Thursday, July 30, 2015


Last weekend, we took our annual overnight trip to the Shenandoah National Park. When I first saw the mountains and woods as a child, and even later when we camped there during our own children's early years, I thought of that setting as a wilderness. My natural habitat was city (a few years of living with my grandmother in a slightly run-down but still respectable section of Norfolk) and suburbs (the kind of environment Erma Bombeck gently satirized). The Blue Ridge Mountains looked to me like the forest primeval.

As I later learned—definitely not! Contemporary tourists don't see the same land that the first settlers found. For instance, chestnut trees, which once comprised a large percentage of the tree canopy, were nearly wiped out by blight in the early twentieth century. Over the years, invasive species such as starlings and kudzu have been imported.

Far from pristine wilderness, the park has been heavily shaped by human action. Rather than old-growth forest, the woods around the Skyline Drive occupy land once inhabited and farmed by people of the Appalachian Mountains, almost 500 families, who were displaced in the 1930s to make room for the park. Some of them willingly sold their homes to enjoy modern conveniences and the advantages of having highways built through the region. Others resisted the government's offers and were forcibly evicted. The supporters of the park project inaccurately represented the locals as backward, isolated hillbillies who would be better off if dragged into the modern era. Here's some interesting background information:

The Displaced

In the process of founding the park, the area was allegedly "restored" to a state of nature. In fact, the "natural" setting we enjoy today was created by the obliteration of vacated homesteads and the deliberate planting of trees, including varieties not native to the region. Wildlife was introduced, including deer, turkey, trout, and black bears. Signs warn against feeding or otherwise approaching bears, but we've run across only a few. Deer, however, regularly wander near human habitations and are very approachable. You can walk up within a few yards without inciting them to run away, if you don't make any sudden moves. They seem to know, somehow, that they won't be hunted within the park.

The "preservationist vs. developer" trope has become so familiar in fiction that some romance publishers' guidelines forbid stories on that premise. In the Shenandoah National Park, oddly, the preservationists and developers were the same. Commercial interests boosted the park project so they could build lodges and other profit-making enterprises on the newly dedicated federal lands. And yet they did protect wilderness, even if it was modified wilderness, for future visitors—although sometimes at the expense of families who'd lived there for generations. In creating a faux "natural" environment, they were sort of un-developers.

I used the development vs. preservation plot in one of my erotic romance novelettes, "Aquatic Ardor." My hero, who wants to sell part of the land around the lake adjacent to his family's vacation house, now his home, isn't a bad guy. He needs the money to survive in his early retirement lifestyle. The company trying to buy the land plans to build expensive summer residences on large lots, not high-density construction that would wreck the landscape. Unfortunately, the hero doesn't know that an undine lives in the lake, and almost any alteration would ruin it for her:

Aquatic Ardor

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cookies!!!! (Google May Be The Biggest Cookie Monster Of All)

Dear Friends and Most Welcome Visitors....

European Union laws requires us (the authors of the alien romances blog hosted on Blogger) to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on our blog. In many cases, these laws also require us to obtain your consent. 

By visiting this blog, we (the aliendjinnromances authors) assume that you consent. If you don't consent, please leave a polite comment advising us of which cookies were added, so we may address the issue.

If you feel so inclined, please let us know in a comment what cookies our blog has dumped on your device, too. (We would love the traffic!!)

As a courtesy to us, Google has 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.

We think that Google also adds YouTube and Googlevideo cookies.... judging by the cookies I see when I open "Preferences" in my browser.

Google tells us that we are responsible for confirming this notice actually works for our blog, and that it displays. 

If you have seen this notice, or a similar notice posted by Google on our blog, please let us know (by leaving a comment).

PS....   I am unable to leave any comments!  Is anyone else having this problem? It seems that the only people who may comment HAVE to have a Google + account (how tyrannical is that?!!)  Even then, one cannot comment.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Dissolve Your Expository Lump by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

How to Dissolve Your Expository Lump
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Here are links to previous scattered discussions of Expository Lumps.

Expository Lumps are the product of a writer's imagination building the story-world for them prior to informing the writer about it all (i.e. the "I have an Idea!" moment.)

In one fell swoop, you know everything about these characters, this world, and its arcane, mundane, and esoteric Relationships.  You know the karmic forces, the rebirths, the life-history -- you know everything all at once and don't know where to start. 

So you sit down to write the story.

You want to take your reader on a wild rafting ride down a swift mountain stream, the plot carrying them along with whoops and screams.  Instead, your reader gets smashed dizzy hitting the rocks in your plot-stream:

The rocks are expository lumps. 

You create those rocks because you want the reader to understand your new world so you say, "But wait! Before you can understand what's going on, you must know this -- oh, and that -- oh! I left out...!!!)

There is all this connected foundation material the reader MUST KNOW FIRST.

Informing the reader so enjoyment and understanding will happen later (but not now) is called an expository lump.  It's a rock that splits the stream of the plot and story apart. 

A lump is more than 1 sentence, more than a pebble. 

Very often, the lumps come in the first or second chapter (or possibly a forward or preface), and the longer you wait to inform your reader, the more paragraphs (even pages) of history, considerations relevant to the characters but not (yet) to the reader, life-story of other characters we haven't met yet, and so on and on get lumped together in a block of text.

Here is how to spot a lump you have created:

Finish the manuscript's first draft. 

Scan the pages and find long, unbroken paragraphs -- they look like lumps, visually, but can be description, dialogue, or even narration. 

These are blocks of paragraphs that do not advance the plot&story in lockstep, do not change the Situation in the direction of the Ending and usually are not about what is going on at that point in the text.  They can be about the past, or about the possibly future (disasters or triumphs, anything that is not-happening-now.)

Expository Lumps are usually not actual scenes -- but a misplaced scene can act like a Lump and kill reader interest.  The cure is to study scene structure:

Any such not-now material should be half-a-sentence, maybe one or two short sentences -- not full page paragraphs unbroken by things happening, things being done, things being discovered, lessons learned.  Yes, you can do long flash-forwards and flashbacks, but those require the same non-lump techniques and a different set of skills.

Take those lumpy paragraphs apart point by point -- bulleted lists work, but use whatever format you like. Detail what information the reader gains. 

The sign you've got a Lump may be that you can extract more than one bullet point per sentence. 

Another sign you've got a lump is the use of complex-compound sentence structure, or the run-on paragraph -- a paragraph that wanders all around a point (more than 8 lines without dialogue). 
Here's a blog titled The Almighty Paragraph in the acquiring new techniques series.

Another way to spot a hidden lump is to scrutinize your dialogue. 

If a character speaks more than two sentences at once while the other character just stands there, you've likely got an expository lump disguised as a lecture.  The best way to fix those is to delete the middle sentence of the dialogue paragraph and re-evaluate whether any of what is left is needed.

Ask yourself, how does this utterance advance the plot, change the situation, and change the way the listening character is thinking?  Good dialogue advances the conflict toward the resolution which is the Ending.  If the dialogue is static, doesn't advance the conflict, then it is likely to be a Lump.

Dialogue where one character tells another something the other character knows is expository lump.  Dialogue where one character tells another what the reader already knows is expository lump best cured by deletion.  In those spots where you have deleted dialogue that was repetition for the reader, you can insert bits of expository lumps that you've broken up using the method below. 

Once you've spotted your expository lumps, dissolve them and anoint the moving parts of your story with the resulting solution. 

Here's how:

1) Ask yourself if the reader absolutely must understand this point in order to comprehend the Ending.

A) if so, clip that sentence or paragraph and save it in a txt file or notation, but get it out of the narrative.

B) if not, delete that material.  Don't worry, if you need it later, you will recreate it at a more appropriate point, or perhaps change it markedly to lead to the ending. Endings morph as you write and rewrite, so likewise info in lumps must morph.

2) Ask yourself if this point made in the expository lump must be understood by the reader at this exact point in the story.

A) if so, ask yourself if there is another way to SHOW DON'T TELL this point. Maybe there's a scene missing, maybe a character, or an offhand line of dialogue. Sometimes a bit of worldbuilding can be restated as a piece of artwork, a vase, a brightly dyed carpet - a bit of visual stimulation that implies underlying technology or trade without explicitly detailing it all.  A Persian Carpet in Fiji implies trade without exposition.

B) if not, put this detail into a file of "Move it to Later" -- sometimes you can copy the bit and paste it at the top of the chapter where it absolutely MUST be known.  When you go through on rewrite, you'll think of a way to show-don't-tell without slowing the pace of the plot.

3) Ask yourself why this point is interesting to yourself.  Maybe this Expository Lump is the real story you are trying to write, and all the rest is just noise?  Yes, every character has a life-story and a history that you, the writer, must know -- but that does not imply that the reader must know it, or must know it now.  Leave some bits over for future novels in the series if it is intrinsically interesting but irrelevant to the Ending of this novel.

A) if this point is more interesting than the story you've written, write the story that goes with that point separately.  It may be a prequel, and you started in the middle of a series (like Star Wars).

B) if this point is inherently boring to you, it will bore the reader, so cut it.  On rewrite, you will fabricate some other back-story point from the theme and plot:

The solution that dissolves all expository lumps is "Show Don't Tell" -- which means to illustrate, dramatize, symbolize,
or embody the material in a character who speaks for that philosophy or point of view and throws monkey wrenches into the lives of your main character (i.e. to integrate the lumped material into the plot.)

Every writing course will tell you to show-don't-tell, but I've never found one that shows you how to show rather than tell. 

This Tuesday blog series on writing craft is designed to impart the necessary clues for developing the ability to illustrate, dramatize, symbolize, and transform your creativity into Art that conveys a fresh point of view to your readers. 

The most common reasons for coding material into expository lumps are:

a) it's boring to you, so you just want to get on to your exciting story -- so you TELL instead of SHOWING.

b) it's more interesting to you than the story you think you can sell.

c) you do not have mastery of character-creation via theme which is what makes stories interesting.

4) Ask yourself which makes you more excited -- the story you condensed into a Lump, or the story you are writing? 

A) if the lump is exciting, cut it, paste it into a new file, and write an outline of that story with a beginning, middle, end just as if you were going to write that instead.

B) if the lump is not exciting, copy/paste it into another file, separate it into bulleted list of points it makes, and copy/paste that bulleted list into the "Move it to Later" file.

Once you have your second draft, with all the bits of broken up Lumps sprinkled where they best lubricate the moving parts of your story, go over the "Move it to Later" file and check to see if you left out anything important.  (the editor and copyeditor will still find stuff you have to fix).  Leaving items out is much better than putting in too much.  Make your editor and readers ask questions.

5) Don't despair!!  Once you have done this Lump-Dissolution process a few times, your subconscious will begin to feed you the information the reader needs in the order which the reader will most appreciate it.  And you will be writing the most exciting story of the bunch that come wrapped in boring expository lumps.

In other words, professional writers who can make a living at it do not spend months rewriting.  They write, clean up the second draft, and send it in -- getting on to the next contract they've already signed.

But most people don't begin their careers able to do that.  First comes that proverbial million words for the garbage can.  This Expository Lump method allows you to retrieve those early works from the garbage can, and produce the story you most want to write.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Free Webinar On Monday July 27th "Sell Truckloads Of Books"

I've subscribed to Penny Sansevieri's free and immensely helpful newsletter for at least three years, and often follow the advice. I've also interviewed Penny on my Crazy Tuesday radio show, and can vouch for her generosity with her expert marketing advice for authors.

Now, Joel Friedlander and Penny Sansevieri want to help you to improve your discoverability on Amazon and they assure you this is the best next step to finding more readers!

Their webinar will be taking place on Monday, July 27 at 1:00pm PST.

Log-in information is going out the morning of the webinar - but you can register this weekend!

Join by visiting:

Permission granted to share. Penny says, "Please forward this email to your friends and colleagues, because you won't see the same strategies used by anyone else in the business - and there's a reason our clients get better results!"

The webinar will be hosted on GoToWebinar, which will take just a few minutes to launch on your computer, tablet or mobile, so we recommend you start the log-in process at least 5 minutes early so you're not rushed. You can get a heads up on the (super simple) process by visiting GoToWebinar in advance.

Good luck!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Pluto Formerly Known as a Planet

I've been reading news stories about the Pluto fly-by with excitement over the expansion of the human mind into the vastness of space beyond the conventionally recognized boundary of the Solar System. Pluto (known as Yuggoth, home of eldritch entities, in the Lovecraftian mythos, and discovered to be the outpost of an interstellar invasion in Robert Heinlein's HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL) has geological activity and several moons. When I learned about the Solar System as a child, Pluto was a full-fledged planet of inert, icy rock and had no moon.

A not-uncommon SF trope speculates that the shared beliefs of human minds collectively shape reality. For instance, the Earth was flat until we decided it was round. There were only four elements until chemists decided otherwise.

From an early story on this premise, THE NEW REALITY (1950) by Charles L. Harness:

"And I repeat, the universe is the work of man. I believe that man began his existence in some incredibly simple world-- the original and true noumenon of our present universe. And that over the centuries man expanded his little world into its present vastness and incomprehensible intricacy solely by dint of imagination. . . . Even this brilliant man would probably say that the earth was round in 600 B.C., even as it is today. But I know it was flat then--as truly flat as it is truly round today. What has changed? Not the Thing-in-Itself we call the earth. No, it is the mind of man that has changed. But in his preposterous blindness, he mistakes what is really his own mental quickening for a broadened application of science and more precise methods of investigation--"

Heinlein plays with a similar notion in WALDO (1942):

"Suppose Chaos were king and the order we thought we detected in the world about us a mere phantasm of the imagination; where would that lead us? In that case, Waldo decided, it was entirely possible that a ten-pound weight did fall ten times as fast as a one-pound weight until the day the audacious Galileo decided in his mind that it was not so. Perhaps the whole science of ballistics derived from the convictions of a few firm-minded individuals who had sold the notion to the world. Perhaps the very stars were held firm in their courses by the unvarying faith of the astronomers. Orderly Cosmos, created out of Chaos -- by Mind! The world was flat before geographers decided to think of it otherwise. The world was flat, and the Sun, tub size, rose in the east and set in the west. The stars were little lights, studding a pellucid dome which barely cleared the tallest mountains. Storms were the wrath of gods and had nothing to do with the calculus of air masses."

Along those lines, speaking postmodernly, did the Solar System end at Saturn before more powerful instruments revealed Uranus? Did Pluto exist before the anomalous wobble in Neptune's orbit was discovered? Did the former ninth planet objectively lose its planet status and become a dwarf planet when astronomers decreed it so? In my childhood, was it really a moonless world?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

EBook Awards Now Accepting Entries

EPIC's eBook Awards Competition is now accepting entries. Since 2000, the 
eBook Awards Competition (formerly the EPPIE Awards) has recognized the 
very best of ePublished works in all genres of fiction, non-fiction, and 
poetry. The longest running competition of its kind, the eBook Awards 
Competition continues this tradition. To view the rules and enter, visit 

Also, EPIC’s Ariana eBook Cover Art Competition is accepting cover entries. 
For information visit 

Please share and thank you for helping us spread the word. #EPICOrg 

Posted with permission by
Rowena Cherry

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Every Novel Needs A Love Story - Part 3 - Reliability by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Why Every Novel Needs A Love Story
Part 3
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Previous Parts to this series:

This post is about a Life Hack which has led to riches. 

We have been discussing the love story that every novel needs.  The core of the matter is the ability to love yourself, which is very different from self-love or narcissism.  

Confidence Quotes

To love yourself, you have to come to trust yourself.  Sometimes it takes a blindingly confusing Romance to achieve that kind of self-trust that lets you love yourself enough to love another.  Can you rely on yourself to come through in a pinch? 

One of the Big Issues couples face, sometimes at the outset of their Love Story, sometimes right in the middle of the Romance, and sometimes as a prelude to Divorce, is the issue of Reliability.

Can you trust this person?  Has something they've done so surprised and shocked you that you no longer know "who" this person really is?  Studying the Identity of others is the key to not being betrayed. 

Writers who depict characters losing trust often brush aside the whole matter of how different people understand the world, as if understanding the world had nothing to do with trusting a specific person.

If you want your characters to sparkle, to come to life with depth, you need to study real people in depth, how they think and what they think about -- and why. 

To know whether a given person will see this politician as a Hero and that politician as a Villain, you need to know more about that given person than just what they've said on Facebook.  To predict behavior, you must understand the person. 

Likewise, a writer must create a character from the inside out and place that character within the spectrum of the reader's everyday experience of "people in general."  A character has to be recognizable to the reader. 

I've never seen a more comprehensive rundown on exactly how to accomplish that framing of a character to be trusted by the reader than in this article:

It is about a real life billionaire -- as in "How To Marry A Billionaire" only for real.

This old man was young and hot, at one time -- and he wasn't a billionaire then. 

Knowing how this fellow, Charlie Munger, approached analyzing the world of people and technology, of science and psychology, of marketing and value, you could have guessed he would become very-very-very rich.

There are more ways to be rich than just to have a lot of money.  Romance writers depict most all those ways of achieving wealth of body, mind and soul, but in this case, Charlie Munger set out to make money -- and he succeeded.  He is happy with that choice, very professional about it. 

This method sketched in this article is one you can use to characterize a character who is going to become a billionaire.  Is that guy or gal worth marrying, though?  What kind of billionaire would they be?

The path to riches is fraught with failures, to be sure, but those failures lead to formulating a set of rules about what behavior to expect from certain Groups, and how to define those Groups.

If you understand the goals, motivations and belief sets common among a lot of people, you can trust them to behave in a predictable way.

Trust that is not "betrayed" or violated is based in a full, deep, far reaching, multi-variable understanding of the parameters that define another person.  To trust someone you must study them, and study the Groups to which they belong.

To understand the forces driving another person, you must understand that "forces" also drive you -- some from inside, some chosen by you, some launched by others, and some from the Heavens. 

To attain that kind of understanding of another, as pointed out in previous entries in this series, you must somehow find a way to love yourself so that you do not see only yourself when you look at others.  That method of finding a way to love yourself is called a Life Hack.  Cracking the code of life, gaining entry into another person's innermost being and finding yourself in there -- that is a Life Hack.  Fiction is the textbook to that course in coding life.  Romance 101 is required for graduation. 

Fiction has to reflect the general shape of reality to be comprehensible and believable.  You have to be able to see into another person in order to love them.  After that, what you see in them can draw you into Romance under the right circumstances. 

There can be love without romance, and romance without love.  They are independent variables.  So you can surround your characters with other characters, some of whom reflect your Main Character back at himself, some of whom show complex depths that are lovable, some of whom are shallow and unlovable, and one or two of whom totally enchant your main character.

Enchanted, your Main Character may fall into a Romance.

Or, if you are writing another genre, your main character may learn to trust another by understanding that other.  Once trusted, that other character may be able to learn to love himself, and thus become truly rich.  The password, the key, to life hacking is trust.  If you are betrayed, it is because you did not understand what you were trusting.  Read that article about Charlie Munger.

Study how Charlie Munger, Billionaire Extraordinaire, studies the world and trusts people will behave predictably.  Use that method to depict a character who is learning the difference between riches and love.  That difference is one of the most powerful life hacks.

Here's a previous blog post on the 1% and the nature of the billionaire phenomenon.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Are You Thinking Of Joining the Authors' Guild?

The Authors' Guild is a professional association for authors which offers such benefits to members as:

• Free legal help on writing and publishing matters-including written book contract reviews.

• Author website building with our exclusive Sitebuilder software and low-cost hosting (in most cases just $6 per month).

• Free seminars, covering topics such as marketing and publicity, movie deals, estate planning, and more. 

• Medical and dental insurance group policies through TEIGIT 

Authors' Guild is active in advocating on Capitol Hill and in the law courts for authors' copyright protection, with publishers for fair contracts, and for protection against predatory practices that erode copyright. There is also a charity run through Authors' Guild to assist distressed members.

Annual membership fees increased to $125 this year, but for a limited time, eligible new members can join for $100 through this link.

(Full disclosure: if you use this particular link, you will save $25 off your first year's membership fee, and you will also save ME $25 off my membership fee for 2016. Thank you!)

Not only traditionally published authors qualify for membership; self-published and freelance authors earning at least $500 in writing income can become members of the Guild. Learn more about eligibility criteria here

Thank you,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lists of Fictional Things

A Facebook post this week drew attention to a Wikipedia list of fictional expletives. ("Shen," from Jacqueline's Sime-Gen universe, appears there, as do "hraka" and "embleer" from WATERSHIP DOWN and many invented rude words from works I'm not familiar with.) From that page, I discovered a cool and useful page I had no idea existed:

Lists of Fictional Things

The subcategories range all the way from the cosmic -- list of fictional universes -- through planets, animals, plants, languages, etc., down to minute trivia (e.g., radio stations, TV stations, diaries, addresses of fictional characters).

These lists are fun to explore. Who'd have thought there would be enough fictional license plate numbers to warrant a page of their own?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why Every Novel Needs A Love Story - Part 2 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Why Every Novel Needs A Love Story
Part 2
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In Part 1 of this series
we noted how the signature of a Strong Character is that the Character "arcs" -- or changes their emotional responses to situations because of some life-lesson learned "the hard way" in the "school of hard knocks."

Characters get pummeled by Events you create.  They learn from the Events (the plot) and they do not necessarily learn the best or most correct lesson the first time you hit them with an Event.

Characters that are strong at the beginning of the story get pummeled with Events until they break  -- think of Spock crying alone in the briefing room.  Leonard Nimoy knew Spock's strength had to be broken in order to engage viewer interest. 

Granite strength all by itself is not interesting.  So writers break their strongest characters.

Start with a weak character, someone gripped by the "I can't" or "I'm doing all I can, so how can you expect more of me?" attitude, hammer that character to pulverize them, and chronicle their path to becoming a strong character.  That's Character Arc.

So, Strong Characters can be weak at the beginning of the Arc, and the strength is revealed as you hammer them into becoming Strong.

What exactly is it that writers hammer at in either the strong or weak character that changes them, that morphs them along an Arc?

What causes people to change in real life?  What causes people to start to behave differently, and seem "out of character" for a while, until friends and family get used to the new person? 

What changes in life that re-formulates a person's behavior? 

I submit that the easiest attribute of a Character for a writer to depict as Arcing, or changing in a way that readers can see as realistic, is the ability to Love.

That is the "wall" that Events hammer at to Arc a character.

It is the ability to establish and maintain Relationships that distinguishes the Happy person from the miserable person.  We draw our strength of character from our "stance" among our people, our family, our co-workers, our buddies, our spouse, our children, our distant relatives, and just friends made via organizations.

How many times have you seen the story of the lone-gunman who shoots up a crowd and nobody expected it because "he kept to himself" and "he seemed like a nice guy" but he had no close friends (or the ones he had were likewise disconnected.)

As humans, we need to belong, to connect, to be surrounded by layers upon layers of people who know intimately, less well, distantly, and just feel general kinship with because we share a fandom, a reading taste, a craft etc.  We speak of "the Music World" and "the Golf World" -- and we say, "Welcome to my world." 

We live in "worlds" composed of layers of associates.

The entre into such a "world" is via the close, immediate, intertwined, personal Relationship.

Enemies, Adversaries, a policeman's quarry (think TV Series THE FUGITIVE), relationships can be incredibly intimate and even replace true love for a time.

Social networking has leveraged that layered-worlds structure of human life into a profitable business where you are their product which they sell to advertisers.

We are creatures of Relationship, embedded in a physical world composed of intricate layers of interlaced relationships.  Think of the way genetics has evolved -- almost all life on Earth shares basic building block genes.  (almost since there are non-carbon single-cell life near hot vents in the bottom of the ocean) 

Most all life on Earth is genetically related, which is why we can use animals to test new drugs and why we shudder at the mere thought of doing that!  We are all of one piece.

But we don't see that, at least not at the surface of our awareness.  We don't see into another person's emotional life, the internal structure of another person's decision making process, their most dearly held values, their unconscious assumptions about what is right and what is wrong.

That realm of the unconsciously held Value System is where the writer works.

Writers probe, explore, learn, and map their own unconscious minds, especially the Value System they imbibed with Mother's Milk.  We acquire our first values from our parents, but as life goes on, we acquire more layers of values around those.

Sometimes the later value acquisitions logically contradict earlier ones, but we hold onto all of them as our OWN -- we identify with the wild and incompatible mix of values we have created and call it our Identity.

Thus when a person's Values are attacked by another person (who may or may not have different values), it feels like a threat to LIFE ITSELF.  It feels like a threat to existence.  People will tolerate starvation or being shot at by hostiles better than they will having their unconscious Values contradicted.

Yes, mere words can trigger a counter-attack as if life and existence were at stake.

Politics and Religion are two topics that are rooted in that first learned, unconscious value system that most likely has been overlaid by Values acquired in college, which have been overlaid by Values acquired on the job. 

That's why they are explosive topics for family gatherings (and wondrous sources of Conflict that can advance a Plot). 

Today, in our modern world, Politics and Religion are mixing at depths not seen since the Middle Ages when The Church basically ran the Governments of Europe.

The Crusades were a show-don't-tell manifestation of the mixing of Politics (Kings) with Religion (The Cross). 

Today, the explosive mix is Science vs. Religion.  What sane person could possibly reject Evolution or want to teach Creationism in schools?  See?  "sane" -- "If you don't share my Values, you are not a Person." 

In other words, we tend to work on the assumption that the only people whose opinions count are the people who share our Values.

But nobody shares anyone's Values.  As described above, each individual person accumulates layers upon layers of different values and morphs the disparate mess into some kind of ball of wax which they use as their Identity. 

Each of us is unique -- but we want to associate only with those who are identical to us, at least in our intimate relationships. 

As noted in Part 1, look closely at the TV Series SUITS.  Suits works via the way the senior (Harvey Specter) sees himself in the junior (Mike Ross).  When Mike doesn't do what Harvey would do, Harvey is uncomfortable and acts out.

Now back to the Romance Novel, which is what this blog is all about. 

Consider the various ideas of what Love is. 

You will find Romance depicted as about co-dependence, as about feelings only, as about bodily functions only, as about paying attention only to me.  And all of these variations are real, and all matter, and all of them are necessary ingredients in Romance.

It is very true that you can have amazing Romance without a trace of Love at all.

"Love" (with a capital L) is a spiritual thing that transcends our innate insanities.  Love with a capital L is an experience of the Soul that changes the Soul -- i.e. that causes Character to Arc.

Real change happens when channels of the Personality open to Love.

That happens under different circumstances for different people at different times of Life.  Sometimes it is religious conversion, sometimes encountering a senior mentor, sometimes the birth of your first child, sometimes it is finding your Soul Mate.

People (and Characters) change not by becoming someone else, not by losing or gaining abilities or Talents, but by re-arranging their characteristics.

Thus a Character Arc Event causes an aggressive person who is likely to solve any problem by putting out a Hit on the opposition into someone who behaves more like Harvey Specter in SUITS and leverages the other person's emotional weaknesses.

The Aggression is still there, but the channel is different.

An alcoholic might morph into someone who eats or smokes too much, but holds a job and is kind to his kids.

All the traits remain, but the emphasis and utilization changes. 

Why does that happen? 

One of the key ingredients that forms our crazy-quilt pattern of Values is our Relationships.  There is a well studied trait of human perception (see the TV Series Perception) that causes us to see ourselves in others.

When you hate someone, when someone just plain drives you crazy, and you go around with an inner dialogue counting their failings and what they should do about it, then very likely (not always, but most of the time) you are seeing yourself in that person.

Other people are the mirror in which we see our own reflection.

But like with a mirror, you see a reversal of the image, and you can see what is behind you (e.g. in your subconscious).  You see deeper into yourself, into the dark underside of yourself, because the other person is so very different from you.

You see their faults, and their faults are visible because they are different.

Writers leverage that common human perception by creating Characters who are so very different from the reader that the reader is barely aware of the similarity.  When it strikes the reader just right, that difference allows the reader to identify with the character and walk in their moccasins. 

So people react emotionally to other people according to how they love or hate themselves.  But as noted above, Identity is a pearl composed of layers of contradiction accreted around a sharp-grain of pain that caused the acquisition of a Value.

That pain might be a parental smack, a deprivation from a toy, a forced-sharing with a sibling, and rewards of kindness, love, joy, celebration. 

Right and Wrong and what is more important than what (i.e. Values) are absorbed from parents via what the parents do, not what the parents say -- so Values are non-verbal and conveyed with a Sharp Pain that forces the pain to be wrapped by a Value that will henceforth prevent that Pain. 

So when we see someone who is Wrong -- we react to that wrongness.  How we react, what we do about Wrong People, is influenced by our ability to Love our own Self -- to admire our pearls that encase our Pain and create Values.

If we Love ourselves because we know how we have just barely managed to cope with our Pain, we are able to see others struggling (and sometimes failing) to cope with their Pain.  We know that sometimes a Pain does not get encased in a Pearl of Values - a lesson is not (yet) learned and successfully applied to life.

Lessons can be rejected, maybe never learned, because of some other Belief that is in the way, that contradicts or conflicts and thus causes Truth to be rejected. 

People who do not (yet) love themselves, see nothing but their own reflection in the mirrors of the people around them, and thus are in effect isolated, alone, unloved, and frustrated.  Such people may compensate by narcissism, which others interpret as self-love. 

How does a writer depict people caught in a House of Mirrors life where all they can see in those around them are hateful traits? 

Dialogue is the answer.  How a Character speaks, what opinions so desperately need airing, what opinions (and the vocabulary to express them) burst out with loud urgency, and to whom those opinions are expressed (with what collateral damage), depicts the Character's inner conflict, inner story, and subconscious Values.

A Character's emotional life is revealed in Dialogue. 

Here is an example to study, from a piece of non-fiction analyzing our current real world situation.

The author is

-------quote from opening line----------
As the GOP sabotage and sedition continues, the US appears to be going the way of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth (P-LC) rather than the way of the Roman Empire.

If you know your history, this is not an insult; but, rather, a tragedy in progress. The P-LC was a powerful and progressive state during the early Reformation era, reaching its Golden Age in about 1575.

--------end quote------------

Note the sidling up to the chosen audience by characterizing an entire group of people "the GOP" as if they are all identical to one another.  This is a valid representation of what a person who lives a House of Mirrors existence actually sees in those around them -- no difference one to another, because they are all reflections of him/herself. 

The opening sentence here is brilliant in that it instantly and efficiently says, "Listen to me because I'm just like you." 

The rest of the historical thesis in this article is a brilliant analysis, considering the point of view. 

Take a Character who shares this writers contempt and disdain for those who see things differently and create some Events that would shatter his certainty that his view is the only laudable view.

It doesn't matter what views your Character holds, or opposes.  The writing exercise is to Depict a Conflict of Values and its Resolution. 

It will work better as a Novel if you choose some vast conflict of World Shattering importance that is utterly unrelated to the headlines of today.  Just lift out of this article the attitude of this writer -- not the content.

Your task is to create a Character who views Others with such contempt, then discovers that what he hates in them is actually inside himself, that he never perceived them at all.  As he comes to resolve his inner conflict, he begins the journey to being able to Love himself.

Where does that lead?  It will lead him to his Happily Ever After, but not in one or even a thousand steps.  Along the way, he will discover how those he held in contempt are actually struggling as he was.  He will find Love for them, and his way of speaking of them will change (his Character will Arc).

The changed attitude will not change the facts of the Situation, but it will open vistas of opportunity for different sorts of actions to change the facts.  (yes, it's a series of novels)

Once your Character understands how lovable his opposition is, even though they are flat out wrong, his actions will begin to be instructive rather than destructive, and solutions will appear that were never visible before.

The key to Character Arc is the introduction of Love which penetrates the Mirror Effect so that one Character can actually perceive what is inside another Character.  Thus begins all Relationship.

So every novel needs a love story, even if there is no Romance.  And every Romance, to create a realistic Happily Ever After needs a Love story -- the story of learning to Love yourself so that you can see through the mirror-surface and into the people around you.

That Love Story gives the fictional world the necessary verisimilitude to draw a reader into the Fantasy world.

Here are more posts on Alien Romance discussing verisimilitude, story arc, and Romance.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Authors Guild Suggests 50/50 Is Fair To Authors

What is fair recompense for authors when an ebook is sold through a publisher? Should an author's royalties be reduced when a retailer demands that the publisher allows the retailer to cut prices?

Authors' Guild writes:

We announced our Fair Contract Initiative earlier this summer. Now our first detailed analysis tackles today’s inadequate e-book royalties. At the heart of our concern with the unfair industry-standard e-book royalty rate is its failure to treat authors as full partners in the publishing enterprise. This will be a resounding theme in our initiative; it’s what’s wrong with many of the one-sided “standard” clauses we’ll be examining in future installments.

Traditionally, the author-publisher partnership was an equal one. Authors earned around 50% of their books’ profits. That equal split is reflected in the traditional hardcover royalty of 15% of list (cover price, that is, not the much lower wholesale price), and in the 50-50 split of publishers’ earnings from selling paperback, book club, or reprint rights. Authors generally received an even larger share than the publisher for non-print rights (such as stage and screen rights) and foreign rights.
But today’s standard contracts give authors just 25% of the publisher’s “net receipts” (more or less what the publisher collects from a book sale) for e-book royalties. That doesn’t look like a partnership to us.
We maintain that a 50-50 split in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture. The author writes the book, and by any fair measure the author’s efforts represent most of the labor invested and most of the resulting value. The publisher, like a venture capitalist, invests in the author’s work by paying an advance so the author can make ends meet while the book gets finished. Generally, the publisher also provides editing, marketing, packaging, and distribution services. In return for fronting the financial risk and providing these services, the publisher gets to share in the book’s profits. Not a bad deal. This worked well enough throughout much of the twentieth century: publishers prospered and authors had a decent shot at earning a living.How the e-book rate evolvedFrom the mid-1990s, when e-book provisions regularly began appearing in contracts, until around 2004, e-royalties varied wildly. Many of the e-rates at major publishing houses were shockingly low—less than 10% of net receipts—and some were at 50%. Some standard contracts left them open to negotiation. As the years passed, and especially between 2000 and 2004, many publishers paid authors 50% of their net receipts from e-book sales, in keeping with the idea that authors and publishers were equal partners in the book business.
In 2004, we saw a hint of things to come. Random House, which had previously paid 50% of its revenues for e-book sales, anticipated the coming boom in e-book sales and cut its e-rates significantly. Other publishers followed, and gradually e-royalties began to coalesce around 25%. By 2010 it was clear that publishers had successfully tipped the scales on the longstanding partnership between author and publisher to achieve a 75-25 balance in their favor.    The lowball e-royalty was inequitable, but initially it didn’t have much effect on authors’ bottom lines. As late as 2009, e-books accounted for a paltry 3–5% of book sales. Authors and agents ought to have pushed back, but with e-book sales so low it didn’t make much sense to risk the chance of any individual book deal falling apart over e-royalties. We called the 25% rate a “low-water mark.” We said, “Once the digital market gets large enough, authors with strong sales records won’t put up with this: they’ll go where they’ll once again be paid as full partners in the exploitation of their creative work.” 
E-books now represent 25–30% of all adult trade book sales, but for the vast majority of authors the rate remains unchanged. If anything, publishers have dug in their heels. Why? There’s a contractual roadblock, for one: major book publishers have agreed to include “most favored nation” clauses in thousands of existing contracts. These clauses require automatic adjustment or renegotiation of e-book royalties if the publisher changes its standard royalty rate, giving publishers a strong incentive to maintain the status quo. And the increasing consolidation of the book industry has drastically reduced competition among publishers, allowing them more than ever to hand authors “take it or leave it” deals in the expectation that the author won’t find a better offer.
The elephant in the roomAnd then there’s the elephant in the room: Amazon, which has used its e-book dominance to demand steep discounts from publishers and drive down the price of frontlist e-books, even selling them at a loss. As a result, there’s simply not as much e-book revenue to split as there was in 2011when we reported on the e-book royalty math. At that time, publishers made a killing on frontlist e-book sales as compared to frontlist hardcover sales—at the author’s expense—because, as compared to today, the price of e-books was relatively high. 
When we analyzed e-royalties for three books in the 2011 post, “E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins,” we found that every time an e-book was sold in place of a hardcover, the author’s take decreased substantially, while the publisher’s take increased. Since 2011, we have found that publishers’ e-gains have diminished. But the author’s share has fallen even farther. Amazon has squeezed the publishers, to be sure. The publishers have helped recoup their losses by passing them on to their authors.
These were our calculations for several books in 2011. The trend was obvious. Compared with hardcovers, each e-book sold brought big gains to the publisher and sizable losses to the author when the author’s royalties are compared to the publisher’s gross profit (income per copy minus expenses per copy), calculated using industry-standard contract terms:
Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2011The Help, by Kathryn StockettAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $2.28 e-book.Author’s E-Loss = -39%Publisher’s Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $6.32 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain = +33%
Hell’s Corner, by David BaldacciAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $2.63 e-book.Author’s E-Loss = -37%Publisher’s Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $7.37 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain = +27%
Unbroken, by Laura HillenbrandAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $3.38 e-book.Author’s E-Loss = -17%Publisher’s Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $9.62 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain = +77%
What’s happening now? We ran the numbers again using the following recent bestsellers. Because of lower e-book prices, the publishers don’t do as well as they used to, though they still come out ahead when consumers choose e-books over hardcovers. But authors fare worse than ever:
Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2015All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony DoerAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $4.04 hardcover; $2.09 e-book.Author’s E-Loss= -48%Publisher’s Margin: $5.44 hardcover; $5.80 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain: +7%Being Mortal, by Atul GawandeAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $3.90 hardcover; $1.92 e-book.Author’s E-Loss= -51%Publisher’s Margin: $5.10 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne TylerAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $3.89; $1.92 e-book.Author’s E-Loss: -51%Publisher’s Margin: $5.09 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%[1]
Exceptions to the ruleIt’s time for a change. If the publishers won’t correct this imbalance on their own, it will take a critical mass of authors and agents willing to fight for a fair 50% e-book royalty. We hope that established authors and, particularly, bestselling authors will start to push back and stand up to publishers on the royalty rate—on behalf of all authors, as well as themselves.There have been cracks in some publishers’ fa├žades. Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret. We’ve also heard of authors with strong sales histories negotiating 50-50 royalty splits in exchange for foregoing an advance or getting a lower advance; or where the 50% rate kicks in only after a certain threshold level of sales. For instance, a major romance publishing house has offered 50% royalties, but only after the first 10,000 electronic copies—a high bar to clear in the current digital climate. But overall, publishers’ apparent inflexibility on their standard e-book royalty demonstrates their unwillingness to change it.We know and respect the fact that publishers—especially in this era of media consolidation—need to meet their bottom lines. But if professional authors are going to continue to produce the sort of work publishing houses are willing to stake their reputations on, those authors need a fair share of the profits from their art and labor. In a time when electronic books provide an increasing share of revenues at significantly lower production and distribution costs, publishers’ e-book royalty practices need to change.

[1] In calculating these numbers and percentages for hardcover editions, we made the following assumptions: (1) the publisher sells at an average 50% discount to the wholesaler or retailer, (2) the royalty rate is 15% of list price (as it is for most hardcover books, after 10,000 units are sold), (3) the average marginal cost to manufacture the book and get it to the store is $3, and (4) the return rate is 25% (a handy number—if one of four books produced is returned, then the $3 marginal cost of producing the book is spread over three other books, giving us a return cost of $1 per book). We also rounded up retail list price a few pennies to give us easy figures to work with.Likewise, in calculating these numbers and percentages for the 2015 set of e-books, we are assuming that under the agency model—which is reportedly the new standard in the Big Five’s agreements with Amazon—the online bookseller pays 70% of the retail list price of the e-book to the publisher. The bookseller, acting as the publisher’s agent, sells the e-book at the price established by the publisher. The unit costs to the publisher are simply the author’s royalty and the encryption and transmission fees, for which we deduct a generous 50 cents per unit.    

I wonder why Amazon's rates are taken as 'Settled" when it comes to ebook prices, but their royalty split with self published authors.... is not?

Not seriously.

Rowena Cherry

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Congress, Close Those Pirate-Friendly Loopholes, Please!

For the benefit of authors and interested readers of this blog who are not members of Authors' Guild, I am sharing recent news from the Guild.
Dear Member, 
This week, we sent a letter to Congress asking for help in fighting piracy, which affects us all. Authors care about e-book piracy. We hear this increasingly from our members. From 2009 to 2013, the number of Internet piracy alerts we received increased over 300%. In the next year alone, from 2013 to 2014, it doubled. 
There is a direct connection between e-book piracy and authors’ pocketbooks. The publishing industry as a whole loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually, according to the Association of American Publishers. Many publishers have the resources to adjust their business models to absorb piracy-related losses, but individual authors don’t. Each time a standard frontlist e-book is pirated rather than purchased through a normal retail channel, its author forgoes what would have been nearly $2 in royalties. This adds up and make a real dent in the typical author’s earnings. (According to our recent survey, median writing-related income for full-time authors in 2014 was only $17,500.) 
Despite many publishers’ implementation of anti-piracy software and technological protection measures, the problem continues to grow. According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the effectiveness of protection measures is limited by “business models built entirely around manufacturing and distributing technologies, software, devices, components, or tools, or around providing services, to gain unlawful access to the content or to copy it without authorization.” 
So we’re asking Congress to do something about it. This letter, addressed to the House Judiciary Committee (which is spearheading a review of U.S. copyright law), reminds members of Congress that Internet piracy directly harms authors’ ability to make a living. It asks them to consider key changes to the U.S. Copyright Act to give authors a productive remedy for online infringement—not the ineffective, Sisyphean system currently in place, known as “Notice and Takedown.” 
Court decisions have construed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Notice and Takedown provisions to mean that a copyright owner is required to send a notice for each separate instance (i.e., copy) of infringement, specifying the URL. But as soon as a pirated copy is taken down, it is usually put right back up. Needless to say, copyright owners cannot keep up with this senseless game, and individual authors do not begin to have the resources to send a new notice every time a pirated copy is posted or reposted. 
We are asking for a “Notice and Stay-Down” regime: once a webhost knows a work is being infringed, it should not continue to receive “safe harbor” immunity from claims of infringement unless it takes reasonable measures to remove all infringing copies of the same work. 
You can help supplement our efforts to create more awareness among members of Congress by contacting your Representative to express your support for this change. Feel free to pass along our letter or write your own. And, as always, if you’ve been a victim of Internet piracy, let us know at
Full link to the letter: 

Do read the letter. It calls out Google Play and the pirated works posted there. I've seen illegal ebook versions of my works posted on other sites with false release dates and false publisher information. 

Like this: (But, I wouldn't visit lacumbre if I were you!)

Publication date
28th August 2014
326 pages

  • I've never had a contract with Transworld and the book is not a "Thriller". It was released as a paperback, and only as a paperback by Dorchester Publishing's "LoveSpell" imprint.

    More anon.

    Rowena Cherry