Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Index to Dialogue Posts

Index to Posts on Dialogue

Here are my blog posts on crafting Dialogue (which is very different from recording real speech).





Adding to this list is:


Part 7 in May 2014:

Part 8 in August 2014:

Part 9 in October 2014

Part 10 In October 2016

Part 11 In January 2018

Part 12 In January 2018
Could you write the dialogue? 

Part 13 In January 2018
How a Character Talks To Himself as NASA Mission Control Specialist Deals With Crisis

Part 14 In April 2018
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2018/04/dialogue-part-14-writing-inner-dialogue.html Writing the Inner Dialogue of a Character who is being lied to.  Also see Part 5 above.

Part 15
Writing Inner Dialogue of Soul Mates - July 2018

The best dialogue writers I've ever run into trained in a) journalism and b) work-made-for-hire fiction markets.  (or both). 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Neanderthal Sapience?

Some paleontologists now doubt that Neanderthals deliberately buried their dead, as has long been assumed. It’s suggested instead that the supposed burial sites are places where bones were deposited by natural forces:

Neanderthal Burials

I’d be a little sorry if this new hypothesis turned out to be true. THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR is one of my favorite novels. I’ve always liked the theory that Neanderthals were a subspecies of humanity almost as mentally advanced as we are but in a different way. The concept of more than one kind of human species coexisting on the planet at the same time intrigues me. The whole “we are not alone” idea (or, anyway, haven’t always been alone) has exciting possibilities. That’s probably why I want Bigfoot to exist, too. Not so farfetched—the Pacific Northwest includes a lot of undeveloped territory, and I’ve heard that a now well-studied primate, the mountain gorilla, was assumed to be extinct not that many decades ago.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice Part 9: POLITICS AND PERSPECTIVE

This is Part 9 of a scattered series of writing lessons on applying observations of the world around you and your reader to creating a fictional world in which to embed your own story.

Here is Part 8 of this Series

Part 8 has a link to Part 7 which has a list of links to previous parts.

Last week I brought you a Guest Post by Deborah Macgillivray whose real life produced Events requiring the kind of heroism we mostly think of as purely fictional.


Now I'm going to require a bit of heroism of that caliber from you, the aspiring or even established professional writer looking to up your game.

Your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to set aside all your very personal politics, all your current events opinions (as writers, you certainly have many, and not all of them on the same side of any issue!).  This is an exercise in BEING NOT HUMAN, in living in the skin of a different order of being -- the kind of being we want our heroine to fall in love with and somehow manage to Bond with and live happily ever after.

One of the cardinal principles of a Good Marriage is Peace In The House - leaving the "real" world outside, entering a private space where the agenda is Soul to Soul, and all else is just noise and irrelevant. 

The easiest route to that condition is what we normally term ROMANCE.  As I've noted here in my posts on Astrology, that mental condition is usually signified by some high-impact transit of Neptune which is about Idealism -- which is the mundane way of trying to identify the ability to perceive the World via the underlying vibration of Love. 

Those who master that perspective of Love are often considered WISE -- which is what it takes to keep Peace in the House.

So you see, life is really all about mastering Romance.  That's my thesis for the following discussion -- and I'm betting you'll lose track of that as I hammer away at your personal BUTTONS -- things which get you steamed up to rage, the very RAGE that can not be allowed into the House. 

So here I'm going to present an email I got from a WRITING STUDENT of mine, and I can't tell you how unutterably proud I am to have been one of his teachers! 

This fellow is an Engineer (he like designs and builds things like oil refineries).  That's not just his job, it's a perfect description of the wiring inside his mind.  He's Canadian, but he's worked in remote places all over the world.  He's even worked in Texas.  He knows CULTURES from all kinds of angles.  And what he gives us below is a Canadian perspective you really need to consider when worldbuilding for a Romance.  

Years ago, he brought me one of his early novel manuscripts, a book he thought he'd "written" (but had actually barely started thinking about).  This was at a Writing Workshop at a World Science Fiction Convention. 

See my post on Denvention here for an idea what a Worldcon is like:

This workshop design is the best I've ever participated in.

Three selling professional writers read Manuscripts by 3 beginning or almost selling writers.  The three students also read each other's manuscripts.

The 6 meet with a Moderator - 7 people around a table - who has also read all 3 manuscripts.

Each manuscript is discussed in turn.  First the fellow-students give their comments, then the 3 professionals discuss what issues they see in the manuscript.  Usually, these comments are written, typed on a page, or scribbled in margins of the reading copy.  The free-flowing discussion is really the learning experience.  The writer whose Manuscript is being discussed is required to remain absolutely silent.

Very often the student listens and cries or freezes trying not to cry.  But you can tell they don't believe a word they're hearing, at least at first.

After a round, there's a free discussion where the student can ask questions.  No trying to explain what the readers didn't understand, just try to understand what the readers were saying.

Usually, the 2 other students fumble around trying to express "I liked this" and "I didn't like that" -- all kinds of comments having to do with their taste as readers and nothing at all to do with the publishability or marketability of the manuscript.

Then the 3 professionals bore down to the underlying errors the writer has made in formulating their story. 

Almost without exception, all 3 professionals agree on each manuscript's flaws, often though by pointing to different sources for that flaw or different ways to fix it.

Almost without exception, the flaw each of these hopeful writers demonstrate beyond all doubt is that their piece has no conflict and therefore no plot, and/or it has no conflict or no plot because they started in the wrong place or took the wrong point of view  character as the Main Character.  Most often, there's plenty of story in these pieces, but no structure.

VERY OFTEN those trying to write science fiction or fantasy produce a piece with no conflict, no plot, and no properly chosen main character with an internal conflict -- a person to whom the plot happens -- BECAUSE THEY FAILED ON WORLDBUILDING.

The core of worldbulding, as I've been dinning into you, is THEME, and the hottest Romance is based on a theme that is a philosophical statement about current reality the reader is living in.

A list of my posts on THEME is on the post here dated Tuesday August 28, 2012. 

Theme ript from the headlines is why fiction written 50 years ago doesn't seem interesting today -- our THEMES are different so our conflicts are different.  The exception is science fiction and fantasy (my field) where futurology is the core of the worldbuilding, plot, story, and characters.  That's why Sime~Gen is a classic -- it's conflicts are about life in 2020, not 1970.

See my blog post on writing classics:


Romance, too, produces timeless classics because the themes are stable through generations, but look at Romances written in 1890 and contrast to those of today to see what I mean about worldbuilding being the core of the conflict which must be expressed in theme.

So, in this writing workshop where I met Ed Wilson for the first time, it came my turn to comment on his work (it was a long novel, but they could only submit a sample as one does to an editor), and I looked him in the eye and told him point blank it was unpublishable.  He took notes and nodded. 

I told him how incredibly talented he is (he actually is, that's the truth) at spinning a yarn, at creating memorable characters, at a profusion of detail.  This man is a veritable FOUNTAIN of IDEAS.  But he was absolutely clueless about the need for STRUCTURE behind the fiction -- a structure readers can not see or percieve.  To be effective all fictional structure has to be invisible to the reader, but it absolutely has to be there. 

So I explained there would have to be many rewrites, and first do this, then that, and that'll show you what to do next.  He took notes.

During the discussion he told me he had read my first published novel, House of Zeor, and so had been eager to get into my section at the Workshop.  We talked.  He has become a dogged, persistent, and attentive student, producing works of increasingly well structured design.  He hasn't sold anything yet, but I know he will.

This email comment that he wrote me demonstrates WHY he will sell, and when he does it will likely be a case of "exploding onto the scene with overnight success" and people will think he came from nowhere and got lucky for no reason.

He does not write Romance, and his work is very action oriented, but he demonstrates with this commentary that he's finally caught onto the worldbuilding trick used by the best selling authors -- OBSERVATION OF CURRENT REALITY.

It is upon observations such as this one here below that the most explosive best sellers are built. 

Reading it, though, will be a challenge for you -- and my response may be an even bigger challenge.  This entire exchange should have smoke coming out of your ears before you finish reading the links provided. 

If, however, you can take notes on the emotional reactions as you have them, peg them to the bits of information, and chart that into a structured set of themes as I described in my previous posts on THEME, you will have the hottest, best selling romance of the decade, a classic that could out-last your lifetime.

The important thing about Ed is that he muttered a bit, then went away, and came back with BETTER material, got clobbered for making the same mistakes in different guise, went away uncomplaining, came back with BETTER YET material, and so on.  That is the mark of the professional writer.  "Uhuh. OK."  and a bit later, "Try this."  In other words, pretty much like a professional Engineer whose lab bench model fell apart or blew up.  "Uhuh. OK, I can fix that."  And again. 

So, now watch the INSIDE OF A WRITER'S MIND work just the way I've been trying to show you so you can teach yourself to think like this.  This thinking pattern is subject independent.  That's why it's so powerful for worldbuilding.   

--------Ed Wilson Wrote To Me Privately (posting here with permission) -----------
Between job interviews today I went for lunch and via the really good magazine store in down town Calgary. While there an article titled: Why Republicans Don’t Trust Science in the Skeptical Inquirer caught my eye and I read it. It is largely summarized in:

It resonated with Richard Landes: Romney Is Right on Culture and the Wealth of Nations that I read last week. 

In on Culture & Wealth of Nations we hear of: attitudes—that everyone strives to get to "yes," to positive-sum, win-win, voluntary relations; that everyone holds productive work in high respect and prizes the principles of fairness embodied in the meritocratic principle of "equality before the law"; that everyone encourages criticism, treasures intellectual capital, promotes risk-taking, prizes transparency and fosters innovation

And those where: the favored mode is not voluntary but coerced and zero-sum relations, where the principle of "rule or be ruled" dominates political and economic life. The elites in such cultures hold hard work in contempt, and they distrust intellectual openness and uncontrolled innovation as subversive. They emphasize rote learning and unquestioning respect for those in authority.

My Empire stories are at a time when some people are trying to move from the former to the latter.  Again Science Fiction acting as ‘Other’ shows as future what is currently happening.

As a Canadian these two articles are very very disturbing, there are many things Canada can afford, but what these suggest, and what is current in my writing we can not afford on our southern border.

------------END COMMENT FROM ED WILSON--------
My reply: (I left out all my excited praise for his observation and thinking!)
I haven't read the article links you site -- but I'm brewing up some blogs going in that direction -- re-drawing the "dichotomy" between philosophies and looking for the next NEW philosophy, one based on the culture that will grow out of the new internet connectivity life-model. 

I've berated and pounded on Jean's head (I'm often very cruel to Jean as I just won't STOP when something bugs me) about my theory that every one of these NEW PHILOSOPHIES that takes root and lives beyond it's propounder (from Jesus's 40 days in the desert, or before to the Jews 40 years in the desert, to Mao to Marx to Lenin -- Thomas Paine too -- and the fellow who founded the Moslem Brotherhood


which is so counter to basic Islam, and The Rebbe who popularized Kaballah) ALL OF THE IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS that steered future societies came from someone PUT IN JAIL who wrote a BOOK IN JAIL.  Find an exception!!!  Jean's muttered about a few exceptions and no doubt we'll be thinking about who to put in jail in Sime~Gen at the con. 

But the dichotomy you finger between these two articles is VERY REAL.  It's obscured by the stew of criss-crossing communications (shouted lies) on the internet, blogging etc.  They actually hire and pay people to spew obscenities and vilification at anyone who ventures to express a NON-LIBERAL idea on a news blog.  PAY!!!  "Speech is free as long as you agree with me!" is the new standard.

So out of this murky PAIN I'm seeing, I expect someone to be jailed for saying something -- write a book -- get released (remember Nelson Mandella?) and change the world.

Meanwhile, it's up to science fiction to explore different ways of arranging these old philosophies.  Well, and fantasy too.

My problem with the "Liberal" standard being raised in the USA is that it smacks of totalitarianism, socialism, and at the extreme of the spectrum communism -- all archaic isms.

My problem with the "Conservative" standard being raised in the USA is that it smacks of the Inquisition, or this new radical Islam Sharia Law thing, where one religion forces people to behave according to it's idea of what God said we should do -- likewise all archaic isms founded on superstition. 

"They" are using the relatively new science behind Advertising (Public Relations -- a very statistics based mathematical way to control the behavior of crowds).

Human populations are vulnerable to that science of advertising only insofar as they understand how it shunts the critical faculties aside and plants ideas in your subconscious where they pre-empt your cultural values.  (buy this candy bar and you'll have lots of friends.)

Therefore, my solution is to teach kids to be immune to commercials. 

Instead, they've removed teaching "proofs" in HS Geometry which is the basis of critical thinking which is the basis of science.

Then the Liberals are teaching the young (whom they've conditioned never to think critically) that the word "science" means "Absolute Truth." 

The "Conservatives" then out-shout the Liberals, saying "Bible=Absolute Truth" but you must not QUESTION!!!  (Judaism is all about asking questions -- but really ASKING, not using the question syntax to express an opinion, which is the cultural signature of conversational Yiddish.)

A shouting match is no way to guide policy -- and no way to determine what concepts you need to use to generate a profitable policy direction. 

I don't think we're ready yet to put this whole discussion on the Facebook Group -- it's too explosive.  But once the element we need to add to Sime~Gen (the philosopher put in jail who writes a book) is created, (likely a henchman or sidekick of Zelerod), then we can present it and kick it around.

Meanwhile, I'd like to post your comment with links and what I wrote above as a blog post on alienjinnromances.blogspot.com because it's actually a writing lesson. (he wrote back with permission).

Like a portrait artist, a fiction writer must VIEW the world around them in order to portray that world in a way that the art consumer will find meaningful.  This issue you've raised gives a perspective from which various writers can VIEW -- and then create various portraits of reality which could be Science Fiction or Fantasy or Romance, or any combination.

Romance across that dichotomy described in your comment is the hottest thing going.


I am certain we will re-visit this topic.  Just remember, it's not about POLITICS but about OBSERVING THE WORLD so you can use politics in worldbuilding with Fire And Ice.

Comments on writing technique are welcome here.  Comments on specifics of modern day politics belong elsewhere (but yes, they should be written about and disseminated far and wide, just not HERE.)  Comments on the archetypes underlying the origin of human politics do belong on this blog. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Beauty and the Beast" Returns?

Did anybody else watch the pilot of the remade BEAUTY AND THE BEAST series? While I wouldn’t dismiss a show on the basis of one episode, and I’ll certainly follow it for a while to see how it goes, so far I’m dubious. Fans of the old series will recognize the common elements: Catherine still works in law enforcement but as a police detective rather than an attorney in the D.A.’s office. Maybe they wanted to give her more opportunities for “action heroine” scenes. Years ago, a mysterious man who turns out to be Vincent rescued her from an attack in which her mother died. In the present, she runs across him again when he unsuccessfully tries to save a murder victim. Like the original Vincent, this one lives in hiding, not in a secret underground community but with a friend who’s the only person aware he’s still alive. Instead of a man born with a beast’s body, this Vincent was transformed by a military experiment that transplanted animal DNA into soldiers to enhance their physical and sensory abilities. The only survivor of the experiment, he is presumed dead. He looks human but, when enraged, takes on traits of the various animals whose DNA he carries.

In other words, the new series turns the Beast into the Hulk! The executive producer says in an interview, “We really wanted to feel this was relevant to our lives, and we thought we’d be able to make it more grounded and compelling that way. . . more realistic in a way than just a guy who looks like a lion.” (The ellipsis is in the source.)

She shows no sign (at least, in the article I read) of realizing that this change does more than tweak the concept to make the character “more realistic.” (Realistic? Animal DNA causing a reversible physical change? Really?) It transmutes the whole tone and theme of the story premise. The pilot of the Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman series was titled “Once Upon a Time in the City of New York,” emphasizing the fairy tale atmosphere that pervaded the show. Perlman’s Vincent, with his leonine shape and his “dark Vincent” half kept in check by his compassionate human side, was a mythic figure. His tunnel community came across as an idealized refuge, a realm apart that had to be protected from the harsh upper world. In fact, it could be thought of as a rationalized version of the underworld of Faerie as pictured in legends and folk ballads. The new Vincent’s secret life with his computer-genius friend has no such qualities. Here, we find ourselves in the realm of paranoia and covert government conspiracies. This Vincent doesn’t feel like a mythic Beast. He feels like yet another superhero with a tortured past.

Furthermore, so far I’m not impressed with the dialogue or the acting (and not being much of a connoisseur of stagecraft or filmcraft, I have pretty forgiving criteria for the latter). As for the concept of a human-beast hybrid created by the infusion of animal DNA, the TV series DARK ANGEL did that so effectively I think the new BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has a high standard to match in that respect, too, and, judging from the pilot, little hope of surpassing it.

Maybe I’m reacting negatively because of my love for the original BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, though. If you saw the pilot of the remake, do you think I’m giving it too little credit?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest Post by Deborah Macgillivray - Wolf In Wolf's Clothing

Here below is a Guest Post by a writer whose book I reviewed here a while ago, and still remember.  It's not just memorable, it's vivid and wonderful!  Here's the post where I discuss that novel:


And this is about the Dorchester publishing bankruptcy and how it affects writers.  And what writers are doing about it.  See official notice from SFWA posted at end of this blog post. 

You really must read Macgillivray.  It's not just good entertainment.  It's informative, instructive, illustrative of good writing, and inspiring too. 

I'm thrilled to bring you this story in her own words, and I want you to pay close attention, most especially if you are intending to embark on a career in ficton writing. 

Here's where to find a list of Deborah's books that are currently available in Kindle:

Deborah Macgillivray

-----------Guest Post from Deborah Macgillivray -----------

Life does imitate art―

© By Deborah Macgillivray

Oscar Wilde said in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life".  You might say I am living proof of that.  At the very end of 2009, just days before Christmas, I thought the most urgent and important thing in my life was meeting the deadlines for my next two books.  At eight in the evening, I had typed “the end” to my next historical novel, fourth in the Dragons of Challon™ series― Redemption ― and was going over notes to finish the fourth in the Sisters of Colford Hall ™ series― To Bell The Vampire. 

I had been pulling all-nighters, overdosing on 5 Hour Energy for days to get the book finished.  I felt happy with the novel, so I treated myself to what I hadn’t indulged in too much that week―sleep.  I slept so well!  I cannot ever recall resting as peacefully as I did for those few hours from 8:30 pm until 1:21 am.  Sometimes, people jokingly remark that is sleeping the sleep of the dead.  I came very close to that being reality.

I jerked from that velvet sleep at the wee hour of the morn, knowing something was wrong.  The lights were out.  I had fallen asleep with the television going, so there should have been that soft illumination filling the room.  But there was nothing.  I never awaken easily, so I nearly tumbled out of bed trying to feel my way to the light on the nightstand.  When I did, I saw something very strange.  The room was black, like a thick woolen curtain, yet a bright orange glow showed toward the bottom six inches.  That was the first inkling that I was in dire trouble. 

Drawing a breath I sucked in oily black smoke.  I had not been aware of that fact before, because I by chance had been sleeping with a pillow on my head.  I had been suffering an ear ache, and sleeping with the pillow over my head made it hurt less.  Through the heavy befuddlement of my still sleepy brain, I recalled a fire safety tip, which said to get to the floor level because there was still good air down low.  Good tip, but one that was unworkable for me.  I knew if I went down on my knees I might not come out of this alive.  I had knee surgery in May and it hadn’t healed right.  Dropping to my knees and crawling would have been sealing my death.

I fumbled around for the phone in the bedroom.  It was dead.  So holding my breath, I staggered toward the other end of the house.  It was then I first saw the fire―a massive orange monster that had already engulfed one whole wall of the house and was going up through the roof.  It’s hard to think when you are faced by a horror like that.  Damn dangerous not to!!!  I had to go past the flames to get to the kitchen where the wall phone was.  Skirting the spreading fire, I reached the darkened room.  Stupidly, I wasted precious seconds thinking I could throw some water on the flames to slow it down, with the hopes of holding things at bay until the fire department came.  Only, there was no water coming out.  I burned one hand on the faucet when I tried to turn it on.  The bloody faucet was like touching a brand.  It just gurgled and hissed steam!  I reeled to the phone to call for help, but that phone was dead as well.  What I didn’t know―the phone lines had already burnt through on the outer wall.

 I saw I had made a bad mistake in wasting the time coming to this end of the house.  The fire was running along the center of the ceiling in the porch room.  As it shot across the roof and ceiling, liquid fire was raining down on the carpet and the woolen carpeting was going up like tissue paper!  Our front door was on the To Do List for repair.  Recently, it had become swollen from so much rain and needed planing because it kept sticking, seeing it impossible to get open.  There was no way I could go out through that entrance.  The only avenue left would see me walk through the fire, back the way I had come, to reach the rear door.  The sliding glass doors on the side were already engulfed in the writhing flames.  I stared in horror as I saw the glass beginning to melt and buckle, heard the pinging of the metal frame starting to warp.  Within seconds I would have been trapped. 

It was a very bizarre moment.  I was still fuzzy-headed from just waking up and the sheer enormity of all this happening about me was simply too much for my mind to take in.  Worse, I thought for a few heartbeats that surely I was sleeping still, dreaming about my last book A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing, and I would awaken and laugh at the silly nightmare of getting trapped inside one’s own book.  The final scene in my novel had dealt with a thatched house going up in flames and with the heroine trapped inside, what she did to survive.  How utterly bizarre, that a book just released in October should be a reflection of my life in December!  So much of what I had written for that book echoed what I was now living through.  Talk about eerie, almost prophetic!

I watched as the fire on the carpet rose to chest level.  I have very long hair, and I was concerned the flames raining down would set it afire.  But at that point, I had no alternative, no hope of surviving this unless I moved.  My lungs were already crying out, desperate for air, but I couldn’t suck in that foul black smoke.  I never knew smoke could be so black, or the heat from the flames could almost shrivel your skin like drying leather.  The scents, the sights, the feel will never leave me.  To this day, I have problems being in a totally black room, or to smell the scent of someone burning a fire in a fireplace.

Finally, I went forward into the crucible, taking the twenty foot long room in jumps, just praying I would be going too fast for the flames to catch me, praying that bad knee didn’t buckle and send me crashing down into the room of fire.   I was lucky.  I did reach the outside, and the injuries were small compared to what could have happened.  Some smoke in my lungs, a burned hand.  Only, my two cats were still inside.  I couldn’t reach them from that side of the house, so I went around to the front, trying to see if I could get in through a window to find them.   All windows now had flames coming from them.  The only hope was to try and dig a hole through the wall.  I took a long piece of metal and broke off the wooden siding, trying to dig through the insulation, beaver board and a brick wall on the inside. 

A couple, who had just gotten married and was coming back from celebrating, were passing by and saw the flames.  They called the fire department.  The firemen came with engine lights flashing and, sirens wailing, but it was too late.  In those few minutes, from the time I had awoken until the newlyweds passing pulled me from the hole in the wall, where I was trying to reach my kitties, my whole life went up in a conflagration.  There was absolutely nothing left.

My identification was gone.  Fortunately, my husband had been away and was coming home that night or his license, credit cards and checks would have been lost, too, complicating what I had to face in the coming days.  I was in shock, naturally.  Everything was gone!  My manuscripts, my computers, my clothing.  I had run into the cold night with the clothes on my back and barefooted.  I laughed it was lucky I had fallen asleep in my jeans and a sweater that night, or I would have been running around in a nightgown!

Currently, I am still working to rebuild my life, to heal from this devastation.  It has taken time to settle the past and embrace the future.  A new home, new computers…a new life.  With all that going on, my writing has had to take second place.  The two novels were lost.  Oh, I had copies on external hard drives―which melted along with the laptops.  I have since learned to use Carbonite, so all my writing is now backed up online. 

During all this, you learn new priorities and your perspectives change.  Things that were so important suddenly took a backseat to the healing, adjusting and rebuilding my life.  As soon as my days would return to something that resembled normal, another tragedy hit me in my husband nearly died in the following year. 

He began experiencing grave seizures that saw him in ICU for weeks, not expected to live.   Fortunately, and with good care, he did.  Then, we faced a long hospitalization and rehab for him to learn to walk again.  Once more, things came around and I thought the troubles were behind me.  Yet again, I faced one of those situations that test your strength when my husband faced losing vision in his right eye.  After five months of laser treatments we are hopeful in time his vision will be all right.

I suppose that is why when news of Dorchester Publishing going bankrupt was announced it hardly seemed more than a bump in the road to me.  Before the fire I would have been devastated that one of my publishers was going out-of-business.  Dorchester left hundreds of authors “orphaned”― worse, left those writers without paying them for years.  The news hit many authors with a devastating impact.  I truly enjoyed writing the Sisters of Colford Hall series, and knew my editor, Chris Keeslar, “got” my quirky stories of the women who found love better the second time around.  I would miss working with him.  I had a total of eight books in the series planned and in production.  Three were out.  What would happen now?

Well, once more, things are coming around.  My husband’s health is stable.  I have healed―mostly.  There are times when I see a fire portrayed in a movie or television that I have to walk away or close my eyes against the images, fighting not to be sucked back into the moment that nearly claimed my life.  As I said, I cannot take being in a darkened room, and no longer enjoy the scent of a wood fire. 

And, my writing is coming around.  There is a new future for the Sisters series.  Amazon Publishing/Montlake has given me an offer to see the first three books put into Kindle, Tradesize and Hardback.  So, if I accept their contract, they will fix some of the wrongs done by Dorchester and give my Montgomerie sisters a new home.

I still look at the words I wrote in A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing.  The scenes bring a chill to my spine, just how closely they mirrored what happened to me.  I don’t know what prompted Mr. Wilde to pen that phrase about life imitating art, but I know he was quite right―it does.

-----------END GUEST POST --------------

Now that is a snatch of real life in the business of Publishing. 

OK, not everyone has a house fire hit along with dire illness and a publisher's bankruptcy all at once, but "life" gets in the way of "writing" one way or another. 

I haven't done Deborah's natal chart, so I don't know the facts in her case or her husband's -- BUT -- this triple-disaster syndrome is typical of Pluto transits to sensitized natal points, and those kinds of disasters -- dire and terrible BLOWS to life's stability coming in a series stretched over several years, creating a "new normal" if you survive -- are typical Pluto effects at the pinnacle of success.  It's the same energy that manifests as success and DIRE BLOWS.  Knowing that fact in a very instinctive way makes a writer truly great, but only if you survive the blows.  That is why I've discussed Pluto in such depth in previous posts on this blog. 

If you do survive it, the knowledge informs your next novel.  Disasters would have happened, even if you were doing something else for a living, but you wouldn't have developed the skills to use that experience in a novel, to share it, to help others survive their blows. 

The thing is, the publishing business is a business, and does not care or compensate for the Events of a writer's life. 

The writer has to keep going through all that, pick up on the other side and go on producing words. 

My point here is that one does not "become" a writer.  One is, or is not, "a writer."  Writing is what you can't help doing no matter what's going on.  Selling what you write, that's a totally different matter.

There will be more twists and turns to the Dorchester saga and the fates of the writers with contracts with Dorchester.  A PART 2 for Deborah's saga as events develop with this new venue should be forthcoming in a few months. 

But I'm telling you straight, if you are planning "to become a writer," think again -- and again.

You just don't "become" a writer -- you discover that you "are" a writer, and can't help it. 

--------------October 14, 2012 QUOTE ----------------

Because of severe problems with rights and payments, Dorchester Books was placed on probation in December 2010.  By January 2012, it was clear that the company was on the verge of going out of business, and they soon fired most of their staff.  The company managed to avoid bankruptcy, however, and remained in control of it's contracts with writers.
 Earlier this year, Amazon Publishing purchased the contracts for well over 1,000 Dorchester books.  Dorchester authors were offered the chance to join Amazon Publishing and receive full back royalties or have their rights reverted.  Amazon reported that a potential 1,900 titles were involved, and that 225 authors had turned down the offers and asked for their rights back.
 Amazon/Dorchester reports on their Web site:

 "At this time, we are completing the reversion process, transferring all titles back to their respective authors. Though we have made great strides, our research has uncovered a number of authors for whom we have no contact information. In addition, there are a number of titles without corresponding authors. To complete this reversion process, we will need your help."
 There is a form on the site for authors to use to reclaim rights: http://www.dorchesterpub.com

--------------END QUOTE-------------

So, after you've begun selling Science Fiction or Fantasy to markets that pay advances, you should seriously consider joining various writer organizations such as sfwa.org and/or http://www.epicorg.com/index.php 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Varieties of Marriage

Rereading MARRIAGE, A HISTORY, by Stephanie Coontz (author of the incisive study of so-called “traditional” families in the 50s and 60s, THE WAY WE NEVER WERE), I’m fascinated by the astonishing variety of marriage arrangements described in Chapters 1 and 2. Any romance writer would benefit from reading this book; it reveals so much potential for culture clash and interpersonal conflict springing from marriage customs. The subtitle, HOW LOVE CONQUERED MARRIAGE, emphasizes a major theme of the book, that throughout most of history marriages were formed for economic and political advantages, not to fulfill the partners’ need for love and intimacy. If love grew between spouses, that was a nice bonus, but it would have seemed absurd to base something as important as an alliance between two families on mere emotion. In fact, some cultures were downright suspicious of romantic love between husband and wife, because a right-thinking person owed more loyalty to his or her family of origin than to a spouse.

Believe it or not, there’s one Earth culture that doesn’t have the institution of marriage in any form—the Na people of southwestern China. Adults live in households composed of their brothers and sisters, where the children of the sisters are brought up. Babies are conceived through casual sexual encounters, and a father has no rights or responsibilities in regard to his offspring. Among all the other societies that do have marriage in one form or another, the true “traditional” marriage is, of course, polygamy, specifically polygyny, a family of one husband and several wives. That’s the dominant form marriage has taken in the majority of places throughout history. Polyandry, the marriage of one woman to two or more men, exists but is much rarer, and the co-husbands are usually brothers. We take it for granted that husband and wife live together, but there have been many cultures in which the spouses have separate residences and the husband simply visits his wife and children occasionally. While European traditions assume that inheritance passes through the paternal line, in matrilineal cultures a child belongs to his or her mother’s lineage, and the dominant male figure in the child’s life is the mother’s brother, not the child’s father. (Heinlein uses this model in the future society of FARNHAM’S FREEHOLD. Also, in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS he portrays a human colony on the Moon where several types of marriage are practiced.) Among Eskimos, “cospousal” arrangements existed in which two couples regularly had sexual relations with each other’s spouses. The community viewed all children of both couples as siblings. Coontz mentions South American tribes that believed a child could have multiple fathers. Any man who had sexual relations with the woman during her pregnancy was deemed a father of the child, and the more fathers, the better. In China, some women were wedded in “ghost marriages,” pledging themselves as wives to dead men. This custom served as a method not only to forge ties between families but also to allow women who didn’t want to marry in the “normal” way to keep some degree of independence. Moreover, some African and Native American societies allowed same-sex marriage, regarding gender roles as more important than biological sex. Socially sanctioned temporary marriages have existed, such as “wife for a day” in some Middle Eastern cultures (the partners have no subsequent ties, except that if a child is born, he or she is counted as legitimate and the father has support obligations) or the trial “year and a day” marriage in some medieval European settings.

In fiction, if a human character should fall in love with a humanoid alien whose world follows one of these customs, imagine the conflicts that could arise. Could love overcome the culture shock? Suppose, for instance, a proposal of marriage was offered and accepted, and only later did the human character discover the union was meant to be temporary. Or suppose a human protagonist brought up with the ideal of monogamy finds that the passionate alien lover already has a spouse and expects the new love to feel perfectly happy about a polygamous union. Romeo and Juliet had smooth prospects by comparison. (Their families belonged to the same culture, socioeconomic level, and religion. If it hadn’t been for that silly feud, the union would have been viewed as ideal.)

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Worldbuilding with Fire And Ice Part 8: Point of View

Here's the link to PART 7 of Worldbuilding with Fire And Ice:

Part 7 has a link to Part 6 which has links to previous parts. 

This is a series of blog posts on developing fiction based on themes about "Fire and Ice" (things that mix explosively) such as religion and politics, or Romance and Science Fiction.  Mind and Emotion.  Fact and Opinion.  Name a pair, any pair that explodes, and examine how they mix microscopically - you'll find there are certain principles of writing craft, structural principles, that once mastered can be used routinely to mix-up any pair of explosives, or pairs of pairs.  This series of posts is about training your subconscious to bring those principles to bear on any mixture of subjects -- any subjects.  Put the conflict into the worldbuilding, then forget about it and just tell your story.  That conflict will drive your plot.  But it won't work for you unless you discipline and train your subconscious.  Some people are born with well trained subconscious creativity, and others have to train for this job -- but the end result will be the same. 

So -- to work!

I saw a tweet on twitter by a blogger who's got a book out that's Science Fiction with Christian characters.  He has some good comments on Amazon from folks who loved this angle, but a few readers objected to mixing Christianity into Science Fiction.

Their objections sounded, to me, just like the objections we get for mixing Romance into Science Fiction. 

You can read his quoted reader comments and blog post, with my replies, here:

The provocative title is:
Does Faith Belong in Sci-Fi?

And the comments that sparked it:

“I have nothing against Christian or Christian writers, but when I want a ‘Christian’ story, I will buy one. When I want military Science Fiction, that is what I want.”

“Pages upon pages of God this and God that … Oh GOD cut it out! If I want to be preached to, I’ll go to a sermon. When I read military science fiction, I want a good story, NOT a spiritual rant.”

“The main character had a fixation on the Bible. For no apparent reason he would start thinking about his ‘faith,’ question god’s ‘plan,’ do some soul-searching, then decide he is doing what god ‘wants’ him to do. It seemed like the author went back after writing the book and decided as a christian that there weren’t enough references to his faith, so he crammed in some more.”
----------END QUOTE-----------

Doesn't that sound familiar?  Substitute "Love Conquers All" or "Romance" or "does he or doesn't he?" for "God" and it's the SAME PROBLEM. 

So after I posted what you'd expect of me, all about writing craft techniques and tools being the solution (which is true), I kept on thinking about this problem.

It's a problem of an artist living inside one VIEW of the universe trying to communicate the human-drama experienced by a character living in that artist's view of the universe TO a reader who's living in a different view of the universe.

That's the problem faced by HAPPILY EVER AFTER writers trying to rev up the juices of readers who are convinced by real-life experiences that the very notion of HEA is ridiculous and not even worthy of a Fantasy story.

Then I saw a post by a screenwriter I admire no end (because he works with this problem constantly).  He's author of the novel ALONGSIDE NIGHT which is becoming a film, and the author/producer of a film I absolutely adore LADY MAGDALENE with Nichelle Nichols as a brothel owner in Nevada (where it's legal). 

I think this link will lead to this thread:

J Neil Schulman
Just because I've been convinced by experience God exists doesn't mean I am intellectually any less skeptical or any less epistemologically rigorous than when I was an atheist. It comes down to what one accepts as valid data. I have internal data I can't share -- which is why I don't ask anyone to take my word about it on faith.
--------------END QUOTE--------------

Within minutes, 14 people "liked" that statement, and there were over 70 comments, mostly a back-and-forth between a few people who like to argue (not FIGHT, argue) which I adore, too.  Arguing is almost a lost artform today, especially on Facebook where name-calling has replaced argument. 

Way down that list of answers is my comment:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Absolutely valid position, in fact J Neil Schulman may have articulated the only valid position. The entire premise of God is what philosophy professionals call a "non-falsifiable hypothesis" -- and the most intransigent followers of any religion get that intransigence from some kind of very personal, very tailored to their individual identity, EXPERIENCE (i.e. Revelation). The Divine "reveals" itself to individuals. As far as I know, there's only one recorded instance of God speaking directly to an entire Nation, as a Group, in PUBLIC, and that's the one recorded as happening at Mount Sinai. What anyone living today makes of that record -- ah, well, there are so many interpretations!!! Since we're talking about The Infinite, I doubt it's valid to call any of those interpretations "wrong."
----------------END QUOTE---------------

So, as writers looking for a THEME and a MARKET full of people interested in that theme, you can see where I'm going with this FIRE AND ICE series.

Religion, Politics, Philosophy, and the currently dominant branch of Philosophy known today as "Science" -- the "Age of Enlightenment" (I do hope you all know the history of the philosophical movement known as "Enlightenment" (which might be argued is actually the age of "Endarkenment" if you want a dynamite theme to worldbuild from!) -- this is explosive stuff which is center stage today. 

If you're not familiar with it or can't quite remember, try this link to brush up on it or search Wikipedia:


It's all very confusing and full of name-calling.  But as you re-read up on Thomas Paine, keep doing the Science Fiction thinking I've been showing you how to do, and keep asking,

"What if Thomas Paine's disaffected Mormonism is the source of a totally fallacious worldview that's been co-opted and re-purposed by displaced Aristocrats who want their thrones back?" 

There's an alternate universe Romance in that premise question, if you read what's circulating on the internet now not as "fact" but as the new popular mythology that you can re-purpose into a worldbuilding exercise.

Here's the writing technique clue you need to filter all this information through:

Every story that has a Beginning, Middle, and End, has a plot-structure based on two things, the Objective and the Stakes.  What the Hero needs to achieve is the Objective, and what the Hero stands to lose if he/she doesn't achieve it is the Stakes. 


A character looking at his/her world from the Faith point of view (doesn't matter which religion, an alien religion would work just fine), discerns a different objective to the entire point of living a life than a character parsing the world from the agnostic or atheistic point of view.

To create a character who is internally consistent enough to seem "real" to readers of all stripes, you as the writer have to know what that character's take is on the objective of that character's very existence. 

The character DOES NOT NEED TO KNOW, and for verisimilitude, shouldn't actually, consciously, verbalize that objective!  That's the writing craft error that many writers trying to portray a character with Faith often make.

The writer has to choose a Life Objective around which to build a Character, then portray (in show don't tell) a consistent decision making process that always points toward that objective, very clearly, very unambiguously.

Real life is ambiguous in this area; fictional life has to be unambiguous at this level and ambiguous at the level where real life is unambiguous - think of an old fashioned photographic negative.  If you want the negative to print positive, it has to be the reverse of the image you want.  That's what the fiction writer must accomplish - create the negative that the reader will convert to a positive-print.

In real life, we think we hold one life objective sacred, but our actions and decisions actually point at another objective.  We are driven by our subconscious opinion on life's objective, not the conscious one.  The "together" person is one whose conscious and subconscious opinion on the objective of their life is the same.  People with an Internal Conflict have a disparity between conscious and subconscious beliefs about themselves.  This produces Plot Events in our lives that conflict, draw us in opposite directions, muddy the waters, make everything ambiguous.  "Story" is the sequence of bringing those two sets of beliefs into agreement, alignment, relieving that conflict.

The artist's job is to single out one clear thread of that pea-soup of confusion we live in and portray the Problem and it's Resolution in a way that casts light (enlightenment?) on that specific thread. 

Criss-crossing too many threads results in the kind of responses you see on the blog entry, Does Faith Belong in Sci Fi? 

So the writer chooses a philosophical LIFE OBJECTIVE for the character then unambiguously delineates the character's decisions as pointing at that life objective. 

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean by an objective:

One faith might see the object of Life as "Die in such a way as to go to Heaven."

Another faith might see the object of Life as "Live in such a way as to draw the Love of the Divine Creator into this world." 

The reader then can "read" all those character-decisions and, for themselves, FIGURE OUT what that character's life-objective is.  It's a rule in learning and teaching - what you figure out for yourself, you own, you possess, you have a right to USE in ways that benefit yourself as well as others.

Figuring it all out for themselves, readers then feel "empowered" too use this Faith-based view of the universe in whatever way they see fit (including discarding or scoffing at it in public). 

It's not the writer's job as an artist to TELL the reader what's right and what's wrong, what is and what is not.  It is the writer's job as an artist to ASK THE QUESTIONS that the reader, in the confusion of life, can't quite get off the tip of their tongues.


The Stakes is the other element that structure's a Plot.

The Stakes work best as a plot element when the character holds the idea verbally, consciously, right up front, visually reinforced.

The Stakes have to be obvious, shown in vivid imagery.  The Objective Of Life is unconscious; The Stakes are conscious.

Now, the Faith Based Character's view of the world is seen through the window of the Faith-formed Objective of a)life in general and b) his/her life in particular (such as a priest may have a Calling - each life may have an assigned Calling).

The Faith Based Character sees what there is to lose in a very different way from the Agnostic or the Atheist, and that contrast gives you amazing power to create conflict in your plots and your stories.

The Faith Based Character sees The Stakes as "Souls" -- and in the case of Romance, Soul-mates, getting the right two people together so they can have the right children at the right time in order to (whatever the stakes are in that religion).  It may be to save the world, save just one soul, save the universe. 

The Faith Based character rarely sees The Stakes as Money, A McMansion, A Corner Office at work, A Promotion. 

The Faith Based character will do "the right thing" even when any reasonable, rational view of the situation tells you that the act will result in massive loss -- of life, of job, of money, of inheritance, of a Good Name (ratting out the drug cartel boss and losing credibility with his minions because of it?).  The Faith Based Character is likely to be the Whistle Blower, the one stubborn Congressman who refuses to vote for a particular bill.

Many times, such actions are viewed as "do the right thing and damn the consequences" -- as utterly unreasonable behavior, or as "brave" behavior because the unacceptable consequences obviously will destroy what the character most values (their marriage, for example).

But that's not it at all, from the Faith Based perspective.

From the Faith Based perspective, the OBJECTIVE is not to amass wealth, prestige, position, material reward, or to live smoothly within "the system."  The Objective of that character, (perhaps unknown to the character) is whatever their Faith holds dear (getting into Heaven, obeying God, whatever it is).

So what appears to the Secular character as irrational and unreasonable behavior is actually rational and reasonable given the OBJECTIVE and the STAKES -- both of which are likely to be Soul-based for the Faith Based Character.

Likewise, to the Faith Based Character the Secular Character's choices and actions appear irrational, unreasonable, stubborn, and above all DOOMED. 

The Faith Based Character does not see material wealth, position, fame, dominance, winning, as "at stake" -- that is liable to be lost if he chooses to do something that would logically cause their loss.

To the Faith Based Character, material wealth, position, etc. are gifts from God which are blessings if properly earned by acting to achieve the Faith's Objective, and curses if acquired by acting against the Faith's Objective.

The Faith Based Character knows he/she can't possibly lose anything of value when acting to achieve the Faith's objective.

Using these parameters in points-of-view, you can block your canvass and begin worldbuilding the background against which your characters must play out this conflict.

Now, put yourself into that mindset, then into the mindset of the Faith Based Character's opponent.  The Opponent can't predict the Faith Based Character's actions without understanding the Faith's Objective -- and the Secular Opponent can't never grasp that, nor can the Faith Based Character explain it because it isn't consciously grasped, it isn't verbalizable.

The Secular Opponent can have no other emotional reaction to the Faith Based Character's (random) successes than utter FEAR, but that fear must remain subconscious because to admit it is to open the door to Faith itself.

Now, put these two Opponents at odds over winning a particular Mate.  It can be a Love Triangle situation, an ex-spouse or live-in situation -- even a Gay Couple where one falls in love with someone of the opposite gender. 

Now suppose these 3 Characters are all running for Public Office, or perhaps up for a major promotion, or vying for a CEO position.

Now suppose they're doing that on another planet where the Faiths are all different from what we have here.

Can you see the endless potential of tossing a really well drawn Faith Based Character into your story?  It alters the paradigm, creates avenues of action that would never be considered by the other characters -- because they're "irrational." 

And if you do your worldbuilding assiduously, you can use a Faith Based Character to shape your plot without demanding that all your readers be of the same faith as your character. 

Mix Religion, Politics and Sexuality at the core of your worldbuilding and your plots explode off the page.  Get your reader gibbering inarticulately over your characters' doings, and they will talk to all their friends about your novel, because it's so outrageous and mystifying.  That will make you a best seller.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 07, 2012

"What To Do Before Your Book Launch" by M J Rose and Randy Susan Meyers

Yesterday, (Saturday October 6th), I had the privilege and pleasure of hosting a discussion with international bestselling author M J Rose and her co-author Randy Susan Meyers on my "Crazy Tuesday On Alternate Saturdays" radio show.


M J Rose and Randy Susan Meyers have just released a How-To book called "What To Do Before Your Book Launch" which is attracting ecstatic reviews.

What To Do Before Your Book Launch is a guide for authors, covering everything from working with your publisher, to reading in public, to help for publicity and marketing, to using (and misusing) social media, to how to dress for your author photo . . . and far more, including cautionary tales, worksheets, timelines and etiquette tips.

 “A fantastic resource for every writer in search of an audience. Nuts and bolts, elbow grease, and optimism are on every page of this worthwhile guide. Whatever it costs, it’s worth it.”
—Betsy Lerner, author of The Forest for the Trees

I bought my copy on Amazon, because Barnes and Noble didn't have the non-digital version. The ebook price is $5.99 , at the moment the print edition is just over $10.00, which is a probably a special offer for a limited time.

After we chatted about how M J Rose and Randy decided to work together on this project, and how they handled the process of collaborating (writing alternate chapters, with Randy expanding on some of her articles on her blog such as 10 Things To Do.... which I could not locate but I did find MJ's 11 Things NOT To Do When Your Book Launches ) we delved into specific topics and tips.
One of the counter-productive "things" that all too many authors do is to annoy internet friends, followers and acquaintances with a constant stream of Buy/Like/Review/Endorse/Vote For/Read my book pitches and pleas. Unlike other sorts of spam, this tactic (according to studies MJ Rose has seen) is only effective 1% of the time.

1% ! I had no idea that it was as bad as that. I'd always assumed that my response to these Friend Spam pitches was atypical, and that I must be an extremely grumpy killjoy, or worse. Apparently not.

MJ Rose makes the point in the above-mentioned 11 Things list, too. I love Thing #8
 8. Don’t expect all your writer friends whose books you have not read and not praised, to read yours and praise it.

"So what," I asked, "does work?"

Graciously and precisely, MJ Rose and Randy told me the secret to using Twitter effectively to promote oneself as an author... and the secret does not involve Tweeting a chapter or two, 140 characters at a time.

Another mistake (I love to learn from other people's mistakes) too many authors make is to put the BUY buttons somewhere discreet on their websites. The end of a sample chapter is not the place. Visitors must be able to find the BUY button before they can count to two. Before their browser crashes.

MJ Rose generously shared a true story of a mistake she made with a photograph of herself that turned off readers so much that they vowed never to purchase anything of hers. It was an attractive and decent shot, too. If you are curious, listen to  10/06/12 M.J. Rose & Randy Susan Myers, What to do
                                                         Before You Launch Your Book

 Find it here. http://pwrtalk.ning.com/page/r-cherry

Randy revealed the answer to one of the greatest mysteries of doing a book reading. How much to read? The answer is.... Nine minutes max. Among the other tips: abridge your scene so there is a beginning, middle and end. Keep the excerpt to action and dialogue. Description doesn't work well at a reading. My show lasted an hour (with breaks every twelve minutes), and contained a lot of good stuff.  This is the first time in years that I've done a show and then actually gone online and purchased my guests' book!

Thanks for listening.
Rowena Cherry
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/