Sunday, June 30, 2013

Singers and Songwriters are Canaries in the Gold Mine

What do Harlequin (Publishing) and Pandora (music streaming) have in common?

For one thing, in my opinion, they are both major businesses attempting to screw content creators any way they can, using ruthless (as it seems to me) legal manoeuvres to change laws and find loopholes in contracts so that they pay less and pocket more.

I think, but I often feel that I am nearly alone in my suspicions, that the almost universal acceptance of copyright infringement, and the attempts by powerful lobbies to make online "looting" legal, is going to result in more and more big businesses trying to find ways to exploit content creators. It is not going to stop with the "free music" movement.

Music is a shot across the bows for authors.

Moreover, the liberal Media is mostly on the side of Big Business. How ironic. The ignorance of the media is absolutely gobsmacking. For instance, one article stated  "this is a choice about how America wants to subsidize its musicians and other artists."

Word to the wise, America does not "subsidize" musicians and authors and artists. Musicians, and authors, and artists, and other creators are paid royalties, which are a fraction of the profits made on legal sales or licensed rights of copies of their creations. If their good stuff is not paid for, they don't get paid.

For The Trichordist's perspective on Pandora, look here:

Streaming music is likely to be a very big deal, and some suggest that fewer people will "share" music illegally if they can subscribe to a legal service, but ... how much better will that be for songwriters and musicians if a song can be played 3,000,000 times and the musician gets $30 ?

Is it inconceivable that the same could happen to authors on day? An e-book is "read" 3,000,000 times, and the author gets $30?

Reference: Songwriter Ellen Shipley in Digitial Music News, “My Song Was Played 3.1 Million Times on Pandora. My Check Was $39…

This recent study finds that, "Nearly half of adults in the US and Germany participate in a broad, informal ‘copy culture’ characterised by the copying, sharing, and downloading of music, movies, TV shows, and other digital mediaT 

Some "sharing" and re-selling of digital content has been made legal in Europe, and may be made legal in the USA at some point in the future. If it happens, Big Business is ready.... and authors are not ready, and won't know what hit them.

An older study from 2011 and based on a relatively small sample found, among many things that piracy is common (46%), and almost 70% of the population are opposed to copyright enforcement or to meaningful copyright penalties for repeat offenders.

Ah, well. All I can say is that I encourage authors to join the and at the very least to refrain from infringing the copyrights of cover models, photographers, musicians and other creators because at some point, creators may need to come to the table with clean hands and support one another.

On a happier note, I am pleased to announce that on Tuesday July 2nd my 5pm Eastern Time radio show on will be Real History And Regency Marriage with Romance Author Cheryl Bolen.

Rowena Cherry

‘Piracy’ is common
‘Piracy’ is common. Some 46% of adults have bought, copied, or downloaded unauthorized music, TV shows or movies. - See more at:
‘Piracy’ is common. Some 46% of adults have bought, copied, or downloaded unauthorized music, TV shows or movies.* - See more at:
‘Piracy’ is common. Some 46% of adults have bought, copied, or downloaded unauthorized music, TV shows or movies.* - See more at:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Naming Characters

In reading the latest novel in an epic fantasy series, I noticed that three unrelated characters, a major one and two important secondary ones, have almost identical names. I can imagine how that coincidence could have happened, if in the development of the earlier books the author created each character separately and assigned him or her the name that sounded appropriate at the time. In a cast of, if not thousands or hundreds, at least dozens, it gets hard to keep all the names distinctive. Yet that’s an important factor in preventing reader confusion—especially in epic fantasies with huge casts.

Some authors feature a list of characters at the beginning of each book. Do you think most readers find that kind of thing helpful or intimidating (good grief, I have to keep track of all these people?!)? To me, it’s a little of both. A long cast list can strike me as mind-boggling, but I do appreciate being able to look up a person if I’ve momentarily forgotten who he or she is.

Do you find that in creating characters you tend to reuse favorite names (given or surnames)? Or catch yourself starting most of your fictional names with the same few letters or sounds? I’ve noticed that quirk in my own writing. I have to watch myself for lapsing into those patterns and make a conscious effort to venture into areas of the alphabet I’ve previously neglected. (For some reason, I have an odd tropism toward K and L.)

Another consideration in naming characters is making them sound ethnically consistent within a fictional culture. In the “melting pot” of the United States, we might readily find people with names such as Joshua Chen or Natasha O’Toole. In most societies, however, names have more uniformity, and incongruities like that would have to be justified by a multicultural history similar to ours. Then there’s the situation labels “Aerith and Bob”—a very commonplace name surrounded by exotic or alien ones. Of course, incongruity can be used deliberately for humor, such as my iridescent blob of tentacles and eyestalks called Wilbur, in my short erotic romances “Tentacles of Love” and “Weird Wedding Guest.” (Although that choice didn’t come out of thin air; he’s named after Wilbur Whateley in H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.”)

Weird Wedding Guest

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Targeting a Readership Part 8: Anne Pinzow Guest Post Machiavelli and the Internet by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Targeting a Readership Part 8: Anne Pinzow Guest Post Machiavelli and the Internet by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here are previous posts in this series:

Targeting Readership Part 1 is:

Part 2 is inside this post:

Part 3 is inside and woven into the following post in my Astrology Just For Writers series which by mistake has the same number as the previous part but is really Part 7:

Targeting a Readership Part 4 is:

Targeting a Readership Part 5 is:

Targeting a Readership Part 6 is:

Targeting a Readership Part 7 is:  A guest post by Valerie Valdes on use of setting

Over the last few weeks, I've been kicking around some topics with Anne Pinzow, a Journalist by profession who likes the same kinds of fiction I do. 

Many of those topics center around trying to define the core essence of the shift in content, Theme (as I've discussed extensively on this blog), and focus of current TV  fiction, movies, and even fanfic. 

Another set of topics center around analyzing the financial markets, international affairs, local politics, and other elements of the reality our target readers are embedded within.

Anne thinks pretty much the same way I do, but most often comes to different conclusions using the same input and the same thinking methods.  This makes her a fabulous sounding board for ideas, and a never-ending source of enlightenment.

It's not surprising.  We were trained by the same book editor and agent.  We think of fiction in very similar commercial terms.

So recently I was explaining my take on the effect of the U.S. Fed's printing way too much money being ratcheting up of inflation.  Additionally we were also kicking around the behavior of politicians which we agreed hasn't changed much in our lifetimes: they use many methods to avoid conveying the truth to their constituents.

Both of these ongoing conversations with Anne were in progress during the days that I was reading the latest novel of Darkover -- now that Deborah J. Ross has taken over continuing the series. 

That is The Children of Kings. 

Side note, Marion really hated having the word "The" at the beginning of a book title, but her submission titles were often changed and a The inserted. 

Ross has captured a lot of the "feel" of Marion's vision of Darkover in this volume, so I think it's worth reading if you've read the other novels.

The Children of Kings is about two heirs to different titled positions on Darkover and a woman who is forging a new path, plus another woman from the Drytowns who wears the chains of a Drytown woman but doesn't link them to her wrists.  It could qualify as a Romance but no sex scenes -- it ends with a marriage proposal, too.

In all cases, the characters make their decisions and take their actions based on their own ideas of what constitutes the honorable path.  No effort or risk is avoided to act in the most honorable way possible.  That kind of behavior distinguishes Darkover culture from the goings-on in the surrounding galactic civilization which is in the midst of a civil war, and possibly an irretrievable breakup.

In other words, the galaxy that Darkover is living in pretty much resembles our world today -- eerie coincidence.

The novel gives the reader a great deal of food for thought on the matter of what Honor has to do with Adulthood.

So with that as a backdrop, I was talking to Anne via chat, and kicking around both current events and the TV shows we had in common.

And recently, Anne sent me the following contrast/compare commentary that I want to share with you as another example of how a professional writer thinks, how a professional writer observes the world around them, and how a professional writer with honor can acknowledge when someone else has nailed a point worth considering. 

------------Quote From Anne Pinzow---------------
So, last week my Cablevision bill jumped $6 and that pissed me off so I called and at first they were telling me that I was paying for the least expensive package that carried the channels I watch. So I said I'd get rid of the "optimum online" aspect of the whole thing because I'd still get the channels and I could still catch up on missed shows online.

All of a sudden I got switched to another customer assistant and they told me that if I switched to the Silver service (which is $20 less than what I was paying) I'd not only get to keep the optima online but I'd get most of the movie premium channels, HB0, Showtime, STARZ, etc. It's all included now, they said.

That's how I ended up watching a Showtime series that started about two years ago called The Borgia about the reign, so to speak, of Pope Alexander the VI, the father of Lucretia Borgia. If you remember, that period has always been of interest to me.

So, there's a scene, actually several of them, where Machiavelli, known for the philosophy of the end justifying the means is advising one of the characters about how to treat a particular situation. The instance that really struck me for the purpose of this email is one character was being tortured in order to force him to confess to heresy. They tried everything and the guy wouldn't do it. He was very near death and still would not sign. So the boss of the torturer signed the confession with the man's name and killed the witnesses. Now he's got the signed confession that everyone wants and the prisoner gets burned at the stake, a nice entertainment for the kiddies.

Keep the above in mind.

So today I'm doing interviewing this man for a story and he tells me that his great uncle was Marty Maher. Well I don't know if you know who this guy was but he was very well known in this area as being a very colorful character and having had worked at West Point for 55 years. There was a book written about him called "Bringing up the Brass" and a movie staring Tyrone Power, called "The Long Gray Line."

I loved that movie, made in the 1955 and so I got it and was watching it. There's the scene where a cadet had gone slightly off limits because of worry about his girlfriend. No one knew about it except Maher who was not "an informer". So then Maher sees that the cadet is walking punishment tours and later is astonished to learn that even though the cadet only broke a rule walking by about 20 feet away from the main gate and "got away with it," that he turned himself in. "Well that's the honor system."

Fifty's movie glorifies honor.
2013 TV series glorifies, well, Machiavelli and the uselessness of honor.

You're point, right there.

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

So there you have it, a perfect description of the audience you must Target if you want to sell to these premium Cable networks, and the financial pressures that targeted readership labors under.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vat-Grown Meat

Father’s Day dinner at a steak restaurant reminded me of the futuristic concept of growing meat from cell cultures in vats. It turns out such a process has already been achieved, although nowhere near on a commercially economical level:

In Vitro Meat

Would “meat”—or “shmeat” as it's sometimes called—produced by this method satisfy the objections of vegetarians, since it doesn’t involve eating formerly living animals? According to the writer of the Wikipedia article, it probably would. Would vat-grown “pork” that looks and tastes like the natural meat but doesn’t come from real pigs be kosher? Or not, because the original muscle cells used to start the culture did come from a pig?

This idea reminds me of a punny Damon Knight story, “Eripmav,” about a world of intelligent plants where trees are made of meat. (The sap-sucking plant vampire gets destroyed by a steak through the heart.) Would a sapient plant be horrified by our omnivorous diet? Or would the thinking plant regard our consumption of vegetables the same way most of us view consuming parts of animals—if it isn’t sapient, it’s okay to eat?

Remember Alice’s talking pudding? “It’s rude to eat people you’ve been introduced to.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Acquiring New Techniques Part 1: Pun Writing by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Acquiring New Techniques Part 1: Pun Writing 
by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Most people come by the ability to create puns naturally.

I never did.  Sometimes they just pop out of my mouth, but I can't do it on purpose, though I do admire those who spin them off.

You would think after so many years as a writer of fiction and non-fiction, there would be nothing left for me to learn.  Not so.  There are lots and lots of techniques I have never attempted. 

So when presented with a prime example of a technique I've never mastered, in a form that allows the bare bones of the technique to show through, and written by someone I'm communicating with on the social networks, I just can't resist trying to learn how it's done. 

So when I got caught up in reading the STEN SERIES, that I've discussed in some depth here because it represents a type of work there is a huge and growing market for, I just had to try to figure out how these jokes were constructed.

Here are some posts about Allan Cole, his career, why he's important to YOU as a writer of Romance, or Science Fiction Romance (you really wouldn't expect this material to be key to ROMANCE, but it is), and something you can learn about plotting from these novels.  In fact, you can learn a lot by studying the Sten Series about breaking "the rules" and getting away with it -- or ending up making a new rule other writers then must follow because it sells like crazy when you do!

Remember the Sten Series is in collaboration with Chris Bunch and you should research him, too - famous for other works as well as screenplays.

I not only read the STEN SERIES just for the fun of it all, but I also studied it, trying to figure out why the Kilgour jokes became the subject of international conversation and a "claim to fame" of the Sten Series (8 novels, only a few strategically placed jokes, but it's the jokes that are remembered!).

I couldn't crack the secret of those jokes, though I could see exactly how they were used, how they were integrated into the characters, theme, setting, and yes, even the plot.  Fully integrated.

So I started talking to Allan Cole about how those jokes were created, and he kindly posted a few clues on the Facebook Group where he talks to fans: 

At one point he said offhandedly that the jokes had been written separately, then integrated into the novels.  They had created an inventory of jokes from which they carefully chose one to insert at the right point in whichever novel they were working on.

The Kilgour jokes are often sprinkled among action scenes, and finished off (or not)  after the climax of the action.  Kilgour just goes on and on telling these stories, and the boredom of it all, (plus the knowledge it will be a bad joke, or atrocious pun, a groan not a guffaw at the end) makes the other characters fend off the FINISH.

The other clue that Allan told me on Facebook, that I had not managed to figure out was that the connecting thread between the STORY that Kilgour was telling, the PLOT of the novel Kilgour was embroiled in at that time, and the PLIGHT of the reader who was stuck to the page unable to put the book down, was TRAPPED.

The theme was TRAPPED, and I couldn't see that. 

Once it was pointed out, how the character inside the Kilgour joke, the characters listening to Kilgour tell that story, and the reader, were all TRAPPED and sympathizing with the trapped characters in the Kilgour joke-story because they were trapped, I knew how to DO THIS.

A long time ago, I had learned the secret to joke writing was to create the punch-line first. 

So I gave myself the assignment to commit a Kilgour.

It took several weeks, but a punch-line finally occurred to me complete with a final-scene to the story. 

Several days later, I told myself not to be a coward and just boldly leap into telling a story of some sort.  I opened a notepad file and plunged in holding that punchline in mind, and trying to think like Kilgour trapped in an untenable and unwinnable situation by an interminable military action sequence (the military hurry-up-and-wait nerve-breaking-stress situations that are the hallmark of action stories.)

So I trapped my imaginary Kilgour in a space ship full of civilians and waited to see how he'd break the tension of their being trapped.  (think TSA). 

I couldn't do Kilgour's Scottish accent -- which in the novels is spelled out with every syllable he speaks.  Normally, editors disallow spelling-out accents, but in these novels the writers get away with it because it is done correctly.  You can't "copy" this stuff and just transcribe your characters opaque accents.  There are techniques to learn there that I do not have mastery of!

So I just wrote the tale in plain English, trying for the "trapped" effect.

I consider it partially successful because I do think I got the "trapped" effect central to the Kilgour style, but it's not hilarious enough, and I didn't even pick up the rhythm of Kilgour's characteristic speech pattern, never mind spelling out his accent. 

It took a lot of courage to submit it to Allan Cole.  But eventually I confessed that I'd committed a Kilgour and asked if he wanted to see it.  He said yes, so I sent it while mentally cataloging all its short-comings.

Allan Cole liked it enough to add a note at the top -- in Kilgour's accent -- indicating this was a translation, and include it in EMPIRE DAY this year (it's an annual celebration and you can contribute fanfic to these anthologies, too).  Empire Day is  a holiday celebrated in the novels and now on Facebook.

You can get this compendium on Amazon - borrow it free.  Or as an e-book.

This is edited by Allan Cole and contains my first ever attempt at writing a joke.

(see his IMDB filmography here: ). 

Allan Cole is the writer of over 200 produced screenplays plus many novels.  This anthology is based on the STEN SERIES which Allan Cole wrote with Chris Bunch (look him up on amazon, and imdb, too).  The International Best Selling Sten Series (8 novels) is now in e-book, and this anthology was just published containing items written by other writers and fans.   

For those following this writing craft blog, the point of studying my Kilgour joke attempt is to compare it with the published Kilgour jokes in the novels, and see how to teach yourself a complex, multi-leveled technique one step at a time. 

Don't hold back from marketing until you think what you've produced is perfect.  Just try for one technique, focus on it and practice it.  Later, add other techniques. 

Here's part of the instruction Allan Cole provided on joke writing: 

The other element of acquiring a technique, any writing technique not just joke writing, is just what I've demonstrated here with this Kilgour joke.  Take an example of the technique that intrigues you, is well done, but allows you to see the mechanism that makes it work, and copy it.  Yes, fanfic!  Yes, write in some other writer's universe (but remember the line between what belongs to you and what does not!).  Even if you bury it in a bottom drawer or burn it in the BBQ, write it.  Just write it. 

If you have to learn to pat your head, rub your tummy, walk and chew gum too, first just pat your head!  Just that much, all by itself alone.  In this case, I was after TRAPPED, and I trapped it.  There's a couple dozen other subtle techniques amalgamated into the Kilgour joke style that I have to choose from if I ever try this again, so if I do it, I'll do trapped+something, and then trapped+something+something else, and onward until I finally replicate Kilgour.  But since Kilgour is unique in the annals of literature, I would start by finding some other thematic element than "trapped" and creating a character who resorts to comic relief from scratch, using that theme which would fit into my own stories.

Pick out your own next technique challenge and find one element to practice in isolation.  We will no doubt return to the topic of skills acquisition methods later. 

posted by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, June 13, 2013

To Be or Not To Be

Recently I read a blog by another author about avoiding overuse of the verb “to be.” Having read lots of similar advice, I make a conscious effort to keep those verbs to a minimum in my fiction. Some of the familiar, often-repeated suggestions are not hard to practice: Use active voice rather than passive whenever possible. Instead of telling the reader a character’s emotions, show them through action and physiological reactions. Change sentences such as “Edison was the inventor of the phonograph” to “Edison invented the phonograph.”

In dialogue, however, a writer might purposely use a circumlocution like that or a passive verb structure to characterize the speaker as longwinded or indecisive. Another factor that often comes up in the issue of using “to be” verbs is the progressive mode. A strict abhorrence of these verbs can lead to a blanket condemnation of structures such as “he was standing” in place of “he stood.” Some critiquers mistakenly call the former “passive,” which it isn’t. The progressive, while it shouldn’t be overused, conveys a shade of meaning that’s often needed. “The beggar stood on the corner every day” doesn’t say the same thing as, “The beggar was standing on the corner when she walked to the bus stop.” Or “I ate breakfast late yesterday,” versus, “I was still eating breakfast when the bus came.”

I occasionally sneak in a “she felt” to avoid “she was,” but many writing advisers consider “felt” as much of a linking and “telling” verb as “was.” At times I find myself going to convoluted lengths to avoid “was,” “were,” etc. When a sentence comes out obviously strained in an attempt to avoid “to be” verbs, mightn’t a writer legitimately choose to go for the straightforward, short, and simple phrase? Sometimes it might be okay to say, “It was raining.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Suggestions From Author X For Copyright Reform

These suggestions are not mine, but I have permission to share them.

1. I have to provide a name, email, address, and phone number with every DMCA I issue to ask for my work to be taken down.

Proposal: Require every site to mandate every uploader provide the same information, publicly available. 

2. I have to prove that my work is mine, by providing where it can be found, the ISBN, and, in some cases, my publisher's information.

Proposal: Have every site mandate that every uploader provide the same information, as well as the same clause I must sign that states I realize I may be subject to the penalties of perjury if I lie. 

3. Require that every "forum" make searches visible to everyone, including links where authors might remove their work. That will make,, and other sites easier for authors to search.

4. Require that every site offer an "opt-out" clause to authors. Those who choose to be pirated, under the mistaken assumption it boosts their sales, can be pirated. The rest of us can opt out.

5. Require that every site offer a "three strikes you're out" policy to uploaders. If you've had a DMCA filed against you three times by the same author, you're banned. (That will clue some uploaders in that some authors don't want to be pirated.) 

Go after the uploaders. 
You've got a mixed bag with downloaders, and many of them wouldn't pirate if their ready source dried up. 
Hit the source. Hit the uploaders.  
There should be mandatory steps a site should have to take when copyright infringement is reported: 
removal and warning to uploader, 
removal and blocking uploader account permanently/
reporting uploader to gov't office responsible for it, at which point that office issues a fine. 

Repeated offenses by the same person means loss of ISP, banning of ISP service to that person, more fines, and jail time. 

Make it expensive and uncomfortable to be a pirate, 
and start making parents responsible for their kids, 
internet cafes responsible enough to track what their customers are doing and drop the dime on them for it, etc. Take away the easy paths for pirates to get away with it on someone else's connection.
Take away safe harbor for sites that do not actively enforce copyright, by stated guidelines. 
That includes having a simple system for reporting copyright infringement AND maintaining a database where copyright owners can list all their IP, which the site can and should take action on without constant monitoring by the copyright owner. 

Make it expensive and uncomfortable to be a safe harbor/haven site. 
Start with fines, blocking, removal from search engines...
 As long as they're following the steps, they don't have to worry about it. The minute they don't, it starts with fines. 
After three times where they don't follow the steps properly, they start being blocked and removed from search engines or even have their sites seized, if it continues. Done. 

Of course, any and all of this will really only work well for US persons doing it. The US will have limited success in enforcing this overseas, and some countries overseas will not support this line of thinking.

4. Require that every site offer an "opt-out" clause to authors.

(comment from Rowena... many authors feel that it should be an "OPT-IN" clause)

 Those who choose to be pirated, under the mistaken assumption it boosts their sales, can
be pirated. The rest of us can opt out. 

5. Require that every site offer a "three strikes you're out" policy to uploaders. 
If you've had a DMCA filed against you three times by the same author, you're banned. 
(That will clue some uploaders in that some authors don't want to be pirated.) 

(Comment from Rowena...  some authors feel that "5" should probably require more than one author requesting takedowns, otherwise; the uploader can claim they are being persecuted by someone. Moreover, not every author most hurt by piracy early in their career necessarily has 3 works.)

If you would like to get involved in shaping Copyright Reform,  be aware that the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property is beginning to hold hearings in order to review the Copyright Act. Get in touch with your Representative in Congress to ask him or her to become a member of the Creative Rights Caucus.

Thanks to Author X.

All the best
Rowena Cherry

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Theme-Character Integration Part 1: What Does She See In Him

Theme-Character Integration
Part 1
What Does She See In Him
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here's the foundation post for this advanced investigation of Relationship in Romance.

There are two essential parts to what one person "sees in" another person: A) What is really there and B) What the viewer is capable of discerning.

There is a classic Biblical story of Moses and Aaron arguing which is resolved by the Sages with the explanation that Moses and Aaron were brothers, yes, but very different as individuals.

Remember Moses was the one sent to Pharaoh to demand "Let My People Go" and Aaron (after fighting a delaying action by participating in making the Golden Calf) was appointed High Priest and inaugurated into serving in the Tabernacle.

Moses was the Teacher -- who repeated what G-d told him to say, then wrote it down.  Aaron was the Doer -- who took the offered animals, grain, spices etc to the Alter and offered them.

Side note here on CAPABLE OF DISCERNING: one huge problem most people have with The Bible comes from deriving conclusions from the semantic loading behind English word translations. 

A huge case in point is the word "Sacrifice" -- to us it means inflicting a deprivation upon one's self, giving away something of value for nothing in return, giving UP, suffering pain for the sake of something or someone else.  Many people are capable of discerning "Love" only in terms of what "you are willing to sacrifice for me." 

People see "marriage" as a "sacrifice" of "freedom."  Is it?  Or is it a net gain? 

Knowing the semantic loading of words is part of the job of the professional writer, and when crafting a Romance story, the writer has to craft the dialogue and its interpretation in the light of these shifting semantic loads, the emotional implications of a simple WORD can mislead someone about the character of a person.  This is why "deeds speak louder than words" -- or in writer-parlance, Plot speaks louder than Narrative or Exposition.

So back to The Bible (you all know what an impact the History Channel presentation of The Bible made around Easter, 2013) -- one of the most misleading translations of Biblical terminology is the term "Sacrifice." 

The Hebrew term is Korban -- and that has nothing to do with GIVING UP anything.  Note the instructions for most of the "offerings" in the Temple include who gets to EAT THE ANIMALS that have been offered, and where and when they must (not may, must) be eaten. 

Nobody is giving up anything when bringing an offering to the Temple, so the word "Sacrifice" is massively misleading.  The one who brings the offering ends up with a net gain, a connection to the Divine. 

The term Korban means essentially a binding, a tie, a connection.  And the purpose of the action of bringing an offering is to create or reinforce a TIE to God, a connection between the deepest psyche of the bringer and the pervasive Unconditional Love of God.

What do you see in God?

What does God see in you? 

That's the TIE we're talking about here where we investigate what one Character can "see" in another Character, and how that causes them to act and react to various utterances, to dialogue (which I remind you is not real speech recorded, but a method of moving PLOT FORWARD.)

So why do we have this argument between Moses and Aaron recorded in the Torah and re-read incessantly every year for all time?  What is that about and why is it relevant to writing Romance? 

What that argument is about, and what you can learn from it as a writer (after all the Bible has lasted a while and still sells pretty well, as we see from the success on the History Channel which was repeated immediately in re-runs on other channels) is the Nature of Character.

What is "a human" -- are we all alike?  How can there be ROMANCE or sexuality (the essence of sexuality is Mystery, you know) -- how can there be ROMANCE if we're all identical? 

What does "Soul Mate" mean?  What does "Mate" mean?  A "Mate" is an opposite -- or at the very least has something you don't have which enables you when added to you.

A "Mate" is a complementary element, a completion of a whole. 

A Soul Mate completes your Soul.

For that Relationship to form, a Character has to be an individual who is capable of "seeing" something that they don't have but need inside the other Character. 

So from the argument between Moses and Aaron we learn how even brothers are distinct and different individuals.

What exactly is that distinction in this case?  The Sages maintain that Moses served G-d via Truth.  Moses saw the world of Truth behind the illusion we ordinarily think is real.  Moses saw the Reality behind our daily illusion, the Truth of Reality, and transmitted that vision via his service as a teacher, an intellectual service, a service via words.  He transmitted the words of G-d just as he was given them. 

Aaron on the other hand was very different.  Aaron saw the "illusion" of reality as we see it, as we live in it, the seeming that we perceive as solid, and sought to resolve the conflict between (there's that word, again, CONFLICT which is the essence of STORY) the Illusion and the Truth.

Aaron served G-d through action, in the Biblical case, he served by being the one to act at the Altar.

So Aaron served by acting to resolve the conflict between what appears to be real and what Moses saw as actually real.

Doesn't that sound like the "Battle of the Sexes" -- "Oh we're lost. We have to stop and ask directions."  "Oh, we're lost.  Let's go around that corner and see if that's the right way."

"You talk too much."  "You never talk to me!" 

Is "life" (i.e. THEME of your story) about Truth, about what is actually really there?  Or is it about how you feel, what you feel is there? 

Note that in many decisive instances in life, where your Characters make decisions, there is the core conflict between Fact and Opinion -- between Truth and Illusion.

Resolving that conflict is what Romance Stories do for, with and by your Reader.

Will your characters act on Opinion or on Fact?  Either one alone is pretty ineffectual (that's a thematic statement).  In a Romance, each member of the forming Couple "sees in the other" the missing element (Fact or Opinion) and when the Couple coalesces and implements a course of action rooted in Fact/Opinion Conflict Resolved, their connection to functioning Reality works smoothly and their cooperative actions produce solid results leading to Happily Ever After.

Understand that archetype illustrated by the different personalities of Moses and Aaron (and their respective spouses and children), each with a unique way, functioning as a unit, and you can amp up your "Steam" element in your Romance Novels.

Now let's take an example.  I have many, many examples in my reading history, but here's a series I've been raving about in my reviews, The Dresden Files, all about Harry Dresden, by Jim Butcher.  I've discussed this series at some length in this blog:

Now we come to COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher, 14th in the Dresden files.  These are long novels in a long series, and tightly plotted, tightly written.

There's a couple of great Love Stories in this series, too.  After 14 novels, it is beginning to look like Harry Dresden has found a Mate. 

Reading outside Romance Genre can teach you all about "what she sees in him" (and vice versa).

The genre usually called "Action" -- whether it's in space or running across a stack of alternate dimensions where Magic is Real -- is perfect for studying "What She Sees In Him."

Why?  Because the Action genre is usually formulated around One Hero (can be female), a single character, who is what I might term a Free Radical.

In the pre-mated state, this Hero Character bounces around from adventure to adventure, hacking away at life, the universe and everything, most making a complete hash out of the art of living life.

For another long series of long novels that is really fun to read, but illustrates this Free Radical character (whose story is OVER once he finally mates) see my discussions of Allan Cole's STEN SERIES:

And for more on THEME

Do an in depth contrast/compare between these two series and you can learn a lot about "what she sees in him" and how to depict that guy who attracts "her."

Sten and Dresden are two very different characters, as different as Moses and Aaron, and like those two, they make a set. 

Jim Butcher has mastered the full integration of THEME into PLOT and CHARACTER.  His writing is so seamless that you will have a hard time factoring out the component elements.  But it is worth the effort as a learning exercise.

Harry Dresden is a Professional Wizard.  When we first meet him, he's floundering his way haplessly through trying to make a place for himself in a world where he just doesn't fit in.

ACCIDENT plays a plot-role in the Dresden novels as it does in STEN, correctly used to generate plot. 

When we first meet Harry, he has a girl but has lost her -- he's not quite sure how permanent that will be, but there's a lot of angst festering there.

By the end of the 14th book, another "possible" Soul Mate has appeared, been deemed both impossible and improbable, and then suddenly re-defined into a whole different emotional situation. 

That entire problem -- finding a Mate -- is completely peripheral for Harry.  He is just not paying attention to HIS OWN NEEDS, WANTS AND DESIRES.  He is wholly focused on solving the problems that are a) threatening his very existence b) threatening people he loves c) threatening people who have hired him d) threatening people who don't know he exists and don't care but whom he feels responsible for.

Jim Butcher has mastered the principle of screenwriting (Dresden was briefly a TV Series) in which you hurl your character into a Situation with 6 problems to solve or die trying.  The plot can consist of the problems solving each other or the character solving them one at a time.  As in gaming (and war), the solving of problems costs, so the Hero usually takes damage.

Now we come to this THEME-CHARACTER integration technique. 

What she sees in him will not be what he sees in himself. (and vice versa).

These ACTION HERO genre novels from a male POV don't usually reveal or dwell on what the Hero sees in himself. 

Anita Blake (female action-hero by Laurell K. Hamilton) is a good contrast.  The first books in that series have Anita articulately explaining her traits and attributes in which she takes pride.  The series as a whole  chronicles the disintegration of that personality in which she so prided herself, and then a gradual rebuilding of a new personality.  Many readers who loved the early books despise the later ones. 

In STEN and HARRY DRESDEN we have heroes who have no clue who they are and couldn't really care less.  Their self-awareness and introspection (i.e. the usual male blind-spot) is totally lacking, but it is completely, starkly, clearly apparent "who" each of these characters is by their ACTIONS.

They don't think, rarely FEEL unless clubbed over the head, and yet shout their Identities loudly into the world with every action. 

As they work with their external realities, they grow, change, and become stronger characters, more integrated, harder to derail, disrupt or corrupt. 

Sten becomes the owner of the greatest power in his universe, and gives it away to everyone.

We haven't seen what Dresden will "become" yet, but we have seen him "do the right thing" over and over, each one harder than the last to choose to do, and each one costing him more personally than the last one cost.  That's the same as the Anita Blake story, except for one essential ingredient.  Harry Dresden pays the price and pays the price -- and emerges from it all with more to give, more strength, more and greater dedication to doing the right thing.

Dresden does not start out with a high opinion of himself (as Anita Blake does), and his opinion of himself does not increase a whole lot through all his triumphs.  But he only suffers moping, depression, and misery for brief times before pulling himself together.  It isn't just that the next challenge smashes into his world before he's gotten good and depressed.  He does get a shower, a change of clothes, a good meal and sometimes a happy interlude between challenges. 

The key to Dresden is that he isn't aware that his triumphs and successes are making him a "stronger" character -- less vulnerable to corruption and disintegration. 

But he is growing as a person, and there is a woman who is seeing that growth, seeing the strength, seeing the Values he upholds that he doesn't even really know that he has.

There is a "dark" side to Dresden and his story.  There are demons, possession, a serious temptation to use Black Magic, and the actual use of the Black Magic that actually does "corrupt" and grind away at Dresden's character.  There are those who have a low opinion of him because of his inherent connection to the Dark. 

You should read all three of these series and make up your own mind -- most likely you'll have a different take on it than I do, and very probably I'll have a different take on it all in a year or two.  But for the moment, think of it this way:  Sten is more like Moses, searching for the Truth behind the illusion since he is no Moses.  Sten is trying to find the Truth that Moses sees, and when he thinks he's found it, it acts on that Truth.  Dresden is no Aaron, but he is trying to find a way to make Peace among all the criss-crossing forces he sees in his world, and from time to time is rewarded with a period of some balance.  Anita Blake acts on the assumption that the Illusion is the Truth. 

THEME: there is a natural human tendency to strive to become a "better" person; whatever "better" might mean to you. 

CHARACTER: a Hero who tackles and surmounts problems becoming more like his/her own Ideal Person.

ROMANCE: a Character who loves (has an affinity for) that which she admires, sees in a Man the striving toward a personal ideal that she admires, sees his willingness to pay the price of improvement, and the achieving of at least part of that goal.  She finds in herself the need to help that Man -- and ultimately to propagate those values and ideals.

Imagine Sten or Dresden living in your world, fighting the battles and problems that people in your world face every day, applying the character traits these two have to those problems.  Would you want that man in your life? 

Remember these Hero-type folks don't cultivate an articulate awareness of Ideals, don't see themselves as striving, don't bother to feel their own emotions and strive to perfect that emotional life, to get to where they don't have to experience emotional pain.  To discover what these folks are made of, a woman has to examine and analyze their actions. 

That may be the basis for a man opening the door for a woman -- men act; women feel flattered, attended, cared for. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 09, 2013

America The ..... Cheap Part 1. Land of the Freebie

On May 21st, I spent an hour chatting with Chris Ruen, author of FREELOADING, which anyone interested can still hear on my archives page  I was so outraged that I wrote a rant, but the next Sunday was Memorial Day, so I held off.

However, my anger is undiminished. I am reminded of the pervasive culture of apologists for looting, both by Senator Rand Paul's smug comments about SOPA (which he opposed) on Fox News this afternoon, juxtaposed with a blog on Trichordist about Bit Torrents,

BTW, on my MUSO account, I see that they are having considerable trouble getting a large collection of romance novels that include three of mine removed from a Kick Ass Torrent. I concede that there may be some Torrents that are legal, but most that I see are simply illegal compilations of massive numbers of infringing works. Presumably, those who take advantage of sloppy wording in the DMCA would argue that no one owns the copyright of a collection of 10,000 romance novels by various authors whose first name begins with R.... probably because some Seller on EBay said that they were GNU-Licensed and EBay allowed this lie to be published and distributed uncontested.

Back to the FREELOADING interview:
Chris Ruen told a story about Metallica that resonated with me, and with stories I hear from increasing numbers of authors. According to Chris, Metallica was in a recording studio, recording an original song (of theirs). They took a break between recordings, and heard the song they were in the process of recording, being played on Napster.

Authors are finding ARCs (Advance Review Copies) of books that they are still writing or proof-reading the copy-edited galleys and therefore of which not a single copy has yet been sold, being published and distributed on pirate sites.

If you see a book by a Random House author being "shared" illegally on Scribd or on a Torrent or on Facebook or Goodreads or any pirate site, you can now report it to Random House. Please do.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Animals That Don't Die

Some incredible animals that could serve as models for immortal aliens:

Immortal Animals

Lobsters never die of old age, only by violence or disease. They just keep growing. And they get more fertile as they grow older and bigger. Glass sponges can live to 15,000 years. There’s a microscopic organism called a bdelloid that prolongs its life by stealing DNA from other species to repair its own.

The centuries-long lifespans of some turtles and bowhead whales make multi-centenarian humanoids seem less unlikely, whether on distant planets or living secretly among us on Earth.

Also check out a link on the above-referenced page to a list of creatures that can remain active with their heads removed, as well as a snake whose head briefly stays “alive” (and bites) after being severed (sort of like the karaoke demon on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER). Zombie animals!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Settings Part 4: Detail - Guest Post by J. H. Bogran

These posts that appear on this blog on Tuesdays are 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

But occasionally, I present a Guest Post by someone else.  Today, we have an interesting one on SETTING. 

As I noted in Part 1 of this series on SETTING, I ran into Jose Bogran on the twitter chat #scifichat (Friday 2-4 PM Eastern) and today we have a second writing craft post from him.

Good choices for SETTING come directly from pondering your THEME which we've been discussing in the advanced set of posts on Theme-Plot Integration these last few weeks.

We'll have to get down to the nitty-gritty of Theme-Setting Integration eventually.  One of the first articles I ever wrote on writing craft had to do with the use of DETAIL, so I found it fascinating that J. H. Bogran has focused in on DETAIL in SETTING. 

Here are the links to prior posts on THEME-SETTING

The index post collecting long-ago posts is here:

And the last few weeks have been extending those posts:

Theme-Plot Integration Part 8 - Use of Co-incidence in Plotting

Part 9

Part 10:

And here is the series on SETTING starting with a Guest Post by J. H. Bogran:

In Part 3, examining my space-war novel DREAMSPY, we begin to look at the steps in reasoning from IDEA to CONCEPT to THEME to SETTING, to see how a writer chooses to put a particular story into a specific place. 

As I've said before, it's kind of like driving a car -- you do most of the work with the non-verbal, mostly inaccessible part of your brain.  That's why it seems so mysterious to writers who just "have an idea" and then just "write the novel."  They don't know how they do what they do or why they do it a  certain way and not another way.  If they've got it right, they sell big, and if they miss they can't sell at all.   

Those very Talented writers don't make great teachers because they can't explain what they are doing (because they don't know.) 

The rest of us, though, have to figure out how to do it -- and so the process can be revealed to beginners, saving sometimes years of struggle. 

J. H. Bogran is such a "beginner" -- working in two languages!  OK, from my perspective, he's a beginner. 

So it is worth our while to pay attention as these techniques are laid out by someone who has just learned to do it, and with time we may watch Bogran polish techniques and then explain how that happened.   

Here, then is a new Guest Post. 

--------------------- GUEST POST-------------
Setting in the details
J. H. Bográn

Back on part one, I discussed the larger aspects of a setting and its direct relation with the plot, characters and other intrinsically relevant areas of a novel. This time around I’d like to expand into the old adage that the beauty is in the details. Jacqueline even reminded us about Star Trek being first pitched as Wagon Train to the Stars. Something I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know, so bear in mind I’m such a sucker for trivia bits. So, thank you Jacqueline for the added bit to my trivia library!

The setting is more than just a location. It is the place where the events of a particular scene happen. A full description of a room can break the flow of the plot, but when carefully planned it can serve to enhance it.

Picture a man that regularly visits the city museum. Except, today is different because his wife was buried the day before, and now he’s seeking refuge in the paint strokes of masters. Today he notices for the first time a tiny frame, no bigger than a post card, depicting a sailboat riding tall waves amidst a storm. He watches mesmerized as he thinks of people aboard: will they ever reach the coast or will the wave bury the little boat? He recognizes the tune coming out of the P.A. system. It’s an instrumental version of Michael Bolton’s “When I’m back on my feet again,” and although he had always hated the cheesy pop star, he now finds himself humming along the song as he discovers he remembers the lyrics.

See how the painting and the tune mirror the man’s feelings? He had probably seen the painting a thousand times, and heard the environmental music an equal number of times. They add to the setting, but also to the feelings of the character.

One of the main differences that I’ve found between writing screenplays and novels is the level of description required for each. In the screenplay, description is generally limited to one line: Day. Interior. Jose’s room. Now, try to get away with that in a novel, I dare you! One of my early writing teachers suggested to make a drawing, and to mark where the doors, windows and furniture were located. He claimed the knowledge would slip through the writing even if we didn’t use all of the details. I’ve learned other tips and tricks since then, but one of those things is that he was right!

In the case of my sci-fi short The Outpost, I conceived space stations guarding the entrance to the Solar System. Believe it or not, the awful drawings I made must still be lying around somewhere in the rusty two-drawer file cabinet. I visualized the dimensions, colors, and plenty of other little details. Not all of them went into the final draft, of course. Here’s the opening of The Outpost with the details that made it to the final draft:

Excerpt from The Outpost (Red Rose Publishing, 2008)

Karl Jackson awoke suddenly to find his face barely an inch from the metal ceiling; he was floating.

“Joe! What happened with the gravity?”

Monitoring the whole of space is an impossible task. Thus, humans settled to monitoring the edges of the solar system. They figured that Earth could only be seriously affected by something entering the system. Thousands of outposts peppered the outskirts to detect anything coming in.

Track Seven was one of many cylindrical-type stations that monitored traffic in and out of our home planet. The top of the station was a transparent dome, enabling the operators a full 360-degree view. The main control room contained two chairs placed back to back, each facing a console full of monitors, transmitters, and switches that could make the inexperienced dizzy in a matter of seconds. Between the chairs was a trap door leading to the living quarters below.

Joe Doyle’s head appeared through the hole, relief visible on his face. “Didn’t know you were awake,” he said with his usual heavy drawl. It had always amazed Karl that Joe had embraced the Texas accent so completely, having only lived there for a couple of years before taking his post in NASA.

End of excerpt.

Yep, the station is very similar to a capsule you would find inside a Walgreen’s bottle. Not sure why I designed my guarding stations that way; perhaps I had a headache and took the hint from a gel-cap.

In short, not only do you have to have a detail list, but you also must choose which ones to use.
The help make the decision, I’d recommend you consider their impact on the characters, their significance to the plot, and finally, their ability to weave seamlessly into the story.

Author Bio and links:
J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Website at:
Twitter: @JHBogran

Direct links to books:

The Outpost:
Deeds of a Master Archer:
Treasure Hunt:
The Assasin's Mistress:

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

What I find interesting here is that when I decided to be a professional writer, even before HIGH SCHOOL, I read copies of Writer's Digest and all the books on stage, screen and novel writing in my local library. 

That trick of sketching the layout of an environment where you are placing a scene or story was often repeated in those sources (which were old and falling apart when I read them!), so I adopted it right at the very start of my first attempts to create a character and his/its story (my first was a blob). 

I have some very crude sketches of the venue for scenes in some of my published novels.

I particularly sketch scenes at formal dinner tables or long tables in restaurants, noting who is sitting beside whom, and across from whichever other characters.  Imagine the noise level, the cross-talk, and be sure that the bits of dialogue you want your character to hear or overhear are actually within his/its/hers hearing distance in that echoing environment.

Now, the big caveat for new writers is this: Don't Make Sketches For Every Scene!

And don't describe who is sitting, standing, walking, riding next to or across from whom UNLESS YOU ARE SETTING UP AN ACTION-SCENE.

When a writer introduces a scene with the local floor-plan or layout in excruciating detail, it is a signal to the reader that all hell is about to break loose.

For example, if you establish a WINDOW on the 20th floor, with a tiny ledge beneath it, you jolly well better have that ledge be either the escape route for the hero or the entry-route for the villain, or the hiding place of a Key, weapon, whatever.

If you disappoint the reader by describing details you don't later use as part of the PLOT, the next scene where you include detail the reader will likely just skip the detail.  The third scene you do that in, the reader will toss the book aside -- or maybe in the trash.

And this is where that all-powerful and all-important element THEME comes in.

How do you decide which details to USE IN THE PLOT and thus describe in many words?

Each time you set up a floor-plan or load passengers into a car in a given arrangement, or seat them all at a dinner table, or sprinkle them around a crowded restaurant, first go into that setting yourself and open your eyes (like a swimmer opening eyes under water) and take a good look around.

You will see thousands of details in that setting.  SELECT the four, or no more than five, that bespeak the THEME. 

Ask yourself, "Given that my POV character is in THIS MOOD, what exactly WILL SHE NOTICE?"  And then, what will she NOT NOTICE?  What she doesn't notice can be a cited detail in your narrative, but only if it is a near-fatal oversight by the POV character because of her mood.

Bogran illustrated this point very well in the Museum scene.  The character is in a MOOD because of the funeral.  Though the setting is familiar, suddenly previously overlooked details become IMPORTANT.

Now the story didn't progress to the point where the storm-tossed ship and the particular song he heard would become clues in solving a murder mystery, or lead to discovering the painting was a forgery which would lead to meeting the museum curator and falling in love with her.  But it could have! 

Once the character's MOOD and the details that mood REVEALS are set up, your reader is drawn deep into your story.

The Museum Scene described lacks only the DETAILS that will be the springboard into what happens NEXT to this bereaved man because of his MOOD at that point. 

For example, perhaps the Museum is about to be robbed, and this man is a retired Security Guard who really knows the place.  Perhaps among the details of the ship painting and music, something catches his eye and he's uneasy but doesn't know why.  Inspecting the tiny frame, he notices that one of the security cameras is dark when it should have a tiny flashing light showing from that angle.  Hmmm.  He looks around for someone to report that to.  BANG the robbers burst into the display room pushing the Museum Curator in front of them. 

NOW WHAT? the reader is thinking. 

Do you see how this works?  The reader expects the details of the Museum setting to have some significance in terms of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (i.e. the plot).  The detailed detail description is not just to explicate the main character's mood of the moment, but to explicate the theme which can only be done  via plot -- via something happening because.

Remember Plot = Because Line.

Because his wife died, because he's just come from her funeral, he seeks refuge in something familiar, and because he's THERE at just that time, THIS HAPPENS TO HIM, because of which he DOES SOMETHING, because of which SOMETHING HAPPENS, because of which HE DOES SOMETHING ELSE -- etc -- until his GRIEF (the theme here is grieving) is RESOLVED.

As I set it up, this retired Security Guard would thereupon risk his life to save the Museum Curator from the Robbers, and possibly her career from ruin BECAUSE HE NOTICED THE DEAD CAMERA and had time to DO SOMETHING that thereupon allowed him to be able to save her life, BECAUSE OF WHICH she reacts in some way to resolve his grief.

Choice of detail to describe is not arbitrary.  It's not an "art."  It's not mysterious and doesn't require Talent.  Choice of detail is like choice of vocabulary -- sounding spontaneous is a matter of careful preparation. (a Robert Heinlein quote - can you name the source?)

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg