Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Theme-Character Integration Part 13 Soul Mate Of The Kickass Heroine

Theme-Character Integration
Part 13
Soul Mate Of The Kickass Heroine
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of Theme-Character Integration Series are indexed here:

We discussed the nature of Theme and how to identify it early in the posts about Theme.

We discussed how to create a theme, how to state a theme in a usable format, and how to integrate theme into all the other basic storytelling skills a professional writer must master.

But we've not yet identified exactly "what" Character is.

We all assume we know what character means -- but writers can't make the assumptions they want to artistically lull a reader into making or the writer will produce fiction that screams amateur at every editor.

You can't write a Romance in any sub-genre without exploring at least 2 Characters to the depths of their Souls.  You can write porn by staying on the surface of Identity, skating quickly around the essential ingredients in a Happily Ever After ending (the HEA).

All you have to do to write steamy-sexy books (not novels, mind you, just a story long enough to bind into a book) is take a male Action Novel, break it into scenes, count the pages in the fight-combat scenes, and replace the fight-combat scenes with sex scenes.  I've read a lot of novels using that ploy.  No Characters Allowed.

You can't have a Relationship-driven plot without a Relationship -- which requires at least two Characters.

Do you know "what" a Character "is?"

You can probably wing it, fake it until you make it, in most Romance fields because the Characters are all human.

But in Alien Romance, one of the main plot driving Characters is not human, and is making decisions based on biology and the culture that biology forces the Character to live.

If you don't know what a human Character is - how can you artificially create an Alien Character, especially one destined to Soul Mate to a human?

You not only need to know what Character is, but what Soul is, and where "Destiny" (karma etc) fit into your THEME.

As discussed in Theme-Plot Integration series...


...what happens to change the situation depends entirely on the THEME you are showcasing in this particular volume (which might or might not be part of a Series).

It all starts with THEME -- and theme generates the Characters who will Conflict to generate the Plot.

Some writers start by consciously sketching Character traits -- for others this just kills the need to write the story.  Sometimes the writer just doesn't need to know.

The most famous advice from major Science Fiction writers, such as Robert A. Heinlein, is "Just tell the story."  And, "Just tell a whopping good story."

You don't have to know, consciously, what you are saying.  Twenty years later (other famous writers have revealed) you might discover what you said is not at all what you thought you were saying.

Writing is a dangerous profession, as it can reveal far more of the private you than you want known.

The need to write and make public a particular Story bespeaks your own character (small c, the real-world human you are.)

Readers recognize character within your fictional Characters because, whether they know it consciously or not, readers also have character.

So we all know what character is, and by extension what Character is.  Why discuss it?

We discuss it because fictional Characters are constructed to illustrate your Theme for this volume, this story, this segment of a series.

If you plot to illustrate one theme, but the Characters in the Relationship do not illustrate that same theme, you might sell the novel, but regrets about that will haunt you into changing your byline.

A Work that lives to go through many printings survives because it has an inner, invisible to the naked reader, cohesiveness of Theme-Character.  That integration of theme and Character makes the Characters walk off the page into the reader's dreams because the Characters SAY SOMETHING just by existing.

A Character is an artificial construct that reveals some ineluctible Truth about human nature.

Gene Roddenberry wet the mats to get Spock into Star Trek - he knew he needed an Alien to showcase the abstract element of human nature that would transform a simple Wagon Train (TV Series) replica into real Science Fiction.

Most people think the science fiction in Star Trek is the phasers and transporters.  It isn't.  Those were invented to facilitate story telling in the TV medium.  Hence they plastered on a "shuttlecraft" after several episodes - just whipped it out of nowhere, not from the Series Bible - because they had to move the plot within the minutes between commercials.

The real claim of Star Trek to being Science Fiction is the ongoing discussion of human Nature triggered and illustrated in show-don't-tell by Spock's "the same but different" plot-choices, views, and capabilities.

If you want to write Alien Romance, one of your Characters has to be a "Spock."

If your Alien is a human with funny ears, you will have Wagon Train instead of Star Trek -- you will write a simple Romance not Science Fiction Romance.

Gene Roddenberry created the Spock Character (then folded into the creation another Character, Number One, the female First Officer because Paramount would not allow a woman on the bridge giving men orders).  Number One, the emotionless woman was to be GR's commentator on Emotion, while Spock was simply not human.

Gene Roddenberry often said that Kirk, Spock and McCoy represented the three aspects of himself.  That's why Star Trek is not a "Mary Sue" -- and that is how you keep from writing a "Mary Sue."

To perform this factoring of yourself into fragments, setting them into a Team with Inner Conflicts and tolerance, you factor your own character into Characters.

Characters aren't real people - they are simplified and distilled people, but people none the less.

To simplify and distill real people's character, you have to know (consciously or unconsciously) what you are factoring out of what.

What are you?

Not "who" but "what" are YOU?

The answer to that question is the main tone in your writer's "Voice."  We discussed Voice briefly, here:




The Soul Mate is a "mate" -- like left and right hands are opposite but fit together, or mirror images, or plug and socket, or the printer that works with your computer but won't work if you upgrade or change your computer.  COMPATIBLE is not identical.

Your statement that answers the question "what" are you is your major theme, the identification of your Voice (Soprano, baritone, bass?)

Voice Type: Soprano, Range: B3 – G6.
Voice Type: Mezzo-Soprano, Range: G3 – A5.
Voice Type: Contralto, Range: E3 – F5.
Voice Type: Countertenor, Range: G3 – C6.
Voice Type: Tenor, Range: C3 – B4.
Voice Type: Baritone, Range: G2 – G4.
Voice Type: Bass, Range: D2 – E4.
What's My Voice Type? - What Are The Different Singing Voice Types

Writers' voice comes in similar divisions.

It is a "characteristic" that reveals one component of your character.

Character (real and fictional) is a composite of many things.  Theme is a lens through which you run Character to select out the specific attributes that the story will reveal and explain.  Or you can do it by selecting a Character and looking at the life-arc of that Character to find the spot where the Character's Theme first surfaces as a Lesson.

Character, as the old saying goes, is built by adversity.

Novels are about adversity overcome and put behind -- so the Characters sail on into an HEA.

Like voices, writers have a "range" of themes to talk about, and there are themes they can't talk about, as there are songs certain singers can't sing.

Finding your Voice is not just finding your theme - but finding what you can say about that topic, about the nature of the reality your reader lives in.

"What are you?" can not be answered by, "I am a writer."

In this search for the Soul Mate of the Kickass Heroine we are looking for how to create a Theme that generates a Character and then split and/or recombine the components of that Character into people who can benefit from living a particular Plot (Kickass Heroine Finds Her Soul Mate).

The range of themes that fit (artistically) within the Kickass Heroine Finds Her Soul Mate plot-arc is virtually unlimited, so you have only to sing the song in your voice range to make it originally, specific, and memorable.

Writing is a Performing Art, so you must

"What" are you is defined by how (in what pattern, at what Voice Range) the components of your character are connected.

Character is defined by the connections between components, much more than the nature of the components themselves.  All humans have the same inner components -- but those components come in varying sizes, shapes, prominence, and versatility of connectivity.

So let's take a Theme and find an answer to "What Are You?" that creates a Soul Mate suitable for a Kickass Heroine.

THEME: character is measured by the connection between Soul and Body.  Strong Characters have the Soul fully occupying and in charge of the Body.

PLOT: The Soul Makes Friends With The Body, resolving Inner Conflict so HEA is inevitable.

This THEME-PLOT combination makes a lot of assumptions about the nature of Reality that readers don't normally make, therefore it is serious fodder for Science type Fiction.

As we noted in a previous entry some years ago, scientific studies show that when a female overpowers or conquers or wins against a male, the male's testosterone (aggression driver) level goes down.

Here are 3 discussions of testosterone:




Pay special attention to Part 19 of the Depiction series - Depicting the Married Hunk With Children (that is the HEA personified.)

As in most cases in reality, where a little is good, a lot is not better.  We need our men to be aggressive enough to protect our children, but not so aggressive they take out drunken anger on us.

"Mating" in physical terms means that the constant and continuous presence of the female (sex several times a week with the SAME female) keeps the male at a comfortable and functional level of aggressiveness.  He feels good, and she benefits from having a guy around the house.

"Mating" in spiritual terms means that the two souls become one -- or theme might be that Souls come in halves, and don't work well singularly.  Like the magnetic monopole - or maybe an axel with only one wheel - a person who is single is going to be hampered in some way.

"Marriage" is the process of bringing that Soul-Merging process to the physical level.

Thinking in terms of "Voice" again, consider a male and a female voice merging in a duet.  The resulting sound as they hit notes in a chord may originate in two different sets of vocal chords, but the SOUND that impresses on the recording medium will not be that easily factored back to individual sounds.  They merge into one (assuming both are on key).

In the Real World, we seldom see marriages this perfect.  Most couples hit it on a few subjects and just bicker about the other subjects.

The rarity of harmony makes this image of a functioning marriage and how to achieve it a marketable story.

But to sell that story, you need a theory of "what" a human is, and then a theory of how that physical balance between dominant female and submissive male might work.  You don't want the male's testosterone to go too low - but must not let it run amok, either.

Rip an idea from the headlines.  Earlier this year, the media jumped on President Trump for calling immigrants "animals."  Then it turned out the media had artfully altered the sound byte clip -- he really did say they are animals, but the "they" referred to was not immigrants.  He referred specifically to MS13 Gang Members -- because that particular international gang of drug smugglers are famous for ugly murders, dismembering humans while alive, and a long list of atrocities they brag about and are proud of.

The quote referred to all MS13 Gang Members -- but was specifically about the atrocities not a political affiliation or the misdemeanor of crossing a border without permission.  Not all the Gang members are involved in the atrocity business.  And many have been recruited from locals who are not immigrants at all.

The general, common American reaction to calling any humans "animals" is a savage rejection of the person doing the labeling.  Objectifying other humans is the first step in exterminating them.  In WWII, US solders -- ordinary folks, not professional warriors, but accountants and roofers and train conductors, had to call their enemy some derogatory name to survive spiritually.  Normal people don't kill other people.

To kill, ordinary humans must de-classify a person into a thing.  Otherwise, they would stay their hand from the blow.  Just can't do it.

Knowing that, the American public rose up against President Trump when they thought he was calling all immigrants animals, and were still revolted when the correction filtered out.  Most people never heard the correction.

But just think back on those weeks of uproar over "They are just animals."

It bespeaks a THEME: "What" you are (human or animal) depends on your behavior.

THEME: it is possible for a human to revert to a feral form, becoming just an animal.

Is that something the human IS -- an animal -- or a temporary condition he might fall into?

Is humanity determined by the physical primate body?  Or is it an attribute solely of Soul?  Or is it the nature of the connection, contact, signal-strength, between body and soul?

THEME: A human that has become an animal has lost contact with his Soul.

If Character is the connectivity between Soul and Body, then a human with almost no contact with their Soul can be viewed as an animal without objectifying for the purpose of exterminating without guilt.

A human capable of committing such atrocities (you can Google up a list if imagination fails), is functioning purely as a primate animal.  Without the firm grip of the Soul on the basic primate body, a human being will behave as any other primate would.

Study Chimps.  And other primates.  Males have been known to eat their female's newborn babies.

What prevents humans from doing that?  Nothing.  But we don't.  Why?  Soul.

That is a theme -- human self-control or values are a product of the welding of Soul to Body.  Left to itself, the body will behave like any other animal.

Body and Soul are two separate things, but exist in this reality as a fully merged whole.

Or maybe you can Build your World such that all humans have a degree of connection (a degree of character) between body and soul.  Maybe in some future that connectivity may become measurable, or maybe a chip-implant will "correct" miscommunications between body and soul.

Maybe Aliens will come along who have a system or method of "developing character" or repairing the connection between body and soul.  Maybe that's the secret to beating death?

Death has been defined as the Soul leaving the Body.  What if that were not possible? Zombies? Vampires?

But among your readers, you will have people with varying Soul-Body Connections, some Souls not being compatible with the Body (as some printers are not compatible with your computer).  Or if compatible, maybe they need an adaptor to plug in.

If it is true that being whipped and bested by a female reduces a male's testosterone level, the kickass heroine is out of luck.  No man will mate with her, and if she conquers one, the husband he turns into won't be the kickass hero she so yearns for.

So what mechanism (again this is Theme-Worldbuilding practice) ...


... could regulate male testosterone levels in a home where the Kickass Heroine commands all.  That's what "kickass" means -- can not be dominated and therefore is always in command.

"Regulate" does not mean "suppress" or "eliminate."  It means add or subtract as the situation requires.

Perhaps the secret is that the Kickass Heroine's mate has to have a free-flowing, wide-open connection to his Soul, so that the Heroine's mate does not over-react to his inability to dominate her.

Maybe the Relationship settles down to him not feeling any testosterone driven urge to dominate?  Maybe she, likewise, doesn't need to dominate him, or kick his ass.

How could that situation possibly be, or possibly lead to an enduring HEA?

Perhaps each of the two individuals (might be human female and Alien male) has a maximized Soul-Body connection, attuned and optimized.

If humans can revert to feral-animal style living -- earn the appellation "animal" from other humans -- by a lack of Soul-Body integration, then it follows that a very non-animal behavior will be evident in people with a strong, wide-open, freely flowing, wide-bandwidth connection between Soul and Body.

After the tussle of Soul vs Body, if theSoul wins the Body's loyalty and friendship, the person's behavior won't ever revert to "animal" level.

So if the kickass heroine has kicked enough ass to meet her own soul and embrace it, become a whole, integrated person, with very stable emotional responses, sensitive but indomitable, her Mate will recognize that she does not have to be dominated in order to behave well.

She will recognize that this matured kickass hero has full integrated with his Soul, and does not need his ass kicked.  His behavior will not revert to animal level.

At that point, both these individuals will have evolved to reach a level they are Relating Soul-to-Soul, not body to body, not animal to animal.

When the Souls are married, they create a Unity that functions smoothly in the world -- and the world does not respond to their actions in the same way it responds to animals.

They are not animals.  They have become Soul Mates.

At first, they are both answering "What Are You?" with a profession or species, or perhaps social station in life.  At the end, they are both answering, "A Body hosting a Soul."  "I'm a person."

How they get there is the Story all Romance readers yearn for.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Increasing Cost Of Copyright

The Copyright Office plans to increase the cost of copyright registration by an average of 41%.

How do you feel about that?  If you have registered your own copyrights in the last 5 years, The Copyright Alliance would like your anonymous feedback before August 17th, to help them craft a written response to the Copyright Office that accurately represents the views of American creators.


The deadline for the anonymous survey is August 17th, 2018.

Karyn A. Temple, blogging on the Library of Congress site, explains the thinking behind the new fee increases.


One can comment on her blog. One can comment officially here:


The deadline for public comments on the regulations.gov site has been extended until September 21st, 2018

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Reboots and Remakes

You've probably heard about the projected "reboot" of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. I'd call it a "remake" instead, since the intent seems to be to start the series over with Buffy in high school, but in a 21st-century setting and played by a black actress. Judging from the few online comments I've read, I'm not the only fan whose first reaction to this proposal was, "Why?" A remake isn't likely to surpass the excellence of the original. While I'd be thrilled with a return to the Buffyverse, a far better approach (as has been suggested by others) would be a "next generation" series, spun off from the original story with new characters. If we want to see another black Slayer, introduce a new one instead of calling her Buffy. Because the series finale created hundreds of Slayers throughout the world in place of a single Chosen One, the potential exists for a rich variety of stories, taking the mythos in a different direction from the comic-book continuation that followed the end of the TV series.

I've come across speculations about remakes of CASABLANCA and GONE WITH THE WIND. In the former case, a resounding "Good grief, why?!" seems the most appropriate response. The original is as nearly perfect as humanly possible; tinkering with the plot and characters to produce a new version could only go downhill. As for GONE WITH THE WIND, the only thing "wrong" with the classic movie is that, even at its great length, many details from the book had to be omitted, including two of Scarlett's three children. A miniseries instead of a feature film could remedy those omissions, but could it ever be as good as the existing movie otherwise? Furthermore, present-day technology doesn't allow the resurrection of Clark Gable to play Rhett, and the role wouldn't be the same without him. (When the sequel, SCARLETT, appeared on TV, I had a very difficult time accepting Timothy Dalton as Rhett.)

One remake that I thought worked well was the prime-time DARK SHADOWS with Ben Cross as Barnabas. The production values, naturally, were superior to those of the vintage soap opera, and the story moved along more briskly. It also focused on the plot thread of greatest interest to fans, the arrival and possible redemption of Barnabas. It was disappointing that the series didn't last long.

The new STAR TREK films qualify as a true "reboot," an alternate-universe iteration of the original setting and characters. Although I'm lukewarm toward this movie sequence, at least it began with a believable SF rationale for the new version.

The futuristic anime series NEON GENESIS EVANGELION may hold some kind of record for remakes, reboots, and alternate-universe story lines produced by the original creators. The plot of the series was condensed into a movie version. Another movie expanded upon the confusing ending of the TV series. Several different manga (graphic novel) variants exist, featuring the characters in different settings and situations from the one established in the original.

The most pointless remake I've ever heard of was the filming of PSYCHO with not only the same script as Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation but shot almost frame-by-frame identically to the earlier version. Couldn't they have made a brand new adaptation, returning to Robert Bloch's novel for a fresh take on the story?

In general, remaking films based on books is a different matter. If it wasn't done "right" the first time, a fresh attempt could be worthwhile. GONE WITH THE WIND as it stands adheres as closely to the novel as can reasonably be expected of a feature film. Lots of other book-to-film transformations, though, haven't been done "right" and could benefit from another try. (My concept of a "good" film adaptation means one that follows the book as closely as the film medium allows. When I watch a movie based on a novel, I want to see the novel brought to life, not some director's personal "vision.") No perfect adaptation of DRACULA has ever been filmed. The BBC TV miniseries with Louis Jourdain comes closest. Coppola's so-called "definitive" DRACULA, however, does include more of the book's characters and plot points than any other, including the Louis Jourdain version. Unfortunately, Coppola adds a love story between the Count and Mina that has no basis in the book. If he wanted to do that, he should have adapted Fred Saberhagen's excellent reinterpretation of the story, THE DRACULA TAPE. In one of my favorite series, the Narnia books, PRINCE CASPIAN has suffered most in the adaptations filmed so far. The BBC version, aside from its dated special effects, renders the book with more fidelity and respect than the dazzling feature film; even the former, however, leaves out an important sequence toward the end that's also omitted from the big-screen movie.

What movies or TV series would you like to see remade? What do you think should never be remade?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Reviews 37 - Ilona Andrews Magic Shifts

Reviews 37
Magic Shifts
Ilona Andrews 

The Reviews series has not been indexed yet.  And I have messed up the numbering, resulting in two posts numbered 34. I'm not planning to fix that, as I think this is the only duplicate.

The first Reviews 34 is:

The second Reviews 34 is:
Today we again raise the topic of what, exactly, is Paranormal Romance?

In fact, it would be good to ponder the abstract problem of what Romance really is.

The best way to figure out where you, the writer, stands on these two questions is to read-read-read.  Read reams of non-fiction, yes, but loads and loads of fiction outside your target genre.

It is painful, I know, but as you did in High School and College, read things you don't enjoy.  Yes, you must read for enjoyment because enjoyment is your stock in trade, what you have to sell, and if you don't have any enjoyment, you can't sell any.

You must have an overflowing reservoir of enjoyment in your heart.  Therefore, read Ilona Andrews (all titles).  Pay special attention to the Kate Daniels novels.  If you read them already, just because they are best sellers - read them again as a set.

At the same time, to convey that enjoyment in your heart to others, to purvey that enjoyment you have collected over years, you must understand more about story structure than your reader does.  You must make the structure of your story as invisible to your readers as the great writers you've been reading make their story structure invisible to you.

Therefore, today we take up a relationship-driven Action-Romance-Paranormal by a husband/wife collaborating team.  There are a few like that working in the field today, but the Ilona Andrews byline is the best example at my fingertips right now.

MAGIC SHIFTS is a "Kate Daniels Novel" -- and the 8th in the Series.

The collaboration is seamless -- there is no jarring shift from one writer's style to the other.  It is a blended style, probably done somewhat the way Jean Lorrah and I collaborate, with every word gone over by both.

They have mastered the trick of "pacing" -- the narrative moves smoothly from cerebral to action scenes.

They have SHOW DON'T TELL down pat. The Characters do not tell you what they are feeling (and the novels replete with conflicting feelings).  Even if you have not read the previous novels, you know what these people are feeling.

The two main Characters, a retiring Alpha pair from a shapeshifter Pack, are not yet married, but yes they are very married, oh, very very married.

This is a Couple novel -- an after-the-Romance novel, which does ask the question, "Can this couple ever get to Happily Ever After?"

The answer seems to be Yes, but maybe not "ever-after" -- as there are still problems to be solved.  They are now living in typical suburbia, adjacent to acres of wild forrest to run in, with houses on the block inhabited by other shapeshifters who have left the Pack to follow the Alpha Couple out of loyalty or other personal necessity.

Yes, I recommend the previous novels in this series, and yes, I have read them.  If Shapeshifter novels are your passion, you must know all your readers will have a familiarity with these works.

But the Kate Daniels universe has another, vastly interesting, quirk.  Here is not a choice between magic and technology, not a World Bridge to cross to go from where Magic works to where Technology works.  Here, Magic washes over the Technology based normal world you know, and disables all our devices and gadgets.  Civilization adjusts, and we see our world in semi-ruins but life goes on, with Magic working sometimes and Technology working other times.

The shifts can be dangerous.

Meanwhile, Magical creatures rampage and must be stopped.

Plenty of monster hunts, and battles, and plenty of mysterious puzzles to solve.  The latter gives this the flavor of a Mystery/Detective series while the puzzles themselves work a lot like science fiction.

So, just don't miss reading Ilona Andrews titles.  It is a trustworthy,, go-to byline.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Expensive Mistakes

Not all art is in the public domain, even if it is in a public place. even if an image-licensing service can license the right to use a specific photographer's photograph of that art. One might still, additionally, need a license from the original artist.

The United States Postal Service made such an expensive error, and will have to pay $3,554,946.95 plus interest to a sculptor.

Initially, a USPS employee mistook a view of a modern sculpture inspired by Lady Liberty for the Ellis Island original.  The latter is in the public domain. The former is the intellectual property of the living sculptor. Possibly, the USPS could have settled for $5,000 when they first discovered their mistake.

In a Washington Post article from 2013, author Lisa Rein quotes the lawsuit.

"Defendants, through the USPS, determined that it was in their financial best interest to continue to infringe upon Davidson's rights, as the costs to discontinue the infringing activity exceeded the marginal cost of royalties...."

They calculated wrong. Way wrong.  Legal blogger Jesse M. Brody for the law firm Manatt Phelps and Phillips LLP suggests that this may turn out to be one of the most expensive copyright mistakes ever.


It would appear that the costliest part was a 5% running royalty on the 3.24% of the stamps that were bought by stamp collectors, and represented unadulterated profit for the USPS.

An article by Timothy B. Lee for Ars Technica shows the two faces of the Statute of Liberty: the fierce-faced original on Ellis Island, and the troubled-looking homage in Las Vegas.

Presumably, this costly lesson in copyright infringement affects us all. We'll probably all pay more for stamps,

Now comes General Motors, with the argument that Joe Public should not be expected to research the history of every public building (especially if that building is covered in graffiti) before taking a photograph, or filming something else where the graffiti is in the background.

The case of Faulkner v General Motors Company is discussed by author Alan Feuer for the New York Times.

It raises some interesting issues about the use of photographs and films of public buildings and art in (and on) public places.

For artists, the copyright alliance has a timely article on how to copyright your paintings.

For artists who wish to license certain rights to a work, but not to relinquish their copyright in the work, the very generous and courteous people of ARTREPRENEUR publish a template agreement, free, on condition that the beneficiaries of this template give them written credit.

Find the template here:

Explicit credit: https://artrepreneur.wpengine.com/

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Monsters in the Modern World

A recent question on Quora asked how well vampires would be able to survive in the modern world. My reaction was along the line of "better than ever." In DRACULA, Bram Stoker envisions how the Count uses "nineteenth-century up-to-date" conveniences to move to the modern, technologically advanced environment of England from his "ruined castle in a forgotten land" (as Van Helsing describes it). Many urban fantasy novels imagine how vampires and other traditional "monsters" might fit into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

To begin with, a contemporary vampire who wants to relocate can buy a plane ticket instead of having to endure a lengthy ocean voyage, with the risks of exposure in being confined to a limited space for days or weeks with a small group of oblivious human companions. An even more fundamental consideration is that, in contrast to past times and places when tight-knit communities were suspicious of strangers and people with eccentric habits, nowadays in any first-world country a vampire could blend in as just one of many representatives of diverse ethnic groups and lifestyles. For much of European and American history, failure to attend church would be seen as peculiar or downright suspicious; nowadays that behavior wouldn't raise an eyebrow. If he or she has a severe reaction to sunlight (like the undead in movies and many modern novels, although not in nineteenth-century fiction or most folklore) or simply prefers a nocturnal existence, stores and businesses with extended hours are plentiful in any decent-sized city. The Internet, of course, makes it easy to obtain most products and services without leaving home. If the vampire needs to earn money, numerous night-shift jobs are available. Never being seen eating could be attributed to allergies or some other dietary restriction. ("I'm on a liquid protein regimen.") What about nourishment? Blood banks (with, presumably, bribeable employees who could supply newly expired blood) offer an obvious source. Also, it wouldn't be hard to find potential donors with romantic notions about vampires, who would happily give blood under the impression that the alleged vampire is simply playing a role.

Computers and the Internet, in my opinion, would make transition from one lifetime to the next easier rather than harder. A competent hacker can create a new identity with supporting data planted on all the relevant websites. In the TV series FOREVER KNIGHT, one vampire makes a career of performing that very service. The issue of possible exposure by old photographs was raised on Quora, a problem that I believe is much exaggerated. What would you think if you saw a century-old photo that closely resembled a contemporary acquaintance? Would you instantly jump to the conclusion that the person must be immortal? No, most likely you would think, "What an amazing family resemblance." My husband's brother looks remarkably like a picture we have of their father in late middle age, and nobody wonders whether my brother-in-law is really his father under a new identity. :)

Werewolves could also benefit from modern conveniences. With rapid transit, on full-moon nights a werewolf could quickly travel to an isolated region where he or she could roam and hunt animal prey. If he or she suffers from the affliction of being unable to control the change or behave rationally when transformed, an electronic lock on a timer could keep the werewolf safely confined in a reinforced room during the critical period—no need to involve a fallible human helper. In case of a craving for raw meat, any big city has butcher shops where fresh meat of all kinds can be bought, then consumed in the privacy of the home. Or maybe a discerning werewolf would order exotic cuts online (venison? buffalo?). Interesting side note: Poul Anderson wrote a couple of stories about werewolves who stay rational in wolf form but need moonlight to transform. They carry flashlights that simulate moonlight, so that they can change shape by shining the artificial moonlight on themselves.

Would the Internet and social media make contact with friendly extraterrestrials easier or harder to adjust to? The news of their arrival, with visual recordings, would be transmitted around the world instantly. On the other hand, given the ease of faking photos and videos, would much of the public think it's a hoax at first? How long would it take for governments and mainstream news media to convince most of their constituents that the landing really happened? Considering we still have believers in a flat Earth and disbelievers in the moon landings, some people might never accept the existence of aliens.

Vampires on FOREVER KNIGHT worried about photographs, because they could alter human memories by hypnosis, but memory erasure didn't stick if the victims had physical evidence to reinforce their awareness of the truth. One might think social media would pose a serious danger to the anonymity of vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. Again, I think the risk isn't that high, because audiences have solid reasons to be cynical about visual "proof." Anybody who isn't already predisposed to believe in the supernatural would probably dismiss pictures or videos as staged, photoshopped, or both. If vampires WANTED to come out in public (as in the Sookie Stackhouse series and its TV adaptation, TRUE BLOOD), they might have as much trouble getting the world to believe in them, at first, as visiting aliens would.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dialogue Part 15 Writing Inner Dialogue of Soul Mates

Part 15
Writing Inner Dialogue of Soul Mates
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts of the Dialogue series are indexed here:


We visualize the wedding moment as divine intervention to make life Happily Ever After - it is a supernatural moment.

A wedding is the beginning of a new life.  It changes everything including your self-image.

Usually, all the Romance happens before the wedding -- the wedding scene may be the final scene of the novel.

Sometimes, the story is about what happens if the anticipated inflection point of getting married somehow aborts -- one or the other gets cold feet, one or the other is accidentally killed on the way to the wedding, one or the other is put in the hospital by an accident at the verge of death, or one of them is murdered or deliberately attacked and left hospitalized.  Possibly, an ex or some jealous stalker emerges or a love-child situation is revealed during the ceremony.

Drama (Pluto is Drama) abounds at the peak pivotal moments of life.

The bigger the pivot the more spectacular and singular the drama.

For example, true Soul Mates rammed together by circumstances may experience Hate At First Sight.  Most Romance readers do understand this dynamic -- that the intensity of the aversion can be the sign that these two are Soul Mates.

Not just lovers, or two people having an affair or a one-night-stand -- but true Soul Mates.

Months ago, there was an article posted online at mindbodygreen.com that pointed out what all Romance readers know.

Many years ago, I was sitting with a couple in my office, marveling about what a "perfect fit" they were: They were both into healthy living, rescue dogs, and hiking. They didn’t argue, their facial expressions were kind, and their nonverbal signals showed they cared.

Despite this, they were talking about ending their relationship. They couldn’t describe what was wrong, but both felt the relationship was empty. I followed the usual process: We looked for places of trouble, which were few, and explored the good parts of their relationship, which were many. However, it was as if a spark between them was never lit. In the end, they felt it was best to part amicably, which they did.

That session was followed by an hour with another couple who didn’t stop arguing from the moment they walked in the door. They had been waiting all week to "tell on the other," i.e., talk about the agreements each had broken and the far-reaching arguments about washing the dishes or sex, all with a plethora of eye-rolling and grimacing. However, the passion between them was palpable; under the power struggle, there was a lot of interest and passion. We worked hard for months, and they were eventually able to break their destructive loop and spend more time living with the pleasure they found in each other.

These two stories point to one of the most important truths my 35 years of working with couples has shown me. Though we know many of the qualities and skills that make a great relationship—most of which can be learned—there is no rule book for what makes two people work. Sometimes people just know their relationships are over; other times, even though it’s hard, they are willing to do the work to make it good again.

There are times you MUST leave ...

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

Read the article at:

It is full of great novel ideas about when to admit the "Happily Ever After" so anticipated at the wedding is not going to happen, and what to do about it.

As a writer, look inside yourself and then examine the people closest to you -- you will find an abundance of "internal conflict" which is the raw material of such drama, the kind of deep realization that your HEA didn't happen -- and won't.  Many, in the grip of this realization or those suppressing the realization of this truth leap directly from "I don't have it" to "It does not exist."

What evidence would you accept that the HEA is real, possible, and you missed your chance?

Soul Mates are two individual, and very different, people who are two halves of a whole -- they become one at the wedding.  That's what "wedding" means - it is a word used in wine making for mixing two wines, so you can't take them apart again.

But once married, building a life together -- jobs, commutes, buying cars, choosing a house or condo or apartment, furnishing it, having children (or deciding not to), thousands of individual decisions suddenly become joint projects.

The two become one.

What is going on inside one person splashes over into the inside of the other.

The more emotionally heated the anger, love, passion, offense, indignation, jealousy, resentment, and demands that YOU (not me) change behavior -- the more likely the two actually do belong together.

Their inner conflicts have crashed into each other, and shards of hard-headed rocks are flying everywhere.  Bystanders can be sliced to the bone as collateral damage.

True Soul Mates rarely meet in tranquility and sail blissfully on into a calm life.

Depicting a pair of Soul Mates on their shake-down cruise is a serious challenge for a Romance writer who wants to explore passionate sex and carefree joys because after the honeymoon is over, the conflicts become riptides pulling the couple apart.

The inner dialogue - the unspoken thoughts - of such a pair differ as male and female differ, but reflect each other.  Each seeks justice which means having their own expectations fulfilled.  Or, with some, the inner dialogue is about fulfilling the expectations of the Other and having that fulfillment acknowledged in a specific way.

For example, the 2018 culture is grappling with the conflicts between the traditional image of "Being A Man" and a new self-image for healthy masculinity that has not yet crystalized.

It will take 4 generations for such attitudes to be "natural" to men and women, and the transition will be confusing.

Fiction writers can explore these options with inner dialogue -- and how what one person in the couple is thinking one thing, but forcing themselves to do another.

Last Spring a huge misunderstanding of a University of Texas program erupted around the idea that a University was officially regarding masculinity as a mental illness.  (What A Theme!)

But that's not exactly what was really going on.

---- quote -----

The University of Texas is facing ridicule after a new program called “MasculinUT” was announced in a way that insinuated it was treating masculinity as a mental health crisis.. The university has attempted to explain the program as simply an effort to “bring more men to the table to address interpersonal violence, sexual assault and other issues,” but the reality is that UT is still promoting a facetious connection between masculinity and assault and violence.

When the program was originally announced, its stated goal was to help male UT students “take control over their gender identity and develop a healthy sense of masculinity.” as PJ Media reported:

The program is predicated on a critique of so-called “restrictive masculinity.” Men, the program argues, suffer when they are told to “act like a man” or when they are encouraged to fulfill traditional gender roles, such as being “successful” or “the breadwinner.”

Though you might enjoy “taking care of people” or being “active,” MasculinUT warns that many of these attributes are actually dangerous, claiming that “traditional ideas of masculinity place men into rigid (or restrictive) boxes [which]… prevent them from developing their emotional maturity.”

“If you are a male student at UT reading this right now, we hope that learning about this helps you not to feel guilty about having participated in these definitions of masculinity, and instead feel empowered to break the cycle!” the program offers.

As mentioned above, the program is also run by UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center “[l]ike other UT programs related to sexual assault and interpersonal violence.” And the website’s stated “project goals and guiding principles” still focus on the idea that certain types of masculine emotions and traits are negative and connected to sexual assault and violence.

For example, they are making an effort to “[p]romote an ethic of care for men and masculine-identified individuals who cannot escape expectations of masculinity,” “‘[e]ncourage a wider range of acceptable emotions,” and “[d]ecrease excessive competition and increase empathy.”

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

Read the article at:

There is certainly enough material regarding the female self-image, and the idea that a woman "should be" this and never that (whatever the this or that involved in the current culture's demand might be) for writers to depict a woman's inner dialogue as bemoaning the requirement.

All of this raises the science question which makes the essence of Science Fiction Romance -- "what exactly is gender?"

And do Souls come in genders?  Kabbalah says yes, Souls are locked in a single, specific gender lifetime to lifetime.

Science Fiction plays with the theory that Souls can reincarnate as human even if their prior lifetime was non-human.  And the idea of a male reincarnating as a female is common.  Most Science Fiction TV shows (including Star Trek) played with the idea of a male identity being trapped in a female body (or vice versa).

If you want to write a novel involving Soul transfers, be sure to do a state-of-the-art search and read up on what has been done -- there is much more to say on this topic!

Consider if reversing gender for a day would change the Character's inner dialogue.  Is the inner dialogue a product of gender or of mis-match between Soul and body's gender, or merely of societal expectations?

What exactly is gender?

The question is relevant to the idea of "Mates" -- as we are currently challenging the age-old assumption that Mates must be a pair of opposite gendered people.

Does gender come in opposite?  Is it this OR that but nothing in between?

Is gender optional?  Are Souls neuter?

All of these questions must be answered only if the answers differ from your reader's everyday world.  These questions frame the world you are building around your story.

Consider the example from the marriage counsellor noted above, where the couple arrived arguing the moment they walked in the door.  If they exchanged genders, would they still be Soul Mates?  Would they also exchange arguments and the fighting just go on without missing a beat?

Is the reason they are arguing simply that one is trapped in a gender whose expectations he/she can not meet?  (Men to be the bread winner; women to bear and raise children).

Would expectations have to be adjusted in such a situation, to result in an HEA?  What hammering drama would have to pound their heads together to create such an adjustment?

Find answers to those questions and cast them as simple statements -- and you've created a THEME.  Telling the story may be harder than anything you've ever done.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Stifling Creativity" AKA The Profitable Ingenuity Of The Lawless

Applying bricks-and-mortar laws to the internet would "stifle creativity" and prevent "the sharing" of "information" and generally "end the internet as we know and love it". Such is the gist of the so-far-successful opponents of the controversial copyright law that was just rejected by the EU Parliament.

"Critics said the laws would stifle creativity..."

Allow this author to translate. The "creativity" that would be stifled" by a reform of European copyright laws is not the genius of authorship, musicianship, cinematic film making, or the artistry of a photographer or painter. No, it is the profitable ingenuity of thieves.

"Sharing"..."information", is usually a matter of monetizing stolen creations of others. Pirate sites don't publish and distribute helpful advice or uncommon knowledge. Their "information" is more likely to be illegal copies of movies, games, works of fiction, music. And, they don't "share" like one neighbor does to another over the garden fence. They broadcast (like tossing seeds in a wide arc over a ploughed --or plowed-- field), usually for the purpose of payment from advertisers.

Legal blogger Gill Grassie for the law firm Brodies LLP  examines what is legally or logistically unacceptable about the draconian Article 13 of the EU proposal.

To wit, bigger platforms might have been obliged to prevent copyright infringing work from being uploaded by users.  Additionally, websites might have had to pay a license fee for displaying  snippets of text snagged
(my term) from published  articles.

By contrast, and from the sharp end, here's a fine video analysis of piracy by film maker Ellen Seidler of who profits from piracy, and how, and why. (It's from 2012, but still relevant.).

If lawmakers were to intellectually follow the money, they might do a better job of protecting creators. Perhaps the wrong Congressional and legislative bodies are looking at the problem... and of course, too many lawmakers are campaign-funded and lobbied by entities that find piracy profitable.

Aatif Sulleyman for the Trusted Reviews site examines the reasons produced in a 2018 survey on why Britons steal online.

It seems to boil down to the love of a freebie. It's free, and it's convenient. Or at least, that is the popular perception.

(But, all this "free" stuff is ruining musicians' livelihoods. A musician debunks the idea of touring and T-shirts as an adequate substitute for record sales, and points out that concert performances provide zero income for songwriters:  https://thetrichordist.com/2018/07/11/a-timely-repost-the-economics-of-mid-tier-touring-from-someone-who-has-done-it-for-34-years/ )

Aatif Sulleyman wrote this, about watermarking.

This author never expected a search for "remove watermarks on copyrighted content" to produce any search results at all. Wrong!

Colour me shocked.
On the other hand, the same socially responsible purveyors of useful information will also assist bricks-and-mortar perps.

I should probably now clear my cookies... and so, dear reader, should you.

The host of this blog (Blogspot) puts cookies on visitors' devices, and conveniently infers that visitors agree to deer-tick-like cookies piling on and burrowing in. Most sites to which this article has linked make the same inference.

Although "Cookie Consent" is the new panic according to legal blogger Eduardo Usteran, blogging for Hogan Lovells, blogs and websites have been obliged to let visitors know about their no-opt-out cookies
since an EU directive in 2009.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sword and Sorceress

I'm thrilled to announce that I've had a story accepted for this fall's SWORD AND SORCERESS 33 anthology, published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley estate and edited by Elisabeth Waters and Deborah J. Ross. I submit a story most years but don't often make the final cut, so it's exciting to win a place in the book. As you may guess from the title even if you haven't read any of the previous volumes, the series comprises "sword and sorcery" fantasy with female protagonists. Here are the contents of the forthcoming anthology, which we're encouraged to share:



HAUNTED BOOK NOOK by Margaret L. Carter

THE HOOD AND THE WOOD by Lorie Calkins

SINGING TO STONE by Catherine Mintz


LIN’S HOARD by Deirdre M. Murphy


ALL IN A NAME by Jessie D. Eaker

DEATH EVERLASTING by Jonathan Shipley

BALANCING ACT by Marella Sands


THE FALLEN MAN by Deborah J. Ross


THE SECRET ARMY by Jennifer Linnea



MAGIC WORDS by Alisa Cohen

CHARMING by Melissa Mead

My tale features a ghost in the library of a magical university, with a bit of humor.

SWORD AND SORCERESS has had a complicated publishing history, perhaps symptomatic of the shifting tides of publishing in the past few decades. It began as a long-running series of mass market paperbacks from DAW Books. After DAW and SWORD AND SORCERESS parted ways following MZB's death, a lapse of a few years was followed by several volumes in trade paperback from a small press. Finally, up to the present, the annual trade paperbacks have been published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust itself.

A few years ago, the Trust also resumed producing Darkover anthologies, a project that had been dormant for a long time. Now they're publishing a new one each May, in trade paperback rather than the former mass market format.

Most of the works released by the Trust are also available as e-books. Moreover, many stories from the anthologies, plus some other short pieces by anthology contributors, are sold on Amazon as stand-alone e-books. You can find them here. (If you scroll down far enough, you'll find a selection of my short stories.):

MZB Works in Kindle

Another anthology series from the Bradley estate, now on its fourth volume, is called LACE AND BLADE. It contains swashbuckling tales of adventure with touches of magic and romance. I would characterize the first volume as "perfectly targeted to Zorro fans," although subsequent anthologies have gradually widened their scope.

You can find out about the various books and series at the link below. Also, the Trust produces some audiobooks and CDs. In short, they offer a prime example of taking advantage of the full range of available media and formats to reach fans:

Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reviews 36 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg Comparing Expository Techniques

Reviews 36
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Comparing Expository Techniques

Reviews posts have not yet been collected into an Index post.  Some other blog series also discuss novels of Romance and/or Science Fiction and/or Fantasy/Paranormal all mixed or separately.

In general these Tuesday posts are about writing techniques, and though techniques are not (as course instructors will insist) the same in all genres, we float techniques across genre lines to blend genres seamlessly.

One of the techniques common to most kinds of fiction is taming the Expository Lump.

The lumping together sentences, paragraphs and whole pages of explanation of what the reader needs to know before they can understand the story, the plot, or the Characters' motivations and emotions, is a mistake beginning writers make because they have no other tools to convey the necessary information.

That information may be fascinating, and completely engrossing to the target readers, but unacceptable, unreadable, or just too much work for the readers at the edge of the target.

To broaden the swath of readers a story might reach, engage and stimulate, the writer has to find other ways to explain things -- entertaining ways.

This is necessary to establish a byline in the commercial marketplace.  The new byline has to earn the trust of readers who finish the book, and then finish the sequel, so the reader knows for a fact this writer will deliver on the promises of Page 1, and deliver big time.

The satisfaction readers experience at the end of a novel is what they pay for, it is the writer's product.  That emotional payoff is what the writer has to sell, but it first must be manufactured.

The final satisfaction has to be packaged to grab attention of readers browsing for something to read, and it has to stimulate the reader to mention it to friends (or Facebook Friends, people they don't know who don't know them, but share interests).

However, once a byline is established as one that delivers all it promises in the cover blurb, flap copy, and genre logo, and the writer is three long, complicated books into the Series, editors require Expository Lumps.

Of course, editors will declare unequivocally that there must be no expository lumps.

Then they ask the writer to make sure new readers who have not read the previous books can just pick up the series here, right in the middle.

Writers tend to go bald pulling their hair out over this one.  To keep the series in print you have to explain the previous books' adventures, but to engage a new reader you must SHOW DON'T TELL all that explanation.

WORSE!! Editors take the manuscript to committee, it gets accepted provided it is half the size that was turned in.

What goes?  The action?  The exposition? 

There comes a point in a long series where you just can not both explain what happened before, why it happened, and what this oddball universe uses for physical Laws, and still advance the plot a novel's worth of events.

So today let's look at the effect various solutions have on readers.

Here are two Series to compare. 

The 19th book in C. J. Cherryh's FOREIGNER series -- 6 trilogies and book 1 of another trilogy. 

And Book 3 of Bradley P. Beaulieu's THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS series.

FOREIGNER is set on a planet where a lost-colony ship from Earth left humans stranded to cope with the native Alien civilization.  It is all very tight point of view, though bits come from the point of view of an alien child being groomed to rule the world.  The story is about the human linguist interpreter, Bren Cameron , and most is from his point of view while he works through Human/Alien politics.

The "romance" angle is that he sleeps with one of his Alien Security Guards, though there aren't many sex or bedroom scenes and very little "relationship" -- still the warmth and firm bonding is vivid.

Book 19 in this series is shorter than some previous ones, and filled with Bren Cameron's long, intricate thinking about the Situation that has emerged from the previous trilogy's interactions with a third Alien species -- and doesn't mention the secret Bren carries (except obliquely) that he met a human who is a captive of these (formidable and menacing) Aliens.

The political situation is coming clear to "The Young Gentleman" (the Alien kid who will rule when his father dies).  He's only 9, but obviously more broadly mature than a human 9 year old.

Between Bren's adventures on one continent and "The Young Gentleman's" adventures on another, we understand why these new Aliens are a disaster waiting to happen -- they have left orbit, but their influence reshapes this world.

Bren "sold" the world as peaceful, but in truth it is a powder keg that will explode.

The specific threads of plot from the previous 18 novels that are going to mature in this trilogy (or the next) are all described in long expository lumps, couched in terms of Bren Cameron's new and changing understanding of the broader Situation.

Here's the challenge: If you have not yet read any FOREIGNER novels, or read only a couple and have forgotten, pick up EMERGENCE and see how hard it might be to slog through the exposition of Events past that you have not read.

Ask yourself as you struggle with names, places, and event sequences Bren is thinking about as he makes decisions, is this stuff interesting?  Do I write like this -- all about what has happened, not what is happening? 

Mark points where your eyes glaze over with a, "Who cares?" 

My secret is that I gobbled down every word of that exposition, loving the ride in Bren Cameron's head, whooping with joy at the Young Gentleman's maturation (when he takes over the House command position and orders servants to prepare a welcome for his mother and baby sister - he is perfect, so you know what is going to happen!)

I just love this series, and I have every confidence that C. J. Cherryh did not put a word in there which will prove unnecessary. 

Now, if you have not read THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS, try diving in with Book 3.

I have not read the previous books, do not know Beaulieu either personally or by previous writing.  I have no particular affinity for the oddball Fantasy world with a crazy-quilt of complicated "powers" that this story is set within.

I did not finish reading this thick novel. 

Why?  Expository Lumps - couched as narrative, and a wild and pointless floating point of view.  Bits and pieces in different locations involving different people whose actions are not clearly the result of, or connected to, what happened in the previous chapter from another point of view.

In other words, by page 118 of 582, I had no idea what this novel is ABOUT - who it is about, or why it might be interesting. 

Yes, the unique "powers" and the complex political revolution against entrenched and powerful "Kings" is fascinating.  The deep and odd bonding between two of the main characters is intriguing.  The basic material of this series is meat and potatoes to me.

But I bounced out 20% through.  Why?

Does it matter why? 

Yes, actually, it should matter to the author and maybe the editor. 

If the writer's skills were a "hit" with me, I would have gone searching for Book 1 and read from the beginning.  That would sell 2 books the publisher wants to move off the warehouse shelves -- maybe more if I tout the book on Facebook.

I would have been caught up in the series if there were any indication why these events are happening to these people -- or if there were fewer people so there is enough time to get to know them before the next group is introduced. 

I would have been caught up in the series if there was something about the main Character to show she deserves what is happening - that her efforts, and the backlash of responses from forces around her, will lead her to revising her innermost Character, make her grow stronger, understand where she's been wrong about "right and wrong and the difference between them."

In other words, the third book has to have a "hook" into the heart and soul of the character indicating why this is her Karma.  

In my real life, life and the world make sense -- if only you can get the right camera angle on yourself (see yourself as others see you).

In C. J. Cherryh's novels (all of them) the Characters fit their lives, learn and grow stronger for the hammering they take.  There's a comprehensible logic underlying events, however odd.

You can find that underlying logic right at the beginning of each of her books, and even if you disagree personally, you can comprehend the Characters innermost Souls because it is clear why they live the life they do.

In A VEIL OF SPEARS (lovely title), as the Characters come on stage, there is no hint that their souls belong in the lives they are living, and no awareness that belonging in your life is possible or desirable or that the Characters are working to get to a life where they do belong. 

So as I read, I never was compelled to ask myself, "What would I do in that Situation?"  I barely understood the Situation and had no idea why this Character was in that pickle (pretty marvelous pickle, could have made a great book.)

Eventually, I did ask myself, "Why am I reading this?" 

You never want your readers to ask themselves that! 

I love the material Beaulieu has created, but after about a hundred pages I still have no confidence in the writer's ability to deliver on the material's promise because the skills we have discussed on this blog over the years are not evident.

For example, there is no plot-or-story reason why the point of view changes except a lazy writer who can't be bothered to tell the story.  There is nothing to follow from one chapter to the next, no story at all, so why turn the page? 

Of course, if in the previous book, you were engrossed in these other characters, you might be pleased to go visit them.  But the writer's job is to engross you in the Character whose story this is -- and there's no hint whose story is being told. 

Contrast with the flipping from Bren Cameron to The Young Gentleman -- Bren is striving mightily to keep the human friends of The Young Gentleman happy, healthy and safe, while The Young Gentleman is getting a grasp of the threats that are coming -- and will need those human friends all grown up and well educated.  The Young Gentleman on one continent and the human friends on the other form the lynch pin of the world to come.  These people belong in their lives but have to grow into them. 

I love the FOREIGNER series, and don't want to read THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS. 

This is odd because both the Cherryh and  Beaulieu series are from one of my favorite publishers, DAW BOOKS (OK, prejudiced -- I've had some titles from DAW, too).

I like and admire these editors. 

Note that both writers here are creating intricate plots involving complex relationships between human and Alien (or not-quite human) and both involve a vast canvas of history, war, regime change -- all focusing the abstract topics we have discussed in this blog as ripped from the headlines.

DAW has created a collection of works that will appeal to similar readers, and they've done a great job of it.

I don't doubt that Bradley P. Beaulieu has an avid following that will devour this third novel in this series with rapt attention.  Knowing the payoff coming at the end, it won't seem like a difficult read.

But in general, widening your readership, grabbing new readers into a series as you go along, is the more commercial strategy.

So, if you are faced with a writing situation requiring exposition explaining what happened in previous books, make that exposition a precursor to what will be not a rehash of what was. 

Use exposition to explain how a Character now sees the same events from a new perspective.  What those Events portend for the Character's future differs from what readers of the previous books expected. 

Without spelling it out, show-don't-tell how many things might go wrong, how many different paths might lead out of the current pickle, and more why that how these Characters got themselves into this pickle.  What aspect of soul is begging to grow and learn this new karmic lesson?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Guest Post: "The First Pirate Hurts Most" by Addison Brae

Today, Addison Brae shares a debut author's rude awakening.

The first pirate hurts most
July 8, 2018
By Addison Brae

Digital piracy is rarely discussed in the publishing world, so seeing an unauthorized PDF of my book for the first time for free download was a shocker. Then add the extra punch that the site owner invites people to pay to join, and the first month is free. How did this jerk get the PDF? And what nerve to sell something that isn’t theirs.

The even bigger bombshell is how many authors have given up on chasing down pirated copies of their books. Last time best-selling crime writer Sue Coletta (http://suecoletta.com/) checked the pirate sites, her books neared 1,000. “If I wasted time trying to get every book off these sites, I’d be sending copyright notices full-time, with no time to write another book, never mind market my existing ones,” Sue said. “Sometimes we need to pick our battles.”

Piracy is cybercrime. It drastically changed the music, movie, and book publishing industries, and it’s spawned other industries to help stop it. But why does piracy continue?

My theory? No one’s looking. People do it thinking no one will notice or care.

A June 6, 2018 Digital Music News (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/06/06/muso-global-piracy-study/)  article says 53% of UK adults surveyed felt accessing media content illegally is wrong, but did it anyway.

It takes two. One steals the file and makes it available. You have a say in whether pirates are successful. Don’t download from shady sites. Besides, if they steal what they’re selling, they’ll steal and sell the personal information you provide.

Someone I know recently captured an unauthorized version of my book trailer (https://youtu.be/Mf-GlfxPzdY) from the web to play for a group. The intention was good, but the video quality suffered since it was pirated.

I found the first copyright violation instance with a simple Google alert on the book title and author name. I spent about an hour contacting the company that owns the site, and they disabled the link three days later, but hundreds of other titles remain. It was time I should have spent writing or doing something else productive.

Authors overwhelmingly use Blasty (https://www.blasty.co/) to monitor for copyright infringement. Monitoring is free, but the company charges $156 per year to blast the violator with automated notices about DMCA—the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It took me about a minute to set up a free monitoring account. Another author recently shared with an author email group, “They have taken down over 4k pirates offering my work in the last year.”

Wow. I’m not endorsing the service, but speechless at the number of people who will steal content for their own profit.

Please consider carefully before you swipe a book, piece of art, video, song, or anything without paying.

Think twice before you download!

A version of this post first appeared on Addison Brae’s blog (http://addisonbrae.com/piracy). Addison’s first novel is Becker Circle (Tirgearr Publishing, March 2018). Read more on her website (http://addisonbrae.com/).

Thank you, Addison!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Illusions of Safety

Last week, five people on the staff of our local newspaper were killed by a gunman who attacked their office because he had a long-standing grudge against the paper. (It's worth noting that the paper did not skip putting out a single issue.) Naturally, the rector of our church preached on the incident. He drew upon Psalm 30, which includes the beautiful verse, "Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning." To reach that epiphany, however, the psalmist has to recall a time when he felt confident in his security but then experienced the apparent loss of that safety and protection. Our rector talked about how we might have existed in a "bubble," thinking we were safe from such unpredictable mass violence, that it would never strike where we live. Now the bubble has been burst.

That reflection reminded me of what the media repeatedly told us after 9-11: "Everything has changed." Then and now, that remark brings to mind an essay by one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis, "On Living in an Atomic Age" (collected in the posthumous volume PRESENT CONCERNS). Lewis reminds us that such catastrophic events change nothing objectively. What has changed is our perception. That idea of safety was always an illusion. To the question, "How are we to live in an atomic age?" Lewis replies:

"'Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.' In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways."

As he says somewhere else (in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, maybe), the human death rate is 100 percent and cannot be increased or decreased. The bottom line is NOT that, knowing the inevitability of death, we should make ourselves miserable by brooding over our ultimate fate. It's one thing to take sensible precautions, quite another to live in fear. Just the opposite—we should live life abundantly. Lewis again:

"If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

Steven Pinker's two most recent books, THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, offer an antidote to the mistaken belief that we live in a uniquely, horribly violent age. Although Pinker and Lewis hold radically different world-views (Pinker is a secular humanist), both counsel against despair. Pinker demonstrates in exhaustive, rigorous detail that in most ways this is the best era in history in which to live—and not only in first-world countries. The instantaneous, global promulgation of news makes shocking, violent events loom larger in our minds than they would have for past generations. (But what's the alternative—to leave the public uninformed?)

We can deplore evils and work for solutions without losing our perspective.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt