Thursday, October 29, 2020

Eggs and Equity

Recently on a wildlife program in the PLANET EARTH series I viewed a segment about clownfish. In addition to their sexual mutability, which enables the largest male in a group to transform to female if the adult female dies, they display interesting parental behavior. Clownfish live in symbiotic partnerships with sea anemones, nesting among the anemone's tentacles, deadly to most other sea life. The anemone "fortress" shelters the fertilized eggs, for which the male takes responsiblity, tending and guarding them. If the dominant female doesn't find his level of care acceptable, though, she'll reject him in favor of one of the rival males lurking in wait. So the devoted father in FINDING NEMO is true to life in a way.

As far as paternal child care in marine life is concerned, everybody knows about the prime example, the seahorse. The female lays eggs in the male's pouch, where he fertilizes them and carries them until they hatch. Mr. Seahorse, not his mate, undergoes pregnancy. They appear to practice monogamy through at least one breeding season.

On another episode of the same series (PLANET EARTH, BLUE PLANET, etc.) a tiny tree frog is shown depositing his mate's fertilized eggs in small water reservoirs in leaves. To provide nourishment, the female lays an unfertilized egg in the water drop, while the male guards the eggs and tadpoles.

Most people have probably watched documentaries about penguin parents raising their young on the Antarctic ice. The father keeps the single egg warm on top of his feet while his mate is feeding out at sea. When she returns, she relieves him and takes over the care of the chick while he goes in search of food.

Some birds, rather than tending their chicks as monogamous partners, practice polyandry. The female controls a large territory in which she mates with several males, each one incubating a clutch of eggs in a different nest. She helps each of her mates defend his individual nesting territory.

These animals and many others illustrate the fact that in oviparous species the female isn't "tied down" by pregnancy and lactation. When the young hatch from eggs, either parent or both can guard and care for the eggs and offspring. If otherwise convenient, the female can leave parenting duties entirely to the male without jeopardizing the welfare of their children. Therefore, a society of intelligent, oviparous aliens might practice very different sexual and child-rearing customs from ours. In a high-tech culture, the option of sheltering the eggs in an incubator, terrarium, or aerated aquarium (depending on the species) could even allow both parents to combine childrearing with other pursuits. They might have completely egalitarian gender roles or even female dominance.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Interview with Larry Nemecek on STAR TREK LIVES!

Interview with Larry Nemecek

I was interviewed on this podcast episode by phone in June, 2020, and is about how my Bantam paperback original about Star Trek fans came to be.

It is short, and there is another short episode coming.  You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, and I would suppose other phones, too.  It's called THE TREK FILES.

There is a text (by email) interview with Anthony Darnell also done in June, 2020, for  I will note them on this blog as information comes available.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 25, 2020

How The Cookie Crumbles

Regrettably, this is not about an end to data-collecting "cookies".  It's about intellectual property esoterica. 

For Fenwick and West LLP , legal blogger David L. Hayes Esquire  has complied the most comprehensive and fascinating summary of the most newsworthy and influential copyright lawsuits in recent times.


Here is the link to the .pdf, all 1020 pages of it.

It's an absolute treasure trove if you want to know what was really going on with the Dancing Baby (see page 889), or why EBay cannot be touched when its sellers sell copyrighted works at auction (see page 926) , caching, incidental copies of copyrighted works, inducement liability, vicarious liability, innocent storage, acting as a conduit,  and much much more.

Many decisions seem harsh to copyright owners. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Of great interest is pp 999 - 1001 (First Sales In Electronic Commerce), which goes to the heart of why the Internet Archive's digital lending premise is not permitted under the DMCA. At least, it is of interest, if you read this rather piratical distortion of copyright history by Ryan and LaToya and Maria.

I'm not sure if you can "like" this author's reply to the premise, left in the Comments section of the piece, but the comments about "the future of book ownership" are absolute, opinionated rubbish.

Another somewhat concerning article about a religious institution deciding to opt for piracy instead of donating their library to a University occurred this week.

For those writers with a book written and ready for competition, entry into the Vivian is free for members of RWA and also for non-members this inaugural year, and will open for entries on November 10th at 11.00 am Central Time.

Visit for information.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Horror as a Coping Mechanism

It comes as no surprise to me that a recent psychological study suggests horror fans may be uniquely well prepared to confront scary realities:

Horror Fans Prepared to Cope with Our New Reality

"How does horror teach us?" One authority quoted in the essay says, “What’s special about horror is that the genre lets us chart the dark areas of that landscape [of hypothetical frightening scenarios] — the pits of terror and the caves of despair.” Horror fiction serves as rehearsal for confronting our real-life fears. Its function as "catharsis" is also discussed. Moreover, its monsters and other threats often work as metaphors for societal anxieties. The familiar example of Romero's undead in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is cited as reflecting the "existential" fears of its time.

In his history of horror, DANSE MACABRE, Stephen King argues that all such fiction is ultimately designed to grapple with the fear of death. Death is "when the monsters get you." This essay mentions King's PET SEMATARY as a story that explores the potentially tragic consequences of evading the reality of death.

One of the study's co-authors praises the "prosocial" dimension of horror. “Horror fiction is very often about prosocial, altruistic, self-effacing characters confronting selfish, anti-social evil." Much classic horror focuses on good versus evil, with the heroes working together to defeat the monsters. DRACULA and the majority of vampire fiction inspired by it offer obvious examples. Of course, not all horror follows this pattern. Sometimes it's bleak and hopeless, with no objective "good" or "evil" in the universe, as in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos stories, in which protagonists who survive usually do so by sheer luck. However, even horror without the religious or spiritual worldview of a vampire tale wherein heroes brandish crosses or King's IT, wherein the heroes know "the Turtle can't help us" yet draw upon a still higher power beyond both It and the Turtle, can showcase the bonds among human beings who fight together against larger-than-life threats.

Therefore, I've always thought it's strange that some people consider reading, watching, or (gasp!) writing horror a symptom of a warped psyche.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Index to Verisimilitude vs Reality

Verisimilitude vs Reality

Here are blog posts about how to create fiction based on Reality using a similarity to reality, verisimilitude.

Verisimilitude --- from Wikipedia

Verisimilitude is the philosophical notion that some propositions are more true or less true than other propositions. The problem of verisimilitude is the problem of articulating what it takes for one false theory to be closer to the truth than another false theory. Wikipedia

What is "fiction" if not a "false theory" that is closer to Truth than another false theory?

Reality is True. Fiction is True. Neither is Truth without the other.

Part 1

Part 2 Master Theme Structure, The Camera, Nesting Plots and Stories

Part 3 - The Game, The Stakes, The Template

Part 4 - Story Arcs and the Fiction Delivery System

Part 5 - So What Exactly is Happiness?

Part 6 - Show Don't Tell Theme

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 18, 2020

What's In A Name?

Some words are widely misunderstood, others have changed their meaning over time, and some have been deemed too archaic to be worth recording.

When Juliet  Capulet said, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" She did not mean, "Where art thou, Romeo?"  She meant, "Why, Romeo, did you have to be born the son of Lord and Lady Montague?"

Maybe the rot set in the 60's with a song, "Don't sleep in the subway, darling" when the lyrics included a reference to "Whys and Wherefores" as if the two words were not synonyms.

One cannot trust online dictionaries for guidance, it seems... although, I can still find "absquatulate" (to decamp) and both meanings of "momentarily" are available (in a moment or for a moment).  However, on Wednesday Oct 14th, unilaterally, one dictionary changed the definition of "sexual preference" in hours.  Normally, Dictionaries announce new inclusions and deletions once a year.

Some articles on the topic show images of George Orwell (aka Eric Arthur Blair), to suggest that this is a frightening, "Orwellian" move by an internet influencer to change language to support a political narrative. But, that is all by the by. Or by the byway!

Nouns are important, as are all words. Without words, we cannot reason. When the meaning of a noun or verb changes suddenly, myriad written works become --perhaps-- obsolete or offensive, or inaccurately convey the writers' intended meaning at the time of writing.

Legal bloggers   Adrienne S. Ehrhardt, Rebecca L. Gerard, Elizabeth A. Rogers
, Guy B. Sereff , and Ryan T. Sulkin for Michael Best and Friedrich LLP  have generated a very useful compendium of Cyber Security vocabulary terms


On a completely different level, the copyright office is extending copyright protection to blogs.  It appears that a blog like this one would have to file jointly (because there are 3 of us), every quarter, for copyright protection of up to 50 individual posts.

Legal blogger  Brandon W. Clark   for McKee Voorheis and Sease PLC explains.


For blogs where authors serialize a novel, Dickens style, this would be very useful indeed.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Living in the Moment

Kameron Hurley's newest LOCUS column further discusses the quandary of living in these fraught times.

Measuring Life in Keurig Cups

She describes the joy of creative projects other than writing, endeavors that engage the body and senses such as the backyard pond she and her spouse constructed. She reminds herself and us that we can choose to brood over what's happening in the country and the world outside of our control or focus on what we can control, how we spend our own time.

I especially like her quote from Paul Harvey: “During times like these, it helps to remember that there have always been times like these.” Hurley brings up the example of Monet painting within earshot of bombardment during World War I. I often remind myself that the country and the world have survived much worse and returned to whatever "normal" may have been at the time. Consider the plague-devastated village at the end of Connie Willis's DOOMSDAY BOOK or London during the blitz in her BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR. And yet here we are.

A message in Hurley's essay that particularly resonates with me is the theme of living in the moment. She puts it, “Am I physically all right, in this moment? Is everything okay here, in this moment?" This is a reminder I try to invoke for myself regularly, but I tend to think of it in negative terms: Is anything terrible or unbearable happening right now? The answer is usually "No." Of course, it may occasionally be "Yes," as with acute grief or terror or agonizing physical pain. More often than not, though, I suffer self-inflicted unhappiness by obsessing over bad things that may or may not happen in the future. Even impersonal forces such as political trends—sometimes I have to figuratively hit myself upside the head with the reminder that if the party I oppose wins the November election, the apocalypse won't descend upon us in the first week of November or even on Inauguration Day. To paraphrase a quote I came across somewhere recently, worrying doesn't make tomorrow any better; it makes today worse.

Since, unlike Hurley, I don't have a creative avocation other than writing, I make a conscious effort to take note of good things happening day by day—e.g., sunny weather, functioning cars, appliances, and utilities, reasonably okay health, Facebook videos of our youngest grandson (age two), the convenience of ordering books and other treats online, the restaurants that have reopened, etc. I've started posting some of these daily on Facebook under the label "Today's Good Things," most of which probably give the impression that my life is rather boring. That's okay; I prefer boring to chaotic. I also keep track of the daily word count on my current work in progress, which encourages me with the sense that I'm accomplishing something, however slowly.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Verisimilitude vs Reality Part 6 - Show Don't Tell Theme

Verisimilitude vs Reality
Part 6
Show Don't Tell Theme 

Previous parts in Verisimilitude vs Reality

Part 1

Part 2 Master Theme Structure, The Camera, Nesting Plots and Stories

Part 3 - The Game, The Stakes, The Template

Part 4 - Story Arcs and the Fiction Delivery System

Part 5 - So What Exactly is Happiness?

Now in Part 6 we'll look at a TV Series - just one scene out of several seasons of the Netflix Original, MADAME SECRETARY.

I think the scene I'm going to analyze is from Season 2, Episode 5 or 6.

As you probably know, Madame Secretary is about a woman who comes from CIA roots, was a station chief in Europe, and with friends in high places ever rising, ends up working for the Secretary of State because a good friend becomes President and another good friend becomes Secretary of State.  Her kids have grown up associating with the President's son - Washington becomes a family business.  (Oh, and she's married to a former field operative now a Professor of Religious Philosophy and history buff.)

She uses her experience in the spy business to work out problems at the international level, and "wings-it" through complex situations, deeply disturbing career professionals in the State Department.  She becomes Secretary of State when her boss dies in a plane crash and she's next in line.

She discovers her boss, the former Secretary of State, was actually murdered, and there were unsavory money trails connected to that.

As she's investigating the murder of her boss, she solves more international problems. The whole plot-arc reminds me of SCARECROW AND MRS. KING, but instead of applying housekeeping skills to international affairs, she applies CIA spy craft skills.

The whole thing is a Mary Sue, wish-fulfillment-fantasy, superhero Mom TV Series - well produced and very entertaining.

It has a contemporary setting, and is very adroitly RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES.

Here are posts about ripping story material from the contemporary headlines:

Even if you're sick-sick-sick of the news and politics, this is a very diverting and interested show -- transparently Hillary or not, it works very well.

One reason it works is the depiction of the HEA life.

This show is about a couple years and years into the HEA life -- their oldest kid of three is in college.

The Secretary of State job is high-pressure, fast moving, an emotional jerk-around every day.

You'd think a professor's life would be placid - but unbeknownst to the Secretary, the CIA re-recruits her husband for a spy job.  He confesses the offer to her, and they make the decision together that he will take the job.

Eventually, by this point in Season 2, he has been promoted from field operative to "Handler."  His cover job is teaching international students the history of war.

The Secretary's brother is a doctor working in a hot-zone of the Middle East, lots of shooting, lots of wounded to care for.  He's in a position like Doctors Without Borders.

This episode opens with the doctor, scruffy beard and all, doing surgery on a critical patient when two tough guys, looking like Secret Service in battle gear, burst into the tent where he's improvising through a lack of supplies.

They are there to grab him and exfiltrate him back to the USA -- because there are death threats against his sister, the Secretary.

He goes, reluctantly but cooperatively - and he's steaming mad about it.


He's getting out of a car in front of her DC house as she's arriving and walking to the stairs.  He's still steaming mad and charging at her confrontationally -- all body language, not much dialogue.

Her Secret Service detail flattens him against a car's hood.

She notices, turns and flies to the rescue, "That's my brother!"

They let him up.

Her kid comes skipping down the stairs and wraps a hug.

Escorted inside, there's the big family scene, and how upset he is being dragged back to DC.

The explanation is that he could be kidnapped and used to blackmail her into whatever the terrorists want.

The THEMATIC MESSAGE is encoded in the camera work and dialogue, or lack thereof.

We have the Secretary of State under heavy Secret Service (more than usual) guard, being accosted by a scruffy dressed, bearded man (he's a big man, too).

The Secretary of State has to TELL her Detail it is her brother!

We have Secret Service body guards who don't do their homework to be able to recognize her family, and apparently haven't been looped on the memo about the Secret Service collecting and repatriating her brother a few hours ago?

Why do they wear those little earphone thingies if not to be informed of movements among their outfit? Why weren't they hearing a report as the brother's car stopped?

We have a clear "show don't tell" scene saying the Secret Service is incompetent.

This scene is more vivid because for all the previous episodes, the matter of her predecessor being murdered has been a Plot-Arc.  That murder was a failure of his Secret Service detail.

So on the plus side, the Secret Service flattened a potential attacker -- which is their job, and they did it well.

But find that scene and check out the camera work.

The Detail guys back off INTO THE SHADOWS, the camera slides away from them -- no emphasis on their chagrin, embarrassment -- no supervisor coming up behind them to give them what-for.

The Secretary does not upbraid them for failing to recognize her brother, does not yank out her phone and scorch the ear of the supervisor who didn't inform her detail that her brother was approaching.

Watch that scene carefully and really think about what's NOT there!

What theme do you think it illustrates symbolically.

The absences bespeak some of the themes of this show, the envelop theme about competence in Washington - at the helm of the most deadly government in the world.

Put this brother-arrives-steaming-mad scene in the context of the previous episode where Air Force One is "hacked" and the President, Vice President and Speaker of the House are not available to sit the Oval Office chair.  Madame Secretary gets sworn in as temporary President while they struggle to find out what happened to the President's plane.

Consider all the episodes where Madame Secretary pulls off strategic maneuvers and oddball decisions making everything come out fine when all the professional Washingtonians fail.

It's a Mary Sue.

She's the competent one - everyone else except her husband are fumbling idiots.  But because they are on the scene, the ship of state is on an even keel.

They have three pretty normal children (despite their oddball upbringing), and a very solid marriage.  They communicate.  They co-parent with grace and competence.

They both enjoyed being CIA field operatives, solving problems on the fly, going adventurous places, depending on knowledge and their backup teams working smoothly.

They bring matured skills to the jobs of Washington top-drawer decision makers.

They are in the Happily Ever After -- it is right there in front of the public's eye in one of Netflix's most popular dramas.

And her brother is steaming mad, despises her politics and career choices, and she uses information he provides while they are fishing to destroy a Terrorist (who also smuggles medicine).

Is your Happily Ever After being in a position where you are the most competent person around?  Most of the time, you can get powerful people to make reasonable decisions, but not always.

In a town where even the Secret Service bodyguard details are incompetent, how can anything get done right?

THEME: Incompetence can safely be ignored.

You don't think that's what the "That's my brother," scene says?

What isn't there speaks volumes.

How would you rewrite that episode's script if the theme was, "The USA Secret Service body guards are better than the reputation of Israel's Mossad."

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, October 10, 2020

No Old Chestnuts

 Titles matter. Originally, this short article was to be "Autumn Opportunities", then "Chestnuts" but "Chestnuts" or "Old Chestnuts" seemed uncivil. Hence the addition of "No..."

Starting on Tuesday, October 13th, the Authors Guild is running a series of conversations on Zoom, "From Manuscript to Marketplace."

This is the registration link.  It does not appear that participants have to be members. It ought to be particularly helpful for new writers who wish to learn more about the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing.

There is an old chestnut of an entry theme mentioned in the "Don't Do" details about the Writers Weekly 24 Hour short story contest.  Only the first 500 entrants may compete for 85 prizes. Entry fee is $5 and the 24-hour contest begins on Saturday January 9th, 2021.

If writing a short story within 24 hours seems like an adrenalin rush, try a full length novel from start to finish in 30 days. That is National Novel Writing Month, every November.  Read all about it. Sign up. I don't believe that you have to donate to the charity.  Even if you don't participate, there are some excellent pep talks to inspire and motivate.

There are many regional sub-chapters with events and support, so if you are a procrastinator, this might be the event that gets that first draft done.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Stubborn Skepticism Versus Indiscriminate Gullibility

Working on a paranormal romance novella, I'm presently dealing with a recurrent problem in fiction of the fantastic: How long should a character keep rejecting the possibility of the supernatural before admitting it exists? How do you find a balance between jumping to the conclusion that every anomaly proves the existence of a vampire or ghost and clinging to adamant disbelief in the face of overwhelming evidence? Most people who discovered a century-old photograph that looked uncannily like a present-day acquaintance wouldn't think he must be a vampire, after all. They'd say, "Wow, what an amazing family resemblance." On the other hand, if they saw their friend turn into a bat or a cloud of mist, it would be only sensible to entertain the vampire hypothesis.

In DRACULA, Dr. Seward at first quite logically rejects Van Helsing's pronouncement that Lucy has risen from the dead as a vampire. After all, Seward is a man of science, running a "lunatic asylum" according to the most up-to-date precepts and practices. Of course he's aghast that his revered teacher, with advanced degrees in multiple fields, would embrace outmoded superstitions. Even when they find Lucy's coffin empty, Seward falls back on the obvious explanation of grave robbers. Only when he witnesses the undead Lucy walking in the cemetery does he open his mind to the horrible truth. After that, though, he drops his objections; he doesn't try to insist she's a hoax or hallucination.

Right now I'm reading THE HOLLOW PLACES, by T. Kingfisher, an outstanding horror novel featuring an alternate universe. It offers a skillful treatment of the characters' shift from skepticism to belief. When the narrator finds a hole in a wall of her eccentric uncle's combination home and novelty museum, she assumes a visitor must have damaged the drywall and left without mentioning the mishap. Upon starting work on a patch, she and her friend Simon discover a large open area behind the wall. Naturally, they first believe they've stumbled into extra space that was walled off for some reason. As they explore, they see that it's much larger than the dimensions of the building should allow. Even then, they don't think they've fallen through an interdimensional portal. They discuss ideas such as a tunnel constructed by illegal alcohol dealers during Prohibition and try to rationalize the fact that they don't seem to have gone up or down a level as they should have. When they open a door onto a fog-shrouded river dotted by numerous small islands, though, they realize they've entered an alternate world, an "anti-Narnia," as the narrator says. Despite Simon's joking remarks about being poisoned by black mold, they don't seriously waste time on the possibility that they're hallucinating.

My work in progress features a ghost child who performs poltergeist-like tricks. At first, the protagonist does her best to attribute the odd events in her house to the cat, her seven-year-old son, or even herself in absent-minded lapses. Further along, she contemplates whether she might be sleepwalking and moving things around or whether she dreamed the strange singing she thought she heard. The sight of the little girl vanishing before her eyes forces the heroine to accept the supernatural as real. I consider it plausible that an otherwise normal, stable person would believe in a ghost rather than assume she's suddenly gone crazy with no provocation. The latter happens in vintage horror movies, not ordinary life. For the same reason, her highly skeptical boyfriend converts to the ghost hypothesis when he, too, witnesses the child disappearing into thin air.

Where should the creation of a character in fantastic fiction draw the line between the extremes of hardheaded materialism and softheaded gullibility? The former can make a character very annoying, but the latter can lose the reader's sympathy, too. The main reason I never cared for the SCOOBY-DOO cartoon series when our kids used to watch it was that, no matter how many times the gang exposed a haunted house as a hoax, when they investigated the next "ghost" Shaggy always believed in it as uncritically as ever.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Soul Mates and the HEA, Real or Fantasy, Part 11 - Soulmates Explained

Soul Mates and the HEA, Real or Fantasy
Part 11
Soulmates Explained

Previous parts in this series are indexed at:

To convince a reader that, in your well-built world, Souls are real and it the components of reality necessary for two Souls to be "mates" are in existence, you have to take into account the target audience for your Romance novel.

This speaks to the topic of verisimilitude we keep returning to as a primary tool of the far-out science-fantasy writer.

For many decades, Romance publishers and writers, and readers, didn't consider "Romance Genre" as a science fiction genre -- and if "Fantasy" it was somewhere beneath bad comedy in the prestige list even though Romance has always out-sold Science Fiction.

Now, Paranormal Romance and Science Fiction Romance are considered "mixed" or "cross" genre.

My contention is that there is no mixing involved. Romance has always been science-fantasy.

Romance is "science" because it investigates the formation of bonds, just like chemical bonds, that we don't fully understand but we know they "just work."

Romance is "fantasy" because the plots represent the highest aspirations of the readers looking for a life-turning-point.

Most fans of Romance either know from experience or believe from self-knowledge, that Soul Mates
are real.

We either know a couple that just clicks like that, or we have been part of such a couple.

Those who flatly disbelieve in the HEA, the Happily Ever After ending, still enjoy a good Romance novel simply assuming that the ending is an HFN and eventually something will happen to catapult the couple into renewed misery.

As a Science-Fantasy subgenre, Romance has the opportunity to convey to the skeptics a real-world theory of what, exactly, Soul Mates are according to supernatural scientific theory.

Many religions grope into the problem of conveying a model of reality that includes Souls, immortal and otherwise, always trying to make it simple for the average person to grasp.

And where there are Souls, there is the possibility of two of them belonging together, somehow.  Maybe it's unfinished karma from a previous life, or a Parent-Child relationship playing out, or some other theory.

Maybe, if you're doing Aliens on another planet, you'll need to invent one (probably more) religion that is substantially different from anything suited to humans. To do that in a way that human readers can grasp and learn from, you will need to know a lot about a lot of different religions and their take on Souls.

There are questions to ask.

1) How are Souls structured?

2) What kind of civilization would Aliens without Souls create?

3) What kind of civilization would Aliens with complete, whole, self-contained Souls create?

4) Can Soul Mates bond completely and still have one or  both lack Happiness?

You'll need a real-world theory of Soul Mates, and a set of questions that probe your Alien culture to reveal how and why the Aliens differ from humans. Then you need to design a human who can bond across that Soul-Gap, and a reason why that human would do that.

Google Soulmates Explained and pull up a wide perspective on Souls and Mates.  Keep the frame of reference we explored in "So What Exactly Is Happiness"

And keep asking yourself, as you read different philosophies, whether simply living with a Soul Mate, even bonding or marrying, produces Happiness.

Is meeting a Soul Mate a sufficient condition for the HEA?  Is it even a necessary condition of Happiness.

Then check out this 2-minute video explaining Soul Mates:

Notice the glancing reference to "life's purpose" or the purpose of life, and what that has to do with happiness.

To convince the skeptic that the HEA is real, in fact common, there is a lot of thinking to do about what Happiness actually is, if it even is a real thing.

Find out what your target audience thinks happiness is, find out why they think that, then challenge the roots of that belief. Disturb your readers and you will engrave your byline on their memories.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Piracy, the Photographer, and the Photographer's Models

I found Mitchel Gray in the front matter of Men's Health Magazine in 1994. At least, I found his name in very small print, in the credits for the photograph of the cover model. Over the years, he has been my go-to source whenever I have needed a gorgeous, shirtless male for my books' cover art.

This double portrait of an NFL player is an example of Mitchel Gray's artistry from his "Bodies In Motion" series. The most unique feature of this series is that both figures are the same person.

Please note that the image is watermarked in dark red (which is subtle, but "there"). The copyright belongs to Mitchel Gray, the image is shown here with Mitchel Gray's explicit permission. Snag it at your peril.

Print costs vary according to the size of the print, and are available from 11 x14 to 40 x 60
$750 - $4,000.  Licenses for cover art and more would depend on time frame and usage.  To see more, check out

Recently, I asked Mitchel Gray a flurry of copyright infringement related questions.

1) How has piracy affected you?  (Have any of your photographs been snagged from the internet and exploited by someone without permission?  Have you found any of your photographs, without your permission or payment, on any of the sites that sell licences to use images?  Have you found any of your images online with the copyright information cropped out or stripped out?  How does that make you feel? 

Mitchel: Piracy has not impacted me terribly badly, but certainly a few times --as far as I know-- and that’s the problem. I may not be aware of any number of snagged images. I try to watermark any online usage of mine, but that certainly does not exclude being “copied and pasted” directly from my website or elsewhere my pix may appear -- there are some very competent “thieves” out there. I have not found my images on the sites that sell licenses, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there—I can't spend all the time required to search. I have found images online with my credit removed, but that usually occurs when the models post the images—and not that often even then. Sometimes the client will do it. 

It’s very irritating.

My next salvo of questions were:

2) How does a photographer make money?  What does piracy do to your cash flow?  Is it good, free publicity?  Or is it very damaging? 

Mitchel: A few different ways: direct commissions from private clients, Ad agencies booking jobs, or purchasing existing images, magazine editorials, stock photo sales, fine art private and gallery sales, and books, both printed and virtual. Piracy simply deprives the photographer of revenue which ain’t good. But sometimes as you mention, it may be free PR, however that depends who and where they are posted

3) What can you do, if you see copyright infringement of your photographs?  Has this happened to you?  Has the DMCA "takedown" process worked for you?  Have you ever sent a DMCA and been thwarted by a counter notice?  Have you ever sued anyone? 

Mitchel: You can sue the user, or publish a wide ranging post about its misuse naming the user, you can force it to be removed from the site using DMCA. I’ve never been thwarted by any counter notice. However, sometimes there may an issue of interpretation of an agreement. I have sued a few.

4) What goes into taking great photographs that you could sell for cover art for a novel? Location?  Light quality? number of shots?  Amount of time? Do you pay the model?  Airbrushing? 

Mitchel: All the above plus a clear knowledge and discussion of the intent for the look, location, and subject matter from the author or publisher, depending on who is hiring me. And concept, concept, concept!

Asked to explain, Mitchel obliged.

"Concept, concept, concept” refers the idea of the photo—or what am I trying to say in the picture. There are a lot of ways to get your point across and each of them will present a different visual while doing it, and it gets more complex depending on the project—a portrait is different than headshot, a book is different than a magazine editorial, an ad is different than a label on a can, etc. That is one of the joys of the medium.  

 5) How has piracy affected your models?

 Mitchel: In a similar way, but with more potential impact, depending again on the location of the post, who is doing the posting, and on what is the intent the post is- who is it being used for. Also if it is being used in conjunction with other questionable content. It can be very painful, and infuriating

6)  How long can a cover model's career last?

Mitchel: A wide range here. A few years for some, 30+ years for others, all depending on how they adapt - or are allowed to adapt- to the aging process, and the type of publication or a story that will be told. I have one friend who is now 57 and still modeling. Different clientele, different uses.

7) What should an independent author know about buying a photograph for the cover art of an ebook?   What should she expect to pay?  What rights would she get for the money?  What waivers and releases would she need to obtain (and pay for)? 

Mitchel: This is all up for negotiation each time. The price is based on time limits, the expanse of circulation areas, what else she might want to use it for other than the cover, i.e. advertising, promotion, social enhancement, etc. She would need a release from the photographer that states either the areas, or if the shooter is willing, a buyout which is always the most expensive.

8) Where are good, reputable sites for buying licenses for cover art? 

Mitchel: There are the stock photo companies (they are also generally the cheapest which stinks for us), a number of new online sites that offer photo sales, and private individuals. Since the business is now virtually totally digital, one only has to provide digital files and that has fueled in increase in online sites.. I’m sure there a more, but these are the legitimate ones.

9) What other services might photographers offer (if any) in cover art preparation?

Mitchel: So many options- 

1. conceptual sit-downs to lock in on the purpose and market.
2. location search and securing.
3. Hair & Makeup artists and stylists
4. travel arrangements if need be.
5. studio usage and rental
6. lighting approaches
7. digital application and knowledge 
8. editing !!!!!

And a lot more.

10)   Do you have any advice for any amateur photographer who lives in an especially scenic location for monetizing their photographs?

Mitchel:  Yes, shoot a whole lot of images, perfect your editing skills (photoshop, and more), research research research stock houses and stock sites for both legitimacy, style of images, and price points. And keep on shooting! You never know what you might capture that someone may have a use for.  Of course, this pertains mostly to stock sales. Comission shooting is obviously a much different story. In that case you shoot those pictures to get hired, not to sell directly

As an example of what Mitchel did for me, here is the before shot of the rock climbing model who seemed perfect as 'Rhett, hero of Knight's Fork.

And here is how Mitchel cut the ropes and inserted a sword.


To contact Mitchel Gray

Mitchel Gray


Thanks, Mitchel!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Why Do You Read a Book?

This question isn't meant in a philosophical or literary-critical sense. Rather, why do readers choose to spend time and often money on a particular book, especially if its author is new to them? Online discussions among writers frequently explore what factors most influence prospective readers to try a novel: Cover, blurb, plot synopsis, reviews, endorsements by favorite and/or famous authors, recommendations by personal or virtual friends? One factor not often mentioned, which I think can also have an influence, is reading author interviews.

My most common motive for picking up a book is admiration for the author's previous work. What about unfamiliar writers, though?

I've been surprised by the number of people who say they're heavily influenced by cover illustrations. The only effect a cover has on me, except sometimes to make me pause and think, "cool cover," is to draw my attention to a book I might not otherwise have noticed. After that, the synopsis and, if available, reviews and customer comments guide my decision. I would never buy a book just because of an attractive cover or decide against it because I didn't like the artwork. (If I did the latter, I would have had to pass up several of Stephen King's later novels, some of which have drab, unappealing covers that convey no information about the content.) So a cover might deter me from even picking up a book by an author I've never read before, but otherwise its effect on a purchase decision, positive or negative, would be minimal. The title has more impact on me in this respect than the artwork; an intriguing title will often inspire me to look more closely. I also like to sample the author's style, by either flipping through physical pages or taking advantage of Amazon's "Look Inside" feature.

Many people doubt the effect of reviews on sales. For me, reviews play a major role in deciding whether to take a chance on an unfamiliar writer. A review doesn't have to be favorable to inspire me to seek out a book. The important thing is that the review be substantive and informative. If the reviewer explains clear, detailed reasons for disliking a book, I may realize that the same elements she dislikes are things I would enjoy. In marketing my own fiction, I've often been disappointed by the apparent total lack of impact from favorable reviews. So maybe it's true that most readers are less influenced by reviews than I am.

In addition to reviews and other materials, LOCUS, which I buy mainly to learn about new and forthcoming books, publishes lengthy interviews. Interviews with authors new to me have sometimes inspired me to read their novels. For example, a recent mention of an author's retelling of BEOWULF sounded intriguing, but when I looked it up on Amazon, the description of a contemporary suburban setting didn't attract me. Yet after reading the author's discussion of that novel and its background in her LOCUS interview, I changed my mind and ordered the book. Online interviews from various sources have also occasionally incited me to search for and possibly buy books I wouldn't otherwise have known about.

Of course, recommendations from other fans who share my tastes play a major role in my reading decisions. That's a marketing factor authors can't control, aside from writing memorable stories.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt