Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reviews 10: Shadow Banking in Fantasy And Reality by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 10:
Shadow Banking in Fantasy And Reality
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The old saying "If you want to understand what's really going on: Follow The Money." holds especially true in Fantasy novels or where Magic is involved.

Gordon R. Dickson tacked the financial economics of Magic in The Dragon And The George.

And now Simon R. Green (one of the best writers of campy Fantasy working today) has added a novel to his ongoing series called SECRET HISTORIES about the Drood family policing the unseen world around us, buried under our feet, and in the Nightside.

This one is titled CASINO INFERNALE -- and it's a breezy fast read, told entirely from one point of view, Eddie Drood aka Shaman Bond.  It's very James Bond like, except with fantasy creatures.

It's not a Romance, but it has a whopping good LOVE STORY, and a definite "relationship" axis to the plot.  This is a man and a woman who team up, using different skills, to confront enemies much larger than both of them, and win.

The plot of Casino Infernale is pretty simple: Shaman Bond's mission is to break the bank at an annual gambling casino financed, run by, and profited from The Shadow Bank.  If he can pull that off, he'll stop a magic-fueled war.

The Shadow Bank's actual operators, owners, and policy makers are revealed at the end, so I won't tell you about them.

The term Shadow Bank is sprinkled liberally through the book.  It's attributes shadow our real-world Shadow Bank.  The whole novel is political satire wrapped in James Bond camp and a pure send-up of the serious view of the world.

I do highly recommend all Simon R. Green titles, but particularly the Secret Histories and the tales of the Nightside.

Green has accomplished just what I described in the series of posts on Depiction.

Part 1: Power in Relationships

Part 2: Conflict and Resolution


Part 3: Internal Conflict


And he has done all that while "ripping from the headlines" -- as I've described that process in many prior posts here.  If you aren't a technician of writing craft, a wordsmith, very likely you will never see him doing any of this.  All you see is a rip-roaring good read.

Here are some of the places to learn about the real-world Shadow Banking system and how that interweaves with Politics.

Remember, when writing a Romance Novel, Romance by itself will produce a very bland and placid product.  Add religion or politics, and you add a spark to your tinder. Splash on the accelerant of sex, and stand back!)  But the most potent ingredient in Romance is Money, a real-world proxy for Power.

"Love" is 7th House, Libra, Venus, and all things peaceful and beautiful.

"Sex" is 8th House, Scorpio, Pluto, and all things secret, dark, underground, interior, and, ancient tombs with cursed buried treasure, disruptive when revealed.  8th House is other-people's-money, other people's values, thus Inheritance and taxes.

8th House is opposite 2nd House - and both are about the tensions and Powers of Money.

2nd House is Banking.  8th House is Shadow Banking.  They are inextricably intertwined in very mystical ways -- Simon R. Green has revealed mysteries for you.

Here are some websites where you can find information on Shadow Banking in our real world.  If you dig, you might come across some funding trails that lead to politics. 


Here is a google search -- look at the images, not just the websites.


And in particular this diagram from

Where it says:
This week, a senior banker friend gave me a poster entitled The Shadow Banking System. It was shocking stuff.

The graphic depicts how money goes round the modern world. Most of the poster is dominated by shadow banking systems. These flows are so extraordinarily complex that hundreds of boxes create a diagram comparable to the circuit board.

It should be mandatory reading for bankers, regulators, politicians and investors today, a reminder of clueless investors, regulators and rating agencies.

“After all, during the credit boom, there was plenty of research being conducted into the financial world; but I never saw anything remotely comparable to this road map.”

-------End Quote---------

And the larger image is from

Seeking Alpha is a legitimate and very insightful, informative and very often correct source for information on how our Stock Market moves and why.  They "follow the money."  And they try to get ahead of vast movements to show you where you can find profit investing in companies that have volatile stocks.

Here's my favorite chart. You can stare at this for hours and still find new connections.

There are many graphs posted on the web.  Dig through Google and Bing to find more.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Round-Up Of Copyright-Related News

"Most copyright holders are individuals; most infringers are businesses." Alex Wild.

This is not the picture that copyright infringers would like the world to see. Most big Tech for instance is young, anarchic, inclined to worship "distruptiveness" and to value the means of distributing "content" rather than the "content" itself, which is why they call movies, music, photography, literature, games etc "content" rather than art.

If they called art "art", they'd have to call an individual photographer an artist, instead of "The Man".
Anyway, be careful when you "share" glorious pictures on Facebook and its like. You might be infringing someone's copyright.

"....many times infringing content gets taken down, only to reappear on the same site, sometimes only a matter of hours after it is removed..."  and "... in one case, the same textbook was uploaded to the same website 571 times..."


Quoting from the above linked article:
"Representative Judy Chu whipped out her iPad and did a Goole search. She pointed out that all she did was search "watch 12." which Google auto-completed to "watch 12 Years a Slave free..."

Gotta love Judy Chu!
So, Google was asked why Google auto-completes to pirate sites. Google would not answer that, but the probability is that Google auto-completes to pirate sites, because pirate sites make money for Google.
  1. Section 512 of Title 17 Hearing; The exchange runs from 1:43:00 to 1:46:14 
This is a highly entertaining article and well worth reading.
The cut and thrust here is also excellent.

"... the Turtles struck a major blow in the struggle against the new boss (Big Tech and Big Radio) in their case against Sirius to protect the rights of artists who recorded prior to 1972..."


Well worth reading, IMHO.  For those who don't know, many radio stations and internet stations have decided not to pay performers anything at all for all those Classic Rock and Golden Oldies channels that play music recorded before 1972. That is just exploitation, IMHO.


The [Copyright] Office thinks it is unreasonable for the age of a sound recording to dictate whether royalties are paid on public performances by means of digital audio transmissions, so long as copyright subsists in that sound recording.


All the best,
Rowena Cherry
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/ 

The Trouble With Writing Sci-Fi Is That The World Catches Up

Apparently, one of the Tech companies has now invented a wearable computer that permits a person to check their significant other's pulse. The Japanese have invented toilets that announce a urinalysis of one's output. There are cellphones that double as credit card swipes and wallets, and I expect you could stash an eyeliner in there....

When I wrote FORCED MATE in 1993, I tried not to copy STAR TREK or STAR WARS, but I probably did so. According to FanFICtion (an excellent read), almost every work is inspired by previous works, and could be classed as someone's fan fiction. Be that as it may, anyone reading FM for the first time nowadays would not be at all impressed with my futuristic elements.

Alas. What do more experienced SFR or alien romance writers do about their backlist being overtaken?

All the best,
Rowena Cherry
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/ 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Story: "Romantic Retreat"

I have a new erotic paranormal romance published by Ellora's Cave in their "VaVa Boomers" theme month, featuring heroines over fifty. In my novelette "Romantic Retreat," a woman whose husband has just retired from the Navy disagrees with him about how to spend their "bonus years." But he brushes off her misgivings about his plan to uproot them from their current home and take a high-stress civilian job. Then a friend gives her an enchanted miniature model of a fairy-tale cottage. Its magic transports her and her husband into the cottage in a pocket dimension, where they have twenty-four uninterrupted hours to reconnect romantically and settle their differences:

Romantic Retreat

Of all the fiction I've written, this story draws most extensively on my own background as a career Navy wife (with numerous changes in details, of course). We've all heard the precept "write what you know," as well as the reservations and counter-arguments. For example, it's obvious that if "what you know" means what you've personally lived through, nobody could create fantasy or science fiction. Henry James once said that an author doesn't necessarily need a broad variety of real-life experiences but, rather, should be a person "upon whom nothing is lost." In so far as "write what you know" is taken to mean using events from one's own life, however, I don't think it's the best advice for a beginning writer. The typical young aspiring author doesn't have a lot of life experience yet. More importantly, in my opinion writing about one's own experiences is the hardest thing to do well, not the easiest. It takes a long time to integrate memories through reflection before one can translate them into effective art.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Depiction Part 3: Internal Conflict by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 3
Internal Conflict
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

That saying is a nutshell statement of what we're discussing in this DEPICTION Series.  Listen to the arguments in the world around you, especially politics, to see if you can determine whether they are arguing about WHO is right, or about WHAT is right.  Which argument makes a better Romance Novel?

Part 1 of this series:


Part 2: Conflict and Resolution

Many romance writers resort to "internal dialogue" (usually done in italics, first person instead of quotes, but it's still dialogue) to try to depict what is going on inside of a character.

This is not an incorrect approach and it is very popular with Romance Readers.

However, the repeated use of a single tool to illustrate a single point soon begins to impart a monotonous undertone to the Author's Voice.

By varying the tools used, the writer can create the illusion of a real character.

The 4 main tools a writer has were mentioned in Part 2 of this series, Dialogue, Description, Narrative, and Exposition, are the tools that can be varied to depict internal conflict, and thus give your character depth and his/her point of view a sense of reality.

Prior posts linked in Part 2 lead into the detailed discussion of these 4 basic tools, which most new writers have a fair grasp on.  The one most often abused is Exposition, leading to the dreaded Expository Lump. 

An "expository lump" is a long passage, a whole paragraph or sometimes several pages in a row, of the author telling about the environment of the story, the character's situation, ancestry, attitudes and preferences. 

A good writer will grab the other 3 tools in quick succession, most often within a single sentence, to convey this information to the reader.

Beta Readers will complain the story is "slow" or "boring" or "incomprehensible" -- Amazon comments will bitterly point out that it wasn't worth what they paid, even if it was free.  And all of them are actually reacting not to the information being conveyed in the expository lump, not to the exposition itself, but to the LUMP. 

The issue that readers who aren't writers react to without knowing its source is the LUMP not the exposition.

One way to break up a LUMP is to use the other three tools - Dialogue, Description, and Narrative.

The best way to approach a long, intricate and abstract "lump" of information to be dumped on a reader is with Narrative.  TELL THE STORY.  That's what narrative is -- the narrative are the words that convey the story. 

Narrative says, he went here, met her, they went there, found a dead body, called the police, -- narrative fleshes out the Plot Events into scenes.

Here is a post about scene structure with link to previous part:


And here is part 8 on Dialogue with links to previous posts:


So one way to break up that deadly-dull introductory expository lump which we discussed in Depiction Part 2 is to vary the tool you are using.

Take all that information that the reader must know before the actual story starts and cast it as scenes.

But the rule still applies that page 1 must depict the conflict, so you can't just make up more scenes to go before the story starts.  You have to find a way to integrate that opening scene stuck on page 25 into your newly made up scene with all the expository information in it.

This process reformulates your outline, changes the plot, may change the antagonist's identity, and well, change everything.  But while you do this process, you will suddenly find yourself feeling like a working professional writer -- you will know this will sell because it fits the paradigm of well known books that have been published. 

So you take your laboriously created expository lump, and cast that information in scenes.

In that new scene, there have to be characters, and the characters have to be in conflict -- not necessarily with each other.

Everything might seem calm on the surface, while the conflict the reader sees brewing seethes beneath the apparently offhand dialogue.

Ah, yes, you have written pages of block paragraphs of exposition, and now you must cut that information, cast it into scenes, and now you pick up the dialogue tool you worked so hard to master.

You can start your scene with a line of dialogue, without even the tag of "he said" -- just a statement or question can do it. 

"Where did you get that old spaceship!"

Wouldn't that line open a grand romantic battle-of-the-sexes novel complete with aliens aforethought?

With a line of dialogue like that, you are depicting the internal conflict of the person being addressed -- not the person speaking! 

You have used SHOW DON'T TELL to convey information about a character who hasn't even appeared yet.

Now pick up another of the 4 tools, Narrative.

He kicked at the metal side of the cylinder sitting in his garage, but his eyes were on his erstwhile wife of three days.  Before his boot made contact with the metal, she grinned in anticipation.  Then his foot went right through the corroded metal plate and sparks flew.

That's NARRATIVE.  It's what happened.  But it contains single words of description (metal, cyclinder, garage, corroded, sparks) -- "erstwhile" is depiction which indicates there's some irregularity involved here so the reader is invited to "fill in the blanks."

She laughed at him.  "I found it when we moved in.  It was under that heap of bags of Stardust."

"She laughed at him" is narrative, but since it's a slightly inappropriate response to his "accusation" implied by using an ! instead of a ? in his question -- it shows rather than tells there's buried conflict.  I might have written, "She recoiled from his accusation" but that would have weakened her character -- so instead she uses inappropriate aggression.  But the DIALOGUE she chooses is DEFENSIVE, so we know she feels attacked by his !-style question. 

Now pick up another tool, Description.

The detached garage sat on the surface of the asteroid they had won in a card game, right over the pressurized apartment.  The garage could be evacuated, but if they did that to bring their ship in, they'd lose all the drug money that Stardust represented.

EXPOSITION: It had been her idea to avoid evacuating the garage to bring their ship inside.  (SEE? ONE LINE, NO LUMP.)

Wrenching his foot free of the hole, he turned hands on hips.  "Maybe I will actually marry you after all."

"Over my dead body!" 

NOTE: that is a line of narrative followed in the same paragraph by a line of dialogue.

Look that over again.  Start with a line of Dialogue, then Narrative, Dialogue, Description, Exposition, Narrative, Dialogue, Dialogue. 

EXERCISE: Go find a copy of your favorite novel and go through it with highlighters coloring each word to tag it as dialogue, description, narrative or exposition -- note the rhythmic alternation and then write a piece of your own with that SAME RHYTHM of tools. 

Now go back over what I just wrote here and look at the characterization.

Find the external conflict -- there they are on an asteroid they won (note the ABSENCE of an explanation of what card game, how they partnered, why they ended up co-owning the asteroid, whether they own equal shares, or why they were both playing that game), and they HAVE FOUND a pile of drugs of some colossal value if sold to a trafficker (note the absence of narrative of poking around their new place and her discovering but not mentioning the space ship, of any reason why she didn't mention it -- NOTE WHAT IS LEFT OUT).

Find the internal conflict -- they are partnered but not exactly married. Neither really knows if this is Love or what.  They've got worries (lots of money involved; someone probably wants that Stardust; can they trust each other?)  They are hip-deep in a Situation and they disagree what the Situation actually is, except that it's changing by the moment. 

He accuses, she counter-attacks -- that's the surface or external conflict.  It shows without telling what the shadowy-lurking-shape of the internal conflicts must be like.

Now, the actual story starts when SOMETHING comes after that drug-dump of Stardust, and all this about the garage might have been cast as an expository lump.

Three days after Marla and Tip got to the asteroid, Tip discovered that Marla had been hiding a space ship in the garage.  He was mad at her for that but she just mocked him and flounced off.  So he chased her down and proposed marriage again, as a solution to the legal problem of joint-ownership of all that wealth.  Two days later, while they were eating dinner (separately), something hit the asteroid.


Where's the story?  Where are the characters?  Where's the action? 

Or you could make it worse with a long technical description of the size of the asteroid, the make and model of the artificial gravity machinery, the orbit, and speculation about all the things that could happen but didn't.

You, as writer, know all that -- all of it, every single bit.  But the reader, as a reader, doesn't need to know, and more than that doesn't want to know.

Your job as writer is to get the reader wanting to know long, long before you "reveal" without TELLING.

Let the reader figure it out, then confirm their suspicions. 

That's a major key to how a reader "gets into" a book and "identifies" with a character.

In Part 2 of this series on Depicting, we used a political example, so let's use another one from politics.

You see on the TV News how commentators on one network point the finger at commentators on rival networks, trying to make a story out of one calling the other names.  Yes, it's pathetic, and one big reason nobody watches TV news anymore.

But there's a lot to be learned from watching stuff like that.

Every once in a while, when they know the listening audience is very small (like Friday night for example), they will reveal by offhand reference just how these pieces are generated and why some Events get covered and others don't.

1) The Narrative
2) Optics
3) Resonance

"The Narrative" -- the news is not what's new, but the next development in a story-line that doesn't exist in reality.  This is a story that is being invented much like a Parable or a story-with-a-moral -- a story that is designed to get viewers to draw certain specific conclusions and thus act on those conclusions as if they were fact based.

"The Optics" -- referring to an entire PR discipline dedicated to figuring out what conclusions the majority of a certain demographic will draw from certain images.

"Resonance" -- referring to retweeting. Will this story go viral.  Will you hear this installment of the story and hasten to tell your friends on Facebook or Pinterest?  Will they in turn tell all their friends?  Does anybody care?  Do they "relate to" this story?

How do people come to "relate to" a story?

The same way they come to "relate to" the characters in a novel.

Yes, fiction and news are on convergent paths. 

In fiction, Literature Professors study how readers "identify with" an "objective correlative" -- and in film, Blake Snyder formulated a category of deeds that CAUSES viewers to "identify with" a protagonist.

Drawing a reader/viewer into a story is a science these days.

You get drawn into a story when you see something in a character in the story that you either see in yourself or want to see in yourself -- something you aspire to be (Superhero) or actually are (angst-ridden).

You get drawn into a story when you identify with the protagonist (or antagonist).

That's why there is so much  tear-jerker coverage of news stories about tragedies -- repeated interviews with the survivors or victims.

It's the people that make it REAL. 

In fiction, it's the characters that make it realistic.

The same principle is used in politics to collect loyal followings of Democrats and Republicans (in the USA; elsewhere different parties, same principle).

You hear stories on the news about this politician and that, about Congress and the TITLE of a bill, and the Senate and which senators are for or against the Congress Bill with that TITLE.

Now we all know the title of a bill rarely has anything at all to do with the content, and amendments can reverse the entire thing, distort it, or maybe add a new topic entirely.  To be AGAINST a Bill is not necessarily to be against achieving what the Title says.  It may be merely to be against some other topic that got tacked on by amendment.  It's horse-trading.

However, the way we barely scan the surface of the news these days, all we know is the TITLE and whether it's supported by Republicans or Democrats.

Those OPTICS are managed by PR experts to lead people to "identify" with Republicans or Democrats, and it's a war-for-eyeballs.  They want you to SEE (show don't tell) how all Republicans are against Women's Rights, or all Democrats don't value Life.

PR experts create these "narratives" with words, optics, and topics personified in characters.  They draw people into identifying with one or the other label.

This is exactly what a writer does to draw a reader into the story.

Once a viewer has Identified with a Republican, that short-cut thinking described in Part 2 cuts in, and in that viewer's mind "All Republicans Think Like Me" becomes an unassailable axiom of existence.  Any attack on any Republican is taken personally -- which is why Politics is an explosive subject.

Prejudice, you recall from Part 2, is all about that short-cut thinking that lets us fill in the blanks of a depiction -- so we see a few sparse lines, and our minds insist the whole, full-color image is in 3-D right there.  We see a person with dark skin and insist we're looking at a "bad person."  That irrational conviction is absolute because it is based on what we know about ourselves, not on what we know about the person before us.

It works the same way for Democrats -- just find one Democrat who seems like "my kind of people" and suddenly all Democrats firmly believe what you, yourself, believe.

The truth is, some do, some don't, and no two are alike. 

But our brains can't handle that much data, so we use our short-cut thinking and just know that all those nasty accusations against the Party we identify with are untrue because those accusations are untrue of us.

You know who you are; you know what you believe; you know what you are for or against, and you Identify with this or that person or sub-group of a Party, and impute the certainties you cherish to all members of the larger Party.

Knowing that mechanism is operating in most voters, the political PR machine uses it to get you to "Identify" with a Candidate.  They believe that if they can hook you, they have you. 

You know if you can hook a reader on Page 1, you have them at least until the Middle, and if the Middle doesn't sag, you have them to the End.  And you'll likely be able to sell them another book with your byline. 

You can learn to induce Identification in readers by studying the Political PR Machine creating a fictional character out of each and every politician running for office.

Students rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt taking courses to become experts in PR (Public Relations - Google it, see how many schools there are and what it costs).  You can learn all you have to know about how it's done by watching political commercials and scanning the News.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do Plants Think?

We all know many plants grow toward light or, in the case of those such as sunflowers, literally turn toward the sun. But researchers are discovering that plants have the ability to react to their environments in other ways:

Plant Intelligence

Some can "hear," sort of—they respond to threatening noises by secreting defensive chemicals. Roots have been found to sense the presence of obstacles and change their direction of growth in advance. Some anesthetics that work on human beings also affect plants. One experiment described in the article suggests that plants can "remember" and in a sense "learn." While they don't have brains, "They don't have nerve cells like humans, but they do have a system for sending electrical signals and even produce neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals the human brain uses to send signals."

Do adaptations such as these qualify plants to be labeled "intelligent," even without brains and neurons? Depends on your definition of intelligence, of course. If intelligence simply means problem-solving or the ability to "process information" and act on it, maybe they meet the criteria.

So maybe people who talk to their plants have a point, even if the plants don't talk back. And this research may hint that we could eventually meet the sentient or even sapient vegetable aliens of science fiction. (Not like Triffids, I hope!) Their view of reality would doubtless be very different from ours, however. For one thing, they would probably live—and think—at a much slower pace.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Depiction Part 2: Conflict And Resolution

Depiction Part 2:
Conflict And Resolution
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In Depiction Part 1,
we defined depiction at some length.  Here's a short excerpt to remember this working definition.

It's the brain trick that lets us look at a scrambled page full of LINES and "see" a map, and understand it as a depiction of a territory (real or imagined).

Writers depict both concrete and abstract elements in mere words.  Readers agree to accept the emphasis the writer's selection of certain attributes and omission of other attributes to "depict" a character, situation, philosophy, threat, conflict, or the stakes in a transaction.

If the writer writes, "It was a dark and stormy night ..." the reader may KNOW there were some street lamps or car headlights (or carriage lanterns) but at the same time understand that the main character's emotional "place" is inside the primal threat-zone that dark and stormy nights were for cavemen.

The character is aware of the light, but seeing only the dark. 
---------end quote----------

So a depiction is NOT a photograph.  It is not a complete analysis.  A depiction deliberately leaves elements out in order to exaggerate the role of other elements in determining the materialization of results.

A depiction is a work of Art.  We've discussed fiction as Art and the methods the writer uses to create that Art -- the how, and the why of the writer's job has been covered in many long posts here, especially in the various series on Worldbuilding


...and how to blend the Worldbuilding skills into various individual craft skills (such as theme, characterization, etc). 

Once you've built your multidimensional alter-reality, you must then depict it for your reader.

To depict the World you have built, you must select certain attributes to mention outright and others to leave as implied.  That process produces a depiction of an alter-reality that depicts our own -- a First Derivative, mathematicians would call it.

So in Part 1 of this series we looked at how to depict Relationships. 

Romance is a process, Love is a Relationship.  There are all kinds of Relationship, "Buddy," "Adversary" "Mortal Enemy" "Brother-Rival" etc etc. 

And in every relationship we work with in fiction you will find the seeds of Conflict.

Conflict is the Essence of Story, but it generates Plot  (where Story is the character's change due to impact of Events, and Plot is the sequence of Events caused by a character's actions or inactions).

Books on story craft or writing will all use different words to refer to a moving-part of a story-construct, but all the vastly commercial kinds of fiction have the same moving-parts -- Setting, Character, Conflict, Theme -- and all the English language ones have 4 types of word-usages: Exposition, Narrative, Dialogue, Description. 

A writer's "Voice" is established by the proportions of those word-usages employed to convey the structural components.  That proportion establishes pacing, which is a part of the genre signature. 

We've delved deeply into the details of how to do each of these individual things, and how to pair them, blending two into one seamless whole.

Many beginning writers launch their first story attempts already able to synthesize these skills into a sellable page and chapter.

But very few of those confident in their story-telling skills have thought through or mastered the Art of Depiction.

Teaching writing workshops, I get manuscript after manuscript of very interesting, intriguing, wildly commercial stories with great premises, delightful imagination, and strong romantic intrigue -- but they are unsellable because they start with a massive Expository Lump, a huge pre-history of the entire world the writer has meticulously built or a long personal history of the characters and their ancestry.

It is easy to point to page 25 or 55 and say, "This scene is page 1 of this work."

But the author will not know how we (the professional writers at the table) all arrived at that same conclusion.  And it is spooky how much unanimity a group of professionals have when analyzing the same manuscript for a beginner.  The beginner often thinks it's a conspiracy -- even when the professionals haven't spoken to each other about this manuscript.

Most professional writers don't know how they learned to do that analysis, and just shrug it off as "experience."

I remember learning this technique, and hope I can explain it.

It isn't enough to point to an interior page and say, "This is page 1."

The author of the piece will fight that, tooth and nail, because you see the reader MUST KNOW all this other stuff before that point or the reader just won't understand.

And that's true, absolutely true. 

The professionals at the table will all suggest different solutions to the problem.  They all agree on the problem -- but never, ever, on how to solve it.

How you solve that problem changes the nature of the story, the plot, the target audience, and most of all the characters themselves, very often it changes the theme, and requires the Worldbuilding to undergo major revision.

The beginning writer must learn what to do with that initial expository lump before that lump is formed into words, before those words at set down -- in fact, before the World for this story is Built.

I am using the term DEPICTION to represent that arcane process of solving that problem of the Expository Lump that has to be conveyed before the story starts.  I've never seen this process described exactly this way in books on writing craft.

I wasn't taught it as such.  All my teachers (professional writers and editors) could do was point at where the story really starts and say, "cut all this other stuff, start here."

And my response was always a (very silent) "NO NO NO!!!"

So I invented this method of "Depiction" -- and many years later, I see what appears to me to be many other writers using this method.  The end result, regardless of the process of arriving at it, has to be that uniform STARTING PLACE that all pros agree is where the story starts.

Expository Lumps are often strewn throughout a novel.  This method of Depiction will solve those problems, too. 

Here are some previous post on Expository Lumps









Assuming you've been reading this Tuesday blog series since 2008, and have thought about those posts, here is the advanced lesson in depicting Conflict and depicting Resolution that will solve the problem of the 25 pages of throat clearing before page 1 of the story.

This method often does away with those "Introduction" or "Prelude" additions that editors resort to when they can't get the author to depict.  Understanding depiction and how to do it is not in the job-description of editors.  Those who can teach this come to editing via another path. 

Like everything else in Art and Story-craft, it's a learn-by-doing kind of thing, so we'll work with the "Real World" around us to extract elements that could be used in depicting a conflict and a resolution.

PAGE 1 of any piece of fiction starts with defining the Conflict.

That's actually what pros teaching writing workshops look for to spot that page 26 opening scene error.

The story starts where the Conflict kicks off the plot.

Depicting Conflict is the missing skill for such writing students.

The opening of any novel is where the This vs. That or Her vs. Him is first depicted.

Now remember -- a Depiction is not the whole, entire, complete, multiplex Situation.

Depiction is done by leaving important, vital, crucial elements out of the picture, then presenting elements of that picture that merely hint or suggest the presence of those crucial elements.

This artistic skill leverages the reader's simple, human tendency to make assumptions.

You give them this; they assume that.

It is the human brain's short-cut mechanism at work there.  It is the mechanism that causes us to be prejudiced and intolerant, and it is responsible for our ability to appreciate Art in all its forms and media.

So after you've defined the Conflict, you depict that conflict on Page 1.

Remember, an "outline" contains only the moving parts of the plot, Beginning, Middle, End Events. 




Depiction as I'm using it here is the Art of creating Verisimilitude -- the illusion of reality.

It works the same way that caricature works -- the eye sees a few sparse lines and fills in the rest.  A caricature is not a photograph but a representation of certain, carefully selected features of the subject.

So when Depicting a Conflict for your opening, you carefully select Features of that Conflict to incorporate into your opening Dialogue, Description, Exposition (yes you are allowed to use some exposition, just not in lumps) and Narrative. 

Your Conflict, on Page 1, is distributed among those 4 language elements, and that single conflict must be present in all instances of those 4 language elements -- usually throughout the entire novel, no matter the point of view.  Conflict pervades the work -- that's what makes it a story.

How do you select what Features of your Conflict to include on Page 1 and which other features to explore in depth later?

To select the elements of Conflict on Page 1, you look at the last page (that you haven't written yet.)

That's where the outline comes in. 

The outline you scribbled down when you had this Idea flood into your conscious mind should have little except the 3 major points, Beginning, Middle, End.  The rest is commentary.

1. Pandora sees a Box
2. Pandora Opens the Box
3. Pandora gets shut up inside that Box. 

The Conflict is Pandora Vs. The Box.  The Middle (the worst thing that could happen) is Pandora Opens The Box.  That doesn't resolve the conflict, it escalates it as a good Middle must.  The End resolves the conflict by blending Pandora and the Box into one, removing her "issues" from the world.

Of course the Situation just sits there begging for a sequel.  That's good plotting.

At this stage of Depicting a Conflict and its Resolution, the beginning writer will likely discover that the Last Page doesn't match the First Page she has in mind.

That is the conflict that is Resolved at the ending as envisioned is not the same conflict that begins on Page 1.

Many writers will handle this problem by ignoring it -- or pointing to Masterwork novels where many conflicts are braided into a complex mulch-layered plot to justify their choices.  Most beginning writers want to be that sort of Masterwork writer.  Depiction is the art form that must be mastered to create such a Masterwork.

It isn't that you must already be a Big Name writer to get away with bait-and-switch plotting.  It's that you must have the skills that make Names Big.  Some of those skills are writing skills.  Some aren't.  Writing skills can be learned.

So, take this rich, multidimensional, braided plot and multiple viewpoint story you have in mind, and choose a few, sparse elements of The Conflict to depict on Page 1.

Then craft the last page out of a specific Resolution to that Conflict.  Yes, you may have to revised that ending a few times as you write, but having a target depicted lets you revise that depiction as you go.  This is the skill that lets professionals hit deadlines, to predict when signing a contract how long it will take to write that novel. 

It's not that you always stick to an outline -- it is that you have an outline to revise as required. 

Given the immense World you have Built in your mind, how do you sort out which of the conflicts that seethe within that world to depict on Page 1.

You look to your THEME.  The Theme is the philosophical statement about life, the universe, and everything that this work of fiction makes.  It is the moral of the story, or the proposition to be debated. 

That statement about The Universe and its underlying Reality dictates how your Conflict will be resolved.  That statement defines the ENDING EVENT of the story.

For example, if you are writing a Romance, your philosophical statement, your Major Theme, is "Happily Ever After Is Attainable In Reality" -- or maybe "Only Happily For Now can be Attained, and that's enough."  or maybe "HFN is not enough."



If your theme is HEA is Real, then your Page 1 must depict the ABSENCE OF HEA -- people wanting something, misery for lack of whatever, a big problem that is major because of the absence of a partner (example: unwed pregnancy).

The Ending is then HEA Realized (wedding in the offing, commitment, birth, whatever solves the problem).

The Middle would then be the point in the focus couple's life where the partnership is just not working out - that internal and/or external forces drive them apart (deployed to Iraq, denied Military permission to marry).  Or maybe what drives them apart for the Middle Event is some kind of Political Campaign or issue.

Love And Politics always equals EXPLOSIVE ACTION.  In fact, Love and Politics is sometimes more explosive than Religion and Politics.

Perhaps your Couple is divided by their stances on hot-button-political issues of today, even though they live in a Galaxy Far Far Away.

By using today's Headlines, but depicting those headlines rather than just copying them into your story, you can lift today's social conflicts out into the galaxy, place them between human and non-human, and have a whopping series of novels that sells big.

How do you do that?  How do you "depict" a political conflict torn from today's headlines?

Remember, depiction is the art of lifting up certain elements and suppressing others.  It's not distortion, but point of view.

Each person sees the world around them from a unique point of view - their own.

Humans tend to regard what they see as the whole reality that is there -- but what they see is a selected depiction. 

We have a brain mechanism that selects reality for us, so we can free up brain space for handling more critical life-or-death decisions.  And that brain mechanism is the source of both our Art Appreciation and our deadly-to-each-other prejudices. 

So you, the author, must replicate the effect that point-of-view has on the Character's convictions.

Take, for example, our real-world political situation.  In order to avoid having to fill up our brains with thousands of data points, in the USA we "reduce" our reality to two political positions.  In other countries, there are many political parties with similarities to each other and some differences their constituents consider critical.  Voters there have to think about many more abstract concerns than those in the USA.

In Europe, for example, "Far Right" means Nazi.  In the USA, the "Far Right" means anti-Nazi.  But because of the Internet, many voters in the USA have adopted the European definition of "Far Right" and now point the finger at the Right in the USA as being Nazi oriented.  Those targeted by that finger object.  Conflict reigns.

Consider the Conflict breaking apart your Soul Mate Couple that has its origin in that kind of linguistic mislabeling.  They fall in love. 

The Conflict becomes clear. Opening Scene: they are walking to an ice cream shop after seeing a wonderful movie they both enjoyed, but it had a woman in it who went for an abortion for well-depicted reasons. 

The guy admits he always votes Republican, and that movie explains exactly why the Republicans have the correct approach -- because abortion shouldn't be legal. 

She, however, always votes Democrat because, after all, she's a woman, and "how dare you" is her bristling response -- nobody is going to tell her how to manage her own biology.

Why do I mention this?  Because International Sales and Translations are where the professional writer actually, finally, turns a profit.  It's vital to keep the world market in mind when crafting a depiction.  Abortion is a good example because the yes/no argument is very different in the rest of the world.  This intimate argument by a couple where marriage is a looming issue uncovers a Foreign Policy Issue between them which could break that couple up.

Should a man be allowed to force a woman to have his baby? 

If he's to be disallowed, who does the disallowing?  Government? Religion? Neighborhood busy-bodies? Doctors?

THEME: how do I get you to do what I want even if you don't want to?

MASTER THEME: There Are No Objective Criteria Of Right And Wrong Use Of Force (if I can get away with it, then I can do it). Or put another way Pride vs. Humility makes a great Conflict:

Today, in the USA, it's merely a case of seeing "people" (on TV mostly) doing things you don't want to let them do, and getting "The Government" to force them to behave the way you want.

Government is The Power that the people use to force other people to behave properly.

A long-long time ago, there was a comic strip everyone read because it was syndicated in all the newspapers, There Ought To Be A Law.

It DEPICTED (and from it you can learn the Art of Depicting) activities that nobody had the power to stop, so they'd throw up their hands and declaim, "There Ought To Be A Law" against that activity.




There Ought To Be A Law and They'll Do It Every Time (two syndicated comics) depicts a world where people can't use government to control other people's behavior, but they want to because something has to be done.

The urge to control other, misbehaving, people is universal among humans and a source of Conflict you can tap repeatedly.  Life and morality can be "depicted" as either a fight for control of others or the results of people being "out of control."

How many times do news stories about an urgent emergency requiring an Act of Congress contain the phrase "the situation is out of control."  And not one reporter challenges that by asking, "when was the situation in control?" or "who controlled the situation before this" or "was the old controller of the situation doing a good enough job?" 

Why does this situation need "controlling" from outside the situation? 

Watch The News -- watch it carefully and keep asking questions like that to find ways to depict your story's conflict and a satisfying resolution.

So here's half the conflict between the serious couple coming out of the movie Theater:

He says, "You can't be serious! You vote Democrat? YOU??? I don't believe it."

She says, "Republicans are superstitious idiots."

He says, "I am not!"

She says, "Then how could you possibly believe all those lies?"

He says, "What lies?  It's the Democrats who lie rather than take responsibility.  It's the Democrats who think government has to solve every problem with more and more money!" 

She says, "I do not think that!!!  How can you say that?"

Note that each of them is accepting the depiction of their own party as the truth about the other's party.

That is, the Democrats (whom she trusts as a primary source) depict the Republicans as superstitious idiots, so she repeats that depiction without treating it as a "depiction" (i.e. as a statement that leaves something out in order to emphasize something else.)

Anyone who identifies as Republican must be a superstitious idiot.  Anyone who identifies as Democrat must be a person who won't own up to responsibility for the results of their own actions -- "unintended consequences" means "I'm not guilty."

Neither one is penetrating that depiction of the opposite party.

Go watch some TV news and analyze for that tendency -- especially political ads.

So let's list some points He could point to as Democratic dogma.

a) Government Is The Solution
b) It's an Emergency therefore the usual rules are set aside and we can do "whatever it takes" (therefore to get rid of onerous rules, one has to create an emergency.)
c) Got a Problem? Give us a lot more money and we will fix it for you
d) It's just one rotten apple who broke the law. The system is sound.
e) It's proven science so the government must impose it on everyone
f) Only government can protect you from actions of your neighbor
g) If it should be done; then therefore government must do it because nothing else is powerful enough to accomplish it.
h) The Experts know, so we have to believe them and act as if they are correct
i) Income Inequality is a travesty that government must prevent
j) We must educate all children in identical values because otherwise we won't be able to control the resulting adults and then we'd have anarchy.

Now think about those (each could be the thematic foundation of a long series of long novels). 

Would any Democrat accept that phrasing as a statement of their own beliefs?

Would any Republican accept the opposite statements as their own beliefs?

We routinely use the brain short-cut mentioned above to avoid having to learn a lot of facts and then think with them -- and instead, we extract a couple visible facts and imagine what fills in the blanks.

That "fill in the blanks" process is "prejudice" -- it's the basis of "racism" (all Blacks are lazy bastards), "ageism" (all people over 60 are technical illiterates), and of War (all Germans are Krauts; all Japanese are Japs, all Muslims are Islamists).

Study the political fracas in TV Ad Blitzes to look for the "depiction" of your reality then compare that depiction with the underlying reality as you see it.

When you can see the pattern of how the Advertising "lifts" elements from the pea-soupy reality of the opposition (CONFLICT) party and presents to you a mere depiction OF THE CONFLICTING ELEMENTS, then turn to the huge World you have Built in your mind, and do that exact same thing to present your fictional world to your very real readers. 

That will generate your Page 1, your middle, and your Last Page conflict resolution.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Artists' Rights Are Human Rights

Authors, Musicians, Artists, Photographers and other "creators" have an opportunity to share their thoughts on the impact that intellectual property has on the arts.  But only until September 15th 2014.

For those who do not have the time to do more than sign a generic petition about the importance of ensuring that artists are able to profit from their work and are not exploited without choice or compensation for the financial gain of others in a "sharing" economy, the copyright alliance has created a petition.

The offset box is where you write in whether you are an artist, musician, author etc.

Please make your voices heard!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Return of the Wild

Trees growing inside buildings in Baltimore, not only in abandoned structures but in the walls of some inhabited buildings:

Trees Growing in Buildings

And here's a photo gallery of more building-invasive trees:

Photo Gallery

As the reporter comments, "The trees are reminders that Baltimore was once a forest, and, if the trees had their way, would become one again."

My first thought upon reading that article in the Baltimore SUN was, "Wow, cool!" I can understand, however, that when large plants spring up inside the walls of inhabited structures and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, the owners may not enjoy having their real estate transformed into the House of Usher.

It's amazing to contemplate how fast nature can overrun and consume the artifacts of humanity, especially in a wet climate such as a lot of North America. THE WORLD WITHOUT US, a book by Alan Weisman, describes in fascinating detail what an Earth devoid of our species would look like at various intervals after our disappearance. A few years ago there was a TV program on the same topic.

With the human population drastically reduced to a small fraction of its present level by some worldwide catastrophe, within a couple of generations the abandoned regions would have reverted to the wild. Much of the Earth in a postapocalyptic future such as S. M. Stirling's Emberverse or Jacqueline's Sime-Gen world prior to HOUSE OF ZEOR might look like that.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Original Thinking in Romance Part 1: The Mass Market Paperback Market

Original Thinking in Romance
Part 1
The Mass Market Paperback Market
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

To find examples of current news Headlines you can rip for your next novel, you may want to follow my magazines on Flipboard:
https://flipboard.com/profile/jacquelinelhmqg  -- has a link where you can get the Mobile App (all free).

Labor Day is behind us, the world seems to be starting up again, ramping up to a major election in the USA and 4th Quarter GDP looms in Europe.

Do you wear white after Labor Day?  Do you even know what that question means or what the answer means about you? 

Who's in the mood for Romance in September?  The leaves are going to turn, apple cider will be reeking in the press, and Climate Change is the centerpiece of all discussions because of storms, sea-rise, drought, and shifting climate patterns.

So where are the science fiction titles working different scenarios about how all these factors (including wearing white after Labor Day) will eventually settle out bringing us a new world? 

There is a wide open hole in the Mass Market field -- but is it waiting for you to fill it with your own Science Fiction Romance novel?  Or is that hole a harbinger of doom for "Mass Market" anything?

I have 4 excellent novels here to point you toward as examples of Mass Market fantasy that relies heavily on Romance for the plot movement and character motivations.

Let's just list them.  I assume you've all read most of these or most of the rest by these accomplished authors:


Fire Kin is a novel of the Halflight City -- and builds an intricate fantasy universe where Fae live on the other side of a Gate from humans, vampires and shapeshifters.  A Peace was forged by the Veiled Queen, but she's now dead and war is breaking out.

War will feature in this Original Thinking series -- a lot -- and not because it has Mass Market Appeal, but because war is a feature of human culture we deplore, embrace, and study avidly.  We enjoy it as long as it doesn't hurt.

War Is About Counting

Remember that.  War is numbers, and it is all about COUNTING, enumerating, adding, subtracting, dividing.  It is also about probabilities peppered with Neptune driven "Idealism." 

In other words, the nature and effectiveness of War is a major source of Thematic Material.  Many (perhaps most) of the World War II films Hollywood made included a Romance.  I suspect the inventory of WWII films that have survived and been remastered digitally are wrapped around a core Romance story, even though muddy battle scenes are the visual feature.


Smaller conflicts than whole nations faced off in War can also explore the components of what it is about humans that makes them war-prone. 

The Grendel Affair is #1 in a new Lisa Shearin series, Spi-Files, and it sets up an intricate fantasy world with a group of people who form a mystically adept team to fight off various threats to our ordinary world.  The plot is essentially a Mystery with an amateur detective striving to become a professional member of a good-guys team.

The world of the Spi-Files includes a type of creature that eats everything especially humans called a Grendel.  It breeds by laying eggs that hatch hungry and grow fast.

On the side of the good guys is a (marvelous) Dragon that shape-changes and runs an organization that fights threats like Grendels and other such supernaturals.  Among the team of good-guys you will also find supernaturals. 

Don't let the description I extracted from this novel deter you from reading it.  It is excellent, and well written, smoothly paced, richly envisioned, and the relationships portend good stuff to come.


Iron Night is a sequel to Generation V which I've mentioned here,


This is a Vampire urban fantasy world where Vampires live among us.  How vampirism works in this world is a variation on established themes.  If you've been reading a lot of Vampire novels, you will recognize the genius behind these two novels. 

This series clearly demonstrates how fiction can replicate symphony music in "Variations On A Theme." 


Here is Reviews part 1 which discussed Jennifer Roberson's Sword Dancer series of novels about Tiger and Del. 


That review is a simple alert that the Jennifer Roberson fantasy titles (all of them) are must-read novels if you are at all interested in techniques of blending fighting, war, or just personal combat with world-building, themes, characters, and above all Romance with variations on why it is that violence and sex are related.

These 4 novels are all excellent, and marvelous examples to study.  They all satisfy the criteria I've been showing you how to employ in your writing throughout my writing craft posts here.  These writers have perfected the techniques I've been explaining.

But all 4 of these novels lack one thing that has, historically, been the hallmark of science fiction. 

Oh, yes, they are "Fantasy" genre so you wouldn't expect the hallmark of science fiction in them.  But actually the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy is very new, and mostly a publisher's convention created to target a Market.

Imprints exist to narrow and target a Mass Market. 

The Science Fiction hallmark that I expect to find in all Fantasy novels (with or without Romance as the plot-driver) is Original Thinking.

Science Fiction (which includes fantasy and paranormal romance) is called The Literature of Ideas.  The Ideas referred to in that monicker are the product of Original Thinking -- thinking thoughts that nobody has thought before, just as going where no man has gone before is the theme of Star Trek. 

Originality is the hallmark of Science Fiction/Fantasy/ -- and indeed Romance. 

Think about that.  No couple whose story is told in a Romance Novel is anything "like" any other couple.  No two couples find their way to each other along the same path because the characters are different. 

Original Thinking has been the hallmark of these 3 genres.

That was the case up to the time when they became Mass Market Commodities.  Now it is less so.  But times are changing.  This series on Original Thinking in Romance is to give an over-view of what opportunities the changes in the world provide to writers who can do Original Thinking.  We may also cover a bit of how to incorporate Originality into character, plot, theme, story, etc. and find a market for the original product you produce.  Innovation is not as welcome in this world as the media depicts it to be.

One of the jobs of Science Fiction is to explore a topic, a theme, turn it this way and that, look at it from every angle, analyze it down to its smallest component notions, and re-arrange those notions to make the result look different.

The main reason Futurology exists is not to predict "the" future, but to give us a choice as to which future we want.  Act on that choice and you no longer have a choice.

Science Fiction is woven from 3 questions: "What if ...?"  "If only..." and "If This Goes On ..."  From the topics explored by those questions, the Science Fiction writer creates a world based on the answers.  The point isn't to guess the future correctly, but to present the reader with the full impact of the reader's own preferences should those preferences be implemented in reality. 

Romance is woven from 3 questions: "What does he see in her?" "What does she see in him?" "What must this couple endure to make it all the way to the Happily Ever After, a good life where every challenge can be met with sufficient resources to overcome it."  the point isn't to get the couple into bed, but to present the reader with the full impact of  the reader's own preferences in choice of spouse.

Science Fiction is about "saving the world" -- it is all about how the world around you (and your spouse and kids) works, what causes what to happen, how do you make your choices stick, what do you need to invent in order to conquer the forces of Nature that try to kill you or separate you from your loved ones.

Romance is about "creating the world" -- it is all about how the world around you could and should be, about where within you the power resides to make that world as it could and should be, make the world a cradle for your Love.

The two fields just beg to be mated, just as the various instrument "voices" beg to be mated into a symphony of uplifting sound.  Each instrument is whole by itself, but when combined under the discipline of composer and director, the result is far beyond the sum of the parts.

And in modern urban fantasy we are seeing Mass Market products -- on TV and in paperback -- play variations on this symphonic combination. 

I do hope you are reading the series of numbered reviews posts -- a survey of the field as prelude to the leap into very difficult writing technique posts.  This series on Original Thinking is going to open a list of topics that may illuminate the difference between Science Fiction and Romance Fiction, thus creating a new way to blend the two.

Of course the objective as in all my prior posts to to puzzle out why Romance has garnered such disdain when it really should be held up as the role model for great writing. 

Here is Reviews Part 9, Sex, Politics and Heroism:


You should be able to find the previous Reviews parts by searching keyword Reviews on this blog.

Eventually, I will make an index post for the reviews series, but the truth is I sprinkle reviews and comments on current novels throughout other discussions where the novels illustrate a point that you, as a writer, can use to shape your thinking process.

Now consider the sweeping panoply of Mass Market Paperback Fantasy-Paranormal-Science-Fiction-Action-War type novels that have flowed through your life in recent years.

I've done a couple of series of posts here on the writer's business model.  That business model is still morphing faster than anyone can keep tabs on it.  Indie writers are finding ways to establish themselves as "brands" and create a stream of novels that please a readership.

Many of those self-publishing or small-press operations are specifically averse to selling to the Mass Market industry.

Such Indie writers are willing to go through the agonies of production and promotion that the publishers make the big bucks for doing.

I've explained the pivot point, historically, in shaping publishing was a Tax Reform thrust by Congress that went awry, classing publishers with the makers of hammers.

That broke up the entire book distribution business model, publishers and distributors went bankrupt in every direction, went Chapter 7 or got bought.  New operations sprang up, failed, and it was a business-slaughterhouse for a couple decades.

In the midst of this, huge organizations swooped in and bought up publishers.

Now, previously, book publishing was a business that big businesses owned in order to book a TAX LOSS.  That was the purpose of publishing - to lose money.  So the flourishing editor careers were those founded on publishing books that "ought" to be published, books that said something NEW -- something people would talk about.

A few big hits would pay the rent, and the rest of the publisher's list lost money but stirred and promoted original thought among our entire population. 

Tax Reform pushed through too fast to accomplish other goals produced the inadvertent consequence of stifling innovation in fiction. 


By the time Congress got around to trying to fix this problem, it was too late.  You can't turn the Queen Mary on a dime, and you can't restore bankrupt companies to former glory.

This trend of ultra-commercializing product that used to be produced because of its intrinsic value to Original Thinking swept through Hollywood - both in TV and film industries - and in a way has also affected the Videogame industry, though perhaps not as much yet.

During the 40 years or so after that tax bill, the government of the USA has zigged and zagged its way through more tax reform proposals apparently clueless about what the consequences of a given piece of legislation might be.  Or maybe they're better futurologists than we are? 

No, that can't be because currently the US government operates mostly on paper Haven't you seen Congress and Senators carrying thick printouts of paper around, referring to paper during hearings, carrying brief cases thick enough for Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve meetings?  Computers the government is operating are so antiquated they can't talk to each other and are impossible to secure.  The Obamacare roll-out disaster is only one small example of what's hidden from the eye.

Of course, we don't elect people to Congress or the Senate because they openly display agile Original Thinking. 

Candidates can't speak off the cuff for fear they might offend someone, so we can never know how they think and thus have a chance to reshape what they think while they are in office.  Original Thinking is not a trait to give your politician-character if you want him to win an election on his way to Happily Ever After. 

Here are some links to previous posts on the writer's business model:





There are a few more.  I haven't indexed them yet.

So the pivot point on Originality in publishing that we are looking for is linked to Tax Reform by non-original-thinking individuals. 

What is the relationship between the Mass Market Paperback market and Politics?

And what has that relationship between romance novels and politics to do with the rise of the Indie author, self-publishing and tiny Indie Press publishers? 

I see, behind all this, a macro-trend. 

As technology (smart-phones, mobile devices, spectrum auctions,) impacts business and the customers of businesses, we are seeing patent disputes, Supreme Court decisions, and now Telephone Companies like AT&T and Verizon (also now Internet Service Providers) buying Satellite TV/Internet providers like Dish Network and Direct TV, I see the trend for consolidation.

It has been called the Battle (remember I mentioned war at the beginning of this discussion) the Battle For The Living Room.

Of course, few families spend any time in "the living room" these days -- even less time all in the same room at the same time.

Back in the 1920's (way before I was born) families gathered around a difficult to tune radio as big as a small refrigerator, pressing their ears close to decipher the scratchy static of comedy shows and news.

In the 1950's families still gathered in the living room in the evenings fighting over which of the 3 shows on the 3 networks to watch on the single HUGE TV set with a TINY screen full of static in black and white.

There was a "living room" and it was "under control."  (and not by the families gathered within it).

As TV sets were deployed to all economic classes driven by innovation that brought the prices down and the level of expertise needed to operate the thing also down, we became a nation united by our TV programs.  We all saw the same thing at the same time.

Likewise, Magazines (like Life Magazine, Time, Newsweek) were nationally distributed -- there weren't many and everyone read the same ones, sometimes in the living room, occasionally while watching TV. 

That was the MASS MARKET.  The paperback book is called "Mass Market" because it is cheap and is aimed at a market, a collection of individuals bound together by taste, limited budget, and access to a distribution point.

To succeed in the Mass Market, the item has to have Mass Appeal. 

In merchandising, Woolworth created the 5&Dime store mass-marketing stuff everyone used.

Today that's Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, Costco -- they don't do luxury, or specialty, they are just the pipeline to deliver what everyone uses at the lowest price.

Sam's Wal-Mart, Costco also carry books, mostly paperbacks and some hardcovers that are "remaindered" (sold without paying the author a royalty).

So American innovation and originality has created entire, huge, business models based on Mass Market concepts -- every customer gets the same because every customer wants the same thing. 

To create a Mass Market you have to hammer all those who don't fit into the same mold that most of your market fits.  You have to get more and more people into the "mass" that you market to in order to grow your business (and thus please Wall Street.)

That Mass Market is precisely what the Indie writers and publishers are shunning, and they are more adamant about it than anti-Romance readers are about shunning the HEA.

To market to a Mass, you must first have a Mass.  A "mass" is a collection of things or people that are all the same, as uniformly the same as possible -- and then a bit more uniform and identical.

Under the impact of the mobile device and 4G or wi-fi (and more vast changes to the signal delivery protocols are already in the pipeline to be funneled to the masses), the Mass itself has fragmented.

We are seeing a breakup of that Living Room that multi-company-mergers creating gigantic conglomerates are currently at war with each other for control of.

And it is war - a war to the death of these huge companies still trying to create a Mass for them to Market To.

Some, however, are beginning to change CEO's and new, younger-thinking people are beginning to grasp them impact of the mobile device (and e-book, streaming, webisodes).  These new CEO's are trying to do some Original Thinking to envision The Living Room.

Microsoft, Sony, etc are deploying game consoles that also deliver Netflix etc. and all kinds of streaming.

Amazon is marketing a TV box device to compete with Roku and Apple TV.

If you haven't used any of these plug-in devices to put your TV on the internet, please do yourself a favor and take the leap into this new world.  I recommend Roku, but any which way you connect your TV to the Internet will begin to give you an idea of what this series of blog posts on Original Thinking is about.

It's about the business model of the Mass Market - yes - but it is also about the break up of the mass market, and what that breakup means for fiction writers with novels based on Original Thinking, not Variations On A Theme or Trope.

TV News goes on and on about "the second screen" -- people watching a Breaking News Event (like a fire, earthquake, train derailment) and live-tweeting about it on their phone.  Also people read or watch video on an iPad while the TV runs through commercials.  TV Series are integrating that second-screen into their strategy to take over the Living Room -- getting people to Shazam a song or log onto the network's web page and play a game as the character in the show.

In other words interaction and customization are creeping into TV watching habits.

Another trend noted on TV News is how families don't sit together and all watch the same thing at the same time.  They break up, go to their bedrooms or outside on the porch -- go off alone -- and watch streaming TV or movies or video or whatever sort of entertainment each individual wants on their tablets or phablet or phone. 

These mega-giant corporations are conglomerating into bigger international mega-giant corporations to fight to the death for control of the living room while families are fleeing the living room. 

That's the market you have to market your novel to. 

The Mass Market is over.  The Mass Market is so 20th Century.

The Customized, Interactive Market hasn't formed yet. 

The Family as a life-model seems to be over, too.  Is that going to be permanent?  Or will the Millennial (coming out of college into joblessness) re-construct The Family and thus The Living Room along new lines?

Will Data Service Providers control that Living Room?

Is a well-controlled, single data service provider dominated, Living Room the symbol of the Happily Ever After being achieved?

Is the reason so many shun the HEA as impossible simply that the Living Room is gone forever, and therefore the dream of family is impossible? 

We are living in interesting times, and will return to the topic of Original Thinking as a marketable commodity in later parts in this series.

Meanwhile, pay close attention to the Democrats vs. Republicans war of annihilation at the 2014 mid-Term elections.

Search for any Original Thinking you can find.

Analyze the Left vs Right formulation of the questions, the issues, and the problems to be solved by the next iteration of government in Congress and the Senate.

While you're doing that, review my posts on Astrology Just For Writers.


Pay special attention to the 1st House/7th House dichotomy in the Natal Chart.

Note that Astrological Natal Charts do not provide any data on the individual's skin color, eye-shape, hair color, etc - the visually distinguishing marks. 

1st House/7th House is the axis of Self vs. Other (family, Spouse, country, Group or clubs, the public -- bound groupings of individual selves)

Trace out some original thinking about the right way, or an optimum way, or a Romantic Way, for an individual to relate to a group.

Remember Spock's famous quote about the good of the individual not out-weighing the good of the many.  He said that when he was about to go into a radiation filled drive chamber to fix the drive and save the ship -- but die because of it.  (at the time he didn't know he'd end up brought back to life by the Genesis Planet.)

It is the angst-question of our time -- what is the best relationship of the individual to the Group -- child-to-parents, citizen-to-country, citizen-to-other-citizens ratting out the NSA.

Within that classic Nietzsche question lies the entire paradigm of right vs. wrong.

Oh, and just to add icing to this cake, think about 1st House/7th House as the battle of the sexes because that's just what it is -- which is the reason it's so vital to a study of the Mass Market potential of Romance Novels in a world where there is no Mass Market.

The matter of defining an individual as a member of a Group can be summed up in that innocent little question I asked at the top of this post.

Do you wear white after Labor Day?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, September 04, 2014

After the Collapse

THE GOLDEN PRINCESS, the latest book in S. M. Stirling's postapocalyptic Emberverse series (which began with DIES THE FIRE), came out on Tuesday. I'm a devoted fan of this series, somewhat kinder and gentler than most of the subgenre. After the first half of the first novel, Stirling concentrates mainly on people who manage to create stable communities rather than on post-disaster horrors. These books naturally inspire speculation about how we, the readers, would adjust to a world with no electricity, internal combustion engines, or other advanced technology. (The "Change" that starts the series renders all such technology permanently inoperative.) I would NOT be good at living in a post-collapse world. I don't even like camping; my husband does, and we did it occasionally when the kids were little, but I saw it as the fallback solution when one couldn't afford hotel rooms. Robert Heinlein, who wrote a lengthy essay (found in his collection EXPANDED UNIVERSE) about the skills and strategies needed to survive the planet-devastating nuclear war he anticipated, would be disgusted with my attitude. My reaction to that essay was and remains, "Why would I WANT to live through that? Aside from my family, if they survive, a nuclear holocaust would wipe out most of what I enjoy about living. Just kill me quickly and painlessly with the first bomb."

Stirling's post-collapse world, as I mentioned, isn't nearly so grim. Lady Juniper's neo-Celtic community in Oregon sounds quite pleasant, although of course it would involve plenty of hard work (and I would be part of the Christian minority rather than the Pagan majority, but Christians are tolerantly accepted, so that's okay). Still, there are so many things I'd miss in a world like that. The big things, naturally—advanced medical treatment, convenient transportation, electric lights, the Internet, instantaneous communication of all kinds, TV and movies, household appliances, a constant stream of new books, etc. Day to day, though, I think I'd feel the small losses more acutely. The vast variety of foods we're used to having available all year around, for instance. Chocolate! That disappears until trade is re-established with tropical regions. Also, while we sometimes enjoy cooking complicated meals, I like being able to pop prepared food into the oven or microwave at will. In general, I'd miss the ability to walk into a store and buy almost anything we want (or order it if our local stores don't have it). Perma-press clothes would be another grievous loss for me. I don't iron, and I hardly ever wear dry-clean-only fabrics. If it can't be thrown into the washer, then straight from the dryer to the closet or drawer, I don't buy it. (No wonder women in the nineteenth century and earlier didn't tend to produce literature or art unless they belonged to the middle or upper classes. "Women's work was never done.") Another category of items occurred to me recently while cleaning the bathroom: Disposables of all kinds. No paper towels, no tissues. (I don't think Stirling's novels ever mention what the characters do for toilet paper. Even after a paper industry got going, it would probably be too expensive for such a use. Soft leaves?) Rags for scrubbing, handkerchiefs for noses, all needing to be washed in hot, soapy water after every use. And then there's the problem of disposing of the disposables. In a preindustrial culture, everything that can't be recycled or composted would have to be burned or buried. These reflections remind me to be very thankful for our conveniences such as one-use products (a great advance in sanitation) and frequent, reliable garbage pickup.

If civilization collapsed and our society reverted to preindustrial technology, what would you miss most?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt