Friday, October 29, 2021

Karen S. Wiesner, Tension and Twists, Part 2 (Writer's Craft Article)

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner 

Tension and Twists, Part 2 

Based on COHESIVE STORY BUILDING (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FICTION NOVEL {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) by Karen S. Wiesner 

This is the second of three posts focusing on how (and why) to build tension and twists into your fiction.

Release and downtime are also absolutely necessary in every story. But only with a cohesive logic in the build-up of downtime, suspense, and black moment, and with an equally meshed logical resolution, will your reader be left satisfied and smiling upon closing the book. This in no way, however, means that you can’t throw a twist in at the end of your story—provided that it fits logically and cohesively with what you’ve already set up in the beginning and middle of the book. Let's talk about incorporating effective twists into your fiction. 

Incorporating Twists 

Most twists come at the end of a story. But this isn’t to say you couldn’t have twists at other points in the story as well as more than one twist, each coming at various intervals. Adding twists to your stories are exciting to read because the author leads the reader so effectively to believe one thing (a thing that also makes perfectly logical and cohesive sense) while completely turning the tables at the last minute.

Putting twists into each story spark is a sure-fire way to turn a suspenseful story into a nail-biting one. To get started, ask yourself, In light of the rest of my story and the cohesiveness I need to provide, what’s the most shocking thing I could have happen? What is the reader absolutely not expecting? 

A twist should be set up properly from the very beginning of the book to make it believable. It must fit logically and cohesively with what you’ve already set up in the beginning and middle of the book. Using an outline can help you prepare for that without requiring you to write an entire draft before you realize your resolutions are too predictable. Resolutions need to fit perfectly with every angle this twist presents. 

Think about the book (and the movie, which is just as good) Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow. If you haven’t read or watched this before, I encourage you to do it at your earliest opportunity. The twist at the end utterly haunted me for years afterward. The truth was there before my eyes the whole time, yet I never saw it, and it punched me in the stomach brutally when it came. 

A twist is so breathtaking because it comes out of nowhere (despite the fact that the reader will have to concede that all the evidence to point to it was there from the start) and it satisfies the reader worlds more than a predictable outcome ever can. In some cases, the twist may be the very thing the reader wanted to happen but didn’t dare let himself hope for. 

When I finished the outline for my action/adventure romance Undercover Angel, the seventh book in Incognito Series, I found myself with a story that made complete sense, following the course that I’d set up from the beginning and throughout the middle to the end. Nevertheless, I was ultimately disappointed with the outcome and knew my readers would be, too. The resolutions were simply too predictable to truly satisfy me. So I sat down and thought to myself, What is the most shocking thing I could possibly make happen in order to make the reader gasp when she gets to the end of the story? When I realized what it was, I went back into my outline and reshaped it from start to finish to fit this new twist as well (better, really) as the predictable resolutions did. When my critique partner read the outline, she said she’d fully expected the predictable resolution and never had the slightest clue about the twist until it hit her square in the stomach—and she loved it. This trick worked to fulfill the breathtaking longing in the reader for an unexpected shock. 

Always look for the unexpected twist in your story because it makes it so memorable. There are always obvious scenarios that can be developed in response to the sparks introduced in your story but your goal is to generate the unexpected in your readers. Discombobulate them within the confines of logic, satisfactory resolutions, and cohesion. 

In Part 3, we'll talk about tips for creating tension and suspense.       

Find out more here about COHESIVE STORY BUILDING here: 

What's your favorite twist in a book or movie? Leave a comment to tell me about it! 

Happy writing! 

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Survival Through Storytelling

Recently I came across an ad for a book subtitled something like, "How to survive hard times by telling stories." I can't find it again, so I don't know the title, author, or specific subject matter. (Google and Amazon didn't help because the terms are so general.) Not knowing leaves me free to speculate about what that phrase means. To me, it suggests that we cope with difficult experiences by shaping them into narratives that discover purpose in the seeming randomness of the ups and downs of our lives.

We human beings are storytelling creatures. We share jokes, urban legends, and episodes from the daily news. If we're enthusiastic about a book or movie, we often can't wait to rave about it to fellow fans. Think of a small child trying to recite the plot of a film, each sentence starting with "and then. . . ." Everybody enjoys telling others about experiences they've lived through, good or bad, although some people do it more skillfully than others. Every family has tales passed down from parents, older siblings, and other relatives. Memories get polished into anecdotes retold and embellished over the decades and generations. Two of the world's major religions, Judaism and Christianity, have their roots in stories (the Exodus from Egypt and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, respectively).

As C. S. Lewis mentions somewhere, we can find "escape" in literature by reading even the most depressing or tragic work of fiction, because it provides a temporary distraction from our own mundane troubles. Moreover, stories impose order on the untidy incidents of everyday life, in which no sequence of events has a definite beginning or end. Narrative makes sense of the world. As writers are often warned, the argument "but it really happened" can't justify a farfetched scene in a novel. Reality doesn't have to be believable or logical; fiction does.

I'm reminded of my favorite Terry Pratchett passage, this often quoted dialogue between Death and his granddaughter in HOGFATHER:

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."


"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"


"So we can believe the big ones?"


"They're not the same at all!"


"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"


Off topic, RE Halloween: Vampire fans might enjoy my duology TWILIGHT'S CHANGELINGS, starring a vampire-human hybrid psychiatrist:

Twilight's Changelings

Another good introduction to my vampire series is the stand-alone romance EMBRACING DARKNESS:

Embracing Darkness

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Reviews 68



Jack Campbell

Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

My Review posts have not been indexed.

Boundless is the first volume in a new sub-series about The Lost Fleet and the legendary Black Jack who becomes Admiral Black Jack Geary.

After settling a century old war, Geary has brought his Fleet home - only to encounter ferocious politics.  Wisely, he accepts a new assignment - to go way out beyond the limits of known worlds and make contact with the Aliens he encountered in the earlier adventures.

This #1 in a new series within that series has the characters we learned to love, some new problems, and an example of Geary's ability to maneuver a combat fleet in space.

But it is mostly a political-power story, about personal power, the power of reputation, and the control of the military by civilians. 

Geary's fleet is escorting an unarmed Diplomatic ship complete with Ambassador and staff, plus scientific researchers. This puts him in a new position, career-wise, the fate of the maturing combat professional -- desk work and politics.  

He is married to the Captain of his flagship, and she is as clever and powerful as he is.  Some of the Captains in his fleet are his friends, some maybe not-so-much, and some are competent and some who-knows?

Judging from this first entry in the new series about the same people, this will be a story about Geary's ability to assess the talents, abilities, maturity, and potential of his officers, and very likely of the Aliens he will have to deal with.  The Ambassador and her staff are supposed to do that, but it just doesn't seem like that's how it will play out.

I highly recommend the entire LOST FLEET series, and this new sub-series is already a delight.  The Romance leading up to the marriage and subsequent career issues truly makes this series a worthwhile read for Romance writers. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Sunday, October 24, 2021


I have been sitting on some plans for quite a while. Floorplans, that is. 

Floor plans may not be a writer's issue, or are they? Whether one is a renter, a homeowner, a landlord, or a home-improvement expert, floor plans are very interesting. 

One authoritative source claims that over 90% of prospective home-buyers spend more time looking at a listing if there is a floor plan. In this time of Covid, the same probably goes for would-be renters. Moreover, maybe 20% of prospective buyers will completely ignore any property that does not have a floor plan.

Might similar statistics hold true for how long a reader might linger on a map or floor plan in the front matter of an ebook when deciding whether or not to read on?

Fiction writers are said to be either Plotters, Planners, Puzzlers, Pantsers. What are you?  I think that I am a puzzling pantser. I do family trees, and maps of kingdoms and of alien planets... but I really ought to do floorplans of homes and castles and space arks.

With the tools available in the UK from metropix, and in the USA from boxbrownie, there is really no good reason why we couldn't add imaginative floorplans to our alien romances and other types of novels.We could even embed our own logos!

Around the world, in different jurisdictions, there have been law suits around copyright issues relating to architects' and builders' plans and their use by realtors.

Legal blogger Judy Zhu, representing the Australian law firm Eaglegate, advises website operators to beware when third parties, such as real estate professionals presumably, upload copyrighted floor plans, photographs and other content to websites and on which content is shared.

Brian Murphy of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC (one of my favorite legal blogging law firms) examines whether or not one needs a copyright license to post a floor plan online.

Brian's article is fascinating and well written, and highly relevant for alien romance writers who *would* be creating floorplans for artistic purposes. 
Also, the case is not quite settled, and it is possible that if a floor-plan-exploiting estate agent works off plans they make for themselves using measurements and not the original architectural plans, there might be fair use or transformative use defenses.
For the IP Update blog, Christopher M. Bruno of McDermott Will and Emery offers another perspective on the same case, focusing on floor plans and the riddle-like conundrum of when is a picture not a picture.

It, too, is well worth reading, and bearing in mind no matter what one wants to do with floor plans.

All the best,

Friday, October 22, 2021

Karen S. Wiesner, Tension and Twists, Part 1 (Writer's Craft Article)

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Tension and Twists, Part 1

Based on COHESIVE STORY BUILDING (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FICTION NOVEL {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) by Karen S. Wiesner

This will be the first of three posts focusing on how (and why) to build tension and twists into your fiction.

Tension and suspense can be described as the sensation of uncertainty and anticipation in the reader. Without them, your reader is uninterested and uninvolved in your story—cardinal sins where any work of fiction is concerned. 

Tension is any type of awareness that brings the story to the fever pitch of anticipation. Tension must begin at the start of the story and must be kept intense throughout to prevent your reader from being disappointed or bored. 

While many writers probably don’t see a difference between tension and suspense, in the structure of a story I believe tension is the milder of the two. Tension is anxiety, where suspense is agony. So tension could be considered the positive form of the two, because there’s an element of hope in it. With suspense, there’s danger, and it’s generally because something dreadful is coming. 

Think of the movie While You Were Sleeping. There’s no real danger in this romantic comedy, outside of the fact that the heroine might marry the wrong guy. The film crackles with hopeful tension—the viewer worries because she desperately wants Lucy to end up with Jack, not his good-looking but mimbo brother, Peter. What’s at stake is happily-ever-after for two wonderful people. Viewers feel tension, not suspense. 

The danger in the Aliens movie series is of the global-annihilation sort. Viewers are held in agonizing suspense, knowing that if these creatures escape and multiply, the worst thing imaginable will happen—and the viewer dreads it. What’s at stake is total elimination of the entire human race. No happily-ever-after for anyone. 

Both tension and suspense are tricky to achieve and sustain. In each, you’re bringing your audience to the snapping point, and then and only then giving them what they want—temporarily. The tricky, sticky part is that you’re withholding a resolution that the audience desperately wants. If you keep it out of reach too long, you’ll lose your audience. If you give them too much of what they want too soon, they’ll have no reason to stick around. 

Tension and suspense are absolutely necessary in every story. 

Release and Downtime 

Release as any temporary easement of either plot or romantic/sexual tension. Some of the many forms release can take are a kiss, the resolution of a red herring or a clue that seems to solve part of the mystery, or an answer that leads the character closer to getting what he wants. Release, like tension, is part of the causal chain of events essential to reaching resolution. It has to make sense in that chain and become part of its natural progression. 

Downtime is a form of release, but it’s more intense and, like the climax, it happens only once during the course of a novel, during a time of incredible tension. This is the bleakest portion of the story, when all hope has seemingly been lost. The obstacles standing in the way are too numerous, too monumental, too impossible. The main character takes release from the action to reflect on what’s happened and what could have been, and, by all appearances, he seems to give up the fight. During downtime, the character now has a glimpse of the happily-ever-after he’s convinced has slipped from his fingers. This is a temporary respite from the extreme suspense. Characters—and readers!—need this desperately. If you don’t include it, the reader will get so exhausted from the fast pace, she won’t care how the book ends. She’s too tired to care. 

Following downtime, the black moment, as the climax of downtime, comes. The character has no choice but to act at this point. Remember John McClane in Die Hard 2: Die Harder? He felt he’d expended all viable options to save his wife and stop the terrorists. He’s depressed, brought to his lowest point, and he reflects on all that’s happened and what he’s about to lose (this is the downtime). But then the pilot brings a swift end to all dithering when he takes the chance of blindly landing the plane—at exactly the same time the terrorists are attempting to make their getaway (black moment). At that point, John has absolutely no choice but to find a way to succeed. This provides the momentum for the final showdown. 

Here again, I see a difference between release and downtime. Like tension, release is the milder of the two. Release is temporary relief from anxiety, while downtime is temporary relief from agony. Release could be considered the positive form of the two because there’s an element of hope in it. With downtime, the character believes he’s lost everything, danger’s on its way back, and he’s convinced there’s no stopping it. The ultimate dread is produced, because few people can relax when they know everything they ever wanted is about to go down the toilet. That naturally produces restlessness, recklessness, and intense edginess. 

Release and downtime are also absolutely necessary in every story. But only with a cohesive logic in the build-up of downtime, suspense, and black moment, and with an equally meshed logical resolution, will your reader be left satisfied and smiling upon closing the book. 

This in no way, however, means that you can’t throw a twist in at the end of your story—provided that it fits logically and cohesively with what you’ve already set up in the beginning and middle of the book. 

In Part 2, we'll talk about tips for incorporating twists effectively into your fiction.  

Find out more here about COHESIVE STORY BUILDING here: 

Leave a comment to describe the most memorable tension you've ever experienced in a book or movie. Why do you think it was so effective? 

Happy writing! 

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Hanging from a Cliff

How do you feel about cliffhanger endings in novels? I've just finished reading the second book in a thrilling, very inventive dark fantasy series. (I suspect it will be a trilogy, but that hasn't been announced as far as I know.) While the first novel ended with an intriguing hook for the continuation, this new one concludes with an outright cliffhanger in the final sentence. Now we have to wait a year for the resolution! That sort of thing bugs me a little, because devoted fans will read the next installment regardless, while the author risks annoying readers less deeply invested. On the other hand, in this particular case it's hard to see how the story could have ended without leaving the audience in suspense. I can't go into details, of course, because of spoilers.

A classic example in pulp SF comes from one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' early John Carter adventures, THE GODS OF MARS. On the last page, Princess Dejah Thoris is trapped with a couple of other people in a revolving chamber designed to open only once a year. The villain is preparing to kill her as the hero watches the tableau vanish into the depths of the temple. Fortunately for me, I read that series many decades after its publication, so all I had to do was find the next volume on my grandfather's bookshelves.

I have a vivid memory of my frustration with THE MIRROR OF HER DREAMS, by Stephen R. Donaldson. In fact, after all these years I don't recall much else about it, not even what the cliffhanger ending consisted of. I do remember that by the time the sequel, A MAN RIDES THROUGH, became available, I'd forgotten so much about the first novel that I no longer felt any enthusiasm for returning to the story.

It was a jarring shock when I read BLACKOUT, Connie Willis's time-travel novel about England in World War II, and reached the last page to discover that it just—stopped. I felt like yelling, "Where's the rest of it?" That sharp break wasn't the author's fault, though. She'd written the duology of BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR as a single work, but it turned out much too long for one volume, so the publisher released it as two books. Happily, they made us wait only a few months for the second half, not a whole year.

Ideally, a series that includes a book with what amounts to an abrupt break in the middle of the story should have its installments released in quick succession over a span of a few months. I realize that's not always feasible with either the author's or the publisher's schedule, though. But I still think the typical traditional publishing gap of a year between books is more apt to discourage than to intrigue a casual reader (as opposed to a devoted fan).

A similar trick that does exasperate me in the extreme is ending a TV season on a cliffhanger, especially if renewal isn't definite, but even if it is. That device strikes me as disrespectful to the established audience and unlikely to attract new viewers. As far as the latter are concerned, how many people will start watching a new season of a long-running series if they're aware they don't have the necessary backstory to understand what's going on? Veteran fans, on the other hand, will tune in to the next season anyway without that kind of irritating manipulation.

As a reader and author, my advice would be that if you're going to end a novel on a cliffhanger, be very careful. One would hope for at least a partial resolution—as the book mentioned at the beginning of this post does in fact offer—so readers won't feel their trust has been abused.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Thinking Taxes

Not all writers are Planners and Plotters. Some are Pantzers and some are Puzzlers. However, as some of us prepare for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), early October is also a good time to prepare for taxes.

Why is that?

If you have an account with a stockbroker such as Charles Schwab or Fidelity (to name two at random), they will have to send you a 1099 Composite. The later in the year you sell stocks, the later in the following year you will have to wait for them to finish their corrections.  Take gains and losses in October if you want to file early in the new year.

Also, if the current Administration gets everything they want, Capital Gains taxes could be assessed at whatever the new rate is retroactively on every trade since September 12th.

If you have any worthless stock that is really unlikely to rise from the ashes, and that you cannot sell any more, you can call your broker and have it taken out of your account. The removal of the stock will not be documented by your broker on your 1099 Composite, so you will have to document its disappearing act (with a before and after set of statements) on your own tax return.  Since you need the "after" month, you don't want to do it in December.

If you are a successful writer on Medicare, or likely to be eligible for Medicare in the next couple of years, know that your total earnings (including capital gains on stocks) could affect how much Medicare claws back from you to pay for your Part B two years after your successful year.  So, you make a lot in 2021, and you pay for it in 2023.

Think about that, because writing is a volatile business.

Don't forget to pay your self-employment taxes.  If that is news to you, an old article by Writers Weekly has a good guide geared to writers.

Bear in mind, although a writer can deduct a business meal at a convention or book signing, one must be careful not to claim that a delightful celebratory night on the town at a restaurant with writer friends may not qualify as a business dinner.

Also, claiming all the running expenses of a room in your home (home office) tends to arouse suspicion. One can only claim for a room used exclusively for the business purpose, and it is wise to document that. Keep a Writers Log (Captain Kirk-like), every day, marking start time, break time, finish time. It can be ledger form, or a word document.  You can also use your daily log to note when you called your editor or received a call from your editor, and what you promised.... and when you drove to the post office to mail your manuscript. and when you got back.  You can deduct travel time and postage. It would help to buy a splash of gas for further proof  (scan and keep the gas receipt).

Know that gifts to charities that sell fund-raising lottery tickets are not deductible as gifts to charities. You got something of value, namely the theoretical chance of winning a Corvette or whatever.  You thought the lottery ticket purchases were deductible. The charity blurb might have suggested that, but the IRS might not agree, and the IRS is likely to be really scraping the proverbial bottom of the barrel.

However, you can give at least $10,000 to charity and be able to deduct it, as long as you can produce receipts to prove that you gave what you say to a legitimate charity, and received no benefits in return. 

For anyone terribly disappointed that there is nothing about copyright today, Andrew H. Bart and colleagues at Jenner and Block LLP have a really great article about the scope of copyright in the USA

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Karen Wiesner: The Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales (Woodcutter's Grim Series), Part 8



Classic Tales of Horror Retold 

This is the final of eight posts focusing on my Woodcutter's Grim Series and the stories behind classic fairy tales. 

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter's Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large.  



by Karen Wiesner


Supernatural Fantasy Romance Novel 

** Loosely based on "The Three Billy Goats Gruff". A shape-shifting goat, William Gruff escaped being bound to the evil pervading Woodcutter's Grim, the sole shelter for supernatural creatures. Years later, he and his pregnant wife, Adaryn Azar, a phoenix, have no choice but to flee there themselves. But just one phoenix can exist in the world. Will the powerful magic Liam wields consume him before he can build the only bridge that can take him and Adaryn into the sun of Eternal Paradise? ** 

While I was outlining Part 2 of BRIDGE OF FIRE: Book 10, I became aware that one of the things that had never felt "connected" between the Woodcutter's Grim Series "Real World" and the "Mirror Darkly World" introduced in HUNTER'S BLUES, Book 9 was that the Protectorate Guardian in the Mirror Darkly World was a Pallaton (Reece). Why would that be? What caused the change/discrepancy between the two worlds? Since that book was already written and published, I had to abide by the decision and create a plausible explanation for the fact. 

I finished all three outlines for the parts of BRIDGE OF FIRE, then moved onto another massive project that took up most of my time. Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about the apparent discrepancy. In the very least, I wanted to answer the question for myself. I had a dim but gradually brightening lightbulb come on during this time: I'd already inserted two Pallatons in A NEW BEGINNING, Part 2 and INTO THE SUN, Part 3 in the characters of Nazarha and her mother. When I went back into the outline to refresh myself just before I started writing Part 1, I had a brilliant spotlight of illumination. I knew how to connect the Mirror Darkly and Real worlds. The explanation finally resolved what suddenly seemed like a major discrepancy (to me anyway) in the series. 

But that wasn't the only question that was bugging me. Even after I'd written the first draft of all three parts of BRIDGE OF FIRE, something else was niggling at me about who Nazarha Pallaton was in relation to the main female character, Adaryn Azar, throughout the three segments. Coming up with the answer to that is when I truly felt like this series was gratifyingly complete and strong in a way it'd never been before (again, only to me--I seriously doubt any of my readers even noticed). 

I feel great nostalgia in coming to a conclusion with Woodcutter's Grim Series--Classic Tales of Horror Retold. When I began it, I was a contemporary romance author who didn't believe I had what it took to write horror or fantasy, my two personal favorite genres. But, with Woodcutter's Grim, I got to develop stories with vampires, werewolves, dragons, phoenixes, various shapeshifters and creatures of lore, and I even mostly made up a monster of my own (the Unspeakable/Polyhedra). I dealt with alternate worlds, the ultimate good and the ultimate evil, a secret organization with roles that are passed on from one generation to the next (the Protectorate), familiar faces I've come to love and look forward to revisiting again and again, all while combining fairy and folk tales, mythology, fables, parables, nursery rhymes and poems into one complex, fantastical world. I hope my readers have loved taking this journey as much as I have and will want to drop by this town all over again with future readings. 

At this time, I'm playing with the idea of a "prequel" trilogy for the Woodcutter's Grim Series to develop the origin of the Unspeakable creature I created for BRIDGE OF FIRE. Only the future will tell if anything comes of my brainstorming. 

Unique creatures of folklore are something that fascinates me immensely. Leave a comment to tell me about your favorites! 

Next week, I plan to post one of what will be many writing craft articles. 

Find out more about this book and Woodcutter's Grim Series here: 

Karen is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Real People as Characters

I've just finished reading the ten Catherine Le Vendeur novels by Sharan Newman, mysteries set in twelfth-century Europe (mostly in France). Catherine begins as a novice at the Abbey of the Paraclete and a student of Abbess Heloise. At the end of the first book, Catherine leaves the convent, rather than taking final vows, and gets married. Thus she's not only an intelligent young woman but highly educated for a lady of that era. Like any reluctant amateur detective, she frequently stumbles over corpses or gets entangled in events that endanger her family and friends. She applies the logic she learned from her teacher to probe these mysteries. Over the course of her adventures, she crosses paths with many distinguished historical figures in addition to Heloise, Peter Abelard, and their son, Astrolabe. (Yes, that was actually his name.) Significant historical events such as important church councils, with the associated political controversies, provide backdrops to the stories. Judging from Newman's afterwords to the books and her expertise in medieval studies, she clearly took care to place the real people in the series at locations where they're known to have been or could have been in the given year and not to show them doing anything that conflicts with their documented personalities and behavior.

I once read a post on Quora that vehemently objected to including people who actually existed, regardless of which century they lived in, as characters in fiction. That attitude baffled me. I can't think of a valid reason to consider such fiction disrespectful, and a lot of excellent works would never have been written if authors accepted that prohibition as a rule. Several of Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachian "Ballad Novels" tell stories based on real events—for instance, THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY, whose afterword explains that the narrative sticks as close to reality as she could manage. Since it's a novel, though, McCrumb was free to speculate about motives and invent incidents and dialogue. Barbara Hambly does the same in THE EMANCIPATOR'S WIFE, about the later life of Lincoln's widow but with flashbacks to earlier periods. I see no problem with portraying historical persons in fiction if the author does conscientious research, sticks to the recorded facts except when filling in gaps where creative license is appropriate, and doesn't show the subjects behaving in ways incompatible with their known characters.

Writers of alternate history and secret history, of course, have much greater scope for invention. "Secret history" refers to fiction that doesn't change the facts of the past as generally known and accepted but inserts other events, often supernatural, occurring behind the scenes: Vlad the Implaler was a vampire. Lincoln was a vampire slayer. Elizabeth I was a demon hunter. Wizards on both sides shaped the course of World War II. I can enjoy these kinds of novels as long as the depictions of historical figures stick close to their true-life personalities. Otherwise, why bother writing about them at all instead of inventing your own characters?

The closer we get to the present, it seems to me, the more problematic it becomes to use actual people as protagonists. Successful books, however, have been published on plot premises such as H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard on a road trip to confront eldritch horrors or C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien fighting the forces of evil. Personally, I might have qualms about making fictional protagonists of people with still-living relatives and friends who remember them.

I do draw the line at the use of live, present-day celebrities as fictional characters, except as walk-on "extras" or as part of the cultural background. (E.g., the protagonist attends a concert by a famous singer or watches a presidential debate.) There's a subgenre of fan fiction, "real people" fanfic, that consists of stories about celebrities such as singers and actors. It even includes, incredibly, slash scenarios between living individuals. While I'm adamantly opposed to censorship and therefore don't advocate making this sort of privacy invasion illegal, one would think it would be precluded by good taste and simple courtesy.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Snag And Be Damned

Each week, I read dozens of USA and international copyright-related columns, including media law, trademark law, technology insights, art law, proceedings of the USPTO, music policy, writing industry forums, and more, and I put together some of what I find most interesting and potentially relevant to writers.

This week, "art" jumped out at me.

As legal bloggers for Herrick Feinstein LLP  explain, there are differences in artists' rights in the USA versus, for instance in Italy.  In some European jurisdictions, an artist receives payment every time a copyrighted work of art is sold and resold. Not so in the USA.  Gabrielle C. Wilson, Howard N. SpieglerLawrence M. Kaye and Yale M. Weitz  write a thorough summary of art law rights in the USA.

Interestingly, museums usually try to obtain the permission of the artist/copyright owner before copying the artwork into catalogues or into posters and other advertisements. If that is an issue for catalogues and advertisements, is it a stretch to wonder if it could be an issue for cover art for self-published books if author-publishers do not make sure to obtain all the necessary rights and permissions for their cover art?

Another issue to be considered is the incidental or deliberate appearance of "street art" in photographs or advertisements.... or even on items of clothing. Or not!  Street artists have rights, even when they do not own the surface on which they apply their art.

Social-media-law expert legal blogger Robert B. Nussbaum for Saiber LLC's Trending Law Blog discusses a recent reversal of a liberal circuit's decision on whether or not it is copyright infringement to use Facebook's embedding tools to exploit someone else's video (in this case of an emaciated polar bear) in defiance of the copyright owner's clearly posted copyright notice.

Apparently, just because Facebook or Instagram make it possible for their users to do something (embed copyrighted works without permission) does not mean that Facebook's magic impunity umbrella will protect users from liability.

Also piling on Facebook (my characterizaation), legal bloggers Kyle Petersen and C. Linna Chen  of Loeb and Loeb LLP discuss the interesting case of an attractive (one infers) lady newscaster who found her photograph being used without her permission as part of an advertisement for a Facebook dating app. She sued Facebook and other platforms.  Facebook tried to hide behind Section 230, without success. 

Read all about it. What a terrible precedent it would have been if the lady had lost! Facebook could have been emboldened to snag any attractive face to use in its promotions for any other app or product or service. 

Imagine if you found your face or that of someone you love being used without permission or compensation to sell an activity or product that you do not endorse or approve! Maybe, also, be careful where you get the images that you put on your website and cover art.

Nevertheless, it is probably a better idea to peel away Section 230 protections and give the newly created CASE Act court a chance to work, than to give governments more power.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 



Friday, October 08, 2021

Karen Wiesner: The Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales (Woodcutter's Grim Series), Part 7


Classic Tales of Horror Retold

This is the seventh of eight posts focusing on my Woodcutter's Grim Series and the stories behind classic fairy tales.

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter's Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large. 



by Karen Wiesner

Supernatural Fantasy Romance Novel 

** Loosely based on "The Three Billy Goats Gruff". The son of shape-shifting goats, William Gruff escaped a dire fate when his family is bound to the evil pervading Woodcutter's Grim, the only shelter for supernatural creatures. Adaryn Azar, a legendary phoenix, changes his lonely life. But a happily-ever-after may be impossible when the hunter who's tracked her for centuries finds her again. Dying and resurrecting would mean forfeiting the life growing inside her. Unfathomably, Woodcutter's Grim may be the only safe place left. ** 

As I said back when I was talking about HUNTER'S BLUES, Book 9 (A Mirror Darkly World Novel), that story was a part of the series but in an awkward way. Originally, I called it a "futuristic" novel but that wasn't entirely accurate. Even before I finished BRIDGE OF FIRE, there were of course vague connections in the series between all the other books that came before and HUNTER'S BLUES, though no definite connections that allowed a timeline to be established. BRIDGE OF FIRE'S three-part tale provides the connections that I never realized were needed before it to explain how HUNTER'S BLUES fit into the series. 

I knew as I was outlining all three parts of BRIDGE OF FIRE that Woodcutter's Grim was becoming complete in a way that it never felt like the series would be before. A part of me wanted to leave it open-ended so I could come back into it if I ever wanted to. But I had a major change of heart and made radical life decisions in 2018 that made me realize I really wanted to tie up as many of my series as I possibly could and move on. 

My critique partner, Margaret L. Carter, told me while reading BRIDGE OF FIRE while it was a work in progress that she'd never read a story with a goat shapeshifter in it before. I realize that the St. Bernard shapeshifters were also unusual, though maybe not as unique. BRIDGE OF FIRE also has the last of the ancient fae lineage. Phoenixes, of course, are fairly common in supernatural stories. Phoenixes are associated with Greek mythology, and I confess I've made mine just a little different from all the research I did on them. I wanted Adaryn to be utterly unique. Find out more about the fascinating myth of phoenixes here:,texts%20may%20have%20been%20influenced%20by%20classical%20folklore. 

Are you as fascinated by phoenixes as I am? Leave a comment to tell me what appeals to you about this immortal creature of folklore! 

Find out more about this book and Woodcutter's Grim Series here: 

Karen is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Astro the Robot

Amazon has invented a household robot called Astro, described as about the size of a small dog. It's "Alexa on wheels" but a bit more:

Amazon Robot

Astro can roll around the house with its camera, on a 42-inch arm, enabling you to keep an eye on children from another room. Or you can view your home remotely when you're away. You might use this feature to check on a vulnerable family member who lives alone. Like a tablet, it can play videos and access the internet. Like Alexa, it can answer questions. Its screen can be used for video chatting.

It can't navigate stairs, although (like the Roomba) it knows not to fall down them. Unfortunately, it can't pick up things. I suspect that ability will come along sooner or later. It can carry small objects from room to room, though, if a human user loads the objects, and facial recognition allows Astro to deliver its cargo to another person on command. It could be remotely commanded to take medication or a blood pressure cuff to that elderly relative who lives by herself.

Amazon's goal is for Astro to become a common household convenience within ten years. Even if you have $999 to spare, you can't order one right now. The device is being sold only to selected customers by invitation. Amazon's vice president of product says the robot wasn't named after the Jetsons' dog. The first possible origin for the name that occurred to me, however, was the robot Astro Boy, from a classic early anime series.

Considering the way people talk to their pets as if the animals can understand, I can easily imagine an owner carrying on conversations with Astro almost like an intelligently responsive housemate.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt