Thursday, November 29, 2012

Next Big Thing

I agreed to take part in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, a promotion happening right now in which authors answer questions about their current works in progress. It works sort of like a chain letter. Each author answers the interview questions on her own blog and “tags” the blog URLs of the author who invited her and a few other writers who will be participating next in line. So here goes:

What is your working title of your book?

PASSION IN THE BLOOD, which will probably change. It refers to the metaphor of vampiric heritage being “in the blood” for the heroine because of her maternal bloodline.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Partly from the ancient vampire in Anne Rice’s series who acts as guardian for her family line through the centuries. I got interested in the idea of a vampire who has vowed to protect the family of his first human lover, watches over them in secret for a century and a half, and falls in love with one of their descendants, the heroine.

What genre does your book fall under?

Vampire romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Maybe a young Louis Jourdan for the hero. I loved him as Dracula in the BBC miniseries.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Cordelia’s twin sister is kidnapped, Cordelia must turn to an old family friend for help and discovers, to her amazement, that not only is he a vampire, he knows secrets about her own parentage she never suspected.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan to submit it to an e-publisher that has released other works of mine.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Three or four months altogether, which is typical for me. However, this one was unusual because I stopped working on it about two-thirds of the way and came back to finish it over a year later.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe some of Amanda Ashley’s vampire romances (in her approach to the motif, not that I claim to be on her level!).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Partly the desire to create a slightly unusual heroine for a vampire romance and give the vampire hero a plausible reason to find her attractive.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My vampires belong to a naturally evolved species, not supernatural. The mother who abandoned the heroine and her twin sister, unknown to them, was a vampire, accounting for the psychic powers the heroine has.


Celia Breslin

Amber Skyze

Berengaria Brown

I'll write about Darkover next week.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Your Romance Novel Really A TV Mini Series?

What is a TV Mini Series? 

How is a TV Mini Series different from a novel?  (or is it?) 

At the end of July, I did a post here on the lack of variety and reruns of TV Series. 

My cry was "Where Is Everybody?"  -- meaning that the coordinated shutdown of TV series (new and used) meant simply that the cable delivery system is in failure-mode, that audiences have packed up and moved away.

Of course, by September we had new shows gallore vieing for eyeballs, and there is more than I can watch in my sparse and shrinking TV hours.  But the point is still valid.  Those hiatus weeks never were that barren when there were only 3 channels that broadcast only 5-11 PM. 

And of course I know where everybody went.  Besides "gaming" -- people are leaving CABLE TV in droves.

What little TV Fiction time anyone has left these days is easily filled by "streaming" services like Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Amazon Instant Video.  Both movies and TV Mini Series are available very quickly on streaming services.  Those who watch story-format trends indicate that the TV Series episodic format with story-arc is still growing in popularity as people wait for an entire season of shows to go up on Netflix or Amazon or DVD and then watch them all at once. 

And now Amazon is making movies, and I know of at least one other Web TV Streaming company planning to leap into the movie business. 

One kind of property that lends itself remarkably well to to the TV Mini Series format  -- or any video streaming delivery of series like pod casts - is Romance.  Romance stories have both built-in suspense lines (will she/ won't she?) and broad relevance to the lives of anyone, any where and any time. 

So what is the structure of the TV Mini Series that makes it so suitable to the novel type story? 

Have you ever read a novel that is divided into Part I, Part II, Part III ?  Or perhaps Book 1, Book 2, Book 3? 

Why is that single volume divided instead of being published as three separate items to hold, a trilogy? 

The reasons are various, of course, but here is what to watch for as you analyze your favorites:

A) The Parts or Books are so deeply connected you can't read them as stand-alone or separate parts.
B) The Parts or Books are too short for modern distribution to handle commercially as separate units.
C) The Parts or Books are set in different places, about different people, or in separate times. 

Then there is the non-fiction TV Mini Series structure.  These are usually documentaries, often with some kind of agenda, sometimes political.  They try to summarize the history of events, or present new evidence.

Think of the J.F. Kennedy assassination documentaries, or the wonderful compendium of episodes covering World War II which was, as a TV Mini Series titled "Victory At Sea." 

There are several DVD parts on Amazon, and it's all available streaming.

There are 16 parts to this one, but Parts 1 to 4 run collectively 1 hour and 47 minutes.  These were originally broadcast on TV after being collected from Theater "short subjects" as half hour episodes -- half hour broken by commercials.

The collection tells the story of World War II in the PACIFIC THEATER, not Europe.  It's only half the story! 

Now think of all the really great biographies you've read.  Usually a Biography or Autobiography will cover the entire lifetime of a long-lived person.  But somehow the scattered events are collected in threads that display the cause-effect-connection (what I've termed the Because Line in novel structure in previous posts) among events separated by decades. 

When you can see the overview of an entire lifetime, all arranged to display the connections, somehow "life" begins to make sense. 

In actuality, a life such as Theodore Bikel's is a TV Miniseries more than it is a novel -- there's growing up, there's the war itself, there's being a refugee, there's pursuing an education in Theater in England, there's a Movie and TV Career, there's today which is totally amazing.  But taken as a whole, it's not a novel but a T.V. Mini Series.

You can see that periodic yet flowing structure in his autobiography, THEO.

Is a biography or autobiography fiction or non-fiction? 

My answer to that is "hybrid" -- to be riveting and revealing, a biography has to have been constructed with the techniques of the fiction writer that I've been harping on in these blog posts.  You need to see the entire LIFE as A STORY -- but you also must compose that story out of the selected facts.  A biography or autobiography is not a transcription of every word a person said, everything they did from details of getting dressed in the morning to what they ate at every single meal. 

No, the story of a life is a STORY that happens to be factual.  And as I see it, it can't be a story without ROMANCE. 

What does that tell you about fiction?  About novels?  About romance novels in particular? 

We created the novel form from the basic "story" told around campfires -- which were pretty much morality tales and history re-packaged so children would remember it and tell their children.  Why do we remember history?  Because those who don't are doomed to repeat it.

So a TV Mini Series is a "series" first just as any piece of fiction is a "story" structured just exactly like real life.

We've spent some time this year studying our "real" world -- from politics to religion, and how to mix them - as a means of building fictional worlds that readers can immerse themselves in, feeling as if they are in a real world. 

So now we have the hang of building a fictional environment out of the components of reality shared with our readers.

Building a world is a huge task, which is why so many writers get lazy and just use reality.  Another popular form now is "Urban Fantasy" -- and again, the writer doesn't have to create anything except the elements that differ from the reader's everyday reality.  That also makes it easier for the reader to enter that world -- and it makes it easier to focus the story on the characters and their quirks.

But if you build an entire "world" for a piece of fiction, the only way to make it economical is to recycle it - to use that same set of rules and inventions in other stories.

When you change the STORY but keep the WORLD the same -- you have a series. 

Sometimes, as in a biography, the character is the same person at different stages of life, with accumulating experience redirecting decisions and life-policies.  An example could be the before and after of a drug addict.  Or you might consider the before and after of a single character who has lost an enormous amount of weight (say 150 lbs).

The TV Mini Series structure would then start with the character as a child, perhaps chubby but normally so, do a second episode about the Teen who is in angst and misery gaining weight, a third episode in college with all the rejection and things the overweight person couldn't do leading maybe to an eating disorder, ultra emaciation, then ballooning weight gain.  Then an episode about the therapy undergone to address this horrendous problem. 

Then ending with an episode about the person attaining a normal weight.  And a final episode proving the normal weight was maintained, and summing up what went wrong that caused this weight syndrom, and how fixing what went wrong actually caused other things in that life to go "wrong."  All of the "right" and "wrong" of weight issues are value judgements which make dynamite material (I mean explosive!) for fiction because they are so real in life. 

Such a TV Mini Series could be focused on ROMANCE -- the deep, committed and fulfilling romantic relationships of an extremely overweight person might be a healthy romantic relationship which would simply not survive the weight-loss efforts because it would be inappropriate to the thinner individual, who might then be miserable with loneliness until some other true-mate came along. 

How weight affects the establishment and maintaining of a healthy relationship could be a dynamite theme for a story, but you couldn't cover the nuances in a 90 minute feature film.

A "life" like that has so many phases, each with a theme, each theme related to previous life-themes and generating successive life themes -- and that is the essence of the structure of a TV Mini Series. 

Of course today, when you think TV Mini Series, you should think in terms of video delivery, of YouTube video trailers, and Kickstarter funding.

I recently got into a discussion of music in general which triggered a memory of this long-ago TV Series which wasn't a "TV Mini Series" but had a very long run.  It was informative, tackled the hottest topics of the day, illuminated issues, and educated viewers.  This was so long ago that TV viewers were expected to have an attention span much longer than those who've grown up on Sasame Street. 

I remember many of these shows vividly, but not all of them. Mostly I remember the feeling of anticipation, the reveling in the sheer joy of discovery, and most of all the introductory music and image collage.

Remembering the music, I rummaged in my mind for the title of "that old TV Series" -- and after a few days what surfaced was the word OMNIBUS.

But I couldn't remember the moderator, though I do remember how incredibly impressive he was.

So I googled Omnibus TV Series and came to the wikipedia page

that said Alistair Cooke. It's a very short entry but reminded me why the series was so impressive. It won a lot of really hard-to-win awards.

If you are looking for a TV Series on DVD to share with your kids over dinner on Sunday night, try this series.

If you want to study exactly how to put together a non-fiction TV Series that will be remembered for decades, get this DVD.

Now don't forget this is very primitive video because they didn't have much back then, and it's amazing it still exists. It's the material and presentation -- the title, the music, the manner of the moderator, but most of all the "make-the-most-of-limited-means" production.

The production values may look laughable now, but look at how this was funded by grant money -- it was an exceptionally low budget creation that relied wholly on content and elegance of technical execution.

If you are aiming to produce something for YouTube or to write a low-budget movie script, this TV Series is where to start studying how it's done. Penetrating and Memorable.

Here's from the Amazon page.  This is not the whole series of shows -- but a Mini Series excerpted. 

The People That Fascinated Us
The Places That Defined America

The Golden Age of Television's most distinguished production, Omnibus brought sophistication, refinement and sparkling intelligence to a national audience. Featuring such luminaries as Alistair Cook, Don Hewitt and Richard Leacock, this historic 2-disc collection features fourteen segments (broadcast between the years 1952 to 1960) that examine the iconic people and places that shaped American pop culture and society.

1. Philippe Halsman
2. William Faulkner
3. Frank Lloyd Wright
4. Pearl Buck - "My Several Worlds"
5. E.B. White - "A Maine Lobsterman"
6. Sugar Ray Robinson visits Stillman's Gym
7. James Thurber - Man and Boy
8. How the F-100 Got Its Tail
9. Leonard Bernstein's Musical Travelogue

1. The New York Times
2. Toby and the Tall Corn
3. Grand Central: Portrait of a Railroad Terminal
4. Dr. Seuss Explores the Museum that Ought to Be
5. New York's Night People

Also includes 20 page booklet with written contributions by Richard Leacock, Rosemary Thurber, Edgar S. Walsh and the Archive of American Television
-----------END QUOTE------------

I suspect this bottomless well of HISTORY is one big place "everybody went" -- that giant swaths of what used to be "the TV Audience" is now the "Streaming Audience" and people are exploring the wonder of old movies, the wealth of new releases rushed to DVD and streaming, and elegant old TV shows resurrected from the vaults. 

If you want to write a TV Mini Series, do something that will be remembered like Omnibus, or Victory At Sea, and encapsulate a slice of the reality of the 2012 world, the 20-teens as it were.  What you do may not be valued until decades from now, but when it is, then that will be where "everybody went."

Take for example the TV Mini Series I outlined on the issue of weight.  Make the story about Romance in today's world for the overweight woman -- and twenty years from now when a stem-cell genetic fix is available and nobody is overweight any more, your story will be a classic avidly watched on whatever replaces streaming video.  What a strange, bizarre, even cruel world we live in today.  DOCUMENT IT IN FICTION. 

Or maybe a lot sooner than 20 years!  a news story about do-it-yourself at-home genetic engineering. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Google Mistakes And Conspiracy Theories As Inspiration

According to Huffington Post articles, there are new (CIA-built?) islands that exist, but do not officially exist, and sandy islands that exist on Google maps, but do not "really" exist when curious ship captains try to find them.|main5|dl1|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D237724

One never knows what to believe in these days of photoshopping.... but inquiring minds could come up with explanations. A really big pod of green whales. A floating raft of green debris. A spaceship. A rising and falling caldera, similar to the one in Yellowstone only in the middle of a shallow part of the ocean instead of in a landlocked National Park. Something Dr. No. Or was it Moonraker?

If your own imagination fails, check out the Comments. There are a number of highly imaginative denizens on the internet who will comment on stories, and thanks to the rabid proponents of Privacy and a free internet, they could never be traced. So, their plot points for a potential speculative story are fair game, I should think.
One cannot copyright ideas, only the expression of ideas.

Happy Bargain-Hunting to those who shop!
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Can Animals Be Persons?

Here’s a provocative article on animal rights and the definition of “personhood”:
When Does an Animal Count as a Person?
As one of the quoted experts points out, defining “person” in a way that includes some animals has pitfalls, mainly the hazard that the definition would exclude some human beings (as, in fact, bioethicist and animal rights radical Peter Singer deliberately does, if I understand him accurately). Can we have "degrees" of "personhood," so that dolphins and chimps can be included on a sort of sliding scale?
This weekend I’ll be attending the Darkover Grand Council, as usual. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Guest Post Experiences From Twitter: RIXSHEP on Cons and RPG

On #scifichat on twitter, in September, we set a topic for convention experiences for the following week, and one of the more interesting twit-folk @rixshep found me on Facebook and gave me the following information to relay during the next week's chat -- when he would not be able to attend.

Since RPG and especially online RPG, Star Trek, with a counterpoint undertone of my own Sime~Gen Novels, are going to become an ongoing topic on this blog next year, I wanted to give you these URLs.


Howdy, Ms. Lichtenberg!

I know I don't get to #scifichat as much these days, or to your blog page, as much as I would like. Probably won't improve much in the near future. But, considering next week's #scifichat topic, I wanted to pass some items along to you, that I thought you might appreciate.

Back when I had a lot more time, I used to do a lot of role play on a site known as The Keep. Chat based stuff. Over time, I created a couple of rooms and characters that got a lot of mileage.

One was a typical Dungeons and Dragons / Forgotten Realms type fantasy tavern that was very successful. It was called The Prattling Pirate Inn and Tavern. The other was a scifi tavern that never got used as well, imo. It was The Stardust Lounge on Starbase 12. This one is based on Starbase 12 from Ishmael by Barbara Hambly, and the lounge itself is loosely based on Draco Tavern by Larry Niven.

(By the way, Yesterday's Son by Crispin and Ishmael by Hambly are two of my favorite Trek novels. Another big one with me is How Much for Just the Planet? by John Ford. It is a parody musical, and one of the characters in it is Ann Crispin!)

For various reasons, I think you would appreciate some of what was done with these fantasy/scifi taverns. So, here are the links to these two places. I think you will like the scifi one better.

The Prattling Pirate Inn:

The Stardust Lounge at Starbase 12:

I will be traveling all day next Friday, so may not get to participate, and if I do, I won't have any of my files available.

Meanwhile, good luck with the contract work on the game!

Rick Shepherd / rixshep
Prattling Pirate Inn

JL: Oh, thank you! I'm going to put those links into the blog, if you don't mind.

Rick: Not at all. The link for the starbase is in The Keep, and it goes away after a couple of weeks, if I don't renew it. Eventually I will get it added as a distinct page on the other website where I keep the pic of the Prattling Pirate Inn. Hope you like them! Btw, I was thrilled to hear you had a hand in Ann Crispin getting started! Very nice!
-----------Chat Conversation End--------------

You can follow Rick on twitter as @rixshep

He mentioned YESTERDAY'S SON by A. C. Crispin because I had mentioned on this week's chat that I had agented that book -- a topic which came up because the guest for the chat was:

James Kahn  who was a (terrific) guest on #scifichat today.

He is @thatjameskahn on twitter

Here's the transcript of the chat:  

He has a new book out titled World Enough And Time.  Here is a whole page on Amazon with his Star Wars novels and other great stuff: 

James Kahn on Amazon

And I connected James Kahn with one of my favorite talk show hostesses, Lillian Cauldwell.  She wrote to him thusly:

Dear Mr. Kahn:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg recommended that I contact you and see if
you're interested in doing an interview over PWRTALK's airwaves.
You can find the station at and  or the newly upgraded

In the first six months of 2012, PWRTALK received an additional one million and one-half
new listeners from RETWEETS alone.
The network is heard in over 200 countries and our largest demographic base is college
and university students worldwide.

The following days and times are available for an interview. All times are Eastern.
All programs are LIVE, 30 minutes, RECORDED, and posted on the website,
social media, and heard for the next 3 months via PWRTALK's automatic
radio software. Over a 3 month period, your interview will be heard over 400
times. You can include a 30 second commercial advertising your books should
you wish.

Best regards,
Lillian S. Cauldwell
---------end excerpt ----------

Lillian's show will be running Black Friday author-specials Nov 22, 2012.

Lillian included a number of times, and he chose Monday, October 8th, 2012.  So now, in November, that interview should be available in the on demand section at Lillian's website. 

And James Kahn wrote back to me thanking me for connecting him to Lillian and saying we should keep in touch.  We're planning to meet at Worldcon in San Antonio. 

Now let's see who else we can connect to whom!  It's all about networking. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nature Wars

Here’s an article about conflicts caused by the overlapping of our cities and suburbs with the territories of wild animals, an unintended consequence of successful conservation and wildlife re-introduction efforts:

America Gone Wild: Nature Wars

This sentence really surprised me:

“It is very likely that in the eastern United States today more people live in closer proximity to more wildlife than anywhere on Earth at any time in history.”

But, then, it also came as a revelation to me when I learned, years ago, that what looked to me like the “wilderness” of Shenandoah National Park actually comprises new growth forest that sprang up after the human inhabitants were relocated for the establishment of the park.

I’m reminded of the recurrent controversy over bear hunts in western Maryland. The people of the western counties complain about the black bear nuisance they have to live with and want the beasts legally culled. I found it sort of boggling when I discovered that being “overrun” by bears equated to about 400 of them in the entire state. Of course, they aren’t evenly distributed, but clustered in the mountainous regions. A few years ago, a state legislator from one of the western districts introduced a bill (as a symbolic protest only, needless to say) mandating that bears should be introduced into every county in the state. In other words, “if you like bears so much, take some of ours.”

Some people in our own area complain about deer nibbling on their garden plants. We have deer in the park adjacent to our neighborhood, but they seldom wander onto residential streets, and we’ve never caught them grazing in our yard, so I still get a small thrill at a glimpse of a deer. Nevertheless, I can sort of understand the attitude of people who call them “rats with hooves”—while I don’t like the idea of having them killed unless they’re going to be eaten. In some cases, I tend to think the animals were here first, so we should adjust to them, not vice versa. Opportunistic species such as deer, however, have infiltrated some spaces where they didn’t live before we created attractive habitats for them.

A thought-provoking example of the quandaries we face in adjusting to “aliens” among us right here on present-day Earth.

We have a fox that sometimes takes refuge under our house. (Unless it's different foxes every time.) He or she makes odd noises but doesn't do any harm.

By the way, I recently launched my first foray into Kindle self-publication, DAYMARES FROM THE CRYPT, a small collection of horror and fantasy verse I produced in print many years ago. It contains the thirteen poems from the original chapbook plus three “bonus” pieces and has a lovely, eerie cover. It’s priced at 99 cents, the lowest Amazon allows:

Daymares from the Crypt

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chicon7 Con Report

Chicon7 was the World Science Fiction Convention for 2012 held the old traditional time of Labor Day weekend.

Here is a picture of my badge:

The cap is for the N3F, the National Fantasy Fan Federation, the first fan organization I ever joined.  It was founded by the founder of SFWA (Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers of America), damon knight.  that's correct - he always wrote his name with small letters, not capitals.  I'm now a Life Member of SFWA, too but don't have a cap. 

Note, I didn't collect a whole strip of ribbons as many people do (volunteer workers get ribbons, and various parties and causes hand out ribbons).   Here is Anne Pinzow's badge with a short-strip of ribbons - neat ones though.  Note the black one and the yellow one.

At each Worldcon, winners of sites for future conventions are announced. 

You can find the current worldcon's website by checking -- the only con website I seem to remember easily. 

2013 will be in San Antonio, TX; 2014 in London.

When Worldcon is not in North America, another convention is held called NASFIC - North American Science Fiction Convention. is the website listing links to the current NasFic when there is one -- though it often takes a while for that site to be updated. 

You can buy memberships online using credit cards and sometimes paypal at the convention's own website.  Travel, Hotel, and local eateries, handicap access, and convention program and volunteer (nobody gets paid to run these Events) opportunities are gradually filled in on the website, along with pdf copies of the progress reports from the committee. 

In 2014 NasFic will be in Tempe, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix reached via the main Phoenix airport PHX, Sky Harbor. 

This will be run by the organization that runs Leprecon and boy do they put on a great convention!
I plan to make it to this NasFic, and my writing partner, Jean Lorrah, is looking to make it to London. 

Worldcon is longer than most SF cons - 5 days instead of 3 or 4.  It has its own traditional internal calendar -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday "of Worldcon" -- whatever the calendar dates, those are the designations of "when" something happens.  There are also traditional time-slots for certain Events -- such as the Masquerade where costumes are presented on stage, and The Hugos, where a number of writing awards voted by members of Worldcon are announced and given out.

So, I arrived at Chicon7 late on Wednesday, rooming with my writing partner Jean Lorrah and with Anne Pinzow who is a professional journalist and was second in charge of the Press Room for Chicon7. 

I was on an adventure from the start of this trip as I had upgraded to a smartphone and was delighted with the various tools I now had available to deal with travel details and communicate with the people I needed to meet.

I knew it would be a great convention immediately when the bunch of us swarmed down to Con Registration and found a line waiting to get credentials.  PEOPLE is a real good sign for a con.

The Program Participant line was empty, though, and the fellow sitting there mournfully revealed that the "packets" for Program Participants hadn't arrived.  "Packets" are envelopes with your final official program items, a sticker for the back of your badge containing said program items, a program participant ribbon, instructions for panel moderators, general instructions about the Green Room, Program Operations Room, sometimes these days phone numbers and other data.  Conventions that hold successful "meet-n-greet" events for pros and fans usually include free drink tickets for the pros.  ChiCon7 didn't, and I think it's Chicago's "corkage" and union fees that jacked the price up beyond what a convention can afford.  They did hold a meet-n-greet at a nearby planetarium, but very few pros turned up.  It was at dinner time, and there was no real food served.

But as we milled about disappointed we couldn't get our program participant packets, someone called "Jacqueline!" from the L-Z section of the general Registration line, and suddenly the bunch of us were being handed our badges, lanyards to wear the badges, and a bag with pocket program, general program book, and we were off and running.

We now had hotel maps, our tentative program mail-outs from before the con had room names, so we went and hunted up the various places we'd need to be then found food and tucked in for the night.

We hit the ground running Thursday morning, but I don't remember what we did, just that I was already getting hoarse from talking constantly by the afternoon.  I think Jean Lorrah did a panel -- I recall the substance of the discussion but not exactly when it was.  Jean was brilliant.  I only had to remind her to mention the Star Trek novels she had done for Pocket appropos of the topic of collaborating.  TV Spinoff is "collaborating" because you must work within parameters set by others.

Then in the afternoon, Jean and I sat at the SFWA table in the dealer's room where I took this picture for the fellow sitting beside us who pointed and wished he had a picture.
A Helium Balloon in the Dealer's RoomDealer's Room

The convention provided a wi-fi connection via the Hyatt Regency's own system for "functions" -- and it was not sufficient and not available in many locations.  The Hyatt is two tall towers set over 3 deep underground layers of huge flex-spaces where trade shows are held.  And there's underground access to tunnels lined with shops and eateries, though some restaurants and grocery stores I recall from past years are gone.  Those lower areas had very spotty coverage.  The lobby and ground level areas had fine 3G coverage, but the wi-fi was slow -- so I was delighted my new smartphone gave me email, texts, voice phone, flight updates, weather, everything I needed to whiz through the immense convention area.

I was able to take that photo of the helium balloon above and just email it (using 3G) to the fellow who wanted it, and later to post it directly to Facebook for the Sime~Gen Group folks to get a laugh out of.

Also in scoping out the lay of the land, I realized I'd never remember all the businesses in the underground to tell my roommates about, so I photographed the list and the map which were posted on the wall by the entrance.

   That is a list of businesses which I was able to enlarge on my phone to the point where people I showed the phone screen to could read the words clearly.

Is a map of this huge area.

Mostly, I walked and talked on Thursday.  Jean had a reading at 4PM which I missed, and she read the opening of a new Sime~Gen novel she's working on.  I got to read it later -- it's going to be good! 

Friday was even busier.  Jean had a 10:30 panel, and I arrived at the noon panel I was moderating on time.  The topic was how we haven't gotten the flying cars and personal jet-packs Science Fiction promised us, but instead we got Cell Phones -- smartphones and the internet.  We had a nice spectrum of opinion on the panel, including the point of view that we have indeed gotten jet packs and flying cars, but they haven't been commercialized (yet). 

Right in the middle of the second round of comments from the panelists about how cell phones are changing the way we behave and accomplish things -- with people in the audience already putting their hands up with questions and comments -- my cell phone rang.  I'd forgotten to turn it off.  The room chuckled. 

I grabbed it, saw it was Anne Pinzow who was working the press room (a reveal my old phone would not have performed), answered with, "Not now I'm moderating a panel. Bye." and hung up. 

I shrugged a "Q.E.D." shrug at the audience.  The room burst out laughing. 

It was a precious moment, but I was thinking, "Press Room Calling Me????"   Jean and I had put our names on the list of authors available for media interviews, but Anne being professional wasn't about to promote us over anyone else.  We already had one web radio interview lined up for Sunday morning - more on that later.  An interview would reach more people than were in that overstuffed, standing room only, crowded room.  But there was no time to think about that.

Anne called Jean Lorrah - who was in the audience and went out to answer.

I continued with the panel topic, which was intimately related to my big news of the convention -- that we had a Game Producer interested in producing a Sime~Gen based RPG for handhelds such as cell phones and pads.

To get news about that Game, you can sign up for an infrequent newsletter at 

Or join the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook.

Or follow the newsletter blog:

It was an excellent panel and I handed out quite a few flyers afterward.

Then I was off to the convention's general autographing area where I was supposed to be from 3-4:30. 

Jean caught up with me and said Anne had a web-radio interview lined up for us at 4PM.  I cut out of the autographing a bit early, and we were a bit late getting all the way up to the Press Room, but got there as the media fellow was going from impatient to disappointed.

We set up in the Press Office because the Interview Room was occupied, and then we found out the topic was the legal aspects of being a writer in this day and age.  We got off to a slow start, but after a couple of questions Jean and I got into our duo-act and talked his ear off about Star Trek fanzines, the changes in the copyright laws, the relationship between Star Trek and Sime~Gen which also has a huge amount of fan fiction written by fans, and much about what a new writer in this new era has to know about contracts and law.

I haven't heard from him, so I don't know if that interview has aired.  I do know he has a lot of material to air since his partner on this webcast was at Dragoncon while he was covering Worldcon. 

I did use my cell phone again, though.  Anne had his card, so instead of writing down and losing his contact information, I photographed his card.  I was able to finger-spread the image big enough to read the print on the card.  I think I'm in love with my smartphone! 

After that, we were pooped, but couldn't fold up for the night yet because at 8PM there was the Sime~Gen Party.

One of the fans known as Kaires arranged the party and did a terrific job of publicizing it.  It went way past the stated mid-night, and the room roared.  Kaires and some of the others greeted people and gave them information about Sime~Gen's most recent (4 novels) publications and the Facebook Group

But I was busy introducing our newest acquaintance, the Game Developer, to various people I thought should be on the development team.  The connections worked, and these guys all hit it off splendidly with each other while observing the fans of the older novels discovering the brand new, never before published, novels -- or asking for more.

And of course many of them know each other and used to party to rendezvous before heading out to more parties.

Because the party ran so late, we got off to a slow start Saturday, and I spent the entire day in the Green Room talking with the Game Developer and the folks I'd introduced him to -- not about the plans for the Sime~Gen Game so much as just about all the science fiction loves we have in common (besides Star Trek that's a whole lot of stuff!)

Sunday started with the web radio interview with PWRTalk which also has video. 

I had arranged for the Game Developer, and the reader of the audiobook HOUSE OF ZEOR, Michael Spence, to join in this interview, and it worked out perfectly as we bounced the conversational ball around.  

I did another panel at 3PM and at 4:30 I had a "Reading" scheduled.  I have listened to many authors read their own work -- mostly with very mixed results unless the author has acting training.  I don't -- and I have a very bad voice, and just don't read aloud well.  So I dragooned Michael Spence into reading the first chapter of House of Zeor which he had recorded.  I was surprised how many people showed up -- for the most part author readings don't draw crowds (again unless the author is known to have stage training) -- and at first they were disappointed I wasn't going to give them another new Sime~Gen novel. 

However, by the time Michael got a couple paragraphs into HOUSE OF ZEOR, they were captivated.  Only a couple had heard the recorded version.  When Michael reads this book, it's a totally different book than you've read dozens of times to yourself! 

Currently, Michael is working on recording Marion Zimmer Bradley's first novel, SWORD OF ALDONES for and I can hardly wait for that.  He's done another Bradley title I love BRASS DRAGON too.  Readers of this blog know how I rave about Marion Zimmer Bradley, my writing mentor. 

On you can listen to samples of the titles before you buy.

After that final reading, we went to find something to eat then back to the room to pack and get ready to pull out the following morning. 

It was a busy convention, but all the while I was thinking that we were putting together the group that will work on the Sime~Gen Game at the same Event (a Chicago Worldcon) where Star Trek made it's debut.  How can you beat that?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Why a Non-Human?

That’s the title of one of the panels I’ll be on at this year’s Darkover con. The discussion topic inquires about the advantages and problems of writing from a nonhuman viewpoint. How would you answer this question?

In creating nonhuman characters, I find it useful to draw analogies with animals. The range of senses, abilities, and behavior found right here in Earth’s ecosystem is amazingly varied. A werewolf, naturally, can take on nonhuman traits by acting and thinking like a mundane wolf—for example, living in a pack structure and having a heightened sense of smell. The werewolf pack in one of Tanya Huff’s vampire novels follows the real-world wolf pattern by allowing only the alpha male and female to breed. The Shadowspawn, the vampire-shapeshifter-sorcerers in S. M. Stirling’s A TAINT IN THE BLOOD and COUNCIL OF SHADOWS, are described as hominids that evolved to become more like cats. They have the solitary tendencies of most felines and enjoy playing with their prey like cats. The naturally evolved vampires of Melanie Tem’s DESMODUS are basically giant, intelligent bats in everything except their quasi-humanoid body shape. Merfolk might have the biology and social structure of seals or dolphins. For instance, think of Madison in the movie SPLASH, shattering a store display full of TV screens with her near-ultrasonic voice.

Members of one of the quirkiest “alien” races in fantasy literature, the Nac Mac Feegle of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (based loosely on the pixies of folklore), live in mounds that function something like beehives, termite colonies, or mole rat dens. Only one female, the queen, breeds. She’s married to the chief of the clan and gives birth to hundreds of children, all sons except for one daughter. So all but one of her subjects are either her sons or her brothers-in-law. The daughter, upon maturity, leaves home to become queen mother of a different mound. has a page titled “Planet of Hats,” describing worlds inhabited by aliens who each have one defining characteristic that applies to all people of that species. For instance, in the Star Trek universe the Ferengi became defined by greed for profit and the Klingons as a Proud Warrior Race. An alien species and culture can be constructed by expanding upon traits of a real nation or ethnic group on Earth. A good writer, naturally, will create individualized, three-dimensional characters and avoid making every member of the fictional culture identical to the prevailing stereotype.

The main challenge of writing from an alien POV, of course, is to make the character feel alien while also retaining enough familiar traits to make him, her, or it comprehensible and sympathetic to a human reader. Drawing upon oddities of mundane animals’ biology and behavior is one way to make this balance work; using patterns from lesser-known Earth cultures, with variations, is another.

These are a few of my random thoughts about the panel topic. Does anybody have other suggestions?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Dialogue Part 5: How To Write Liar Dialogue

 Last week we reviewed several posts here on Dialogue.

This is a craft technique essential to characterization, plotting scene structure, creating an atmosphere, describing settings and objects in the setting, planting clues to the mystery.  It is not a good tool for narration or exposition.  In fact, it bores the reader right out of the story when used for exposition.

One way to use dialogue for exposition (talking ABOUT the theme) is to "show don't tell" the theme by detailing scenes in which characters lie to each other.  Nothing explicates a character's stance on "right and wrong" more clearly than their lies, tall tales, and the mannerisms accompanying the lie.  When, where, to whom, and why they lie creates a totally "off the nose" exposition on the ethics and morality of the world in which the characters live.

This being Election day, it's appropriate to consider the thesis of the the non-fiction book "You Can't Lie to Me" by Janine Driver.

Here is the book:

We all know what a hot, sexy topic lies can be -- it's a core topic in every Romance.  Does "I love you" really mean anything at all?  Why is it so IMPORTANT to hear those words?  Why does it change everything in a relationship? 

The thesis of this book may have something to unlock that mystery.

I've noticed something studying the astrological natal charts of Politicians.  Those elected to major offices all seem to be having a lifetime PEAK of solar arc contacts that indicate sexiness, interest in love, and artistic abilities. 

That could be WHY we see so many politicians embroiled in sexual infidelity and exploits that are otherwise inexplicable considering the stakes they are playing for in life. 

It's about POWER.  When the heavens open up and POUR into a human being, when you reach a time in life when sheer POWER flows through you -- it can crack open any flaw in your character.  Strengths become weakness. 

If you are given power you are not inwardly trained (from the cradle, trained and disciplined (Saturn) ) to handle, that power splashes out of the appropriate internal channel within the character and damages other parts of the character.  It's a basic principle of magic and explained quite clearly in astrology.

Hence we have the saying "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  I've never believed that and I still don't.  But it is an observed fact -- at least when observing from the outside of people.

I don't think power corrupts.  I think that when the character hasn't been developed by discipline as a child, (being raised to "power" as the old aristocracy raised a child to be King), what we observe from the outside as a "change" (i.e. corruption of values) is no change at all.  It's the illumination of what was there. 

If the "insulation" on a wire isn't strong enough, and you run too much current through it, the insulation melts and the current leaks out and causes a FIRE - houses  burn down because of frayed wiring.

A character flaw is like that -- the "insulation" on the circuits is built during childhood by discipline and the gradual increasing of the amount of personal power the individual must manage -- taking consequences for mistakes.

A PERSON is both born and raised -- there are inherent specifications on the insulation in the internal circuitry, but that insulation can become "frayed" by "life" (by not being raised to have a strong character).

Each of us has a limit to what we can handle in terms of "power."  Each limit is different.  And one can "get away with" carrying more than the limit for years and years -- but just like frayed wiring, a power-surge can burn off the insulation and cause a short-circuit, cause a "fire."

Understanding that gives a Romance writer (science fiction, Paranormal Romance or otherwise) an edge in creating a character who deceives or manipulates, betrays or uses another character, using the power of sexuality to convince someone of a lie -- or lying to themselves.

This is a book that can explain it in such a way that a writer can write a character who is carrying way too much POWER and has become "corrupt" by it -- has lost cohesiveness in their control of power.

I do not accept most of the assumptions in this book as having much to do with our everyday reality, but it can be useful to writers creating fictional characters.  You will observe this phenomenon in real people.  It is there.  But personally, I don't believe it has to be there.  Raised well, most people will not find that they function this way.

What way?

The thesis of this book is that physiologically, those who have power OVER the person they're talking to (parent to child, employer to employee, Elected Official to Constituent, Lover to love-starved lover) feel no guilt or remorse when saying something they know to be untrue.  Men say "I love you" to have sex with a woman, and feel no guilt if it's not true as the woman thinks it must be.

They feel no guilt because they are emotionally focused on what they have to gain by making you believe the lie.

Liars who have less power than the person they are speaking to exhibit physiological and detectible mannerisms of guilt (think of a 5 year old caught with hand in the candy jar denying stealing the candy). 

Liars who have more power (President Obama making a speech right as Seal Team 6 was heading in to get Bin Laden) think only of the benefits not what there is to lose and actually don't have the brain chemicals in play that a guilty liar would. 

I don't want someone who CAN LIE in charge of any kind of power.  This book says the POWER ITSELF causes the effect that creates the ability to lie undetected.  Thus an elected official who feels powerful for the first time in his life thinks he can sneak off to have an affair then confront his wife WITHOUT TWITCHING in guilt -- confront the voters and say perfectly straight that he didn't have sex with that woman (remember Bill Clinton). 

So if this book is correct, creating a social structure that has any nexus of POWER in it anywhere (i.e. the man is king of his castle and obliged to beat his wife), actually breeds expert liars.

Therefore we have to decentralize everything and destruct all the crossing points (desks) of Power.  Nobody can be trusted to make decisions for other people, or decisions that affect and direct others. 

That's a science fiction premise you could base a long series on. 

But what if we select and raise certain children to have that strong insulation that can carry that much current and not melt down and cause a brain-fire of power-madness? 

That, too, is a science fiction premise that could support a long series of Romances. 

I suspect the fascination with Regency Romance novels is based on this, as is the Fantasy field depicting Kings, Kingdoms, Aristocracy, Barons, Dukes.  Writers have been groping for this book's premise for some time.

What happens to a PERSON when handed POWER?  How can we prevent absolute power from corrupting absolutely?

Are we helpess in the face of human nature?  Or can we produce (as bees produce a Queen to lay eggs) individuals specialized to handling power without getting burned? 

Here's the book to read to learn to write the dialogue for such a series of Romance novels.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Information vs. Data

Did everybody have a fun and spooky Halloween?

I'm pre-posting this on Sunday in case the Frankenstorm, aka Hurricane Sandy, knocks out our electricity between now and Thursday. A scary prospect because we have a well, whose pump runs on electricity, so no power means no running water. The last time we lost electricity, for almost 4 days after a storm earlier this year, our portable generator worked reliably. We're hoping it will do the same this time or, better yet, that we won't need it.

A column by Jean Marbella in today's Baltimore SUN discusses the media focus on the approaching hurricane. Everywhere we turn, we hear and see warnings and advice about how to deal with the potential disaster. In winter, the similar public reaction to every predicted snowstorm in this area is a running joke. (Time to stock up on bread and toilet paper!) Marbella asks whether the modern 24-7 news blitz at times like this gives us more information or just more anxiety. We feel compelled to pursue every minute-by-minute update. "But have you noticed," she muses, "how the more you read these days, the less you're reassured?" She also quotes Richard Saul Wurman, who wrote a book about "Information Anxiety" back in 1989, on the distinction between "information" and "data." Data alone, mere facts, don't benefit us without context and interpretation. Facts alone, a deluge of unprocessed raw material, can overwhelm instead of informing. True information "is power. It reduces your anxiety," says Wurman.

I'm grateful for the Internet and the up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and event closing notices we have access to nowadays. The media have improved our public and personal response to Nature's vicissitudes in ways I wouldn't want to live without. But how much news is too much?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt