Thursday, March 27, 2014

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

I spent last Wednesday afternoon through Saturday night at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. Even though I had to change planes both ways, I was lucky enough to have all the flights proceed on schedule. The weather stayed sunny and warm throughout the con, a delightful change from home (where it snowed again Tuesday—less than a week before the first of April!). The Lord Ruthven Assembly, our vampire-revenant-Gothic-paranormal romance division, presented its annual awards for vampire-related books to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (fiction) and FANGED FAN FICTION: VARIATIONS ON TWILIGHT, TRUE BLOOD AND THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (nonfiction) by Maria Lindgren Leavenworth and Malin Isaksson. I highly recommend both of these. The novel by Joe Hill (one of Stephen King’s sons) features a child-snatching energy vampire with a sentient car. FANGED FAN FICTION displays a respectful attitude toward fandom, with voluminous, varied reading and research.

I appeared on a panel titled “The Relative Merits of Exsanguination and Dismemberment in the 21st Century,” on the theme of vampires versus zombies. We mainly discussed why zombies have replaced vampires as the dominant popular culture monster (if they have—books and movies seem to differ in this regard). We also considered exactly how to define a zombie and how much a revenant can advance toward consciousness and free will before it no longer fits into the category “zombie.” If vampires still remain recognizable as vampires despite all the transformations they’ve undergone since emerging from their folklore roots, can’t zombies do the same? Some of my other favorite sessions were a panel on Disney as global corporate empire and one on “hybrid publishing,” presented by Ellen Datlow and other distinguished editors.

As usual, I came home with a book-stuffed suitcase and a list of reading suggestions.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reviews 6: TV Series "Elementary" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 6: TV Series "Elementary"
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

A writer does not "watch Television" -- or "see" what ordinary viewers "see" in a TV Show.

So this blog entry is not about whether I think ELEMENTARY is a "good" TV show, or what's wrong with it as a TV Show, or even about whether you should or should-not watch it.  This is more about "how" to be a writer watching TV rather than a viewer watching TV.

And I'm onto my hobby-horse about THEME again.  By Blogger's count, I've done 34 posts relevant to THEME in this writing series. is just one, and it has some links to others about theme. 

Here's a link to an index of one of the various series on theme:

So today we're going to look at this episode of Elementary with a microscope focused on theme and what happens when the theme is not reticulated:

Season 2: Episode 12 - Internal Audit
    Jonny Lee Miller
    Lucy Liu
    Aidan Quinn
    Jon Michael Hill

When a hedge fund manager who was also running a Ponzi scheme is murdered, Holmes and Watson must determine which of his clients is guilty.

Study that "logline" -- you have to learn to write a logline for your own novel's pitch or query letter.  This one is an excellent example. 

We're looking at the cohesiveness of the script of this episode to discern the theme and the NETWORK (CBS) opinion of the audience the show is aimed toward. 

A Network gets their opinion of their audience for a given show by studying numbers, statistics, focus groups -- and applying the principles of "PR" (Public Relations and/or Advertising.)

As I pointed out many times, but closely in the series on Marketing Fiction ...

... TV and Film (and News) delivered by Airwaves, Cable, or Internet is a business using the business model where the product the studios make is sold to advertisers totally on the number and demographic composition of the eyes glued to the screen. 

Commercial fiction and now (as pointed out in the Marketing series) non-fiction is all delivering you (the consumer) to the mercies of the advertisers. 
Understanding the attitudes, concerns and opinions of that audience is what PR is all about -- but today it's being used in reverse to create that opinion. 

As any Math Major will explain, "Statistics" can not be used backwards.  Statistics can accurately predict the behavior of large groups of people (thousands) but Statistics can tell you absolutely nothing about any individuals even if you know what Groups they belong to. 

PR is trying to become a science which can determine the behavior of an individual -- and one tool being experimented with is the use of fiction (and news) to shape public opinion. 

A writer who has studied my previous blogs on THEME will see this experimental process playing out in stark, high relief, when watching this specific episode of the CBS drama ELEMENTARY linked above titled Internal Audit.

Now, fix firmly in mind that I'm a Baker Street Irregular from the git-go.  I absolutely love the entire Sherlock Holmes mythos, in all its variations.

Elementary is a worthy entry into the canon, via the alternate universe approach (I mean, NEW YORK!!!  But, oh, well, good is good.)

This episode which clearly illustrates many of my points about THEME. 

You can't choose elements of your story at random, because they're neat, or good, or popular, or ripped from the headlines.  If you do, you may get it right, but more likely you will get it wrong and make a big mess.

"Internal Audit" is a neat, clear example of a big mess.

A couple episodes previously, the cop that Sherlock liked to work with got shot and hospitalized.  It appears now there's nerve damage to his dominant arm, and there is no way to say if it will heal or if he must be retired to a desk job.  He's a good Detective to have earned Sherlock's respect.

Sherlock feels guilty for having put this cop in that dangerous situation, but reviewing his choices, he finds no error that he committed.  It just happened.

NOTE: as most TV shows, this one never allows any of the characters to include spiritual elements of "right and wrong" in their decision making.  So the reasoning always seems to be two-dimensional and over-simplified.

The theme of this episode is GUILT/INNOCENCE.  It's all about how responsible an individual is for the consequences of their actions, and what that responsibility says about the choices a person must, should, or could make. 

In this theme element, the connection between Cause and Effect is highlighted.

But it's a TV show, so nothing so profound as cause/effect appears anywhere in this script. 

It is SHOW DON'T TELL -- a story in pictures.  And an excellent script, too. 

ELEMENTARY is one of the very best produced shows on TV.  Elegant! 

This episode, however, doesn't measure up to the usual standards. And that is what's so starkly revealing to make this episode worth study. 

Remember all we discussed in Story Springboards and Episodic Plot structure linked above.

The END of the Internal Audit episode gives you a "springboard" into the next "chapter" of the injured Cop's career.  If you are trying to master springboards or episodic structure, study that last bit of dialogue carefully. 

The cop's story-arc for this episode ends in a scene where the injured cop is offered a different job opportunity in a different law enforcement division.  That offer (unanswered at this point) is a "springboard."  It leaves you with a question that is not answered, and an array of possible developments to stimulate your curiosity.  How curious you are depends on how well you know and like this character.  (Theme-Character Integration is an essential ingredient in Springboards.)

The "mess" I'm talking about in this episode happened because, though one element appears to have been changed by perhaps Network Administrators who are not writers, this final scene was not changed to MATCH THEMATICALLY with the changed element.

I suspect that's because they want to direct this injured cop into the other department which is called "Demographics" but is a surveilance program looking for terrorists before they attack the city. 

The offer is to keep working to "keep this city safe."  We know this character is dedicated to that concept. 

The point of the entire episode is to redirect this one character's career -- presumably to later come back and involve Sherlock in Homeland Security and anti-terrorist activities.

Note that "point" is not indicated in the logline.  Never let your theme show in your logline.  Logline is about plot and genre -- about who will watch or buy the story.

The logline here is about the "mystery" (genre):

"When a hedge fund manager who was also running a Ponze scheme is murdered, Holmes and Watson must determine which of his clients is guilty. "

This is a TV Series with a "story arc" structure, but it is episodic.  So here we see the Springboards used in Episodic structure -- all the gear-wheels of a plot structure are visible and clear and cleanly delineated.  That's why it's so obvious what went wrong to create this mess.

That POINT of having this "episode" as part of the arc is what determines the THEME of the episode.

Each episode has to have a theme that is some sub-set of the master-theme of the Series, and that master-theme has to be a sub-set of the genre's master-theme.

For example: the master-theme of the Romance Genre is "Love Conquers All" -- so all the sub-genres, different settings, times, or alternate-universes, can't change that master-theme.  Each setting can generate a series of "episodes" -- or series of novels.  But always the main theme requires the plot to display a problem and show how love conquers it.  Everything else is decoration.

Thus in a Mystery/Detective series like ELEMENTARY, there has to be a CRIME as a problem, and Sherlock and Watson have to conquer it by sifting details into a pattern that reveals motive, method, and opportunity (all of which hinge on character). 

The master-theme of Mystery is "Crime Doesn't Pay." 

So back to this Elementary episode titled Internal Audit.

Up until that last scene where this job offer is made to the injured cop, I thought Internal Audit was a perfectly fine episode, nicely written, well acted, very engrossing mystery, and contained everything you could want from an ELEMENTARY episode. 

I thought Sherlock becoming a Sponsor was what the episode was about. 

Then BOOM - everything fell apart at that scene where the injured cop gets a job-offer.

Clearly redirecting this injured cop's career into anti-terrorist activity (referred to euphemistically as Demographics) was what the episode was about. 

Sherlock becoming a Sponsor for an AA member is not as portentous as a cop going into anti-terrorist squad duties.  Think about "springboard tension" -- which issue is more likely to uncoil and "spring" into higher drama?  Will Sherlock be drawn back into drug use -- probably, because the original character was a cocaine addict, so what's so dramatic about that?  But a homicide detective drawn into the world of international espionage, covert-warfare, and massive financial schemes -- border security -- wow, that's huge.

So springboard-wise, this episode is about redirecting a cop's  career.

One big messy problem is that nowhere in this episode prior to that final scene in the cop's story-arc is there any hint that he will be drawn into anti-terrorist task force work.

The writing on this series and even in this episode is so pristine, so perfect, that the lack of foreshadowing of this truly epic scene in the development of a minor character that will affect the life of the main character is horrifying.  No writer of this caliber would have done such a thing.

So I saw in my mind's eye the original script submitted (which may never have existed, I have no inside knowledge of production of this show), and the rewritten script that was produced.  And I saw the non-writer's "hand" behind the decision to replace one Perpetrator with another. 

The aired episode used the crime of Money Laundering to be the motive for 3 murders.

There was an Art Gallery involved as a "front" for the money laundering scheme run by the Ponzi scheme hedge fund manager.

Tracing back from the Art Gallery, Sherlock discovers a Holocaust Survivor charity (retrieving money from the  Nazis) is involved in the money laundering -- an international charity. 

That seemed perfectly reasonable to me -- they used veiled references to Bernie Madoff by using similar names etc.  It was well done.

At first the Holocaust Charity didn't seem intrusive -- didn't seem to not-fit.

Only when that final scene on the injured Cop's plot-thread came up did I realize the script was distorted.

I guessed they couldn't change that scene with the injured cop because there are plot-plans for subsequent episodes locked in.  As I said above, it's an obvious springboard. 

But someone decided they had to use a Holocaust Charity as the source of the guy who did the murdering. 

But the entire episode is about morality's dictums regarding personal responsibility.

It makes thematic sense that the source of this murderer would be a CHARITY, and money-laundering made perfect sense -- white collar crimes.

It had to be an International Charity because the job offer to the cop is to become a guardian of the city against invaders from abroad who want to kill people.

So thematically International is the only choice.

But what are the HEADLINES chattering about now? 

Not Bernie Madoff (who invested for charities, mostly domestic.  Currently a trust is paying a portion of the invested capital back to the investors). 

Right now the headlines (most buried deep behind our scandals de jour) chatter about US based Islamic Charities funneling money to terrorists who use that money to attack us here and abroad.

This is HORRIBLE NEWS -- most Islamic charities are as good as anyone else's, and they do the job very nicely, thank you!  But with humans, there's a rotten apple in everyone's barrel.

And of course rotten apples make headlines (that glue eyeballs to advertisers).  Stories about upstanding charities don't attract the exact eyeballs advertisers pay big bucks to access.

There are a number of really effective, efficient, completely honest Holocaust Survivor charities in the USA -- so I assume there must be a rotten apple in that barrel somewhere, humans being human.  I didn't see anything wrong on first viewing with the choice of a Holocaust charity.

Collect a lot of money or power in one location and like turning on a light bulb at sunset on your patio, you will attract flies, moths, and things that sting.

The lesson is don't turn that color light on -- don't collect money or power in one location under the control of say 6 or 12 individuals who only have to agree to keep quiet in order to make them all rich. 

Now take a close look at the underlying structure of that episode's script considering our discussion of episodic structure and springboards.

The point was a) Sherlock becomes a sponsor, b) injured cop gets involved in anti-terrorist activities.  c) Sherlock's protege, Watson, faced down a temptation to reveal one of her prior clients -- so the entire episode was about morality, responsibility, keeping your word of honor.  That's why the cop didn't answer right away -- as an honorable man, he had to be sure he chose correctly, and that he would give his Word and keep that promise (like Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain vampire character.)

The Holocaust Survivor charity broke "word of honor." 

It was an international charity dedicated to doing something all viewers would like to see done, and it betrayed the Holocaust Survivors by retrieving their money but not passing it on to them or their heirs.

Does that fit the theme?


There are some brilliant writers involved in this show.  Watch those names on the credits.  Grand careers are being launched here.

But what is the natural, obvious, and thematically perfect type of international charity to be the source of someone stealing money and WILLING TO MURDER?

Did Bernie Madoff shoot or stab people?  No.  That was pure "white collar" crime.  Did he deal with people who then turned around and killed him?  No.  Why?  White Collar Crime (like embezzlement ) doesn't go with murder. 

The kind of person who runs a Ponzi scheme is not the kind of person (study criminal psychology) who murders or associates with people who would. 

What sort of people run their lives on a morality that makes it OK to shoot, stab, burn, behead or otherwise murder people who disagree with them?

You have to find the sort of people who fit into the episode that ends with a cop considering a redirection of his career into detecting terrorists. 

In other words, the money laundering that goes with the cop's career redirect is international and run by people who believe murder is OK at least under some circumstances.

All of a sudden, when you see that last scene with the injured cop, you understand the thematic ERROR made here -- and because the intrusion is smooth, subtle, and almost correct, you have a quandry to resolve.  Is it the Holocaust Charity that is the intrusion or the Cop's career choice that is the intrusion in this script? 

Which piece of this script was wedged in by non-writers?

Then ask why non-writers would mess with a script.

The answer (all the way back to the 1960's and STAR TREK which I do know a lot about) is ADVERTISERS and their assessment of the audience they want to reach with their products.  Or more specifically, it's what the network execs think the advertisers think.  (consider the Duck Dynasty flap from December 2013 and audience plus advertiser responses to the flap.)

The decision to change a script element has nothing to do with the thematic integrity of the story.

That's the big problem you face if you want to work in TV (where the money is).

The decision is entirely a PR (math turning an art into a science and not quite making it) decision. 

Some non-writer exec decided they could not use the obvious Islamic Mosque supporting an Islamic charity funneling money to terrorists in other countries.

Given that final scene with the injured cop, it is vividly obvious the International Charity had to be Islamic in the original script.  If it wasn't -- then it would have had to be changed in rewrite because that's what has to go into the cop's plot-thread springboard. 

But Islamic Terrorism is a hot-button issue that would distract viewers from the commercials, and therefore forbidden.  Any non-writer can see that instantly.

So what sort of international charity could they use instead of a Muslim one?  Red Cross?  It would work thematically, but no, can't attack the Red Cross -- too many people approve of them.

So who?  What charity?

A Jewish Charity would be acceptable to the CBS audience as a source of an embezzler turned murderer.  Despite the fact that Madoff wasn't a violent criminal, despite everything mystery fans know about criminal psychology, despite all the facts everyone knows, it is plausible enough, so use it.

But the script already called for 3 murders to lead to the solution -- and that's air time. 

So these (really great) writers had to leave out the character development that would have let the audience understand the Perpetrator as a "rotten apple" -- a distinctive, unique, strange individual criminal with both White Collar and Violent Crime in his makeup. 

It must have pained them greatly to leave such a paper-thin character as the perpetrator.  They could have made the Holocaust Charity element work if they'd had maybe another 4 minutes of air time to develop that individuality. 

But even so, that would not have been the platform upon which to hinge the springboard of the injured cop's new career decision.  There aren't any Jewish terrorists planning attacks on New York or London. 

I've detected similar "messes" made of other TV shows, but none so clear and stark and easy to see as this one.

Given this problem with this script, what would you do to fix it? 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, March 22, 2014

When is an Orphan Work Not An Orphan Work?

A few years ago, the Authors' Guild was quickly able to prove that certain Universities (and even a Search Engine!!!)  had very sloppy standards in determining in their own favor whether or not a work they would like to exploit for their own benefit was "orphan".

A work is considered "orphan" if the copyright owner cannot be found. It seems to me that it behoves all authors to make sure that they can easily be located, if they wish to benefit from their own labors and  genius and creative passion.

Blogs on the subject include:

Quoting from the latter:
"Here’s a six-sentence version for the time pressed: Several university libraries worked with Google to digitize millions of copyright-protected library books. The universities then placed these digital books in an online repository known as HathiTrust and permitted Google to keep a copy of each of the digital books it created. Although HathiTrust does not generally make those ebooks available, in the summer of 2011 it announced an “orphan works” program that would have allowed the downloading of books that the universities deemed “orphans” (books for which the authors cannot be found after diligent search). Authors and authors’ groups sued to stop the program and quickly discovered that many of the so-called orphans were readily findable. HathiTrust suspended the program, promising to restart it after further review. "

Apparently, since then the judge in the case ruled that the use of the copyrighted works was fair use,  or transformitive, because it was for data mining and "search" rather than access to the entire work, and the protests by the copyright owners over their works being called orphan were moot because the orphan works project had been abandoned.

Now, Congress is taking a look at orphan works, and there is still time to lodge a comment before the April 14th deadline.

Notice of Request for Additional Comments
The Copyright Office seeks further comments on potential legislative solutions for orphan works and mass digitization under U.S. copyright law that address topics listed in the Office's February 10, 2014 Notice of Inquiry or respond to any issues raised during the March 10-11, 2014 public meetings. All written comments should be submitted electronically using the comment submission form on the top left-hand side of this page. Comments are due by April 14, 2014.
The Copyright Office is reviewing the problem of orphan works under U.S. copyright law in continuation of its previous work on the subject and to advise Congress on possible next steps for the United States. The Office has long shared the concern with many in the copyright community that the uncertainty surrounding the ownership status of orphan works does not serve the objectives of the copyright system. For good faith users, orphan works are a frustration, a liability risk, and a major cause of gridlock in the digital marketplace. The issue is not contained to the United States. Indeed, a number of foreign governments have recently adopted or proposed solutions.
During its review, the Office has requested comments and held public roundtables in Washington DC on March 10-11, 2014, which were videotaped and transcribed. During these roundtables, the Office heard a variety of viewpoints on a wide range of issues impacting orphan works and mass digitization efforts. The Office will post the transcripts and video on the Office website as they become available. 

An interesting postscript for those authors who have a problem with "Bookshare" which scans copyrighted works without permission, for publication and distribution to unfortunate persons with print disabilities is a comment on the AG blog.

Rowena Cherry


"a footnote in the amicus brief filed on behalf of the American Association of People with Disabilities (Doc 138) where it says at footnote 16 Page 17:
"As the HDL and NFB explain, Congress also enacted Section 121 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 121, to clarify that efforts to make books accessible to patrons with disabilities are non-infringing."
This was a footnote to the statement on page 17: "Fortunately, Congress has harmonized copyright and accessibility law by recognizing that making copyrighted works accessible for people with disabilities is a non-infringing fair use."
In his Senate floor comments upon the introduction of Section 121, the late Senator Chafee made no remarks as to how his drafted amendment might 'clarify' or even address fair use; quite the contrary, he made the remark that even subsequent to the Copyright Act of 1976, The Library of Congress itself was still required to obtain permission from publishers before making any accessible renditions of copyrighted works."
All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 20, 2014


This week I'm at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. Next Thursday I'll tell you about the con and our Vampires vs. Zombies panel.

On St. Patrick's Day, we had half a foot or more of snow—not normal for this area! I'll be loving the warm Florida sun. It's time for this winter to end.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 8 -- Guest Post by Flying Pen Press on Headlines and Titles

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 8
Guest Post by Flying Pen Press
Headlines and Titles

To round off our discussion of Marketing Fiction, we have this Guest Post from the publisher at Flying Pen Press, David Rozansky. 

Last week we examined Headlines and Titles, -- and there is much more to be said about choosing a title (which is what a Headline is).  This week we hear from a publishing company that has a marketing perspective on Titles with a focus on query letters.  Read carefully. 

Flying Pen Press does not specialize in Romance but is widely knowledgeable in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Gaming markets, and understands mixed genre, though is not publishing Science Fiction Romance right now.  Publishing is a business -- learn to think like a publisher from this post, and apply that knowledge as you shape your query letter to a Science Fiction Romance publisher. 

Here are previous posts in this series on Marketing:

This guest post gives you an insight into how Marketers think, and how a publishing company shifts and changes with the marketing winds often indicated by the most recent Headlines.

You can meet David on Twitter.  See the end of this post for his contact information.

I sent the following questions and got the following responses. 

Absorb this information fully.  It could save your writing career. 


1.  As a publisher, what genres do you look for especially, and how do you determine when to change the genre-mix of your output?

Our focus is mostly on marketing print, with the practice of making ebook editions a collateral product of importance.

In that regard, we have a "platform-centric" regard for the books we publish. This has three paths to pursue:

1. We seek authors who have a fan base or a viable platform like a popular blog or a bit of fame, at least within their own niches.

2. We try to create a niche platform and find books that feed that readership. Right now, we are building a tile list for readers of Colorado-focus books and another tile list aimed at writers, such as writing guides and workbooks.

3. There are natural platforms that we wish to exploit. These develop in the news or just with popular culture. Our title The Official Rules of Poker is an example of this. When poker was the hottest thing, there was no modern book of poker rules, and so I asked Kelli Mix to write one. Without much marketing at all, it has done well, simply because it fills a demand from a natural platform.

Things are always changing. We published a bit of science fiction because early in the company's life, we knew we needed a "full" catalog, and we arranged to be publicly visible at DenCon, the World Science Fiction Convention that would be in Denver--our home town--that summer. We had a good initial launch with science fiction.

Now, we are not able to sell science fiction much at all. I believe it's due to the explosion of competing publishers and self-publishing authors, which has dramatically increased the marketing costs of the genre.

The way we choose genre mix is mostly related to "return on investment." I have a really nice proprietary list of writers, and reaching Colorado readers is as easy as stepping outside with poster board and a marker. At the same time, we see holes in these two markets where books are now needed.

And as to when we make that decision, the market tends to force our hand. This summer was just terrible for us in all genres of novels. To survive, we have to do something different. The market is always in flux, and those publishers that adapt best to change are the ones that succeed over time.


2. In the Marketing end of publishing, have you run into reader-resistance at
a) certain price-points,
b) certain title keywords,
c) certain kinds of cover-images (e.g. the old fashioned brass-bras female fighter image).


The resistance the market holds is not so much related to price-points as it is to price in general. Higher-priced titles generate fewer buyers. It's also related to value, especially with non-fiction and buzzworthy novels. Competition in a subject or fiction concept is also a factor in the impact of high-pricing, so niche books often sell better despite higher prices.

As to titles, I've seen taboo words, such as Fuck and Bitch, become acceptable in humor or edgy genres. My current writing project, Fishnets and Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book, has drawn positive buzz because I use the word whore in the subtitle.

However, in most all cases, Carlin's Seven Words and other expletives should be avoided, especially pejorative terms. Don't toss such words into a title unless you have good reason and good market research.

As to cover graphics, each culture and generation has its own sensitivities. In addition to images, quality is important. Consumers always judge books by their covers. Art that seems amateurish or cartoony will not sell books.


3. What sells best into your market -- and would you define your target


What sells best are books by authors who have a good platform. We are acutely aware that readers follow authors, not publishers.

The target market is different for every book, and there is no way to know what submissions will appear in our inbox, so we can't say that there is a specific target market in general.

I've often said that a publishing house finds its path in the marketplace blazed by serendipity. Once we had a few successes with science fiction, we built our marketing plans around that genre and took on more science fiction.

Now we're having success with Terry Grosz's memoirs of his life as wildlife law enforcement agent, which has a strong regional interest. Are changed to regional titles.

The stiffest competition we now see comes from the self-published authors. Self-publication is now a real a game changer. It affects our business to the point that we just cannot compete.

To survive, we need our own platform reader. I come from the world of magazines, I'm used to building a leadership and then finding authors to fit content to those readers. I am now using the magazine publishing model for books via direct-response catalogs and a new title list tightly focused along niche-genre lines.

In 2014, we plan to produce catalogs for Colorado titles and catalogs for writers' guides and reference books.

Meanwhile, if we should find a manuscript with great market potential, we will certainly publish it on it's own under the Flying Pen Press imprint.


4.  Looking back at the Headlines of 2013, which issues and affairs would
seem to you to be ripe for dramatization in a novel format?  Which would translate best into a galactic-setting, which would fare better in Fantasy, and which do you think would sell better as comedy?  Please give a basis for each judgement call.


Is a little hard to say because 2013 was "The Year We shoulda seen Coming."

For example the entire NSA surveillance story was foretold in Dan Brown's Digital Fortress. Fracking could make a good plot device, but it would just be another corporate malfeasance/man-made ecological disaster story.

Still, these are both issues that can drive thrillers and spy novels.

One news item in recent years is that of the tsunami. Nobody yet has written a novel about a California tsunami and how it would impact the city of Los Angeles.

We often see New York City hit by tsunamis in disaster films, usually as a result of an asteroid strike in the Atlantic Ocean. However, despite the news of Hurricane Sandy, we don't see a tsunami novel aimed at New York City on the East Coast.

The future of galactic-setting science-fiction is wide open. The field of astronomy has exploded with ever-increasing discoveries of exoplanets. This makes science-fiction ready for complete reinvention. There is a whole lot of new science just waiting to be developed as novels. Just recently China became the third superpower to reach the moon. It may be time to reopen plots about the three superpowers engaging in a new space race, especially regarding the Moon and the exploitable Solar System.

Fantasy, we need to pay attention to business stories, especially in the field of entertainment. Hasbro, with its Hub channel, and Disney's new success with the Disney Junior channel, have developed many new franchises that are beginning to influence fantasy novels.

Watch for structuring of rights to the Dungeons & Dragons franchise for television and film. Hasbro, through the Wizards of the Coast subsidiary, is about to publish the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with a big product launch. If a Dungeons & Dragons show appears on the Hub network as well as a film at the same time a new edition is published, I predict a resurgence in sword and sorcery novels, led by R.A. Salvatore.

As far as humor, I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert-style political satire will be the way to go in the face the next election's initial rumblings.


5. As an acquisitions editor,  would you think it's too soon for writers to
use Headlines such as the 9/11 attacks as novel sources?  That was 12 years ago, but is still active headline material with continued Terrorism attacks.  Can Terrorism per se sell well yet?


Terrorism has always been good fodder for thriller novels. I don't think it was ever too early to use 9/11 is a setting for a story of courage.

However, the sensitivities of people directly affected and of people who watched it on television must be considered, at least until that generation passes into history. The same can be said for such horrible events as Pearl Harbor, Columbine, and the recent tsunamis.


6. Given the current media focus on individuals -- whether terrorist
connected or just crazy -- shooting or bombing crowded places, do you think there is any way for a publisher to market an entertainment vehicle such as a novel (or film, or webisodes) depicting either the shooter or a victim as Hero?


Any story where Good triumphs over Evil, even when Good resorts to violence, can be a good story.

Consider the film Inglorious Bastards. The good guys lock Hitler and top Nazi officers in a movie theater and blow it up.

Now, I live near the Century Theater that was the scene of the Aurora Theater Massacre. I know people who were caught in the crossfire and I often attend that theater myself. Nonetheless, I find Inglorious Bastards to be an enjoyable, albeit violent, story.

My stomach has completely turned against Batman, however. The day after the massacre, the Hot Topic retail chain displayed Batman-franchise clothing, including all the stores in the area. This lack of sensitivity will keep me out of Hot Topic forever, only because I feel a sense of dread just seeing the Hot Topic logo (or even just writing about it now).

That's how devastating bad taste can be to a business.

A novel of Jewish insurrectionists rising up against the Nazi incursion can also be a great novel of heroism.

Nazis make great villains upon which to unleash fictional terrorism.

When good-guy terrorists are "freedom fighters" and victims are purely evil tyrants or wartime enemies, it works. But if innocent lives are taken by the freedom fighters as collateral damage, there will be a public outcry--proximity to current events notwithstanding.

In storytelling, Good may resort to evil means against Evil so that good may prevail. Good may never harm innocents, nor allow harm to come to innocents. It's not unlike Asimov's Laws of Robotics.


7.  If a writer is looking to rip a story from Headlines, how long ago
should they look to find dramatic material?  When does material become "Historical" and when is it still too raw on the nerves of readers?


Have you ever noticed that schools don't teach recent history? Basically, if there are witnesses around who may dispute the history book, it's generally not taught.

Novels are marketable on current events for about the life of the news cycle. For some events, this can be one afternoon, and for others it could be a century or more.

When the news is sensitive, stories pulled from that headline must exercise great care and avoid jumping to conclusions. Many aspiring writers will likely jump on the news cycle, often in bad taste, so it's probably best to avoid the story altogether.

When the news cycle is completed, there is a period where the story is "stale." The duration of this period seems to be related to how many writers jumped on the news story in the first place. For example, we are  in a period where Desert Storm stories are too stale to be marketable.

Then there comes a period where the event is "historical." The bigger the event, the sooner and longer this period. World War Two is still a marketable setting, the Vietnam War has waned (although the '60s Antiwar Movement is still a healthy setting for novels).

There are events that keep returning as popular settings for novels. Each generation has a need to relive Pearl Harbor, it seems. Nine-Eleven will likely fall into this category, I suspect.

Writing a story pulled from the news cycle usually results in an also-told story trying to sell during the stale period. The historical period does not pre-announce itself and often occurs in the wake of a bestseller that completely saturates the topic.

Thus, writers are often warned against pulling stories from headlines.

However, there is a type of news that serves well as plot devices during or shortly after the news cycle. These events spur public debate and controversy. Even when the news is ghastly or macabre, if it becomes a political issue, it loses the "raw nerve" factor. The original Law & Order TV series successfully told such stories.

An example of this would be the Terry Schiavo story, which prompted a debate of compassionate euthanasia versus the absolute value of human life. Stories based on this news item flooded the cultural panorama, apparently unable to saturate the market.

Essentially, any fiction pulled from controversial news seems to be accepted by the public as part of the debate.


8. If a writer wants to deal with a very current, raw topic, is there an
approach to marketing that would sell such a Work?  What "slant" would a writer need to use?


With the previous answer in mind, I would frame the novel as part of the debate on a controversial topic.

----Comment by Jacqueline Lichtenberg -----------
As I've discussed at length in the various blog series on THEME -- what you extract from a Headline is not the setting, characters, historical veracity, or the actions of various people.  The writer has to distill out the THEME that the Headline defines for a large number of people who read the specific genre the writer is working within.
----End Comment-------------------


9. What Headline topics work better as non-fiction or docudrama than they do as fiction?


Almost all news does better as nonfiction or docudrama. Isn't that why people watch the news? That is when the news is at its most compelling moment.


10. Staring at their inevitable rejection slip pile, a writer may become discouraged from marketing their chosen Headline topic.  What personal considerations of the acquisition editor should a writer take into account when evaluating a rejection that says something simple such as "This is not for us at the current time."


Acquisition editors are extremely busy. They receive hundreds, perhaps thousands of queries, yet it takes a full two weeks to fully evaluate one submission. The reasons for rejection are usually not explained, or if they are, explain only vaguely and briefly. It just takes too much time to write even the shortest of rejection letters.

It is good practice to remember that acquisition editors and book editors are real people often under stress.

One terrible example happened on Friday, December 13, 2013, a gunman entered Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, not that far from my daughter's school. It happened right in the middle of #SciFiChat, a weekly Twitter chat I moderate.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg was the one to break the news to me live on Twitter. I quickly began to mobilize parents and journalists I know who have connections to the school. I also frantically culled all the information I could from the Internet, to find out if my daughter and her school were safe.

In my email, sandwiched between the lockdown notice for my daughter's school, and the safety procedures report from the Denver Public School District, there was a query … a query I wish I'd never seen.

The query was for a YA Thriller titled High School Hit Men. The protagonists are high school students who are secretly government assassins. These protagonists must deal with their school's ubiquitous bully delinquents.

At first, I was shocked. Was this some kind of cruel prank? No, worse; this was a legitimate query.

If this was a dystopian novel, where the protagonists are fighting the tyrannical government that has so violated them, I might not be as outraged. But this query made it seem that this is an acceptable reality.

Obviously, the author found that Flying Pen Press was the closest publishing house to Arapaho High School, or saw my frantic tweets on Twitter with the hashtag #Arapaho.

I'm still not sure which is more offensive: that this author was so opportunistic so as to query me with such a story at my moment of greatest horror and distress, or that the author was approving the exploitation of minors as government-trained killers.

Like Hot Topic, I will never forget this author's name, and I will never stop associating it with a sense of dread.


11. Give your contact information and URL for submission guidelines.


I can be reached at, and our website is

However, we are about to drastically change our submissions guidelines as we move to Colorado titles and writing guides, so please wait for the changes shortly after the New Year.

The best way to reach me is through my Twitter account, @DavidRozansky.


Keep 'em Flying,
David A. Rozansky, Publisher
Flying Pen Press

Address: 1660 Niagara Street, Denver CO 80220 USA
Phone and Fax: 303-375-0225
Twitter: @DavidRozansky

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bodies and Spirits

Out-of-body experiences explained away? This page examines the case of a woman who can induce that condition at will:

Astral Travel

A fascinating article, but one feature of it irks me, pronouncements such as these: “This is not an astral trip, like those described by mystics. There's no paranormal activity of any kind,” and the assumption that the experience is best described as “a type of hallucination.” Not that I necessarily believe this woman’s ability proves the existence of astral travel. On the other hand, neither does the fact that the scans show activity in the part of the brain that senses the body’s movement and “makes you feel where your body is in relation to the world” prove that astral travel does NOT take place. Nor does the fact that the same perceptions can be induced by drugs. The purely materialistic interpretation is an assumption brought to the facts, not a conclusion legitimately derived from the facts.

In the Judeo-Christian world-view, body, mind, and soul form a unity. It would be no surprise at all to find evidence of the spirit’s activity in the synapses of the brain. Rather, we’d be surprised NOT to find such evidence. See C. S. Lewis’s essay on “Transposition” for a lucid discussion of the physical manifestations of emotional and spiritual experiences. The text isn’t available online as far as I can tell, being under copyright; however, here’s a pretty good summary with extensive quotes (note especially the paragraph using grief and tears as an example):


On another topic, speaking of bodies and spirits, next week I’m scheduled to appear on a panel about vampires and zombies. Any thoughts about the current popularity of zombies? I’ve never grokked the appeal of them myself. (I’m representing Team Vampire.) From what I’ve seen of zombie movies, they seem to be a subset of post-apocalyptic fiction and probably satisfy the same audience expectations. Anyone have favorite zombie books or movies?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 7 - Headlines and Titles by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 7
Headlines and Titles
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Here are previous posts in this series on Marketing:

The following tweet is from THE BLAZE (in Dec 2013):

‘Fake’ Mandela sign language interpreter reportedly faced murder, rape & kidnapping charges…
-------end quote----------

Here's the twitpic link:

And here's the link to the full story on THE BLAZE:
I know, it's March already - who needs this ancient history of no importance?

Actually, you do if you've been reading this series on Marketing Fiction.  This is an exercise in applying what we've been talking about by noticing how PR is applied by professionals.  This reveals the change in our world -- one of many.  

This news item is not about how our President's Secret Service folks messed up.

This is a post in the Marketing Fiction In A Changing World series -- and one change to note when choosing a title for your story or novel is the one buried inside this Headline.

You may want to review the posts on Theme with attention to the "Integration" ones.

And Part 8 of Theme-Worldbuilding Integration

I've mentioned a number of times the "formula" for creating a title for your story.

The title symbolizes and/or states the theme in such an intriguing way that it can not be forgotten once the reader gets to the end and understands what the story is about.  The book is closed, the cover appears -- your title and byline become engraved on that reader's mind.

Why does that effect always happen if the title is well chosen?

It happens because you, the writer, have articulated something buried deep within the heart of the reader you have never met, something they didn't know was there or couldn't articulate.  You've shown not told that you understand the reader.

The element that makes this trick work is that you've never met this reader -- the reader knows you don't know their heart.  Therefore what you've said in the theme of your novel is expressing something the reader has in common with you.

Fellowship, kinship, friendship, community -- that's what makes titles "work."

You are the spokesman for this reader who has been alone with this belief you've articulated.  So the reader wants to become part of the group, to join with those who recognize this crucial element of heart.

So how do you learn to DO that in a title? 

Reading News Headlines is an excellent method.

So let's read this headline from The Blaze online news outlet.

Firstly, as I would when approaching a novel to see if I want to buy it, I look at the Publisher -- then the author -- then I read the blurb to see if the blurb is professionally written -- only after evaluating the craftsmanship in the blurb do I drill down to what the blurb says.

This headline (blurb is what News writes into a Headline) is very professionally written.

But it isn't what attracted me to this story back in December. 

The most interesting thing in that tweet is the PUBLISHER. 

But most online news readers don't pay attention to the publisher and don't know anything about them -- unless maybe just that they have a TV Cable channel (CNN, Fox, whoever).

Being a writer, I pay lots of attention to publisher-identities and profiles. 

The Blaze is a spinoff (maybe not so "off" but definitely spinning) of Glenn Beck's web-broadcast operation that I've discussed previously.

His bold move to leave (or get dumped by) Fox and plunge into building a web-distributed Network (very innovative) seemed idiotic.  But now his network is carried by a large number of Cable Providers and has a growing number of shows filling the round-the-clock broadcast slots.  We've discussed Cable's business model in previous entries in Marketing Fiction In A Changing World.  Watching Cable providers acquire Beck's operation has been an education in business. 

We'll see if he crashes and burns as the Oprah Winfrey network did.  It's all about business model -- delivering entertainment, whether fiction or non-fiction, to a targeted audience and doing it at a profit.  See last week's post for the confusion of Profit and Prestige motives.

Now, one thing Beck has claimed on-air is that he doesn't use metrics.  He changes his tune frequently, opens subjects then drops them seemingly at random.  But all the while his audience grows.  That's what "metrics" does. 

I don't believe he doesn't use metrics.  I see evidence that he does, and no evidence that he doesn't. 

This Mandela headline crafting indicates that not only is The Blaze using metrics, they are very carefully (and very professionally) applying those metrics.

What are "metrics?"  That's the numbers that Public Relations (PR) produces when applied to the problem of measuring an audience by demographic, and other opinion elements.  Metrics quantified audiences delivered to advertisers.

Why does a for-profit operation need to use such metrics?  Because that's what Advertisers use.

Beck started his web-network without advertising (except his own products), so didn't need metrics other than the number of paying subscribers.

Yes, you need a separate subscription to access Beck's video-shows unless your cable or satellite company carries his network (in which case they pay him and you pay them).

This mix of subscription and cable is a fascinating business model -- you must watch how this develops and what it's fate ultimately is.  Somehow, just ignore "who" the people are who subscribe because that's irrelevant to a Romance Writer studying the Changing World.

Watching The Blaze News operation develop (at this time it looks like a scandal rag) will likewise be fascinating. 

The announced intention that Beck repeats as a slogan is "The Truth Lives Here."

Likewise, one of his hobbyhorse topics he returns to repeatedly is the principles the USA Founding Fathers incorporated into the founding documents. 

One of those principles is "Innocent Until Proven Guilty."

That was, at the time, a VAST -- utterly shocking, and truly idiotic -- innovation.  Everyone knows if an Aristocrat accuses you (shades of The Inquisition) you are guilty. 

Now look at that headline from The Blaze -- which is striving to become a trustworthy news source. 

‘Fake’ Mandela Sign Language Interpreter Who Stood Just Inches From Obama Reportedly Faced Murder, Rape & Kidnapping Charges

Read the rest of the article -- and it quite fairly reports on all the reasons why this poor fellow might not be "guilty" -- but how many will read all the way down into that story?

Most people will see the tweet and (since you are also seeing the same kind of language from other news outlets) leap to the unfounded conclusion that since he was ACCUSED therefore he is GUILTY.

Why do "people" think that way?

Aha, that is one of the Changes in this World that we're examining in this series on Marketing. 

How did we go from Innocent Until Proven Guilty -- to Accused = Guilty?

Go read some items on Facebook or Google+  -- I put a lot of news items on Google Plus to illustrate ways to rip thematic material from them.  See if you can spot the headlines incorporating Accused=Guilty.  That assumption makes a hot-plot-development. 

Here is the bit of thematic material to rip out of this tangled mess of a headline.

We have an organization striving and struggling to become economically viable in this tech-morphing world -- The Blaze Network (Beck renamed his operation).

They claim not to "use metrics."

They disseminate headlines that are clearly and obviously (yes, only to a writer) crafted from pure metrics. 

One of the metrics behind this headline is the prevalence of ACCUSED MEANS GUILTY.

Otherwise, the headline would be:

‘Fake’ Mandela Sign Language Interpreter Who Stood Just Inches From Obama --acquitted of the rape charge but convicted of theft

That bit I changed is a piece of a sentence from farther down in the story.  ACQUITTED not FACED is the operative change.

Now, consider how many people would click through and read the rest of the story if it said ACQUITTED?  As compared to how many would click if it says FACED?

That's what METRICS does -- that's what PR is all about -- how many and will they click on an advertisement?  The advertisers (as I showed previously in this Marketing series) need to have an audience delivered to their ads with emotions whipped up to the point where action is guided by emotion not rational thought. 

So by writing the headline based on the NEW worldview of ACCUSED = GUILTY (where there's smoke there's fire) -- they get more clicks than if they indicate that what all the other media outlets are saying is unimportant -- that is acquitted, not faced.

Dismissing a matter doesn't get you click-throughs.  The choice of a word makes a non-story into a news story by whipping up emotion.  And this from The Blaze -- The Truth Lives Here.  Does it?

This headline illustrates an important principle in headline writing.  It is crafted in a professional PR style.

Study it carefully, study your emotional reactions, look at how complicated the issues really are (by reading the rest of the news item), and what mental gymnastics went into boiling all that complexity down into a headline.

SIMPLIFY is the watchword (PR assumes people are herds of stupid or stupified-by-emotion animals) -- take your complex, nested thematic structure and simplify it into a headline using this same process and you'll have a winner if the PR/Advertising people are correct.  At least it'll be profitable if not prestigious. 

Meanwhile, note the disparity between what Beck claims to be doing, and what those hired to succeed with advertisers have to do instead. 

Will his commercial success-curve bend proportionately to the hypocrisy embedded underneath it all? 

Does success require that sort of hypocrisy? 

Is the lack of Hypocrisy the reason the Romance Genre hasn't been able to "sell" the HEA? 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Pirate site BookZa claims to be "library", financed by Doubleclick (Google subsidiary_

There are writers who feel that piracy is not a concern to them, or that piracy is beneficial. I am not one of that ilk.

How does it help me --or you-- that Disney and Norton place paid adverts on BookZa on pages illegally offering my books to anyone who wants to download them free?

I own the copyright. I did not give permission for BookZa to create illegal versions of my titles or to publish and distribute my titles.

A friend gave me a heads-up about BookZa. Here is one of the many pages sharing my stuff

I was able to copy the illegal links on the page, but not the Google-placed advertisement.
Now, what is happening to tax revenues as a result of this piracy?

The pirate probably isn't paying taxes. Is the income from Norton and Disney and other advertisers paid to Google greater that the income would be if income taxes were paid at the individual rates? I have no way of knowing.

There is another site that is in my opinion a pirate site. It is and although it posts a copyright page, it pays uploaders in WRZ and it does not (appear to me to) ban prolific uploaders no matter how many takedown notices are sent in.

Here's the link to the page of someone who apparently uploads an average of 4 ebooks every day, and appears to have uploaded material encouraging people to infringe the copyrights of more than TWO THOUSAND AND SEVEN HUNDRED works.

The ebooks that KellyKing29 has allegedly uploaded are hosted on TusFiles and on Hulkload.

Here is mobilism's "policy".  In my opinion, they would not be in business if they enforced it or followed it.

Copyright policy
Last modified: 15 April 2013

Mobilism does not condone, allow or permit copyrighted content to be uploaded to our servers. Please ensure you read and understand this policy before uploading to Mobilism servers or filing a copyright infringement notice.

Mobilism accepts DMCA infringement notices for copyrighted material.

External infringements
To file an infringement notice for a file that is not hosted on Mobilism servers (subdomains ending in, please follow the copyright infringement process of the site the file is hosted on. Mobilism does not have access to remove files on external services and therefore may not respond to copyright infringement notices relating to files on external services.

Internal infringements
Mobilism may remove pages that link to copyrighted material. To file a copyright infringement notice with Mobilism, you must provide written communication using one of two methods set forth below. By filing a copyright infringement notice you understand and accept if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing on your copyright, you will be liable for damages including costs and attorney fees. 

Option One, Email: Your notice must contain all of the following to be accepted:
  • Details of the copyrighted work that you believe is infringed upon including its location under the domain.
  • An email address where Mobilism can contact you.
  • Information and/or proof that you are the copyright holder or authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.
  • The statement: "I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed."
  • digital signature.

Mobilism will generally handle complaints within 48 hours of the complaint being received. The contact details for filing a copyright infringement notice can be found on our contact us page

Option Two, Registering as a Developer/Author/Other copyright holder or representitive: Alternatively to filing a copyright complaint by email, you may register on the forum and send a private message (PM) to the Section Head of the forum where the infringing content was posted. Section heads are listed on the index under the title of each section. Your first notice must include all of the following to be accepted:
  • Details of the copyrighted work that you believe is infringed upon including its location under the domain.
  • Information and/or proof that you are the copyright holder or authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.
  • The statement: "I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed."

Once your identity is confirmed, subsequent emails are only required to have a link to the infringing content and the statement of the last bulletpoint. Messaging section heads directly will generally result in much faster removal than emailing us.

Repeat infringers
Any users of Mobilism services who repeatedly upload copyrighted material to Mobilism servers may have a permanent ban placed on their account if they are issued with more than two infringement notices.

Piracy is big business, but not for the majority of authors who are being ripped off. Think what they could be earning if Google, PayPal, file hosting sites, major businesses that advertise on pirate sites etc had morals.

This is back to the BookZa page.

Rowena Cherry

Category: fiction

530 KB, English