Saturday, November 28, 2020

Science Fiction

Killing people --or threatening them with a horrible death-- has been a time-honored means of suppressing inconvenient truths and fictions and causing witnesses to recant and/or go into hiding.  

It happened in the 4th century (for instance to Hypatia), and it is happening today ( John's Hopkins  and less scientifically to a geek )

Once upon a time Heliocentrism was considered heresy by believers in so-called settled science, and Galileo was forced to recant.

Here are more links to the stories of scientist who crossed the establishment and suffered for their science.

Given that successful fiction writing begins with a wronged innocent, there's plenty of inspiration or grist for the writing mill here, above.

A modern day science that is said to be settled (and may well be so) concerns plant food. That is, carbon dioxide. Would California be better off lush and green, or dry and crackly golden? Should forests be cut down to install arrays of dark glass? Are bird-and-bat whacking windmills better than trees? 

If polar bears evolved back to brown bears, would that matter? To whom? And why? Is it modern day heresy to wonder?


They say --and they may be correct-- that white stuff is vital. They mean sea ice, but would any white stuff do just as well. Not for a habitat for seal hunting, one would grant, but if the need is to reflect solar rays back away from earth, would artificial white plastic floes do as well? What about the white upside of clouds?

"...include clouds. Alarmist climate science bases its “dangerous manmade” global warming, not on the CO2 increase alone, but also on incorporating positive water vapor and cloud feedbacks: emphasizing heat-trapping properties of clouds, while largely ignoring the degree to which clouds also block or reflect incoming solar radiation."

Why are only some science theories, “permissible”?  Is it Hypatia and Galileo all over again? One must know History....

Is science necessarily "settled" when consensus may not exist, and where the so-called scientists have no scientific qualifications?
"... For example, the widely touted “consensus” of 2,500 scientists on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an illusion: Most of the panelists have no scientific qualifications, and many of the others object to some part of the IPCC’s report. The Associated Press reported recently that only 52 climate scientists contributed to the report’s “Summary for Policymakers.”

The starting point for research matters. What if the starting point for data is where ice caps were at an unusual volume?
" the beginning of NASA’s satellite observations, the polar ice caps just came from a 30-year cooling trend, which ended during the late 1970s. This made the polar ice regions significantly larger compared to their past states in the previous decades"

With a monthly electricity or gas bill, the utility company shows what your use was a full 12 months ago. They do not start by comparing your November 2020 usage with your December 2019 usage. They don't project what your January and February usage is likely to be.
Six years ago, the late great thinker, Charles Krauthammer attacked the "settled" nature of science.

"...If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today’s climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken? 
None of this is dispositive. It doesn’t settle the issue. But that’s the point. It mocks the very notion of settled science, which is nothing but a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate. As does the term “denier” — an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth..."

Ridicule is a potent weapon.

Why would anyone want to weaponize climate science, or any kind of science? Who benefits... apart from the scientists who guarantee themselves perpetual employment?  Someone wrote that a scientist will find it almost impossible to disprove a proposition that makes him (or her, or them) a profit.

Why, in 2020, are scientists afraid to publish research that runs counter to "received wisdom"? Why do they retract, if not recant? Or perhaps, they merely published too soon.

What's the betting the so-called wayback machine may not last far into 2021?
Controversial excerpt:
"When Briand looked at the 2020 data during that seasonal period, COVID-19-related deaths exceeded deaths from heart diseases. This was highly unusual since heart disease has always prevailed as the leading cause of deaths. However, when taking a closer look at the death numbers, she noted something strange. As Briand compared the number of deaths per cause during that period in 2020 to 2018, she noticed that instead of the expected drastic increase across all causes, there was a significant decrease in deaths due to heart disease. Even more surprising, as seen in the graph below, this sudden decline in deaths is observed for all other causes.

The study found that “This trend is completely contrary to the pattern observed in all previous years.” In fact, “the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19.”
Briand concludes that the COVID-19 death toll in the United States is misleading and that deaths from other diseases are being categorized as COVID-19 deaths."

So... is some important "science" really "fiction"? Is some "fiction" really "science"? How can we know the difference, and does it matter? At any rate, it has the makings of a great story!
All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 26, 2020


Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it today!

We're preparing our usual turkey dinner—actually, my husband does all the hard parts, one thing I'm thankful for—although on a smaller scale than in some years. The only participant outside our household of three will be our oldest son, who lives alone.

I often remind myself to be grateful for how much better off we are than so many people in these times. Because my husband and I are retired, our lives didn't change much with the shift toward staying home more. As a writer, I can keep doing pretty much what I would be doing anyway, thanks to the internet. All four of our offspring are securely employed, three of them in positions that allow working from home. Thanks to Facebook, we can see what's new with the grandchildren. We're lucky to have many local restaurants that deliver and offer the convenience of online ordering. Anything we need that our neighborhood stores don't have, we can order from Amazon or the equivalent. Deliveries, mail, and other essential services continue to operate efficiently. Our supermarket has mostly recovered from the supply-chain problems of earlier in the year and usually stocks the things we need. And, again, if they run out, online sources can often fill the gaps.

The conventions we normally attend—ChessieCon this weekend and my International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in March—are able to offer virtual experiences rather than canceling altogether. Our church holds virtual services, too—experiences that would have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago.

Imagine how much more difficult this year would have been without contemporary technology and communications.

In the news, we have the hopeful prospect of three promising vaccines so far. Focusing on the positive helps me avoid sinking into depression when the news occasionally doesn't look so good. The world has survived worse; there's a light at the end, and this time it isn't an oncoming train. Best wishes to all for the upcoming holiday season, even though different from what we expected.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Fictional Science or Scientific Fiction Part 2 - The Art of the Parable

Fictional Science or Scientific Fiction
Part 2
The Art of the Parable

Part 1 of Fictional Science or Scientific Fiction is:

One "fictional science" that a writer can use to generate Science Fiction Romance is psychology.  It intersects with religion and culture.

If you are building an Alien for your Main Character to fall in love with, you need to consider the core questions "What Does She See In Him" (and vice versa).

The answer to that question is equal to the reason the reader would be interested in this novel -- that is, the answer to "What Does She See In Him?" is THE THEME of your novel -- subset under the master theme of the genre, "Love Conquers All."

All genres have a master theme, but the best editors sort novels into genres not by what they contain, but rather by what they do not contain.  People often read fiction to avoid thinking about something -- love being one of the somethings.

But Science Fiction readers tend to choose novels to read by what they do contain -- Aliens, Strange Cultures, and above all, ideas about what errors there might be in our current solemnly believed science.

So what errors might there be in our definition of "human?"

We currently study "human" as a variety of Great Ape, and science is probing brain structure and brain activity to attempt to account for all human experiences, especially experience of God, the Soul, Life after Death, and even the sense of "self."

What if that approach (NOTE THE "WHAT IF...") turns out to be counter-productive once we meet up with Aliens who have a civilization, interstellar travel, but despite physical differences, have Souls that Mate with human Souls?

The "Science" ingredient in such a Science Fiction Romance would be what we currently call "Anthropology" - which science fiction traditionally expands to become "xenology" or the study of aliens.

What if your Aliens typically have memories that extend back before birth (or hatching, or something else).  What if their entire culture is based on those long-memories?

What if they can't deal with humans because we don't have such memories?

What if they are telepathic and determine that humans do have such memories but refuse to acknowledge them?

Whole cultures and vast matrixes of belief systems (some conflicting with others based on the same text) are often derived from Parables.

A Parable is a "show don't tell" of serious drama stripped down to bare essentials to reveal an underlying "truth" that appears across many cultural  barriers.

Here is a Parable that came to me anonymously via a WhatsApp contact who got it from someone who didn't know where it came from.  A meme.



In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other:
“Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “ Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “ She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

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

The "science" fictionalized here is what we call Religion - or the belief system that includes Soul.

Your writing exercise is to fictionalize some science you know something about and write the Parable most often quoted by your Alien Hunk's primary culture as the reason or motive behind their behavior -- as we point to Soul Mates as the reason for Love At First Sight.

Then write the dialogue where he/she explains the meaning of the Alien parable to a human (pick an Earth culture for your human).

See what they think of each other after that conversation.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Egregious (Reversal of Royalties) And Urgent

What is the point of "selling" a book to a reader, if the middleman (an Amazon company, for instance) actively encourages the reader to return that book --after reading it-- for a full refund or free exchange for another book, at the expense of the author?

That's not a "sale", it's a merry go round.

Read all about it.


Please read the full letter and  sign the petition.

How can an author make a living if book sales can be cancelled, and book revenues can be clawed back up to 365 days after the assumed sale?  
How can an author plan her finances, or project what her tax obligation will be?  However, assuming that one has something to leave, or something to invest, or a rollover IRA, this is the time to do some urgent tax planning.  One probably has until December 10th, 2020 to get ones financial ducks in a row.

Three links:


While this writer cannot offer financial advice (not being qualified), the most interesting advice might be to transfer one's biggest losers into either a Roth or a GRAT. 

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Revision Habits

I've just finished the second revision stage of my current work in progress, a light paranormal romance novella, a loose sequel to two previous novellas from the Wild Rose Press. All authors probably have their own individual approaches to self-editing within a few broad categories. Some writing mavens advise a separate editing once-over for each level of potentially needed changes. For instance, one for major plot and character issues, one for style, syntax, word choice, and grammar, and finally one for spelling, typos, punctuation, and other minor errors. A few seem to expect even more rounds of revision. If some writers strictly follow that advice, no wonder they may take years to finish a book.

Such writing mentors probably tend to be the same people who advise us not to bother with granular stylistic and proofreading changes on the first revision or two, because we'd be likely to waste time changing passages that won't even appear in the finished product. That may be good advice for "pantsers." I outline extensively, deal with plot and character difficulties at that stage, and excise elements that don't fit before the actual first-draft composition begins. Also, I edit as I go, at least on the level of sentence structure and word choice. This habit makes me a slower writer than I want to be, but on the other hand, it means I end up with a fairly polished first draft. After all this time, I really can't help doing it that way; my habits were formed over decades as an academic writer and more than twenty years employed as a proofreader.

Personally, I couldn't bear the waste of time involved in doing a separate pass for each level of revision, from global down to nitpicky. I tackle them all at once, sort of. Again, I probably couldn't force myself to do otherwise anyway. If I decided to start with overarching plot and character evaluation, along the way I would inevitably notice minor points that needed fixing. My usual procedure, after the revising-in-progress first draft phase, is to let the work rest for about a week, then read through it and make any corrections that occur to me. Next, I send sections to my online critique group and the whole thing to a critique partner for comment. After addressing all their suggestions, I leave the piece to sit for a few more days. Then I give it a final pass before submitting to the target market. Incidentally, the function that underlines misspellings in red is permanently activated on this computer. That way, I can't miss typos, as might happen if I depended on running spellcheck, with the risk of absentmindedly blowing right past an erroneous word.

Many writing authorities have strong opinions about how many drafts a work should go through before it's ready to submit. Do the terms "first draft, second draft," etc., have any fixed meaning in the era of computer word processing, when previous versions disappear into the ether unless they're printed before changes are made? A draft is an even more nebulous concept for someone who revises in the process of composition, like me. The document I send to a critique group or partner is more like "draft one and a half" than a definable whole number.

I've often thought how unfortunate it is for future collectors and critics that most authors nowadays won't leave successive drafts for scholars to study and compare to the finished work.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Fictional Science or Scientific Fiction Part 1 - Stephen Hawking

Fictional Science or Scientific Fiction
Part 1
Stephen Hawking 

This blog is about Alien Romance, or human/non-human Soul Mates - Love at first sight, and Love Conquers All.

It is all about the essence suffusing the state of mind where, somehow, what others think is crazy and unreal is actually perceived in a new, different way, from a new perspective.

Romance is a state of mind, and many writers on the subject hold that the perception of another person available in a state of "Romance" is actually more accurate than the everyday assessment anyone might make of that person.

One of the ingredients in Alien Romance is the idea of a non-human species, evolved on some other planet around some other star, either coming here -- or humans going there.

For human and Alien to meet (for a rousing good Romance Novel) you have to postulate a transport mechanism.

Yes, Stephen Hawking Lied To Us All About How Black Holes Decay

These days, it's not enough to do what Star Trek did and just "say" that the ship is propelled into "Warp Drive" using engines that have to contain a (non-existent) substance you say is Dilithium Crystals.

Too many people know too much.  Things that used to be available to learn only in University post-Graduate seminars are now taught in High School -- even Elementary School or Middle School.

So here is an article (with animated illustrations) from Forbes Magazine that shows how currently known science tosses out very firmly established knowledge to chase after something new.

Experts can be wrong - or misunderstood.

Authorities should be believed only after proving what they say to you, independently, for yourself.

One of the items I remember from A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME by Stephen Hawking is the firm assertion that interstellar travel is impossible. (well, we've heard that for decades).

But he had the math to prove it.

But it's OK because there are no other living civilizations out there, anyway.  Math proved that.

Guess what? Now math (with new, different assumptions) indicates there may be over 30 civilizations out there.

So it's not OK that we can't go there. If "they" can go around, so can we.  Even if it's impossible.

Now comes an astrophysicist thinking around the edges of Hawking's theory.

Black Holes and the fabric of space-time, the nature of reality and existence, are the sum and substance of the reasons why "space travel is impossible" - but it turns out, maybe that's just not the case.

As usual with Science - it is partly fiction.  Math is the language of Science, but to do the Math you need to input assumptions - you need to postulate and hypothesize.

If you change the input assumptions, the output changes.

Here is an article in the widely respected magazine, Forbes, posted at -- in July 2020.

Yes, Stephen Hawking Lied To Us All About How Black Holes Decay

None of this should serve to take away from Hawking's tremendous accomplishments on this front. It was he who realized the deep connections between black hole thermodynamics, entropy, and temperature. It was he who put together the science of quantum field theory and the background of curved space near a black hole. And it was he who — quite correctly, mind you — figured out the properties and energy spectrum of the radiation that black holes would produce. It is absolutely fitting that the way black holes decay, via Hawking radiation, bears his name.

But the flawed analogy he put forth in his most famous book, A Brief History of Time, is not correct. Hawking radiation is not the emission of particles and antiparticles from the event horizon. It does not involve an inward-falling pair member carrying negative energy. And it shouldn't even be exclusive to black holes. Stephen Hawking knew how black holes truly decay, but he told the world a very different, even incorrect, story. It's time we all knew the truth instead.
---------end quote--------

This does not mean you're free to postulate just anything convenient to tell your story.

Roddenberry had to do that, but you must not if you're writing a novel (not a screenplay).

As I noted, too many people know too much for you to flimflam them. They will disbelieve the Romance if you fudge the Science.  If they disbelieve the Romance, they will not believe the fiction.

But you have to fictionalize your science, while at the same time you make your fiction scientific.

Science fiction is the recreation of scientists.  Romance is the recreation of spirit.  You have to create the spirit of science using the art of wordsmithing.

Read this Forbes article - then read Hawking's book(s).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Sudden Death

If you do a DuckDuckGo search, you will have a hard time finding a definition of "sudden death" that involves bad luck and sportsmanship... or lack thereof. You will need to include a term such as "playoff" in your query.

Today, I am writing about the last gasp of the CASE Act, which has been apparently successfully smothered to death by being sat on by Oregon senator Ron Wyden and needs emergency resuscitation; the Legacy Kit from the SFWA; the focus at Authors Guild on the Death of the Author (owing to rampant overreach by internet giants), and the hidden perils of promoting ones book or other product through illegal contests involving luck or minimal "skill".

You see, it is all copyright-related, but grim, nonetheless.

If you follow this blog and do not support the SFWA, perhaps you should make joining a New Year's Resolution. It is a very useful professional association, and the dues are tax deductible.  They have just published a Legacy Kit, which is a wonderful, 28-page resource for authors interested in being prepared for their own sudden death and authorial immortality.

The Authors Guild is hosting a webinar on November 17th, called "The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling To Survive In The Age Of Billionaires And Big Tech".

The blurb:

"In the age of Big Tech and the gig economy, how can writers and artists survive? It’s never been easier to publish a book or make your art available to the public, but at the same time, the pay has never been lower."

Of course, the pay will never improve as long as writers have rights without meaningful recourse to the courts and the ability enforce their rights.  Which is why the Copyright Alliance is encouraging one final push by all creators and artists to implore their senators to pass the CASE Act, SW.1273.

Their blurb:

“Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019” (the CASE Act) — a bill that would create a “small claims court” within the U.S. Copyright Office to handle copyright infringement claims from individual creators and small businesses that cannot afford to defend themselves in federal court."

Their link:

Desperate to survive financially, many authors use legally questionable methods to promote their books, including illegal sweepstakes and contests that lack the fig leaf of legality. When the "skill" involved in a "contest of skill" amounts to little more than figuring out 2+2, it is little more than a game of chance. Depending where a contestant lives, a "consideration" (price of entry) might only be a "like" or a "follow" or a review on social media, but those things are "of value" to the author and therefore, to stay on the straight and narrow, the author must allow would-be winners of the prize, whatever it is, to enter in an alternative manner without providing the review or like or follow.

There is a lot more to it.  Legal bloggers Kasey Boucher and Matthew D. Stein, for the law firm Pierce Atwood LLP explain their top Ten Common Mistakes When Conducting Sweepstakes Or Contest Promotions On Social Media.

Lexology link:
Original link:

If you don't believe that you've been doing it all wrong these past many years, and would like a second legal opinion, or are especially concerned about Facebook, legal blogger David O. Klein of Klein Moynihan Turco LLP has just the ticket for you....metaphorically speaking with Planning On Running A Facebook Sweepstakes? Here's What You Need To Know.

Original link:
All the best,
Rowena Cherry   

Thursday, November 12, 2020

More on AI

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column continues his topic from last month, the sharp divide between the artificial intelligence of contemporary technology and the self-aware computers of science fiction. He elaborates on his arguments against the possibility of the former's evolving into the latter:

Past Performance

He explains current machine learning "as a statistical inference tool" that "analyzes training data to uncover correlations between different phenomena." That's how an e-mail program predicts what you're going to type next or a search engine guesses your question from the initial words. An example he analyzes in some detail is facial recognition. Because a computer doesn't "know" what a face is but only looks for programmed patterns, it may produce false positives such as "doorbell cameras that hallucinate faces in melting snow and page their owners to warn them about lurking strangers." AI programs work on a quantitative rather than qualitative level. As remarkably as they perform the functions for which they were designed, "statistical inference doesn’t lead to comprehension, even if it sometimes approximates it." Doctorow contrasts the results obtained by mathematical analysis of data with the synthesizing, theorizing, and understanding processes we think of as true intelligence. He concludes that "the idea that if we just get better at statistical inference, consciousness will fall out of it is wishful thinking. It’s a premise for an SF novel, not a plan for the future."

While I'd like to believe a sufficiently advanced supercomputer with more interconnections, "neurons," and assimilation of data than any human brain could hold might awaken to self-awareness, like Mike in Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, I must admit Doctorow's argument is highly persuasive. Still, people do anthropomorphize their technology, even naming their Roomba vacuum cleaners. (I haven't done that. Our Roomba is a low-end, fairly dumb model. Its intelligence is limited to changing direction when it bumps into obstacles and returning to its charger when low on power, which I never let it run long enough to do. But nevertheless I give the thing pointless verbal commands on occasion. It doesn't listen to me much less than the cats do, after all.) People carry on conversations with Alexa and Siri. I enjoy remembering a cartoon I saw somewhere of a driver simultaneously listening to the GPS apps on both the car's system and the cell phone. The two GPS voices are arguing with each other about which route to take.

Remember Eliza, the computer therapist program? She was invented in the 1960s, and supposedly some users mistook for a human psychologist. You can try her out here:


As the page mentions, the dialogue goes best if you limit your remarks to talking about yourself. When I tried to engage her in conversation about the presidential election, her lines quickly devolved into, "Do you have any psychological problems?" (Apparently commenting that one loathes a certain politician is a red flag.) So these AI therapists don't really pass the Turing test. I've read that if you state to one of them, for instance, "Einstein says everything is relative," it will probably respond, "Tell me more about your family." Many years ago, when the two youngest of our sons were preteens, we acquired a similar program, very simple, which one communicated with by typing, and it would type a reply that the computer's speaker would also read out loud. The kids had endless fun writing sentences such as, "I want [long string of numbers] dollars," and listening to the computer voice retort with something like, "I am not here to fulfill your need for ten quintillion, four quadrillion, nine trillion, fifty billion, one hundred million, two thousand, one hundred and forty-one dollars."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

NetGalley And Small Publishers

NetGalley And Small Publishers
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In 2012, I signed up for NetGalley when they were a startup, just garnering a list of Traditional Publishers they could supply reviewers for. ( )

Professional ReaderThey have grown and grown and become a staple of the reviewing industry.  Their rules are a little complex and involuted for qualifying for free ebook copies of forthcoming titles. They have time-limits (which I don't like) and they want a review posted on their site, as well as wherever you actually review or discuss books.

As readers, we discuss books everywhere -- and these days there are a lot of everywhere -- LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on and on!

Recently, PenguinRandomHouse, which has been supplying NetGalley copies for convenience, has shifted to emphasizing NetGalley as a source, so I refreshed my profile on NetGalley and drew down a Kindle copy of C. J. Cherryh's new Foreigner novel DIVERGENCE.

We'll discuss that soon, but it is Book 21 in a (terrific) Series, so if you haven't caught up, you have some time. Start with FOREIGNER -- jumping into the middle of this series can be confusing.

Today, I just wanted to alert you all that I'm using NetGalley as a source, and it has changed as the publishing industry has grown and diversified.

There are publishers from a number of different countries, and divisions of the large publishers.  There are publishers you've never heard of (possible markets), and early alerts on popular books.

They have a list of most-requested titles.

They let you "favorite" publishers to get sub-sets of titles.

They have sub-sets by genre.

And publishers get to pre-approve you so you can grab a title as soon as they post it.

I like reading paper books (a lot), but I also enjoy having Kindle editions I can resize the type, make notes, drop bookmarks, and store massive amounts of books without bookshelves collapsing.  I don't think the Netgalley title, even as a Kindle, will let my notes be "shared" in the Goodreads social networking platform.

I still don't like Kindle's filing system - I lose books in the huge list. Putting them in groups is extra work.

Downloads from NetGalley in Kindle format can be "sent to Kindle" but end up in "Documents" instead of the list of books -- I expect I will lose track of titles I want to discuss here because of that awkward filing system nobody likes.

But publishing has changed - so we change to match.

Here's what has not changed in publishing.

It is still a horse-race.  It is all about speed.

Whether a title or series survives the brutal speed test to become a "classic" depends on getting lots of reviews up FAST - right during the few weeks after publication.

Without the limits of paper-book-shelves-in-stores (slots), there is no REASON for this anymore. It's an archaic artifact of Traditional Publishing which will likely disappear in the next few years.

It's all about ripping your attention away from whatever you want to do and getting you hooked on paying attention to what they can make a profit from.

What publishers (and their editors) add in value, that you pay for at $10 for a Kindle edition, is the publisher's ability to sort the slush pile, and resort the surviving titles into genres, creating sequences of books that are "the same but different" -- giving you the anticipation of a guaranteed good read.

So beyond editing for consistency, continuity, clarity, and beyond copyediting for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and homonyms - improper word usage, and punctuation (especially of dialogue) - publishers get paid for sorting a few precisely similar items from a whole pile of dissimilar items.  It's a lot of work.

NetGalley also connects reviewers profiles to Goodreads and Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn.

They are building a high-tech sorting net that will, one day, enable readers to be certain they are not wasting money on a title they just won't like.

Long way to go, but I think it is happening right before our eyes.  I'm impressed with what they've done in just 8 years.

I can imagine where the new "reviewer" tools industry will be in another 8 years.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 08, 2020

When Is A Mark Not A Mark?

Perhaps you remember the homophone riddle from your childhood: "When is a door not a door?"

Here is a link to some riddles to help small children develop critical thinking and healthy skepticism for the meaning of the written word:

For this writer, this week, some of the most interesting legal blogs were about trademarks, hence, "When is a Mark not a Mark?" There's not snappy answer, but increasingly, it looks like ".SUCKS", "PAST PRESENT FUTURE", "You're fired!" and "TEXAS LOVE" are not markable ... trademarkable, that is.

Legal blogger Kimberly M. Maynard, representing Frankfurt Klein and Selz PC discusses a  possibly precedent-setting decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The TTAB ruled that a generic top level domain name is the back-end part of an address and not a distinguishing mark that any reasonable potential customer would identify with a service.

So, "dot sucks" might make a mark (in the law enforcement sense of the word "a mark") think of a sordid service, but it's too much of a stretch for the TTAB to agree that the common man would see "dot sucks" and jump to the conclusion that this is an obvious and alluring and highly reliable domain name registration service.

The puns are mine. For a comprehensive and sober analysis of why "dot sucks" cannot get a mark to apply, read the original.

Link to the original article:  

Jeffrey H. Brown, blogging for Michael Best & Friedrich LLP opens with a knock-out pun to explain why a boxing champion cannot have legal dibs on "PAST PRESENT FUTURE" as a trademark for T-shirts.

Lexology link:
Link to the original article:

When it is "commonplace" it does not work as a trademark. It might be ones own favorite slogan, or one widely used by others to promote other goods or to express other sentiments, but increasingly, one may not trademark a slogan unless the trademark is very narrow and specific.

For Marks, Works and Secrets, (an Akerman LLP blog),  bloggers Ira S. Sacks and Rachel  B. Rudensky  ask (in part) "...when does a slogan function as a mark?"

Link to the original:

It's an important article that brings clarity to a confusing topic. No writer relishes the idea of certain words or expressions being unavailable for use or book titles, and if "TEXAS LOVE" is available for sale on some item of apparel, that does not put a writer in jeopardy if she writes a book called "Texas Love".  We need to know that stuff!

There's the bottom line. Descriptive use of a registered trademark is not infringement. You can write its name. 

For Harness Dickey and Pierce PLC, blogger Bryan K. Wheelock examines the use of common dictionary words in good faith, and in a descriptive capacity to communicate ones own ideas or products or services rather than to trade on someone else's mark.

When is a door not a door? When it's ajar! ("A jar".)

All the best,

Rowena Cherry   



Thursday, November 05, 2020

The Tyranny of Now

The November/December issue of SKEPTICAL INQUIRER contains an article by psychologist Stuart Vyse titled "COVID-19 and the Tyranny of Now." The phrase refers to our tendency to choose immediate rewards over potential future benefits. Our instincts drive us in that direction, since we evolved in environments where basing choices on short-term results made sense. There was little point in worrying about one's health in old age when one might get eaten by a saber-toothed tiger long before reaching that stage of life. Vyse's article summarizes this tendency as, "Smaller rewards in the present are chosen over larger ones in the future." Understandably, our first impulse is to go for the immediate, visible reward instead of the hypothetical future one that may or may not become reality. That's why people living in high-risk situations tend to heavily discount the future; if a young man in a dangerous neighborhood frequently sees friends and neighbors getting shot, the wisdom of long-term planning may not seem obvious to him. In the context of his physical and social enviroment, that choice makes sense.

Vyse reflects on climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic as two current high-profile examples. We have immediate experience of the inconveniences and hardships of changing our lifestyles to minimize the effects of those two phenomena. The potential rewards of self-denial, on the other hand—a return to being able to lead "normal" lives without catching the disease, a cleaner and more stable environment—exist in a future we have to take on faith. In connection with the pandemic, the fact that any effect of precautions or lack thereof shows up weeks (at least) after we change our actions makes it harder for us to judge the value of restricting our behavior. Another factor is that a drop in cases as a result of lockdowns can lead to the tempting but irrational response, "What we've been doing has worked, so now we can stop doing it" (my summary of Vyse's analysis). In short, delays are difficult. We have to make a deliberate, analytical effort to resist immediate impulses and embrace long-term gain. As Vyse quotes from an anonymous source, "If the hangover came first, nobody would drink."

Here's an article explaining this phenomenon in terms of a struggle between the logical and emotional parts of the brain:

Why Your Brain Prioritizes Instant Gratification

"The researchers concluded that impulsive choices happen when the emotional part of our brains triumphs over the logical one." The dopamine surge can be hard for the rational brain to resist. The article explores some methods for training oneself to forgo immediate pleasures in favor of later, larger gains, such as managing one's environment to avoid temptation.

This Wikipedia article goes into great detail about the neurological, cognitive, and psychological aspects of delayed gratification:

Delayed Gratification

It devotes a section to the famous Stanford marshmallow experiments of the 1960s and 70s, in which preschoolers were promised two marshmallows if they could resist eating a single marshmallow for a certain time span. Children who succeeded devised strategies to distract themselves or to imagine the tempting treat as something less appetizing. Interestingly, this article reports that, according to some studies, 10% more women than men have the capacity to delay gratification. It also mentions that the ability to exercise that kind of self-control may weaken in old age. "Declines in self-regulation and impulse control in old age predict corresponding declines in reward-delaying strategies...."

It's easy to think of a different reason why some elderly people may abandon the "rational" course of postponing rewards. The choice not to delay gratification may result from a perfectly sensible cost-benefit calculation, rather than surrender to the "emotional brain." In the absence of a diagnosed medical condition that poses an immediate, specific danger, if you're over 90 do you really care whether too much ice cream might make you gain weight or too much steak increase your cholesterol?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Reviews 57 - The Cal Leandros Novels by Rob Thurman

Reviews 57
The Cal Leandros Novels
Rob Thurman

Reviews haven't been Indexed.

I just finished reading Slashback by Rob Thurman, a Cal Leandros novel published in March 2013 by RoC.

I have fond, and gripping, memories of the first Cal Leandros novel, Nightlife, published in 2006, and picked up most of the others along the way.

There are 10 extant in this series, and an 11th that apparently was never published (see Goodreads and Facebook).

The 8th in the series is Slashback.

Here is a list I found on
(but they don't list me or Sime~Gen)

Nightlife (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Moonshine (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Madhouse (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Deathwish (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Roadkill (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Blackout (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Doubletake (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Slashback (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Downfall (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Nevermore (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Slashback doesn't disappoint. It has the same solid structure, good word-work (colorful, descriptive, vivid, well chosen vocabulary, not over-written, very little repetition), and marvelous pacing that engrosses a wide audience.

The books use the dual point of view that has been so well developed by the Romance writers and works so very well in Science Fiction -- two characters in a relationship experiencing the same things at the same time, but seeing it all from a different point of view with different priorities.

Cal Leandros is one of the brothers, and his brother is Nikos Leandros.

Their problem is that they live in an Urban Fantasy world where Cal was deliberately conceived and birthed by a drunken, wasted mother who wanted a half-monster child for reasons of her own.

She barely raises them.  Nikos, a child himself, raises Cal as best he can with the ethics learned in Martial Arts.  He focuses on martial arts because monsters are out to kill Cal (and Nikos, too), or maybe worse.

So they live in the everyday normal world, but are stalked, haunted, and attacked by monsters from another dimension.

These skirmishes shape their budding character and morals, where their absentee mother does not.

By 8th novel in the series, Cal is a grown man mastering the monster-powers imbued in his genes by his absent father.

Here, they confront and vanquish a demon that has been after them for basically all their lives.

It is gritty, face-the-ugliness-of-life, Urban Fantasy, but it details the maturation of a fascinating Character, Cal Leandros.

What makes him fascinating in a way Paranormal or Science Fiction Romance writers can use?  It's his personal journey of self-discovery, of delving into the ugly-monster side, finding "powers" he can use and maybe bend to the service of Good.

Does he want to live a life of doing Good?

With his older brother as role model, it's a good bet he will.

What's missing from this series of novels?

Love is there aplenty - love of an older brother for his younger brother abandoned by his mother.

And Cal loves his older brother right back.

But Cal isn't going to make it in this world -- nor will Niko -- without their Soul Mates.  They both need Romance to ignite the spark of Love that Conquers All.

Study this series of novels and consider creating mature Characters with somewhat of a similar background, then designing their Soul Mates, and showing how that diverts them into the path of a life of Happily Ever After, children, pets, community, fulfillment in career and aspirations.

These novels are backstory for one of the hottest Romance setups in Fantasy or Science Fiction -- the half-breed, displaced person.  It's classic.

This series might have gone 25 novels and taken us well into the HEA of both brothers, but the author, Rob Thurman, apparently suffered an accident (found a mention of that on her Facebook wall), and somehow dropped out of social media.  Her Amazon page hasn't been updated, and her Goodreads line shows Book 11 was in progress but never (yet) published.

To visualize what the brothers' HEAs might be like, watch the TV Series on Netflix, Madame Secretary which we discussed here in October.

Madame Secretary details the personal married life of two former spies now working for the Federal Government.  It details the goings-on of only one family.

Suppose you take the two brothers, marry them off to real Soul Mates, fast forward to 4 or 6 children each, and see how they are "now" making a living and coping with children, some of whom are part-monster, and some quite ordinary humans?

Fast forward to a team of these cousins going into business together - say as mercenaries in the ongoing international and inter dimensional wars.

Take those characters and their Elders, all solidly in the HEA portion of their lives, and hurl them into the affairs of wizards.

Read these older series, and use the worlds and life-patterns you see in them as the backstory for another, wholly original, new universe you build.

Build your worlds to teach your wayward characters their life-lessons - how to be a better person, a person like Cal's brother, Niko.

Never let another writer's partially completed series go to waste.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 01, 2020

It's My Life

Occasionally E.F.F. takes a position with which this writer agrees. 

"Privacy should not have a price tag."  The price tag should not be set by the company that exploits your data, whether for what they might pay you if you agree to be exploited, or whether they sell your data to someone else... or what they extort from you as their price to you  for NOT revealing your data to others.

Among the many shocking revelations, Hayley Tsukayama suggests (although this writer has paraphrased) that the information that Person XXX has erectile dysfunction is worth about 0.08 cents.  Imagine what it might cost the real Person XXX if they do not have erectile dysfunction, but an insurance company has bought the list and factors ED coverage into the choices of policies they are willing to sell to Person XXX.

Have you ever received a call from a telemarketer whose apparent purpose is Medicare Fraud, who appears to be convinced that you are on his list as being Diabetic in need of supplies mailed to your home, or/and a chronic pain sufferer in need of multiple supportive braces at no cost to you? Has it occurred to you that they really did buy a list, and false medical information about you is out there in the wild?

Apparently, if you went to "the wrong school", or if the public records falsely claim that you went to "the wrong school", your credit rating may suffer, you may not be able to secure the sort of loan or credit card for which you ought to qualify.  You can also, apparently, suffer by association if someone in your neighborhood is an asshole or a villain or an incorrigible debtor. Some of these sites will list neighbors whom you have never met as if they are close friends.  Bad luck if you live next door to a major felon!

Bad luck, too, if the sites list an old address (perhaps your parents' home) as your primary residence, and your true city of residence --now you have left the nest and bought an apartment of your own-- retroactively denies you a Homesteading deduction on your property taxes.  That can cost thousands in additional taxes, interest and penalties and is very hard indeed to appeal.

In "Why Getting Paid For Your Data Is A Bad Deal" On data and privacy,  Hayley Tsukayama of E.F.F (the electronic freedom foundation). makes many good points:

Her revelations about "location" might make a person nervous about some of those fitness trackers, not to mention smart phones (which we have discussed previously).

Trisha Anderson, Yaron Dori , Lindsey L. Tonsager, and Kurt Wimmer  blogging for the law firm Covington & Burling LLP discuss How The Upcoming Election Could Change Privacy Laws in the US.

Although there seems to be bipartisan agreement that something should be done about any individual's rights to access, to correct, and to delete their own permissionlessly posted "data", the prospects of any legislation before late 2021 or 2022 are less than rosy.

For Wilson Elser, legal bloggers  Marisa Trasatti  and Benjamin Kerr  have generated a 2020 Data Privacy Compendium aimed at helping businesses stay on the right side of data privacy laws.

As authors, we might collect and retain some information about readers and newsletter subscribers, whether intentionally or accidentally. It might be worth checking out the compendium, especially if one has readers in California.

Meanwhile, sites will sell your data for $50, $39, $5, $1, fewer than 10cents, and although there is verbiage on the sites asking customers to promise not to use the data to make credit decisions, renting decisions, hiring or firing decisions... if they plan to hack your title and steal your house or otherwise steal your identity, the likelihood is probably nil that their click in a consent box is going to be honored.

Sites that sell your information include truthfinder, peoplesearch, peopleconnect, wink, USSearch, zabasearch, yasn, IDTtue, Intellius, Looku, Nuwbe, peekyo, peoplebyname, peoplelookup, privateeye, peopleverified, been verified, spy, spokeo, radaris, public records, peoplesmart, people finders, lookupanyone, family tree, emailfinder, dexknow, truthfinder ....  and more.

Doxxing is apparently legal, but especially when an internet company does it for profit. Here is some helpful info:

All the best

Rowena Cherry