Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Reviews 54 - Resurgence by C. J. Cherryh

Reviews 54
Resurgence by C. J. Cherryh 

Reviews haven't been indexed yet.

As you've noticed, I've been reviewing books set in series, many times starting later in a series than Book 1.

With some series (like my own Sime~Gen, for example) it doesn't matter where in the sequence of published books you start.  For others, like the Foreigner Series by C. J. Cherryh, it does make a difference, but sometimes not too much difference.

Cherryh has been telling one, long, continuous story of a single human's life-experience.

This tight focus on the personal and professional issues and advancing problems, each more complex and difficult, dangerous and with higher stakes than the last, gives the feeling of being swept along in a single "novel."

There is an envelope plot, and an ever widening view of the main character's universe.

It also deals with the way an adult human might be "assimilated" into a non-human culture.

For example, when Bren Cameron (the Hero of this series), visits his hometown of his home human culture, he is considered to have somehow acquired an emotionless, unsmiling, un-frowning, inscrutable facial expression.  He, himself has to consciously remind himself to let his feelings show on his face, as part of speaking his native language.

That was in the book immediately previous to RESURGENCE.


Now, in Resurgence (Book 20 in the series), Bren Cameron is back among the non-humans (where he feels more confident, grounded, oriented) and something has changed.

Previously, Cherryh pretty much left facial expressions out of communication with the Atevi, the non-humans, but in this book all of a sudden, Atevi emote with facial expressions and are utterly transparent to Bren's eye.  They see and interpret him, and he sees and interprets them (we don't know what inaccuracies might be embedded in these non-verbal transactions yet).

If Resurgence is your first book about Bren Cameron and the Atevi, you won't notice this shift at all.  It's a perfectly readable book, and just as with any stand-alone novel, the characters have a past that affects their present and a future that goes on beyond the end of the book.

That "happily ever after" ending we all love is a future that goes beyond the end of the book.  It gives the reader a sense that it isn't over.

C. J. Cherryh has structured this series as a series of trilogies.  There is a series envelope plot - Bren Cameron's life story and the historical importance his departure from tradition (and even the law governing his people and his appointed office).  And then each trilogy advances that series plot one step, while filling in a detailed tapestry of the background, making commentary on human nature, and expanding knowledge of the galaxy.

Resurgence is the middle book of such a trilogy, and as such really doesn't seem like a great place to start reading the series.  It starts right after the end of the previous book, with Bren on a boat arriving at the Atevi port near his residence on the Atevi side of the strait -- the other side being the island ceded to humans.

In the previous book, he left the human port on this boat.

So this is a continuous story -- and now we find out many things that Bren missed while he was away. The other viewpoint character is the young prince who is being groomed by his father to be the ruler of the Atevi.  He has matured since we last followed him.  In this volume, he deliberately refrains from messing up the affairs of his father, Bren, his mother, uncle, great-grandmother, etc who are busy rescuing the world from the brink of disaster.

But this youngster also has human youngsters for dear friends, and is plotting to have them over as guests at Bren's house (which has its own boat dock).

There is no overt Romance in this series, though the larger fate of civilizations is shaped by human/human and human/non-human Relationship.

The romance writer should study series like this to work up a comparable universe where Romance is explored, explained, utilized (maybe weaponized), exploited, analyzed, disproven, and proven.

This is the kind of series, with rich and detailed background, that could become the blockbuster production that explains to those who don't believe in the Happily Ever After, where they have made their cognitive error, and why it's worth their while to correct that mistaken belief.

Previous discussions of C. J. Cherryh include 12 posts on this blog. Here are a few of those.





I have the next book, Foreigner Book 21, DIVERGENCE on Kindle order for Sept. 2020.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Devil And The Details

With apologies to Mies Van Der Rohe for the misquote....

Take "The Devil And The Details" however you see fit, but it always comes down to the biggest bros on the block finding weaselly ways to screw as many writers and other artists in as many ways as possible.

Guest blogging for thetrichordist.com, Chris Castle identifies some devil toads (devil is my word) crawling out from under rocks to turn the Music Modernization Act into another way to rip off the little guy by allowing the use of other people's money (OPM), in this case, the obscure little guys' rightful royalties, to pay for the costs of the program and perhaps the large living of the unaccountable administrators.

Read more:

MLC stands for "Mechanical Licensing Collective."

What can happen to songwriters and musicians, can happen to authors. All it takes is some accidental-on-purpose typos in a registry. If it is to someone's advantage to not be able to locate the artist to whom they ought to be paying royalties, will that exploiter of other people's music do their level best to locate that musician?


Probably predictably, the EFF is defending rampant piracy, and figuratively "knocking over" authors who cannot afford to defend their copyrights in federal courts.

For more on the "open library" from Chris Castle:

Meanwhile, speaking for itself, the EFF gives a brief guide for peaceful protestors on how to avoid being identified and detected while going about their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights, and EFF offers non-sinister and innocent explanations for why their cell phones might not work during mass gathering situations.

Finally, for those who have heard of ransomware but not stalkerware, there is a TED talk on stalkerware, including the premise that access to your cell phone is --apparently-- the next best thing to full access to your mind.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Adjusting to Difficult Times

Kameron Hurley's latest LOCUS column discusses the stress of coping with a period of crisis:

It's OK If This Email Finds You Well

She writes about the transition—whenever that may occur—from "these difficult times" to "life as we know it" and working through the stages of grief in that adjustment. She confides, "Unexpected change is difficult for me," a reaction with which I can thoroughly identify. I don't like change in general, unless it's completely pleasant, and unexpectedness makes it worse. Hurley brings up a point that had never occurred to me, the difference between traumatic upheaval requiring swift reactions and "slow-moving disasters." If we're continuously "forced to worry about our day-to-day survival," we never get time to do the emotional "processing" a traumatic event requires.

I'm lucky not only in enjoying continued health (along with all the members of our family) but in that my husband and I are retired. We don't have to worry about survival, because our income level doesn't change. The restrictions of the past couple of months haven't altered our day-to-day routine much, although we do miss the few activities we were used to doing outside the home. Because we're exempt from a lot of the stresses Hurley describes, I don't suffer the degree of inability to focus that she mentions. Yet I do feel vaguely stuck in a "waiting" mode, tempted to put things off "until all this is over." Since we don't know when "all this" will end and what "over" will look like, that's not a particularly useful attitude. I'm currently brainstorming a third fiction piece connected to my two Wild Rose Press paranormal romance novellas (YOKAI MAGIC, published in 2019, and KITSUNE ENCHANTMENT, now in the publisher's editing process). The project is still in the early stages, not even up to formal outlining. It's easy to slide into the mindset that there's no point in working too hard on it until the second novella gets nearer publication. Then I mentally slap myself for succumbing to laziness.

A few bracing quotes from Hurley's essay:

"Humans are resilient creatures, to both our benefit and detriment."

"There is a lot of horror in going through any crisis, and it can wear you down. But horror is not the whole story, and humanity is full of positive acts and examples that we don’t speak enough about."

"There’s good reason humanity has lasted this long, and it’s not because we formed death cults and threw ourselves off cliffs. It’s because we care for one another and our communities."

One of the things I love about S. M. Stirling's DIES THE FIRE and its sequels is that he doesn't dwell at great length on post-apocalyptic horrors, but focuses on groups of people who work together to build new kinds of communities after the catastrophic worldwide Change.

"The comfort I take is that we have been through the times of monsters before. And we will again. The time of monsters is necessary on our way to what happens next. No new world was ever birthed without pain."

As a sometime horror writer with a fondness for "monsters," I appreciate that sentiment.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Reviews 53 - The Fenmere Job by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Reviews 53
The Fenmere Job
Marshall Ryan Maresca 


Reviews haven't been Indexed yet, and I often discuss other titles within posts about writing techniques illustrated by the novel.

This time, I'm looking at the Plot Structure of a Series of Series - intricate woven and braided plots spreading across different groups of Characters facing different challenges in different parts of one City - pretty much at the same time.

Maresca has created a World, yes, but so far he has only shown us one City - a big trading center sprawling across a navigable River.

Other "countries" trade through this City which is divided into "neighborhoods" some of which are controlled by organized Crime gangs or syndicates, or Mob Bosses.  An elaborate chain of command structure connects the Mob Boss with the street urchin.

And when the gangs start trafficking in lethal drugs, opposition arises - various hero figures emerge in different localities.

All of this City has a feudal structure government tempered by an elected legislative body.

It is a rich, deep, broad and even sometimes plausible World, and the various Characters (laudable and deplorable both) would indeed be the sort of people who would be shaped by such a world.

One of the four series set in this City -- The Streets of Maradaine Novel -- is The Fenmere Job.  Fenmere is a district, and readers of previous novels in the other series (trilogies, to date, but that could expand as all the Characters are worth their own novels) will immediately recognize the word FENMERE and grab the book.

It's worth grabbing, too.

Keep in mind, these novels are not ROMANCE GENRE, per se, but they are good examples of character-driven-plotting.  More than that, they are grand examples of World Building.

In THE FENMERE JOB, the envelope plot connecting all 4 trilogies, begins to come together.  Two Heroes, male and female, fighting the drug traffickers independently finally meet.

And their destinies seem to begin to intertwine.  The male hero is about to graduate from University with a degree in Magic, and the female is beginning first year after a crash course in making up the basics of education.  She has been a street urchin, rose to command a group of urchins, and become semi-adopted into a group of families connected to the Constabulary.

Yes, it is all very British flavored.  But also the World Building takes us to some vaguely alternate Earth that developed differently.  There is little clue as to where and when this Setting exists, which in my mind makes it Fantasy, but there are broad hints it is connected to our mundane here-and-now world.  The characters in the story don't seem to know that.

Magic, per se, doesn't make a world into a Fantasy Genre setting, for me. To get to Fantasy, the fictional world has to have no apparent connection to here-and-now.

In 2020, that kind of "elsewhere/when" entertainment is mentally therapeutic!

I have mentioned other novels in this series:






https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/06/reviews-46-police-family-love-by.html - which is actually titled Reviews 47 which is correct.


I have read all the other books in this series, and look forward to more.

Yes, I love series, but only if they hang together, and piece by piece paint a coherent big picture that wouldn't fit into a single volume.

I much prefer single POV novels, but when it comes to a duel of wits, or a Romance fabricating itself before our eyes, I'll happily go for dual point of view.

Maresca makes the focus character of each novel the character whose story is being told, which gives the sprawling vision a coherence, a sense of a Big Picture emerging.

Fighting drug traffickers is, I think, a device to generate fight-scenes (most of which I can do without, but I love the ones using magical implements).

Many of Maresca's magic tricks (like a rope that lasso's people, a sword, illusions) are pretty standard fare in fantasy novels, not original or thought-provoking.  This keeps the magic from overshadowing the real substance, the original work done on the World Building.

These people belong in this fantasy world.

The point that I see emerging is a discussion of Nature vs Nurture.  All these Characters are human, but of different cultures and races.  They are denizens of different levels of their City's society, and in this novel we begin to see a second Character change social levels.  Or maybe a third, if you count Lady Henterman.

And we see these two socially mobile Characters teaming up in a way that could indelibly stamp their World with a new way to regard people.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, June 20, 2020

This 'n That (And On Your Face... Or Not)

A laconic young male of my acquaintance, when asked by his father where he had been and what he had been doing, would reply evasively, "This 'n That."

This is not about him.

It's a heads up about author-related items of interest to writers, but there is no uniting theme.

A few years ago, as an indirect result of affordable medical care legislation, TEIGIT (an entertainment industry collective) found it unaffordable to offer group dental insurance to entertainment industry professionals.

Now, Authors Guild members are able to join the Book Industry Health Insurance Program (BIHIP) to buy health insurance with the Lighthouse Insurance Group (LIG).


Authors Guild dues are on a sliding scale according to the writing income of the member, but most members pay the minimum annual dues of  around $150 per annum.

Refer a friend link. (I have no idea whether or not this benefits this author. I doubt it, but disclose it.)

Additional disclaimer: Authors Guild is borderline political, but so far, not so much that dues are not tax deductible.

Authors and other creators who feel like they are being mugged every day by pirates might enjoy the Authors Guild ongoing advocacy against the allegedly lawless Internet Archive.

The law office of Littler Mendelson PC has a rather useful, State by State chart of where face mask wearing is recommended or required... or not at all.  You don't have to have anything sitting on your face in Oklahoma, Iowa, or Montana. Which is good to know.

Talking of good-to-know stuff, the law office of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC, has a need-to-know breakdown of the recent DMCA report.

Kudos to Craig Whitney, Caren Decter, and Christina Campbell. It's actually a very comprehensive article, with hot topics such as the meaning of red flag knowledge, repeat offenders, safe harbors, and an OSP or ISP's ability to control.

For our United Kingdom readers comes a really great analysis of WIPO and poor man's copyright from Dr. Catherine Cotter of Slaughter and May, with kudos to the researcher Emily Costello (no link to Emily available at this time.) Any English-writing writer might like this. (Not "like" in the Facebook sense.) If you are beyond wanting to snail mail a sealed envelope to yourself and preserve it in its intact state, check this out... (and forgive my grammar.)


All the best,

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Current Events in Fiction

One of my e-mail lists recently had a discussion about the wisdom of referring to the COVID-19 crisis in fictional works. One concern was that including the pandemic would "date" a story. That is, more so than all pieces of fiction are inherently dated merely because fashions and technology change. One author's editor asked her to remove the references for that reason. Personally, I don't plan to include the pandemic in my fiction, because all my stories contain supernatural or paranormal elements, and it seems that having the pandemic as part of the background would add an unnecessarily complicated extra layer. Also, setting a story in a version of the current real world, I think, would result in having the pandemic "take over" the story. If a work were explicitly set in the present year as it actually is, it would be almost impossible to keep the story from being at least partially "about" the pandemic. So, because of the genre of my writing, I've decided to keep locating my works-in-progress in an indefinite present where COVID-19 doesn't exist.

It will be a different matter when the acute crisis ends and the "new normal" (whatever that may turn out to be) becomes established. In that case, whatever social changes have become permanent should be included for verisimilitude, in my opinion. For instance, if in the future all store clerks continue to wear masks, that custom should be mentioned in passing when appropriate, just as we would show characters going through airport security lines. (Remember when friends and relatives of departing passengers could walk with them right up to the gate? Or am I the only person here who's that old?) Diane Duane subtly alludes to the September 11 attacks in a couple of her novels. In one of the Young Wizards installments, the teenage characters' mentor says they must have noticed how the world situation has deteriorated recently. The young heroine agrees, thinking of the Manhattan skyline. Her adult friend corrects her; he means within the past hundred years or so. In Duane's STEALING THE ELF KING'S ROSES, whose characters inhabit an alternate Earth, at one point the protagonist and an ally travel the multiverse through several versions of New York. In a world obviously meant to be ours, she asks, "Where's the World Trade Center?" Her companion hastily moves her along, suggesting that maybe it was never built in that continuum.

The TV series TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL featured two very effective episodes in reaction to 9-11, but alluding to the event in retrospect, months after the attacks. In one, a small community can't get past the loss of a favorite teacher who was visiting New York on the fateful day; the other takes place on New Year's Eve in an old-fashioned watch repair shop about to close forever, as the staff labors to repair a timepiece found in the ruins of the World Trade Center.

Another way of dealing with current events in fiction, as mentioned by a few authors on that e-mail list, is to write about a setting with analogies to the present crisis, yet not literally portraying those real events. For example, one might create an imaginary world suffering an epidemic with medical and social effects similar to those we're experiencing. An alternate-universe novel published several years ago portrays a world politically dominated by Muslim Arab states. In the recent past of that Earth, where Christianity is a minor sect, a November 11 attack on a major Middle Eastern landmark by Christian fundamentalist fanatics has shaped politics and culture.

Artistic works can allude to current events even more obliquely. I once got a surprised response when I labeled the country song "Beer for My Horses" a 9-11 song. No, it doesn't mention the attacks. But its theme of bringing frontier justice upon the bad guys, in the context of the time of its release, unmistakably calls to mind that event and the U.S. military response. How do you deal with real-world crises in your writing, if at all?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Theme-Story Integration Part 7 - Happily Ever After WHAT exactly?

Theme-Story Integration
Part 7
Happily Ever After WHAT exactly?

Previous Parts in this series are indexed at:

Theme is what you, the writer, have to say on a topic, and thus includes broad hints about what the topic is as well as about who, exactly, you are. What you SAY, in all instances in life, reveals more about you than about the topic or person discussed.

Story is the sequence of impacts Events have on the fictional Character who is the main driver of the plot (the hero, the protagonist, the Main Character).

The Character "arcs" (or changes) under the impact of the Events which form the "because chain" of the Plot.

Things happening aren't a plot, and they aren't a story, and they aren't a novel.  A list of things that happen isn't even an outline, but it is a necessary ingredient in an outline. 

PLOT is a list of things that happen TO SOMEONE, i.e. that IMPACT a Character and prompt that character to re-examine his/her assumptions and change their mind about some topic -- e.g. to learn some new information, test it experimentally, and integrate that new information into their view of the universe from which they infer that if they DO THIS, then it will cause THAT to happen.

Cause/effect is the foundation of modern civilization, and has its origins in Ancient Hellenistic thinking, but was formulated by Roger Bacon.

-----quote from Wikipedia------
Roger Bacon OFM, also known by the scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, was a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. Wikipedia
Born: 1214, Ilchester, United Kingdom
Died: 1292, Oxford, United Kingdom
Education: University of Oxford
Nationality: English, British
--------end quote-------

Yet an attitude toward Romance genre widely held across this modern civilization is that the Happily Ever After never happens -- empirically established by anecdotal evidence.  Study nature through empiricism - essentially means anecdotal evidence trumps statistics.

So since we all know Romance never leads to the impossible "HEA" - well, then we don't waste money on  statistical studies that might prompt revision of that idea.

I can wonder if any grad students have been denied Ph.D. thesis go-aheads because their advisors knew they'd never convince a board that the HEA is real, attainable, and actually quite common even today.

So I find it odd that objections to the idea that the HEA is more than silly-girl fantasy never ask, "Happily Ever After What?" 

What Event divides a life from miserable to happy? 

Why is such a fraction of our current population stuck in misery?  Why is the divorce rate so high, the marriage rate dwindling? 

Historians and philosophers have often attributed war and wanton destruction that it causes to a high number of un-married young men plus widespread poverty-misery-oppression. 

Juxtapose that ides to the glorified Hollywood World War II love stories, and yes, as I keep harping on the Classic Helen of Troy story.

We touched on Helen of Troy again in How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic?


Note that ultra-magnified passionate love that drives men (or women) to feats of derring-do, risking all for Love, is usually coupled to obstacles even more magnified. 

Our war-torn world has millions faced with a lifetime of nothing-but-obstacles, and as the proportion of young men burgeons, we see them leading the charge OUT of one country, seeking to circumvent the wall of obstacles to a good life.

When society melts down, the fabric of law and order collapses, Gangs develop, strong men, alpha-males (or wannabe alphas) gather subordinates and preach takeover, usually in the name of protection.

We see things like MS-13 exported to broader territories where fewer obstacles seem evident.

And then the moving population meets resistance from the entrenched population (think about the Germans just after they invaded France in WWII - and what the everyday French did about that).

And you have CONFLICT, the essence of story. 

Story ends where the Main Character's internal conflict is resolved.


That's a major rule of drama evident in the oldest Greek Plays. 

The audience is grabbed, drawn into the story, fascinated, held through all the ups and downs, and finally RELEASED to go their own way as the "hook" conflict stated at the opening sentence is resolved.

Resolution then is the essence of Story.

A good story is remembered for its resolution -- for example, the tragedy formula where the most beloved character dies. 

The most potent tragedy usually involves death-for-no-apparent-reason -- the collateral damage done by war when explosions hit a hospital and kill newborns.

These giant Events are usually regarded as on the "dark" end of the spectrum, where Romance is on the "light" end, just short of comedy.

The mixing of War/Action genre with Romance (and yes, even comedy) captured two generations of Americans -- The Greatest Generation and The Silent Generation, while even Baby Boomers were generally enamored by the genre mixture.

That being my observation, I'm even more puzzled why Publishers catering to the groups called Gen X and Gen Y so resist the Cross-Genre Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance, etc.

Science Fiction was (before Star Trek) considered the literature to entertain adolescent males -- never of interest to females. Thus, it was called "neck up science fiction" (purely intellectual conflicts with no "sappy stuff" that so distresses early adolescent males).

Romance was considered only for adolescent girls.  It was all about attracting men, maybe a little about choosing which among the attracted was the best bet. The female lead character was never a Hero.  This made the entire genre of Romance, by definition, badly constructed literature. 

The world has changed as generations have rolled by.

But, though there is broad discussion of "generations" and the traits that define them, there is no consensus on where the dividing line is, or what exactly the common trait is. 

Look at this article, one of many that comes up on a Google Search. 


No official commission or group decides what each generation is called and when it starts and ends. Instead, different names and birth year cutoffs are proposed, and through a somewhat haphazard process a consensus slowly develops in the media and popular parlance. Because generations are often shaped by specific events, their labels and spans sometimes differ from one country to another; here, I’ll focus on the U.S.

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

But it makes my point about Theme-Story Integration very well.  Generations are shaped by Events.

Those "Events" are the "What" that comes before the Ever After.

The adults that emerge from the currently war-torn Middle East will have an experience in common, and thousands of different responses to those experiences.

The adults who emerge through adolescence during this current strife-torn American Election series will be triumphant or crushed in spirit -- each half forming an audience for fiction writers who artistically rationalize the dominant (and often crippling) emotion. 

Remember, 8 years is time enough to pass through adolescence into the period of adulthood characterized by an ineffable certainty in one's own understanding of reality, the Twenties. 

That period of young adulthood ends with the first Saturn Return, at age 29, a "reality check" on life's chosen course. 

So we come to the Astrological definition of "generation" -- not exactly 20 years, but pretty close, give or take.

Here's a summary I did of how Generations affect the receptivity of your readership to particular Themes (which are statements of the nature of reality), all tied to positions of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus. 


The astrological definition of Generation that I espouse explains why the media can't identify and tag a "generation" with a name and a trait in common. 

The "edges" of a generation are not clean-cut, as the Planet (OK, argue that with astronomers) Pluto tends to go back and forth several times over maybe a year or so.  This Retrograde Motion phenomenon (which is not real, but an artifact of sitting on a moving observation point) blurs out the precise line between those born with one tendency and those born with another.

Those born over the course of 2-4 years will be divided by having Pluto at the end ozone sign, or the beginning of another -- having the planet be "direct" in motion, or retrograde, and of course being placed in different Houses, with different personal (or fast moving, inner planets like Mercury or the Moon) in different aspects to Pluto.

And Pluto isn't the only factor defining Generations -- as Neptune and Uranus likewise take a long time to transit a sign and therefore large numbers are born with the planet in that sign. One-Twelfth (12 signs, 12 Houses) of those born at any given time, in any given place, share a House position -- but the fast moving planets and the Moon can change a lot, so you get distinct individuals reacting to similar Events all in idiosyncratic ways.

Yeah, it's complicated, and even identical twins don't have the SAME natal chart, or the same life. 

So in your reader's real-reality of everyday existence, Events they had no effect on, did not cause, could not stop, DEFINE who they have to become among all the potential identities they must choose from.

The choice they make from the menu limited by external Events may determine whether they survive to grow up -- or not.

Your readership is composed of the survivors -- and yes, survivors of trauma.  Adolescence is strewn with trauma that shapes the young adult to be.  Those Events seem ginormous to the adolescent, but the 40-year-old can only scoff at the trivialness of the matter.

That's true only of our very sheltered teens.  Those growing up in the rubble of warfare, imbued with hatred of the purely external forces ruining their lives, are dealing with another level of reality.  But even some of them will be potential Romance readers -- because they retain the ability to dream of a better day.

So out there in the real world, your potential readers may not believe in the HEA ending, so you must convince them. To do that, first grasp their view of the world, find the barriers they face that prevents the conceptualization of the HEA, then reduce that barrier using techniques in this book:

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind Kindle Edition by Jonah Berg


Use these techniques, combined in different ways, and you can convince most readers that your Character is a real human being (or an Alien with enough in common with humans to make an excellent mate).

One barrier your potential reader may face in believing in the HEA is a lack of seeing how to overcome the obstacles in their own life, and maybe even why bother battling the obstacles? 

We discussed this book in a previous blog:
Now we are looking at how PLOT in a novel is the CATALYST that kicks the protagonist into reassessing opinions and changing those opinions, thus resolving an internal conflict. Once you've done one of those resolutions, you learn to hunt down and change other subconscious opinions that have been making you miserable.

If there's no HEA, why strive to overcome vicissitudes?  Now, that thought-train leads to depression, inaction, and despair. 

A good Romance novel can inspire those treading water in a well of hopeless despair.  Make the HEA real, and also realistic, and some readers will catch fire and roar out into their own world to conquer all.

And that's the key idea - Love Conquers All.  It's really true,  It really does.  But few today believe it.  Use THE CATALIST to convince them, and spread happiness.

So how do you do that with a novel?

It's the Main Character, the protagonist, the Hero, who does the convincing.

How can a fictional character do that? 

By overcoming an internal barrier right before the reader's eye, and becoming a CHANGED PERSON. 

That is, by bringing the reader into the story of the character's life, walking the reader through the character's story arc to and through the resolution of the Character's internal conflict.

The "ever after" referred to in the HEA is the period of life lived after that major internal conflict is resolved.  The novel ends, the story ends, the plot ends, and "ever after" begins. 

Ever After is the period when the internal conflict, the eternal pain that can't be faced, that has been suppressed behind psychological barriers, has been resolved and no longer exists. 

Life isn't painful or scary or offensive any more.  The stakes aren't too high.  That's where "happy" can maybe begin.

That happiness is not an uneventful experience, nor one without confrontations with more conflicts.  But the Life Events, the milestone events like burying a parent, naming a baby, sending a kid off to college, are confronted and resolved without having to battle internal barriers.

What is an internal barrier? 

Popular psychology has tagged these things with various names so there are hundreds of good books talking about overcoming your neuroses.

Each generation names these neuroses uniquely because each generation feels they are the first and only ones to ever have this experience.

So we have "don't push my buttons" and "I'm going to find myself" and these days, "I'm offended by that" so therefore you can't do that.

Running through it all is "conform or die."  That is more a Saturn confronts Pluto phenomenon. 

So humans acquire these internal barriers which prevent changing opinions via teenage angst, twenties dreams shattered at age 29 (Saturn return), and relying on anecdotal evidence.

In the course of life, an individual will rise up and drive toward a goal, then meet up with that internal barrier.  If thwarted by their own psychological barrier, scars of earlier experiences, the individual may fail. If this has happened repeatedly, the individual may accept failure as inevitable and such goals unattainable.

This individual is in an INTERNAL CONFLICT. 

Walk this individual through a process of overcoming such a barrier by dragging them into the psyche of a fictional Character with a similar barrier, and the real-life of the individual could change.

The fictional character must not have the same internal barrier, or the same external goal to drive toward, or the same reasons for failing previously.  If they are too similar to the reader's personal plight, the novel just won't be interesting.

But create a model of the reader's reality, using the same shape barrier but different content, different reasons and different excuses, and the reader will be fascinated.

Without even knowing that he/she is applying a fictional lesson to real life, the reader may begin moving life ahead toward an HEA for real.

To reach happiness, we have to confront subconscious demons and drag them into the light of day, into conscious knowledge of what subconscious forces are driving us to self-sabotage, or mis-allocating resources, or whatever mistake we're making.

The journey to happiness is one of changing your own mind, and the catalyst might be a novel, a series, a particular writer's themes. 

If other people change your mind (as per the book, THE CATALYST), you don't come to happiness; you come to compliance.

Take your reader into a mind that the reader can see needs changing, and demonstrate how that mind changes itself, resolves its conflict with long-ago events, dissolves lingering scars, and releases a burgeoning and permanent happiness.

Happiness doesn't mean no challenges, no defeats, no cold, miserable, lonely nights.  Happiness means having the internal stuffings, the strength of character, the vision that brings resiliency in the face of vicissitudes.

For the science fiction reader, happiness means comprehending the mechanism of the world, being certain that when you do THIS, then that causes THAT to happen.  If you don't want that, then don't do this.

For the romance reader, happiness is capturing the high regard of the Soul Mate, requited love, a closed loop of love energy which imparts enough strength to withstand any vicissitudes.

Both genres require the resolution of an internal conflict, and a clear representation of the mechanism of cause-effect that links the resolution of internal conflicts to the resolution of external conflicts.

That is the portrait of reality that creates verisimilitude enough for an everyday reader to accept 6 impossible things before breakfast.

For both types of readers, happiness is having a model of the universe that actually works. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 14, 2020

"The Width Of The Buttocks" (NOT!)

It all comes down to profitable voyeurism, or spying, and it is all rooted in the many possible meanings of "beaming".

If you have a mobile phone, and most people do, you beam a lot, whether you know it or not, and around the world, what you beam is of profit and interest to governments, Silicon Valley, advertisers, and more...especially if you have Bluetooth.

Writing for Privacy Zone, a blog of the law firm Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck PC, legal blogger Jenny L. Colgate discusses Facebook's request to the Ninth Circuit to reconsider the question, "Are Targeted Ads The Result Of Wiretapping?"

Is it "wiretapping" when Facebook spies on a person who is not logged in to Facebook, who might not even have a Facebook account and therefore has never agreed to Facebook's terms, and who does not visit Facebook or one of Facebook's businesses?

Allegedly, Facebook manages to beam up data about such a person via the ubiquitous Facebook "plugins" that litter the internet. If you see a "Like" symbol on any page on the internet, and then check what tracking cookies have been added to your device, you'll see Facebook ones, like nits, sucking up your power and memory and beaming messages to Zuck.

They're not alone, and Jenny L. Colgate's colleague Jennifer B. Maisel recently reported with especial scrutiny on Bluetooth beacon technology that enables carriers of mobile phones --and also of Covid-19-- to beam warnings to each other, albeit, apparently only after they have passed on another unnoticed like ships in the night.

More sinister is the rise of the tracking apps in Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, as examined for law firm Tay & Partners by legal bloggers  Lee Lin Li and Chong Kah Yee.

There's a whole lot of beaming going on, also compulsory bracelet wearing, and one wonders whether someone who did not voluntarily own a mobile phone would be allowed to go anywhere or do anything. Apparently, it might be a condition of employment that a worker sets up their own QR code for themself.

Finally, an update from Brian Murphy on the Instagram issue, that is, whether putting a copyrighted work on instagram means that you unwittingly allow all the internet to exploit your work without permission or payment as long as they "embed" your work with a linkback to Instagram.  Maybe not so fast....

Not "finally".  In case you didn't hear it, "inamebooks" is allegedly a phishing site. It allegedly does not have books. It wants names, addresses, credit card numbers.

Another alleged bad actor, Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, has received two stern letters from Thom Tillis and a lawsuit from four publishers, so it is shutting down its piratical "Emergency Library".

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/  

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Gelatinous Houses

On the subject of alien-seeming animals inhabiting our own planet, consider the giant larvacean, undersea "gelatinous invertebrates" that look like "ghostly tadpoles" about the size of breakfast muffins:

Snot Palaces

Although the creature's photo brings to mind a jellyfish, it belongs to a different subphylum, the Tunicata. As far as I can gather from Wikipedia, they're mostly hermaphrodites, an efficient type of reproductive biology because any two members of the same species who happen to meet can produce offspring together. With bodies made mainly of water, larvaceans are filter feeders. They construct "houses" around their bodies by secreting mucus in the desired shape and blowing it up like a balloon. These delicate "snot palaces" (a nickname that belies their fragile beauty) have an inner and an outer house. The outer layer provides protection and filters water. The inner structure collects the food from the water. Since the creature's house gets clogged up quickly, it has to build a new one every couple of days. Despite the small size of the larvacean itself, its house can measure at large as one meter.

Would a larvacean's house be counted as part of its body, even though it gets frequently discarded and replaced? Animals such as snakes, after all, regularly molt their skins. The larvacean's "snot palace" isn't alive, but neither are mollusks' shells or our hair and fingernails, all of which tend to be thought of as body parts.

Could a creature composed mostly of water have a brain or a structure that serves as one? Hmm—neurons communicate by electricity, and water conducts electricity, so why couldn't a gelatinous invertebrate have an electrical network that performs brain functions? And couldn't any brain, if its environment demands higher functions for survival, develop sentience? Suppose a larvacean-like animal extruded a mucus "house" with a structure complex enough to support an intelligent electrical network? Of course, every time it replaced that structure, it would have to transfer over stored memories and skills. . . but if we can imagine a cloud of energy with sentience (as in more than one STAR TREK episode), we can imagine a mind built from water and mucus.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 9 - A Film Worth Watching Again

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 9
A Film Worth Watching Again 

Previous parts of this series are indexed here:


We've referenced Helen of Troy many times, and most recently in discussing James Clavell and Charles E. Gannon -- the epic love story from the male point of view where all male protection instincts drive the plot.  Helen of Troy was such a figure, inspiring men to war, to rescue, to heroic deeds.

We think of Helen of Troy as pre-historic, probably a legend even though archeologists have found Troy.

Maybe the story was just a legend, but it became a classic literary legend because it bespeaks an eternal attribute of human nature -- the lengths a Soul Mate will go to in order to reunite with his beloved.

The whole world, and all human history, has pivoted on the Soul Mate relationship many times.

This kind of story made Box Office history even in the B&W film day, and with modern digitization and streaming services, these old films are available  to the young.

Here is a short description of the film, DESIREE,
seen long ago, seen again in 2020, compared with all the real and legendary history of the days of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The author, Anne Pinzow, is a reporter, film student, and published fiction author. The perspective is deeply informative for those seeking to replicate the Epic Romance the way Charles E. Gannon has in his Caine Riordan series.


Here is Anne Pinzow's view of this old, epic film.

---quoting Anne Pinzow--------

I was watching one of my favorite movies which I haven't seen since I watched on my black and white TV at 1 in the morning when I was a kid. Desiree. It's a totally fictionalized, cleaned up and sanitized "true" story in that these characters actually did exist and something, sorta, kinda, if you squint, did happen.

What is true is that both Napoleon Bonaparte and Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who became the King of Sweden were enamored by Desiree Clary, the daughter of a fabric merchant in the post French Revolution years. She was engaged to Bonaparte as he wanted her dowery, but he married Josephine for her political connections. Clary married Bernadotte and became the mostly absent Queen of Sweden and lived in Paris as she just did not fit in to the Swedish royals plus she hated the cold. Napoleon tried to use her to get Bernadotte to comply with his wishes and Bernadotte tried to use her to find out what Napoleon was up to.

Anyway, it's a fun movie, if you're not a fan of Napoleon Bonaparte.

So, I'm not talking about the real people and their characters but the movie people.

Both Bonaparte and Bernadotte were born to poor families, joined the Army and rose quickly up through the ranks because of their military successes. The difference is that, according to the movie, Bernadotte did not believe that peace and freedom for the rest of Europe could be achieved by war while Bonaparte played at wanting liberty, fraternity and equality but that it only could be achieved by killing everyone who opposed him.

In the end, by putting the asses of the members of his family on the thrones of Europe, including his own, he achieved, if briefly, what he wanted.

Bernadotte, by being merciful and releasing prisoners of war when the war was over or won, was offered the crown of Sweden as the country's royal line was too old, gone crazy, had no heirs.

In the end, because of his character, Napoleon died on Elba, losing everything and his "dynasty," lasted about 11 years, was later re-established by his nephew and lasted about 18 years.

Meanwhile Bernadotte's dynasty has been around for 200 years and the present king of Sweden is his direct descendant.

Their methods were exactly the same but their characters made all the difference.

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

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Jolly Rogers And False Flags

Let's start with the falsies.

I know, basically, that is Victoria's Secret.... falsies, that is. However, the piratical falsies are sites that promise to give away every book on Amazon or Goodreads, but what they really are after is the DMCA notice, where an author is so upset to find all her books being given away --apparently-- that she fires off a DMCA and gives the false pirates her name, address, email address, telephone number, signature. If they are lucky, she even tries to download a copy of her books for proof.

Such a site is Inamebooks.
It seems not to be legitimate. If you try to download a book, I hear, allegedly, you might instead receive malware and an entertaining image of a lady who encourages you to find her hole to keep you occupied while the malware does its embedding work.

Don't go there.

If you gave them your email address, watch out for emails and phone calls such as from 1-800-561-6189 purporting to be from Apple about a problem with your cloudflare or storage account. It's not. Don't bite.

The existence of sites like this, and others like it, owes much to the loopholes in the DMCA that holds OSPs and ISPs harmless for what they host.

Cloudflare.com, namecheap.com, safenames.net and amazonaws.com ought to be somewhat responsible but appear not to be.

There might be a remedy about to move at glacial pace through Congress. The legal bloggers Matthew Nigriny and John Gary Maynard III for Hunton Andrews Kurth opine on how much the DMCA favors ISPs and OSPs over copyright owners.

Meanwhile, for more on bad behavior by Amazon:

A real jolly roger appears to fly over the Internet Archive.  The brilliant and persistent --and real insight-sharing Victoria--Victoria Strauss covers the issue comprehensively.

If your books are still being given away on an "Emergency" basis because the world needs free entertainment while authors do not need to eat and pay the rent during the same emergency, tell your Congressional representative or senator.... although, a little bird told me that Rand Paul and Ron Wyden are not sympathetic to ripped-off authors.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Rules of Writing

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column explores the issue of whether there are any truly unbreakable writing rules:

Rules for Writers

You're probably acquainted with the collection of "rules" he cites, the Turkey City Lexicon, to which he faithfully adhered for many years. It's a list of colorfully labeled errors into which writers can fall, many of them specific to science fiction:

Turkey City Lexicon

The page begins with a long introduction by Bruce Sterling about the origin and background of the Lexicon. The errors and frequently perpetrated SF tropes are divided into categories such as Words and Sentences, Plots, Common Workshop Story Types, etc. Some of the entries now familiar to most speculative fiction writers include: Tom Swifties (although I prefer to think of them as "Tom Swiftlies," in keeping with the adverbial theme), e.g., "I'm not lying," Pinocchio said woodenly. "Said-bookisms," substituting an outlandishly obtrusive dialogue tag for a simple "said," e.g., "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die," Goldfinger gloated. "Call a Rabbit a Smeerp," sticking an exotic name on a mundane animal without changing the creature in any material way. Hand waving, "An attempt to distract the reader with dazzling prose or other verbal fireworks, so as to divert attention from a severe logical flaw."

Doctorow's article links the topic of writing rules to Sterling's nonfiction book THE HACKER CRACKDOWN, leading into the hacker's task of analyzing "which devices were likeliest to contain a fatal error." Inherent difficulty—proneness to error—according to Doctorow, is what the writing "rules" are really all about. At some point in his career, he received the epiphany that the guidelines he'd revered for so long "weren't rules at all! They're merely things that are hard to do right!" In the hands of a Heinlein or an Asimov, for example, an "expository lump" can be fascinating. The rule against exposition is better understood as a warning that "most exposition isn't good, and bad exposition is terrible."

It's sometimes said that there's only one truly unbreakable rule in writing: "Don't be boring." Excellent advice, although hardly specific enough to put into practice. It's on the level of Heinlein's rules for how to succeed as an author, which go something like this: (1) Write. (2) Finish what you write. (3) Submit it to an editor who might buy it. (4) Keep sending it out until it sells. He also advised, "Never rewrite except to editorial order," by which I can't imagine he meant one should submit rough drafts without revision. He apparently meant a writer shouldn't bother rewriting an unsuccessful piece from scratch but should devote his or her energy to producing a new work. Yet Heinlein didn't consistently follow his own advice on that point, as demonstrated by his recent posthumously released book THE PURSUIT OF THE PANKERA. It comprises the abandoned original version of the novel published as THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST. The first half of the text has some differences in detail, while the second half radically diverges. (Personally, I prefer the original draft, which reads much more like "vintage Heinlein" than the fun but meandering, self-indulgent NUMBER OF THE BEAST.)

In short, no ironclad rules, just wise guidelines.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 8 - What Do Readers Do

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 8
What Do Readers Do?

Previous parts of this series are indexed at:


There are moments in life when a writer is objective about their own work, really the best judge of its value.  Those moments are rare, and some people never experience one so they believe there are none.

But you don't have to attain objectivity to figure out the value of what you've written.  Of course, there's the hurdle of getting published by a publisher who has captured the market you are writing for, but after that there are still many confusing stages.

One way to know if you've hit your readership is the feedback you get from readers -- today, it's Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, etc.  There will be a flurry of comments, and then they die down.  You've written a good book, but just one among many that readership enjoys.

Beyond just enjoying, and commenting, what can a reader do?

Well, in the old print-on-paper-snailmail days Star Trek invented the fanzine with fiction content.  Old Science Fiction fandom had lots of fanzines, many with commentary on current and older novels -- but it was essentially a non-fiction medium.

Star Trek, a TV Series, changed that.  The first Star Trek fanzine was published by Devra Langsam, who is still Trekking today.

From there, non-canon respecting Trekzines broke new ground, invented new categories, and even established the hetero-romance category,  I think this may be the first in that category


This Star Trek Romance series likewise inspired and welcomed writers other than the one who first crested it.

My own fanzine series, Kraith, had 50 creative contributors to its alternate-universe vision of Star Trek.


Star Trek inspired fans who created alternate universe Star Treks,  like Sahaj Collected, and Jean Lorrah's Night of the Twin Moons, which inspired and welcomed even more writers.

Classics have usually not done that before cheap offset printing and connected groups who hold conventions and sell each other fanzines.

Sherlock Holmes fandom picked up that cue and ran with it, and now we have a multitude of professionally published Holmes novels and spin-off TV Series, too.  It's a wonderful time we live in.

When I was researching for my Bantam paperback STAR TREK LIVES! about why fans like STAR TREK, before anyone but fans knew about Trekzines, I used my own first-published hardcover novel, HOUSE OF ZEOR, ...

 ...to illustrate the point about why people like Spock.

Simultaneously, fans were writing stories in my HOUSE OF ZEOR universe, dubbed the Sime~Gen Universe by Jean Lorrah (who became my collaborator and co-owner of Sime~Gen Inc.), and fanzines were proliferating.  As the internet just barely started to become the fanzine distribution medium, we moved online, and now you can find most of that early fanfic plus a lot of written-for-the-website fiction at


Meanwhile, Jean Lorrah sold a series of novels titled SAVAGE EMPIRE, and others have written in
that universe, including one Star Trek fan with his own series about Uhura, titled Captain Uhura.


And many years later, many of those early Sime~Gen fanfic writers had turned professional but were still thinking and creating Sime~Gen.  So the current publisher, Wildside Press, asked for an anthology of their stories set in the Sime~Gen Universe.  It is Volume 13

So, it seems to me the signature of a "Classic" is how it inspires other creative people to create, what they create inspires more people (who might not actually know the original source material) to create and capture the imaginations of yet another generation.

In other words, a Classic propagates.

In Part 5 of this series of posts, we noted the Classic Caine Riordan Novel, Marque of Caine,
written by a writing student of mine, nominated for the Nebula Award in 2020.


The Caine Riordan series passes this "inspire readers to write" test by having inspired professional writers to create stories set in the Caine Riordan universe, carefully moderated by dedicated fans keeping all the details close to canon.

The first anthology by those writers is on Amazon

So you know if you've written a classic by how your readers react -- often over decades as they grow up and become professional writers (in various fields).  If they create in your world, you experience a thrill of recognition you couldn't duplicate in any other way.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg