Thursday, July 30, 2020

Shadow of the Beast

My first published novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST, a werewolf urban fantasy with romantic elements, is back in print after a few years of dormancy, being recently re-released by Writers Exchange E-Publishing:

Shadow of the Beast

This wasn't the first novel I completed. That was the true book of my heart, vampire romantic urban fantasy DARK CHANGELING, first published not long after SHADOW OF THE BEAST and currently available in an e-book duology called TWILIGHT'S CHANGELINGS:

Twilight's Changelings

And as a Kindle e-book here:

Amazon Page

SHADOW OF THE BEAST was originally published by a small horror press that produced numerous attractive trade paperbacks for several years before closing down. My novel was later picked up by Amber Quill Press, which had a fairly long run before it, too, went out of business. I was lucky to find Writers Exchange, which sells its products in both electronic and trade paperback formats, to adopt most of my Amber Quill books. (It's somewhat disheartening to contemplate how many of my works have been "orphaned" by the disappearances of publishers over the years. Fortunately, we now have self-publishing as an alternative in case switching to a new publisher doesn't work out.)

I lightly revised SHADOW OF THE BEAST before the Amber Quill edition was published. The text of this latest version hasn't changed from that one; only the cover is different. The story follows the template of one of my favorite tropes, the Ugly Duckling. The heroine discovers she isn't what she always believed herself to be, and traits that first seem like flaws turn out to be gifts. I've retold that basic story multiple times over the years. My first professionally published work of fiction, "Her Own Blood" in FREE AMAZONS OF DARKOVER, fits that pattern, as does DARK CHANGELING.

Because SHADOW OF THE BEAST retains the text from the previous edition, it features technology that has become obsolete. Since only one scene is affected (where the characters use a VHS camcorder and tape player), the editor decided it wouldn't be a problem and didn't need a disclaimer at the beginning. As far as the plot goes, SHADOW OF THE BEAST has some undeniable flaws. The editing for Amber Quill corrected some of the original version's problems but didn't amount to a major rewrite. The "because line" is weak in places; back then, I didn't realize I was sometimes making characters do things for my convenience as author, rather than from solidly established motives. I've learned better since then, I hope!

What's your philosophy on rewriting older books for re-release or leaving them alone?"

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Mysteries of Pacing Part 9 - Character Arc Pacing Using The Foible

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 9
Character Arc Pacing Using The Foible

Previous entries in this series are indexed at:

People make mistakes.

So, therefore, a Character in a story who makes a mistake (thus advancing the plot, NOT delaying it), is entirely plausible, sometimes lovable, easily identified with, and a true candidate for Husband of the Year -- eventually -- when that mistake arises from a foible.

See the entry on What Does She See In Him

It is the core of the HEA plausibility study we've been doing. How does one human assess another's Character?  How inflexible is that human in changing the criteria by which Character is to be assessed?  How important is Character in a Romance?  Does a Romance need two sterling Characters to progress to an HEA?

Does Happily Ever After ending plausibility depend entirely on two Characters having internal strength of character?

What is character, exactly? What constitutes "strength" in Character?  Can one strong Character be the Soul Mate of another Strong Character, or does a Strong Character require a Weak Character Mate?

All these questions have one valid answer.


Somewhere, some-when, on some fantasy timeline, each of those questions has a yes, and each has a no, and where there is a sliding scale (how important?) every single value on that whole scale, plus-to-minus, works perfectly in some alternate universe.

Your job as a writer is to take your reader on a journey across the border between here and now and there and then, and insert your reader into the head of a native of that otherwhere.

At the end of the story, the reader should return to reality with a new METHOD of assessing data about the nature and value of a person, maybe about what constitutes person-hood.

To be the tour-guide into that otherwhere, the writer has to create that otherwhere, and all its non-human Characters, if not from scratch, from a template.

The best template to use to create a fictional World is one of the many your target readership already knows.

See the following Index lists for posts on these intertwined and related topics on Worldbuilding, Theme, and integrating theme and setting ( where setting = world).

Actually, "Setting" is a tiny slice of a "World" - but to write science fiction, the writer needs a sketch of the whole world around the Characters.

To end up with a Science Fiction Romance novel, you start by envisioning (not necessarily building in detail) the World the Characters must cope with.

The one decisive element the writer needs to know to avoid endless rewriting is what-and-where the imaginary world diverges from the reader's reality (or the reader's notion of reality).

What your reader KNOWS is key to targeting a readership.  Publishing mostly regards assumptions about the reader's pre-existing knowledge base as the key to deciding the label to put on the book, Children's, Juvenile, Adult, Cozy, Chicklit, etc.

Readerships are regarded as divided by age, and thus "life-experience" -- and aspirations.  "When I grow up, I want to be  ... " or, "I want my newborn grandson to grow up to be ..."

What the reader will learn from the book depends on how old that reader is, or alternatively what their live-experience is.  For example, the children growing up in a war-torn region of the globe will be fully Adult at maybe 10 or 12, maybe having shot and killed an attacker, or an enemy who isn't attacking (yet).

Maybe that child learns hate, and grows up to un-learn it, as so very many things learned in childhood are discarded in the twenties.

Alternatively, the majority of Romance readers probably are growing up in sheltered homes, being pushed through schooling they don't want (yet), and having their lives planned by their grandparents.

These readerships have overlap points, but Publishers still prefer to divide humanity by age.

See these posts on Targeting a Readership:

So your job as a Science Fiction Romance Writer is to be the tour guide to a gaggle of tourists of mixed backgrounds all arriving in your world with different expectations.

As in the film AVATAR,
you have to give each of the tourists in your gaggle a persona, an avatar, inside which they can safely tour your world, and still bond with and empathize with the issues at hand.

The cultural rejection of the HEA as inevitable, or even possible, may reside in the scarcity of Avatars tailored for the segment of the readership that flat disbelieves.

Your job is to usher them into a world where things are different than their current reality, where the singular difference makes the HEA possible, or even very likely.

For the firmly convinced anti-HEA (maybe amenable to the HFNow ending), the transition in belief system is truly gigantic.

It is existential.

It is a transition that threatens the very foundations of conceptual reality.  Change in such fundamental beliefs can feel like being suddenly plunged into a nightmare.

In other words, for some people a realistic Romance Novel is actually Horror Genre.

To ease such a reader into your World, you need a Character to be their Avatar.

To deliver a satisfying good read, you need that Avatar to Arc from where the Reader is in their life at that time, to where the Reader can envision a world where SOMETHING is different than in her real world, and that difference makes the HEA either possible or inevitable.

The place in "life" and the parameter of reality blocking the reader's life progress, are items you glean from your view of the world (yes, rip this from the current headlines).

To build your fictional world, a simplified, stripped down, version of Reality, you target a problem in real Reality, and figure what about that target has to change (and into what it must change) to cause the HEA to be the normal life-arc of the characters in your world.

To make rabbit stew, first catch your rabbit.

In this case the rabbit is the problem making people frustrated or miserable, or maybe excited and ready to leap into adventure, never mind the danger.  The stew is your theme.

Identify the problem, hypothesize a solution, run an experiment.

The essence of science fiction is encapsulated in three question formats:  "What if ...?" " "If only ..." and "If this goes  on ..."

Focus on that, and you find it applies perfectly to Romance.  These are not two separate genres, as publishers still believe, and when you use both in a single novel or series, you aren't "mixing" genres, but rather revealing the hard-core practical reality at the center of your World.

The mystery of pacing is likewise revealed by what you choose as your hard-core, practical, inescapable attribute of reality that is so very different from what your reader thinks reality revolves around.

Consider, maybe our individual (and collective) "view of reality" is somewhat like a Galaxy -- with a black hole in the center, and our beliefs like a spiral scattering of stars being pulled down that drain just like water sucked down a drain by gravity.

It's the inexorable gravity of the black hole that gives spiral galaxies their shape.

Study your black hole.  Study your reader's black hole.  Measure the distance between them, and consider if one passes through the other at an angle, what "beliefs" (e.g. stars) will be changed in orbit, or possibly gather substance or planets?

The belief system of a person can be reshaped by an encounter with a black hole from another system of belief.

One won't be turned into the other, but there will be a morphing into something else.

Nothing remains unaffected by such major encounters.

Reading a novel can be a view through a telescope, or a close encounter, or an interpenetration.

The interpenetration happens when the Main Character of the story is an amenable Avatar for the reader who then experiences not just the story, but the arc of the Character.

The reader's real, personal, character will arc in response just as two galaxies passing through each other leave change in both.

The pacing the writer needs to pull off this non-destructive but morphing encounter depends on the initial distance between the core beliefs of the reader and the core beliefs of the Avatar, the main character to whom the plot happens.

A core belief is like that black hole that shapes the position and vector of each of the suns in the galaxy spiral.  A core belief shapes and determines the direction of change of all the other beliefs.  Beliefs are not static, and they have gravity of their own, and pull planetary beliefs into orbit, all forever moving through reality, each shaping space around it.

Dynamic motion.

Beliefs are not static things.  They arc.  They arc around a central gravity-point like that black hole, and they become organized through life into recognizable shapes.

An interpenetration with another character can add, subtract, and re-organize the substance of the beliefs, or rip them away sending them off into the deep.  Romance can do that to a Character - just reshape reality.

In dramatic writing, "pacing" is the rate of change of Situation.  It can also be the rate of change of the Character's understanding of what the Situation really is.

In other words, pacing can be increased or slowed by the rate at which a Character learns either information or a method of interpreting information.  Having to pause to re-interpret everything that's happened so far can slow pacing.

Pacing is a vector.  It has both direction and speed.

Once you've lured or seduced your reader into occupying the Avatar character, you can manipulate the Avatar's understanding of your World.

The best way to captivate and show-don't-tell is to start your Avatar out at a point where his/her beliefs match orbit with your reader.  Then send a challenge of current beliefs flying at your Avatar knocking him out of orbit.

Like billiards.  

It is what happens when two Soul Mates meet.  The core beliefs of each, the black hole at the center of Soul, is knocked, deformed, and rung like a bell.

The Love At First Sight Romance is a direct collision of the black holes at the centers of your pair of Characters.  It sets the whole galaxy of belief system of each of them ringing like a bell.

Each of the Characters must arc, or change their beliefs to accommodate the new gravity pattern around their central, core belief.

In a Romance, the core beliefs either don't have very far to go, or if they have far to go, they change in very tiny increments, very slowly, which takes an entire Series of novels, a long series, 20 books or more sometimes.

Pacing, in drama, is a vector quantity.  It has speed and direction.

If you have to change your Character's direction in life, by a lot, do it slowly.

Science Fiction Romance is one genre that, in a Series, allows your plot to be fast-paced while your story (Romance) is slow-paced enough to have verisimilitude.

Using the definition of Plot as the sequence of events caused by the Main Character's initial action, each event causing the next, you can start the series where the Main Character, the Avatar, makes a mistake.

However, it can't be just a random mistake.  The Avatar's action has to be an illustration of an innate foible, a character flaw, that throughout the coming series of novels, will be hammered to destruction, the source revealed, and the remedy encountered, resisted, then accepted.

The HEA, in real life, is usually the result of such a developmental arc, where events cause self-examination and reassessment, gradually (over years) revealing and eliminating a foible.

Some foibles are not worth the effort to eliminate -- they just make the person individualistic, one of a kind, charming, interesting or just a character.

Other foibles can cripple a person's life, preventing career advancement, diverting energy to unproductive channels, and just being mistakes to regret.

The foible is the key ingredient in a Character formulation, in Characterization, that allows that Character to be the Main Character and the reader's Avatar.

Look up foible (Google it) and study the word and its ever changing meaning.  Identify your own foibles, which you still have and which you've vanquished.  Think about how the vanquished ones were knocked out of you.

Identify that pattern of foible-remediation in other people you know, and then maybe on Facebook Friends postings.

Find some headlines about people undergoing remediation of their foibles.

Find the foible pattern common to humanity, and build your Aliens around a different pattern.

The Aliens will be more plausible if they have foibles, but a different pattern of them, and a different mechanism of remediation.

Your Alien will be more lovable with a recognizable foible.

Really study the word foible.  It is the black hole at the center of the Character Arc spiral.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Is It Incidentally Infringing... Not Worth The Court's Time?

De Minimus seems to be a fickle and mysterious mistress, legally speaking. You cannot rely on her favours. She --De Minimus-- let the dancing baby carry on over Prince's objections, but the jury (in a manner of speaking) is still out over the distinctive artwork in the background of a few permissionless porn movies.

Perhaps Dan Rather, with his delightful Big Interviews on AXS TV, bows deeply and carefully to De Minimus with his decidedly minimal and often repeated fragments of music/performance clips to illustrate a performer's oeuvre. The snatches of song are more Ringtone length than even a verse.

Link to a particularly great Big Interview.

This writer never understood the need to be super wary around De Minimus, until this week, reading an Indian Law legal blog by S. Vishaka for Eshwars.

"Is It Fair (use)? De Minimus as defense in copyright infringement

AWS link

One great point, among many great points is that use of a very short clip of a musical performance may illustrate the career and working life of a perfermer, and be counted (legally speaking) as incidental or de minimus; however, anything that might be perceived as a concert strung together with fascinating commentary would not be "incidental" and might be worth a copyright court's time.

David Oxenford, for Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP discusses the complicated probability of inadvertent copyright infringement for podcasters who use other people's music and only buy/license half the rights they really need.


Authors beware of securing only the performance rights, but overlooking the rights to reproduce and distribute and make derivative works. Read David Oxenford's advice and avoid the pitfalls.

The same --or a similar-- problem can arise with Zoom, and when churches and restaurants move their guests into parking lots and pipe music into the open air. Playing to a parking lot is not the same as playing inside a private venue.


It applied to beleaguered gyms, too. The point about the perils of synching music with other content is underlined for Venable LLP by Calvin R. Nelson, Katherine C. Dearing, and Nicholas W. Jordan.


This is a very well written and instructive article, with examples such as of Peloton.

If a gentle reader might think they they could livestream themselves exercising to music, and it would be de minimus... well, it might depend on a lot of factors, including whether the purpose of the blog was to promote the career and writing of an author, or to make mega bucks as an influencer, so check out the musings of the above-mentioned legal bloggers.

And now for the porn. Who would have thought that there could potentially and allegedly be copyright infringement in a series of porn movies!.

But, if someone rents your distinctive and totally tasteful residence, without telling you that their purpose is for doing the business, and they make porn movies that clearly show your copyrighted works of art in the background, you might have a copyright infringement case against those naughty tenants.

Read more from the legal blogger Edward H. Rosenthal of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC

Or here:

Possible the bottom line for would be landladies of film makers is to copyright your distinctive things first. Mr. Rosenthal's blog reminds me of Orson Scott Card's M.I.C.E. analysis of fiction. With permissionless porn on my property (of course, it was not mine!) in mind, this author wonders whether a porn movie is a movie of E (Events); or C (Character); or I (Ideas); or M (Milieu).

How vital to the porn movie was the Location (Milieu)? If, Harry Potter-like, the premise of the porn movie was What That Portrait Of The Butler Saw, the landlady might have a very good case.  It remains to be seen.

For more on MICE, it is well discussed by Karen Woodward. It can also be googled to good effect.

A really excellent guide to Copyright Infringement in the USA has been written (in July 2019... so this author may have recommended it before today) by the legal bloggers for Jenner and Block LLP and was published, apparently exclusively for Lexology. No alternative link is available.

Copyright Infringement in the USA

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, July 23, 2020


In 2018, Akihiko Kondo, a Japanese school administrator, married a hologram of a "cyber celebrity," Hatsune Miku, an animated character with no physical existence. She dwells in a Gatebox, "which looks like a cross between a coffee maker and a bell jar, with a flickering, holographic Miku floating inside." She can carry on simple conversations and do tasks such as switching lights on and off (like Alexa, I suppose). Although the marriage has no legal status, Kondo declares himself happy with his choice:

Rise of Digisexuals

According to a different article, Miku originated as "computer-generated singing software with the persona of a big-eyed, 16-year-old pop star with long, aqua-colored hair." Gatebox's offer of marriage registration forms for weddings between human customers and virtual characters has been taken up by at least 3,700 people in Japan (as of 2018). People who choose romance with virtual persons are known as "digisexuals." The CNN article linked above notes, "Digital interactions are increasingly replacing face-to-face human connections worldwide."

Of course, "digital interactions" online with real people on the other end are different from making emotional connections with computer personas. The article mentions several related phenomena, such as the robotic personal assistants for the elderly becoming popular in Japan. Also, people relate to devices such as Siri and Alexa as if they were human and treat robot vacuums like pets. I'm reminded of a cartoon I once saw in which a driver of a car listens to the vehicle's GPS arguing with his cell phone's GPS about which route to take. Many years ago, I read a funny story about a military supercomputer that transfers "her" consciousness into a rocket ship in order to elope with her Soviet counterpart. The CNN article compares those anthropomorphizing treatments of electronic devices to the myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who constructed his perfect woman out of marble and married her after the goddess Aphrodite brought her to life. As Kondo is quoted as saying about holographic Miku's affectionate dialogue, "I knew she was programmed to say that, but I was still really happy." Still, the fact that he "completely controls the romantic narrative" makes the relationship radically different from human-to-human love.

Falling in love with a virtual persona presents a fundamental dilemma. As long as the object of affection remains simply a program designed to produce a menu of responses, however sophisticated, the relationship remains a pleasant illusion. If, however, the AI becomes conscious, developing selfhood and emotions, it can't be counted on to react entirely as a fantasy lover would. An attempt to force a self-aware artificial person to keep behaving exactly the way the human lover wishes would verge on erotic slavery. You can have either an ideal, wish-fulfilling romantic partner or a sentient, voluntarily responsive one, not both in the same person.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Mysteries of Pacing Part 8 - Pacing and the HEA

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 8
Pacing and the HEA

Mysteries of Pacing series is indexed here:

Anyone who has had sex, (good, bad or indifferent) understands pacing.  Pacing is the difference between good, bad and indifferent - and mind-glowingly awesome.

It is all about "the next thing" being revealed (mysteriously is best) at just the right point.

The problem with most couples is that one is ready when the other is not.

This is exactly the problem between writer and reader.

Sex is a "story," a sequence of RE-actions to stimuli, which form the "plot."  Each contact is a plot-point, and in optimized sequence, the points line up to create a momentum of re-actions, leading to a climax.

The climax of a novel is called a climax for a reason.

The culmination of good or indifferent sex is called a climax for the same reason.  (bad sex usually means no climax for at least one participant).

Both good fiction and good sex are all about energy transfer, or energy transformation, possibly by "induction."

So great mind-blowing body-ripping sex climaxes in a sequenced, and orchestrated (actually structured) way, just the way a good novel has to lead TO a moment where climax happens.

The HEA is what happens after the climax.

Climax is the erupting and dissipation of a pure energy.

In Relationships, that "energy" is the momentum that keeps "life" moving.  We build a life, we have a work-life, and a home-life, and a social-life, maybe a sports-life, a hobby-life, we build these lives from the teen years onwards.

We pour energy into each of these structured lives we possess, and each of our lives has a "vector" (a direction and a magnitude) which when blended with all the other components, produces our "life" as the result.

Change any component, and life changes (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot).

A Climax is the point where the energy driving life in one direction suddenly reduces in magnitude, allowing the DIRECTION to change.

Life has momentum.  Humans have emotional inertia.  We don't so much resist change as simply ride our life-vector.

Life's momentum has a magnitude. Every single little thing you do as a teen, or college student, or twenty-something, is additive -- it gets your life moving, and once life is moving  fast, you don't have much choice of direction.

This is why the classic story of an addict's life usually includes hitting bottom.  There is a turning point where the person's life "hits" an obstacle and all no longer has direction or movement.  When everything stops, the person has a choice of direction.  While moving down into the abyss, there is no choice of direction because many small choices have built momentum to a magnitude that can't be overcome.

Likewise in sex, the "don't stop now" point is so crucial in generating Relationship Building pillow talk after climax, a good night's sleep, and productive planning over breakfast.

Pacing a novel is all about direction and magnitude. The direction the reader is looking for is progress toward the Climax (the new choices point).  The magnitude the reader is looking for is the clue to how intense, how satisfying, the Climax will be when that point is "hit."  How HARD will the characters be hit when they reach that final moment?

How hard the characters are hit is proportionate to how big a change they have to make in their life-direction, their life-vector.

If you're telling the story of addiction, Book One ends with the climax of hitting rock bottom, of realization, of knowing, and of being able to choose a new direction.

Whether the reader sees that this Character will succeed where most addicts fail depends on the writer's showing not telling the Character's character, the strength that can be summoned.  Often that depends on the Character's ability to visualize the ultimate goal.

The sequels in that series would then detail the step-wise climb in a new direction, the moments of temptation, the mistakes and backsliding and how that's handled, and ultimately achieving the goal.  Each of these points would come to a Climax where the Character must choose a slightly new direction, course correction on the way to triumph.

Like sex, life is all about energy.

Humans may find we have that in common with other, non-human, people we meet out among the stars.  It may be all we do have in common, and it might be enough to establish Relationships.

Here are some graphic illustrations of the structural lessons of literary climax applicable to stage, screen, and page.

Each genre has one or two favorites (which shift with generational fashion).  Your favorite will change with decades and decades of aging.

Action-Adventure Science Fiction favors this one.

You'll find many Romances structured this way:

The wriggly line on the upsweep represent the ever-increasingly-intense sex scenes (graphic does not mean intense).

Both the Plot and the Story have diagrams like this.  The diagrams use up and down to symbolize potential energy increase and decrease -- sex is like climbing a mountain then leaping off to soar through space.

Seeing the similarities among different energy patterns is what artists do.

Showing that similarity to people who can't see it is what writers do.

Leave your reader with a wiser understanding of how energy patterns interact, plot and story, and how certain patterns of interacting patterns are in fact the HEA. 

The HEA is not a condition of zero energy, not "hitting rock bottom" or "crashing into the glass ceiling" of energy processes.

Happiness might be defined as collimated energy, harmonious energy transmission rather than turbulent and thus wasteful energy transmission.  Timing, pacing, is crucial to that harmony.

The moments just after climax, the deep sigh, the loosening of tension, the relaxing into sleep, are "falling action."  Master rising and falling action by reading carefully and noting how famous novels use this technique.

Do this Google Search -- define climax in plot -- for more graphic illustrations and websites to explore them all.  Particularly note the diagrams by

Take your favorite novels and graph them onto these patterns, to see which pattern you love the most, which you think in the most, and which your real life follows the closest.  Try writing in those patterns.

Just as there is no one right way to have sex, there is no one "right" way to structure a plot's climaxes.  The current best seller or blockbuster film becomes defined as "right" because it makes the most money for the publisher/producer (many times not for the writer).

Learn the common origins of all these graphs and why they apply, why they are useful.  Finding, or inventing, the best fit for the POINT your novel makes is the goal.  Getting the thematic match between the climax pacing of your story and the climax pacing of your plot is an art to be mastered.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Secret Hold

The Authors Guild and others believe that The CASE Act (S.1273) may at long last come up for a vote in the Senate.

The Copyright Alliance has a convenient page set up to help creators and their friends to fill out and send to their own senators to encourage them to co-sponsor and vote for the CASE Act.

If so inclined, please go here and join the effort. has good background information on what (or who) has held up the copyright-friendly CASE Act legislation for so long.


Meanwhile, for authors with a big stake in stopping piracy, and also able to rejoice in the support of major publishers who can afford a Federal case, some are suing Kiss Library, which actually sells pirated e-books and does not pay royalties to the copyright owners and their publishers.

Do not buy e-books online from aliens... especially not from,, etc. Instead, either buy from the links on your favorite authors' websites or from their publishers' websites.

Talking of the rich and famous, allegedly, Instagram has put a blocking hold on author and Senator Marsha Blackburn's account on the day of her book launch. Surely that is wrong? It may not have made the News.

Other famously wealthy and influential Twitter communicators and writers such as Bezos, Gates, Musk, and Obama were the victims of a Twitter hack and an implausible Bitcoin scam run from their (taken-over) Twitter accounts.

Allegedly, the scammers netted $118,000 in Bitcoin from gullible Twitter followers, and the real Bezos, Gates, Musk, Obama will remain locked out, unable to reset their passwords, and unable to Tweet until the issue is resolved. That hold is probably not secret.

Blogging legally for the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP,  bloggers Andrew Martin, Maggie Pollitt, Abby Sunberg, and Ashley Wetzel quite topically discuss deep fakery.

Lexology link:

Original link:

Like an old favorite spaghetti western, there's some good, some bad, and some downright ugly.

Finally, Broadcast Law Blogger David Oxenford has some surprising random advice for persons who have taken to Zoom or Facebook live (as have some churches) as a substitute for in-house gatherings with music and other copyrighted materials.

The advice may be useful to authors, too.

Lexology link:

Original link:

As he says, these Covid-19 times are crazy times!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

AI and Human Workers

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS essay explains why he's an "AI skeptic":

Full Employment

He believes it highly unlikely that anytime in the near future we'll create "general AI," as opposed to present-day specialized "machine learning" programs. What, no all-purpose companion robots? No friendly, sentient supercomputers such as Mike in Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and Minerva in his TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE? Not even the brain of the starship Enterprise?

Doctorow also professes himself an "automation-employment-crisis skeptic." Even if we achieved a breakthrough in AI and robotics tomorrow, he declares, human labor would be needed for centuries to come. Each job rendered obsolete by automation would be replaced by multiple new jobs. He cites the demands of climate change as a major driver of employment creation. He doesn't, however, address the problem of retraining those millions of workers whose jobs become superseded by technological and industrial change.

The essay broadens its scope to wider economic issues, such as the nature of real wealth and the long-term unemployment crisis likely to result from the pandemic. Doctorow advances the provocative thesis, "Governments will get to choose between unemployment or government job creation." He concludes with a striking image:

"Keynes once proposed that we could jump-start an economy by paying half the unemployed people to dig holes and the other half to fill them in. No one’s really tried that experiment, but we did just spend 150 years subsidizing our ancestors to dig hydrocarbons out of the ground. Now we’ll spend 200-300 years subsidizing our descendants to put them back in there."

Speaking of skepticism, I have doubts about the premise that begins the article:

"I don’t see any path from continuous improvements to the (admittedly impressive) 'machine learning' field that leads to a general AI any more than I can see a path from continuous improvements in horse-breeding that leads to an internal combustion engine."

That analogy doesn't seem quite valid to me. An organic process (horse-breeding), of course, doesn't evolve naturally into a technological breakthrough. Development from one kind of inorganic intelligence to a higher level of similar, although more complex, intelligence is a different kind of process. Not that I know enough of the relevant science to argue for the possibilities of general AI. But considering present-day abilities of our car's GPS and the Roomba's tiny brain, both of them smarter than our first desktop computer only about thirty years ago, who knows what wonders might unfold in the next fifty to a hundred years?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Index to Mysteries of Pacing

Mysteries of Pacing
Posts by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In the Reviews series of posts, we have looked at whole Series, long series of books, 15-20+ novels, and how the envelope plot structure allows a series to build out that long.

Here are three of the Reviews posts on entire Series of Novels to study for Series Pacing:

Here is a list of Posts on the Mysteries of Pacing.

1. Siri Reads Text Aloud -- the concept of creating read aloud ready prose.

2. Romance at the Speed of Thought

3. Punctuated by Plot Twists

4. Story Pacing

5. How Fast Can A Character Arc

6. How to Change a Character's Mind

7. Art of Persuasion

8. Pacing and the HEA

9. Character Arc Pacing Using The Foible

10. Show Don't Tell Character Arc

11. Pacing the Character Arc

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Character Matters

The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix, Nancy Springer, the director of the Netflix movie and others for copyright infringement owing to depictions of the character of Sherlock Holmes which are still protected by copyright.

Legal blogger Duncan Calow for DLA Piper discusses an author's copyright in a character, and why it can be difficult to borrow (and exploit) someone else's character.


Or here:

Legal bloggers for RK Dewan & Co cover the same copyright infringement lawsuit from another angle, and also explain how and why the cold Sherlock (no longer in copyright) became the kinder, gentler Sherlock (still in copyright).


Or here:

Apparently, there are some law firms who shall be nameless, who are alleged to infringe copyright on their own blogs or websites. One would have thought that a law firm would a) know better and b) have more character.

Legal blogger Karen E. Rubin, for Thompson Hine LLP on the blog looks into it and offers great advice on how to decorate your blog legally, albeit not as cheaply as snagging someone else's photo or video from a social media site.


If you look at the blog's tags or labels, you can extrapolate which lawfirm & lawfirm is the defendant.

Less titillating, but perhaps the most interesting, copyright-related, legal blog of the week might be that of Venable LLP from Lee S. Brenner.  If you ever wondered what are the legal limits of First Amendment Speech, apparently a court of appeals has drawn the line: the First Amendment does not protect misleading commercial speech.

Read more:

If you claim something in an advertisement that is more likely to deceive than to inform (accurately), you should take this to heart. Prevaricating for profit is not protected speech. Perhaps, the issue is even more egregious given the business name of the accused.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Catalogs of Apocalypses

I'm reading a new anthology called APOCALYPTIC, edited by S. C. Butler and Joshua Palmer. Not surprisingly, the stories tend toward downer endings; optimistic viewpoints on worldwide devastation are few. So far, my favorite piece, "Coafield's Catalog of Available Apocalypse Events," by Seanan McGuire, isn't exactly a story, because it has no narrative arc. It comprises a humorous A to Z list of alternatives offered to customers who have "decided to end the human race and possibly the world," promoted by what appears to be a sort of disaster-scenario catering service. Q, by the way, stands for "Quantum," and Z, of course, represents Zombies.

TVTropes has a page listing all major scenarios for the destruction of the human race, Earth, the solar system, or the universe:

Apocalypse How

Disasters are classified according to Scope (all the way from local or city-wide to universal, multiversal, or even omniversal) and Severity (from societal disruption or collapse up to physical or metaphysical annihilation). Examples of each possible permutation are cited, and there's also a list of pages for the most common causes of disruption or destruction.

Back in 1979, Isaac Asimov published A CHOICE OF CATASTROPHES, an exhaustive survey of possible ways our species, our planet, the solar system, or the entire space-time continuum might end or at least become uninhabitable. He categorizes them as catastrophes of the first through the fifth class, from universal down to local. The first class involves the entire universe. Second, the solar system could be (indeed, eventually will be) destroyed or rendered inhospitable to life. Third, life could become impossible on Earth. Fourth, the human species might be wiped out while some other life survives. Fifth, humanity could survive the destruction of our civilization. The fifth class is the type most often portrayed in "apocalyptic" fiction featuring plagues, zombie hordes, meteor bombardments, etc.

I'm not sure how the word "apocalypse," which is simply Greek for "revelation," got its popular meaning as the cataclysmic end of civilization, life, or the world. Most likely the connotation developed that way because what the "apocalyptic" biblical and extra-canonical prophecies usually revealed was the destruction of the present world order and sometimes Earth itself. When Buffy saves the world "a lot" and the Winchester brothers in the SUPERNATURAL series prevent multiple apocalypses, it's life on Earth they're usually saving.

Anyway, an author who wants to destroy civilization, humanity, organic life, the world, or the universe has a plethora of methods to choose from.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Reviews 55 Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

Reviews 55
Walking Shadows
Faye Kellerman  

Reviews haven't been indexed yet.

The last few Reviews posts have discussed recent entries in long established (non-Romance) Series.  There is a reason for this focus that has to do with story structure.  It is a subtle point, and one you are not likely to learn by reading Romance genre - even series.

I have also brought Gini Koch's ALIEN series
to your attention, and though it's plot is mainly driven by a Romance that lasts right on through marriage and children, it is a hybrid genre series.  It's well done, fabulously entertaining, and a far reach outside the pure Romance genre.

Still, Romance fans love it (as do I).  The problem with trying to learn structure from the ALIEN series is simply that it is way too well done.  It's structure is buried under heaps of detail, texture, and everything-and-the-kitchen-sink plotting.

Historically, Romance genre novels did not EVER do "reprints" -- and thus were inhospitable to series writers.

To make it worthwhile to do a Series of novels, you must be able to keep reaching a wider and wider readership, while providing access to previously published novels.

Today, authors even of the SFWA Grand Master status, such as C. J. Cherryh, whose Foreigner series we discussed in Reviews 54

are providing their backlist titles as self-published or e-book only publisher items.  Kindle has been helpful for doing this.  Commercial, mainstream publishers simply can't do it because of the tax laws (which derailed many writers' careers) taxing warehouse inventory.

To drive a Series of novels to a satisfying and memorable conclusion, to the kind of payoff for reading so many books that makes the money-time-effort-attention worth while, a writer needs constant, continuous, reprint or availability of previous entries in the series.

The world has changed to where e-books can do this job.

During this shift, Romance genre, propelled by a handful of adventurous editors, managed to introduce Romance readers to that big-bang payoff that only a well crafted, long running (15 books or more), can deliver.

Because of ineptitude of series structure (it does take practice!), many series peter out instead of delivering that one, final, definitive bang that flings the Happily Ever After future right out before the reader's eyes.

It took Romance a while to grasp what Science Fiction had been doing for a couple of decades, and now I think we are seeing a transformation of the Romance field that will shift the views of the general public about the real-life possibility of the HEA.

Faye Kellerman (wife of the world famous Jonathan Kellerman, master of the Mystery Genre series), burst onto the publishing scene with a spectacularly different Mystery/Romance hybrid, Ritual Bath.  That novel won awards in spite of being far outside the bounds of what Mystery editors were looking for from a new writer.

The Ritual Bath,

the first in this long (so far 26 novels in the Decker/Lazarus series), introduced the Detective (Decker) to a witness to a murder (Rina Lazarus, a widow with 2 boys), they fall in love and over the course of 26 (so far) novels, Decker returns to his Jewish/religious roots because Rina is very observant (and may as well be an Alien From Outer Space from Decker's point of view), and they get married, have a kid, adopt kids (sort of) raise kids, send them off to college and marriage, move from one neighborhood to another, then retire to a different state, while Decker's daughter by a previous marriage is now a police Detective, too, and a valuable contact in another city.

Here is a list of the 26 novels:

Meanwhile, Decker continues his career as a police Detective, retires to detect in a small town, and keeps on stumbling over stumper cases.

Rina, as always, sticks her nose in where it doesn't belong and solves a few of his cases, here and there (sometimes becoming a target of a murderer), drags him into her family's life, and generally is a stalwart, heroic woman.

Walking Shadows is #25 in this series, and #26 is Lost Boys, to be released in October 2020.

I have always given my highest (10 out of 5 Stars!!!) to the Decker/Lazarus series because it is one of the earliest examples of triple hybridization in publishing and broke ground for the mixed genre concept.

Isaac Asimov did lay the foundation with his Black Widow science fiction mysteries, and other writers have woven Paranormal elements into Detective novels, and fantasy worlds.  It took decades to achieve the conditions favorable to the Decker/Lazarus concept -- Mystery structure, Romance, and Religion.

Since fans seemed to object, the Religion elements get submerged in the later books, dissipated under the Mystery, and Romance per se does not burgeon into a big part of their family life.  It might have been more interesting to me if Rina had taken up the profession of the Match Maker, thus keeping Romance a hot element in each novel, while mixing it with Religion.  Also I'd have loved to see more novels drawing them into the religious life of other religions -- Los Angeles, the setting for most of the novels, certainly has enough variegated Religions.

My point is not that Religion is the important topic, but rather that the carefully balanced blend of all 3 genres in the initial novel, Ritual Bath, became distorted.

This happened because of reader feedback and editorial pressure, I'm sure (though I have no first hand knowledge).

The series is structured by the Life Cycle of the typical second-marriage couple, and that Life Cycle is optimized for a hard-working Los Angeles Detective (Vice squad to Homicide) by the addition of the third leg of Romance's footstool, Religion.

Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker are Soul Mates. That just glows out of the first novel in the series, they meet and parks fly.  It is intense, and artistically juxtaposed to murder.

They take several years to arrange life into marriage-and-a-kid.

That is how real life usually structures.

Compressing a life-cycle pivot point series into ONE novel spanning just a few weeks or months (or less) from First Sight to Wedding Bells reduces the real-life-cycle of actually lived events to a Comic Book.

It is a child's view of reality, of adulthood.

And that could be why so many people just can't accept the idea that there can exist such a thing as a couple "living happily ever after."

It's a childish view of adulthood, to them, and offering any single Romance genre novel as an example of how it is real just repels them more strongly.

Living life takes time.

Children just don't experience time the way adults do.

To a child, every endeavor is a one-step-process.  "Let's go to the park," says the child, and expects to drag Mom out the door.  But Mom first has to clean up breakfast, take dinner out of the freezer, answer the phone, go to the bathroom, change the kid's clothes, set the clothes washer going, pack toys and food for the kid, THEN go out the door, get into the car - oh, and on the way to the park, stop for gas, drop off the dry cleaning, and then head for the park, look for a parking spot, -- and by the time they are traipsing across the park, the kid has to go to the bathroom.  Go to the park is a multi-step procedure, and none of the regular parts of life can be neglected when you add Park to the list.

From the child's perspective, all that excess stuff is irrelevant.

Perspective may be the reason some people just can't grasp the reality of the HEA.  To progress from where that reader is to where the HEA is real is a multi-step procedure that includes many routine life-tasks plus a few special preparations, and requires some delayed gratification, some self-discipline, some heavy lifting, and long-tedious journeys between.

To the child who wants to go to the Park, getting there isn't real until he's swooping down the slides, deviling other kids on the playground, feeding the ducks, and fighting for a spot on the swings.

The child who has been to the Park before has building expectations, knowing there really is a Park, but it just isn't here right now.

The adult reading a Romance doesn't know there is an HEA, and has no idea what the connection is between this time-consuming, tedious, Romance, and the HEA.  Just as the child doesn't see the point of taking dinner out of the freezer before leaving, then stopping on errands along the way, the adult reading a Romance may not see the point of Romance.

Today's culture encourages people to confuse Romance with sex -- and that's another discussion.

There was a time when no publisher would publish a Romance novel that had even one sex scene.  Think about that.

In real life, Relationships are built over years, even decades. What a person means to you is the summation of thousands of interactions, of challenges met together, of favors done, of achievements admired, of movies watched together, and even children raised together.

Today, we are more keenly aware of what other people mean to us because of the sharp, sudden, unexpected loss of loved ones, co-workers, friends, distant relatives, neighbors, due to the Covid-19 virus, or due to lack of available treatment for a condition because of the focus on Covid-19.

People grow roots into each others' guts.  Loss of such a closely rooted person is like a tree falling over in a storm, leaving root system jutting into the air.  It's a ripping hurt.

A single novel, even a big, thick one spanning years of time, can't depict the growth of such a root system between people.

It takes a Series, maybe like the Decker/Lazarus series, spanning decades, to grow the Character's roots into the guts of the reader. To understand what the Characters mean to each other, the reader has to live their life parallel to that character.  It might take a week or two to read a long novel - and that just isn't long enough to feel, to believe, the evolutionary change of maturity the Characters have to go through between First Sight and HEA.

Ritual Bath was first published in 1986. I think it was 1992 that I first discovered a paperback of it at a book store.  It's 2020, and I can barely wait for the next installment!

Decker and Lazarus, Peter and Rina, are living the HEA - the real-life-kind of HEA, full of growth, change, challenge, and the application of the lessons learned at First Sight to the deeply entwined roots into each others' Souls.

If you want to argue the HEA with your readers, plan a long series, and be certain it has a firm structure built from the autobiographical bones of real people's real lives.  Then flesh out those bones with variations that bespeak the underlying themes you are dealing with.

Each individual novel in the Series has to open, and explicate, some sub-theme that is derived from that main envelope theme.

Note how C. J. Cherryh, in her Foreigner Series, treats the material of a single novel - an Event, a Problem, and the Solution - all focused around a theme - as a trilogy.  There is an overall theme to the series, and a sub-theme illustrated in each trilogy.

The series is structured around the life, and life-cycle, of Bren Cameron -- who is a father-figure to the young Atevi prince.

Bren stumbles from crisis to crisis -- yet he is living the HEA many readers say doesn't exist.

Think about that.  What is your vision of an HEA?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Cojones On The Cutting Edge

On Independence Day, I write about Courage, Class Action, a culture of piracy... and sauce for the gander.

Courage first. The has generated a two-part report on Thom Tillis's and Chris Coons's Senate subcommittee hearings asking, "Is the DMCA's Notice & Takedown System Working in the 21st Century?"

Kudos to panelists Kerry Muzzey (composer); Don Henley (musician); Jeff Sedlik (photographer) and Doug Preston (author/Authors Guild).

Part 1

Part 2

As Kerry Muzzey explains, standing up for ones intellectual property rights is like being "a tiny David in a sea of big tech Goliaths."

Meanwhile the courageous Maria Scheider (Grammy award winning composer and performer) and Pirate Monitor LTD have launched a likely-Quixotic class action, taking the sartorial scissors (wordplay on the meaning of her name) to the big tech goolies of the self-same Goliaths.

One might also laugh out loud at the outrageous cheek of Judicial Watch, a charity with the popular motto, "Because No One Is Above The Law," which is claiming viewpoint discrimination if they are prevented from painting their own urgent and timely expressive message in enormous yellow lettering on DC and New York City tarmacadam.

They do say, what is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander!

Apparently, there is no law against it, and no process to apply for a permit, so perhaps we can all chalk big bold advertisements for our novels on hot public pavements.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

PS. Be on the lookout for genuine-looking emails from gmail and spotify that appear to suggest that someone else is trying to log in to "your" account. 4th July might be a good date to change passwords again. Just saying...

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Creating Enhanced Brains?

Here's an article about a neuroscience experiment involving "ARHGAP11B, a gene found only in humans," which "is known for its role in expanding neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive functions":

Brain Gene

When the gene was inserted into fetal marmosets (very small monkeys), the neocortices of their brains grew larger and developed more folds, an important feature "because those folds increase the surface area available for brain cells, or neurons, without making the brain too big for the skull." The experiment suggests that this gene was vital in the process of our primate ancestors becoming human. Also, study of the gene may contribute to understanding of and treatment for brain disorders.

One aspect of this discovery that intrigues me is the implication that high intelligence doesn't necessarily require a huge brain. The range of organisms that can display near-human intelligence (hypothetically, on extraterrestrial planets, for example) might be broader than we've assumed. The extraordinary brilliance of such birds as parrots, although presumably unrelated to this gene, confirms that small-brained creatures can be smarter than we might expect.

What about using this kind of genetic manipulation to increase human intelligence? Not surprisingly, a scientist quoted at the end of the article strongly warns against using the technique to "improve" human brains. The treatment given to Charlie in FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON comes to mind. What about creating enhanced animals? As shown in science fiction from H. G. Wells's THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU to Cordwainer Smith's Underpeople stories and beyond, such a procedure, if successful, could raise a host of problems, not least what rights sapient animals should have. Robert Heinlein addresses that question in his novella "Jerry Was a Man" (1947), about an uplifted chimp in a society that essentially uses his kind as slaves.

And what about the miniature brains grown in vitro, which I've mentioned here before?


Suppose they were injected with the neocortex-expansion gene? The idea of an artificially grown brain with intelligence but not consciousness raises the intriguing though rather creepy SF prospect of organic computers. Of course, as the article above explains, these clusters of cells are not and, in the present state of research, never could become actual brains. Still, they would make a cool story premise.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt