Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Theme-Dialogue Integration - Part 3 - Romantic Emotional Intelligence

Theme-Dialogue Integration
Part 3
Romantic Emotional Intelligence

Previous Parts in Theme-Dialogue Integration

What's Eating Him?

What's Eating Her ?

One big complaint men and women in a maturing Relationship have about each other is conversational style.  Anthropologists have long identified differences in the way women talk from the way men talk, over and above what they talk about.

Today's world is trying to make men and women THE SAME (not equal, but rather identical).  Apparently, women have changed as much as they collectively are willing to, and are now doing #metoo memes on men who refuse to change how they speak, and behave (hands-on, hands-off, threats of "sleep with me or you're fired).

So the Battle of the Sexes is now Headline News, ripping careers nurtured over decades to shreds of humiliation.

The birth rate is down -- and reports show intelligence tests for I.Q. are averaging down scale, too.

Legislation is the tool of social engineering.

None of these trends is making for peaceful conversation between or among the genders.

So any dialogue between male and female Characters, even in the hottest Romance, or perhaps especially in the hottest Romance, is going to involve some kind of "off the nose" agenda on each side, leading to misunderstandings and open hostility.

We have discussed off the nose dialogue in many posts -- dialogue that doesn't say overtly what it actually means.

This index has more than 4 parts listed. There is much to say on dialogue.

Sarcasm is only one example of off the nose dialogue.  Changing the subject is another way of saying "I don't want to talk about that" or "That isn't important" or "You jerk! What do I  need you in my life for?"  The possibilities are as endless as the situations in which people speak to, or past, one another.

Today, however, the self-help and academic journals are full of the idea that "I.Q." is not the only kind of intelligence.

Historically, it is noted that I.Q. was invented as a racial divide, a way of keeping some kinds of people out of certain decision making positions.

The tests have been revised many times to eliminate the bias and single out individuals who can do certain types of intellectual tasks.

And that didn't work well enough to suit some people who took another look into the whole idea of "I.Q." or mathematically measuring future potential of a young person.

We all feel, as we meet dozens of other kids our own age, that there is a real difference between this one and that one, and there are those "like me" and those "not like me" -- even when everyone in the class looks like me!

Many studies have been done showing how the female of the species seeks males who are not so very "like me."  Females are exogamous.

But Relationships function -- somehow they do function because not all children are the result of rape -- along some OTHER axis than I.Q.

Researches are now focusing world attention on E.Q. or Emotional Intelligence.

I think this is interesting because in the 1950's, anyone who showed any emotion at all in support or refutation of any topic, anyone moved to fury, or laughter, or tears was considered a lesser being and obviously incompetent.

Women were kept out of managerial positions (and officer rank in the military, and university, too) because women CRY when challenged - they "get emotional" a couple weeks of the month.  This proves incompetence at all tasks.

The world has changed.   

So now there is a social competence score called Emotional Intelligence that is supposed to be independent of gender.

Dialogue in Romance Novels has to reflect this -- and it is now considered proper to "become offended" and as a result to "raise your voice" or even use words which would have gotten you banished from the workplace (fired) in the 1950's.

Which cultural attitude is "correct" or even preferable?

Answer that question and you have a THEME.

You need a Conflict to illustrate the theme, and a Resolution of the Conflict that will satisfy your target audience, and maybe leave them chewing on a New Idea.

Once you have nailed those two elements, you can work out both sides of the argument in dialogue.  It is in dialogue that "emotional intelligence" is most clearly depicted.

The current culture is arguing about what phrasing soothes another person's emotions and what phrasings insult or rile up negative emotions -- and how damaging negative emotions might be. None of this is settled, so it is an opportunity for Romance Writers to explore cultural aspects previously ignored.

Different academics have imposed different definitions of Emotional Intelligence on the words, and then proceeded to support their definition with science.  So you, as a writer, have to pick out a theory to discuss.

So let's just take, for example, a dialogue where one Character pours out his or her heart in a gush of angst (maybe a bereavement, or getting fired, or being passed over for promotion, or losing a driver's license).

Should Character 2 say, "I feel your pain."  To commiserate.  Suppose Character 2 wants to make Character 1 feel less pain -- what words should you write? What would an "Emotionally Intelligent" person write for that dialogue?  What would make the hurting person's heart open and embrace Character 2 as a Soul Mate?

Think through the theme.  Is Emotional Intelligence real or a figment of academic imagination having nothing to do with real humans?  Is it possible for one HUMAN to feel another HUMAN'S pain (really?).

In Magic and ESP worlds, you can have telepaths and empaths who collapse when others feel strong emotion.

But those without Talent would grope in the dark as we all do in our reality.  We have to theorize.  Writers of Romance fiction have to DEBATE the theories ripped from the Headlines.

So, Character 2 might espouse the idea that it is not only possible but laudable for one person to FEEL YOUR PAIN (i.e. have true emotional intelligence) and to say so out loud.  Character 1, who is feeling the pain, might consider this non-sense, and be convinced that Character 2 is feeling Character 2's own pain not Character 1's pain at all.

It is well established that we empathize by resonating with the pain of others, projecting ourselves into their position and feeling not what they are feeling but rather what we would feel in that position.

If you have been in that position (say, your mother recently died, too), you might assume that the other person is feeling exactly what you felt in that position.  But that is never true, because humans are such diverse individuals, distinctive and distinguished by unique relationships.

On the other hand, the similarities pretty much define what it means to be human.

If you've put Aliens into your mix, you have to rethink all of this from scratch.

So here are two sources to contrast/compare to begin building a world where your two Characters can illustrate the validity or non-sense perpetrated by the academics studying Emotional Intelligence.

First read this NBC News item on Conversational Narcissism and ask if such a concept has any validity at all.  Is this a discovery about the nature of humanity, or a ploy to perpetuate an old con game essentially giving academic support to grifters?


We love to talk about ourselves. It’s what journalist and author Celeste Headlee calls “conversational narcissism.” Not only can it ruin conversations, she warns, it can also destroy relationships.

“Talking about ourselves is very pleasurable and conversational narcissism is what results,” Headlee tells NBC News BETTER. “It’s this tendency to turn conversations back towards ourselves and things that we’re interested in …sometimes consciously, but even subconsciously.”

The “We Need to Talk" author learned about conversational narcissism — a term originally coined by sociologist Charles Derber — the hard way. She once tried to comfort a friend whose father had died, she recalled, by talking about the loss of her own dad.
------end quote----

And later in the same article :  How to tell if you're a 'conversational narcissist'
The one thing you should never say to a grieving person — or anyone going through a rough time.
by Julie Compton / Dec.02.2017 / 2:59 PM ET / Updated Dec.04.2017 / 7:59 AM ET

Headlee says that using support responses in conversations has made her relationships better.

“People trust me more, and so they tell me stuff they may not have told me before,” she says.

Finding balance is conversations isn’t solely about helping others, Headlee explains: It’s also something you do for yourself.

“By doing this, you’re more likely to create an empathic bond,” she says.

“It’s a gift you can give to others at the same time that you bestow it on yourself,” says Headlee.

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
------end quote--------

Now, ponder all that advancement against the backdrop of Ancient Wisdom.

Here's an item about a World Renowned personal advisor commonly known as The Rebbe, the leader of a huge, popular and growing "movement."


StorySunday at Chabad.org

This coming Shabbat, the third of Tammuz marks the 24th Yartzeit of The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory. We share with you a small yet beautiful story of the Rebbe.

💧 Empathy

A teenage girl once wrote a letter of several pages to the Rebbe, in which she described her inner turmoil and anguish. The Rebbe responded to her letter and wrote, among other things, that he feels her pain.

She wrote back a letter and said, "Rebbe, I don't believe you. How can you feel my pain? You're not going through what I'm going through. What do you mean that you feel my pain?"

Within two hours the Rebbe answered. This was the gist of his response:

"When you will merit growing up and marrying, and will, G‑d willing, be blessed with a child, the nature of things is that during the child's first year, he or she will begins to teethe. The teething is painful and the child cries. And a mother feels that pain as if it were her own."

The Rebbe concluded: "This is how I feel your pain."

Read some heartwarming encounters, selected from over 1000 interviews of those who had a personal experience with the Rebbe, by JEM.
👉🏻 http://Chabad.org/lxprgw


The response is a grand example of "off the nose" dialogue that communicates more precisely than any "on the nose" explanation could have.

Saying, on-the-nose, "I feel your pain" does not convey the intended message.  Finding the way to say "I feel your pain" off-the-nose, encoded into the experiences Character 1 and Character 2 share is what the writer of a Soul Mate Romance has to do.

Readers don't "believe" what you TELL.  They believe what they FIGURE OUT FOR THEMSELVES from the Events.

So finding that one, exemplary, CLASSIC ONE-LINER expression that represents "I feel your pain" is the main job of getting the book written.  That line is not the opening of your story -- it is buried deep within, very possibly at the MIDDLE.

It is the experiences you carry the reader through, getting to know each Character, that allows the reader to decode the off-the-nose utterance that establishes the rapport to kick off the Romance.

Yes, the Romance starts with their first meeting, on page one, but that is just the spark.  The conflagration unites the two Souls when the MESSAGE is received and "I feel your pain" is a shared experience.

Most important to remember is that "I FEEL YOUR LOVE" is conveyed in the same way -- not by "I love you" but by deeds that acknowledge previously shared feelings.

Study this Emotional Intelligence headline issue, and especially the way people bandy about the term Narcissist (which has a technical psychological definition at odds with the redefining going on in 2018), and consider it in terms of the Art of the Grifter we studied in the TV Series, Leverage.

Are is a Post from the Believing In The Happily Ever After series.  It is Part 4 about Nesting Huge Themes Inside Each Other -- for the purpose of later unfolding them as you continue a long series of long and complex books.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Law And Unintended Consequences

This weekend is the twentieth anniversary  (china!) of the signing of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).  As for me, I mentally awarded the DMCA its rightful wooden spoon five years ago, on its fifteenth anniversary.

Would you say that "china" is appropriate?  The DMCA is certainly broken.  Of course, it was intended to encourage cooperation between copyright owners and internet service providers to protect copyright and to reduce piracy.  Unfortunately, when the DMCA was written, most people used dial up to access the internet, downloading a file took all afternoon, and using the internet meant that the phone line was tied up for the duration of one person's internet "surfing" time.

Nowadays, it takes less time to make a good cup of tea than it does to scan a book and "share" it with potentially thousands of people.  A generation has grown up expecting that anything they can find online is theirs for the taking, free, covered by their cost in purchasing a computer and internet service (a false perception), and the big tech companies have taught everyone to believe that copyrighted works of all kinds are "content".

There's power in words.

In honor of the DMCA, the Copyright Alliance's Copyright Counsel, Terrica Carrington has penned an important, two-part retrospective article about the lofty aims and mixed success of the DMCA.


All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Cosmic Times and Distances

This video compresses the total history of the universe and Earth into a single monologue of less than twenty minutes:

History of the Entire World

The summary is heavily weighted toward human history, of course. If the timing of events were in proper proportion, the existence of life on this planet would take up only a tiny interval at the end, and humanity probably wouldn't even be mentioned on that scale. It's quite entertaining if you can tolerate its being peppered with repetitions of two words that used to be classified as "unprintable." My first thought, after watching the podcast, was how infinitesimally short, on a cosmic scale, the history of our civilization is.

Here's a visualization of planetary sizes and distances compared to the Sun if the radius of the solar system equaled the length of a football field:

NASA Solar System Scale

The Sun would be about the diameter of a dime. The four inner planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars—are the size of grains of sand, and Earth sits on the two-yard line. Even Jupiter has a diameter equal to only the thickness (not the diameter) of a quarter. By the time we get to Pluto, we're on the 79-yard line. It boggles the mind to consider how much of our solar system consists of empty space. Imagine how empty actual interstellar space is!

In one of his late writings, Mark Twain compares the time span of life on Earth to the Eiffel Tower. On that scale, human history would correspond to the layer of paint on the very top. Twain says something like, "Maybe it's obvious that the whole tower was built for the sake of that little skin of paint on the top, but I have my doubts."

As a believer in a Creator, I do believe that the universe was made for humanity. BUT—it was made for all the other creatures in existence, too. C. S. Lewis writes somewhere that each of us can truthfully say the entire world was made for us, as long as we remember that every other being can truthfully make the same claim. "All is done for each." As he puts it in the "great dance" scene of his novel PERELANDRA, "There seems no center because it is all center." Which harmonizes with the astronomical observation that no matter where we stand in our expanding universe, space seems to be moving away from us uniformly in all directions, because no matter what our position, from our viewpoint we're at the center.

In that respect, we'll probably have something fundamentally in common with any other intelligent entities we may meet.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Theme-Character Integration Part 15 - Building A Bully Character From Theme

Theme-Character Integration
Part 15
Building A Bully Character From Theme

Previous Parts of the Theme-Character Integration Series are indexed here:


To create a compelling narrative, a writer has to have something to say on a topic of vital interest to the target readership.

In Romance, we generally focus on what happens before "will you marry me?" -- or the pitfalls between that and the wedding.

The envelope theme of all Romance, science fiction Romance, Fantasy or Paranormal Romance, is "Love Conquers All."

But how does Love conquer a Bully?

One of the burning issues of 2018 is seen as bullying.  Usually, bullying is a development of Middle School or High School, and many out-grow the tendency when real life engrosses them.  But some people have their life shaped or reshaped by adults who have kept on bullying because, for them, it is a successful tactic.

We find bullying in the workplace, and especially targeting women who really need the job.  Sleep with me or you're fired -- is bullying when done by someone who can fire you (or arrange enough disgrace that your career is ruined).

Bullying is one of the life experiences that it always seems Love can not conquer.  Most people don't even try to return the use of excruciating force with "love" of some kind.  We just hit back, hopefully harder.

One of the most successful tools of the adult bully is reputation.  Just start a rumor and down come the mightiest figures.  Think of Bill O'Reilly, for example, most viewed commentary show on Cable and he's gone for loss of reputation -- we don't even know if he did what he's accused of.  Was that fake news?  Several other figures (all along the political spectrum) have been brought down by accusations -- not proof, just accusations - and been deemed guilty until proven innocent.

But there is no extant way for a man to prove his innocence when accused of unwanted sexual advances -- or beyond that bullying.

Under the law, there is no need to prove innocence because it is logically impossible to prove a negative.  It is up to the accuser to prove guilt -- and in the case of sexual bullying, only the accuser actually knows.  There is no proof on either side.

So it is now up to the Science Fiction Romance writer to invent a way to prove "wanted/unwanted" emotional tone of the moment, deep subconscious motives, and screeching fear of being fired, etc.

How do you prove emotions of the past?

If you look at 2016-2018 evolution of mainstream news, you see the trend toward including more and more emotional language in headlines, and in conclusions.  Headlines saying "He Bashed SoAndSo" and other violence based words (clickbait for sure) such as trashed, blasted, etc.

Note rarely do you see "excoriated" or any multi-syllable word in such headlines.

If you listen to the clips being referenced, you note the total lack of verbal violence by the speaker being described in the headline.

Read the articles, and you see ever increasing reliance on the essential truth being revealed by the emotions of the people involved, and most especially by the news media and/or just the reporter.

Reporters who avoid emotion-based wording are being accused of sexual misconduct and taken off the air, while reporters who rely totally on emotion based phrasing are elevated to top positions.

It is a trend that has just  barely begun to appear, but science fiction writers have to grab emerging trends and extrapolate them to an extreme.  Writing courses teach how to do this.

So to build a Bully Character from a Theme about Bullying - and create a conflict, you need a non-Bully Character who is not a wimp.  You need a Kick-Ass Heroine who has zero inclination to kick ass.

Then you take that Good Character and shove her nose into a situation where it is Bully vs. Bully and winner-take-all.  Both those Bullies come after her, and she kicks ass because ... well, the reason she kicks ass and wins is your theme.

THEME: she kicks ass because God is on her side

THEME: she kicks ass because she's been bullied once too often

THEME: she kicks ass because she's grown up at last

THEME: she kicks ass because she is just better than they are

THEME: she kicks ass because Bullies Are Always Cowards

You can generate any number of reasons a single woman would prevail over professional bullies.  She might kick ass because returns their verbal violence with love.

In today's world, it is easy to lure readers into believing a knock-down-drag-out fight can occur over political stances.  In the USA, it is Republican vs. Democrat.  In other countries, the lines of division are different.  In Europe "Conservative" means totalitarian Nazi, and in the USA "Conservative" means what Europe means by Liberal.  So you can't insult your reader's intelligence by flinging labels around - and using labels as the motive for violence.

So let's take the issue of FAKE NEWS as an example of how to Characterize a Bully and the issue that triggers the use of force.

We are now seeing political stances dividing people in non-political venues -- Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being rejected at a restaurant, elected officials calling for attacks and flash-mob "crowding" (in High School, one form of bullying is to invade personal space) of those who express certain opinions.

The Supreme Court is ruling 5-4 again and again -- the USA is a nation divided 45-45% with a slosh-wave of 10% fleeing from one side of the boat to the other.

Fake News may actually not be "fake" on either side of the issue, but rather colored, slanted, selected and reported through emotion-based filters.  But right now, each side thinks the other side is lying.

Here is an article on statistics - which I haven't checked, but some might believe.  Pew Research center has been the gold standard in statistics -- is it still reliable?

This article is from May 2017:


The article says that in 2017 most Republicans distrusted major news networks -- in 2018, it seems that distrust has grown.

Meanwhile, statistical studies on Bullying are being done and reported -- and there is distrust about whether these reports on the rise and prevalence of Bullying are actually lies told on purpose to manipulate public sentiment.

Here is a blog article from June 2018 about school bullying statistics and reporting.


It says comparing New York to New Hampshire:

Yet again, it appears that school officials are working harder to hide incidents of bullying than address them:

The rate at which schools investigate students’ claims and find actual incidents of bullying has also dropped dramatically at the high school level. In 2010-2011, high schools confirmed bullying in 58 percent of reported incidents. Seven years later, it has dropped to 29 percent.

Some schools have put a lot of effort into stopping bullying, advocates say, but they believe the discrepancies in the data are evidence that some schools are exploiting weaknesses in the state’s law to under-report and underinvestigate claims of bullying.

---end quote---

Now, suppose you are writing a "Second Time Around" Romance where your female lead has a kid in school, and a cover-up policy keeps the kid from attaining justice against the clique doing the bullying.

Her Romantic Interest is say, the Principal, and he is a bully in a fight with another bully (maybe School Board?), and her daughter is caught in between because of -- oh, say her estranged father is a Republican who is running for some local non-partisan office (maybe Justice of the Peace).

Would an adult who is a successful Bully all their life and is now in charge of a school be invested emotionally in evicting bullying kids from his school?

Bullying in schools is not only in-person -- intimidation can happen online, and be carried into the face-to-face hallway situations.  An online bully you never have to see with your eyes (or compete with for grades), is one you can ignore.

Here are some previous posts discussing aspects of the bullying issue:




So, would an adult who has mastered the fine art of subtle intimidation, sexual harassment, and other forms of bullying want to stamp out bullying among the children he is responsible for grooming for success in life?

Or would he want to evict the kid who was the target of the bullies?

Create two adult bullies, on opposite sides of the current political divide, and show how both the acceptance and rejection of Fake News -- or say, a photoshopped YouTube Video of an incident reversing the apparent instigator -- brings these two Bullies into direct conflict.

Show how the mother of the girl having her reputation destroyed can use the insights attainable only through Love to bring down both bullies and teach the town a lesson they will never forget.

What you have to say about Bullying (even how you define bullying) will be the theme.  The Character(s) who bully will be examples of what you have to say.  The Character who resolves the situation, perhaps teaching her kid how to handle Bullies by showing rather than telling, will be the one your readers will love - because love conquers even bullies.

Alternatively, you might take the point of view of the parent of the worst Bully who teaches the Bully why bullying is a bad life strategy.  The Principal of the school who bullies teachers, for example, may get a resounding lesson from his or her father.

Bullying is often a generational behavior.  It has been shown that children who are "ruled" by parental force often resort to "taking it out on" other kids at school.  It is a social infection, and once clearly successful, will be copied and passed on.

Now is the time for the imaginative writers of the world to invent new solutions to this age-old behavior.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Breakdown of Copyright (or not)

Legal bloggers Chantal Bertosa, Victoria E. Carrington, and Ashley Doumouchel writing for the law firm Aventum IP Law LLP share their definitive breakdown of "Copyright in Canada."


This is a comprehensive work, and everyone who sells their own books in Canada ought to bookmark it.

Possibly the most disturbing segment, apart from the explanation of the costs of enforcing copyright, are the list of defences (Canadian/British spelling) available to infringers.

IMHO, authors and publishers ought to do more to assert the meaning of "in the public domain".

Stanford University publishes a lengthy explanation of the public domain.

Just because a novel by a living author is displayed in full or available for download on a pirate site or on a so-called internet "library" does not mean that the novel is "in the public domain".

For a breakdown of Copyright in the United States, bookmark the article written for the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP by their legal bloggers Jeff C. Dodd, Jonathan D. Reichman, and Susanna P. Lichter.


There are two depressing take-aways (maybe a lot more) from the excellent article: it can cost $500,000 to enforce a copyright through discovery and trial, and content owners must constantly monitor the use of their work online.

For the latter, I subscribe to Blasty's full service, but to date there are over 1957 instances where Google's lawyers have determined (erroneously IMHO) that the "libraries" offering ebook versions of my works are entitled to do so.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 18, 2018

AI Rights

Here's an article on the PBS website exploring the issue of what might happen if artificial intelligences were granted the status of legal persons:

Artificial Intelligence Personhood

Corporations are already "persons" under the law, with free-speech rights and the capacity to sue and be sued. The author of this article outlines a legal procedure by which a computer program could become a limited liability company. He points out, somewhat alarmingly, "That process doesn’t require the computer system to have any particular level of intelligence or capability." The "artificial intelligence" could be simply a decision-making algorithm. Next, however, he makes what seems to me an unwarranted leap: "Granting human rights to a computer would degrade human dignity." First, bestowing some "human rights" on a computer wouldn't necessarily entail giving it full citizenship, particularly the right to vote. As the article mentions, "one person, one vote" would become meaningless when applied to a program that could make infinite copies of itself. But corporations have been legal "persons" for a long time, and they don't get to vote in elections.

The author cites the example of a robot named Sophia, who (in October 2017) was declared a citizen of Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia Grants Citizenship to a Robot

Some commentators noted that Sophia now has more rights than women or migrant workers in that country. If Sophia's elevated status becomes an official precedent rather than merely a publicity stunt for the promotion of AI research, surely the best solution to the perceived problem would be to improve the rights of naturally born persons. In answer to a question about the dangers of artificial intelligence, Sophia suggests that people who fear AI have been watching "too many Hollywood movies."

That PBS article on AI personhood warns of far-fetched threats that are long-established cliches in science fiction, starting with, "If AI systems became more intelligent than people, humans could be relegated to an inferior role." Setting aside the fact that we have a considerable distance to go before computer intelligence attains a level anywhere near ours, giving us plenty of time to prepare, remember that human inventors design and program those AI systems. Something like Asimov's Laws of Robotics could be built in at a fundamental level. The most plausible of the article's alarmist predictions, in my opinion, is the possibility of a computer's accumulating "immortal wealth." It seems more likely, however, that human tycoons might use the AI as a front, not that it would use them as puppets.

Furthermore, why would an intelligent robot or computer want to rule over us? As long as the AI has the human support it needs to perform the function it was designed for, why would it bother wasting its time or brainpower on manipulating human society? An AI wouldn't have emotional weaknesses such as greed for money or lust for power, because emotion is a function of the body (adrenaline, hormone imbalances, accelerated breath and heartbeat, etc.). Granted, it might come to the rational conclusion that we're running the world inefficiently and need to be ruled for the benefit of ourselves and our electronic fellow citizens. That's the only immediate pitfall I can see in giving citizenship rights to sapient, rational machines that are programmed for beneficence. The idea of this potential hazard isn't new either, having been explored by numerous SF authors, as far back as Jack Williamson's "With Folded Hands" (1947). So relax, HAL won't be throwing us out the airlock anytime soon.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Reviews 40 - John Dixon The Point

Reviews 40
The Point
John Dixon

Reviews have not yet been indexed.  I discuss many novels within the context of various writing techniques they illustrate, and a few (40 so far) separately, to be referred to later.

Today, I have a novel -- mostly Urban Fantasy -- by John Dixon from Del Rey books -- which was sent to me (free) in ARC form via Amazon Vine.

I review products for Amazon which they send out free samples to promote.  The deal is the reviewer pays the income tax on the wholesale price of the item, so it isn't really free, but the slug at the top of the review identifies the Vine Voice -- meaning, getting the item free, they might not be as critical as they should be.

I will post an Amazon page review of this novel, John Dixon's THE POINT, using most of what I have to say here, but the Amazon page comments are not "reviews" and not aimed at Romance readers or Romance writers looking to deepen their craft skills.

THE POINT - by John Dixon, is an attempt at a new angle on the "posthuman" or mutant human who gets "superpowers."

It is of interest to Romance Writers (probably not to READERS of Romance genre) because the main female kick-ass Character experiences a glancing infatuation after bouncing around among sexual encounters and the drug scene.  Having no home life to compare her feelings with, she risks her standing at West Point to meet her lover at night.  That's ALL there is in this novel - a mostly off-stage Relationship between wasted and weak Characters who turn out to redirect World History.

None of the characters are "admirable" in the sense of exemplifying Values our society today adheres to without realizing they are Values.

Since all the characters are on the same moral/spiritual level, there actually is no conflict -- not internal or external.  Conflict is the essence of both story and plot -- but this novel has neither.

This makes the book worth studying because it was published in August 2018 by Del Rey in Hardcover etc.  This prestigious publishing house expects broad audience appeal.  I don't think so -- but they might sell the movie rights.

Why would it make a movie, though it fails as a text story?

Because though there isn't much sex, there is Violence, and ESP powers that allow for burning, ugly events, explosions, levitation, and overpowering the Will of others, even in large groups.

There is lots of visual interest loosely glued together by a narrative line.

You don't "live" the growth experiences of these Characters, and learn their life lessons vicariously.  You are TOLD (not shown) that the Characters change their minds about how to live, usually under the hammer of Authority and threats of jail.

They "are forced" to West Point where they are press-ganged (legally) into a secret program (actually housed under ground at West Point) run by a guy who instigated the genetic mutation that caused them to be born with "powers."  Each has a different sort of "power."

This guy, the backstory reveals slowly, was in charge of a unit that got poisoned in a war theater, med-evaced to a place where experimental methods were used to "cure" them.  The children of those soldiers were born with "powers."

This is the oldest form of "science is evil" novel.

These Characters are the product of Science, and not a one of them has any sense of "right vs. wrong" -- just expediently adopting whatever ideas are floating around them.  They eventually adopt the ideals of West Point -- but there is no foundation for this philosophy.

There is no reason for these Powered People to loyally defend their country, except that their country has press-ganged them and brainwashed them.

There is a wan, half-hearted attempt at the end to enunciate the Values that West Point is based on, but it fails because it is all tell and no show.  And the infatuation which flickers randomly through the course of events is not a Soul-Mate driving force, bringing a flash of true illumination to the Souls of the couple.  There is no reason, other than being defeated by force, to adopt the Values of West Point or Patriotism in any form.  Nothing "good" is revealed about government.  There is no hint that these people will not switch loyalties again at the first challenge because there's no reason for them to become loyal to the government. 

Some of the products of this guy's experiment wash out of "The Point" program, and are sent to "The Farm" where they are imprisoned because they are too dangerous to release.  They escape and form the opposition the recruits at The Point are being trained to overcome.

One guy, some wild science experiments, and two factions are generated who strew the landscape with destruction.

The Point is the stuff Hollywood looks for, but not what novel readers seek.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Good News: Creators Have No Duty To Read All Their Contemporaries' Works

The subject line is an extrapolation.

It would indeed be an unreasonable world for copyright owners if a creator whose work was plagiarized, or infringed, or "sampled" lost all redress if they did not discover the infringement, plagiarism, or "sampling" and sue within a short period of time from the release of the alleged infringement.

Legal blogger Michael A. Keough for the law firm Steptoe and Johnson LLP reports on a recent ruling:
Judge Broderick: Copyright Case Against Justin Timberlake Is Timely; Plaintiff Had No Duty To "Scour" All Songs Immediately After Album Was Released.


(Italics added by this author for clarity of reportage.)  This piece and the good Judge's wit and wisdom are well worth clicking through and reading.

It is extraordinary that the defendant might believe that a deceased musician's estate had any obligation to buy all albums and attend all concerts, or view all HBO specials by all other musicians in order to discover any potential infringements.

Is this the fruit of "permissionless innovation"?

Apologies for brevity, and only one item.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 11, 2018

In Defense of Unsuspicious Immersion

The May 2018 issue of PMLA (the journal of the Modern Language Association) contains an article by Faye Halpern titled "Beyond Contempt: Ways to Read UNCLE TOM'S CABIN." The author describes how a beta reader of her dissertation remarked on the "contempt" with which Halpern obviously regarded the "sentimental" aspects of the novel. Halpern confesses that she somewhat took pride in her disdain for the work she was studying, because this reaction proved her qualifications as an academic critic, one who isn't taken in by the overt plot and seduced by the novelist's attempt at evoking emotion from the reader. A proper critic rejects "what we perceive as the surface meaning for a deeper meaning," a technique that has been labeled the "school of suspicion" and "paranoid reading." Halpern notes the response of another critic whose approach to UNCLE TOM'S CABIN she found "fascinating and appalling" because it dared to mention the real-world background for the novel's scene of the death of Little Eva—the actual rate of infant and child mortality in the nineteenth century, hence the frequent motif of innocent children's deaths in Victorian fiction. What Halpern found "appalling" at that earlier stage in her career was the other critic's "strong and sympathetic reaction to the text."

Now, I've written academic criticism myself, and I can rejoice in a keen, multi-layered analysis of a literary work. I endorse the principle that a work may hold dimensions and meanings of which the author is unconscious, maybe even contrary to the author's stated ideas and purposes. I believe, however, that a proper critic can (and should) begin with what Halpern calls "unsuspicious immersion" in the narrative. If you don't understand, preferably from personal engagement with the story, what the author claims to be doing, how can you answer the fundamental critical questions: What is the author trying to do in this text? Does the author succeed in this aim? And is it worth doing?

As Halpern says, a novel such as UNCLE TOM'S CABIN "does something to many of its readers, and what that something is depends on how a reader reads." One feature of this novel in particular is that it functions as a "literacy manual"; containing many scenes of characters reading and interpreting books, it apparently "takes pains to teach its readers to read properly." Yet, in Halpern's opinion, the novel is also in some sense an "illiteracy manual." Her reason for this label: "It teaches its readers to think of it as real, to think of its characters as real people."

That's the point where I gasped in disbelief and mild horror. How ELSE is one supposed to read a novel? Isn't that type of immersion ("unsuspicious" openness to the story) exactly what fiction invites? Granted, that's not how we teach English students to read and how professional critics are supposed to approach texts. Those kinds of reading, however, should build upon an initial receptivity to the story. How can we critique a work intelligently if we don't give it a fair chance in the first place?

According to C. S. Lewis in AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM, "We can find a book bad only by reading it as if it might, after all, be very good. We must empty our minds and lay ourselves open." At another point in the same book, he discusses the reading tastes of the "unliterary." Such people don't care about style, theme, or depth of characterization. If anything, those elements distract them from what they want in stories—excitement, suspense, and vicarious pleasure. Their reading is "unliterary," though, not because they enjoy excitement, suspense, etc., but because they're oblivious to anything else in fiction. "These things ought they to have done and not left others undone. For all these enjoyments are shared by good readers reading good books."

Likewise, Tolkien refers to what we're calling "unsuspicious immersion" in his essay "On Fairy Stories," where he discusses the concept of willing suspension of disbelief. In his view, that's not enough. Rather, he says, "But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful 'sub-creator.' He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is 'true': it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside." He calls this "enchanted" state of mind Secondary Belief.

If Tolkien and Lewis don't qualify as academic authorities on the proper way to read a story, who on Earth does?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Putting Violence In Its Place Part 2 - The Three Second Rule

Putting Violence In Its Place
Part 2
The Three Second Rule

The First Part of this series was written as a stand-alone post, not the kickoff of a series, but in 5 years or so, the Romance Genre field has changed -- a lot.  We need to revisit this topic in light of the #MeToo hashtag campaign.

So Part One is:

Violence has never mixed well with Romance.  Violence is Astrologically symbolized by Mars and Pluto.  Romance is a phenomenon of Neptune.

Astrology posts are indexed here:


Yet today's society is surfacing the subtext interaction between men and women in the workplace, where status and power are used to bully women into submitting to sexual advances that are not welcome.  And, bullying-back, women who did accept in the heat of the moment later claim to have been attacked #MeToo.

This new front of the war between the sexes was predicted in the political explosion of the 1950's (post WWII men coming home) and 1960's (a new generation of women wanting control of their own lives, reproductive and economic destiny).

Women should not "work" because a) it distracts men from their work, b) women should be home having and raising kids, c) women are too weak to "take the heat" in the "kitchen" of the all-male workplace d) men will then make half as much salary because "now" men are paid to "support a family" and their wives are considered "employed" by the husband's employer to see to his readiness to put in a hard day's work without coming home to chaos and household chores.  (honest, that was the argument!)

Solution: make it 50/50 workplace, with the rules of employment accommodating the working mother.  A couple of generations of women have fought for that equality, and hit the "glass ceiling," hard. Now splintered shards of that glass ceiling are falling on the women climbing behind those who first broke it.  And those splintered shards are drawing life-blood (#MeToo).

So the "rules" (social norms invented by each generation of teens, just as they invent language anew, feeling their experience of life is unique and never-before-experienced by any human) of dating, hooking up, living together without marriage, have been changed.  Sex not before the third date is no longer a rule for convincing a guy you are not promiscuous.  Now, sex on the first date is an option. 

When women were kept at home, sex before marriage would besmirch a reputation.  Now, put out or shut up, is the rule.  Here is a UK Cosmopolitan article about the THREE SECOND RULE.  The end of the article is the most pertinent part.



"It makes women feel gorgeous"

So I asked Rick, “What if your date isn’t into it? Surely no means no, not go into Carol Vorderman mode and set the timer. "Well if they aren’t, you stop right away, no bones about it. But I find most of the women are. It makes them feel gorgeous if you show you can't hold yourself back because they’re so sexy."

I must admit, Rick’s justification also made me see him in a different light. The problem is that a lot of guys believe in the three second rule - it's not just the creeps, but people like Rick who seem perfectly nice, decent guys, the other 23 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds of the day. But, for those three seconds, they believe it’s acceptable to blur the lines.

Essentially, the three second rule is not about waiting for a woman to say yes, but waiting for her to say no - and that's where it becomes a grey area in terms of consent. If you haven’t had a chance to say no because a guy has stuck his tongue down your throat before you can get a word in edgeways, does that really constitute consent?


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

Is "three seconds" enough TIME for a woman to "consent" -- and is that consent irreversible?  Is crying "MeToo" a week or month later somehow dishonest or dishonorable?

Is the Three Second Rule a product of the War Between The Sexes brought into the workplace where, in a Man's World, the workplace is an arena of combat, survival of the fittest, and raw life-or-death competition where women are not welcome?

Does a sexual advance from a co-worker, subordinate or superior, constitute sexual harassment - before or after 3 seconds? 

Is personal body-contact an act of sexual violence?  Or is it romantic?

Do guys have a "right" to claim a woman consented because they use aggressive strength to penetrate defenses? 

What is the statute of limitations on #MeToo?  Should there be one, or is sexual aggression like murder, killing off something that can never be replaced, repaired, or healed?

Many very ROMANTIC scenes can be constructed around these questions -- where social "rules" come from (fevered teen imagination?), why they should be obeyed, and when they should be out-grown or modified?

Discussions between Male and Female Lead Characters in a Romance just can not be plausible if conducted in "On The Nose" dialogue -- where you say what you mean.

The discussions about the Three Second Rule and #MeToo have to be "off the nose" -- which means in SUBTEXT, behind the words that are said is a meaning the reader gleans without being told.  It is all implied, alluded to, and embedded in the context of the relationship's shared experiences.

TV drama does this off-the-nose dialogue by alluding to - say - a City where the two shared an experience before the Show (e.g. "I won't forget Paris.")

In a novel, or series of novels, you have to write "Paris" -- planting it, foreshadowing the allusion that will hammer the point about #MeToo and the Three Second Rule, so the reader reinterprets the events in Paris to understand whatever thematic point you are making about #MeToo.

The hole in the "rules" that our current society has to fill in is all about HOW a guy proves he was welcomed, not shunned.  What is proof?  It used to be a wedding ring and the publicly stated, "I do."  What is proof of welcome now?  Women can accuse, but how can Men refute? 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Need To Know/ Nice To Know

Authors, do you know how long your copyrights on your works last? For your lifetime, plus 70 years.  This has been the case for authors in the USA and in the EU for some time. Now, it applies to Canadian creators.

Thanks to the negotiators of the USMCA, copyright in Canada has been changed from "life of the author + 50 years" to "life of the author + 70 years".

Legal bloggers Mark K. Evans and David Schwartz writing for the law firm Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh explain "USMCA v NAFTA: What's changed, and what it means for IP in Canada."

It's a long and comprehensive article, but well worth bookmarking.

Authors should register their copyrights promptly, since, until the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rules, there is some disagreement in the courts about whether a work counts as "registered" as soon as registration is applied for and the fee paid, or if it is only "registered" when the certificate is issued by the Register of Copyrights... which latter can take over a year.

Writing for the law firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP, legal blogger Samuel V. Eichner discusses why the Supreme Court Grants Certiorari....

US creators ought to support the CASE Act.
Gabrielle Carteris opines on the urgency for photographers, authors, songwriters, bloggers, YouTube artists and others to contact their congresspersons in support of giving creators a cost-effective means to enforce their copyrights.

The Authors Guild is strongly in support of the small copyright claims act, also.

Last word: if any of our readers are inspired by history, or planning a trip to Sherborne in the UK, my friend Cindy Chant does Sherborne Walks, and writes historical articles for the delightfully eclectic Sherborne Times. The Disastrous Ending is on pp 42-43 of 132.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Wonders of Jellyfish

If possible, pick up a copy of the October NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and contemplate the dazzling photos in the article on jellyfish. Typical jellyfish (not all of which are related to each other; the general name is popularly applied to different groups of creatures) have a complicated life cycle. The adult stage, the parachute-like shape with tentacles that we're most familiar with, is called a medusa. Medusae reproduce sexually, releasing eggs and sperm into the water. The larval stage, known as planula, anchors itself on a rock or the sea bottom, where it becomes a polyp. Polyps reproduce asexually, budding off multiple clones called ephyra, which grow into new medusae.

The highly toxic Portuguese man-of-war illustrates a transitional phase between a colony of separate organisms and their union into a larger, more complex creature. What looks like an individual is "technically a colony that developed from the same embryo."

The oral arms—the tendrils that sweep food into the mouth—of some jellyfish have mouths on the streamers themselves, a feature that sounds like a model for a Lovecraftian eldritch monster.

One species has a unique, almost unbelievable ability to revert to the polyp stage and start life over when confronted by environmental stress such as near-starvation or severe injury, sort of like reincarnation. By producing clones of itself that become medusae, which in turn transform back into polyps, and repeating the cycle, it effectively never dies (at least from "natural causes") or grows old.

The Immortal Jellyfish

Understanding this process of "cell recycling," called "transdifferentiation," could make a vital contribution to stem cell research.

If an intelligent species with an alternating sexual-asexual and mobile-stationary life cycle existed on some alien planet, it would surely have a social structure very different from ours, especially if it followed the jellyfish pattern of producing myriads of offspring with every instance of sexual reproduction. Of course, such alien sapient beings couldn't be jellyfish as we know them, which have no brains. It's also hard to imagine an r-selected species, one that engenders huge numbers of fast-maturing young in hopes that some may survive, evolving intelligence. It wouldn't have the long childhood and parental care that we assume to be essential to intelligence as we know it. What about intelligence not-as-we-know-it, though? Could animals similar to jellyfish, given some sort of neural network, develop a hive mind? After all, in one phase of their life cycle, they're clones, so they might conceivably have a shared consciousness. Genetically identical "immortal jellyfish" have been discovered in widely scattered parts of the Earth. Might similar organisms on another planet belong to a worldwide group mind? If so, what would they think of us as solitary individuals?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Worldbuilding For Science Fiction Romance Part 2 - Imagine An Impossible World

Worldbuilding For Science Fiction Romance
Part 2
Imagine An Impossible World 

Part 1:

In Part 1, we looked at the component of Artistic Composition.

Now, in Part 2, we will look at how to compose the vision of another world, or a futuristic world, using the techniques of science fiction to weld a science story to a Romance.

Pick a science - for example, let's look at sociology or psychology, "soft sciences."

If you need to detail the invention of an FTL space drive, you need to pick astrophysics, or something mystical.  For this exercise, let's look at the notion of "Ripped From The Headlines" as the source of story ideas that sell to wide audiences.

The purpose of this blog is to explore what Romance writers can do to create the Romance Genre version of Star Trek and Star Wars - reaching audiences that actively loathe the genre you are selling them and convincing that audience that they've been missing something.

We have spent a few months exploring the loathing for the HEA, the Happily Ever After, ending which is the primary signature of the Romance Genre.

Readers want a "complete story" -- a story that starts with the explosion of a problem into the life of someone they can understand.

People want Characters struggling to do something they are now doing in their life, so they can watch the Character succeed in the struggle by inventing a new solution to the problem.

So let's look at a problem in sociology -- Fake News Media Bias.

The way events are revealed and covered in the media today irks a lot of people -- and it irks both ends of the political spectrum equally.

People don't want to be told what to make of an event, an utterance, a proclamation, or Supreme Court Decision.  They just want to know what happened, who did what, and how it relates to their prospects for succeeding at (whatever they are doing) life.

So figure out what irks audiences about the Media representations of current Events (politics is always fertile ground! But on the whole, leave the "media" out of your story, and plot, and present all sides of the political argument in the headlines.)'

It's Fake News that irks people -- only these people believe X is fake news and Y is true news, while those people believe Y is fake news and X is true news.

You want to write a Romance -- you don't want to identify X or Y as fake news.

So imagine a Visionary "future human dominated Earth" where news is News, not Fake and not True, but just News.  Imagine a civilization where the problem has been solved and everyone is deriving their diverse and contrary opinions from the same Facts.

That Vision you imagine is the ENDING of your Romance, the HEA.

Now, work backwards to the problem that combining the Two Characters into a Harmonious Couple will solve.

The problem is a society that is in perpetual angst over what is real being mixed up in what a malevolent manipulator is weaving into the warp and woof of the society's fabric.

So your opening might be a College Graduation ceremony where, at a party after the ceremony, someone misbehaves egregiously and there is consequent media coverage at variance with what your Main Character witnesses.

Then there's a Court case.

Suppose the witness is deeply involved with the miscreant and called to testify where the junior most lawyer on the prosecutor's team is a fellow graduate who also witnesses.

Chapter Two is the court decision being handed down in accordance with the imaginary (or rigged ) facts as reported in the media, not what these two witnesses saw happen.

Chapter Three is the two of them together at some kind Event generated by the Court decision.  At this point they are not friends.  An Event happens, and they discover each other as potential Soul Mates - sparks fly.  They each offend their employers in some way because of the sparks.

Job hunting results from them both getting fired over their argument about the court case results.

Chapter 4 has them meeting again by forces beyond their control, not a random force, but one generated by the Event where their Sparks Flew resulting in unemployment.  Could be a job fair, or a volunteer stint at say, Habitat for Humanity.  Choosing these Events venues, and purposes is all done by consulting your Theme and manifesting the thematic statement in the choices.

The choices of events are also rooted in the Worldbuilding you are trying to do, Portraying the Society that is having this problem they will address.

In Chapter 4, they combine forces, (willingly or unwillingly) to address the problem of facts and imagine an impossible world --- and create it.

You see how the HEA is built into the beginning here.  It is an example of  Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration.  Here is the index to that series of posts:


The problem is presented, the solution is clear -- and "happiness" will result from solving this problem (ever after is another issue -- keep the suspense rolling tighter and tighter until you reveal the ever-after part (probably marriage proposal).)

Here is the Index post to Believing In The Happily Ever After:


Chapter 5 is a meeting, maybe over coffee at a busy lunch venue, where the two of them hatch a plan to launch a New Media Company, a web-casting channel with key News Programming (and maybe a blog).

If you need a model for what they can do, and ways it can fail (to keep the suspense up) look at two, twin, commercial news efforts that are working in our world today.

Along the way, they have to discover the concept The Overton Window (key events that pivot the World into a new direction - really change society's values).  Here's a Post on that topic:

The Overton Window is the subject of their conversation over coffee - the scribbling on a napkin probably happens as scribbling on their phone screens set for note taking by hand, diagrams, doodles.

And you have to look at the recent history of companies entering the Streaming News business that may be seen (one day) as Overton Window Events.



CRTV has almost put The Blaze out of business -- both tend toward the lurid tabloid end of the spectrum and neither (as of 2018) seem to have their own news gathering operations.  They both sell commentary, not real-time-event-tracking.

When CNN launched as the first news-only Cable TV channel, it launched with a huge investment in (then new) satellite communications mounted on mobile units, and sucked in correspondents and support teams from established networks struggling to make the transition from broadcast to cable (because cable was where the advertising bucks where going).

In 2018, we are watching advertising bucks shift into mobile and streaming ventures.

So currently, there are a few launches of streaming news services (check Roku's list of channels, and Amazon, and Netflix).

The barrier to entry into the Streaming Live News Space is the financing to hire proficient roving news gathering crews, be on the spot, cover breaking news.

Another entry barrier is access to a deep and rich "morgue" -- newspapers used to call the file of previous issues their "morgue."  Today it is a searchable database of sound bytes and video clips  to which you own the copyright.

Both of these barriers can be used as plot-conflict generators, and if done correctly could run this Futuristic Romance out to 5 or more novels.

Here are some previous posts linking to these concepts:

Mastering The Narrative Line

Making a Profit At Writing In A Capitalist World

Keep The Press Out Of It

Using The Media To Advance Plot

The News Game:

There are Venture Capital incubators and start-up processes for new ventures all over the map.  Most start-ups (over 90%) fail, and most of the rest are being built merely to be sold to "the big guys."

Considering this streaming start-up venture coming up against these barriers to entry into the live-news "just the facts" coverage (which is very unpopular at this time), your new couple with a vision and a wider social justice ambition to fix the world, you have enough plot material for a very long series as their Relationship develops, strains, maybe shatters, reforms, all over the business decisions they must make to create their News Venue.

Maybe they start envisioning a TV channel and end up creating something akin to Reuters or AP - an aggregating news service the big guys (NBC, CNN) subscribe to.

So think about the titles for News Shows to put on this hypothetical streaming service.  Maybe the news show titles could become book titles if you outline a long series.

Think about:

Just The Facts  (talking heads)
Live Update  (Field Correspondents with an Anchor)
Trends  (statistics and charts)
Believe It Or Not ( Items of Breaking News that may not be true)
Around The World (what other countries are telling their citizens.
Confirming Suspicions (which Breaking News is true)

Keeping inventing News Show titles and slants that simply will not sell advertising in today's world which lusts after juicy gossip, ain't it awful, and the latest name-calling shouting match.

The less commercial your title idea is, the more likely your Couple will try to make it fly -- or hire an Anchor who advocates it.

Do you know how to write a News Headline that does not reveal your personal bias?  Try it.  Read some news items and rewrite them without any slant or bias.  It is not easy to avoid "leading" the reader to interpret the significance of an event the way you see it.  Practice and see how much Romance there actually is in the News Game.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg