Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 12 - What You Learned As A Kid

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 12
What You Learned As A Kid 

Previous parts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series:

I found this comic on Facebook - it is from a VERY CLEVER blog that can give you all sorts of plot ideas for Fantasy Romance - even Supernatural - if you apply the principles of worldbuilding we've been discussing.

Just like real people, fictional Characters learned something early in life that shapes opinions later.  Study this comic and transpose it to your universe and your Characters.

Here is the blog.  Do check it out.  And here is one of the entries. The image is large enough to read on the blog's archive page.


2020 is coming - have a great New Year.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Long comic strip about kid learning Quantum Computing and a Mom trying delicately to have "the talk" - but both mean quantum computing, not the obvious inference.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Heinous Hacks

There are certain times of day, and certain light conditions under which persons of a certain age with either glaucoma or cataracts or epilepsy or "flicker vertigo" should not drive a vehicle.

Here are some interesting online discussions:


When we think of fictional villains plotting to reduce a population, their methods for "thinning the herd" aren't particularly designed to eliminate the sickliest and the weakest. (Generalization, no doubt.)  Sacha Baron Cohen made a film, The Brothers Grimsby, in which the super villain hoped to infect soccer fans at the World Cup with a virus. One might infer that soccer fans were thought by the super villain to be intellectually and socially inferior.

More usually, bombs, plagues, viruses and illnesses are targeted at densely populated locations, or in the case of one Mission Impossible movie, at the source or headwater (or glacier) of a river or two.

It would surely be too far fetched for someone in power to develop something as commonplace as type of planet-saving lightbulb, mandate that everyone exchanged their old lightbulbs for this new, green type, and be aware that the bulbs could trigger life-threatening seizures and devastating migraines in susceptible members of society.

For Akerman LLP, legal health bloggers Robert E. Slavkin and Beth Alcalde discuss a particularly malevolent hack that apparently seeks to cause physical harm to a "curated" audience.



Back in 2015, Michael Cohen revealed that hackers can take control of a car.

Meanwhile, and less malevolently, there are concerns about how much your connected car might be spying on you.

Kathryn M. Rattigan,  writing for Robinson & Cole LLP's Data Privacy + Security Insider asks
How much is your car spying on you?


Presumably, it is only a matter of time before an innocent purchaser of an "unwiped" second hand vehicle, or a subsequent lessee of a rental vehicle could be caught up in a previous driver's web of international intrigue and nefarious texting acquaintances. What a good story line!

For those who are freaked out by the loss of privacy,
Jennifer Pike of Thompson Coburn LLP recommends 10 cybersecurity tips for travelers.


Original link

Maybe the smartest notion is an old fashioned one: don't use your phone while driving.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Happy midwinter holidays! I hope everybody who celebrates Christmas had a merry one. One of my most thrilling gifts was a DVD set of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, which isn't available on Netflix or Hulu, so I had long since given up on being able to re-watch the series.

Having just finished watching the first season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I've noticed several continuity discrepancies with the original series. (It seems clear that DISCOVERY takes place in the universe of the original series, not that of the reboot.) Uniforms and the interior design of the starship differ drastically from those on Kirk's ENTERPRISE. More glaring, the Klingons have been re-imagined to look very different from Klingons in any other iteration of STAR TREK. Assuming these stories occur in the same universe as the original STAR TREK, the only way viewers can take these changes in stride is to accept them as elements in a retcon, a pretense that it's always looked like this. DISCOVERY also includes a major, worldbuilding-impact continuity problem, however: The spore drive. Its existence revolutionizes the speed of interstellar travel. If the spore drive had existed in the original series, the outcomes of many episodes would have been affected, and the day-to-day operation of the starship would have been noticeably different. To reconcile DISCOVERY with STAR TREK as we know it, at some point before the end of the series any use of the spore drive in the near future must be somehow rendered impossible.

The original series itself has continuity problems with Spock's backstory. It seems blatantly clear that the characters' personal histories weren't planned in advance but constructed ad hoc as the series progressed, particularly with Spock. In the premiere episode, he says one of his ancestors—not his own mother—was a human female. In a later episode, when Captain Kirk deliberately provokes him into a rage to negate the effects of the happiness-drug flowers, Spock says, "My mother was a teacher, my father an ambassador," implying that his parents are deceased. Only with "Journey to Babel" do we learn what then became canon, that his parents are alive but he's had a long-term estrangement from his father. That discontinuity can be justified, if tenuously, by postulating that in the earlier episodes Spock didn't know his fellow crew members well enough to speak frankly about his family background. A continuity glitch among the original series and its various spin-offs concerns money. Does the Federation use it or not? In some episodes, currency clearly exists, yet at least once it's explicitly stated that they don't need money. We can speculate on complicated explanations for this apparent contradiction, but on a metafictional level it seems likely that the writers didn't think through the implications, instead doing whatever worked for any given episode.

The vampire detective series FOREVER KNIGHT took a cavalier approach to its vampire mythology. The traits of vampires seemed to vary according to the whims of individual writers. For instance, by sifting all the evidence from various episodes, one couldn't definitively state whether holy symbols do objective harm to vampires or hurt a vampire only if the vampire believes in the item's potency.

Marion Zimmer Bradley famously disregarded continuity when the narrative requirements of a story demanded ignoring a precedent set in an older book. Of course, when she started writing about the world of Darkover, she didn't expect the fiction in that setting to become a series. It's understandable that she refused to be tied down by creative decisions made early in her career. At one point, she retconned the discrepancies by attributing them to the unreliability of in-universe narrators.

Arthur Conan Doyle, producing a huge number of quickly-written Sherlock Holmes stories over a period of many years, generated ambiguities concerning what part of Watson's body had been wounded and how many times he was married. Organizations such as the Baker Street Irregulars have fun trying to reconcile those ambiguities and weave them into a coherent narrative.

How much discontinuity can a creator get away with before the reader's suspension of disbelief ends up hanged, drawn, and quartered?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Worldbuilding from Reality Part 11 - Worldbuilding Does Not a Story Make

Worldbuilding from Reality
Part 11
Worldbuilding Does Not a Story Make
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series are indexed here:

When you are worldbuilding, you are weaving the black velvet that will cradle and display your diamond.  You are not creating the light that will make your diamond sparkle, or the diamond itself, but if you do a messy job of worldbuilding then no adjustments of light or cut of diamond will create the riveting effect you intend.

Worldbuilding is crucial, but should be as invisible as the black velvet of a jeweler's display case.

In this analogy, I'd guess the "light" is your theme, and the diamond is the Relationship you are depicting.

The Worldbuilding is an integral part of the light and the jewel it illuminates, and some genres, some authors, make the Worldbuilding into the whole plot.  Done well, this is also riveting.

For example, the long running Destroyermen series by Taylor Anderson with the 2019 entry in the Series #14, Pass of Fire.

I think the overall Theme of the Destroyermen novels might be, "The best defense is a vigorous offense."  The world situation, and how a handful of "can-do" American sailors can improve the situation, is the plot. The Story

I can't sing the praises of Anderson's Destroyermen too loudly.  The "world" is an alternate Earth (which a WWII Destroyer falls into from a storm in the South Pacific), and the building is how this tiny group of sailors orchestrates a reproduction of WWII, but with totally different factions, different species (some not human) and humans who fell into this world from different historic epics.  We also have the indications some of the humans from different epics are actually from different parallel universes than our own.

So there is a cosmic-level worldbuilding theory behind the series, and the World where the conflict is in progress when our Destroyermen land there is the result of the asteroid that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs landing in a slightly different spot, rearranging the geography of Central America.

There are a couple of species of feathered lizards that have achieved sentience -- and a civilization based on feeding the voracious populace both with humans and with their own species.

Our Destroyermen take the side of the people being attacked and eaten, or attacked and conquered by some stray WWII Japanese.  Alliances form, war spreads, and the Destroyermen put the natives on the track of ever improved weaponry.

The 2029 entry in this Series is Pass of Fire (the fire being a series of volcanoes in Central America, the Pass being formed by the asteroid hit).

And from this base of intricate worldbuilding, the long-long sequences describing weapons improvements and what counter-improvements the enemies achieve (with the help of the Japanese), and what huge, world-wide, sprawling strategies and tactics can be launched, and which of the surviving Destroyermen are leading parts of the war, and which parts are led by those who learned from our Destroyermen, also describe the Relationships developing because of the battle-camaraderie.

The Characters gradually emerge as well rounded, understandable individuals with unique talents brought forth by vicissitudes.  But even the marriages and births are incidental, except as one more motive to fight.

Survival is the biggest motive for this war.

Hollywood romanticized WWII by telling many deeply romantic stories about couples meeting during war, or separated because of it.  War impacts real lives, reshapes life directions.

In an Action Genre, the war itself and how to conduct it, is the story and the plot.

In Science Fiction the science of war is shown as the key to winning.

In Romance, the impact of war on family relationships, and the highly intensified Romances sweeping people into Relationships they would never have chosen, is the Story while the war itself (strategy, tactics, weaponry advantage, resource allocation) is just background.  The Romance-During-War Novel Plot is not the war, but the insane chances people take to get back together.

The Destroyermen series has no Romance in it, but it does have a few plausible Love Stories woven through it.

A Romance writer should read this series to study techniques for weaving flawless, featureless black velvet.

The last thing an artist wants is to distract the viewer's attention from the work of art being displayed.

In a Romance novel, the Jewel being displayed, the work of art, is the evolving Relationship.  As the Relationship matures into Love through many classic stages (each experienced uniquely), the "action" unfolds on the field of Relationship.  What the couple will do next is the suspense line.  If they are soldiers in a war, which side wins the war is usually not the problem.  If they are running the war, they win it together as a team.

In Romance, the war happens only to fertilize and inform the Relationship.

In the Action Science Fiction genre, which the Destroyermen Series precisely nails to perfection, the Relationships happen only to infuse the winning spirit into the combatants.

I have found not one single flaw in all of the novels in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen Series.

I've discussed a few previous novels in this series:



And we discussed Pass of Fire in the Theme-Plot Integration series.


Clearly, I can't stop raving about Destroyermen. It's flawless, for what it is,  but that just whets my appetite for a similar series, complete with intricately perfect worldbuilding, the science of weaponry, all used to create and showcase the developing of Relationships.

We are enjoined to love our fellows as ourselves, but we humans often fall short of that goal.  The way Romance genre can illustrate the moves, strategy and tactics of warfare might teach us what there is to love in every human.

Romance writers need to study the Art of War as illustrated in the Destroyermen Series to see how the worldbuilding doesn't make the Story, but this kind of worldbuilding from the realities of WWII could make a whopping good Romance.  Just keep asking yourself what's missing.  What's there is perfect - but what's missing is even more important.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Smart Christmas

For those who visit Pennsylvania and are unfortunate enough to be stopped by the police, the good news is that the authorities in that State do not have the right to look into your mind, and your password encrypted devices are considered an extension of your mind.

You do not have to reveal your password unless they have probable cause.

Andrew Crocker, writing for the Electronic Freedom Foundation explains that disclosing a password is the equivalent of giving self-incriminating testimony:

On the other hand, if you are accused of copyright infringement, you may be punished if you are asked to preserve evidence, and you fail to save your text messages.

Writing for law firm Seyfarth Shaw's Carpe Datum blog, Tushar P. Vaidya and Jamila A. Hemmerich examine what happens when a defendant wipes, discards, and does not back up his, her, or their smartphone.

There are other ways of getting into your mind....

Is anyone else rendered uneasy when an online provider offers you "curated" news? Personally, I think it is creepy that Tim Cook's or Mark Zuckerberg's people claim to have such perfect insights into my mind and my interests that they can dish up to me "curated" news to match my interests.

Either they are spying on me and assuming that I only want more of whatever I've consumed in the past, or they are pushing what they want me to consume and not necessarily being truthful about how closely it matches my real interests. I infer.

Concerning spying and intrusion from the wrong side of the TV screen, the good bloggers at Bass Berry & Sims PLC ask whether my smart TV might be too smart, especially if I bought it recently.

Authors Robert L. Brewer, Anthony J. McFarland, and Elizabeth S. Warren  offer six, must-read, smart steps for owners of smart televisions to take this holiday season.

Original article:

Lexology article:

It seems that too many of the goodies that might be in your Christmas stocking this year are too smart for your own good and well being. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to help consumers to protect themselves.

With the FBI and FTC warnings top of mind, legal blogger Linn Foster Freedman continues her excellent series of privacy tips for the Robinson & Cole LLP Data Privacy + Security blog (and you should check out #220 some time soon) with #219 on Holiday Shopping Tips.

Original article:

Lexology article:

By the way, for anyone who might wonder why it's worth checking out different links to the same article, Lexology offers links to other copyright or other intellectual property related articles on similar subjects. The original websites or blogsites are more likely to focus on that law firm's own articles.

And so, Happy Christmas!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Holiday Stories of Connie Willis

If you feel in the mood for winter-holiday-themed stories, pick up A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS (2017), by Connie Willis. This volume is an expansion of her earlier collection MIRACLE AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES (1999). The twelve selections include five new pieces. Since three of them are longish, in my opinion they're worth buying the newer book for even if you've read the earlier one. Humor abounds, and in the manner of most good humor, the incidents are serious to the characters even though funny to the reader. In the majority of the stories, you can count on satisfying but not sappy endings.

My favorite pieces are two novellas that weren't in the old edition: Thousands of radio re-playings of multiple covers of "White Christmas," augmented by the stubborn insistence of a prototypical Bridezilla that she MUST have snow for her Christmas Eve wedding, spawn a worldwide blizzard in "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know." Snow even falls in locations that have never seen it before in recorded history. My other favorite novella in the book, "All Seated on the Ground," features the narrator's experience on a committee tasked with a first contact project. Aliens have landed. The extraterrestrial visitors don't behave hostilely, but they don't speak or otherwise give any indication of their purpose in coming to Earth. Until they're taken to a mall, where they hear Christmas carols—and respond to the line "All seated on the ground" by suiting their actions to the lyrics. Only the narrator, with the help of a high-school choir director, notices this reaction and manages to decipher its meaning. Hilarious, but as in all Willis's work, the humor arises from characters and situations portrayed with her usual dry, incisive wit, not mere one-liners.

Some other highlights: In "All About Emily," a cynical veteran Broadway actress reluctantly befriends a prototype android who has developed a burning ambition to become a Rockette. The protagonist of the bittersweet "Epiphany," a minister weighed down by depression in the bleak post-holiday atmosphere of January, responds to an enigmatic sense of a call by abandoning his routine duties and taking to the snow-covered highways in search of—what? The Second Coming? The narrator of "Newsletter" becomes convinced that aliens have invaded because everybody is acting too nice in the midst of the pre-Christmas rush. During the bustle of a church Nativity play rehearsal, the protagonist of "Inn" tries to cope with a lost, obviously poor young man and his pregnant wife, who don't speak either English or Spanish. You know where this one is going. The contrasts between the idealized portraits in the Bible illustrations and the bedraggled, bewildered couple and between the spirit of good will toward all and the minister's concern about homeless people stealing the Communion silver lend this moving story the sharp edge we'd expect from Willis.

A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS includes an introduction by the author about the challenges of writing Christmas stories, plus appendices listing her personal recommendations for Christmas-centered fiction and poetry, movies, and TV episodes.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, December 14, 2019

All About Face...And Image

This last week, the theme has been legal reversals (about face), about amusing, face-changing apps that come embedded with hidden dangers, a new trick by Facebook to "protect" users from inappropriate (age-inappropriate) paid advertising, and rampant, willful exploitation of artists' creative works.

Blogging for law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, beauty and dispute resolution expert Jordyn Eisenpress discusses the new policy from Facebook-owned Instagram that new users must reveal their birthdays. Apparently, they will scrape linked Facebook accounts for "old" users to auto-add any birthday info that has been provided to Facebook.

Lexology link

Advertising Law link

My advice, be like the monarch of England. Have your real birthday, and a public birthday... and if a banker or stock broker or credit card customer service representative asks for your birthday, ask them to ask something else that only you would know.

Do you know where FaceApp comes from?  Can you live without it?
Allegedly, it comes from Russia. Love that!

Linn Foster Freedman, blogging for Robinson & Cole LLP warns that the FBI considers FaceApp a counterintelligence threat, and suggests that her readers improve their app hygiene. It's good advice!


For Manatt Phelps Phillips LLP, legal blogger Po Yi  asks whether Pinterest encourages, initiates and facilitates copyright infringement, and discusses why a recent copyright infringement lawsuit against Pinterest
questions the Pinterest business model.


In my opinion, as a Pinterest user, it would be very easy for Pinterest to add to the uploading process a pop up disclaimer where the user cannot complete the upload until they have affirmatively asserted under penalty of perjury that they own the rights to the image and are able to produce documentary proof if randomly audited by Pinterest.

Jeffrey D. Neuberger of Proskauer Rose LLP blogs about an expensive legal reversal in the case of copyright infringement by Zazzle, another company that has insufficient safeguards against immoral or ignorant users who upload other peoples copyrighted images or text for the purpose of commissioning Zazzle to create physical items displaying those images or words.


If you use Zazzle, know your rights, responsibilities and potential liabilities... but there are probably myriad authors who would love a quote (with proper attribution) from one of their novels printed across the front of a Zazzle T-shirt. Just ask.

For those who know their limitations when it comes to a knowledge of copyright infringement and the law, this is a very good guide (if you can access Lexology.)

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Finding Time to Write

Marion Zimmer Bradley recommended stay-at-home motherhood as the perfect job for a writer, because writing can be performed in short bursts in the intervals between the tasks required to cope with the house and children. My inner retort upon first reading that statement was, "Speak for yourself, Ms. Bradley." The time it would have taken me to settle into a creative mindset would have eaten up most if not all of each of those brief intervals. The talent for jumping straight into a writing project at a moment's notice isn't given to all of us, although admittedly one can train oneself to shorten the "settling down" part of the procedure. Bradley's advice, however, does highlight one important fact—one doesn't need long, uninterrupted stretches of quiet time to generate readable prose. It took me a long time to learn that principle. My natural inclination was to wait until I had a couple of free hours to devote to a project, hours that came along too seldom. Writing in short bursts can work. Hard as it was, at first, to believe I could produce anything worth keeping in sessions of a half-hour or less, I found that what emerged from my brain didn't turn out appreciably worse than the products of the uninterrupted hours.

C. S. Lewis once remarked that, upon rereading his drafts, he couldn't see any difference in quality between the passages that had flowed with ease and those he'd painfully labored over. The same principle, happily, seems to apply to outward working conditions as well as the author's mental state. In the years since I've taught myself to accept twenty or thirty minutes as an acceptable work period, if that's all I can fit in, I've discovered that 300-400 words can often be generated in those time slots. That's significantly more than zero. A thousand words per day add up to a draft of a typical novel in three months. Five hundred per day would accumulate to novel length in about six months.

Some writers swear by waking up early to churn out one's quota of words before beginning the day's mundane routine. I shudder at the thought, regarding anytime before 8 a.m. as the middle of the night and not becoming fully conscious until somewhat later than that. However, the advice to write every day, at whatever time fits one's own schedule, does make a certain amount of sense. If not every day, at least often and regularly enough to avoid losing the flow of the work. It's hard to get immersed in a story again after leaving it untouched for too long.

A pitfall I've often stumbled into is the impulse to clear the decks before starting. I feel I should get all the routine tasks out of the way in order to free up a time slot and brain space for writing. Unfortunately, that habit can lead to expending most of my allotted computer time on e-mail and other chores, leaving only a short span at the end of the afternoon for writing. In retirement, the truth of the adage that work expands to fill the time available proves itself all too often. It's more productive to start the day's writing first. The other stuff can get done later and usually will. One thing I've learned to do is to open the file of the work-in-progress first, right after turning on the computer. I can tell myself I'll write just a few sentences, maybe a paragraph or two, then come back to it after getting through the routine tasks. That way, I often trick myself into producing a couple of hundred words, so I feel I've accomplished something at least. A sense of accomplishment boosts my morale, encouraging me to generate more prose later in the day. Since I don't usually enjoy the first-draft process (I envy authors who do), I welcome any method of tricking myself into writing.

One school of writing advice suggests discovering your natural "chunk"—the amount of time you can comfortably write at a stretch—and devoting several sessions per day (depending on the time available) to those chunks. Once you've learned how many words you typically produce per chunk (comprising however many minutes), you can estimate how long, in total, it will take you to compose a draft of any given length. Any method that harnesses one's own natural inclinations can boost productivity.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reviews 50 Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Reviews 50 
Suzanne Palmer 
Space adventure experienced by fully realized Characters meddling in "the affairs of Wizards" (with or without supernatural or magical elements), is another main staple of the science fiction reader which is replicated in the Romance field.

The displaced waif who takes a job as governess for a titled noble, becomes entangled in the situation of the children, defies the father over the problem, falls in love, and attracts the attention of the noble is a staple of Romance.  That is bucking the system.

Both Science Fiction and Romance are genres that cut into the life-arc of a main Character at a time when that Character is a "free radical" -- a molecule with an empty-spot just begging for a bond to form.  Free Radicals, in chemistry, tend to initiate chemical reactions.  In today's Health market, the "free radical" in our bodies is our enemy - not because it's bad, but because it tends to bond and disrupt our chemical balance.

Science Fiction readers expect writers to know science -- and show no ignorance.

Suzanne Palmer is a Hugo Award winning writer who wins for a good reason - she delivers a whopping good story driven by Relationships carried on a Plot driven by science.

C. J. Cherryh has shown us how humanity can spread to the stars, even without habitable planets in abundance, by building orbiting space stations, self-contained habitats filled with humans who mine their surroundings for materials and energy.

Suzanne Palmer has set this novel, Finder, (The Finder Chronicles Book 1) ...

https://www.amazon.com/Finder-Suzanne-Palmer-ebook/dp/B07FC7KWLB/   ...amid a cluster of such habitats, cobbled together from junk right alongside real space stations built with class and money.  She built an economy for these people that would make sense to any reader of Heinlein's novels, and expanded the old profession of "Repo Man" to repossess spaceships instead of just cars.

Yes, you can buy a spaceship on credit, and if you don't pay up, your space ship will be gone -- even if you are an arch-criminal running an interstellar empire of trade.  If you don't pay, the ship just turns around and goes home.  Well, it does if you don't disable or reprogram the A.I. that runs it.  If you do that - well, the owner will send Fergus Ferguson to pick it up, and he has the secret password.  That will work, if only he can get close enough.

Not every professional repossessor could or would tackle the job, considering who might be upset.  But Fergus has a deep and wide acquaintance with the criminal enterprises of the galaxy. He's leery but not daunted - and he needs the money.

Things don't go quite as he expects when he arrives among the connected habitats.  The locals are embroiled in some political issues that leave him stranded and at the mercy of -- a woman.

As noted in Reviews 49, Bucking the System
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/12/reviews-49-bucking-system.htmlis what we do, and what we love to read about.   In FINDER, Suzanne Palmer flings Fergus into the arms of the Vahn women - who own and live in one of the habitats in space.  They are all clones and just mind their own business until the system bucks them.  The system will be sorry. Trust me on that.

Fergus starts out thinking he's just a loner by nature. His story is about how he comes to a new opinion on his own nature.  The plot is about how this backwater cluster of human habitats deals with First Contact with apparently hostile Aliens.

Note, this is Book 1 in the Finder Chronicles. Fergus doesn't always repossess items from defaulting purchasers.  He has been s thief and a con artist, and uses those abilities to solve problems.  One problem looming is the new species of Aliens, and there are more adventures in store.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Who Sells Your Phone Number ... And Inaccurate And Defamatory Info About You?

When was the last time you "DuckDucked" your own phone number? (Apologies to Duck Duck Go, but I cannot bring myself to type "goed".)

I was prompted to conduct internet searches of my phone number mid-week, after receiving a number of very early morning phone calls from expectant people in Canada who seemed to think that I'd called them.
Who benefits from that sort of mischief?

Deja vu?

This happened --and I blogged about it-- only a few weeks ago. This time, I got more curious than usual. My phone number is listed on one "Who Called?" type website as "Suspicious" (alas), but so far, there are no complaints from humans.

In no particular order, here's what I discovered:
usaprofilepages.com had my phone number and altogether too much information about me, but in the footer there is a link called "Delete My Identity" and it works.

WhoEasy.com did not make it easy to opt out, and I spent some time poking around on that site but an email to support@whoeasy.com resulted in prompt manual removal.

peoplebyname.com had an online process.  I think. I remember calling one site that tells the world that I cohabit with three impossibly ancient gentlemen with uncommon Biblical names.

findoutwhocalledme.com is a "beenverified" site is highly inaccurate and has probably destroyed a lot of romances judging by all the ladies who write glowing reviews claiming to have discovered that their (probably innocent) lover is married or living a double life.

They claim that they will remove a listing if you email removephonenumber@yeah.net

But they don't. Beenverified claims that it will remove your info. You can call 888-579-5910 and a robot will provide instructions for opting out via beenverified.com/optout. However, this only works if you have one name, and one home.

They will not permit you to delete your info if you have a second home or timeshare.

areacode-Lookup lets you opt out online.

www.callersmart.com is a tricky site and not worth your time. They appear to require you to open an account in order to opt out, and also require you to give them far more information than they already have, which you --by virtue of using their site-- authorize them to use. Moreover, if you are foolish enough to link up using a phone, they will scrape your address book and annoy all your friends.

The solution is to email feedback@callersmart.com and a seemingly live and polite person will manually remove your info.

Spokeo.com has an opt out form on their site.
Then there is zabasearch, intellius, and radaris.

I left radaris alone because they had scraped so much information about my writing career and writing awards (I think scraped from a long-abandoned social media site) that I was overwhelmed with pleasant nostalgia.

As for the phone calls, I cottoned on by the second call, but the Privacy and Cyber Security Update legal blog by the impressive international team at Skadden gave me insights into what's probably behind the international annoyance.  Equifax!

Lexology link

Original link

Impressive cast of experts

Thanks to the sloppy people at Equifax, everyone should search their own names, dates of birth (always provide a memorable fib on social media sites), addresses, phone numbers, passwords (oh dear!!!), email addresses, driver's licenses, and credit card numbers.

Even if you freeze your credit and subscribe to various bank, credit card, and commercial "locking" services, you are not safe from telephone annoyance.

As for piracy, and nothing to do with abuse of telephone numbers, Bookza is back as "Zlibrary" with fake blurb about how they respect creators and intellectual property. If you send them a DMCA notice to support@bookmail.org a robot will reply promptly to assure you that your books have been removed. Here's the kicker, if you revisit the page, it may tell you that the legal owner has removed the link, but they provide would-be book thieves with a link to where the work can be found on a TOR site.

It's almost as bad as the internet search engine that most transparently removed piratical links, only to display them --still negotiable-- on a virtue signalling page of their own.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Caring About Things Is Cool

In 2005, country singer Jo Dee Messina musically proclaimed, "My Give-a-Damn's Busted." (I still wince at typing that phrase outside of fictional dialogue, even though it's been eighty years since Rhett Butler shocked audiences by speaking it in the final scene of GONE WITH THE WIND.) At a point when current events may tempt many of us to embrace that attitude, Kameron Hurley meditates in her latest LOCUS column on the value of caring about people and causes:

The Power of Giving a Damn

She once believed "it wasn’t cool to care too much about things. Caring about something too hard made you vulnerable. Weak." She attributes this feeling partly to "American cinema and storytelling, much of it geared toward portraying the rugged masculine ideal of the loner hero whose dedication is not to individual humans, but to himself. His world was littered with backstabbing femme fatales and best friends who betrayed him, and the worst parts of humanity were always on display. Don’t care too much about things, these loner-hero stories seemed to say; people will let you down, and humans are just a few steps away from destroying themselves."

This description of the American "loner hero" archetype doesn't sound quite plausible to me. Isn't the classic film image of the solitary, wandering hero more often that of a man who stands alone against injustice, eschewing personal ties to move on to the next town when his task in this place is done? That's the paradigm of the lone gunslinger upon which Stephen King models Roland in the Dark Tower saga (with more complex layers, of course). Or do I have a skewed idea of that figure because I haven't viewed more recent media incarnations of him? (Considering the two examples Hurley offers are FIGHT CLUB and AMERICAN PSYCHO—hardly icons of heroism to be emulated, from what I've read about them—she seems to veer away from her stated emphasis on the lone hero.) She recalls, "I was big on apocalypse movies as a kid, because they advanced this libertarian fantasy that each of us was fully equipped to live a long and productive loner life as long as we kept people away from us."

As an adult, she came to realize the "lie of self-sufficiency." Nobody survives, much less thrives, without depending on the social network, physical infrastructure, and material technology provided by the generations that came before us and the people who work to build and maintain those things. When Thoreau retreated to the woods to live by Walden Pond, he took manufactured tools with him. Even a hermit on a deserted island relies on the products of society; Robinson Crusoe couldn't have gotten far without items he salvaged from the shipwreck. (A gruesome short story by Stephen King imagines the probable fate of a man stuck on a barren island with nothing but his clothes and carry-on bag. The protagonist amputates his own limbs and eats them raw, killing the pain with illegal drugs he happens to be transporting.) In more realistic post-apocalyptic fiction than the type Hurley admired in her teens, the people who survive to rebuild society are those who band together for mutual support.

Discovering, "We are all connected," Hurley summarizes, "I’ve found that it’s not weak­ness to care about others, or to care about a cause. The true weakness is when we are too afraid to care about anything at all." As romance writers, we create worlds in which caring is of central importance and love conquers. That seems like a worthwhile message to promote anytime—especially in the grim times.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Reviews 49 - Bucking the System

Reviews 49
Bucking the System
Cry Pilot + Sequel

Defiance squared - no, cubed - is the essential quality of a) a Romance Heroine, and b) a science fiction Hero of any species.

Here's the thing about both Romance and Science Fiction readers. We are very aware of how we differ from the majority, while at the same time feeling close kinship with that majority.

You will find the "me against the system" plot arc in long series (C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels, etc) and in stand alone novels, or series kick-off novels.  The Science Fiction Hero is out to change the world, whether he/she knows it or not.

In the Mysteries of Pacing series (part 7 lists previous parts)
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/11/mysteries-of-pacing-part-7-art-of.htmlwe've looked at "how" a writer can form and mold raw material (the "I've got an idea!" flash of the complete life of a Character) into a linear sequence of Events (plot) and Lessons (story) that tickles the curiosity bump of a specific "majority."

Here is a kickoff novel with long series potential by Joel Dane titled CRY PILOT, with the sequel BURN CYCLE that I haven't read yet.

Book 1

Book 2

The title doesn't seem to make sense.  One "cries" out for a Corpsman when  a soldier is wounded.  But that's not what this "cry" means.

Science Fiction fans love a mystery, so a confusing title has a solid place among science fiction novels -- unlike other genres.

So we have to look closer at this oddly titled novel, and right off we are lured into the mindset of a guy determined to outsmart the system he was born embedded into.  Aha, my kind of novel!

With a carefully light brush, Joel Dane fills in the intricate and complex world building he's done to create the main Character's goal.

Maseo Kaytu is the odd name that also rivets the attention, a main character determined to survive a mission billed by the system as a suicide mission.  Some "Cry Pilots" do survive the flying of these fearsome but old and decrepit weapons platforms.

The current "system" doesn't still know how to build such flying platforms, and just barely knows how to repair them. Resources to do such repairs are scarce, and the enemy they fly against is rapidly destroying these machines.

They are A.I. equipped machines, but will not fly a mission without a human "pilot" (even though the pilot doesn't do much, other than die from G-stress maneuvers.)

The enemy is the Earth itself, seething with bio-engineered, fearsome weapons left over from a doomsday war.  Currently, the cobbled together system of government has fielded a counter-bio-engineered weapon designed to "heal" the whole Earth -- and it has made significant progress.  Humanity is fighting for time.

Into this system, Maseo Kaytu flings his defiance.  He is a criminal with the ambition to earn his way out of the sewer of the system.  But there is a lot going on that he doesn't know about.  Achieving his immediate goals leads him into a wider battle, and embeds him among a team of equally oddball individuals who just might have a chance - if they work together - of being part of the solution, not the problem.

So you see, this is a novel to read for the plot.  But as Maseo's array of acquaintances grows, you will find him focusing on a few women, (one in particular with psi talent) and finding how Relationship is the key ingredient in a winning team effort.

This novel is science fiction in the grand manner, but uses all the modern science you could ask for.  It isn't Romance, but has a nascent love story embedded in the plot.

It is a page turner, and well worth a studious read.  Think hard, and you will find that to make this series a Romance, you only need to start later in Maseo's life, and trim some scenes to make room for more private adventures.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Of Letters, Lies, And Legacies

Among the movies showing free this long, holiday weekend is "Can You Forgive Me?" based on the true story of an author who became a forger of dead celebrities' private letters.

Lee Israel is said to have believed that her forgeries were the best work of her life. The greatest mistake of her life (perhaps apart from misspelling "arse"), may have been in not accepting a bribe.

This is a fascinating read:

On the topic of lies, I was reminded of a song by Greenslade that I have always like very much for a particular line that I probably should not quote, because songs have so few lines that it is easy to infringe the songwriter's copyright by accident.  The line is about untruth in journalism.

I believe this link will take you to "Newsworth" and Greenslade or their estates will be inadequately compensated, but compensated somewhat.

Sequeing to estates and estate planning...legal bloggers Joseph B Doll and Michael J. Kearney, writing for Cole Schotz PC, discuss what happens when a bitcoin investor dies unexpectedly, without making sure his or her or their loved ones have the cyber key and passwords to unlock his/her/their digital property.

Or, for the original:

One can also lose invaluable photographs and other intangible delights if they are locked up in Facebook or Drop Box or a proprietary "cloud".

For Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP,  Joshua Boughton discusses digital assets with a focus on the inheritance dilemmas of British persons.

Harking back to copyright and private letters, legal blogger Ken Moon, writing for AJ Park examines the case for copyright infringement when a newspaper publishes substantial portions of a living celebrity's private and personal letter.

It's all food for thought concerning the enduring value of letters, especially for authors and creators. One might also give some thought to the preservation (or not) of text messages and emails... and unpublished works.

One might also consider leaving instructions in one's Will concerning social media accounts, ancestry-related social media accounts, health and fitness logging accounts.

At least it wasn't Amazon that acquired the ability to track your heart rate and daily steps and swings of the arms via a device that you paid to purchase, not to mention the details you uploaded to the site to record your water consumption by the glass, your dietary choices, your weight and more!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry