Thursday, February 27, 2020

Robots Writing

The March 2020 issue of ROMANCE WRITERS REPORT (the magazine of Romance Writers of America) includes an article by Jeannie Lin about artificial intelligence programs writing prose, titled "The Robots Are Coming to Take Our Jobs." I was surprised to learn software that composes written material, including fiction, already exists. No matter how competent they eventually become, they can't quite take over our jobs yet, because (as Lin points out) U.S. copyright law requires that a work to be registered "was created by a human being." That provision, I suppose, leaves open the question of how much input a computer program can have into a work while it can still count as "created by a human being." Lin tested a program called GPT-2, which takes an existing paragraph of text as a model to write original material as a continuation of the sample work. The AI's follow-up to the opening of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE strikes me as barely coherent. On the other hand, the paragraph generated in response to a sample from one of Lin's own books comes out better, and Lin acknowledges, "The style was not unlike my own." The GPT-2, however, as Lin evaluates it, "is very limited. . . only capable of generating a paragraph of text and is unable to move beyond the very narrow confines of the lines provided."

Here's the website for that program:


The site claims its "unsupervised language model. . . generates coherent paragraphs of text, achieves state-of-the-art performance on many language modeling benchmarks, and performs rudimentary reading comprehension, machine translation, question answering, and summarization."

Here's an article about how AI writes content and some ways that technology is already being used—for instance, to produce sports reports for the Associated Press and other news outlets, financial reports, summaries of longer documents, personalized e-mails, and more:

Artificial Intelligence Can Now Write Amazing Content

Computer programs have also written novels, such as an autobiographical account of the AI's cross-country travels:

AI Wrote a Road Trip Novel

It may be reassuring to read that the result is described as "surreal" and not likely to be mistaken for a human-created book.

Nevertheless, there's a National Novel Generation Month (NaNoGenMo) competition in November for programmers trying to produce AI capable of composing novels. According to Lin's article, this challenge "has generated more than four hundred novels," although they're "more intriguing for how than were created than for their content." Here's the website for NaNoGenMo:

National Novel Generation Month

While I have no desire to cede my creative operations to a computer, I've often wished for a program that would take my detailed outline and compose a novel from it. The first-draft stage is the phase of writing I enjoy least; software that would present me with a draft ready to be edited would be a great boon. And apparently that's not an impossible goal, judging from a novel produced in collaboration between human authors and an AI, which advanced beyond the first round in a contest:

AI Novel

According to the article, "The novel was co-written by by Hitoshi Matsubara of Future University Hakodate, his team, and the AI they created. By all accounts, the novel was mostly written by the humans. The L.A. Times reported that there was about 80% human involvement." The process worked this way: “Humans decided the plot and character details of the novel, then entered words and phrases from an existing novel into a computer, which was able to construct a new book using that information.” Sounds like magic!

Still, we're in no danger of losing our jobs to robot authors yet. Aside from the novelty of the concept, I do wonder why we'd need AI-generated fiction on top of the thousands of books each year that already languish unread on Amazon pages, buried in the avalanche of new releases.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How do you know if You've Written a Classic Part 5 - James Clavell Move Over

How Do You Know If You've Written a Classic
Part 5
James Clavell Move Over 

Previous parts in "How do you know if you've written a classic?" series are:

Part 1 in this Series is about writing a "classic" illustrating the long time fan discovering new entries in a series.

Part 2, Spock's Katra, is a long answer to a request for material for an online blog.  My answer focused on Theodore Bikel and his roles in Star Trek.

Part 3 answers very insightful interview questions from a Podcast host.  The verbal podcast interview is very different, but here are answers done with some time to think of how to explain the invisible connections between Star Trek, my deep study of the fan dynamics of the TV Series, and my own original universe Sime~Gen novels.

Part 4 - Fifty Year Test
Best Sellers made into movies or TV from the 1960's, James Clavell's Tai-Pan

Part 5
James Clavell Move Over
 Current Science Fiction carrying on the classic tradition.
-------- posted the Nebula Award Finalists, and one of my writing students has a novel on the list (bang-up great novel, too!) Marque of Caine. 

2019 Nebula Award Finalists


  • Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
  • A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
  • Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir ( Publishing)
  • A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)

Romance novels have developed a signature "style" which infuses Historical, Contemporary, and Paranormal Romance with a certain comfortable reading "feel."  Each subdivision of Romance has embroidered on that underlying "style" (style includes pacing, plotting, Characterization, Dialogue, Conflict and Resolution, etc. as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, punctuation etc.).

Likewise Science Fiction has a "style" and so does "Fantasy."

Embedded in the choice of style are some implicit Worldbuilding components, most especially Theme.  Theme is the one element that appears in (and dictates) every choice a writer makes, whether the writer knows it or not.

Theme is what the writer is explaining about how the universe works, what life is, where it comes from, why humans are (or are not) important to all reality.  What is Love?  How do you recognize Love?  How do you recognize the absence of Love? Does Love matter?  And what has sex to do with it (if anything)?

Each such broad question begs an answer that is equally broad, and each novel in each genre, presents an answer for readers to think and argue about, or maybe apply to their own lives.

Yes, fiction writing is dangerous.  It could lead to your Soul being held responsible for life choices made by strangers you'll never meet.

Science Fiction is one of the genres founded on asking unthinkable questions.  That was what Gene Roddenberry always said - Star Trek didn't point viewers to particular answers to age-old questions of life, but restated and posed those questions in contexts that sparked rethinking the answers handed down from generations past. In other words, Roddenberry taught that science fiction was for posing questions, not answering them.

Science is, in fact, all about the art and craft of asking questions.  And so is fiction as it takes you on a journey in another's shoes, moccasins, sandals, or even barefoot over coals.

Historical Romance as a genre has added depth and breadth of Character to the ordinary Historical novel.  Focusing on a Romance plot, a writer can ask questions about our History that other story tellers can't quite get at, questions about the meaning of life.

So James Clavell, as noted in Part 4, cast the political strife of the mid-1960's to life in the historical setting of the founding of Hong Kong, and today we see the same forces advanced through decades re-enacting the same play.

That persistence through time gives us a way to recognize a Classic Novel.

The Rise And Fall of the Roman Empire is non-fiction about politics, economics, greed, and decadence.

The point of that historical non-fiction work was simply that the biggest, most overwhelming, unbeatable, solid and Eternal organizational concepts of civilization have a finite lifespan.

Like individual humans, whole civilizations die and leave a legacy.

In the case of Rome, the legacy included much of what Rome borrowed, inherited, copied, and absorbed from Ancient Greece.  Greece, in turn, had built on legacies that can be traced to Ancient Egypt.  Empires rise and fall over centuries (some much shorter lived).  But however far they expand, they eventually contract, shatter, and die -- and descendants pick through the rubble for valuable ideas.

Learning how to view humanity through the perspective of historical epics is easier than you might think.

But it does require a lot of reading.  Along with Clavell's novel Tai-Pan, read also James Michener's novel -- (also published in the mid-1960's and still selling strong) -- THE SOURCE.

They both have love stories, love as a motivation for the heroic deeds of grand Historical Figures, and the way personal human relationships reshape the events of History -- the things some people considered worth remembering.

Romance, however, generally concerns the things such historians don't consider worth remembering -- even though romance itself, as it occurs in the lives of great heroes and forgotten work-a-day folks, is by far and away the single most important experience of human life.

Romance is the connecting tissue between the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Source, and Tai-Pan, and it is utterly invisible in these giant classic novels about the tsunami of History spanning thousand of years.

Yes, I do think today's headlines about Hong Kong are the early rumbles of a tsunami of history that will be written about, after they've scrubbed away all the Romance.

So what if Romance writers added that Romance element back into the crafting of the narrative of human history - that is the foundation of human destiny (if the Hellenistic concept of destiny is even real).

In the science fiction genre, the most you can expect today is a Love Story, usually from the male point of view, and about what a man will do for the love of a woman.

Helen of Troy is a Classic for a reason.  Half the readers in this world are male.

So, to craft an epic future history out of Romance, study the mere Love Story and how such a story can encompass the view of History styled in such works as Clavell, Michener, etc. have used to create their Classics.

Now consider a new novel, easily viewed as a Future History such as Heinlien wrote, but with the scope and depth Edward E. Smith incorporated into his Lensman Series.

Marque of Caine is the 5th in the series about Caine Riordan, a Polymath tumbled into the sudden opening of Earth to the interstellar civilizations out there already.

This 5th entry in the series has the style of James Clavell, the scope of James Michener, the depth of Edward E. Smith, with a heroic main character driven by a love as potent as Paris's for Helen of Troy.

In case you don't recall, Helen was desperately loved by a true Hero, but was not a woman of strong character such as we would admire today.  She just messed up the plans of great men.

Google "Who loved Helen of Troy" and find summaries such as this:

 Known as "The face that launched a thousand ships," Helen of Troy is considered one the most beautiful women in all literature. She was married to Menelaus, king of Sparta. Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, fell in love with Helen and abducted her, taking her back to Troy.

During an absence of Menelaus, however, Helen fled to Troy with Paris, son of the Trojan king Priam; when Paris was slain, she married his brother Deiphobus, whom she betrayed to Menelaus when Troy was subsequently captured.


Whether the women of the past were as heroic as women of today, or not, the men who wrote History often showed little respect for anything female.

Charles E. Gannon has brought the Helen of Troy character into a Heinlein style heroic woman.  Many commentators today regard Heinlein's writing as sexist -- it was, but in the way of glorifying the heroism of woman.  That, in its time, was a defiant and dangerous way to portray women, so very often Heinlein's style edges into sexism.  Charles E. Gannon faces no such restriction.

The female aliens and human women in the Caine Riordan series are portrayed freely as Characters with strengths and weaknesses as varied and unpredictable as real people.

Caine Riordan fell in love at first sight, had a brief fling with his woman that resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, and then he was swept away into the vortex of time and history.  He then spends years trying to reunite with this special woman, who is just definitely the only woman for him.

Meanwhile, she is swept away by Aliens who allegedly are trying to heal her mortal wounds.

In Book 5, Riordan plunges into the interstellar civilization tackling test after test the Aliens fling at him until at last he finds out why they are testing him, and experiences a dubious encounter with his woman which inflames his determination to rescue her.

Along the way, during all 4 previous novels, Riordan's character has been illuminated by the quality of friends he has made.  Eat this point, it is not surprising this cohort assembles to help Riordan in what seems to be just a personal quest.  The reader now understands the scope of the challenge facing Riordan.

Riordan has to win through for the sake of all humanity -- and probably a whole group of Alien species.

The haunting questions posed by the Caine Riordan novels center around why civilizations, human and maybe non-human, both rise and inevitably fall.

Why is stability so unstable?

In other words, the Caine Riordan series is addressing the issue of whether there is, or maybe could be if only we knew how, such a thing as a Happily Ever After.

The Caine Riordan series is not a Romance, but its central, core theme seems to echo Clavell, Michener, Smith, "Should there be such a thing as a Happily Ever After either for individuals or for whole civilizations?"

The Caine Riordan series is woven of the stuff from which everlasting classics are made.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Who's Got Your Authorial Back?

While not every authors' organization is as helpful as helpful can be, here are a few:

SFWA has a sample DMCA generator online.

SFWA has also been taking on trolls on Goodreads... with some success.
For authors who have given up on Goodreads because there seemed to be no recourse against anonymous persons who launched personal attacks on authors, or wrote "reviews" that appeared to be intended to harm the author, rather than genuine reviews of the book, things may have changed.

Help in the case of plainly egregious behavior may be forthcoming from

SFWA members can receive help from SFWA in cases of doxxing, fake reviews of books that are not yet available, obvious targeting of entire series etc.

The Authors Guild has posted sample DMCA notices along with some useful information about Open Library (which some would say is more like a pirate site than a true library.)

It's worth sending a TakeDown notice.

Savvy Authors is a great resource for advice and workshops.

Finally (for now), the copyrightalliance has a very helpful blog, most recently explaining :The 5 W's of Copyright Registration".

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Social Media in the Raging 20s

In her latest LOCUS post, Kameron Hurley writes about tension and anxiety in the era of instantaneous communication and miscommunication:

Into the Raging 20s We Ride

She discusses misinformation, the pitfalls of following news bites in real time, the anxiety caused by exposure to floods of "unfettered" and unfiltered content, and feelings of helplessness when overwhelmed by what appear to be irresistible, impersonal forces. The essay begins with this generalization: "I’ve found that the insidious problem for me in scrolling through social media is that it feels like action. Ironically, it also creates – in me – a profound feeling of being out of control over events in the wider world, while generating a huge amount of anxiety and worry."

We tend to think if we Like or Share a post on a vital topic, we've done something about it. We often forget to dig deeper for reliable information or to seek out something concrete we can do in the real world. Hurley recommends rekindling the joy of creation, as well as becoming more intentional and selective about the online sources we expose ourselves to. She points out, "Our always-on culture has been driven by organizations that seek to get an increasing share of a finite resource: our attention. The more attention I give their services and algorithms, the less attention I have for the things that matter to me." The "luxury of deep focus" is an important resource of which social media can deprive us; Hurley writes about the need to rediscover that focus.

I was surprised at her remark that she's trying to spend more time on books. When and why did her book-reading decrease, I wonder? I can't imagine not reading a portion of a book-length work every day (in practice, two or three, since I always have several books going at one time, each for a different reading slot in my schedule). Unlike many people, including Hurley, I don't get ensnared by Facebook for long sessions. Some days, if time runs out, I barely glance at it or don't open it at all. When I do scan my feed, I devote only twenty minutes or so to it. Since I've friended or followed so many people, the content is effectively infinite, so there's no point in trying to consume all of it. The organizations and individuals I'm really interested in, I see regularly near the top of the page. My personal infinite black holes in terms of online reading are Quora and TV Tropes, where I have to make a conscious effort not to get sucked in except during free time I've specifically allotted to recreational surfing.

Hurley's comments about the illusion of taking action remind me of some lines from C. S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. (Like Shakespeare, Lewis offers an apt quote for almost any situation.) With regard to steering the victim's "wandering attention" away from what he ought to be spending his time on, senior demon Screwtape advises his pupil, "You no longer need a good book, which he really likes" to distract the "patient"; "a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about." Later, Screwtape says, "The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel." Screwtape would probably get a lot of mileage from the temptation to chase an endless chain of web links down multiple rabbit holes. In a different work (I can't remember which), Lewis points out that our brains weren't designed to cope with infinite demands on our sympathy in the form of a torrent of news about crises and disasters in distant places that we have no power to affect. I wonder what Lewis would say about social media and the 24-hour news cycle. His reaction would definitely not be favorable; in his lifetime, he avoided reading newspapers on the grounds that the content was often distorted or downright false.

Hurley's essay concludes with a declaration that's easy to applaud but often hard to practice: "Our attention, like our lives, is finite. Choose wisely."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 4 - Fifty Year Test

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 4
Fifty Year Test

Previous parts in "How do you know if you've written a classic?" series are:

Part 1 in this Series is about writing a "classic" illustrating the long time fan discovering new entries in a series.

Part 2, Spock's Katra, is a long answer to a request for material for an online blog.  My answer focused on Theodore Bikel and his roles in Star Trek.

Part 3 answers very insightful interview questions from a Podcast host.  The verbal podcast interview is very different, but here are answers done with some time to think of how to explain the invisible connections between Star Trek, my deep study of the fan dynamics of the TV Series, and my own original universe Sime~Gen novels.
Now in Part 4 we look at an OLD historical mainstream novel (written in the mid 1960's) - not a Romance Genre item which leaves you room to shift genres and make a truly original contribution to the field.  Study its marketing and now re-marketing as an ebook (I picked it up on Kindle, free, when advertised on BookBub).

Romance Genre needs marketing like this.  There are plenty of Historical novels as good, and even more that are just plain better, set in the 1800's, that should be promoted like this.

This novel is about the founding of Hong Kong.  In 2018, Hong Kong exploded into the news with "protests" and marches against being "ruled" by China.  China is in the news with "trade negotiations" -- and intellectual property theft (a crime that didn't exist when Hong Kong was founded).

The THEMATIC issues that a Romance writer can lift from Clavell's "Asian Saga" will seem as if they were ripped from the headlines of the 2020's.

Clavell played up the sex and violence.  If you re-set this entire "founding of" and the rise of an international mogul into the coming Space Age where nations fight for trade among the planets and asteroids with a focus on Romance, in 50 years, you might see your themes repeating in the headlines.  Clavell didn't live long enough, but did see the sure success of a classic.

I am seeing his "style" of writing emerging in the science fiction field, so blend Romance into the mix, study the style, create a new genre if you add dimensions of Soul Mates to politics and the forces that move human history.  Don't forget to include E. E. Smith's Lensman Series premise and themes. 

Yes, humanity never learns, or maybe new souls have to take the same courses of instruction in the school of hard knocks, but that stubborn, dense-headed element of humanity is what you can exploit to create a Classic Romance of the magnitude that Clavell has reached.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 12 - Worldbuilding Focuses Plot Options

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 12
Worldbuilding Focuses Plot Options 

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

Part 11 is about "Worldbuilding Does Not A Story Make" -- which is true.

But Theme is the foundation of Worldbuilding -- what is the substance, nature and function of "reality" -- what does it mean, "the science fiction world," "the art world," "the financial world?"

"World" seems to have both an objective and subjective component or connotation.

Our subjective "world" is focused on our major interest of the moment, on the one thing that looms largest in our perceptions, what we understand as the generator of the parameters within which the future (or at least our own lives) will flourish.

In other words, "world" means "Happily Ever After."

World defines not only what we see, but what we don't (or refuse) to see.

So the subjective perception of "the world" around us does not make the story of our lives, but rather defines the options for actions that will generate the conflicts which, when resolved, reveal what the Story of Our Lives is really about.

One of the definitive points in the life/story/plot of a generation is the War of the Times.

We talk about World War I and World War II, which have generated many movies, many Romances.  Romance flourishes during War because life-or-death-risks are so very primal.

We talk about the Korean War, especially these days with the North Korea vs South Korea conflict in play, with North Korea still allied with (or under the thumb of) China.  We talk about Vietnam, still in living memory of adults now putting their children through college.  Vietnam War is of special interest to today's young audiences because the US politics of the time fractured under the stressful question of whether the USA should be involved at all, while at the same time we still had the Draft which attempted to force young men to go fight.

Every generation has had young men (and now women) blooded in combat, and those who have fought aver that it changed them, opened a gulf between them and those who did not get deployed into real explosive danger.

While you're up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp.

Our objective, as writers, is to explain how, in everyday reality, a reader can act in order to achieve an actual, Happily Ever After expanse of decades of life.

Right now, in 2020, the HEA as a real life achievement seems to be an idiotic idea.

But in Science Fiction Romance, in Paranormal Romance, you can find not only hope, but a workable plan.

There still exist aspects of everyday life that respond to your personal actions and decisions.  Finding them is one thing, and then presenting those options to your readers is yet another hurdle to leap over.

Here is the principle behind using fiction to convince a reader that they have such options, and the personal ability, fortitude, heroism, and luck to be able to implement that option - make it real in everyday life.

People don't believe what they are told.

People believe what they figure out for themselves.

The harder they have to work at figuring, the more convinced they become of the ultimate truth behind their discovery.

The writing principle is SHOW DON'T TELL.

Once the reader SEES, they figure out for themselves what it means.

Here are two series of posts about how to structure a convincing argument for the Happily Ever After ending.

SYMBOLISM is how the writer SHOWS without TELLING. Master its use.

The reader, in times like these, is looking at a world boiling over, spoiling for a fight (or an additional fight), whole massive groups of people trying to force other massive groups to change their behavior.

Historians have often determined that wars are, at their root, all about economics.

We seem to be in an epoch of human history boiling over with passionate religious convictions, one of which is that it is a religious duty to force everyone to adopt your religion, forsaking all others.

But look deeper, and you may find where that same hardwired human propensity for believing is filled up with belief in things other than deities.

Some believe in socialism with the same religious passion others believe in capitalism.  A writer searching for a theme could ask questions about whether any "...ism" is healthy to believe in.

Apparently, humans must believe something.  If that mental  component of our "world" or "world view" is empty, something noxious will crawl in to inhabit it.

Whatever is hiding in the "belief" compartment of our world view will manifest in our behavior.

Behavior, both habitual and adopted (such as living on junk food vs. going on a keto diet) behaviors are plot generators because the internal conflict kicked up between what hides in "belief" and what we, ourselves, or others around us, try to stuff into that belief compartment is a War To The Death.

"War to the Death" internally generates the external behavior that matches it,  thus driving the Plot.

To be a novel, that plot (or sequence of actions) must evolve all the way to a resolution (not the resolution, but at least a resolutions) of the internal and external conflicts.

In our everyday real world, the hatred and revenge fueled wars (large and small) are not likely to be resolved in our lifetimes.  But the internal war between what we believe and what others insist we must believe (or die) can be resolved.

Once that internal conflict is resolved, the INDIVIDUAL is at peace, regardless of the video clips bombarding them from all sides.

That state of internal peace, shared by a couple, reinforced by the coupling itself, is in fact the Happily Ever After.

Here is an article which indicates a connecting link between economics (the source of war) and behavior (the source of dramatic plots).

Subtitled: The human brain doesn't make decisions in the way we think it "should."

The article is about how marketers use your beliefs to trick you into behaving as they want you to, even if it is against your best interests.

Find a story that goes with such conflict and plots as hinted at in that piece and you will have a novel series.

To find the story, find the Characters who live in that "world."  Their subjective world is nestled in an objective world they can't see because of a belief jammed in under the beliefs they think they espouse.

If you can create that World-within-World structure with your worldbuilding, any story you tell will be vivid with verisimilitude.

Here are two more posts discussing how all this fits together with our modern, contemporary headlines -- ugly headlines we can rip Romance out of.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Tax Time Checklist For Writers

Does your business have a name?  Do you write as an LLC?
If you are an LLC, do you have an EIN, (Employer Id Number) even if you have no employees, and have you filed an annual report with your State and paid the fee?

Is the business an ongoing one?  If not, when did you dispose of it?
Do you have an inventory?
If you do, was there a change in the quantities, costs, or value between your opening inventory on Jan 1st 2019 and your closing inventory on Dec 31st 2019?

Were you involved in the business on a regular or substantial basis?
Did you pay anyone more that $600 to assist you with your work, if so, have you prepared forms 1099 for them?

You can get these forms mailed to you free from the IRS website. You do not need to enrich any office supply shop. If you need 1099s, you will also need 1096s for the government.

Who paid you?  Do you have 1099-Ks?  How about 1099-MISCs?  Royalties? Sales?  Did you charge tax?

If you sold produce, what was the cost of your materials and supplies? Were there other costs? (Mailing, perhaps?)

Are you depreciating your business inventory?  If you have computers, iphones, ipads, printers, scanners, antivirus subscriptions, thumb/flash drives, a subscription to or its like etc, you could be depreciating those.

What about your expenses?  Are you paying for advertising? Do you have travel expenses... to the post office or to your mail box or to your local office supply store?  Do you have parking fees or tolls in connection with business... maybe to attend an Authors Guild or RWA local chapter meeting? If you went off-site, can you claim for hotels, and meals, and registration fees, and taxis and goodness knows what else?
If you were lucky enough to buy a best selling author or an editor a drink, you might claim for that (if you kept the receipt)!

How about your expenses in attending an AGM or convention?

Don't forget about insurance. Did you pay to protect yourself in case you are sued for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly?  An author must protect himself/herself/themself. Other than health insurance, an author can probably claim a deduction.

Did you pay a lawyer?  Did you pay a webmaster? Did you pay a designer? An editor? A reader? A printer? A publicist? A babysitter?

If you are using a specific room in your home exclusively for your writing, you can deduct a fraction of the costs of your home for whatever percentage the office is of your home size... so what is your mortgage? Or your rent? What are your heating bills? What are your electricity bills? Water and sewer? What are your burglar alarm bills? What are your internet/cable bills? Phone bills? Repair and maintenance bills?  ETC.

Are you making enough from your writing to fund an IRA?

Do not forget supplies: ink, toner, paper, envelopes and mailers, storage and filing supplies, files, folders, staples, replacing surge protectors, storage, etc.  Also any repairs and maintenance and geek squad visits or paid visits to the genius bar.

Did you keep a record of the taxes you have paid, the license fees.

You can also claim for your subscriptions, memberships, union dues, and your PO Box.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Where Are the Editors?

It's discouraging that, while reading books from major publishers, I run into "Where was the editor?" moments all too often. As a reader, I've always been picky about details, and working for over twenty years as a legislative editor exacerbated that tendency. I can't NOT see errors in printed publications. (Spotting them in my own writing, of course, is less reliable; like many if not most writers, I tend to see what I thought I wrote rather than what appears on the screen.) I grind my teeth and mentally scream, "Where was the editor?!"

Some examples from novels I've read lately: "Putting on the breaks" instead of "brakes." Putting someone "through the ringer" instead of the "wringer." That hardy perennial "it's" (it is) for "its" (possessive). And not exactly an error, but a little odd—"damnit" instead of the more usual "dammit." (Many years ago, I read a book review containing the remark that "damnit" sounded as if the curse were directed solely at immature lice.)

In a particular book co-written by one of my favorite authors, the text constantly substitutes "snuck" for "sneaked" and "anyways" for "anyway." Granted, the younger generations habitually use those words, so they're appropriate in the dialogue of teenagers and young adults. However, this novel also has those errors committed by a middle-aged bookstore owner and an immortal elf, as well as the third-person narrative voice. In the latter case, it might be argued that the narrator is echoing the mental processes of the tight-third-person viewpoint character (if that happens to be a teenager in a given scene), but I maintain that this usage makes it sound as if the authors themselves don't know better.

And then there are factual errors, which I don't spot so often. (After all, noticing them depends on whether the problem relates to a subject I know about.) A 2019 contemporary fantasy I enjoyed very much makes it clear—repeatedly, not in what might be an isolated lapse—that the authors think Long Beach, California, is in San Diego. They're in two different counties!

Maybe some readers don't notice or cringe at typos and errors. As both an English major and a former proofreader, I find such things distracting, although seldom enough to spoil my pleasure in a book. If the lapses are so frequent they cast doubt on the author's command of language, of course, that's a different matter. What bug and baffle me are obvious mistakes in otherwise good books by bestselling authors from major publishers. Have standards and/or staff budgets fallen in recent decades? Or am I falsely remembering a nonexistent golden age when novels were more thoroughly edited? Nowadays, it's a refreshing pleasure to read through an entire book without once muttering, "Where was the editor?"

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy Part 10 - Smallest Indivisible Particle of Soul

Soul Mates and the HEA
Real or Fantasy
Part 10
Smallest Indivisible Particle of Soul 

Previous entries in the Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy series are indexed here:

Romance genre focuses on the moment two people meet with the CHIME of True Love echoing from the collision.

Like the music of the spheres, that CHIME is "audible" to the Soul, but not so much to the ears (usually).

Combining with a Soul Mate often, but not always, leads to the Happily Ever After point in life.  It is not an "ending" but a new beginning, setting sail on calm seas, knowing there will be storms tossing life into new courses, perhaps running aground.

The "life course" that the new couple embarks on reflects the progress of the joining, combining, uniting, the fertile Mating of these two Souls.

It is often confusing, bewildering, even enraging and embittering, to experience the abrasive polishing of your Soul by another.

One reason everyday people live through marriage with volcanic emotional eruptions, alternately loving and hating their Soul Mate is the lack of a THEORY of what a Soul is.


Theory of what the universe is, what reality is, what human society is, is for, is right or wrong, generates the underlying, envelope THEME of a novel.

Any given writer may produce novels on several (often mutually exclusive) theories of reality, of what love is, what hate is, where it comes from, how it affects the course of decisions and consequent events.

Picking a theory, and generating a theme, is the foundation of Worldbuilding.

Most often, the choices are not conscious - as the writer just sits down and records the story the Characters tell her.

The act of writing, though, often creates a consuming interest in a new theory, generating new, divergent themes that just have to be written about because new Characters start shouting their stories into the writer's ear.

Writing begets writing.  That's why the advice to beginners, and those who are just suddenly stuck staring at a blank page, is  simply WRITE.  Just write something - you can change it later.

We have often touched on the fertile source of theories and themes we find in everyday headlines.  We rip stories from the Headlines and run with them into new worlds, alternate realities, or historical epochs.

We started to collect some real world headlines to rip Romance stories from:

And here is an index to posts about using real world headlines:

There is another, major, source used by writers such as Ursula LeGuinn, Andre Norton, and many others who are my favorite authors -- Ancient Mythology, Great Philosophers (Aristotle, etc), Ancient and Modern Religions.

All the, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" thinkers and writers fascinate me.  I, however, have more of a physics-math-chemistry style of thinking, so I use tools such as Astrology and Tarot, searching for (and mostly finding) solid links between that thinking and Biblical thought. is my current favorite source of well organized, and thus usable, worldbuilding concepts.

So, when it comes to Romance between Soul Mates, here is where I find the most lucid and readily applicable description of the mechanism of love, mating, and living life.

Why do we fumble through so much pain?

Develop a theoretical answer to that question and you will generate themes galore.

We look at Souls as a single THING -- a component of our selves.

Maybe that view needs refinement, just as we have had to refine our view of the atom.  Remember the Ancient Greeks coined the word Atom to mean the smallest INDIVISIBLE particle of matter.  Turns out there is no such thing.  We split the atom (with explosive consequences), and went on to dissect the particles the atom flew apart into.

All particles come apart. But they have an organizing structure.

If this is true of the components of solid matter, perhaps it is also true of Souls.

I've noted many times that I learned in a class, years ago, that the Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of time.

This explains why we can't measure it with instruments made of matter. It has no dimensions -- no height, width, length, weight. It has DURATION, and is manifest, but the Soul has no physical properties.

Now, here below is a link to an article which explains one of the oldest notions of how Souls are structured, and it seems to me the structure echoes the structure of matter as we have now discovered it to be.

We start thinking the Soul is a single, indivisible, component of our Self.

But when we meet a Soul Mate, we find internal parts of our Soul jostling for attention, for prominence, to lead the process of fusion.  Other parts may shrink from anticipated pain.  Simple animal lust of the animal soul that energizes the physical body may overwhelm all the nuanced emotions of the inner components of the complicated Soul.  Every aspect of Identity is disturbed.

How do we explain loving someone so much you hate them?

If you use a theory of reality that views Souls as complicated, existing on different levels, and each level performing a different function, fusing into Relationship with the Mate's (also complex) Soul, suddenly you can explain the bewildering confusion of "falling in love."

So here is one theory you can use to generate themes upon which to build worlds in which Characters wrench, twist, and scrub their way into Relationships that redirect the course of human (and non-human) history.

This web page delineates the characteristics and functions of the souls termed Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida.

What does it take to reach the other side of Romance where the Happily Ever After Ending is only the beginning of ever more intense levels of joy, satisfaction, revelation?

Watch the Headlines of your favorite news outlet and try to see the people, events, deeds, decisions, and consequences in terms of the interactions of the multiplex components of Souls -- internal conflicts playing out externally where you can see them.

Find a theory of the HEA, how it starts, how it functions, what sustains it, and what it takes to get there all depicted graphically in the explosive headlines of this year.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, February 09, 2020


If you wish to read about testicles, this is not the venue. At least, not this day. Nor do I intend to discuss a staple of the vegan diet.

This is about copyright-related news that does not make sense.

Yesterday, on a very prestigious forum for authors, in a thread about ebook piracy, one correspondent opined, "It's just downloading..."

In fact, it is the downloading that creates multiple, perfect, illegal copies.

Meanwhile, on one of the most-watched financial channels, a panel was discussing Artificial Intelligence, and the scraping of social media sites for privately-taken and also commercially-taken photographs for commercial exploitation and facial recognition technology.

The one aspect that the anchor and panelists never mentioned at all was the massive copyright infringement.
Anyone who takes a photograph owns the copyright to that photograph. If you post a selfie, you do not automatically grant Clearview AI or anyone else a license to sell your face to the fuzz.

Sputnik news has the scoop:

Even that very informative article glosses over a very important term: "publicly available".

There is a difference between something being available to view, and available to copy and re-publish and distribute.

Another nutty misunderstanding that is prevalent among pirates is of "public domain".

Just because someone uploaded an illegal copy of a novel to a website does not mean that that novel is lawfully in the public domain.  Not if the author is still alive, or deceased within the last 70 years.

Likewise, those who are curious about their ancestors and long lost relatives do not necessarily intend to donate to a government DNA database. If Heritage/Ancestry/ 23&Me keeps pestering you to give permission for your DNA to be used for "research", do not agree. They've probably already sold your DNA is a job lot and are trying to clean up their bases.

If you gave a spit, you'd better keep a diary, and have an alibi for every hour of every day and night!

Allegedly, Amazon is getting in on the use of  faked or fake people to avoid having to pay royalties to real people.  If one is famous --or merely attractive and popular-- and they have multiple views of your face and tracks of your voice, there's no limit to the liberties "they" can take.

Chris Castle writes:

Also Amazon-related, there was one rare victory this last week against the inexorable incursions of Amazon and AI on authors' rights was that of the Association of American Publishers against Audible Captions.

Copyrighting anything including one's photographs is not as expensive as one might imagine. Wiki How explains the steps: has the fee schedule in effect from 2014, (and one can copyright a batch of photographs for one fee.)

Act quickly. Copyright registration costs are likely to rise by more than 20% this coming Spring 2020. Except for batches of photographs. No increase is proposed for that.

Finally, the Copyright is asking (again) for action to encourage Oregon Senator #JustOne Ron Wyden to stop his opposition to anything that might improve copyright protections for authors, musicians and other creators.

One of his felon-friendly* rationales for blocking the #CASEAct is that mere downloaders ought not to face any disincentive for "stealing" or "sharing" copyrighted content that the creators rely on to pay their bills #MySkillsPayBills.

Apparently, @RonWyden would also like to change Fair Use from a defense for defendants to a negative proposition --i.e. that the infringement was not fair use-- to be proven by the plaintiffs.

That's just nuts!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

*PS....copyright infringement is not a felony. 

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Going Deeper

A few weeks ago, the associate rector of our church delivered a sermon sparked by the question, "What do you want?" Beyond and beneath the superficial needs and wishes, what do you REALLY want out of life? As a recurring motif in the talk, she repeated several times, "Go deeper." The admonition to "go deeper" applies to writing, too.

In the January 2020 RWR (the magazine of the Romance Writers of America), Shirley Jump's regular column "Your Writing Coach" dealt with the topic, "Creating deeper motivation: The rule of six." What does your protagonist want and why? We have more than one motivation for almost everything we do, and in creating a believable protagonist, the writer should delve deeper. Jump recommends digging down for six layers of motivation, hence the title of the article. By the time the writer gets to number six, she says, the process should become hard. She also notes that the character's true, deepest motivation is not the one he or she recognizes on the surface. The first motivations that come to mind are likely to be external factors, while the last layers uncovered tend to be "the deeper internal motivations." One of her examples imagines a character who wants to save her grandmother's farm because that's the wellspring of her happy childhood memories. The deeper motivation not recognized by the character herself, however, is that the farm serves as her "security blanket" because she doesn't want to leave her familiar community.

Jump demonstrates the technique by analyzing the character of Shrek from the first movie in his series. First, he wants to get the intruders out of his swamp. To accomplish that purpose, he has to confront Lord Farquaad. Shrek is angry and "helpless to fix this himself." He's angry because he wants his sanctuary (the swamp) back. The root cause of this desire, according to Jump, is that he withdraws from other people and creatures to avoid pain (as demonstrated by his preemptive rejection of Donkey). She refers to "layering in" the characters' deeper feelings and motivations and also recommends making sure each scene conveys some aspect of those motivations.

Her "saving the farm" example brings to mind GONE WITH THE WIND. In the beginning, teenage Scarlett thinks she'll attain complete happiness if she marries Ashley. She barely hears her Irish father's passionate speech about the importance of land, the only thing that lasts. Her obsession with Ashley lingers until the very end, when she wakes up to the realization that her alleged love for him has been only a girlish fantasy all along. Meanwhile, though, a newly discovered motivation dominates her actual behavior and decisions—saving Tara. All her major choices (except marrying Rhett, and she admits she does even that partly for the money), such as tricking Frank into marriage and becoming a hardheaded businesswoman, are motivated by the need to support Tara and her family. The deeper motivation for that need is the role of Tara as a symbol of stability and material security. The deepest motivation breaks out in the iconic mid-point scene when she fiercely vows, "I'll never be hungry again."

The "layering" image strongly resonates with me, because that's how I tend to revise my fiction. Many writing experts advise that proper revision consists of cutting, that later drafts should be shorter than the first draft because rewriting should trim extraneous material. Well, not my revisions; my second drafts are almost always longer than the first. That's because I start with dialogue, action, and necessary description and exposition. The emotional, sensory, and to some extent descriptive elements of scenes are always on the "thin" side the first time around. I need to expand and enhance those elements to make scenes and characters come to life. Sure, I often cut on the micro level, since my sentences are often unnecessarily convoluted or wordy (maybe a side effect of having produced so much academic nonfiction over the years). On the macro level, though, the total word count nevertheless increases more often than it decreases. In my current WIP, the heroine faces the certainty of losing her job in six months because the business (an independent bookstore) is going to close. Therefore, it becomes vital, not just a pleasant prospect, to sell the graphic novel series she and the hero have created to a major publisher, so she'll have a financial cushion. Digging to the next layer down, getting that cushion is important to her not only for practical reasons but for emotional ones. Because her father's gambling addiction almost destroyed her parents' marriage in her teens and young adult years, she's obsessed with financial security. Her unhappy memories of those years also make it hard for her to trust the hero and lead her to leap to negative assumptions whenever it seems he might let her down. Those don't quite add up to six motivations, but the general idea is the same.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Whacked Moles

While I am no proponent of cruelty to visually impaired, mammalian insectivores that enjoy a subterranean lifestyle, I do rejoice when prolific violators of copyright laws get their come-uppance.

Authors, if you go to Slide Share, which is owned by LinkedIN, which is owned by Microsoft, and type in your name or your book titles in the Search bar, you may find that your books are being "shared", but if you cut and paste the urls of the the titles and the urls of the infringers onto the complaint form, the infringing "slides" will be taken down promptly, and the pirates may well lose their accounts on that site.

Kudos to LinkedIN, and also to the Authors Guild.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry