vampire references. Two hundred pages into the manuscipt and I had to re-evaluate the story and get creative in a hurry. My editor was great and we worked it out and then my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I lost two months, responding to his emergencies, trying to write in hospital rooms, and all the time lost in traveling to and from his home. Plus mentally it was impossible to write. Miracuously, I was only two weeks late on my deadline, but we were already cutting it close and then the book is up against the wall as far as how quickly things have to be done in order for it to be on the shelves come February.

I got my edits from my editor and was allowed two weeks to do them. Once again, I lost a week with my dad but got them in on time. And this past week I just did the page proofs and realized there was so much more to this world to be explored, if only I'd had the time to pursue it. I feel like the story is incomplete, in my mind. There's so much more I want to develop, so much more to explore, so much history to write. If only there was time.

But now I have another deadline. It's March 1 and I've only got three pages written so far. I know come the first of the year I'm going to be in trouble because I can't concentrate now.

I hate deadlines.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Novel About Aliens in Disguise Among Us

Last week I read Nina Kiriki Hoffman's 2006 novel SPIRITS THAT WALK IN SHADOW, featuring members of the magical family introduced in THE THREAD THAT BINDS THE BONES. Although human, they have powers they have to keep secret, which make them in a sense alien to the ordinary majority of humankind. They remind me of Zenna Henderson's People, although less benign. In Kiriki's novel, told in alternating first-person chapters by the two protagonists, Jaimie has undertaken the radical step of enrolling in college. Since her branch of the family is rather isolationist, she knows little about the outside world. Such mundane phenomena as money are mysterious to her. Having an outsider for a roommate is a challenge. Jaimie has to remember what topics she's forbidden to talk about, and she has to conceal her powers, such as her Sign Air ability to shape tangible objects out of the surrounding atmosphere. Her roommate, Kim, is initially suspicious of Jaimie's strange ways, including the pagan rites with which she and her father consecrate the room.

Jaimie discovers that Kim's deep depression is not natural. Kim is the prey of a viri, a truly alien species living in disguise among humanity. Viri can take any form but usually choose the human shape for ease of interaction with potential prey. They have no gender of their own, reproducing by fission when they've fed enough to build up excess mass. They feed on emotion. Kim's viri has been stimulating her bouts of despair. Many viri, however, don't harm their prey, feeding moderately and preferring positive over negative emotions. Even Kim's viri turns out to be not so much evil as trapped by her (or his, as the creature finally becomes a half-grown boy) addiction to the irresistible taste of Kim's energy. The resolution at the end takes a non-violent form that I found very satisfying. I always enjoy tales of other species trying to fit into human society, so I recommend this book.