Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Value of Curiosity

Astrophysicist Mario Livio has recently published a book titled WHY? WHAT MAKES US CURIOUS. He maintains that curiosity is "the most human characteristic":

Why We're Curious

Livio identifies two types of curiosity, which differ in their observed effect on the brain. Encountering something "novel or bizarre" can activate the part of the brain associated with conflict. By driving us to investigate the strange thing, thereby relieving the mental conflict, "curiosity might be our way of reducing unpleasant feelings." The other category springs from being "motivated by the love of knowledge for its own sake." In that case, the satisfaction of curiosity activates the brain's reward center. Of course, what we know about evolution suggests that we wouldn't have developed a love for knowledge unless learning new things gave us an advantage.

Some interesting points brought out in the interview with Livio: How can curiosity be a "defining characteristic" of humanity, when many animals are curious, too? What about "Curiosity killed the cat"? He says animals aren't curious about the "how" or "why." He cites an experiment contrasting the responses of chimps and human four-year-olds to an odd phenomenon. Also: Curiosity is at least partly genetic (studies suggest about 50 percent inherited). Curiosity in the sense of "novelty-seeking" declines with age (after all, so much of the world is new to children, so they have to question almost everything), but the "thirst for knowledge" can be a lifelong pursuit. Curiosity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for creativity (to create, you also need "drive and persistence and talent").

Most memorable line: "Curiosity is the best remedy for fear."

If it's one of the most important traits making us human—setting us apart from other animals—could we use the presence of curious behavior in an alien species to determine that they are sapient? Would we ever expect to meet intelligent aliens who aren't curious? That seems unlikely, because the drive to investigate and learn about the environment should be a necessary survival feature for an intelligent being.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Reviews 34 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg The Imposters of Aventil by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Reviews 34
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The Imposters of Aventil
Marshall Ryan Maresca 

My Reviews posts have not yet been indexed, and I do discuss many novels in the context of various other skills they illustrate, not just in posts titled Reviews #X.

I discuss novels that writers in the mixed genre realm, especially Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance -- well, yes, any version or subdivision of fantasy-romance -- should pay attention to.

Today I want to point you, once again, to the novels of Marshall Ryan Maresca.

I encountered him on Twitter, and friended him on Facebook

So far, I think I've read all the novels under his byline, Marshall Ryan Maresca.

We have discussed his work previously:

He's doing Series that is growing fast -- different series, with different characters, set in the same Fantasy-style world, in a large sprawling urban area surrounding a navigable river.

1) Maradaine
The Thorn of Denton Hill
The Alchemy of Chaos
The Imposters of Aventil
2)Maradaine Constabulary
A Murder of Mages
An Import of Intrigue

3) Streets of Maradaine
The Holver Alley Crew
Lady Henterman's Wardrobe

And many more coming.  See here:

The setting is plausible, and he gives dates on their calendar of 1100 or so -- but the technology and sociology is not our European-Earth's 1100's.

Like Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series, he uses the idea that Magic is real, and well known, with only certain people able to do it at commercial levels.  He sets a University of both Magic and Mundane Science in the midst of the urban construct.

All of that is fairly standard, including the Urban Gang social structure -- some of them decent people, some real rejects.

The outstanding signature of this body of work is not the background, the magic or the lurking technology of Magic (objects that store magical power), but the Characters and their complex Relationships.

It is a human society with a wild variety of different looking people from far away -- you can easily imagine some of them aren't actually totally human.  The social and political structures are widely variant -- but commerce, trade, economics, create "strange bedfellows" and opportunities for the "rejects" of society to make a mark.

There are gangs, gang bosses, and a command structure hierarchy.  And there's a government (with police) who consider themselves the legitimate rulers.  The rulers hold wars, pretty much as usual with wars.  The Gangs seem more interested in just surviving or in organizing for profit.

The main plot spanning most of the novels is about Characters outside the social power structures who have been wronged by those in power, and who seek justice, one way or another.

The focus on the Characters' drive and ambition is not revenge, but justice -- what they deep justice to be.

The Imposters of Aventil is full of magic, the toll doing magic takes on Characters, and the street-fight against drug-runners.

But it is also full of Relationship driven decision making - and there is a good bit of Romance among those Relationships.  It is not pure sexuality or lust but the grand intrigue of learning to know the real person behind the facade of body, and the bonding of souls via treasuring the other's unique qualities.

These are Strong Characters -- a topic we will have to revisit after you've had a chance to catch up with this 3-series-in-one-world work of art.

The themes are about Power - and the use and abuse of Power.  The Characters are well drawn, complex, and driven by their own agendas.  The reader is invited to take sides, to root for the Couples to cement their Relationships, and for the town (or neighborhood) to solidify into a safe place to raise children.

The world Maresca has built is ripe for transformation, for being conquered by Love and morphed into a family friendly place.

I keep reading these series, in spite of the shifting point of view that I do not like, because this fantasy world has verisimilitude.  The people create themselves the same problems we have created, and a few set about solving those problems pretty much as we would tackle ours.

Maradaine is real.

If you want to write novels that convince the reader (however temporarily ) that the Happily Ever After ending is possible in real life, study what Maresca has done here and watch what he does next.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trademarks Plunge Into Murky Waters

Trademarks are intended to be a "source identifier". They are not intended to be a restraint on anyone's vocabulary.

Imagine a science fiction world where certain words or phrases could be used only by certain individuals, and anyone who used a "marked" dictionary word could be punished severely. In my alien Djinn romance worlds, I did this with a clothing color.... but I digress.

There's an interesting (potentially game changing) trademark case "District Court In California Recognizes Plausible Trademark Rights Over Fictional Star Wars Board Game."

This ongoing case is about the presumably made up name of a fictional card game within the Star Wars franchise, that has been mentioned in the scripts, but allegedly has never been trademarked and turned into real world merchandise by Lucasfilms Ltd.

For Hogan Lovells, legal bloggers  Julia Anne Matheson and Gabriel Guerra Medellin offer analysis of the complexities and difficulties of claiming rights over a word, based on its inclusion in the scripts/books, and the game's importance to Han Solo's career.

Suppose that instead of calling the game Sabacc, Lucas had called it CockyPoker.

Another trademark battle has been fought and won/lost concerning whether or not the casual observer can distinguish the silhouette of a taurophon from a griffin (or griffon).

In "General Court Considers Likelihood Of Confusion Between Mythical Creatures", a European court (apparently not fans of the Harry Potter world... or of Vauxhall Motors which has a rampant griffin for its symbol) fret over how well known a griffin (or griffon) might be.

Apparently, the intellectual elites believe that the undiscerning population could be disastrously confused by even a low level of similarity, and so, a taurophon may not squat in silhouette with its tail raised.

Legal blogger Karen Dorsey for Taylor Wessing explains the Court's remarkable thinking.

For those interested in seeing if anyone is trying to trademark words in your book titles, follow cockybot.

Victoria Strauss shares trademark attorney Brad Frazer's comments on how far you can go when trademarking words to perform a source identification function.

It's invaluable advice for single title writing authors.

Also helpful, from early 2017, Melissa Thompson wrote for "5 Trademark Cases And What You Should Learn From Them".

Who knew that one has to be careful when describing a hero as the short form of "superlative"... at least as a source identifier.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry


Saturday, May 26, 2018

AI Trove... PS

Since I wrote about AI last week, there was the "Alexa-misunderstanding-a-conversation-as-commands" issue, and there is an advert about starting a car with a voice command.

For the latter, I immediately started plotting a futuristic murder suspense work of fiction, involving tape recorded voice commands that would start a lethal train of events...

On Facebook, I notice that it is still impossible to prevent a tagger wishing one "happy birthday"... although the information can be hidden from one's timeline, it can still show up beyond the reluctant birthday celebrant's control.

I also notice that and still disregard "Do Not Track" requests from persons who are not logged in to Facebook, and have not visited Facebook.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 24, 2018

YA Genre Fiction

Michael Cart, author of YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE: FROM ROMANCE TO REALISM, had an article on this past Sunday's editorial page of the Baltimore SUN proclaiming that YA literature is an American invention. The essay summarizes the highlights of the history of twentieth-century fiction for teens and the emergence of novels written specifically for them as a distinct marketing category:

YA Literature

Since this author is clearly an expert in the field, and the Amazon blurb for his book's third edition mentions that it covers horror, SF, and dystopian novels, it strikes me as particularly puzzling and annoying that he dismisses all fiction for teenagers before the late 1960s with remarks such as these:

Quoting S. E. Hinton, author of the classic THE OUTSIDERS: "The world is changing, yet the authors of books for teenagers are still 15 years behind the times. In the fiction they write, romance is still the most popular theme with a horse and the girl who loved it coming in a close second."

And Cart's own summary of the pre-1960s literary landscape: "Before these two novels [THE OUTSIDERS and Robert Lipsyte's THE CONTENDER], literature for 12 to 18 year olds was about as realistic as a Norman Rockwell painting — almost universally set in small-town, white America and featuring teenagers whose biggest problem was finding a date for the senior prom." Cart praises novels such as THE OUTSIDERS, THE CONTENDER, and those that followed them as "hard-hitting, truth-telling fiction" that "embraced real world considerations like abortion and homosexuality." Not that there's anything wrong with that. Doubtless nobody denies that novels reflecting life as experienced by their target audience and grappling with contemporary problems are a Good Thing. But not all children and teenagers want to read about characters like themselves who face problems similar to the ones they have to cope with every day, nor should they be obligated to. (See the topic of "escape," discussed here recently.)

Can Cart possibly be unaware of the early "juveniles" by Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein, in which young adults venture out into the world (in their cases, the universe), take on jobs of real importance, and accomplish meaningful contributions to their societies? Does he think for some reason that these books don't count in the history of teen literature? This ignoring or dismissal of an entire genre reminds me of an article I once saw lamenting the death of the short story. So, for that author, the short story was dying or dead? He or she had never read ANALOG, ASIMOV'S, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, CEMETERY DANCE, or WEIRD TALES (to name a few genre magazines flourishing at that time, before online publications)? Had never suspected the existence of the many original short-fiction anthologies published annually in fantasy, horror, and SF? That mourner of the short story's death looked for thriving markets in the wrong places. Likewise, judging from that one editorial article, Michael Cart is looking for pre-1960s YA fiction more "realistic" than "a Norman Rockwell painting" (not that there's always necessarily anything "unrealistic" about that, either; some of us DID live in lily-white suburbs in the 1950s and 60s) in the wrong place.

For a more comprehensive viewpoint: Speculative fiction scholar Farah Mendlesohn has published two books about the history of fantasy and SF for children and adolescents, THE INTER-GALACTIC PLAYGROUND and CHILDREN'S FANTASY LITERATURE: AN INTRODUCTION. Both are great reads, lively and informative. Although THE INTER-GALACTIC PLAYGROUND unfortunately has no reasonably priced edition (by my frugal standards; I read a library copy some time ago), the book on fantasy is affordable and well worth delving into.

On a completely different subject, have you been watching the PBS series NOVA WONDERS on Wednesdays? They've covered topics such as the microbiome inside us, AI, creating life, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Check it out if you can.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blurb Writing 101 - Part 2 - The Query Letter

Blurb Writing 101
Part 2
The Query Letter
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Part 1 of Blurb Writing 101 is posted here:

The "blurb" is the text on the front page or back cover (or for a hardcover, the text on the inside flap of the dust jacket). 

It is a "pitch" but not to the gatekeeper editor, rather directly to the reader.  Usually, the blurb is written either by the editor or the marketing department, very possibly from your query letter. 

The blurb is an ultimate, short description of the book which should cue a reader about whether they have read this book before, or read another in this series.  It should tickle the reader's imagination with the THEME -- which as noted in recent posts here, is a key delineator of Genre.

Writing blurbs, pitches, elevator pitches, summaries, plot summaries, is a chore creative writers dread because it needs a total change of point-of-view.

As the "writer" (the one who imagines and crafts the telling of a story with depths, shades, nuances, rounded Characters, poetic justice) you know the reason you want to write this particular story is the reason the readers you are seeking to engage will enjoy reading it.

None of what you know is relevant to WHY a book-buyer buys a book.

And most marketers don't know and don't care why book buyers buy books.

All a marketer needs to know to succeed in turning a profit on a product is what other packaging sold recently.  That is closely guarded, proprietary information, even in publishing -- and film, TV, etc -- unless you hit the big time and earn bragging rights.

Marketers operate on the assumption that selling books is something they can do on purpose. 

Readers operate on the assumption that what is before their eyes to choose from is all there is.  Or at least, it is all there is time to consider -- people are too busy to seek out their entertainment.  In fact, if you have to work to find an entertaining piece, chances are you'll be too tired to enjoy it.

In other words, writers work in the invisible depths of Theme, Marketers work in the land of the bewildered, and Readers work in the surface image of what is available.

Fiction marketing (and music) is one place this changing world is most visible.

The way physical objects were marketed through "book stores" (B&N bricks-n-mortar outlets, retail like B. Daltons) is almost gone.

Retail is the link in the chain between wholesaler and individual purchaser.

Think of Retail as the guy driving a horse-and-wagon loaded with needles, thread, material, pots, pans, and other things a farm couldn't produce for themselves.  He is a trader. 

Retail is still based on this model.  The Retailer (Wal-Mart, Costco) picks out a tiny percentage of what is being produced, transports it, and offers it to individuals to buy.

Amazon broke that entire business model.  The breaking-point is the process of CHOOSING A TINY PERCENT to present to individuals in a given location.

Amazon carries everything.  Amazon (didn't used to) is not narrowing your choices.  After developing their warehousing and fulfillment process, Amazon turned to the old retail model of getting publishers and producers to PAY FOR AD SPACE on the "top page" presented to certain individuals.

So Amazon was able to break the "retailer selects only certain items for buyer to choose among" model, but not get rid of advertising.  Amazon needed the profit.

This disappointed me.  But now, though the Big Advertisers still shove the little guy out of the way, Amazon is helping readers (and buyers of other things) to find products that are not being advertised. 

In my experience, products with no advertising muscle behind them are of a much higher quality than products with huge advertising.  In fact, it is proportional to some extent -- the more advertising, the lower the quality. 

The exception is of course the "self-published" level.  But that, too is changing in this world.  Self-Publishers quickly learned the value of Beta-Readers (editors) and copyeditors.  Readers notice errors the original writer just can't see until they are pointed out.

But self-publishing (or small e-book publishing operations) still need to reach individual buyers.  And once reached, cultivate repeat business.  Just like any business model.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Just as Amazon was forced to adopt the underhanded and dishonest advertising tricks developed over centuries of marketing, so too the Indie Publisher or self-publisher must somehow "advertise."

There are new tools for that, and some of these tools are beginning to reshape book marketing.  As that happens, the inventors of these tools sell their little business to big businesses (like Amazon.)  Amazon bought Goodreads and Audible, and is still buying startups as they challenge the business model. 

The email Newsletter, discounts and free-first-in-a-series are two well used tools being perfected.

Here is one popular newsletter, Book Bub,
that started small, just showing you a small selection of free or 99cent titles each day -- and now has an elaborate website, divisions into categories you can subscribe to, and has become very choosy about what books they promote and in which order. 

Read and explore ALL THE LINKS at the bottom of that page.  Note the section, PUBLISHERS & AUTHORS.  Note the business model you can see reading those linked sections.  It's all about old fashioned marketing morphing into this changing world where individual customers have more choices -- too many choices.  Customers don't like "too many" choices. 

Indie writers now discuss "how to" get listed on book bub's daily newsletter, strategies for reaching the BookBub featured lists, and so on.  They are eager to "score" with Book Bub because sales spike when they do.  Even some of the Manhattan Big Three Publishers pitch in Book Bub's newsletter because it works.

But it only works if the blurb next to your cover, title and byline connects to a reader's imagination.  And writing that pitch, that blurb, is the Indie writer's job.

Book Bub only limits the size of the blurb.

So here's how to learn how to WRITE such a blurb.  Subscribe to their (free) email Newsletter, and read the blurbs every day.  Read the blurbs in your genre.  Notice which are written by Manhattan publishers. 

Two things to learn from this exercise. 

How to construct a blurb to place your novel into a genre that can be sold to an existing readership.

How cross-eyed bored editors (publishers, film producers) get reading pages and pages of blurbs.  There's no depth in them.  The really interesting stuff doesn't show.  Why bother?

Once you've written your blurb to be just like all the rest (which is necessary to sell at all) -- then you have to add or subtract (or both) something to distinguish yours from all the others. 

It is the old Hollywood plea -- "The same; but different!" 

Your product has to "match" the market shape, but have a unique color.  Or have the same color with a unique shape.

So here is the exercise: 

Identify an idea you have for a novel.

Read a lot of these newsletters.  Study the blurbs.  Study the one that stands out to you.  Get that book.  Read the book.  Match the book to the blurb (does it deliver what you thought the blurb promised?).  How do you feel about the author after reading the blurb then the book?  Find an author whose blurb/book match pleases you.  Figure out what bit of that match tickles you pink.

Do this with a lot of books pitched by blurbs -- maybe explore the series started with the pitched book.

Before you set out to write your novel, write your blurb. 

Reduce your story idea to a concise, interesting, the same but different, blurb.

Do this repeatedly (without writing the novel) to train your subconscious to produce ideas for novel projects that are pre-configured for your target genre, with theme/blurb relationship. 

Write the pitch FIRST.  Then do a 1 page summary.  Then an outline with scenes and chapters.  THEN write the novel.  This way you have written your query letter before you suffer the bewilderment of how to explain your fleshed out novel.  The pitch, summary and outline are your query letter -- but your novel must deliver on them, and they must be understandable to your readership at first sight.  The editor reads your query letter as much to discover if you know how to write as to figure out whether this novel fits the "line" or imprint she is editing for.

This post has a list of previous 6 posts on the editor's job and how a writer can use that knowledge to sell to an editor.  The trick is to change your point of view from the writer to the editor.

You will find many hugely successful writers who will explain they do not do it this way.  Dig a little, and you find most of them do all this pre-configuring non-verbally in the subconscious.  Some people learn it early and don't know they do it this way -- others train to do it later in life.  This is the interface between creating a story and conveying that story to the readers who will love it most.

Take a Best Selling novel in the genre you want to sell into, analyze it chapter by chapter, extracting the structure scene by scene, chapter by chapter.  Extract the skeleton of the novel, then use that skeleton to support the flesh of your novel. 

The skeleton (shape) is "the same" -- but the flesh (identity, individuality) is "different." 

Theme generates plot, and plot is the "the same" element.  Theme generates story, and the story is the "but different" element.

The Plot/Story structure can be cycled through all the genres by bringing one or another aspect of the theme to the foreground.  The "foreground" is the blurb and all the rest is commentary. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A (I) Trove Of Information

Read this and weep!

Legal blogger David L. Hayes Esq for Fenwick & West LLP has amassed a 927-page compendium of
Advanced Copyright Issues On The Internet.

It is compelling, and largely disheartening reading, which explains which copyright owners lost their copyright infringement lawsuits, and why. Also who won, and why.

For instance, Googlebots, arguably, cannot infringe copyright because a bot has no "volition", and "to state a direct copyright infringement claim, a plaintiff must allege volitional conduct on the part of the defendant."
Field v Google, Page 50.

When the little people lie to Big Tech, (for instance when "users" falsely claim that they have the right to upload copyrighted material for sharing), government safe harbors protect the lied-to Big Tech, but there appear to be inadequate penalties for the little liars, and inadequate remedies for the copyright owners.

Also on the theme of AI, legal blogger Eric J. Sinrod for the Duane Morris LLP TechLaw Blog asks ominously, "Artificial Intelligence: Are We Safe?"

Mr. Sinrod lists 10 reasons to worry about A1.

He does not mention the effect on blood pressure and emotional well being of those forced to interact with bots instead of humans. Certainly the "ultra smart" bots that respond to customers' telephone calls seem to get it wrong, more than 70% of the time in this customer's experience, and the ultra smart telemarketing bots that coyly diss their previous victims are unable to respond appropriately when asked to solve the addition of two plus two.

So smart!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Persistence of Selfhood

In her alien-invasion-plus-vampire novel THE MADNESS SEASON, C. S. Friedman creates a species called the Marra, incorporeal beings who wear material bodies "like clothes." Upon assuming a new body, a Marra constructs an identity to shape its lifetime in that persona. Being true to the present identity is vital to a Marra. For instance, the female-gendered Marra with whom the novel's protagonist becomes intimate currently lives as a healer. Yet through all the shifts of bodies and identities, each individual Marra remains the same person with continuity of memories. How can a self persist with no permanent physical form to anchor it, however? The Marra must be the SF equivalent of disembodied souls. Maybe the soul or self of a Marra is an energy network?

Of course, many religions believe in disembodied souls. The concept of reincarnation depends on the existence of a nonmaterial soul that moves from body to body through death and rebirth. As I understand it, the general belief holds that in a new life the soul doesn't remember past lives, so in what sense is it the same person? In folklore, fantasy, and horror, many tropes exist that conceive of the spirit as detachable, so to speak. Ghosts can linger on after the death of the body. In stories as different as FREAKY FRIDAY and Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep," people can trade minds between bodies by magic.

On the physical level, cells in our bodies are constantly wearing out and being replaced. Different tissues get replaced at different rates. So if we don't have the same body we had at birth, are we the same person or a different person sharing some memories with the earlier one? Accepting the second answer would have scary implications, because it could mean that someone suffering from severe dementia-related memory loss is no longer the same person despite bearing the same name. On the other hand, it's believed that neurons in the brain never get replaced, so does their existence provide continuity of selfhood?

In time-travel stories that allow two or more versions of the same person to exist in one moment of time, which is the "real" person? Both/all of them? If "selfhood" is defined by self-awareness, the status of existing in two bodies at once, each with its own separate awareness, generates a tangle of philosophical problems. Maybe selfhood follows the traveler's consciousness as it moves through his or her personal timeline; when you meet your earlier or later self, that's not a "real" self because your awareness isn't currently resident in that body. (So what does that make the earlier or later version? Some kind of zombie?) Dr. McCoy speculates in an early STAR TREK novel that the transporter doesn't literally project a person across space. Instead, the transporter destroys the individual at the origination point and creates a duplicate at the destination. Therefore, everybody who travels by transporter "dies" on the first trip, and every subsequent trip kills a version of that person and constructs a new version. Along the same lines, if you have your consciousness uploaded to a computer, and your body dies soon afterward, is the computer consciousness really yourself or only a simulation?

Some psychologists maintain that no such phenomenon as the unified self, the ego, exists. What we think of as the mind is a collection of different processes. Consciousness, according to these scientists, is an illusion the brain has created for its own convenience. The trouble with this hypothesis, in my view, is that the construction of an illusion of selfhood implies an agent to do the constructing. Therefore, we come back to a unified, controlling self.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Defining And Using Theme Part 2 - Love vs Politics by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

 Defining And Using Theme
Part 2
Love vs Politics
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 of Defining and Using Theme, listing some previous posts that are relevant to Theme, is here:

We touched on A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford in Part 1, continuing the focus from Dialogue Part 14 - Writing Inner Dialogue of Person Being Lied To.

This post is an exercise in generating usable theme statements, not advocating a particular political position.  But a theme-statement is, grammatically, an advocating of a position.  So read this with your writer's glasses on.

A Spoonful of Magic 
is mostly about liars in love, so it can be regarded as about lies and when it is OK to use them.  Think about today's politics and the first element that leaps out at you is Fake News.  Thus family politics is a related subject.

Theme is a very slippery element in Art, generally, but fiction writing in particular.  As in music, "theme" usually means some snippet that is repeated at specific and identifiable points throughout the piece.

Themes recur in real history, as we discussed in the context of the cycle of Generations based on the signs Pluto (profound change) occupies during each 20 years.  Some themes surface only once or twice in thousands of years, and are predicted by some prophetic writing.

Here is a video about the spooky similarity between the story of Purim and the story of Hitler, using a mystical explanation, illustrating how the motif of "recurring theme" has to be used in novels because it happens in reality - you need the drumbeat of recurrence to create verisimilitude.

And it is exactly that in fiction, too, slippery and recurring in spooky ways.

Theme is especially prominent in Romance genres in general, and in Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance as well.

When you mix genres (any 2 or 3 genres), the "spoonful of magic" you use to make the ingredients blend is Theme.

Each genre is defined by theme -- and subdivided by "setting" (time, place, social status) -- and then subdivided by plot type (Mystery, Romance, Western, Horror).

For example, the theme of "Horror Genre" is "Evil Can Not Be Conquered."  The theme of Romance is "Love Conquers All."  It is very hard to mix those two equally, so in any work of art, one of those themes must yield (at least temporarily) to the other - as in "Happily Ever After, For Now."  Evil can be sequestered, buried, put away for centuries or millennia but it can not be vanquished and will come back to bite you.

Theme is the invisible substance of the lens through which a Character views reality, life, the universe and everything.  Theme both limits and expands that view.

So "theme" essentially defines the market, the target audience.

Thus publishers create "imprints" or "lines" of product all with the same core theme, artfully dressed up in surface detail to seem like different products, but appealing to and satisfying a specific readership.

One example is Star Trek's intro: "...where no man has gone before."  The change in target audience is illustrated in the shift of that phrase to: "...where no one has gone before."  Either way, exploration of the unknown is both the theme of Science Fiction and of Westerns -- face it, of Romance, too.

Mastering "theme" is the writer's secret to selling fiction, and so to become a prolific writer, a person should ponder what the theme of their own life is, then look at other people's lives and find themes (by reading biographies.)

The other source of themes that tie our society and civilization together is, of course, Headlines.

The business of journalists is to spot themes surfacing in society and present a "narrative" that defines and sticks to that theme.  The result is reinforcement.

As mentioned previously in these blogs, one of the ties that bind us together is the animal-human (the basic primate) need to "blend in" and to "belong" to a Group (Tribe, Pack, Gang, Family).  There is a physiological basis in the brain -- a compartment of sorts -- designed to contain this material of unconscious assumptions, and beliefs that are not your own, but that you MUST adopt to survive.

We, on a basic animal level, believe what those who protect us believe.  We oppose, fight, reject, and run from other beliefs because those "ideas" impact the neurological system of the body as "killing blows."

Once cemented, our "theme" of life, the outline and framework, a honeycomb of compartments designed to contain information, and the lens through which we "see" and understand survival, can not be distorted, shifted, altered, expanded, or re-shaped without experiencing "fear-fight-flight" responses.

For some of us in the most recent generation (say, born from the 1990's on) politics has been one of the honeycomb compartment walls that defines the notion of the shape of reality and how to survive in it.

The conflict (essence of story, remember?) is rooted in the theme of "what is government"  -- and also, "what is the purpose of government."  Ayn Rand was catapulted to world fame with her work, Atlas Shrugged, as she challenged the basic notion that groups of humans "need" government.

We have, as humans (consider how your Aliens might differ) generated various governmental forms for maybe 8 or 9 thousand years (maybe more).

Perhaps we could do without government, but apparently we don't want to.

So we always make one.

And then we make another.

And then we fight over which is better -- trying our best to kill everyone who disagrees about the role of government in reality.

Government ranges from Head of Family living in a cave to Kings governing an area with arable land and peasants working it, to High Kings like King Arthur, to Emperors like Napoleon or Alexander The Great.

Hitting on the Emperor model, humans lived centuries with wars, conquering, and marrying off daughters to opposing Kings to make peace by blending families.

Then in the 1700's the world rebelled and overthrew monarchs, after weakening their position with the "Constitutional Monarchy."

And a bunch of nerdy science fiction writers geeked out on Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman Literature and then-modern French thinkers works and wrote the Constitution of the United States of America, a work that should have won a Hugo for inspired imagination.  It is all about humans governing themselves -- neither democracy or republic, but self-governing hybrid form.

It was the first (and so far pretty much the only) attempt to structure a government that is prevented from governing but works just fine, thank you.

Many Amendments have diluted that structure so it is hard to discern now.  For example, having Senators elected by a State's voters instead of by State Legislators dilutes the "Republic" aspect and emphasizes the "Democracy" aspect.

The US Constitution was constructed by two opposing groups that agreed to disagree.  Remember, one group wanted George Washington to be King!  The other wanted to do away with the very concept King in favor of a chief department manager (president).

The disagreement was over the essential question of "what is government for?"

They did not have time to argue that into the ground and hammer out an answer because the little, individually weak, colonies were about to be "brought back under the King's control" by the British soldiers.  They needed a "common defense" so that's what they created.

As a result of not being able to settle this question of the function of government (in the abstract) thus chasing away everyone who couldn't adopt this "unconscious assumption" as part of their mental honeycomb structure, we currently have BOTH types of believers in the USA voting public and at the family dinner table.

As with the warring Kings of old, families have intermarried.

Thus Thanksgiving Dinner has become the flashpoint of the year for many families, a political holiday with warring factions married.

No longer does everyone in the family adopt the Head of Family's politics.  Conflict ensues, and conflict is not so great for digestion.

An entire Romance novel could unfold during Thanksgiving Day!  (and has).

There is the situation where you bring home a new boyfriend for Thanksgiving Dinner, the political discussion erupts, and the new boyfriend is revealed -- either outspoken and opposing the Head of Household, or obviously trying to blend in and pretend to adopt the acceptable view.  Which is lie, and which is true?

Dating a guy is one thing - bringing him home another thing altogether, as that brings into play the physiological human need to belong, to be accepted.

As a result, today we have Internet Dating Sites dedicated to matching people by political persuasion (this is serious business; I know marriages that broke up over politics.)

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

But most people who argue one side or the other at Thanksgiving Dinner are advocating or opposing answers, plans of action, and maybe the rightness or wrongness of the answer to the problem chosen for Headlines by Journalists.

Defining the unconscious parts of these cemented, do-or-die, political positions on issues is the job of the fiction writer -- not the journalist who is trying to write non-fiction.

The fiction writer, the artist, can pare away the surface decoration and reveal the eternal truths behind beliefs -- e.g. describe the honeycomb size, shape, transparency, and above all the structural integrity and strength of the "belief system" for which my "honeycomb" metaphor stands.

So stating the theme of these family arguments is our job as purveyors of the Happily Ever After Ending.

There are many (many-many) correct answers to the question, "What are they really arguing about?"

Each correct answer can be a theme for a novel, or series of novels, in any genre.  It all depends on how you state the theme.

The writer's (artist's) trick is taking a complex mess of a warring situation and reducing it to its bare bones, then re-clothing it in different packaging.

So let's just take some examples, and then you can search for other examples in the Headlines.

THEME: "Humans want government to protect them from Alien Invaders."

THEME:  "Humans want government to protect them from their fellow citizens."

THEME: "Humans want government to protect them from government."

Each of these stated purposes is, of course, subject to "mission creep."  As a result, dinner table arguments wander far afield.

One reason family dinner table arguments wander is simply that to remain a protected member of the family (i.e. to survive) you must all be organizing your perceptions of the world into the same (or very similar) honeycomb structures.

Of course, famously, the Battle of the Sexes
 and the Battle of the Generations,
happen because the honeycomb shapes that we brutally hammer our information into are just a bit different.

So by gender and generation, we believe differently even if we think alike.

For the most part, Romance happens within a generation.  Yes, there are exceptions where Soul Mates have been scattered more than 20 years apart in age, and that makes for High Drama, but we usually dream of a mate closer in age.

So look at those 3 theme variants on the nature and purpose of Government.

Consider how imicible Romance and Horror genres are, why they conflict.

Romance belongs to the broad theme bundle, "Love Conquers All."

Horror belongs to the broad theme bundle, "Evil Can Not Be Conquered."

Now look at the statements about government in terms of conquering not protecting.

THEME: Government exists to Conquer Alien Invaders.

THEME: Government exists to Conquer unruly fellow citizens.

THEME: Government exists to be Conquered by its citizens.

THEME: Love Conquers All.

THEME: Evil Can Not Be Conquered.

This juxtaposition reveals a whole set of themes that are (perhaps) uniquely human.

THEME: Humans Must Conquer.

Being human, living a human life is ultimately about conquering.  The "what" that is to be conquered is irrelevant.  As long as there is something to pretend to conquer, we're fine with it, even if it is another human.

Now, suppose your Aliens do not have that seminal urge to "conquer" -- that is, do not dominate (human sexuality seems these days to pivot on dominance).

Consider meeting up with a species that simply does not "versus" -- does not oppose, or contest.

Since, for human audiences, the essence of story is conflict, could you write about a Romance with an Alien without conflict?  What cognitive dissonance would that create?  Could you make art out of lack of conflict?

Romance is not about sexuality -- the experience of the physical body.  Romance is about the Soul.

The physical body has a mind of its own.  Sexually fueled urges to dominate, conquer, exhibit prowess, and be the "Defender" of all that's mine form one side of the argument raging in all humans (think about your Aliens with different biology).

The Soul has a mind of its own.  The Soul yearns for its mate, fueled by beliefs about the Soul's own unique identity and thus what size-and-shape the mating identity would take.

In other words, the body seeks to hammer other bodies into a desired shape, obedience and compliance, while the Soul seeks that which is already shaped to fit.

The Soul has no desire to conflict, conquer, prevail or dominate.

The body must conflict, conquer, prevail AND dominate.

The Soul and the body are are odds, just as Romance and Horror genre themes are at odds.

Conflict is the nature of this Reality -- the Soul seeks a different reality.

Love conquers All, not by reshaping by force but by inspiring the body to reshape itself.

Love makes the body want to fit in, not hammer down.

Love changes what the body wants.

Change is the essence of plot, and plot (conflict) is the essence of story.

So the details of how a Conquering Hero is Domesticated by Love is our Novel of Choice.

Do we want to "be protected" -- or do we want to "be the protector."

Is "government" about "protecting" or is it about mating, fitting together, covering each other's flanks?

The Happily Ever After Ending is about attaining a joined-state in marriage, in mating, where the two individuals become "one" -- become unconquerable, impervious to "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."

If "unconquerable" is the essence of "Evil," is it also the essence of "Love?"

If "Politics" is about hammering others into accepting your beliefs so you can be a "member of the Group" and satisfy the body's urge to belong, is "Love" the urge to belong without hammering or being hammered?

To generate even more fascinating questions about the nature of Love and the impact of Romance, ponder the Biblical Commandment to Love The Lord Your God With All Your Heart and All Your Strength."

If Love Conquers All, and you Love God, then what happens?

There is so much more to be said on Love vs. Politics.  Say it in fiction.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Misunderstood Orphans

Perhaps the pirating world misunderstands "Fair Use", and what constitutes a work that can be freely exploited.  

Or, perhaps EBay is still allowing massive collections of pirated ebooks to be sold in auctions too quick to catch, as "in the public domain".

Orphan works:

"An orphan work is a copyright protected work for which rightsholders are positively indeterminate or uncontactable. Sometimes the names of the originators or rightsholders are known, yet it is impossible to contact them because additional details cannot be found."

Orphan works are a problem for persons who intend to act in good faith. 

Sometimes, as in the Hathi Trust case, a good faith search for a living author is about as sketchy as Amazon as or Spotify music streaming services' searches for living songwriters (such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith),

There is good news for writers of songs, who have been legally baffled by the NOI system

And then, there is the question of orphan authors.  What are they? Orphan authors are defined by Library Thing as authors without works. 

In other words, orphan authors are authors whose names have been so badly misspelled by whoever added their name to a reading list that they cannot be combined with the proper spelling of their name.

The trick, perhaps, is for authors to make sure they can be located and contacted. That would apply doubly so to authors who were once able to be contacted through a publishing house that is now defunct.

Here is a public Facebook group, newly started, that might be helpful for the purpose.  I hope it is not reinventing the proverbial wheel.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Varieties of Freedom

Are you watching THE HANDMAID'S TALE? It's interesting to hear "Aunt Lydia"—who seems to sincerely believe that the theocratic regime of Gilead is doing what's best for the people, including women—talk about freedom. She chides the Handmaids under her supervision for desiring the now-obsolete "freedom to." "Freedom to" would include most of what we think of as civil rights and liberties, e.g., freedom of speech, the press, and religion, the right to vote, choice of career, privacy rights, control over one's own body, etc. Instead, Aunt Lydia thinks women should be thankful for "freedom from"—the freedom from fear and insecurity they enjoy by living under the protection of men. They're fed, sheltered, and clothed, and they walk the streets without danger of being attacked (as long as they adhere to the rules prescribed for them).

"Freedom" means different things in different societies. To a slave trying to escape, freedom means no longer being treated as property. To a prisoner, freedom means release from confinement. In the title of a pair of folk song albums I own, "Sing Irish Freedom," the word refers little if at all to individual civil rights. The freedom being sought by the rebels celebrated in the songs is the liberation of their country from foreign (English) rule. In the section of the TV series ROOTS that occurs during the American Revolution, slaves laugh among themselves about the white folks fighting for freedom. To the slaves, freedom would mean control over their own bodies and lives. The white revolutionaries were striving for a broader, less personal goal, the breaking of British rule over the colonies.

To a hive-mind species, the concept of individual freedom would have no meaning. If we met an alien, sapient, ant-like or bee-like species and urged them to claim their liberties by overthrowing their queen, they would probably meet the suggestion with blank incomprehension. Defending their hive from domination by an outside culture, on the other hand, would come naturally to them. If we encountered the Borg from the Star Trek universe, whose aim is to create an ever bigger and better collective mind by assimilating useful species, they would most likely be baffled by our insistence on clinging to our individual identities and "freedoms." Like Aunt Lydia in THE HANDMAID'S TALE, the Borg would urge us to accept assimilation and embrace the resulting freedom from fear, insecurity, and the existential ordeal of making our own decisions. Many of the house elves in the Harry Potter series do not want to be liberated. Of course, they don't belong to a hive mind, so in that case the essence of freedom would be allowing each elf the free choice of his or her own preferred way of life.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Defining And Using Theme Part 1

Defining And Using Theme
Part 1

Here are some previous posts discussing Theme as a separate element in fiction structure.

Story Springboards Part 3 is about The Art of Episodic Plotting - largely dependent on mastery of Nesting Themes as described in "What you can do in a novel that you can't in a movie."

Theme is one of the defining characteristics of genre, but genre defining themes are huge, broad, almost all-inclusive, so that you, as a writer, can write any story in any genre.  It is the plot that imbues the genre with the overall theme.

For example, the theme of Romance is always about Love, usually Love Conquers All, ending in your primary couple cementing a life-long Happily Ever After relationship.

"Love Is Meaningless or Irrelevant" throws a novel out of all the Romance genres, sub-genres and even out of the "Love Story" category.

"Science Conquers All" is the major theme of "Science Fiction."

"Belief In God Conquers All" is the major, over-arching theme of Christian Fiction.

Commercial Fiction audiences (any medium) search for and devour artistic works by THEME.  Theme defines whether you like or don't like a piece.

How true that is for today's audience is illustrated by the popular News Media (ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NBC) -- all emphasizing one theme, while Fox News walks to a different drummer.

What exactly is the difference?  The Events? The Facts? No, the interpretation of reality defines the difference in significance of the facts, and selects which Events have any significance at all.

Theme is the difference.  Theme statements are bald, on-the-nose declarations about the nature of Reality or "Truth, Justice And The American Way."

But actual themes are Art -- and Art is, as I've said before in the posts on Tarot -- which is "the alphabet of the left hand."  A theme is a non-linear conceptualization of the macrocosmic All.  It is "holistic" -- 4 or 5 dimensional.

We all acquire a concept of the nature of existence, of our "Self" and relationship to Others very early in life.  After a certain age (different for different people - but remember the adage, "Don't trust anyone over 30,") we accept incoming data and file it in pre-defined compartments in our minds.  Any data that doesn't fit a pre-existing compartment is considered false, and usually discarded.

Yes, prejudice is built into humans -- so create some Aliens who do not sport this feature in their brain circuitry.

For humans, it has been a survival edge - the short-cut to understanding what is a threat and what can be ignored.

Art lies at that level of human development.  And theme is the summation of the structure of our minds at that level.

Pleasure happens when we receive confirmation and reinforcement of our mental model of the macrocosmic All.  That is the source of the intense search for sexual release after surviving a harrowing adventure with near-death at every turn.

Success is a re-enactment of that survival-pleasure.  Finding your Soul-Mate and securing that Happily Ever After ending is Success writ large.

So pleasure reading for entertainment is sought among themes that Confirm our unconscious assumptions.  The more unconscious our assumptions, the more we thirst for confirmation.  The psychological term is Confirmation Bias -- we tend to believe that which matches what we assume, and disbelieve that which challenges what we assume.

More than that, as mentioned previously in these blogs, we seek to belong to a Group or sub-Group among those we associate with daily.  The Tribe, the people you work with, or are related to, or live among -- we, as humans, need acceptance.

Quite literally, we need acceptance to continue to exist, to survive among the challenges that can literally kill our bodies or figuratively kill our spirit or will to live.

So, again, to generate your Aliens - figure out a biology that would lack that need for companionship, or perhaps even fundamentally reject it.  Note we have animal species on Earth who are "loners" -- carve out "Territory" and associate with another only when driven by hormones.

Themes are always basic, easily stated, child-level assumptions about "reality" because they are in fact the very first things we learn about being alive.

Themes are the structure of our mentality and emotions and the blending of the two.

Themes are about Truth.

We all know there may be something behind what we can see of the Universe that is objectively "true" -- but we, as humans, are very unlikely to penetrate to that level.  We live or die on the usefulness of our assumptions, our leaps of faith, and our intuition.  To survive, we must act on incomplete information, most of it imagined to fill in the gaps between tested facts.

We live in subjective reality.

We seek to share our subjective reality with the others around us, and in fact need to share more than we need reality.  Humans will change their unconscious assumptions to fit into the Group upon which they are dependent.

What of an Alien species that didn't have such a "need to fit in" feature?

These unconscious assumptions are the "axioms" of our reality -- they don't get proven, but are used to prove the "postulates" (I do hope all of you have learned Geometry Proofs) and then the postulates are used to prove the answers to given problems.


The "given problems" we tackle in Alien Romance novels are "ripped from the Headlines" of the day.

In A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC Irene Radford tackles the Liar - and the white lie, and the forgivable lie.

We touched on A Spoonful of Magic in this post on writing the inner dialogue of the Character being lied to:

I've discussed many other novels in these blogs which raise issues prominent in our current headlines, twist them to a different perspective, and treat them from an Alien point of view.  It is my favorite type of literature, so I talk about it a lot.

There are two basic ways of creating a novel-theme from these unconscious assumptions.

  1.  You can start with the broadest, most abstract conceptual topic and narrow it down, step by step, until it's small enough to fit into a novel, or series of novels.
  2.  You can start with whatever you are burning up to say about the world we live in, the "answer" to the problem of the day, and search for what enveloping categories surround that answer which is so very personal to you, what Postulates prove your answer, and what Axioms are necessary to prove those Postulates.

Whichever process you use, once you have a solid grip on what answer your Main Character will advocate, you will need to chart the path to that answer that your Main Character will follow.

Whatever answer you choose remember an answer is a theme and every theme is part of a larger theme, like the layers on a pearl.

Also never forget the essence of story is conflict, and each side of a conflict has a theme.

The two main characters who are in conflict have arrived at different answers.

They may be using the same Axioms and Postulates to prove their answers, but still getting different answers and thus advocating different courses of action.

One or the other (or both) have made an error.

It is possible the error is rooted in adopting the unconscious assumptions (beliefs) of the Group the Character had to fit into as an infant/toddler/child -- family, school, religion, street gang.

Correcting an unconscious assumption requires making it conscious, and that is usually a traumatic experience -- (technical literary term for this sensation is Cognitive Dissonance.)

Theme is abstract.  You have to symbolize it.  The answers your characters advocate are concrete.  You have to show-don't-tell what they advocate and why.

You can't talk about the story.  You have to tell the story.  Sometimes it is best not to know what the theme is until you've written out the whole story, scene by scene.

At that point, you will be second-drafting to cut out any material that obscures the conflicting thematic statements.  That process is called editing.  It's hard and time consuming.

Professionals learn to target a theme and write the story to highlight and showcase that theme, cutting side-issues as they go.  This saves production time, allows for meeting contract deadlines with a manuscript that is the size called for in the contract, and saves wear and tear on the writer's emotions (not to mention the writer's family.)

A "prolific" writer will soon specialize in variations on a single master theme.  Having thought it through and found the exact note of Cognitive Dissonance their specific readership enjoys the most, the prolific writer creates a "brand" of their byline, and produces a body of work that satisfies a specific readership.

On the other hand, a given writer may find they've said all they have to say on that thematic topic, and either want to change topics, or perhaps have an Agent suggest a change.  In that case, it is very good practice to change the byline, giving the new set of works a distinctive "brand."

To discover what genre a story-idea belongs in, identify the master theme of the genres you like most, and see whether the new Idea can be expressed via one of those master themes.

The very existence and possibility of the HEA in reality is a master theme and the favorite of the Romance genre reader.

If you want to write a novel that flatly disproves the possibility of the HEA, find another genre for it.

Defining a theme is difficult.

Using a theme is difficult.

Defining and Using in tandem is not so hard at all.

You might find it easiest to avoid endless rewrites by knowing more about what you don't want to say, rather than knowing exactly what you do want to say.

Sometimes, (each writing project is unique), you have no clue what your subconscious is trying to say with this story.  The Characters take over and just hurtle on through the plot leaving you in the dust.  The second draft will go quickly and easily if you have a firm grip on what you are NOT saying, and just write down what you are saying.  Oddly, you will read it and hear yourself think -- like reading something written by someone else.

We, as humans, don't know what our unconscious assumptions are -- and most often is it best that way.  Artists, on the other hand, specialize in revealing the bald truths of the unconscious.

Theme is the structure of artistic composition.

We all select features from the reality around us and compose a view of the universe that gives us a sense of security and comprehension of reality.  Describing one person's reality to another person is called Art.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Long Arm Of The Law (GDPR in this case)

It's getting harder for writers.

First, here come this author's protestations of virtue. We don't track you, and we don't store your information (knowingly), but perhaps our glorious host (Google) does so. That's this blog's Privacy Policy.

European friends who visit aliendjinnromances via "...." or via "...."  for instance will see a notice such as this:

"This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services, to personalize ads and to analyze traffic. Information about your use of this site is shared with Google. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies."

This notice doesn't load immediately, but when it does so, it is like a header, with white font on a grey background link, and it might go away if you click "LEARN MORE" or "GOT IT".

If you receive the articles from this blog through your email, (thank you!), it is because you must have affirmatively and actively signed up, or followed, or subscribed.  As far as this author knows, there is no way for the contributors to add subscribers without their consent, nor is there a database that the contributors to this blog can access to discover what data (if any) the Google cookies have "harvested".

Moreover, this blog is not monetized.  Google doesn't pay us, so Google does not (or should not) be placing  third party advertisements on this particular site. Nor does Twitter pay us, nor Facebook for that matter.

Authors, even if you are in the USA, you are affected by the GDPR if any of your newsletter recipients live in Europe.

As of May 25th, 2018, authors who have newsletters may need to double-verify that newsletter recipients have affirmatively and intentionally agreed to receive those newsletters. Any author who built up a newsletter list by participating in Romance Site contests, and adding eager contestants' names and email addresses to their list if the contestant checked the "Yes (subscribe me)" box, may have to make sure the recipients actively agree to remain on the list.... or actively make sure that recipients clearly understand how to be completely unsubscribed and their information deleted.

No doubt, in the past, many readers who wanted to win a free book or gift card believed that, no matter what the contest rules stated (if there were published rules), their chances of winning the goodies in the contest would be improved if they clicked the "Yes" box.  That is not necessarily "freely given" consent.

It may also not be exactly "freely given" if signing up for a mailing list is a condition of receiving a free ebook, and everyone who signs up does in fact receive the free book. Any free gift should be separate and distinct from checking a box to sign up for marketing newsletters from the author.

Here is a very entertaining podcast discussion of everything all authors need to know about the impending GDPR, from author Mark Dawson, with advice from Gemma Gibbs, and a great discussion about authors' websites' landing pages.

They offer a link to an information sheet, but the very honorable authors stress that recipients of this info sheet will be subscribed to their mailing list.

The most important takeaway:
Every email from an author to a newsletter audience absolutely must contain an Unsubscribe link, without exception.

Also helpful, readable, and apparently without strings, Nicole R. Locker of RomanceBooks.Blog offers a cheat sheet for authors.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

PS.  I meant to include this link from Joseph J. Lazzarotti  and  Mary Costigan,  legal bloggers for Jackson Lewis PC who ask "Does The GDPR Apply To Your U-S Based Company?"

You are advised to be compliant!

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Surviving the Gold Rush as a Writer

The latest issue of RWR (the members' magazine of Romance Writers of America) includes an article titled "The Key to a Lifelong Career" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, whose online articles on the business of writing can be found here:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Her essay in the May RWR focuses on how to avoid burnout but ranges over a number of related topics—handling success (some writers try to replicate the process that led to their success without really understanding it and end up "working harder" without working "smarter"), reasons for burnout (e.g., pushing oneself to churn out too many books in a year), diminishing returns in income, what it means to find oneself in a mature market instead of a new one that's expanding at an exponential rate, overextending oneself in terms of expenses and how to reduce them, and switching one's writing business from a "manufacturing model" to an "artisanal model."

One section of this article is headed "Surviving the Gold Rush." The "gold rush" designates the exponentially expanding phase of a new market when it seems easy to get into the field and make bushels of money. Rusch writes in insightful detail about the rise of e-books and the early boom in independent publishing, followed by the leveling-off phase. She discusses the three stages in the typical way "markets develop over time": (1) The gold rush, when growth doubles, quadruples, or more each year. (2) The plateau, with large but not exponential growth. (3) The mature market, when growth still occurs, but it's slow and steady.

Personally, I never experienced the gold rush, at least nowhere near the extent Rusch describes. The closest I came to it happened in the early years with Ellora's Cave (now closed), when e-books were still an exciting novelty and EC was, although not the only game in town for that subgenre, the highest-profile and biggest-selling publisher of erotic romance for women. I was lucky enough to get in at a stage when, by publishing with EC regularly, I could count on a nice check each month. But the levels of success Rusch writes about—authors who earned royalties in the tens of thousands of dollars per month at the height of the "gold rush"—boggle my mind. Likewise, the allusions to authors becoming discouraged because their incomes dropped to half of that—still more per month than I made annually in my best years. In that respect, the indie superstars inhabit a different world from mine!

The priorities she recommends for hard-working writers concerned about potential burnout, however, apply to everyone. In order of descending importance, they are: self-care; spending time with loved ones; writing new words; publishing new words; whatever keeps you healthy and happy. While I can't point you to this particular article because it's in a members-only publication, you can find lots of related useful information and counsel in Rusch's posts at the link cited above. She provides plenty of specific details and hard facts, with numbers.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Index To Theme-Conflict Integration

Index To 
Theme-Conflict Integration
Blog Series
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The posts labeled with two or more techniques are more "advanced" than those labeled with just one, as it is expected the individual techniques have been mastered individually.  Many selling writers (even best selling) have novels published with a lack of blending of the techniques - and many readers enjoy them.  The long lasting, much reprinted, classics usually have a core of a blend of techniques so smooth that academics can't factor them back out to individual techniques.  As a result, much academic work has been published labeling "the theme" of a given novel as something which it is, in fact, not.  The thing is, the author often doesn't know what the theme of a given novel is until maybe 20 years after publication.

What you think your theme is, and what it actually is may differ.  It is not necessary for the author to be correct, but it is necessary to be consistent.

Conflict is the essence of Story -- but theme is the essence of Art.

Here are posts on integrating the technique of "theme" with the technique of "conflict" with emphasis on Romance between highly contrasted individuals (such as human-alien)

Part 1 - Battle of the Sexes

Part 2 - A Grifter, A Shyster, and a Priest Walk Into A Bar

Due to a numbering error, there is a Part 2A about Designing A Conflict

Part 3 - Battle of the Generations (the Generation Gap)

Part 4 - Battle of the Orville TV Series

Part 5 - DEFIANT by Dave Bara (a novel worth studying)

Part 6 - A Character Under Influence

Part 7 - Romance Without Borders

Jacqueline Lichtenberg