Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Index to When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript? by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Should you rewrite endlessly? Should you scrap work just because it didn't turn out very well?  Should you stop trying to market a manuscript that's been rejected? And if your novel was published, way back at the beginning of your publishing career, should you rewrite it to your current skill level, and re-publish it?  If so, should you change the title?

Part One Hitting a Brick Wall

Part Two Troubleshooting

Part 3 Wrecking Ball For Brick Walls

Part 4 What To Do After You Give Up

Part 5 The Writing Prompt Vs. Creativity

Part 6 Should You Ever Rewrite Your Previously Published Manuscripts (May 7, 2019)

Part 7 How To Climb Over The Wall That Hit You (June 22, 2021) https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2021/06/when-should-you-give-up-on-manuscript.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Unjust Deserts

This opinion piece is not about a miscarriage of justice in the dunes, but about the destructive power of repetition of a particular word: "deserve".

A purveyor of a skin care regimen says that if you have breakouts, you "deserve results" so you should use its products.

A Medicare Advantage plan spokesman querulously says, "I wasn't getting all the benefits I deserve..."

An eloquence of  lawyers promise to "fight for the compensation you deserve", or "the settlement you deserve," or the "results you deserve", or most blatantly, "the money you deserve". One offers representation for "deserving victims".

(For a compendium of collective nouns such as "eloquence of lawyers", look here: https://7esl.com/collective-nouns/ )

A laser surgery provider claims that viewers "deserve the difference..." that that provider makes.

"Get the relief you deserve," boasts a circulation boosting product.

"The justice you deserve," promises a body camera marketer.

"... women are standing up for what they deserve..." which turns out to be vaginal lubrication jelly. Ouch.

"You deserve" = "You are entitled".

Why is anyone entitled to flawless skin, silver sneaker gym membership, compensation, relief, the right to video record strangers without their knowledge or permission?  The answer is, one is not entitled. One "deserves" that for which one pays. Those who do not shell out, are by implied definition "undeserving". If some victims are "deserving", by what criteria are other victims not deserving?

Netflix told us, perhaps tongue in cheek, that Frank Underwood was "the leader we deserve". Until he wasn't.  This point was made in a fascinating NY Post article that charts the migration of "deserve" language from product hype to political language.

Well, slogan writing is writing. Speech writing is writing. Awareness of words, their power, and how they are used is the bailiwick of the writer. A writer should be curious and inquisitive. Is the popularity of "deserve" mere imitation, laziness, a tried-and-true signature tag of one advertising house, or could one float a conspiracy theory?

If writing the backstory of a dystopian novel, would one include the concept of "deserve" or something similar to divide and rule, to overthrow and subjugate and stir discord?

Does hearing "you deserve..." tend to make discontented those who cannot afford to buy that (product) which they allegedly would deserve, if they did buy it.

Words, like water, have power to undermine, to create sinkholes, to wear away stone. In this age of television, film, internet, social media, the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is no longer true.

If you do a search for "Deserve", you will find some pretty ugly posters.

By the way, of the new "words" added to the dictionary last year, perhaps the saddest is TL:DR (too long, did not read).

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Inspired by a True Story

I recently watched the movie THE GREEN BOOK, about a famous black concert pianist in the early 1960s who hires an Italian-American as a driver and general assistant for a tour of the Midwest and the South. The film bears the caption "Inspired by a True Story." This label seems to serve as notice to the audience that the script may portray events and people differently from the way they existed in reality, as well as including invented episodes. For example, reading about the movie and its factual background reveals that the pianist had multiple brothers and was on good terms with them, while his film counterpart claims to have no family except one brother, from whom he's estranged. People who knew the real-life musician describe him as less uptight than the character shown in the movie. As for particular incidents shown on the concert tour, I didn't come across any information about which actually happened (if any) and which were invented.

Most movies "inspired by" real-life happenings seem to alter the facts to one degree or another. I'm thinking mostly of stories about people within recent memory, with friends, relatives, and colleagues who are still alive, rather than historical figures of the distant past. Some members of the Von Trapp family were famously upset by the inaccurate portrayal of their father as rigid and cold in the early part of SOUND OF MUSIC. Moreover, in escaping from Nazi-occupied Austria, the family didn't flee over the mountains by night; they openly boarded a train, left the country, and didn't return. SCHINDLER'S LIST, understandably, concludes with the end of the war, then skips to the present-day view of "Schindler's Jews" and their descendants visiting Schindler's grave. It doesn't mention the breakup of his marriage or his failed postwar business ventures. SHADOWLANDS, about C. S. Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham and her death of cancer, had two feature film adaptations "based on a true story." In the second, better-known movie (starring Anthony Hopkins), one of Joy's two sons is deleted. I consider this omission rather serious. On the other hand, changing the first meeting between Lewis and Joy to have Lewis's brother present (he wasn't) seems justified for dramatic effect. I found it mildly annoying that Lewis is shown driving a car (he tried to learn to drive at one point, and everybody involved quickly agreed that the attempt should be abandoned) and having no idea how to comport himself at a country inn (something he had ample experience with), but those departures from fact don't mar the story. It's a much more serious distortion to portray Lewis as an ivory-tower academic with no prior experience of either suffering or women. His mother died of cancer in his childhood, he was wounded in World War I, and he and his brother shared a busy household for several decades with the family of a woman Lewis had "adopted" as his foster mother.

What's your opinion of movies allegedly based on real people's lives that take broad liberties with the facts? In my opinion, minor omissions or unimportant deviations from actual events can be acceptable for dramatic purposes, but larger changes are problematic. I just tend to laugh or groan at blatant errors in films set in distant historical periods. With events that happened within living memory, though, I hope for stricter attention to accuracy.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Theme-Story Integration Part 3, Sexy Villains by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Story Integration
Part 3
Sexy Villains
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous Parts in Theme-Story Integration: 



Part 2 ended off:


Only in children's stories or "comics" (not graphic novels) do people just suddenly, and without explanation or motivation, change into the opposite of what they've been seen to be in a plot-sequence.

So, bit by slow, detailed, bit at a time, you reveal the inner structure of your world that you built -- and make it clear how your world differs from everyday reality such that this "impossible" thing is possible. 

In our Reality - "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is a true statement about human nature. Also the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is true of humans.

What is different about your World that makes those two statements about Human Nature false? 

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

You as the writer, creating this fictional world-structure as science fiction can do what Romance Genre writers can't usually do -- change a parameter of the reader's Reality and induce the reader to suspend disbelief.

Romance genre can do this, somewhat, in the Historical venue, and sometimes in action-stories of adventure into strange and unexplored regions of the world.  For example, Westerns, or stories of Mountain Men fighting their way West across the buffalo herd infested plains to the far mountains where furs can be collected and (if you can get back to a Trading Post) sold for actual cash.

But in Science Fiction Romance, especially Paranormal Romance, you have the added advantage of being able to alter the parameters of "reality" to include your impossible outcomes.

In most readers' view of reality, Souls are either irrelevant or excluded as unnecessary postulants. 

Many readers who live in such reality, suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a Soul Mates Unite And Live Happily Ever After Because They Are Soul Mates story. 

Soul Mates is the sexiest postulation Romance has come up with in decades.  Happily Ever After, and the over-all theme, Love Conquers All, have always been the core of Romance, but when the strict genre walls started to evaporate, we added the Fantasy postulate of Souls -- first with ghost stories. The TV Series from movie, from book,

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is an example.


Then actual physical sex scenes became acceptable in the Romance genre. Physical sex scenes were specifically, totally forbidden in any novel with the Romance genre designation. Any sex happened by implication, between scenes, without being referenced. Then new, young readers growing up with different standards, abandoned the genre until publishing gave in and allowed (gradually, step by slow step) actual sex scenes.

Romance writers working for specific imprints were given (still are) instruction sheets for how many sex scenes there can or must be, and where they can be, and how long they can go on.  Honest - it was a written, express and precise formula.  I had a 4-hour Manhattan lunch with the owner of one such publishing house who was exploring the potential audience for Alien Sex Scenes - having noted we broke that taboo in Star Trek fanfic. 

Science Fiction, viewed as boy-action-adventure literature, had such a "formula" about fight-scenes, combat, and chase scenes, limiting dialogue strictly.  I never was sent such an instruction sheet, but I was taught the structure by editors.

So once it was established (by fanfic) that Human/Alien Sex Scenes could be included in popular Romance novels, it was allowed in Fantasy worlds. Whereupon, the worst of the bad-boy villains, THE VAMPIRE, became fodder for Paranormal Romance.

The Vampire Genre exploded onto the scene in mass market paperback (no, Anita Hill, Vampire Hunter, was not the first, nor was Interview With A Vampire).  Vampire Romance became a fad, rising and falling in a couple of decades. 

Writers hear from editors, "We are overstocked on those novels. Show me something else."  Overstocked means they have bought (maybe not had delivered yet) enough of a certain kind of story to last through the expected declining market demand. 

My Vampire Romance novel, THOSE OF MY BLOOD,
reached the market just as the market peaked. 


At one point, the hardcover edition of Those of My Blood sold for over $400 to collectors.  Then came various e-book editions.

After Manhattan publishers refused manuscripts with Vampire Romance stories, slamming their door shut, writers went to the embryonic e-book market.  Many new publishers sprang up, looking for ways to distribute novels without printing them.  The e-book field languished for a long time as hardware makers searched for a way to create readable screens -- and as soon as that became available, the whole e-book field was taken over by Manhattan publishers.  Underneath all this was a long struggle with copyright -- a story for others to cover.

The problem Vampire Romance writers were trying to work out was simple: Vampires (Dracula style) are purest Evil.  How can your reader identify with a woman who can love a Vampire? 

Add science fiction and you have the obvious answer: artificial blood makes killing by sucking the woman's life out of her (Dracula style) not only unnecessary, but un-attractive to a human-turned-vampire-against-his will who still has a Soul. 

Most of our readership may not believe in Souls as a part of everyday reality, but use the word freely to refer to the innate impulse to do good.

We recognize a basic human desire to do Good -- and how it can happen that a human enflamed by emotion can do something very Bad (Road Rage) without becoming a bad person.

In fact, many people don't think a person can be a bad person -- just occasionally do something bad.

After childhood, most people rarely examine the minutia of what constitutes goodness or badness -- what makes a true Villain - a Black Hearted Person.

But writers who want to build world distinctive from our everyday world, where impossible things are possible and even plausible, have to consider what the reader assumes about "good and bad" -- and what about the everyday world would have to change to validate the fictional definition of "good and bad" necessary to tell the writer's story.

That core difference is the THEME.

The theme is the writer's statement about how this fictional reality differs from the reader's.

And in Science Fiction Romance, that fundamental difference is about how Souls mate.

Throughout human history, almost every culture mentioned  in the Golden Bough has defined "good" and "bad" via some paradigm of Soul. 

If you're out of ideas - go read that book.

There are so many theories of Soul and reincarnation, some blending easily into modern American views, and others clashing or challenging the science-based views, that a writer has to be careful not to choose elements at random.

For a reader to be lulled into suspension of disbelief, the writer has to have some underlying structural consistency against which to test every line of dialogue, every scene decorative detail, and every plot development and conflict resolution.

That's what THEME is -- the touchstone against which you test elements, and discard everything that does not bespeak the theme.  Consistency is the essence of good writing.

Different novels in a series can have different themes, in fact use different characters to bespeak different views, but to be a series, there has to be a consistence thematic structure that makes sense. 

So, many writers with a hot romance story to tell will revert to our everyday reality -- a structural matrix both reader and writer are familiar enough with that nothing need be said about the shared unconscious assumptions.  Reality has plenty of conflicts and puzzling inconsistencies - why create something else? 

Science Fiction is about challenging "authority."  It is about "what if this pivotal belief is wrong?"  What if we can go faster than light?  What if humans can 't, but Aliens can?

Science fiction stories are built on some postulate that differentiates the story world from everyday reality. 

What if ...
If only ...
If this goes on ...

Those three, if you can  formulate them all into one story, are the essence of science fiction.  Add two Souls incomplete without the other, overcoming whatever obstacles keep them from uniting, and you have Science Fiction Romance.

The postulate you need to create that story is simply the idea that Souls Are Real.

That is the idea that set off the Vampire Romance explosion using the Gene Roddenberry technique.

To create Star Trek as Wagon Train To The Stars, and make it not a Western set in our everyday reality, but real science fiction, Roddenberry had to postulate a PERSON WITHOUT EMOTIONS (Spock.)  Everything is the same, except one thing. 

To create Vampire Romance, and make it not Horror Genre but Science Fiction, a genuine Alien Romance, we had to postulate A VAMPIRE WITH A SOUL. 

That single change in the DRACULA view of the world, a twist in the good/evil paradigm, opened an entire conversation that lasted at least a generation.

Traditionally, villains have been portrayed as "black souled" or "dark souled." 

The hero, who is a source of good, has been portrayed as "light." 

We enjoy reading the Anita Blake Series

because of the struggle Anita, the necromancer, has falling in love with a Vampire, being sucked into an ever darker world, and rationalizing dark deeds as necessary for survival.  We see her CHANGE her code of ethics, and how that changes her opinion of herself. 

What is "sexy" about her Master of the City Vampire?  He has a "heart."  He can love.  He values loyalty.  Becoming Master of the City to displace a true villain vampire, he is in a complex and changing political/magical position that exactly reflects Anita's position among her ethical dilemmas.

They belong together. It is inevitable (if your world building includes inevitability as a part of your reality.)

The Anita Blake series is an excellent example of Gray-to-Dark story arc.  Anita discovers that her personal code of ethics she prides herself on is actually an anti-life code.  It is not possible to survive in her world (of magic and were-people) by adhering to her code. 

Her code is one based on extreme pride, and total lack of self-awareness, and thus I term it a "gray" code, rather than  an example of "white" or "light."  There are better codes to live by.

We've discussed The Lone Ranger at length: 



... but we love Anita because she has a Code and she gives up her extreme pride in order to modify her Code to one that can sustain her life and identity (in her world, which is so different from ours, we suspend disbelief.)

Now consider the less popular, more difficult to write, Black-to-White story arc.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.

Thus if you take a Black Soul, or a Soul becoming darker,  and turn it to the Light, you need an outside force to change that soul's story-arc direction.

This is the classic "rescue" Romance –– where for the love of a woman, a criminal goes straight. 

Rescue Romance has become a cliche in mundane Romance genre, but there are many new frontiers for the Black-to-White story arc in science fiction, paranormal, and Fantasy Romance.

When one member of the to-be-united couple is defined as not-human, you can vary the trait that is missing, or different, and generate the sexiest villains, bad girls and bad boys who have potential, saving graces, and exceptional effects on their World.

One kind of world that works nicely for Black-to-White Story Arcs, is the occult premise based on the Bible's concept of punishment for defying God's Law is to be "cut off."

Many people puzzle over what "cut off" means and why it would be a bad thing to happen to you.

The explanation that generates the most story directions is very simple. Suppose Souls are like coaxial cables, many threads twisted together to form a rope.  Inside the cable are threads, as in an optical cable, that carry "light" from the Source into the world via the instrument of the human body.

Being "cut off" would be having one or more of those optical fiber threads go dark.

The "light" that comes through those threads into the body-and-mind from the Soul is Holiness, or the light by which humans distinguish good from evil. 

How you define Good, define bad, define Evil, depends on that light shining out of you, into the world around you, illuminating and highlighting color-texture-depth, creating the image of the reality you must live in.

We generally define good as that which promotes life, and bad or evil as that which destroys life. 

So one who is "cut off" lives in darkness and can't distinguish good from bad.  If only a little bit is cut off, maybe colors become shades of gray, maybe texture isn't perceptible, maybe the world becomes dull and uninteresting.

When we depict a Character who is "in love" we often describe how the senses become more prominent.  Food tastes better, jokes are funnier, flowers have distinctive aromas, life comes alive to all the senses.  "Paris in Springtime" is a sensory reference. 

Likewise, being "in love" means shelving conflicts.  Boorish and offensive public behavior (cutting you off in traffic; running red lights and making you slam on the brakes) is shrugged off.  Life is too good to waste time being angry.

Being "in love" means being "connected." 

Falling in love changes the state of being, the criteria of excellence, and the priorities. 

The esoteric explanation of this "in love" connection is that there is an aspect of the Divine Creator of the Universe, the feminine spirit, Shechina, that pours "light" into the connection between the couple.

When a Soul has been "cut off" - and has become a Black Soul, (or maybe just gray) a villain, the experience of Love can reconnect that Soul to the divine, and change everything that person does because Love changes what you are able to "see" with the mind's eye.

Love is not just biological.  It is a phenomenon of the Soul, and the essence of Love is "connection." 

But it's not an either/or -- zero-sum-game -- thing.  You don't either love or not-love.  Like the fiber optic cable, threads can be lit with the fire of love -- while other threads are not lit.  A human is a construct of thousands and thousands of nanometer size threads. 

We don't just love our sex partners.  We love parents, role models, friends, family, co-workers, even acquaintances.  The more different people we love, the more threads light up, the better we can see where we are steering our life-story.

The sexy Villain is the one who "lights up" at contact with the main character and makes plot-action-choices that increase or expand the main character's chance at surviving.

If this seems too abstract an idea to use in crafting fiction, do read SAVE THE CAT!
and play with the advice to open a story on a character acting to "save a cat." 

Read that series of script-writing books, and analyze the movies and TV shows you love most -- seeing how you became entangled in the affairs of a main character you consider a Good Guy (even if he's the villain of the piece.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Telling Tales

In the USA, the Persuasive Litigator blog offers advice on seven ways to improve storytelling in front of the jury in the courtroom.


The storytelling tips from legal blogger Dr. Ken Broda Bahm, writing for lawfirm Holland & Hart LLP  are entertaining, succinct, vivid, and just as handy for writers as for litigators making court appearances.

"Four pirates went to trial...."   It sounds like the beginning of a long joke.  Apparently Spain is no joke for persons allegedly investing heavily in online infringement sites. The prosecution is seeking massive fines and jail time for the defendants.

Andy of TorrentFreak.com tells the beginning of the story.

The Privacy Matters blog tells of Online Harms and a white paper in the UK about harmful online content and the accountability, or lack thereof, of the platforms that host the harm.

Writing for DLA Piper (and the Privacy Matters blog), Christopher Wilkinson and James Clark report on a possible new regulatory framework for social media sites, to put a bit of a lid on cyber bullying, election interference, and other online harms.

Please don't forget that this coming week is World Intellectual Property week.

Happy Easter.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hopeful Futures

Kameron Hurley's column for the April issue of LOCUS explains how her writing has recently shifted from a pessimistic to an optimistic view of human possibilities. She decided "being grim and nihilistic is boring" rather than "exciting or edgy." Instead, in a world that seems increasingly darker, she finds her writing "to be a perfect outlet for exploring how people can still make good decisions in bad situations."

The Future Is Intrinsically Hopeful

This message resonates with me. As argued by Steven Pinker in THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, we are living in the best of times, not the worst of times (although, admittedly, with considerable room for improvement).

A few striking quotes from Hurley's essay on why she believes in the future:

"Humanity didn’t survive this long because of its worst impulses. We survived this long because, despite all of that, we learned how to work together."

"What a time to be a creator, when believing humanity has a future that is not just a series of dystopic post-apocalypse nightmares is the most radical position one can have."

"What if what we are presenting to our audiences, as artists, is 'This is how the world could be really different. Have you thought about how to get there?'"

"Increasingly, I find that writing any type of work at all is hopeful....It is profoundly optimistic to assume there is a generation after ours that will create a society one hundred years from now that is recognizable to us at all."

The last two quotes seem to me to encapsulate a major theme and purpose of science fiction. Dystopian futures serve the important function of warning us and potentially motivating us to change our course: "If this goes on...." The other classic SF question, "What if...?" is equally or more important, however. One reason the original STAR TREK became so beloved was surely its optimism about human destiny. At the height of the civil rights movement, the Enterprise crew portrays men and women (even if female characters didn't fully come into their own until later iterations of the ST universe) of many races and cultures working together to discover new worlds. In the middle of the Cold War, STAR TREK envisions Russian, Americans, and Asians exploring space as a team. And many of those "predictions" have come true! THE ORVILLE, as a drama-comedy homage to ST, further develops that hopefulness about mutual tolerance and cooperation and the joy of discovery in the context of 21st-century sociopolitical concerns.

Writing as if we "believe in the future" can infuse readers with hope and perhaps inspire them to create that kind of future.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Theme-Story Integration Part 2- Villain Into Hero

Theme-Story Integration
Part 2
Villain Into Hero
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Part 1 is here:


We are discussing the integration of techniques of story-telling, where "story" means what is going on inside the point of view Character, the Main Character.

It isn't a story if something doesn't change.

So how and why a Character changes is called Character Arc -- because humans change in a complex series of incremental course corrections throughout life.

If you open your novel with the main Characters already perfect, readers will fall asleep before the end of Chapter One -- because "nothing is happening."

The plot may be roaring, threats and dangers attacking from all sides, predicaments tightening, horrors looming, but nothing is happening in the STORY.

Romance readers (in fact most readers) are looking for novels about how other people solve problems other than the ones the reader has.  Most writing teachers term that thirst for "other" a taste for "escapism."

The most virulent pejorative ascribed to science fiction is "escapist literature."  Somehow, it is only lesser mortals who want to "escape."  So it is wrong to read "fluff."

The truth is that science fiction is not escapist -- and in fact most Literature is not escapist.  Readers read to understand reality -- their own, and that of others.

To understand that the Earth is sort of roundish, we had to put a ship into orbit and take pictures.  Before that, it was only math.  Now we really know at a level where understanding can happen.

Likewise, in marriage, in searching for a Soul Mate, in imagining what you can become, you may "know" the math, know the odds against you, know the adages your parents taught you, but still not understand what Love and Marriage is.

To gain the understanding that comes from blending all that knowledge, you need perspective.  You need to go far away, and look back from another angle.

That is why we read Romance -- and Science Fiction, and Mystery, and Westerns.

It is also why Gene Roddenberry insisted so hard that the Character of Spock had to be in the Bridge Crew.  To make his Western-In-Space into Science Fiction, Roddenberry needed an Alien.

He had to give the audience the perspective on humanity from far-far-away.  The mundane TV audience of the 1960's had no experience with that kind of fiction.  Science Fiction had much too small a readership -- and was considered kid-lit. (which it was, because that was the only market for real science based stories.)

Since most of your readership for science fiction, fantasy or Paranormal Romance consider themselves Good Hearted, the most alien Character you can lure them into is the Black Hearted Villain.

As noted in Part 1, the Villain is the Hero of his own Story.

No one sets out in life to be "bad," even if the target of their purposive actions of destruction are "good."  Whatever needs to be destroyed is defined as "bad."

So whichever side you are on is the "good" side because you are on it.

And yet, we identify types of people by their actions, or at least our perception of their actions.  The good are kind, generous, considerate, happily serving, helping, saving others, with a serene demeanor.  The good enjoy causing joy.

The bad are easily angered, flashing irrational rage and destruction at mere annoyances, mean, bullying, and always outraged, often drunk, careless of others' feelings, or using a person's personal emotions against them in a kind of emotional judo.  The bad enjoy causing pain.

Which one is the Villain?

To the good, the wild-raging destroyer is the Villain.

To the bad, the Character who can't be needled into violence or blackmailed into betraying their ethics is the Villain.

Good people can't be controlled.  It drives the bad insane.

Since we all see and recognize this dichotomy in everyday life, and since we are all composed of emotional triggers, psychological buttons, and neurotic tendencies in some things, even while being serene, rational and joy-spreading in other areas, we all know there is no such thing as a "Good Guy" or a "Bad Guy."

We, as humans, are mixed bags.

Fictional Characters have to be purified, then remixed in simpler ways to depict real people while being only a selective recreation of reality.

That is the art of Story -- selecting ingredients and cooking them up into Characters.

Humans can't quite understand themselves, never mind really understand people around them.

But readers search for an understanding of Characters that is firm, reliable, making the Characters (somewhat, not totally) predictable.

Thus we have the expression "out of character."

If a writer makes a Character do something "out of Character" the readers generally toss the book aside.  It's contrived, and not entertaining.

In real life, people are always doing things "out of character" -- even though they may average a reliable and predictive behavior.  Once in a lifetime, a good guy may drive drunk and run someone over.  Others drive drunk habitually, and very often get caught, and have issues keeping a driving license.

We read read novels to experience Characters who stay in character -- with surprises that are predictable only in retrospect.  "Oh, I KNEW IT!!"

For example, push comes to shove at the end of the novel, and the Bad Guy reaches out a helping hand to the Good Guy whose life has been pulverized.

Readers take that final act of the bad guy as evidence he has changed.

The Villain has become Hero Material (therefore worthy of love.)

But if it just happens, in one fell swoop, it isn't plausible.  The Characters are labeled thin, cardboard, and the plot contrived.

That's why it is called a Character Arc -- the reader/viewer can't see much fundamental change in the Character from scene to scene, action to reaction, because the changes are TINY.  But the Character is making a 180 in life.

The Villain may be doing a "Bootlegger's Turn" or merely entering a new freeway via a cloverleaf highway interchange.  But you can Arc your Villain into a Hero.

If you Arc a Hero into a Villain, incrementally forcing a good person to do bad things, then accept the bad as normal and eventually as good, the novel will be called "Dark."

A good example of leading a Hero into Darkness, and a really grand good read, is the Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton, which we've discussed under the broad topic CHARACTER ARC.


And under Theme-Character Integration:

Since editors discovered a market for novels turning the Hero into a Villain, popularized by the Vampire novels where the good guy becomes a Killer, we have an explosion of novels that vie with each other for the Dark label.

The next swing of the publishing pendulum will very likely be turning the darkest Darth Vader Villain into a Good Guy.

We all know that in Star Wars, Darth Vader's behavior is later explained in more human terms, and his final moments revealed a not-so-black-bad-guy.

But he dies.  He doesn't get to become a good guy, and reverse some of the damage he's done.

This is viewed as plausible by most of the audience.  We don't usually get second chances in real life.

But what if you do?

How could you convince the Star Wars audience that Darth Vader survived in another universe to gradually become a good guy?

What makes bad guys (or gals) bad?

What makes good gals (or guys) good?

What is the difference?

Is it temperament?  Is it innate?  Is it acquired?  Is it only parenting?  Or just environment?

Your answer to each of these questions individually is a theme.  And in fact you might have several answers to each of these questions thus generating a raft of themes.

Pick an answer that rarely if ever manifests in our real world, and you can craft a science fiction romance out of that theme.

But, to tell the story, you need a Character, and to get a Character you need to build a World where such a Character might arise.

To build that world, you need the theme.  To build that Character, you need the theme.  To build your theme (not mine; yours) you need a theory of the truth behind reality, a statement about the human condition.

For Romance genre, the master theme is LOVE CONQUERS ALL.  But to have "love" you need two people (though they don't both have to be human.)

In fact, love between two Aliens is also interesting, but in today's market, you need a human Character who "arcs" during the Alien Love Story.

So you need a theory about what a human being really is, and how humans resemble your Aliens (similarity vs differences.)

Gene Roddenberry simply described Spock as "logical" - and logic driven, not emotional.  Not as "emotionless" but as logical.  (as if emotion is not logical)

So to concoct an Alien Romance you need an Alien who differs from your Human lead Character in some specific and easily conveyed way.  Over the course of a long series of novels, you can reveal depths and nuances, plus complexities and changes, but for the opening point you need a clean, clear statement of how the Alien differs from the Human.

To find that clean, clear difference, you need a model of humanity -- a representation of what makes a human, human.  You need a theory of human nature.

Many Romances use the Soul Mate theory to explain irresistible attractions.  To postulate Soul Mates, you have to postulate souls -- and know something of their structure, origin and function.

How can a woman's love turn a Villain into a Hero?

What about our current real world prevents this transition from bad to good from being common, frequent, plausible?

What about our world would you have to change when you build the world for your Story?

To make it plausible for a Villain to turn Hero, you have to explain that difference in your World the way Roddenberry explained Spock as purely logical.

You have to chronicle the journey of the Villain incrementally, novel by novel, in a long series, as you explain how his world differs from the reader's world -- and how it is the same.

Only in children's stories or "comics" (not graphic novels) do people just suddenly, and without explanation or motivation, change into the opposite of what they've been seen to be in a plot-sequence.

So, bit by slow, detailed, bit at a time, you reveal the inner structure of your world that you built -- and make it clear how your world differs from everyday reality such that this "impossible" thing is possible.

In our Reality - "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is a true statement about human nature. Also the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is true of humans.

What is different about your World that makes those two statements about Human Nature false?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mark Your Calendars: World IP Week And Day

World IP Week is April 22nd - 26th.

World IP Day is April 26th.

Among the events is a workshop with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) who do pro bono work for creators.  Don't miss the free workshop "COPYRIGHT MYTH BUSTERS" on April 22nd from 6.30 pm - 8.30 pm  CST.

Free, but they ask you to register.

If you miss that, there may be another, shorter "Copyright Mythbusters" out of Nashville on April 25th, from 6 pm - 7 pm CST

The Copyright Alliance offers a variety of links to good stuff for IP week.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) established April 26th as World Intellectual Property Day,  to raise awareness about the role of creators and creativity play in innovation and culture.

It's a good time to reflect upon your trademarks, copyrights, registrations, ISBNs, patents, licenses, permissions, waivers (for instance from your cover models), etc if you are a published author; and on your support of authors, musicians, and other entertainers if you are a consumer of creative or intellectual works.

Here's a thought starter, if you think that a great story writes itself:

Here's another on the pros and cons of piracy:

And another....

If you are an author and still seething about the infamous Book Settlement, Chris Castle has an interesting perspective buried right at the end of an exposition on Content ID.

The insight hinges on a slip of the tongue by Marissa Meyer. Would the Authors Guild have won their case if they had known that all the scanned text from tens of millions of books were used to improve translation algorithms?

The USPTO also has a couple of events.

On Monday April 22nd they are livestreaming a discussion with former football player Shawn Spring about head protection... and more.

Also, a bit late for IP week, on April 29th the USPTO is on Capitol Hill from 4pm - 6pm with a fun filled --cough-- agenda.

How will you mark the Week?
All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 11, 2019


We spent this past weekend at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia. The author guest of honor was Melinda Snodgrass. Because she worked with George R. R. Martin on his Wild Cards series, the con played with a Wild Cards theme at the opening ceremony Friday night. I haven't read any of the series, but the premise sounds intriguing. In case you haven't either, it goes like this: A plague has rewritten human DNA. Among the total population, 90% died. Most of the others survived with grotesque mutations, and a tiny percentage developed superpowers. At registration, each attendee received a tag to attach to the name badge. Black Queens were dead (I got that one). Jokers got amusing mutations. Aces got superpowers. Friday night, the Jokers and Aces were called up front to learn their mutations or powers. Fun!

I appeared on the program in the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading. This year, so many authors participated that we got a two-hour time slot. Each person was allotted a little over five minutes for intro and reading. I read from my new light paranormal romance novella, "Yokai Magic," and it seemed to go well.

The program included a STEM track of panels and presentations, held in a designated "science room." Among other topics, sessions covered life sciences and medicine in SF, what science fiction authors get right and wrong about science, effects of space flight on the human body, and "Space doesn't work like that." A significant number of people with military experience, as well as scientists, appeared on panels. A non-science session that particularly impressed me tackled morality and ethics in SF and fantasy. One panelist held a doctorate in philosophy and had worked on the alignment system for Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition. There were also writing craft sessions, genre-focused sessions, and all the usual features you'd expect at an SF con. Fandom for David Weber's Honor Harrington series has a prominent presence at RavenCon, and at least two panels focused on that universe.

The musical guests of honor were the Library Bards, a filk duo. I enjoyed their songs when I could comprehend the lyrics. In common with most of the musicians I checked out, however, the Library Bards sang to a recorded background track of very loud, hard-rock style instrumentals that tended to drown out the words. However, they performed some pieces I liked quite a bit, e.g., a tribute to one of the "Dr. Who" stars (although I'm not familiar with him, it was cute), a celebration of Stan Lee and the Marvel universe, and a song summarizing the entire plot of PRINCESS BRIDE. Two musical guests I especially liked were the Nefarious Ferrets (a duo) and Gray Rinehart; both of those acts sang and played in a calmer style, and I could understand the words. (When old age creeps up, being able to hear the words of songs and TV dialogue becomes a non-trivial concern!)

Some highlights of the Saturday evening masquerade included a mother-child pair in elaborate kitsune costumes, a fan-dancing "steampunk geisha," and a joint appearance by Spider-Man and Spider-Man Noir (all in black). Unfortunately, the event ran behind schedule, so I eventually left to attend a panel and therefore didn't find out who won.

We were pleased with the hotel this year. Unlike last year, when they didn't have a room for us until well after the designated check-in hour, this time we got settled right away. Also, the meal service in the cafe was noticeably faster than in the previous two years we've attended. This hotel offers one delightful perk upon check-in—a large chocolate chip cookie for each guest.

You can read about RavenCon here. The programming schedule and the rest of this year's information are still on the site:


Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Theme-Story Integration Part 1 - Villain Story Arc

Theme-Story Integration
Part 1
Villain Story Arc
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

This is the opening of a new "walk and chew gum" exercise.

We have "integrated" various combinations of (artificially) separated techniques of the writing craft in a variety of long entries.  The posts titled "Integration" are advanced writing lessons - not about spelling, punctuation, grammar, paragraph structure, etc.  But about how to take the fascinating scenario in your mind and give it to other people, to people you don't know who don't know you.

Recently, on Facebook, P. N. Elrod echoed the core lesson in attitude that a beginning writer must internalize.  My first writing teacher, Alma Hill, put it thusly:


It takes practice to de-personalize and project a tapestry of emotions so that the recipients find within the material something of personal value to them.

Another maxim often quoted, and (writers being writers) elaborately paraphrased, is:


So how does a good person (like you) depict a bad person and make that Character interesting (and plausible) enough to grab a Science Fiction/Fantasy-Romance reader?

The core technique is called STORY ARC.


ARC indicates change along a curve, a changing vector or direction of change.  Vector refers to a resultant (or combination) of direction and momentum (or force).

STORY indicates what is going on inside a Character as the Character becomes aware of, then conquers, an INTERNAL CONFLICT.

THEME is what you have to say, as a writer, about life-the-universe-and-everything.  Why do you want to write this story?  Who do you want to read it?  What do you want them to understand from reading it (that they didn't know before?)

A Villain is not (necessarily) a bad person (human or Alien).

A Villain is a Character whose objectives thwart the Hero from achieving the Hero's objective.  This is the main source of conflict that drives Plot.

We've discussed Theme-Plot Integration at length.


And in various cross-fertilizing combinations:




And we've touched on where Story fits into both Plot and Worldbuilding.


So now let's look at the possibilities revealed by bringing Story to the surface (rather than Plot).

Almost all traditional science fiction has been marketed to (thus written for) teenage boys -- not girls.  Romance has been firmly excluded, and the plot related in narrative without nuances of emotion.

Today, the popularity of Fantasy written for adults has blended Paranormal-Magic-ESP possibilities in world building into the genre, Paranormal Romance.  We see it in Vampire Romance and even Zombie Romance.

Any sort of Alien can be a Romantic Interest, or the Villain thwarting the Romance from crystalizing.  The Science Fiction genre has blended into the Romance genre.

Why do these two distinct genres blend so easily?

Because Science Fiction genre specializes in Plot, while Romance specializes in Story.

Both genre categories have both plot and story -- deciding which label to put on the spine is largely a matter of whether Plot or Story artistically dominates.

Both Plot and Story arcs are driven by Conflict. Plot by External Conflict (Man against Nature or other Men), and Story by Internal Conflict (Man against himself or as his own worst enemy.)

A prominent example of how Plot and Story are separate but blend is the TV Series, NCIS.  It follows the modern cop-drama formula of presenting a full plot-arc each episode with the case to be solved, then counter-currents the plot with the story of what it all means to the investigator team, individually and collectively.

Aggregate the Characters and you have a typical Science Fiction Romance novel.

Most Romance novel conflicts are not between Hero and Villain, but between the couple in the process of uniting, which in the case of TV cop-dramas is the investigative team.

But there is a wild sub-genre dealing with the Bad Boy lover, and of course the arranged marriage to anyone but the actual lover.  And all the variations make endlessly fascinating reading.

One element that often turns people off to anything called Romance is how "Love Conquers All" in one fell swoop, a single emotional-moral-ethical SEE THE LIGHT moment.

It is true such Character "reversals" happen in real life.  If that were not so, there wouldn't be a word to refer to it.  The word exists.  It is "epiphany."

Epiphany usually refers to an encounter with God, one way or another -- a religious experience, or spiritual one.  LSD was famous in the 1960's for revealing new ways of looking at reality.

The existence of a different way of looking at things is the core of all science fiction.  And it is what happens when you fall in love -- you see the exact same world you've always lived in as something very different from what you thought it was.

So, traditionally, we have the term "Black Hearted."

How can a heart be black?

We have the term, "Good Hearted Soul."

How can a Soul have a "heart?"

We call fiction about insanity, heinous crime, and logical reasons for doing unethical things -- turning good guys into bad guys, step by step, "Dark."

We use light and dark to refer to emotions, motives, behavior, choices, religion and ritual.  We term "understanding" as "enlightening."

We use white hats for heroes and black hats for villains - just to be sure the audience knows which is which.

Where does this convention of light/dark come from and how can a Romance writer (working in rainbow hued emotions) use this notion to "arc" the Villain's Character?

We'll look at the potential of Villain's Arc in Part 2.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 07, 2019

QWERTY bad...

....PASSWORD worse, and in case you were wondering, DR0W55@P is not much better.

The most interesting legal blog this week came from Linn F. Freedman writing for the law firm Robinson and Cole LLP on the topic of Password Fatigue.

Find the original here:

Find the Lexology version here:

Do you spend 12 or more minutes a week entering or resetting your passwords? Have you ever kept count? For authors who have to be active on social media to promote their works, the tally and loss of productivity is probably greater unless one uses a "service". Just don't trust your browser. In all things in life, you get what you pay for.

Kacy Zurkus, writing for the Malwarebytes blog shares a raft of good ideas, and insights into password spraying, which is using a small number of common passwords on a large number of accounts.

The comments section is worth perusing for helpful tips, particularly if it would never occur to you to post a photo of your car on any social media site.

For more information on recent-ish data breaches, read this by Malwarebytes:

Krebs On Security has more creative tips and recommendations for those inclined to do some password navel gazing.

Norton, too, has useful advice for choosing and securing passwords.
Their tip about having a short personal phrase top of mind is a good one. So often, one goes to a site to change a password and the site rejects every password that one thought one might use because of "forbidden words" or because one's choices don't conform to whatever the site requires (such as 3 upper case, 3 lower case, 3 numerals, 3 special characters.)

Nord VPN discusses the anatomy of a good password. It's instructive to read multiple tips by security experts to see on what they agree (such as reliable services for password management), and where they differ.

Finally, do not give your email password to anyone or any site that says its' for your own good. It's not.  If you were tricked into giving your email password to Facebook, change your email password on your email site. Don't give them your phone number, either.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 04, 2019

The Vampire as Alien

I'm thrilled that my nonfiction book DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN is back on the market at last. It's been re-released by a new publisher with some updating and a fantastic new cover:

Different Blood

This is a work of critical analysis that surveys the widely varied forms of the "vampire as alien" trope in fiction from the second half of the nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. By "alien," I mean a naturally evolved creature (regardless of whether earthly or extraterrestrial) rather than a supernatural undead entity. So DIFFERENT BLOOD examines one subset of the science-fiction vampire. Readers may be surprised to discover how many amazing stories and novels fall into that category.

In the Amazon "Look Inside" feature, you can read the introduction and part of Chapter One to get a sense of the flavor of the text. I've drawn upon Jacqueline Lichtenberg's essays such as "Vampire with Muddy Boots" and her article on Intimate Adventure to set the stage for my treatment of the topic. You'll find references to those essays in the introduction. To borrow Jacqueline's terms, I'm fascinated by the way most "vampire as alien" fiction deals with nonhuman characters in an SF framework instead of portraying them as "the Unknown that is a menace because it's a menace."

Naturally, Jacqueline's THOSE OF MY BLOOD is one of the books discussed, as well as HOUSE OF ZEOR and the philosophy underlying the Sime-Gen series. One delightful aspect of writing DIFFERENT BLOOD was having a chance to highlight lots of my favorite novels and stories that develop the figure of the vampire in original, provocative ways. I've always admired the way the vampire, as the most versatile of all the traditional monsters, can be used to explore gender, race, ecological responsibility, predator-prey dynamics, symbiosis, and many other themes; the concept of "alienness" is ideally suited for this exploration. I hope DIFFERENT BLOOD introduces readers to numerous works of exciting, innovative fiction they haven't encountered before.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

How to use Tarot and Astrology in Science Fiction Part 5 - The Story of A Life

How to use Tarot and Astrology in Science Fiction
Part 5
The Story of A Life  

Previous entries in this series:


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


And we looked at copyright, DRM and phone repair as it intersects the Law.


Which raised the esoteric aspects of "ownership" leading to issues of the reality of Happily Ever After leading to Part 4.

Part 4

And here we are at Part 5.

In 2019, Passover begins on Friday night, April 19.  On Saturday April 20, 2019 we count #1 (one day) "of the Omer" and every night until June 7 when we count the 49th day of the Omer -- the 49 day count representing the 49 days between the Israelites marching on dry land through the parted Sea, and the arrival at Mount Sinai.

That journey is an archetype.

It is a spiritual journey, the story of a life, a steep climb up out of the mindset of being subjugated to the values of one people and into a free mindset where it is possible to receive a new, different, value system.

The two value sets are not the focus of this blog post -- whichever two you might want to lift from human history, or invent, your Science Fiction Romance novel is the STORY of changing value systems.

This free radical condition, between value systems, the receptive mental state, is dramatically useful to you as a Romance writer.  Mastering this value-system-switch process will let you usher your readers into "far away places with strange sounding names."

It is an Inner Journey -- and is driven by inner conflict.

In Theme-Conflict Integration Part 6,
we touched on how a Character you are creating responds to being Under The Influence of another Character.

Previously, we discussed how writers can apply the counting of the Omer to plotting Romance novels.


Humans, by and large, fight to the death to get free of Influence.  Any influence -- good, bad, indifferent -- having someone else tell you what to think just arouses adamant opposition in most humans. (not all, which is what makes humans interesting.)

In the case of the fleeing Israelites, the Influence was Egyptian culture -- not just the Pharaoh bullying them, but the entire society.  The Egyptians didn't notice they had a culture -- this was long before scholars studied human behavior with anything other than astrology.  The existence of Egyptian culture was only apparent because the descendants of Jacob had inherited a different take on life-the-universe-and-everything than the Egyptians had.

The contrast created conflict.

Study what happened then, and extract a pattern for what will happen at First Contact with non-human Alien cultures.

Humans are adaptable, but not as adults.  Humanity does our adapting in childhood -- somewhat in adolescence, but mostly before age 7 or so, we are incredibly adaptable.

After about age 13 or so, dropping a value system and adopting a different one takes much more work, a vertical learning curve where we slide back a lot.

The older you get, the harder it is to internalize the non-verbal content of Values.

Values are hard to write about in fiction because:
a)Values are inherently non-verbal
b)Values are referred to by different words meaning the same thing
c)Values are referred to by the same words meaning different things

We assign words to represent inner experiences and assume everyone using that word means the same experience.

This is why the language of imagery, (such as Tarot), and the disciplined, orderly, non-verbal communication in artistic symbolism works so much better in fiction for conveying Values.

The Romance writer has to answer questions that no real human could ever answer -- for example, "Why do you love that guy?"

We don't know what we see in him, or him in her, because what we see is not something that can be "known."  It is apperceived by another sense, informed by an array of sensory input, but ultimately a thing of the Soul, not eyeballs or logic.

So experiencing the shift of Values necessary to weld two individuals into a couple is one of the essential tools of the Romance writer.  As it happens, it is also the core tool of the science fiction writer introducing humans to an Alien species.

Any non-humans we meet up with in space will be even more different from us than the Egyptians were to the descendants of Jacob (who weren't Jews, yet.)

We have discussed this upward journey of the Soul previously.  It isn't a journey of the body, from place to place, but a gaining of energy by climbing to another soul-level.  As when you climb a mountain, you store potential energy in your body -- which can be lost if you fall down the mountainside -- the Soul gains potential energy in a spiritual climb which can be lost by falling down -- and it hurts when you hit bottom.

It is ridiculously difficult to do this 40-day exercise in Spiritual preparation for receiving a new and different value system.  The forces of reality sweep in and knock you sideways -- you forget to read the page one night, you forget to do the daily exercise, and you forget that you forgot.

So they made a booklet bound like a reporter's notepad, where you can flip the pages to keep your place.

In this book:

Which you can also buy on Amazon:

...each of the 49 individual Emotions discussed comes with a do-it-today exercise that is a challenge to your ordinary way of looking at the world.  These exercises, done in this sequence, strip calluses and leave vulnerability.

As I said, it is insanely, ridiculously difficult to do this very simple thing in step with the Hebrew Calendar ( between Passover and Shavuot), but if you can achieve it (and it might take several years), you will not regret the effort.  It will improve your ability to create and depict Soul Mates who deserve and achieve a "Happily Ever After."

In fact, it will make it much easier to craft a story that convincingly presents the Happily Ever After as a very real, everyday, achievable lifestyle for a couple.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg