Thursday, December 31, 2015

Time Travel and Language

The season finale of THE LIBRARIANS (on the TNT network) illustrated this problem. Two members of the team jump back to early seventeenth-century England and meet Shakespeare. Flynn, the genius polymath head librarian, priding himself on his mastery of dialects, addresses the locals in sentences randomly peppered with thees, thous, and forsooths. His strange speech patterns convince them he's a foreign spy. His partner salvages the mission by claiming they talk oddly because they're from Flanders.

One of my "pet peeves" is reading a tale of travel into the distant past that doesn't confront the language issue.The Librarians manage okay in Shakespeare's era because that falls into the early modern period. Although their vocabularies might include words strange to each other, basic understanding is no problem. When an author sends a character any further back without explaining how he or she can communicate, my suspension of disbelief is (as Marion Zimmer Bradley would have said) hanged by the neck until dead. Oddly, the TV series SLEEPY HOLLOW goofs badly in the opposite direction in one early episode. Ichabod and Abigail encounter descendants of the "lost colony" of Roanoke, sealed into a pocket dimension for the past four centuries. Their dialect is unintelligible to the modern heroes until Ichabod figures out that they're speaking Middle English! No!! That's at least a hundred years off. The earliest English colonists arrived in North America in the late sixteenth century, contemporary with Shakespeare and not long before the King James Bible, which many ordinary laymen still read today. I didn't give up on the series after that critical research failure, but it was close.

One time travel romance I've read that sent the heroine back to the medieval Scottish Highlands completely flubbed the language issue by having the Highlanders speak broad Scots, as if they lived in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. In the unlikely event they spoke any English at all, in this case it WOULD be Middle English, and most likely the northern dialect, not the London version in which Chaucer wrote—therefore incomprehensible to a twentieth-century American with no background in that subject. Since this novel was a fantasy rather than science fiction, all the author had to do would have been to drop in a sentence stating or hinting that the heroine understands the local language by magic. But she didn't. In E. Nesbit's classic THE STORY OF THE AMULET, the children travel to many different places at various points in the distant past. They understand and speak the local languages in every case—but they have a magic amulet, so the reader can easily accept this ability.

Connie Willis's series about time-traveling Oxford historians (DOOMSDAY BOOK, TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG, BLACKOUT, and ALL CLEAR) features the well-known SF trope of a device that packs needed information into the subject's brain in a few hours of intensive treatment, languages included. SF stories can use technology similar to this or a variation on the familiar "universal translator." Or they can have their protagonists learn languages the old-fashioned way, as Hugh and his family have to do when a nuclear blast throws them from about 1960 to the far-distant future in Heinlein's FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD. Heinlein also considers this issue in DOOR INTO SUMMER (whose narrator skips thirty years ahead by "cold sleep") and TIME FOR THE STARS (whose narrator ages only a few years during a near-lightspeed interstellar voyage while about eighty years pass on Earth); both protagonists are puzzled by later generations' slang and other newly coined words. In fantasy time travel fiction, as in THE STORY OF THE AMULET (or stories such as the Narnia series, where travel to other dimensional planes is no barrier to mutual intelligibility), magic can always be invoked. I just want authors to recognize there IS a potential problem and address it somehow. They should also keep in mind that linguistic change doesn't apply only to English. An American heroine who speaks modern French wouldn't necessarily get along any better in twelfth-century France than she would in England of the same period. A character fluent in Hebrew, if transported back to first-century Palestine, should manage fine in synagogue and Temple services, but conversing with people on the street would require Aramaic or ancient Greek. An author could also have fun with a character who prepares in advance for travel to the first-century Mediterranean world (for example) by studying classical Latin and Greek—only to be tripped up by colloquialisms and slang not taught by the standard textbooks.

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series shows awareness of linguistic issues even though Claire travels back only two centuries. Although she has no trouble talking to the eighteenth-century Scottish Highlanders—those that speak English, anyway—language change does cause a few small misunderstandings. When she tells the men who capture her on arrival that she's a nurse, they think she means a wet-nurse; the profession of "nurse" in the medical sense didn't yet exist by that name (or, if it did, wasn't well-known as such). She has to explain to Jamie what a sadist is, quite accurately, because the Marquis de Sade didn't write his notorious books until near the end of the century. When at one point she jokingly tells Jamie, "Go directly to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars," he's naturally baffled (though of course this is more of a cultural than a linguistic lapse of communication).

Jumping back to the present, Happy 2016 to all!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Guest Post - Star Trek Fan Fiction Writer, Author of Sahaj, Leslye Lilker

Guest Post
Star Trek Fan Fiction Writer, Leslye Lilker 
Author of Sahaj Commenting On 
Kraith, House of Zeor, and New Sahaj Stories Now Available

Let me introduce Leslye Lilker.

She is one of the Greats of Star Trek's original fan fiction writers.  Her series of stories about Sahaj, an original character she created, has the same stature as Kraith, Night of the Twin Moons, and half a dozen others that are still famous.

After I sold my first science fiction story, I became a Star Trek fanfic writer, and now I have been quoted in academic books on fanfic, and on Star Trek fanfic.  My fanfic is more famous than Sime~Gen.  I have done articles for many academic publications on Star Trek fanfic as well as being mentioned in other academic books about Star Trek.

In August, 2015, I got a call from France -- yes, the country!  A producer doing a TV documentary on Star Trek fandom in the USA called me because she had read my article in Anne Jamison's book, FIC.  She called to make an appointment to interview me at my house for her documentary.  Fan Fiction is alive, well, and still having a growing impact on the whole world, and what is old is new again.  Hence, Science Fiction Romance writers can benefit from studying the fanfic origins of the peculiar blend of science and fiction that is now evolving into a new field.

The most quoted Trek item I've done is Kraith, such as this one in New York Magazine recently:

Kraith is an alternate universe aired ST:ToS series that was printed on paper.  The various stories appeared in a multitude of fanzines, and were then collected in Kraith Collected -- a 5 volume series now on the web for free reading.

In her comments here below, Leslye mentions the Kraith -- a large ceramic cup, handmade and no two-alike, a Vulcan artform.  Kraith Collected covers each have an image originated by contributing artists, so here are the images that were used.

During the years the 50 or so Kraith Creators who contributed ideas, stories, poems, artwork, etc were working, other fanzines like Night of the Twin Moons by Jean Lorrah, and the Sahaj Universe series of stories by Leslye Lilker, (now Leah Charifson) were also being published.  I read them all, of course.

As you know, Jean Lorrah and I partnered on Sime~Gen, so we never lost touch the way so many of the people involved in the Star Trek fanzine scene did. Recently, many of these disconnected souls have turned up on Facebook and reconnected.

Leslye Lilker found so many of us interested in more Sahaj stories that she broken out her outlines from the 1970-80s and has begun to write those stories. She has already produced several new ones about Sahaj's teen years, and one that has him at age twenty-seven.

In the intervening years, she has been teaching students to dissect and understand novels in the basic terms of conflict, resolution, main character, theme -- the functional components that have always made stories compelling.

The original Sahaj stories exhibited professional grade writing craftsmanship, and the new ones shine with "best seller" vibrations.  As I have maintained all these years, just because it's not a Mass Market paperback doesn't mean it's not perfectly crafted.

Sahaj is, in Leslye's alternate universe Trek, Spock's son by a vindictive Vulcan woman, "now" off the scene.  You really have to read the stories of how all that happened. Then you need to read all the stories about how poor Spock, already in conflict with his human side, attempts to parent his oh-so-emotional son. In 1983 we left twelve-year-old Sahaj in a fairly stable environment as he’s settled into growing up in Sarek's household, with Spock coming to visit as much as he can.

Sahaj is learning the “whys and wherefores” of Vulcan culture, but is acutely aware that he doesn't quite belong and he may choose another path, but he has a plan which will eventually bring him his lifelong goal: to live with his father full time, which would be on the Enterprise or some other Starfleet home.  This is a much better life than he was headed for when he was born, so for all the awkwardness of his position, he's comfortable in it, hatching ambitions as any pre-teen would.

So this is the ongoing saga of a child we meet early in his life, and now watch grow into adulthood. It is a compelling story that hooks readers, whether they are Star Trek fans or not.

So far, it's not "Romance" -- but it is a grand science fiction story setting up something very romantic indeed.

Reconnecting with old friends, Leslye found others still shared her interest in classic Trek, and when one of the Sime~Gen folks on her Facebook Group posted the URL for Kraith, she reread "Spock's Affirmation" -- and sent me the following commentary, which she has edited once.

Keep in mind that she was talking to me, and we both know that Kraith was written as writing exercises for a class on writing, and as commentary on aired-Trek's dodging away from what I knew was "real" science fiction.

I added an alien dimension to Spock -- truly a non-human -- and to Vulcan culture.  And I added so much Worldbuilding that reviews of Kraith by academics peg the Hero of the series not as Spock or Kirk, but as Vulcan Culture.

I can't argue with that.

Note: "Spock's Affirmation" was written many years before they invented and added kolinahr to the official Star Trek Universe.  Copies of Kraith Collected had been seen around Gene Roddenberry's office at Paramount.

Here in her own words is how this Kraith story struck Leslye Lilker on re-reading.


Upon rereading "Spock's Affirmation" some 40 years later, I found myself unable to analyze it the way I teach my students to analyze literature. Yes, the main plot is Kirk must get the Kraith, Spock, and the dancers to their destination by a certain time. There are hints of subplots but they are mere skeletons, waiting for the tendons, muscle, and flesh that come later in the series. It adds intrigue but the reader’s mood (the feeling the reader has at the end) is less than satisfied. For example, the subplot of 'what happened to Sarek?’ is not addressed in this story. Everyone assumes he’s dead except for Spock, but we don’t get that answer at the end of “AFFIRMATION”. That’s okay, though, because we know how sagas are.

Characterization: the most interesting character to me was the one Jacqueline invented:  Ssarsun. He/she/it/?? is, multileveled, flawed, totally believable (if you can believe a telepathic lizard raised on Vulcan - and I can). Ssarsun has a sense of humor, can drink Scott under the table, and is determined to save Spock’s life. What more could a reader want? Spock, usually my favorite character in anything I read, has morphed, without motivation or reason, from the Spock we saw on TOS, to an alien, a Vulcan who maybe has already achieved kolinahr, a complete purging of emotion. Since this was why Jacqueline wrote “Affirmation” I would have to say she achieved her goal. If I pretended that this was a new character, I could accept him as I could accept Michael Valentine or other alien SF personas. So the role Spock played worked. I just didn’t like him much as Spock. His dialogue was more informal than I was used to. There didn’t seem to be a real connection from him to Kirk or McCoy. I think the worst part for me was when he came back from the Affirmation with the news that not only his newly taken wife but his still in utero son were dead. The son would have been the next “kaydid” (which is what my eyes saw instead of the Vulcan word Jacqueline created) and Spock’s only reaction was to say he was tired and needed a day to recuperate.  But that is imposing my own needs on this character. As Professor Thomas Foster states in How To Read Literature Like A Professor, don’t read with your own eyes. Read from the author’s eyes.

The point of view was difficult to describe, as the story was written the way John Steinbeck wrote OF MICE AND MEN, as a screenplay. With the exception of McCoy and Ssarsun, the reader can only judge by what the characters do or say (character traits.)

I get that Spock is the last of his line to be a katydid, which is how I think of your word for the Vulcan in his line who can conjoin many in a mindmeld. I am uncertain of why this would be important, but then, I was quite tired and slightly overwhelmed by personal matters when I read it. Yet I got it.

The tone of “Affirmation” (the writer’s attitude toward the subject) comes across loud and clear: critical of the way aliens were being portrayed on the screen.

Since “Affirmation” is the beginning of a saga and because it was written for a TV show, theme is difficult to express. We teach that theme comes out of conflict. The conflicts in “Affirmation” were many but the resolutions were few, so I cannot define a theme at this point.

I’m going to have to say that Kirk is the protagonist because he’s the one who has the goal to achieve. I’m not quite sure who the antagonist is. I suspect it is the portion of Vulcan society who wants Sarek’s line dead.

Now, all of this you spoke of in your introduction but I didn't read your introduction until after I read the story. What you did so well, was hook your reader into the big story. There’s a huge alien Universe hulking just behind the curtain. Will I go back for more? Of course. I mean, I already have, in my previous life. This is just rereading, with a somewhat more professional eye.

I do have to laugh though. When I described the bottle of Tembrua in my rewrite of "The Bronze Cord" it sort of  looked like the picture of the Kraith cup.  It wasn't intended, but we are all touched by what we read, what we see, the politics going on around us, the technology we have at our fingertips, and all of that may come out in your own writing, even if it is from a subconscious level.

I liked what I read well enough to want to read more. That's a very good thing.! And it is also a very good thing that this story can hold up after all these years. It’s a definite hook, which captures the attention of your readers and leaves them wanting more.

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

Here is further commentary by Leslye Lilker on the Sime~Gen Novel, House of Zeor, which was written concurrently with Kraith.

I dragged myself home after another ‘first day of school’ today wanting nothing more than a nap, but in my inbox was a little reminder that I had promised to compare House of Zeor to “Affirmation.” So I took my kindle to bed with me and flew through Chapter One and started Chapter Two but I had to force myself to stop and rest. And that, dear friends, in my opinion, is the best thing one can say to a writer: “I couldn’t put it down.”

That same Professor Foster mentioned above also has a book out called (you got it!) How To Read Novels Like A Professor.  He states that a decently written piece of fiction will foreshadow the entire story in the first few pages. And Zeor does. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve pieced together enough evidence to put it in the archetype of a quest story.

Let’s start with the quest. Your quester is Hugh Valleroy. His stated reason for the quest: to rescue Aisha Rauf. The stated place to go: Sime Territory. Obstacles along the way: first and foremost, Klyd, the channel, didn’t want him as a partner. It would be a dangerous journey, and the danger started with Klyd drawing selyn at an intensity enough to burn and nearly kill him. The real reason for going: self knowledge.

The point of view is third person limited, my personal favorite, although it does bring in the possibility of bias and unreliability. Unlike “Affirmation” the reader immediately sinks into Hugh’s head, feels what he feels, understands his thoughts. This makes for a dynamic character who is affected by what is happening around him.

The conflict is already clear: Sime v Gen: both human mutants who must learn that they need one another (okay, so I read the book a long time ago and it stuck with me.) So out of this man v. man conflict comes a theme of infinite diversity in infinite combinations combines to create a greater truth and beauty.

I think that the reason Zeor is a better crafted book is because the author was telling a story that she wanted to read. She created the characters (and I don’t deny I see Trek footsteps in this -- and that’s okay) but the novel is not contrived just to prove a point, the way “Affirmation” seemed to be. After reading just the first chapter, I can tell you I can see these people. They are real. I like them. I want more. I want to know what happens next.

I just have one question: is his name pronounced KLIDE (long I) or KLID (like lid)? I never did know.
-----------END QUOTE----------

Klyd Farris is with a long “I” – here is the page with sound files of the Nivet Territory accent for a number of words and characters in the Sime~Gen Novels.


BIOGRAPHY: Leslye Lilker

My mother hooked me into Trek when it first aired. I watched a few of the first season and liked the show, but I was 15 and dating. In fact, I was headed out on a date the night the second season started, and she stopped me at the door. “You have to watch this show. You’ll like the guy with the ears.”

Mothers know best. I never did go out on the date that night, but made him stay home and watch “Amok Time” with me.

Another eight years or so would pass before I renewed my interest in the reruns. I distinctly remember watching “This Side of Paradise” and wondering why our heroes were running around the galaxy with all the girls and no one was procreating. Then I thought of writing a “what if Kirk” had a kid and decided immediately that he probably had dozens and who cared? But Spock? My Spock? My Spock who suffered so with his half human side? What better way to help him resolve his own issues by having him help his own child resolve his? And why should it be easy? Why not have the kid be old enough to express himself clearly? Why not have him brought up with all emotions engaged, even though he was 3/4 Vulcan? Why not have his first words to Spock when, at ten years of age, he meets his biological father for the first time be: “Take your logic and shove it widthwise!”
And thus Sahaj came into being, and a series was born.

   (Sahaj Collected turns up on Amazon for as much as $200 as a collector's item. JL)

Of course, it took years and years to flesh things out, to learn how to create scenes that popped for readers. I have published the very first scene I wrote about Sahaj in IDIC #1 in 1975. Then I put it beside the rewrite I did in 1977. Then I added the rewrite I started in 1995 and finished in 2015. Anyone who wants to demonstrate the development of a writer is free to use those three versions. But understand: I am not holding myself up as the model. I am still learning every day.

I’ve had many careers over my life, but when I was 55 I decided to become a certified English teacher, and have been spending the last ten years teaching HS sophomores at all levels how to communicate through their writing. This is a good example, I think, of learn one, teach one, because it is in the teaching that the lessons are really learned.

I’ve just released a new Sahaj story -- one of humor, which I will use this year in teaching my kids the benefits of puns. It is currently available though Smashwords, and once they approve it for their catalogue, it will go to Amazon, Apple, and wherever else they market their stuff. Oh, Barnes and Nobel, too. As time allows, I will offer the original zines, rewrites of my stories in the original zines, and more new Sahaj stories. If you want to keep updated, friend Sahaj Xtmprsqntwlfb on FB and he’ll let you know when there’s something new.

A blue cover with pictures of sea creatures
“Nothing Fishy Going On Here”

Leah (Leslye)

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

If you want my advice, go read as much Sahaj as you can lay hands/Kindle on.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Boxing Day Notice For European Visitors

Thank you for visiting, European visitors!

We are required to make sure that our European visitors are aware that European Union laws require us (the authors) to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on our blog. (Not by the authors. We have no control over the cookies. We don't even know what the cookies are! They are Google's cookies). In many cases, these laws also require us to obtain consent. 

If you follow this blog, we assume that you consent.

Google tells us that, as a courtesy, the good Google folks have added a notice on our blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies. 

Google tells us that we are responsible for confirming this notice actually works for our blog, (but we have no idea how to go about confirming whether or not this notice actually works, short of asking European visitors to leave a comment telling us!) and that it displays (but we don't know how to do that, unless European visitors kindly leave a comment to that effect). If we employ other cookies, for example by adding third party features, this notice may not work for us.  I don't think we do, but I'm not omniscient.

What I do to avoid being tracked by Google is to go into my Safari Preferences every day, and I delete every cookie that I don't want.

My real blog follows, but this blog will repeat from time to time.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Alternate Histories

Kate Hill's guest blog inspired me to some thoughts about the Alternate History subgenre. Two of my favorite series fall into that category, S. M. Stirling's DIES THE FIRE universe (as well as his stand-alone novel THE PESHAWAR LANCERS, with one related novella) and Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (Napoleonic War with aviators on flying dragons). Alternate history has gained new popularity in recent years with the rise of steampunk. If not set in an author-created secondary world, steampunk stories are usually alt-hist versions of the Victorian era. One of my favorite vampire authors, P. N. Elrod, recently released a novel in that subgenre, THE HANGED MAN, featuring a female psychic investigator in a nineteenth-century England somewhat different from our own. Neil Gaiman's delightfully bizarre short work "A Study in Emerald" places a Sherlock Holmes spinoff in an alternate nineteenth century where eldritch Lovecraftian entities have taken over the world, with Queen Victoria herself one of them. Human society muddles along well enough under the allegedly benign rule of the Great Old Ones, but resistance movements do exist. I'm also a big fan of Kim Newman's ANNO-DRACULA and its sequels, in which British and European history as we know it takes a dark twist when Count Dracula, instead of being slain by Van Helsing and company, defeats them and forcibly marries the Queen, thus becoming Prince Consort and de facto ruler of the realm.

I agree with Kate that an advantage of alternate history fiction is its visible connection with our own world. I confess I started to lose interest in Stirling's "Island in the Sea of Time" trilogy, well-written and engaging though it is, when the characters (thrown back thousands of years by an Event that transported the entire island of Nantucket through time) sailed to the Mediterranean region in the Bronze Age and commenced altering the entire future history of Earth, potentially beyond recognition. Good story, but a different kind of story.

Alternate history should be distinguished from what's often called "secret history," in which the publicly acknowledged events of the past aren't changed, but major influences act behind the scenes to subvert the truth as we know it. For example, in Katherine Kurtz's TWO CROWNS FOR AMERICA, occult forces on both sides conspire to support or undermine the American Revolution, with the full knowledge of George Washington and other leading figures of the time. The eighteenth-century flashbacks in the TV series SLEEPY HOLLOW fall into the same category.

How close the point-of-departure falls to our own time heavily affects how far the result will differ from our timeline. Consider how much time the "butterfly effect" has in which to operate. For instance, the twenty-first century in the world of Stirling's "Island" trilogy, after thousands of years of divergent development, would look hardly anything like ours. On the other hand, Jo Walton's "Small Change" trilogy (beginning with FARTHING), eight years after England made peace with Germany early in World War II, reveals Europe under Nazi rule and Britain leaning toward fascism, but the setting has recognizable similarities to our own 1950s. Speaking of Nazis, Norman Spinrod's rather odd novel THE IRON DREAM takes a metafictional approach to twentieth-century history. The book is framed as a commentary on a book-within-the-book, a science fiction novel written by a minor German author named Adolf Hitler, who failed as an artist and, instead of entering politics, moved to the U.S. and became a writer. So authors can create many different types of "gateways" into alternate histories.

The further in the past your point-of-departure occurs, the less likely it is that any historical characters from our own timeline will exist in the alternate world. After all, a day's difference in the date of a baby's conception would result in a different individual, because a different sperm cell would fertilize the egg. "Butterfly" one such timing change into millions. Those historical characters often show up anyhow, though, because it's just more fun that way. I'm perfectly willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy spotting parallel-world incarnations of real-life statesmen, generals, authors, and other notable figures.

Near-future science fiction involuntarily morphs into alternate history when overtaken by real-world events. Heinlein turned this inevitable development to his advantage in his Future History series. In his later novels, he establishes that the books in this "history" represent only one of many different timelines in the development of twentieth-century Earth.

Check out Uchronia, a website on alternate history with a huge bibliography:


Merry Christmas and Happy Yuletide!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Index to Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration


Posts in this series:
Part 1 -

Part 2 -

Part 3 - index to Monthly Aspectarian Reviews

Part 4 - Sidewalk Superintendent

Part 5 Murderer In The Mikdash

Part 6 - Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction
NOTE: Fallacy and Misnomer have been discussed separately, links in this Part 6

Part 7 - The Legacy as Motivation
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 8 - Would Aliens Share Human Fallacy and Religious Impulse?

Part 9 - Convincing Elder Characters

Part 10 - How To Marry A Billionaire

Part 11 - Arranging Marriages

Part 13 - Historical Verisimilitude

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 20, 2015

This Week In Copyright

Is the worm beginning to turn? The "worm" of internet piracy is rather like an aircraft carrier. It has massive inertia, and it has government backing. It took a jury this week to send a powerful message to ISPs that allegedly profit from piracy and exploit the loopholes in "Safe Harbor."

Allegedly, a manager at an internet company instructed employees how to handle "customers" and "subscribers" who were alleged repeated copyright infringers.

"Notably, Cox’s Manager of Customer Abuse Operations, wrote in an email:
As we move forward in this challenging time we want to hold on to every subscriber we can. With this in mind if a customer is terminated for DMCA, you are able to reactivate them after you give them a stern warning about violating our AUP and the DMCA. We must still terminate in order for us to be in compliance with safe harbor but once termination is complete, we have fulfilled our obligation. After you reactivate them the DMCA ‘counter’ restarts; The procedure restarts with the sending of warning letters, just like a first offense. This is to be an unwritten semi-policy… We do not talk about it or give the subscriber any indication that reactivating them is normal. Use your best judgment and remember to do what is right for our company and subscribers… This only pertains to DMCA violations. It does not pertain to spammers, hackers, etc."

The musician-and-songwriter related blog, The Trichordist, has an excellent summary of the week's top copyright-related news, not all of which is good for singers and songwriters and other creators whose income is controlled by government bureaucrats in the Copyright Royalty Board.
"DMCA abuse that has been used as a shield against copyright infringement liability by the internet and web/tech communities. Many businesses including many ISP’s and content hosting platforms such as YouTube have used the DMCA to build massively profitable businesses that are largely comprised of infringing works, otherwise known as User Pirated Content. That may be about to change thanks to this ruling."

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Friday, December 18, 2015

Guest Post by Kate Hill: Writing on Alternate Earths

The Main Benefit and Challenge of Writing a Story Set on an Alternate Earth

The idea for my latest release, Blow by Blow, formed while I was plotting a book about the vigilante who appears in this novel. The vigilante's story was originally going to be a science fiction romance, but as I worked on the outline for Blow by Blow, I decided that a futuristic setting would be better for both stories.

Setting the book on a planet that is radically different from Earth might distance us too much from some of the issues encountered by the characters. Rather than ask readers to completely suspend their disbelief, my goal is to make them feel like the events of the story could happen or, in some cases, are happening in the world we live in.

To me, that's the main benefit of writing a book set on an alternate Earth. It resembles our world, therefore the characters' actions, traits and surroundings are similar to our own. It's also in some ways easier to write in this setting than to create a world with a completely different environment and alien cultures. This benefit, however, is related to what I believe is the main challenge of writing in a futuristic setting.

If there are no noticeable differences between the world in the book and our world, then it would be more sensible to make the story a contemporary romance. In Blow by Blow, I renamed major places. All the rules and laws of the fictional world are not always identical to those on our Earth. The biggest change is the second civil war that happened in the States. The challenge is to include enough differences to show readers that it's not the world as we know it, but it could be.

Readers, how do you feel about stories set on an alternate Earth? Authors, what do you feel are the major challenges and benefits of writing a book using this setting?

About Kate Hill

Always a fan of romance and the paranormal, Kate Hill started writing over twenty years ago for pleasure. Her first story, a short erotic vampire tale, was accepted for publication in 1996. Since then she has sold over one hundred short stories, novellas and novels. When she's not working on her books, Kate enjoys reading, working out and spending time with her family and pets. She also writes as Saloni Quinby. Visit her online at:

Kate Hill

Blow by Blow

by Kate Hill

M/M Futuristic

A hunky former heavyweight champ and an ass-kicking beauty fight for their lives and their love in a futuristic world of MMA.

Theo "Little Raven" Fisker, is a bantamweight with attitude who plans to make a name for himself in the Radical Warrior Tournament, a prestigious mixed martial arts event. The problem is no team will sign a male fighter who walks out in silver and pink with nail polish to match, until he meets Master Jesse.

Impressed by Theo's talent, Jesse welcomes him onto his up and coming team. Fists and sparks fly when Theo meets gorgeous Valentin Merrickson. Theo draws Valentin out of his protective armor and sparks hope for a life the tough heavyweight never imagined possible. Their love grows, but threats from extremists and an injury that ends Valentin's career in the cage might tear them apart.


"I spilled an entire tray," Theo said, raising his eyes to the heavens. Waiting tables wasn't exactly the cake walk he'd expected.

"Nobody's perfect," Valentin said.

Theo turned to him, his gaze sweeping him from head to toe, and said, "I'm not so sure about that, Sunshine."

Valentin's expression turned stony. "Why do you keep calling me that?"

"Because just looking at you is enough to brighten anyone's day." The words left Theo's mouth before he could stop them. That had always been one of his biggest problems. A thought popped into his head and he had to say it. He rarely considered the consequences.

"Ohhh." Liz smiled and glanced at Valentin. "Now that's a line I need to remember."

Valentin glowered and finished his drink quickly.

"Should you be drinking while you're training?" Theo asked. "We have a tournament coming up at the end of the month."

"It's water with lemon in it, not that it's any of your business," Valentin said, but his faint smile belied his rude tone.

"Just thinking about the team," Theo said, deliberately using a flirty look. He removed his apron with the words Panoramic View embroidered across it in silver and embellished with a black skull.

"Nice belt." Valentin nodded toward Theo's waist. "Looks almost like a chain whip."

Theo glanced toward Liz, who stood at the other end of the bar. He wasn't sure how his new boss would feel if she knew the dual uses of his attire. He probably shouldn't even admit this to Valentin, but he said softly, "It is. My father was an artist--a martial artist--and he made jewelry as a hobby. He liked finding ways of making weapons fashionable." Theo gestured toward his belt.

"What else does he make?"

"He's dead," Theo said quietly. Though his father had been dead for years, thinking about his loss still hurt.

"I'm sorry," Valentin said. "That belt must be pretty special to you."

"It is." Theo sighed. "I really need to catch the bus and get to sleep."

"No car?"

"Not yet, but I'm working on it. I used a rental to drive here, but I returned it yesterday."

"Want a ride?"

"Didn't you just get here?"

Valentin shrugged. "I'm done with my drink and I'm in training, too. Ready to go?"

Narrowing his eyes, Theo considered the offer. Just sitting next to Valentin in a car, smelling his cologne, would be enough to make him horny all night. This guy would not be good for his training. Why did he have to join a team that had the most gorgeous man in the universe as its heavyweight champion?

"I'm ready. Just let me get my bag."

"Right here." Liz, who had approached, picked up his black bag from behind the counter and handed it to him.

Theo took it from her.

From the corner of his eye, he noticed a news headline on the widescreen TV above the bar.

"Hey, Liz," said one of the waitresses, stepping behind the bar to turn up the volume. "The Spellman Hill Vigilante strikes again."

Theo listened to a brief report about two guys who had been knocked unconscious by a helmeted figure while attempting to mug a woman on her way home from work the previous night.

"Spellman Hill Vigilante?" Theo asked.

"Yeah. Over the past year or so a guy in a black helmet has been on the streets stopping crime in and around Spellman Hill. He seems to focus on crimes against the gay community, but not always," said the waitress. "A few of his victims claim he attacked them at random, but I'm not so sure. Cops don't like him for obvious reasons, but I feel a little safer knowing he's around."

"I wish the news would stop sensationalizing this guy," Liz said, shaking her head.

"Hey, in a way he's a hero," Valentin said.

Liz raised her eyes to heaven. "Just as long as he doesn't try to be a 'hero' near my club. If you ask me he's just a wacko."

After saying good night, Theo and Valentin walked out of the club together. Valentin was more than a head taller than Theo, so even with his high-heeled black boots Theo needed to look up to him. He kind of liked it. Hell, he loved it.

Outside they climbed into Valentin's sleek black sports car. It probably cost more than Theo had made fighting over the past couple of years. Still Valentin could probably afford it with little stress. He'd done well in his career and Theo had read several articles in sports magazines that mentioned Valentin's wise business investments.

Smiling, Theo stretched his long legs and leaned back in the leather seat. "I could get used to this."

"I know what you mean," Valentin said under his breath. His blue gaze lingered on Theo's legs and crotch.

"Are you flirting with me, Sunshine?"

"Why not? You've been doing it all day."

From Siren Publishing

Blow by Blow

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Love Among Other Species

Recently PBS aired a program on "love" in the animal kingdom. It was really about courtship and mating behaviors of various animals, but it did devote a few minutes at the end to the question of whether attachments between animal mates should be called "love." The animal planet network occasionally shows programs about attachments between animals of different kinds. Some are cases of mothers adopting and nursing orphaned babies of other species, but many are animal "friendships" that provide no obvious, tangible benefits to the two parties. Surely it makes sense to apply the word "love" to those relationships.

In the seventeenth century, Rene Descartes maintained that nonhuman animals were mere biological automata with no internal life at all, no consciousness of pain or pleasure, much less thoughts or emotions. He forestalled objections that the same principle could be applied to human beings on the grounds of our capacity for complex, innovative actions. Nowadays, we know many animals have similar abilities.

Twentieth-century behaviorists would have agreed with Descartes that since we can't directly perceive feelings, only actions, we aren't justified in attributing emotions to "lower" animals. Strictly speaking, though, again on the same principle we can't assume other human organisms have emotions (or any kind of inner life) either. In practice, because we witness other people reacting to stimuli in the same ways we act when we feel certain emotions in response to similar experiences, we accept that those people have emotions like ours. We make the same assumptions about pain, pleasure, fear, anger, joy, etc. in preverbal babies (again, think of the movie INSIDE OUT), even though they can't discuss their feelings. The most parsimonious assumption, it seems to me, is that if animals react to external events in ways similar to us, they probably have similar internal experiences (especially "higher" animals that clearly have the brain structures to embody those feelings).

You've probably seen web pages that question whether your dog or cat really loves you and offer checklists of dog or cat behaviors that indicate "love." For instance, here's a slide show of actions that prove your cat loves you:

9 Signs Your Cat Loves You

Personally, I don't believe our dog and cats snuggle up to us only because we feed them. They show affection to everybody in the house, not just the habitual food-dispenser (me). I vote for the "love" label.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 6 - Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 6
Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous posts in this series:
Part 1 -
Part 2 -

Part 3 - index to Monthly Aspectarian Reviews

Part 4 - Sidewalk Superintendent

Part 5 Murderer In The Mikdash

These 4-skills posts are advanced material.  But that doesn't mean you can't start reading them first.

December 1, 2015, we started discussing ways to depict Wisdom, an abstraction, and we have to tackle the issue of how to depict a Wise Character.

That post has a link at the top to the index post for the depiction series.

A "Wise Character" -- a Yoda or a Gandalf, (note not usually a Point Of View Character) a teacher of ancient wisdom or a role model to emulate -- is a feature of most novels that live from generation to generation.

Often the character, or his/her name, will become part of a quote bandied about by future generations who have no idea where that quote came from.

Creating a character to ignite the thirst for wisdom in the other characters, perhaps even in the reader, is easy.  Getting the character you have created down in a text based story is very hard.

What seems like Wisdom to one human, seems like Folly to another.

Brain researchers may have nailed the reason for the Wisdom/Folly flip/flop in point of view.  They have found why one single person can see, hold, articulate, and advocate two incompatible points of view at the same time.

The capacity to believe six impossible things before breakfast is rooted in the linguistic faculty of the brain.  It's just science.

Philosophers have known and used this (as have poets and artists) for thousands of years.  Suddenly, it's a scientific discovery!

--------Quote From that article-----------
Just as regular exercise gives your body some biological benefits, mentally controlling two or more languages gives your brain cognitive benefits. This mental flexibility pays big dividends especially later in life: The typical signs of cognitive ageing occur later in bilinguals – and the onset of age-related degenerative disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are delayed in bilinguals by up to five years.

Read more:

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

The article goes on to point out the different ways German-only speakers and English-only speakers describe a short-video.  Then it describes how a bilingual German-English speaker describes that same video, first when the observer is thinking in German, and then when that same observer is thinking in English.  The article concludes:

People self-report that they feel like a different person when using their different languages and that expressing certain emotions carries different emotional resonance depending on the language they are using.

When judging risk, bilinguals also tend to make more rational economic decisions in a second language. In contrast to one’s first language, it tends to lack the deep-seated, misleading affective biases that unduly influence how risks and benefits are perceived. So the language you speak in really can affect the way you think.

Read more:
-----------END QUOTE---------------

This article and the science behind it are vital to any writer of Science Fiction Romance who wants to depict a relationship between a human and an alien blossoming into love.

In this science article you find the origin of the fallacy, the misnomer, and the contradiction, all rolled into a brain function.

And once again (and again and again) this classic visual image is worth a thousand words on the subject of language.  Consider it while reading the article on German-English speakers describing a video.

The gist of it is that when thinking in German, the description of the video includes the goal of the depicted action, but when thinking in English ONLY THE ACTION BY ITSELF is considered relevant to a description of the video.

That's just one difference between two cognate languages, and a small one at that.

But the research shows what the brain is doing when parsing a moving image using different language frameworks.

It's a good article because it brings to the surface a principle that Romance novels working to convey not only the bonding love between Soul Mates but also the novel-generating, super-heated conflict that drives the plot.

In a great Romance, there has to be an obvious affinity between the individuals forming a couple, but also an even more obvious reason why "it will never work."  And then a not-at-all-obvious pathway to how to get it to work, and not only to work but to lead to the stable, renewable, and eternal Happily Ever After Ending, our prized HEA.

At least half the general public believes firmly that life can not ever deliver an HEA.

It may be that in "real" life, we are not integrating our life's Theme with the Plot of our life, with our Character, and with the world we have been thrust into willy-nilly.

Humans in such a disintegrated psychological condition can't believe that their real life has an HEA -- a sweet-spot that can be attained by hard work and the right life-partner.

If that's true of humans today, does that have to be true of your Aliens?

Or what if your human character could firmly envision the HEA she wanted, but your Alien character was speaking a different language and knew for a fact that there is no such thing as an HEA?

If you have studied anthropology, you know that there really is such a thing as women's language and men's language.  It's not just a joke.  It's a very real thing.  Nobody knows the reason for that (yet), but there are a lot of theories.

Some say it's culture that divides the genders and forces them to learn different ways of speaking.  Some say it's biology that shapes their language.

Study of how humans (and Bonobos and Dolphins etc) use language is absolutely essential for any writer, but especially a writer of Paranormal Romance, or any Romance story built around the odd or different bit of science.

That story is about Bonobos using squeaks for language.

The more we learn, the more we see that animals and humans are built on the same platform, and just have different apps installed.

Who's to say Bonobos don't have Wisdom?

As a writer, spinning a yarn about love, you need to figure out what you think Wisdom is.

Romance stories are about how just plain right life feels when you finally encounter that singular individual who lights up your world, reveals the best part of yourself to yourself, and responds to you by revealing their own best part

We experience love through another Character, see through their eyes, learn their language, and flip-flop between our own language and theirs.

The HEA comes into possibility when you meet that special someone who, when you tell them how you feel, they understand what you said.

Whether the HEA exists in your world -- or not -- depends entirely on language.

Just as with the German-English experiment, the language inside your head reveals one world, and the languages you have learned reveals other worlds.

That idea -- that language shapes perception -- is a THEME element.

The idea that perception creates Wisdom is a THEME element.

What exactly Wisdom might be is a THEME element.

What exactly a Wise Character might say is a CHARACTER element (discussed also under DIALOGUE).

What exactly a Wise Character might do (or resist or refrain from doing) is a PLOT element.

The problems that such a Wise Character might encounter that would trigger such a speech and action (Theme-Plot-Dialogue Integration) are the WORLDBUILDING elements.

You can see from this German-English experiment that the Character, the Wisdom-Theme, and the Plot are absolutely integral to the WORLD element.

How you, as the writer, present the world you have built depends on Point-of-View (PoV) -- from which Character's eyes is the reader "seeing" the world you have built, and the "languages" your world features.

The research is regarding established, living languages, shared by many.  Narrowing like that is essential to Science, but not necessarily to Art.

An artist or writer can think of it all another way.  The language you invented before your parents taught you to say mama and dada, before your brain developed synapses to connect cause and effect (you drop your bottle; it falls DOWN every time!) so you could build an image of the world you had been born into, is your Native Language.  All the rest are added.

Each language you add lets you perceive the world around you with different emphasis, different value-systems, different ideas of what is real and what is not-real.

Each THEME you use as the foundation of a romance novel bespeaks one such set of values, and excludes others.

That's embedded in the fundamental definition of Art: Art is the Selective Recreation of Reality.

The operative word is "Selective."

You must select the perception embedded in the "language" of your Characters.  What is real to them will be real to your reader, no matter how alien to your reader the idea might be, if you teach your reader the language that Character is thinking within.

Most writers do this subconsciously, intuitively.  You have this fully realized world and its Characters in your imagination, and it really is good!  The difference between what you imagine and what your reader imagines can be narrowed by craft skills, but never eliminated.

The point of Art is not to argue, but to illustrate and experience.

A romance story can evoke the language of love so powerfully that a reader sees the real world differently -- at least for a while.

The suspension of disbelief can dissolve the mental barriers that prevents us from seeing the whole story of something like that German-English experiment video.  The HEA can be seen by the reader as the Goal of all the busy action in the romance.

Romance and Science are both all about Language.

Bonobos may have sex, love, even bonding -- but not Romance which is rooted in the hypothetical and extrapolates into a possible future that wasn't possible "before."

And so far as we know, Bonobos don't have Science.

When you dissect and examine the anatomy of a Romance scientifically, you get science fiction romance.

Let's explore an example - a novel to write.

THEME: Home For The Holidays

PLOT: Gretchen Wilder brings her boyfriend Mark Underwood home to meet her somewhat religious parents.  Unknown to them, she's 7 months pregnant with a child that is not Mark's and he knows that.  Can their Love Conquer All without an abortion?

CHARACTER: Gretchen has lived the life of an apostate, and firmly believes a woman has a right to make her own reproductive health decisions.  Mark, raised by Atheists, thinks he has fully internalized that value - it's her decision - but he's worked as a Medical Technician and knows it's a baby human.  He's now plowing through medical school, and can't afford a child disrupting everything.  Gretchen has just been laid off when a company went bankrupt.

WORLDBUILDING: 2016 USA. Gretchen's parents are staunch Catholics (but used birth control and see no reason women can't be ordained priests).  Gretchen's siblings run the gamut from atheist to devout, and a few cousins and in-laws may be Hindu, Jewish, Confucian, maybe Native American, even Muslim?, a nice variety.

Everyone is gathering at the Parent's house to cook, clean, decorate, and party because the father has survived his first heart attack.  They are doing all the work for the parents as a present.  They run the gamut of the political spectrum, and at least half of them feel the recent election turned out all wrong.

INTEGRATION: the writer's job is to DEPICT all these clashing points of view in such a way that the reader's emotions resonate to each one.

Get the reader believing in and agreeing with each in turn, feeling the urgency of the decision that must be made soon (to have the child, put it up for adoption?, go for an abortion, get married, not get married, in the Catholic Church?)

You have a wide variety of Characters, each of whom may speak different languages, parse situations in different ways.  Some may arrive late, others leave early in a huff.  Some are staying in the house, others in a hotel.  They all have smartphones.

Perhaps one present the children are giving the parents is a wireless speaker system throughout the house for TV, Radio, Netflix, podcasts, intercom, so there's the ongoing tech issues across generations.

There's the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS theme manifesting in LANGUAGE - computer language, app language, Apple vs Android, etc.  What language you speak shapes your perceptions -- "home" is a perception and has its own language, the language of Nostalgia.

CONFLICT: all these tense undercurrents and roaring disputes are taking place in a household where an Elder has just had a heart attack -- medical advice is for calm, warm-friendly family interaction.  (Ever gone home for the Holidays?  You know the odds!)

Your job is to depict a Character thinking in one language, then thinking in another language, and seeing "both sides" of the problem in different ways.

This multi-language Character should be your Wise Character.

Usually, the Wise Character is not leaping into every conversation with opinions, ideas and solutions to everyone else's problems.  But Wisdom sharpens the ability to detect lies.

One signature behavior of the Wise is that they don't say much, especially not when others are yelling.  Thus the Wise Character is your source of the zinger one-liners that will be remembered.

So you take your reader on a roller coaster ride from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again with regard to the problems posed in our society today regarding abortion.

For example, some of the family may be Progressives, proud of that label and absolutely convinced that the Progressive agenda coincides with the very best values of Catholicism.  In other words, you can't be a good Catholic unless you are a Progressive.

Progressives are dedicated to kindness to animals, gentle treatment of the Earth's resources and human environment, healthcare for all, raising the minimum wage so the least among workers can live decently, and can argue persuasively that every ethical point in the Catechism is found in the Progressive Agenda.

A woman's freedom to choose is a natural and necessary extension of the highest Values ever promulgated among humans.

That's an absolute that is beyond question.  Therefore anyone who questions it must be against everything good that humanity has ever known.

That thinking is built into the English language -- just like the focus on ACTION to the exclusion of DESTINATION as illustrated by the article on German vs English.

English is an amalgam of many historic languages, very largely derived from Ancient Greek and Ancient Latin.  Modern American English has many structures and borrowings from other languages brought to the U.S.A. by immigrants.

One perception feature of English is the reliance on either/or paradigms, the zero-sum-game, or in sports the Winner vs Loser.

In English, "There Can Be Only One" (from the TV Series HIGHLANDER) is easily believed.  All the action in that Series was predicated on the assumption that you couldn't change that Rule.

The T.V. Series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST -- not the current one, but the 1987 one with Linda Hamilton and Ronald Perlman ...

...also used a premise that declared the couple could never be together.  That premise was not challenged.

Your current readers have been conditioned for generations not to question premises.

So when, in our example romance story, the devout Catholic parents get wind of the possibility that their pregnant daught does not plan to marry the boyfriend she's just brought home, and is wondering if she should have an abortion so that they can get married -- oy veh!

The parents in this scenario have also been conditioned not to question the premises of their very existence, their life and practice of their religion.

Gretchen knows their attitude.  She expects support from her siblings.  She assumes she has Mark's support, no matter how she decides.

Your job as a writer is to depict Gretchen gaining an understanding of her Parents' attitude that is deeper than the Parents' understanding of their own attitude.  You may need to add the local Catholic Priest character -- who might be a young replacement of the Parents decades long confidant, a young man who is not the Wise Character yet.

Your Wise Character in the family has to be able to teach the language of Souls, Eternity, Mysticism, and the non-falsifiable hypothesis of a Creator and how that hypothesis can lead to the conclusion that abortion is a very dicey choice.

For example, the Wise Character might be a High School History teacher bemoaning Common Core to anyone who will listen when he's been tippling a bit -- or maybe he's just pretending to tipple so people won't think he's pontificating.  He might refer the customs of the Ancient Greeks and Romans of "exposing" unwanted babies on "the wall" (of the city).  Some such babies were "rescued" or "adopted" for good or nefarious purposes, but their fates were never known to the parents.  In any event, the Progressives are actually Regressives in freedom from reproduction.

 He might take a dig at the Progressives by noting that the advocacy for "the woman's right to control her reproductive health" gave government another increment of control over reproduction (via who pays for the medical procedure).  Government control of the individual is tyranny - regressive.  Being fair, he'd point out that before tyranny of Kings and Oligarchs or Theocrats, there was Anarchy, a kind of freedom from government some today advocate.  In an Anarchy, you can murder people if you can get away with it.  Revenge rules.

Control of reproduction, he would pontificate as a historian, is the central ingredient in "domestication" -- breeding animals for a particular trait - which he can see government doing to today's women by skewing their values.

You can just imagine how well that would go down in this mixed family (don't forget to include at least one Gay -- maybe someone willing to adopt this baby).  The prescribed calm-happy-reunion for the Holidays honoring the parents and celebrating the father's survival would be out the window in two seconds flat.

At that point, even the most Wise of Wise Characters might be incensed enough to keep on talking.  (silence is the signature of Wisdom, remember?)

So he/she might note that, given the way psychologists have developed the mathematics of controlling the behavior of large masses of people (PR) to get them to buy a particular product (or vote for a particular person), perhaps large numbers of women were being swayed toward a particular opinion with regard to unwanted pregnancies and what to do about them.

In other words, Gretchen's opinion and decision might not actually be her own -- not a choice her Soul is making, but imposed by distant dictators trying to gain control of humanity. (of course, maybe Aliens -- at least one of the family or in-laws should instantly be thinking Aliens trying to control humanity.)

Someone would surely whisper in her ear that her parents' God was that sort of control freak, so she shouldn't listen but make her own decision.  That whisperer would couch the suggestion in the Language of Religion -- putting another perspective on the scene, just as the German-English Video experiment did.

Learning the language of Religion as a "second language" as the article on German vs. English discusses, the family will be able to discuss alternatives in a risk-assessment framework different from their usual thinking.

It's the 'second language' aspect that makes alternatives possible that were not possible with only one language to think in.

Spirituality has its own jargon which is so obtuse that it has to be regarded as a "language" by the artist if not the scientist.

As the German speakers always noted the goal of the action in the video, the Spirituality speaker will note the goal that is utterly invisible to those who do not have that language.

Do not confuse Spirituality (the awareness of a non-physical component to the human being) with Religion which defines one or another causative force and a specified creation-paradigm through which one must view reality.

Each Religion has its own "language" too.  Imagine if this Mark Character was raised Muslim. Imagine him at Midnight Mass with the family he ever so much wants to join.  Suppose he fears rejection over the decision Gretchen is making.

In the novel outline of Gretchen & Mark, you have dramatic potential all the way up to and including pure Soap Opera -- another heart attack, a near-miscarriage, the old family Priest having been a boy-molester, or Mark raised Muslim and converted to Catholicism being murdered during Midnight Mass by his righteous father.

There is plenty of material from which to spin a plot to go with the story of "must decide if abortion is an option."

Pick point of view characters according to whose story you want to tell, and imagine how this multiplex modern family might work through this issue while interacting with the Holidays.

The glue that holds plot and story together with Character and the world they live in is THEME.

That's why I write so much about THEME as a craft element.  It is the hardest of all to master because it requires being "multi-lingual" or polyglot.  The writer must be able to see why this Character can not see what that Character sees, then explain that reason to the reader in show-don't-tell.

The best way to show-don't-tell is to build the theme into the world, then turn the Characters loose to live in that world.

Here are posts on Fallacy and Misnomer:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fish Out Of Water

I'm not talking about the Australian "Climbing Perch", the mangrove rivulus, or the mud skipper. 
I'm talking about creative people who are being forced--indirectly-- by "the sharing economy" to perform unnatural acts... like performing.

If you can access it, read Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson's piece "Should Writers Be Performers?" in which she memorably retorts,
"Going to a local restaurant and asking them to find 10 people who are willing to pay $150 to watch you eat is a really different thing. It's hard enough for a new writer to ask a local bookstore to stock her book."

My favorite musician-blogger is David C Lowery, for his music-business-related blogging. His blog has long talked about the upending of the music business, where touring once was a promotional activity to spur vinyl sales, and now is the bread winner; while pittance-paying digital plays are the promotion.

Last week, he compared free streaming to the cut-out bin.... and struck a chord with me.

The cut out bin is the musical equivalent of the Remainder Bin. Amazon and the DOJ (which appears to me to be Amazon's enforcer) have convinced many writers to publish their new works directly into the ebook equivalent of the bricks and mortar bookstore remainder bin. That is totally backwards. New works should not be priced like overstock that cannot be sold into a saturated market.

I'm afraid that ebook subscription models are very much like streaming. IMHO, the purpose of copyright is/should be to protect quality in that which is created.
However, there is some (more) positive news from Europe:

"Overall, the Commission wants to make sure that Europeans can access a wide legal offer of content, while ensuring that authors and other rights holders are better protected and fairly remunerated." 

(They will) "....
work on a European framework to "follow-the-money" and cut the financial flows to businesses which make money out of piracy. This will involve all relevant partners (rights holders, advertising and payment service providers, consumers associations, etc.)"

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

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What I do to avoid being tracked by Google is to go into my Safari Preferences every day, and I delete every cookie that I don't want.

My real blog follows, but this blog will repeat from time to time.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Unlikable Protagonists

On the panel at ChessieCon about attracting female readers (as I mentioned last week), the topic of unlikable protagonists came up. One panelist remarked that the statement "Your heroine is unlikable" is a too-frequent basis for rejection. She complained that male viewpoint characters are allowed to be "unlikable," while female characters aren't.

I replied that I don't enjoy reading about unlikable protagonists of either gender, at least not in full-length novels. I can tolerate such a character in a short story but don't want to live with him or her for an entire book. Yet I admit to making some exceptions. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware mysteries, but I dislike the snarky tone of Dr. Delaware's cynical observations on the Southern California milieu. The character has enough appealing traits otherwise, though, to override that drawback. I found Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake very unpleasant, prickly and constantly picking fights with people whether justified or not. I stuck with the books because of the world-building and ingenious plotting; I gave up on the series only when it turned into one menage sex scene after another. (Yes, I sometimes write erotic romance myself, but I didn't find most of Anita's lovers interesting and didn't like seeing a horror / urban fantasy series baited-and-switched into erotica.)

In short, a protagonist who's unlikable in some respects can be tolerable if he or she has enough interesting qualities to rivet a reader's attention in spite of the negative traits and, especially, if the character's positive traits override the negative ones enough to make the reader sympathize with and root for him or her. Although I enjoyed many of Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski mysteries, I eventually abandoned the series because I just didn't like V. I. very much. The absorbing plots and the sympathy the author generated for the heroine couldn't compensate for what I saw as her unpleasant personality. One of my favorite "cozy" mystery authors, Susan Conant, whose dog mysteries I've read over and over with delight, started another series on which I gave up after the first book; to me, the heroine came across as an irresponsible ditz.

On the subject of editors not allowing female characters to be "unlikable," two prominent counter-examples of "unlikable" heroines of bestselling fiction come to mind: Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND is not only a not-very-nice person, she's selfish and amoral. She's such a vivid, passionate character, however, that the reader can't help but sympathize with her, and the fact that much of her manipulative behavior is motivated by the preservation of her beloved home and the survival of her family makes us root for her. Lt. Eve Dallas in J. D. Robb's "In Death" series of futuristic police procedurals is abrasive, foul-mouthed, and antisocial. Yet her fierce devotion to justice and her deep love for her husband and a few close friends make her a thoroughly good person at heart, whom we can sympathize with and cheer for.

From a writer's perspective, an author may intend for a character to be sympathetic and likable, then learn to her surprise that readers don't perceive the character that way. I once had a story with a preteen protagonist rejected because the editor saw her as a whiny brat, when I sincerely meant for the reader to empathize with her and view her grievances as entirely valid. How unpleasant does a character have to become before you can't accept him or her as a protagonist? Are there particular "trigger" traits that make you dislike a character at first glance? What kinds of positive qualities are required to override an initial negative impression and make you embrace a character despite his or her flaws?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Guest Post by Jean Johnson on her Science Fiction Romance The Terrans

Guest Post
Jean Johnson
First Salik War:
The Terrans

I discussed some of Jean Johnson's science fiction and SFR in previous posts and will rave more about her work in the future.  But now you should listen to what she says was behind the science concepts she has used.
-------------GUEST POST BY JEAN JOHNSON-----------

Science and Romance in Fiction

Greetings, Dear Readers!

Does everyone have their safety goggles and lab coats?  Excellent.  Today’s session is on blending science and romance into fiction, and why entangling the two is actually a pretty good idea.

Now, there have been plenty of debates on where the dividing line is between things like paranormal/fantasy romance versus urban fantasy.  The conclusion which myself, Kat Richardson, Shannon Butcher and Jim Butcher all came to during Norwescon 34 (April 21-24, 2011) was that the focus of the story is what determines whether it’s paranormal romance set in a fantastical contemporary setting, or urban fantasy with romantic elements.  But we’re going to talk about how you can blend science and romance, not just fantasy and romance.

Fantasy romance has been around since the first fairy tales with hints of romance in them started circulating.  Whether it’s the brave lad wooing the princess or the plucky lass winning the prince, we understand those tropes and are familiar with them.  Science fiction, however, has been (rather wrongfully) considered more of a “boy’s thing” and so a lot of romance writers don’t try to blend it because they don’t feel their readers would be interested in it.

Or if they do, they may not be heavily into reading science fiction, and thus don’t understand it for its own merit; they’re looking for a fancy but quick backdrop in which to place the setting, somewhere new and exotic.  Or there are those science fiction writers who don’t read romance, but try to wedge some romance into their stories without really paying attention to how romances actually work, both as a genre and as an actual “how do romances actually work in real life?” kind of thing.

Thankfully, there are those of us who read both romance and science fiction.  A lot.  I grew up cutting my literary teeth on Johanna Lindsay and Alan Dean Foster.  I’ve read Dara Joy and Andre Norton.  I’ve cuddled up with Catherine Coulter and Anne McCaffrey.  In fact, I figured I could write in my three favorite categories as a reader, science fiction, fantasy, and romance, because Alan Dean Foster has had a successful career writing science fiction, fantasy, and books based on movies. My life goal is to write as many stories or more as the 150 which Andre Norton got published over the span of her own career.

So when I set out to write, I knew that I’d be hopping from genre to genre.  I knew that I wanted to write science into my science fiction, too.  I also learned fairly quickly that I suck at contemporary romance; I just have to put in some sort of fantastical element, or it’s just not a story I want to write.  Other people have other experiences, but hey, plenty of room for plenty of different sorts of stories, right?  Right.

My latest release, THE TERRANS, which is the first novel in the First Salik War trilogy, is predominantly a science fiction First Contact novel.  The startlement, surprise, irritation, humor, aggravation, bewilderment, and wonder of trying to figure out how to deal with an alien culture, an alien lifeform, is a fun plot to map out and follow.  There is lots of room for political intrigue, social gaffes, cultural misunderstandings, and potential conflicts all over the place.

(For those of you interested, THE TERRANS can be found at at

as well as through Black Bond Books up in Vancouver, BC, Canada, et cetera.

At the same time that I figured out I wanted to write a First Contact story, I knew I had to find a way to draw the readers in and get them not only interested in reading the plot, but involved in the struggles of the characters.  Politics is kinda boring for a lot of people, so why should anyone care?  Well, in this particular universe, I developed a logical way for psychic powers to exist (“Aliens!”), and developed the science-y stuff on how it all works, because I like my science fiction to have an attempt at science in it.  (Remember, it doesn’t have to be right if it’s just a theory; once the theory is out there, then experiments can be devised to test the theory to see if it holds water or not.)

Once I had that established, it occurred to me that if psychic abilities are the manipulation of energy and matter by the mind—itself a source of energy and matter—then it could be quite possible that two minds could become quantum entangled.  If you don’t know anything about quantum entanglement, it basically means that if you “entangle” two molecules into having a matching “spin” to them, you can separate them over great distances and they will still have the same interrelated spin.  You can try to change and measure one waaaay over here and know that the one waaaay over there has the corresponding measurement because they’re entangled.

So why not minds?  On the surface, telepathy would seem to be a great way to overcome obstacles in communication, right?  Alas, I believe Douglas Adams was far more accurate about the end results when he said, “Meanwhile, the poor Babel Fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”  Or to put it into more mundane terms, gentlemen know that the best verbal answer to “Do these jeans make my butt look fat?” is always, always, “No, dear,” or  “You look perfect to me in whatever you wear,” regardless of what they may actually think.

Mercedes Lackey, in a line from her Vanyel books in her wonderful Valdemar series, once remarked that “lifebonding” (her version of entangling two souls or two minds) is actually more awkward than awesome, because you constantly have to juggle the needs of both people; you have to work harder at getting along than any other pairing because you’re stuck with each other.

So thinking about all these things, I bwahaha’d a bit and wondered if I could get my heroine, Jacaranda Mackenzie, and her counterpart from the other faction, Li’eth, stuck in a quantum entanglement of their minds.  In my series, this is called a Gestalt (geh-sh-TALL-t), which is a lovely German word which boils down to “the end result is bigger than the sum of its parts”, or basically, 2+2=5 and not just =4, for sufficiently strongly enough reactive values of 2.

Now, there are several alien species in the universe of the First Salik War.  In fact, readers familiar with my military science fiction series Theirs Not To Reason Why (the first in the series, A SOLDIER’S DUTY, is found at
and at )will have already met the Salik species because that story struggles with the problems of the Second Salik War.  But there were also two branches of humanity, the Terrans and the V’Dan, and I thought it would be more fun, and more plausible, to entangle the brains of two Humans.

That meant having to come up with the distinct and unique culture of the V’Dan, who—according to the history I drew up for that universe—have been cut off from Terrans for almost ten thousand years.  We don’t really get into the V’Dan culture in the series Theirs Not to Reason Why because it’s entirely from a Terran perspective.  It’s also had roughly two hundred years of contact with Terrans by that point, and like any situation where two cultures start interacting, they’ll have had an impact on each other, for better or for worse.

In the First Salik War series, however, I knew I could show these two Human empires being as alien and separate as they could get and still be a story about two branches of the same species interacting and clashing.  Throw in the other aliens and their reactions and interactions to the new players who “are not like the V’Dan we’re used to dealing with,” and you have a delightful recipe for lots and oodles and scads of expectations falling short, cultural misunderstandings, assumptions being made, and the whole making an “ass” out of “u” and “me,” so on and so forth.  Lots of fun, lots of room for a writer to work.

So I took this idea of a telepathic Gestalt, and poked and prodded at it from all angles.  Since I’ve been working on this series on and off for a couple of decades, I was able to iron out a lot of wrinkles, trim and tailor it this way and that, and I think have come up with a pretty good story.  We have Jacaranda MacKenzie, whose telepathy has been so strong, she’s never considered settling down with anyone.  This has made her an excellent civil servant as well as a former soldier, so on and so forth.

She is of mixed ethnicity, though she identifies strongest with her Hawai’ian heritage, and she is earnestly interested in finding solutions that will benefit the most number of people, not just a select few.  (Yes, authors will find a way to sneak our opinions into a story in the hopes it will inspire future generations.  Sometimes those opinions might even be good ones, but only time will tell.)  She is lucky to live in an era where skin-based prejudice no longer exists, where corruption in politics is rooted out ruthlessly, and your representative is actually trustworthy.  Do they still have problems in the Terran United Planets?  Oh my, yes…but they’re willing to acknowledge and work on them.

Then there’s Li’eth, a prince of his people, destined to serve in the military for a while because that’s one of the things extra children do when they’re not the primary heir.  He comes from a culture where physical maturity is displayed by jungen, which is a set of colorful markings which appear on the skin, the irises of the eye, and even the color of one’s hair can be changed.  This has led his entire culture into the “obvious correlation” of thinking that if you don’t have these marks, you must still be pre-pubescent, and thus still immature.  Add in the fact that his people treat psychic abilities as a mystical religious experience, whereas the Terrans treat it as a palpable science, and you have yet more awkwardness awaiting the pair.

I also decided that neither of them could be in their early twenties, let alone teenagers.  We don’t give political power to anyone under 25, and we certainly don’t hand over control of a First Contact situation to a teenager.  I didn’t even want to put them in their late twenties.  People need time to gain experience in life and in work, to figure out how to get things done, to be entrusted with a great deal of clout, if not actual power.  So mid-30s seemed about right.

So, we’ve got quantum entangled brains, check.  We have culture clashes over perceptions of maturity, check.  We have people who do understand politics and governance interacting in First Contact situations, check.  Wait…entangled brains.  They’re sharing thoughts.  Not like constantly, but very easily all the same.  So…how would these two react to that?  Should I put in some romance, or not?

Going back to that Mercedes Lackey quote, it occurred to me that if they could communicate in packets of thought with mental images and underlying subtext flavorings, it could be useful for communication, but it would also require constant mental adjustments to get along with each other.  Since neither one wants their respective governments to go to war with the other—most civilized cultures don’t—that means they would have to get to know each other, get familiar and friendly with each other, and…

Hm…are they both heterosexual?  (I rolled some dice, the dice said, “Yep!”)  Do they find each other attractive?  (Rolled more dice, again “Yep!” came up.  I can’t help it; I grew up playing D&D and other RPGs, and thus use a random number generator to help make up my mind when I’m ambivalent.  I like to think of it as injecting random potential for fun.)  Well, since they were both single, both forced to work together, both find each other attractive…oh, wait.  Li’eth is from a culture where if you don’t have the right sort of marks coloring your body, you’re, um…well, you have curves and stuff, and you’re thirty-five years old, but…society says you’re a child.  Ahah!  Another source for culture clash!

Plus there’s that whole thing about “exerting undue influence” that crops up whenever two people on opposing sides of a debate or a treaty or whatever start dating each other on top of everything else.  So how would a career representative and an imperial prince balance everything?  The needs of their people?  Their own brains becoming psychically entangled to the point where they suffer when they’re separated?  Their interest in each other?  The ethical and moral quandries of “sleeping with the as-yet-not-firmly-stablished-ally” if not “sleeping with the enemy”…?

Well, the focus of the story, as I said, is more science fiction than romance.  But you can put romance into science fiction.  You can put science fiction into romance.  The plot can be X and Y and even Z…but how the characters deal with all of that, how they change and grow and struggle, that is what makes the plot into a story that grips you and pulls you in.  Because you want to know how they deal with all of that.  Because it allows you to journey with them as they try to manage love life and career and complications.

As a reader, you become all the more invested in their struggles.  You become a sympathizer for their failures.  You become a cheerleader for their triumphs.  You become, Dear Readers—if just for a little while—entangled in the spinning of their lives.


If you have any questions, you can always contact me via:
My website,
Twitter: @JeanJAuthor

…And I also have a Patreon which gives sneak advanced peeks at book covers, chapter and scene selectsion, so on and so forth: