Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blurb Writing 101 - Part 1 - Study The Experts by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Blurb Writing 101
Part 1
Study The Experts  

I put the following into a Facebook post on the Sime~Gen Group as we were wrestling with creating the back cover copy for the upcoming Sime~Gen release, an anthology of stories by 11 writers edited by 2 other writers, not Jean Lorrah or Jacqueline Lichtenberg.   

The Facebook Group is centered on the Sime~Gen novels, but that encompasses so many topics (as a "built" world, it contains everything - and we're still building), that there is hardly anything that isn't being discussed.


The video below is about the Middle East mess, but the subject of the Facebook post is the creation of a SHORT explanation of the world I have built around the Sime~Gen Characters (which just gets more complicated as Jean Lorrah adds to it all).

To accomplish the creation of this blurb, I've been trying to teach a whole profession (which I have never mastered) to a beginner who didn't realize it is an entire profession. 

The profession is called copywriting, and/or advertising copywriting, and is the skill set needed to write cover copy blurbs for novels.

The task is to write the blurb for the back of the Sime~Gen Anthology, and that blurb will go on Amazon and other e-book distributors pitch page. 

The stories span a huge swatch of the Sime~Gen Chronology
and have an enormous cast of characters. 

This task requires summarizing Sime~Gen, boiling it down, making it easy to understand. 

SHORT has never-ever-never been my forte! 

Another task on our do-list requiring "short" is the creation of a YouTube Video explaining "What Is Sime~Gen." 

So I found this video on YouTube. 


Do not get caught up in the subject of the Middle East Mess, but focus on the technique behind making this video.

This is the sort of image-based explanation with clear narrative that you need when you create the cover copy for your novel.

As the writer, the worldbuilder, you know too much about your world -- just as you know too much about the Middle East Conflict, about Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Liberia, Sudan, Iran, -- the list of countries is huge!

Copywriting is indeed an entire profession -- people sit at desks, pluck a folder out of their in-box, find an assignment and after briefly scanning the essential facts, they write the cover copy, or the press release, or the packaging or pitching or whatever elevator-pitch style summary of "why you should be interested in this" message.

Copywriters get paid a lot for that skill - just not enough to afford to live in Manhattan unless they work for an ad agency on a top floor corner office.

Sime~Gen is far more complex than the Middle East!  Many copywriters have tried and failed to explain it.  The one who comes the closest works for Loreful, the company that owns the rights to the Sime~Gen videogame.

The author of a "world" has to master the boil-down technique and presentation technique you can see in this video and adapt it to their blurb problem.

This 5 minute video takes an enormously complex, sprawling, multi-layered, millions of people with trillions of opinions, and explains to "outsiders" what they are doing and why, just as if explaining the Middle East to UFO denizens from Arcturus. 

We all know more than we want to know about the Middle East criss-crossing-conflicts.  And we all harbor half a dozen or more contradictory opinions about it at once.  But who among us can visualize a graphic explanation of our own novel or series that is this succinct?

Nevermind if you think it is a correct description of the Middle East Conflict! 
SUCCINCT is what We are looking for when describing the Main Conflict of a novel or series of novels.

Here are some previous posts on conflict:





Now watch this 5 minute video and imagine it is explaining the Sime Territories being forged in Killing, in Pens, in Secret Pens, in Violence, in desperation, in Zelerod's Doom to produce a situation that can pass for "peace" in the History Books.  \

Here's a handy source of Sime~Gen books in an Amazon store -- you can click through the titles to read the Amazon blurbs, many of which I wrote.


Be sure not to focus on the content or veracity of this video's opinionated and one-sided explanation.  Re-post it on your own Facebook Wall and intro with your opinion of the content, but here focus on the technique used to distill a situation you understand into a simple, 5 minute graphic. 

Focus on how the "stock" images in the video are used to make a point, and how that one point is sifted out of the background and brought into focus then repeated. 

You know how complicated that real-world background is.  Focus on the technique required to simplify it into this video -- and on how the video was scripted and made. 

Yes, we will need 2 videos for Sime~Gen if we use this technique! One from the Sime point of view, and one from the Gen point of view!

Maybe more: from the junct point of view, from the disjunct point of view, from the non-junct point of view, from the towner point of view, from the Householder point of view, from the "converts" to Householding lifestyle point of view. 

Point of view is what makes this YouTube video SIMPLE.  Study how narrow that view is, and how sharply the point is made because of that.  You can tell easily because you will react strongly to what this video does not say. 

As in music, SILENCE is the most powerful element, the element that structures the art.  In narrative fiction, what is not said is often far more powerful than what is said.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 28, 2015

6 Pentacles - What Goes Around Comes Around

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers looking to learn World Building and Alien Character building.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:

The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.

The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..


And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card.
For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or Google up some others.

I have been posting here since August 14th, 2007, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007. The 3 of Pentacles was accidentally posted dated Monday November 5th.


6 Pentacles

What goes around comes around. Yep, I'm still on cliches.

As much as the 5 of Pentacles is about isolation, loneliness and being unable to get anyone to listen, unable to get psychological validation from another human being, the 6 of Pentacles is about connectivity.

6's are about Love, and how love opens the psyche to receive Beauty.

The shock-and-awe of the apperception of the Beauty which fuels the Universe is the essence of 6, the center of the Tree of Life.

Look at the Jacob's Ladder diagram. We are now talking about the 3rd circle up from the bottom of the MIDDLE column.

Under that 6 of Pentacles lies the 10 of Swords, so these two processes are related harmonics.
6 of Pentacles is immensely complicated because it is in fact so very simple. It is love. We've grappled with this before, discussing the 6 of Swords.

In Swords, we did not discuss how the 6 of Swords overlays the 10 of Cups, and is overlain by the Ace of Pentacles. We just tried to tease out the meaning of 6 Swords without getting so complicated.

The 10 of Cups is a vast and stable emotional joy -- a psychological stability. The 6 of Swords is a journey to start over somewhere else, despite dragging your habits with you (good or bad habits, you drag them everywhere).

The Ace of Pentacles is the start of materializing something new (not always good, just materializing whatever project you've been working on).

Here in the 6 of Pentacles, we hit the 6-note again, harmonizing with the previous 6's and bringing it all down into concrete manifestation.

How do you concretize G-d's love?

Well, a good start is Charity.

But mostly people think of Charity as giving to those less fortunate, those who have less. And its often just physical things that get donated.

But very often, the most meaningful kind of Charity is done just within your own mind, quietly inside your thoughts and opinions, your thought-habits (10 Swords).

Political correctness requires that we not judge people's values, and most especially that we not judge on a double standard.

But it's very possible that true Charity requires a double standard.

Not everyone can do what you have done -- so should you require everyone to measure up to the standard by which you judge yourself?

Look at it backwards. If you find yourself wanting, should you necessarily judge others by a higher standard?

And some people "put others on a pedestal" in order to devalue themselves.

But if you judge everyone against the same standards, you aren't "handicapping" (as in golf or gambling). You aren't allowing for the inherent differences among us.

Charity may in fact mean that you judge each person you meet against their own ideal condition. But of course, you not being Infinitely Wise, can't possibly know what that ideal condition is. In fact, you can't know what your own ideal condition is!

So what are we to do? Not judge anyone? Political correctness indicates that one should not ever pass value judgements.

Wouldn't it be nice if life were that simple? One rule that always applies.

Something about that idea makes me suspicious.

If life were that simple, would the Tarot deck need so many cards to describe the process of living?

In the 5 of Pentacles, we experienced solitude, loneliness, and learned self-reliance. We learned to get rid of some of our emotional baggage and other clutter to make room for that which others value.

That housecleaning left us able to re-enter social interaction after the long, quiet building process of 4 Pentacles.

What we built in 4 Pentacles we are now able to SHARE with others by accepting into the spot emptied by housecleaning, what they have to share with us.

So maybe we can't judge the value systems other live by as better or lesser than our own. So maybe all we can judge is how compatible someone else's values are with our own -- at this particular time.

Everyone changes all the time, though we change within the parameters delineated by our natal charts. We can become a better example of our self, but we can't become someone else or live someone else's life.

However, at any given moment, we can respond to compatibility -- that what the Other has to share fits nicely into the empty spot within us while what we have to share fits into their empty spot.

Cliche: You scratch my back; I'll scratch yours.

And that's the Giving and Receiving contract represented by 6 Pentacles.

Once again, the Waite Rider deck images miss the point somewhat. The essence of Charity is not the wealthy giving to the poor. The essence of Charity is the Social Contract. It's not about what I have and what you have -- it's about what we have.

Yeah, love is a contract -- a legal contract! Isn't that awful?

But in a way it's true. Every human interaction is based on a contract of some sort -- a "you do this; I do that" contract.

Mystically, G-d came to Avram and said, "Come walk in my ways and I'll make of you a great nation." That's a contract. And again at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments were given as a contract -- you do this; I'll do that. G-d interacts with humankind via a legal contract.

All human relationships mirror that, as do all civilizations.

The contract part is the concrete part, the Pentacles part of the deal.

6 is Love, the love of Beauty and the Beauty of love.

The contract of love is reciprocity -- to allow one's self to be affected, changed, as much as one offers to affect the other.

For the most part, the terms of the contract of love are unspoken, mostly subconscious and therefore un-speakable because you, yourself, don't know your own terms -- and therefore the whole contract is subject to misunderstanding.

That misunderstanding often manifests as co-dependence, sometimes in a healthy way, and sometimes not. See 5 Swords again.

So 6 Pentacles is about the individual's pairing contract mirroring the social contract which mirrors the mystical contract the Creator made with humankind.

So to figure out the 6 of Pentacles, we have to start at the top, the origin.

As we discussed in Swords, creation was Created by a Word. Much later, we learned what that Word was about via the Ten Commandments.

It's no co-incidence there are 10 Sepheroth of the Tree of Life and 10 Commandments. Trust me, no coincidence at all!

We learned that if we follow these 10 simple rules, there will be Abundance. Vast Abundance! The Universe is Abundant. It's a Law and part of the Contract. (remember the Swords discussion of the Zero Sum Game model vs. the model of Abundance).

So how come there are poor people and rich people? And the richest aren't always the best at following Commandments!

The theory is (more mysticism here) that the vast abundance flows into the world unevenly, and some people are challenged (remember, you can't judge other people very well, being a person yourself) to develop ways of redistributing the extra that they get. Yeah, being rich is (cliche!) no bed of roses.

Conundrum: If you find that you need to get more, the way to get more is to GIVE more.

So those who start out with extra and figure out how to give, (it's not that easy - look at the celebrity-gossip headlines!) find they have even more than they started with.

But it's also true that some of those who start out with too little have become prosperous after doing Charity.

Remember the movie where the fellow will inherit a fortune if he can figure out how to spend a million dollars in a short time? It was a comedy, but could be remade as an Alien Romance.

We all know from experience that giving doesn't bring more right away.

You can't (usually) get by deliberately giving for the purpose of getting.

Remember the discussion in 5 Pentacles of discarding some of the irrelevant bits accumulated in 4 Pentacles? You discard what you don't need to make room to accept something from someone else, something they cherish (an idea, a value, a joy, whatever).

Relationships are established and nurtured by exchanging such personal bits of individuality.
One of the most difficult principles of Kabbalah is Giving and Receiving. Receiving is very likely the single most difficult occult concept of all.

6 Pentacles is the process during which we complete the circuit with G-d, receiving the Love He gives and giving to others in reflection of that. This process leaves us more and more capable of loving G-d.

This process is not so simple. How many of us are even capable of letting ourselves be loved by another human being, never mind the Creator of us all?

It's a pump - you have to prime it.

Young people today don't know how to prime a pump -- all their sinks come with faucets and their cars don't have carburetors. How are they supposed to learn about love?

Well, by attempting to participate in giving and receiving, even by deliberately giving in order to get, we start to open ourselves up.

It is a stepwise process, taking many lifetimes. Eventually Pentacles can be understood in a whole new light. (when I get there, I'll let you know what color that light is)

Story characters, just like some people, often set out to get rich, to make money, to amass wealth. We like to read stories about the wantonly rich. The TV Show Colombo was about an ordinary Los Angeles Detective who investigated murders among the grandly wealthy the city is known for. His rumpled trenchcoat became an icon!

There is a fascination in how the "other half" lives. And in the USA, it is possible for the poorest among us to become the richest. So we're fascinated to a purpose.

Often, wealth is chosen as a goal. And we read many stories about people who became "hard-hearted" as they pursue that goal.

Cliche: Money Is The Root Of All Evil.

How can that be if one whole quarter of Jacob's Ladder, the path to Heaven, is formed of Pentacles? The Suit of Coins?

What's wrong with wanting to be rich?

Nothing, unless you choose having a lot of money as a goal.

Maybe that's the whole secret of it! Wealth is not a goal. It is a side-effect. Wealth is a side-effect produced by the pursuit of self-knowledge and spiritual health that lets you love and let yourself be loved.

Remember, Jacob's Ladder is the conduit down which G-d's love flows into the world, and it is also the circuit diagram of human personality-soul-spirit.

Perhaps wealth is chosen as a goal by those who despair of ever knowing love. Or perhaps they believe if they're rich enough, they'll be loved.

How many Romance novels involve a young woman yearning for the rich scion of a Titled family?

If wealth is chosen as a goal in itself, you may achieve it and never know you've made it. Or you may think you have it made only to have it all evaporate. Or you may star in one of those movies where the elderly Grandfather is dying in a huge four-poster bed, and the children are sniping at each other all over the mansion, vying for shares of the fortune.

We yearn for riches as much or maybe more than for love. Why is that? Why do we worship the almighty dollar which is represented in Tarot by the Suit of Pentacles?

There is a relationship between wealth and love.

When we feel G-d's love, we feel wealthy even if we don't have much. When we don't feel G-d's love, no matter how much wealth we have, we feel poor and use our wealth to batter at that internal barrier (hence celebrities with a $17,000/month party budget).

The 6 of Pentacles is all about puzzling out how that relationship between love and money works for you right now.

The key is to realize that money is not the root of all evil, but rather the conduit through which G-d's love flows into manifestation.

If you attempt to stand in the way of that downrushing flood more powerful than Niagra Falls, you will be swept away as surely as so many celebrities with wasted lives.

If you become an extension of that conduit, then the event that marks the 10 of Swords process (which underlies 6 Pentacles) will be a culmination of your actions resulting in filling you up with love to give.

Let's look in on our writer who gritted her teeth and started writing her first novel in Ace of Swords, and eventually had her packaging go all awry, then made changes, and finally began another novel in Ace of Pentacles and found herself building a career in 4 Pentacles and lost her confidence in 5 Pentacles.

Guess what's happening to her now that she's worked that second novel down to 6 Pentacles.
She's just been offered a FILM OPTION on her second book! That's 6 of Pentacles -- something you earned in a past life but didn't get, a big break, a leg up when you really need it, a boost you couldn't create for yourself, just "falls into your lap." I suspect many "rescuer" novels are primarily inspired by this kind of event half-remembered from a prior life and misunderstood in today's model of the universe.

To others our writer's good fortune looks as if a fumbling, incompetent beginning writer (they always blame the author for the cover) got unreasonably lucky with her second novel and got a film option. She couldn't possibly have earned it more than someone working for decades in the industry.

Well, she didn't earn it now. She drew some capital out of the karmic bank, or possibly a loan against collateral. Because of that, the right person for her got the editorial job and inherited her book contracts.

Or perhaps someone with a big karmic debt (not to her, but just a debt) was drawn to pay off that debt. The love that should have flowed to our writer splashed sideways and hit her new editor who happened to send an ARC to this producer who was moved to give because he loved her book.

Why did he love her book? Well, he didn't love her book. He just loved.

Now our writer is all excited and energized again, toiling away on her third and fourth books, working with self-confidence, once more sure that what she has to give will be well received.

And because she is glowing with all this love, she will do as well with these new novel contracts as her skills permit. If she worked hard enough acquiring skills before her first sale, she will now be able to deliver the goods. If not - she won't have the follow-up success needed to continue the build.

This writer has chosen as her goal to gift-wrap her heart and soul in order to give it away as stories. She has poured love into those stories, unstintingly, and when she's empty, love will pour back into her. Her chickens will come home to roost and lay many eggs.

6 of Pentacles Reversed happens when goals aren't chosen well, usually for lack of sufficient energy in the execution of plans.

6 of Pentacles Reversed feels like being held back a grade and having to repeat the lessons of giving and receiving, of charity and discipline of creating karmic credit.

In the Reversed process, wealth is not understood as a side-effect but as a goal on the road to power without self-knowledge.

It took knowledge of yourself to select the the right bits to discard in 5 Pentacles in order to re-enter the flow of the social contract in 6 Pentacles by receiving.

One last caution. Don't judge how well people are doing spiritually by how much wealth they have amassed, or by how "lucky" they are getting "all the breaks."

Someone can be doing splendidly in one area, with one project or one part of life, and be completely messed up in all the others. Humans are complex and develop unevenly -- and we all have challenges tailored specifically for our own lesson in this life right now.

The spiritually greatest among us can be the poorest or least lucky.

Remember that when you give to someone who has less money than yourself. You may be giving to the richest person on earth who simply doesn't have money for food at the moment in order to give you a chance to tap into abundance. You would be wise to give with respect.

There is no one answer that will work for everyone. Your right answer today will not be right tomorrow - because you will change. We'll look into that in 7 Pentacles.

But the basic principle is always there and objectively true. The universe is made out of love, and it's love that holds it all together via the social contract.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

5 Pentacles - Bad Reviews

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at
Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. It is
particularly aimed at writers looking to learn World Building and Alien
Character building.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:

The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.

The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..


And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card.

For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth
thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on
this page or Google up some others.

I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor
Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007.
The 3 of Pentacles was accidentally posted dated Monday November 5th.


5 Pentacles

We are now discussing the 2nd circle up from the bottom of the left hand
column (your left, as you face the diagram) of Jacob's Ladder.

In 4 Pentacles we spent a long time building something.

The writer we've been following is building her career in 4 Pentacles,
submitting outlines, getting contracts, delivering novels, doing galleys,
juggling all this against family, health crises, and obligations. She is
trying to resist all distractions. It rarely works.

In the 4 Pentacles processes, she's writing characters layer by layer,
building one layer on top of another to create deep characters she can write
long series of books about. She's creating intricate worlds, one layer at a
time, one revelation at a time. All that is 4 Pentacles, the long
apparently non-productive pause in the materialization of a project.

Now, in 5 Pentacles we come to a situation similar to what we found in 5 Swords.

Check Jacob's ladder again and note how both 4 and 5 Pentacles dangle out in space, without another layer of circles behind them. This section of the Ladder is fundamentally different from the top section of Wands, which also dangles out in space, and at the same time it is much more accessible to living people than the top. This is familiar territory.

So in 5 Swords, our writer presented her (overly long) novel to her critique
group and felt their criticism as an attack. She fought back, defending her
baby, and eventually felt their love and learned something (6 Swords). But
the 5 Swords process was brutal.

So what happens to our writer now she's got it made, has a career,
contracts, and can say proudly, "My editor told me . . .."

Her books start being published (Pentacles -- materialized) and her career
hits the 5 process in Pentacles. What could be worse than a hostile critique

Now that she's self-confident and happy -- she gets a bad review, a
scathing, scornful review that reveals loudly that the reviewer didn't even
read the book!

Devastated, she can't write. She's lost self-confidence. She misses a
deadline. Her editor is on her tail. Her family erupts in rebellion (You
have to go to my recital! You can't miss my graduation! Some mother you
are, nose in the computer while your kid has a fever!) She emails pdf files
to reviewers herself, but nobody has time to read her book. She asks for
help on the book she can't finish, and nobody has time. Her editor won't
return her calls.

On a fan listserv she has always relied on for support, she gets blasted by
a newbie because, "That's easy for you to say. You're a professional
writer!" And for the first time, nobody defends her. Her friends are gone.

She's in the 5 of Pentacles process.

This is actually a process we write so many novels about. This is the
Initiation where you get sent into the desert alone, or dropped into a
forest, or marooned on a desert island, all alone with nobody to depend on
but yourself. It's a Teen Rite of Passage we repeat throughout life.

The lesson to be learned through this process is the one we harp on in so
many Romance novels -- no man is an island. (yep, another Cliche)
It's not about islands. Or men. It's about self-reliance. Not independence,
but real self-reliance. 5 Pentacles is where you learn not to need help but
to give help -- not to be dependent but to support others.

The 5's are associated with Mars, ruler of Aries, the natural first house.

It's all about ego, and ego strength. There's a difference between being
strong and being a bully. There's a difference between being self-reliant
or independent, and being isolated like a sociopath who can't make emotional
contact with others.

Aries is the loner, the first-in scout, the explorer -- Daniel Boon or
Captain Kirk. But a leader needs people to lead. And in 5 Pentacles,
there's nobody following -- except others who are (cliche warning) "on the
outside looking in."

Mars is the root of the meaning Martial Arts -- the arts of war. It is both
defense and offense. It is the way of using force, power, position, tactics
and strategy.

But Mars is also about sex. There is nothing more sexy to a woman than a
powerful man in full possession and control of his manhood.

But what good is all that without the recipient?

And so love comes into the picture, and we see the lesson of 5 Pentacles is
about the meeting and blending of two strong egos battered by isolation.

Think of all the fanfic about Star Trek's Spock! His time on the Enterprise
was a 5 Pentacles period of isolation from his peers and estrangement from
family. That loneliness made him seem intensely sexy to many women writers.

The first real "Alien Romance" novels may have been Star Trek fanfic about

In 4 Pentacles, our writer wrote and wrote, creating substance from her
heart of hearts, sure her second novel would be accepted.

In 5 Pentacles she offers it to the world (Mars is the aggressive tendency
that gets you out of procrastination and on the move. Taking the initiative
and contacting an agent or editor is a Mars function). But her new novel
is ignored. Or maybe outright rejected. Or perhaps rewrite demands would
distort it all out of shape. Or the ARC may get bad reviews. All of these
events would be 5 Pentacles experiences.

She doesn't get the feedback she expected that indicates her heart is
beating in tune with that of others.

So the loneliness of 5 of Pentacles is a lesson in Love -- the importance of
it in our lives, the function of it even in the business world, the place of
physical possessions or other material resources (such as time and heart) in
Love. It is also about what lengths we would go to for social sanction.

Often we learn such lessons only by contrast, and 5 Pentacles is where the
contrast is most stark.

As we learned in 9 of Swords, the whole physical world is a projection of
our Ideas (9 Wands), Emotions (9 Cups) and Actions (9 Swords). All our
material possessions, including our very life, are shaped on the Astral
plane (the 9's) and are still rooted in that level of reality.

In a mystical sense, we are our possessions and our possessions are us. This
is true not just of physical things (your grandmother's antique vanity
mirror; your mother's sterling; your grandfather's Tefillin) but of all the
things you've created. Your marriage, your children; your characters; your
novels; your house decor; the critique group you founded.

Yes, there are things that pass through our hands without touching our
hearts. But there are things we cherish in a very special way. Those
things are imbued with our essence.

You know that romance has ripened to love when the things your lover
cherishes become things you cherish -- even if you don't particularly like
them. Because they have meaning for your relative, your S.O., your role
model, your friend, they have a new, unique meaning for you.

Love cherishes the significant and defining creations and possessions of the
Other, not for their intrinsic value, but because they are loved by the

Thus, when you offer something of yourself that is so significant to you,
and it is spurned by those you expect it will delight, you experience a
crushing blow akin to ramming into a brick wall (Pentacles; physical

The spiritual lesson of 5 Pentacles comes after that crushing blow, when you
are all alone, wounded and unable to get anyone to listen.

You throw a party and nobody comes.

You distribute a hundred review copies and get no reviews.

You win a contest and call everyone you know to tell them -- but nobody's home.

Here, in the total void, with all relationships absent, in the wake of your
friends betraying you, your spouse leaving you, your children screaming out
their hatred of you, you learn what a relationship really is.

What you have created with all your heart collides full force with what
others have created with their heart. And there's no room in their hearts
for yours.

Relationships belong to Pentacles. They are investments of a non-renewable
resource. (Applicable cliche: "You only live once.")

In the 5 of Pentacles process you have to sort out what's important to you
from what you can throw away (the baby from the bathwater) in order to make
room inside you for what is important to others.

If you don't clear resources for what's important to others, nobody will
have patience with what's important to you. But even if you do clear
resources here, there is no guarantee others will treasure what is important
to you.

Having space inside yourself for what others cherish is a necessary
condition for building a Relationship, but it's not a sufficient condition.
Life is complicated in its sheer simplicity.

Martian energies often come on way too strong, so oddly enough the 5 of
Pentacles Reversed (where there is less energy pouring into the 5 process)
actually tends to work better.

In the 5 Pentacles Reversed, you get a few new chances or second chances to
jump-start a new relationship. Maybe your editor didn't read and accept
your manuscript because she was leaving the company rather than ignoring
you. Now a new editor writes how she loved your book, but wants changes.
She says they're minor, but to you they're major.

Maybe instead of a new editor you only find a new hairdresser -- but that
leads to meeting someone who knows someone, and you start to be included in
a new network of relationships. Somebody will have time to read your newest

These little 5 Pentacles Reversed openings are caused by your discarding
some irrelevant bits accumulated in 4 Pentacles to make room for something
created by another person.

Once the vacant spot inside you is open and clear, very likely something
will be attracted and fall into that hole. (not always a positive
something, though, so be wary)

If you like being included, you may clear away more space inside yourself,
and find you are able to attract more attention by paying attention to
others. And this is a process that may take years -- 7 years or so is normal, as that is the interval Saturn spends in the "obscure" part of your chart where nobody notices you.

Again, as with the 9's, this is NOT a conscious process. Most of the work
is done while you are asleep, out of body, visiting the astral plane,
reshaping your life by re-imagining it.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Allegory Rises Again

Has anyone here seen INSIDE OUT, Pixar's newest film, yet? How strange and wonderful that one of the most highly praised movies of the year turns out to be—an allegory! C. S. Lewis, in his classic work of literary history THE ALLEGORY OF LOVE, laments that in his time "the art of reading allegory is as dead as the art of writing it." Nowadays the word "allegory" tends to suggest to most people a tedious, highly artificial narrative form that became obsolete after PILGRIM'S PROGRESS. And readers often mistakenly apply it to works it doesn't fit, as if it meant any fiction with an obvious "message." (Lewis's Narnia fantasies are sometimes labeled "allegories," usually by people who don't like them. They aren't, as would become instantly clear upon contrasting them with his true allegorical novels THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS and, to some extent, THE GREAT DIVORCE—or with the few arguably allegorical scenes in the Narnian stories themselves, e.g., the un-dragoning of Eustace in THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER as an analog of baptism.) Yet allegory—the narrative form that uses characters, inanimate objects, and landscape features to personify abstractions such as virtues, vices, mental states, natural forces, nations or other social institutions, etc.—has never completely died out. For instance, it flourished in the works of Freud, who invented a trio of homunculi named Ego, Id, and Superego that live inside the human mind and, through a process called Repression, banish undesirable impulses to a place called the Unconscious.

In tracing the history of this form in THE ALLEGORY OF LOVE, Lewis points out that to classical and medieval authors it seemed the natural way to write about emotions and internal states of mind. For example, when "hesitating between an angry retort and a soft answer, you can express your state of mind" as a dialogue between the two personifications of Wrath and Patience. Lewis contends that this viewpoint is not at all strained and unnatural. "No man is a 'character' to himself"; when a person looks inward, he or she doesn't find a unified personality. Rather, "within he finds only the raw material, the passions and emotions which contend for mastery." And that's exactly the kind of thing we see in the film INSIDE OUT.

In the command center of 11-year-old Riley's brain, her dominant emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust—staff the console that controls her response to external events both positive and negative. Colorful glass balls represent memories. Landscape features include the dream factory (like a movie set), the Islands of Personality (Friendship, Family, etc.), the realm of Imagination, the Subconscious (where the darkest fears lurk), and Long-Term Memory (from which mind workers take faded memories to the dump of permanent forgetfulness). Joy and Sadness travel on a literal Train of Thought. I wondered about the choice of emotions. The vital importance of Joy, Sadness, Anger, and Fear is obvious. But why Disgust as the only other named emotion? Others might deserve equal prominence. What about Boredom, Embarrassment, Envy, or Greed? If Riley were a couple of years older, surely Lust would join the cast (foreshadowed by the bright red "Puberty" button on the upgraded control panel at the end).

There's no Ego in charge, only a committee of emotions with Joy striving to steer the others in directions that will keep Riley happy. Interestingly, Reason, to whom medieval poets would give a major role, is nowhere to be seen. What does this movie reveal about our culture's concept of how the human psyche works?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Very Cool Development: Kraith in New York Magazine

A Very Cool Development:
Kraith in New York Magazine
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

 Kraith Collected was mentioned in New York Magazine in March 2015.

This below is from:


Kraith is the alternate universe I created for my Star Trek fan fiction.  Each of the main Kraith stories that I wrote illustrates one or another writing lesson -- many of which I try to pass on in this blog series.

Kraith is about Spock -- and it has been said that Vulcan itself is the hero of the story. 

A while back, Professor Anne Jamison asked me for an essay for her compendium, FIC: WHY FAN FICTION IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD, and I sent her a long essay which she had to condense (did a great job of that).  Now she's teaching a course on Fan Fiction using that book and New York Magazine did an article about FIC. 

Kraith, which I mentioned and explained in my article in FIC, is used in Prof. Jamison's syllabus for the Princeton University course Prof. Jamison is teaching.  I explained some of the connection between Sime~Gen and Kraith, the sources of inspiration and what was added to create something new.

You can find the syllabus here.
www.fanfiction.princeton.edu People can also log on as guests at www.blackboard.princeton.edu and search for "fanfiction" to access the complete syllabus and follow along with the course

Or you can read Kraith for free here:

Like Star Trek, the Sime~Gen universe has spawned more words of fan fiction than ever were professionally published.

The Sime~Gen publisher is releasing a compendium of Sime~Gen fiction soon, but you can read other stories for free online:

Keep in mind that, although you will find it said all over the internet, I did not 'come out of' Star Trek fan fiction -- I was selling professionally way before I placed my first non-fiction article with a Star Trek fanzine which was before I started writing Kraith stories as homework for a writing course.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Vagaries of Memory

"Aggressive interrogation" not only can intimidate suspects into confessing to crimes they didn't commit. A University of Toronto Institute of Technology study found that this type of questioning can also induce witnesses to report events that never happened, with confident belief in the truth of their statements:

Aggressive Police Questioning

In this experiment, subjects "remembered" witnessing the theft of a cell phone that never existed in the first place.

The experiment reinforces the known unreliability of eyewitness testimony, which used to be valued above mere "circumstantial evidence." For instance, when a witness views a police lineup, the implicit assumption that one of the people in the lineup MUST be the criminal can nudge the witness into picking the person who most resembles his or her mental image of the perp. This study's insight into the workings of the brain also brings to mind the horrors that sprang from the once-prevalent belief in "recovered memories." The "satanic panic" of the 1980s surrounding accusations of "ritual abuse" based on false memories implicitly trusted as real harks back to the Salem witchcraft trials. In colonial Salem of the 1690s, "spectral evidence" offered by a group of teenage girls held the place taken by "recovered memories" in the 1980s.

Similarly, people who nowadays recall supposed alien abduction events describe the same kinds of subjective experiences that would have been attributed to incubus attacks in the Middle Ages. Sufferers in both cases have testified to feelings of dread, the sense of being watched by a malevolent presence, and inability to move—characteristics of the hypnagogic state associated with sleep paralysis, a phenomenon that sometimes occurs immediately after waking from the REM phase.

The opposite of recovered memories would be lost memories, the topic of a movie I coincidentally just watched, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. The protagonist, Joel, discovers that his ex-girlfriend has had all her knowledge of him erased by Lacuna, a company that provides memory-wiping services. He decides to hire the company to perform the same procedure on him. I found it a depressing, confusing film. Joel's default mood resembles that of Eeyore, the gloomy donkey. The scenes are presented in nonlinear order, and much of the action occurs in surreal sequences within his mind during the memory-wipe procedure. (Hint in case you decide to watch it: After the first scene when Joel and his girlfriend, Clementine, meet on the train, the entire rest of the movie consists of flashbacks. Realizing that fact would have helped me a LOT in understanding the story—instead of having to read the summary on Wikipedia to find out what I was supposed to have seen.) However, it raises provocative questions. On the plot level, why doesn't Lacuna inform the subject of the erasure that he's been erased from the client's memory? They seem to have a policy against doing so, although they remove all physical memorabilia from the client's life and caution his or her friends not to mention the erased person. So we have the probability of the forgotten person desperately trying to pursue the relationship with the high-tech-amnesiac client and coming across as a delusional stalker. The story also addresses the ethics and dangers of memory deletion. The two Lacuna technicians who work on Joel have dubious, if any, ethics. They smoke marijuana during the procedure. Previously, one of them also performed Clementine's procedure, became infatuated with her, stole a pair of her panties, and used his knowledge of her forgotten past to lure her into a relationship with him. The other technician fools around with his girlfriend (another Lacuna employee) while supposedly monitoring Joel's brain, and they raid Joel's food and liquor. Even their manager proves to be ethically bankrupt. While he at least takes his job seriously, it's revealed that he had an adulterous affair with the tech's girlfriend and used the procedure to make her forget it happened (allegedly at her request, but he could be lying). The movie foregrounds the risks of giving anyone else that much power over the contents of one's mind.

In this scenario, the lost memories can't be recovered, because they're literally deleted, not merely repressed. The film doesn't quite make clear whether traces can remain, though there are hints that this can happen. Midway through the deletion process, Joel realizes he doesn't want to forget Clementine after all. Despite their traumatic breakup, the happy memories outweigh the pain. Knowing that once the memories have been erased, there's no getting them back, he frantically tries to surface from his induced coma make the techs stop the process. If targeted memory deletion were possible, should it be made available to anyone willing to pay for it? Or would it be too risky for public dissemination? Would the average person want negative memories erased, or is all of our past, whether pleasant or painful, a vital part of our personalities? Would losing important memories, even bad ones, mean losing a portion of ourselves?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reviews 16 - The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Reviews 16
The Thorn of Dentonhill
Marshall Ryan Maresca

Last week we discussed an odd science fiction future-world by Sarah A. Hoyt, A Few Good Men.


Sarah has a multidimensional world mapped out based on not-so-straight-line extrapolations of the leading edge of science today.

In other words, she has done some insightful futurology, and she generally does that in most of her novels.

Today, we'll look at a fantasy novel set in a world that is just as well visualized, but contrasts with Sarah's work in an informative way.

This one is by a new writer, Marshall Ryan Maresca, who has (from the Acknowledgements page he wrote) come up through a training group of many accomplished writers, beta-readers, fellow struggling writers, and voracious readers who know what they are looking for.  He thanks his wife, his mother-in-law, and many more, including a person named Julie Kenner.

I saw that name and connected with Marshall Ryan Maresca on Facebook, and asked him if this is our Julie Kenner. Yes! This is THE Julie Kenner who writes such delightful fantasy romance novels. 

Here's her page:
Julie Kenner - the excellent writer

If you haven't read hers, do go get some! 

Here's one free on Kindle that I really loved -- Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom:

Julie Kenner is thanked for reading the manuscript and offering advice that made it stronger.  So, don't miss The Thorn of Dentonhill.  It is definitely "strong." 

There's another Maradaine novel, A Murder of Mages, slated for July 2015. 

THORN OF DENTONHILL turns on a Relationship that is sizzling into a real Romance, but does not quite get there in this volume. 

So don't get behind following this writer.  These novels are from DAW books, a prime market for the Fantasy or Science Fiction Romance.  Be sure you can hold your own at any party where a DAW editor might be overhearing a discussion you are in.

The Thorn of Dentonhill is about two cousins, descendants of a Gang-Boss-Family in a large University town.  Dentonhill is a neighborhood.  The surrounding neighborhoods also have names.  There are detailed maps in the front of the book. 

One cousin is a student at the University -- a student of Magic because he has a serious talent for handling magical force.  It's just that he has a different life-agenda from that of most of the students. 

His agenda is to "get" the guy responsible for the death of his father.  In the process, he earns the appellation Thorn.

The guy the Thorn is out to get is now the Big Boss of an adjacent neighborhood with aspirations to take over more neighborhoods.  He deals in a potent and deadly drug, and has used that drug to put The Thorn's mother into a coma.

The other cousin is in the middle-level staff of the neighborhood adjacent to the University.  He's trying to live down the reputation of being the nephew of the old Boss.

The Thorn mounts a campaign of disrupting the Big Boss's drug trafficking. In the process, he  steals some merchandise as it is being delivered to the Big Boss.

The merchandise is two objects of magical Power.  The Big Boss has a contract to deliver those objects to a group of Mages by a certain time.  The Big Boss is no longer annoyed, he is pissed.

The Thorn sneaks off campus nightly to use these magical objects to further disrupt the drug traffic.  He often gets into fights, and drags back to campus wounded, needing help from his accomplice.

Here's where the Romance starts to wriggle into the plot -- and you should take careful note as you read exactly how this is done.  It is a great example of what I have called in this blog, Information Feed.

The accomplice is a woman.  She works on campus on the gardener's staff and is very strong, fit, self-possessed and likewise dedicated to stopping the drug traffic.  She's also good at stitching wounds, but doesn't have magical talent. 

The two make a good team -- but there is obviously more to their budding Relationship, and I do hope we get to learn more.

The next novel set in Maradaine is about a woman who is a detective only because she needs money to support her infirm husband and her children.  From the book description, I don't think we'll meet The Thorn again in this novel, but it is clear the world, it's politics, the magic, and social problems are all worked out in detail.

This second novel, A Murder of Mages, is sub-titled A Novel of the Maradaine Constabulary.  It sounds so Sherlock Holmes in foggy London chasing Jack The Ripper. 

I think you can learn a great deal about formulating the interface between Science Fiction and/or Fantasy and the pure Romance by doing a full contrast/compare between Sarah A. Hoyt's GOOD MEN and the THORN OF DENTONHILL. 

Besides learning, though -- great, good fun reading! 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Reflections on "THE MARTIAN" (Science Is Plot)

author- Andy Weir
publisher  Broadway Books 


A botanist and mechanical engineer is impaled by a javelin-like projectile during a Martian sandstorm and blown away by a windgust of up to 175 kph. His spacesuit is punctured and decompressing. According to his cardiac telemetry, he is lifeless. The five surviving astronauts must--and do-- evacuate the red planet before their one and only Mars Ascent Vehicle is destroyed by the force of the storm.

Mark Watney regains consciousness and discovers that he is well and truly skewered. Chance and science saved his life. (Spoiler) Spilt blood turns to gunk in the hostile Martian atmosphere, and gunk clogs.... He still faces impossible odds. Science may save him, but (like Magic) the application of Science comes with its own costs and dangers.

That is why Science IS Plot (or at least, creates plot). Mark can make water (scientifically), but the chemistry involves fire and potential explosions. Mark can solve the problem of the deadly Martian cold, but only by risking cancer. He can generate solar power, but not enough to breathe and drive and cook, and communicate and everything else he'd like to do. For every solution, there is a trade-off, and every solution or trade-off may lead to unanticipated consequences and new perils.

Sometimes literally, Mark Watney lurches from one cliff-hanger to another. The primary narrative is "Captain's Log" diary-style, spiced with transcripts of different methods of interplanetary communication from Morse code using rocks to binary to near-normal email, interspersed with real time scenes on Earth and on the mothership. A riveting read!

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Smart Animals

A pictorial piece on ten "geniuses" of the animal kingdom, including some that we don't typically identify as "smart":

Animal Geniuses

Raccoons can learn to pick locks! That's a new one on me, though I already knew from experience that they can pry lids off garbage cans. Maybe they are plotting to replace us as the dominant species on Earth? Today, opening lids and locks; tomorrow, hacking computers. Crows construct tools out of twigs and know how to use water displacement (dropping rocks into a container of water) to get things they want. Pigs understand mirrors—also new information to me—and can learn shapes "as quickly as human children" (some scientists estimate their intelligence as equal to that of human three-year-olds). I knew about the problem-solving skills of octopuses and rats. I was surprised, however, that the list includes sheep, usually stereotyped as pretty dumb. They allegedly can remember faces for up to two years. Pigeons also recognize faces and, like pigs and some primates, can recognize themselves in mirrors. Another small-brained animal on the page, the squirrel, gets included because of its phenomenal ability to recall the locations of buried nuts.

Two types of insects also make the list—creatures that we ordinarily don't acknowledge as having intelligence at all. Argentine ants brought together from far-flung parts of the world seem to recognize each other. Bees are credited with "hive intelligence," and their communication of food sources through dance is highlighted. These two examples challenge our definition of intelligence and raise the question of whether it can exist without self-consciousness. (I've previously mentioned Peter Watts's BLINDSIGHT, which postulates a species of aliens whose minds work that way—intelligence without consciousness.) Also, if intelligence comes in such unlikely shapes as insect hive minds, would we necessarily recognize ET sapience if we met it?

And on a related topic, an editorial that appeared in the Baltimore SUN this Monday, musing about the defense of a house on a wooded lot against the incursions of critters great and small:

Would Nature Miss Us?

The author segues to the larger theme of nature's overrunning the ruins of human civilization in places such as Chernobyl (a prospect explored in depth in books such as THE WORLD WITHOUT US, by Alan Weisman). Maybe the carpenter bees and wolf spiders are conspiring with the bears, crows, and raccoons in preparation to take over if we go extinct.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Reviews 15 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg - A Few Good Men by Sarah A. Hoyt

Reviews 15
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
A Few Good Men by Sarah A. Hoyt

I have pointed you to other works by Sarah A. Hoyt.  Here's my review of a novel she wrote, and here's one about whether you as a writer need to make up a pen name.



Sarah A. Hoyt is one of the most versatile and accomplished writers you will find working in any field.

Her Feb 2014 title from Baen Books titled A Few Good Men had to have been written in 2012 or 2013, based on 2011 science.

At the beginning of 2015, a scientist made news by talking about the ambition of doing whole-head transplants, and immediately the scientific establishment jumped on him saying it can't be done.

The "jumping on him" just fueled the publicity of an idea that would have been ignored, but it highlighted a wonderful science fiction novel that you just have to read to appreciate. 

Here's the discussion from FORBES
Read the article here:

The neuroscientist Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy thinks the time has come to start transplanting heads. Canavero plans to announce his noggin exchange program at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, this June. His ambitions have gotten plenty of attention this week. They should. It is both rotten scientifically and lousy ethically.

Dr. Canavero is not trying to perfect an approach that is cosmetic. He does not seek to find a way to give you the body that you always dreamed of without the burden of diet or exercise. He wants to use head transplantation surgery to extend the lives of people whose muscles, bodily organs and immune systems have degenerated or wasted away.

Scientifically what Canavero wants to do cannot yet be done. It may never be doable.

To move a head on to someone else’s body requires the rewiring of the spinal cord. We don’t know how to do that. If we did there would be far fewer paralyzed people who have spinal cord injuries. Nor, despite Canavero’s assertions to the contrary, is medicine anywhere close to knowing how to use stem cells or growth factors to make this happen.

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

But the principle in science fiction is, "if we can dream it, we can do it." 

You may note that this attitude is the key attitude behind the whole Romance Genre, the driving fuel behind the pursuit of the Happily Ever After ending (the HEA) that is so scorned.

That "scorned" regard is something that Romance and Science Fiction have in common, a pivot point around which to build SFR, Science Fiction Romance. 

Every science fiction novel depicting something that hasn't been done has been derided as ridiculous because the story assumes humanity can do the impossible.

And then we do it, and ho-hum-yawn "we knew that all the time." 

Today, online dating sites and match-making computer algorithms are trying to duplicate the success rate of the Match Makers as depicted in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.  In the tiny, closed communities where everyone knew everyone for generations and generations -- that worked.  It even works today in tight-knit communities that are spread geographically but closely connected by technology. 

So science, fiction, and romance are really just one subject, and go together naturally. 

Remember Jules Verne's space-ship concept was considered silly fantasy? 

Right now, we're ranting about "climate change" -- and some people are talking crazy about controlling the climate by putting certain kinds of objects in orbit to inject more (or less) solar energy into the atmosphere.

Crazy, right?

Well, the best science fiction writers pick up the notions floating around among the 'craziest' scientists, put that together with bits and pieces of technology, some notions mechanics are playing with, and notice how the age-old arguments about politics and government are cycling at the moment. 

Heinlein did this. 

Asimov did this. 

Now Sarah A. Hoyt has done it -- and it's not the first time for her.

Her Darkship series from Baen Books starts with a novel titled Darkship Renegades,

and continues with Darkship Thieves

And you will enjoy a future history work titled Ganymede

All of these embroider creatively on various "impossible" premises toyed with by scientists for years, and just now being presented in the general media with a somewhat serious tone -- ideas about living on asteroids, about various satellites of Earth, about things we are only now discovering in our solar system.

A Few Good Men is Book 3 in the Darkship series, and the subject of this blog entry:

The title, A Few Good Men,  is a play on words.  In this far future Earth, climate and politics and science, and genetics, have changed everything.  I'm not sure I'd term it progress.

A Good Man is a little King, an owner-proprietor-boss-chief-executive of a section of Earth where people live.  There are about 80 such sections, and these Good Men are anything but good. 

There's a feudal element involved.  If there is no heir to the title, those who worked for that Good Man may be subject to a purge when another Good Man takes over the territory - it's all about loyalty.  Loyalty is keeping secrets.  Loyalty is not-noticing there's a secret that needs keeping. 

Each Good Man rules with his own personality, shaping the forms and cultural norms of the area he governs. 

The heir is supposed to take over with a seamless continuation of policy and style.  The secret is the reason for the seamlessness.  And it has everything to do with extrapolating the science developing behind that claim of being close to doing whole head transplants -- or body-transplants, depending on how you look at it.  Hoyt has taken a grand leap into an all-too-plausible direction.

In this Book 3 in the Darkship series, we learn the secret the Good Men have been keeping for centuries. 

We follow a younger son of a Good Man whose father and older brother have been assassinated, leaving him unexpectedly heir.

The Good Man's retainers don't even know that this heir is still alive when he shows up on the palace's doorstep.

The story of how he takes over, and what he learns both in his official briefings and unofficially -- the infiltration of the household and office staff by opponents of the Good Man rule - why they oppose and what they do when an unexpected heir shows up creates a page-turner of a story.

Really, this is a "can't put it down" read. 

I was delighted to learn from Sarah A. Hoyt (who gave me a copy of A Few Good Men) that there will be more of these delicious books to come. 

As with last week's discussion of Charles Gannon's Trial By Fire, this is not strictly speaking a genre Romance, but in Sarah's novel the love story is integral to the plot, to the story, and to the world-views that clash. 

Doing a contrast/compare of these two series will give you a broad platform for displaying a genuine Science Fiction Romance where the Science and the Fiction are not weaker components than the Romance.

Here's what Sarah told me about the future of this Darkship series:

-----------Quote from Sarah A. Hoyt-------------
The series is a series of revolutions against the Good Men, as the revolt fans out over the Earth. I was going to make it one book, and then realized not all revolts would be the same or end the same.

Some of them end badly indeed. The next book, Through Fire, is the revolution in Liberte Seacity, the domain of Simon St. Cyr.

I'm disgracefully late with it, because Lucius' voice STUCK in my head, and I thought I'd need the services of an exorcist to write a book from another POV ever.

The series doesn't have other books in his voice, but it will have a book (probably fourth. I'm a pantser so there's wiggle room) Blood Brothers which is the story of Luce and Nat's twin sons.

(It's the future. Yes, they're assembled in a lab.)

And the last book in the series will be from the point of view of their much younger (than her brothers) daughter, Abigail Keeva Remy.
---------- END QUOTE-----------

There you see the genetic engineering of the future -- not-so-far-future either -- as two guys have children together. 


Times chance so fast, science fiction writers can't keep up -- Sarah A. Hoyt is leading the pack here. 

And Sarah gave me a glimpse of the opening of the next book in the revolts against the Good Men, When Worlds Collide:

When Worlds Collide

A spaceship mechanic has no place in a fairytale, not even when she’s dressed in a flowing gown and being courted by one of Earth’s most powerful men.

I was designed to be able to repair spaceships and to navigate them home safely. I had calluses on my hands from working with heavy tools on delicate machinery. I was strong enough to kill a grown man with a casual blow. And I had burner strapped to my ankle under my ball-gown.

The man courting me was a scoundrel, a dictator, and likely a murderer. And we were dancing at a spun-sugar palace, atop a fairytale island. It was his ballroom, his palace and his island. He was my only protector on Earth and my host for the last six months. He wanted me. He had been gentle and caring and solicitous of me. I wanted to escape the happy-ever-after fairytale ending.

You should be careful what you wish for. It was a relief when the palace exploded.

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

You want to read this book. 

Go to this page and on the left, under her picture, click the "follow" button to be notified when new books are released.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Orphan Works And Mass Digitization

The Office of Copyrights has issued a Report and Notice of Inquiry for public comment concerning works that users wish to exploit, when they cannot locate the copyright owners.

It is likely that the legal penalties will be limited when a copyright owner discovers that his/her copyrighted work has been exploited by someone else.


This link leads to a summary, which in turn contains links to the full text of the Report and to the Notice of Inquiry upon which you may comment.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Awe and Altruism

A faculty member in the psychology department of one of my own colleges, the University of California in Irvine, has conducted a study that appears to demonstrate a connection between feelings of awe and impulses toward altruistic behavior:

Awe Promotes Altruistic Behavior

Awe, "that sense of wonder felt in the presence of something vast that transcends one’s understanding of the world," seems to promote unselfish behavior by diminishing our egoistic sense of self-importance. Religion and spirituality, art and music, and the grandeur of nature are some experiences that can evoke this "sense of wonder."

I tend to take experiments like the ones described in this article with a grain of salt. Can "pro-social" behavior produced in an artificially structured setting, where it doesn't cost the giver much if anything, be validly generalized to the complex phenomena of unselfishness in real life? Nevertheless, it's an encouraging study anyway. It hints that responses to both the transcendent and the needs of others spring from innate human traits and may be fundamentally connected.

In his early work THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, C. S. Lewis traces the two strands that grew together to form religion as we define it. The first, the Numinous, he identifies with the emotion of awe. This feeling transcends ordinary fear. Lewis maintains that the awe-filled reaction to numinous phenomena can't be derived from external events or natural experiences but seems to be inborn in the human mind; he believes this emotion to be a genuine revelation of the supernatural. The second strand is the ethical element, an awareness of "a moral law at once approved and disobeyed." In fact, he's talking about the very factors in human nature that the Irvine researcher analyzed. According to Lewis, "The moral experience and the numinous experience are so far from being the same that they may exist for quite long periods without establishing a mutual contact." Religion as we know it arises when the two strands intertwine, so that the numinous power or powers become understood as the source of ethical values.

Lewis suggests that this combination isn't necessarily inevitable. Given the results of the Irvine study, maybe he was mistaken. Maybe the human brain naturally connects cosmic awe with transcendent ethical values, and maybe that happens because (a point Lewis would agree with) those phenomena have objective reality. Moreover, if the connection comes naturally to us, maybe a similar link between the numinous and the ethical evolves in the brains of all sapient species no matter what planet they inhabit.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Depiction Part 11 -- Depicting Complex Battle-scenes by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 11
Depicting Complex Battle-scenes
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Here's the index post for this series on Depiction:

The big secret of writing Award Winners and Best Sellers is more about what you leave out than what you put in.

But to know what to leave out, you have to think through every tiny detail, from within the point of view of your main character and know what it is you are leaving out, and why you are leaving it out.

Within the main character's point of view, you know what that character knows -- and you don't know what that character does not know.

It sounds so simple when you say it.  Not simple at all.  It's another craft technique, and a tool for your toolbox.

Mastery of that writing tool - leaving OUT the most interesting part - is the hallmark of the great writers.

The great writers engage the creative imagination of readers, luring them into creating their own version of the story, bringing the characters alive within the reader's mind.  That is done by leaving room for the reader to insert themselves into the story - to think like the character.

If you detail every thought in the character's mind, or go into long conversations or arguments about whether to do something anyone who is an expert in the choices being discussed would KNOW would not be considered -- just the explain to the reader why you didn't write a thing a certain way -- you lose your primary audience, and repel any casual reader who will read anything.  In other words, you write boring stuff.

So a big chunk of characterization lies within what a character does NOT think, not simply within what the character does think.

I found a beautiful example of this in a book I was reading because the author had been one of my first writing students.

He is Charles E. Gannon - Chuck Gannon on Facebook:
(don't shorten that link - there's another by the same name)

His publisher put up on Amazon the following bio:

About the Author
Charles E. Gannon is a breakthrough rising star in science fiction with a multiple short story and novella publications in Baen anthologies, Man-Kzin Wars XIII, Analog, and elsewhere. Gannon is coauthor with Steve White of Extremis, the latest entry in the legendary Starfire series created by David Weber. His most recent novel is 1635: The Papal Stakes cowritten with alternate history master, Eric Flint.  A multiple Fulbright scholar, Gannon is Distinguished Professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University.

When he brought his first attempt to write a story to me, he was just a kid -- really young kid.  Look what he grew up to become! 

Chuck Gannon's first novel in his Tales of the Terran Republic, Fire With Fire, A Caine Riordan Novel...

...was nominated for the Nebula and won another award. 

Here's my discussion of that one:

The second Caine Riordan novel, Trial by Fire, with much more of a "Military Science Fiction" tone (an invasion of Earth by recently contacted Alien coalition) garnered a Nebula Nomination and lots of Hugo attention just like the first.  And there are a lot of reasons for that.

In short, Trial by Fire is a fabulous Mission: Impossible TV episode, or better, movie, writ large.

The plot of the novel unfolds a massive, complex, (beautiful) piece of psychological leverage, of Assumption Judo used against non-humans and featuring the best of human nature.  Trial by Fire is a jaw-dropper just like the Mission: Impossible TV Series episodes, especially of the First Season.  So it has my highest recommendation - with the caveat that it is not a Romance genre novel.  But Romance readers who love Relationship plots will not be bored. 

This blog is about Science Fiction Romance, but just as with the Romance element in World War II movies, Science Fiction Romance often includes long, intricate, complicated, battles. 

In fact, Fantasy Romance does, too, when vast armies on horseback deploy to fight for a Kingdom. 

So a Romance writer who leaps into the science fiction field has to know how to do this kind of thinking, how to lay out battle tactics, how to choose weaponry, how to think like a soldier or a Commander -- and most importantly how to know what to leave out, and why to leave it out, even though it's interesting to a big part of your audience. 

The skill-set is termed Selectivity in many books on writing, and it is a key to all forms of Art.

Selecting what to put in requires precision handling of the Theme. 

Selecting what to leave out requires precision handling of the Characterization. 

In the case of Charles E. Gannon's Trial by Fire, the armies and armadas of Earth are fighting for control of Earth. 

The main character we follow, among many, Caine Riordan, is a "polymath" -- he doesn't think the same way most humans do.  He doesn't think the way anyone else in the novel does. 

There are a couple of good, solid Love Stories twined through this plot -- the Hero is deeply (and oddly) involved with two women, with a lot of heroism and angst, but those relationships don't drive the invasion or the counter-strike of this plot.  It's a good read, and if you study the battle scenes, it will teach you a lot about what to put in and what to leave out of a sex scene. 

So as I was reading the Kindle version of this novel, I took some notes using the Kindle note feature. 

Then I thought about it all, went back to a note I dropped into his Chapter Fifty-Two (they are short chapters, but this is a very long book) and decided to drop a grain of sand onto Chuck Gannon's Facebook Wall, and see if he made me a pearl.  Sure enough, he did.  I can be very irritating at times.  So I posed my question from my note in the most provocative way I could imagine. 

I wrote on his wall:
A question: when communications are all out in the Jakarta region and they have to instruct troops about the action, why don't they send out loudspeaker trucks and guys with bullhorns? Is this so far in the future nobody has such things or are they all destroyed? Or did I miss something?
---------END QUOTE-------



Chuck Gannon
Lots of reasons. In no particular order: (and I speak of trucks, but same would apply to runners with bull horns)

1) counter targeting invite. Audial triangulation would find snipers easily by this time; Speaker trucks would be like "shoot me" signs.

2) difficulty with centralized control relaying to trucks. Control net by subsurface fiber optic, in absence of any ability to use airwaves, or to trust that you could safely signal in the clear, means you have to go for secure hardwire/fiberwire.; Trucks would have to get messages, return for more. Turnaround time fatal for contemporary MOUT scenario depicted.

3) centralization trackback of source of truck messaging: a half witted adversary will realize the trucks are having to get updated with messages. Find, observe, follow messenger or truck path to update point, and you take out a commo nexus. Given difficulty of insurgent C4i environment, it is probably a command and control nexus. Hi value target; crippling blow to insurgents.

4) trucks not historically used in front line engagements as passing info; usually preop marshaling, often for civilians, not troops. Useful for issuing mass directives to masses. The more closely orchestrated or tightly sequential an operation is, the more its communications must be inaccessible to the threat force, swift, clear, coded. None of that is possible with speaker trucks.

There are more reasons (having to do with logistics, inability to get immediate ping backs to determine yes/no on receipt of message and therefore op timing confirmation, etc.)
--------END QUOTE-------------

That is a precious pearl for beginning writers to study in the context of this high profile novel. 

A few fans of his jumped on the discussion, and one who is involved in creating a wiki for the Universe Chuck is writing in captured his response for the wiki -- and put my name on there. 


The discussion thread is:

So get these two books and start following the adventures of Caine Riordan, the Polymath. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg