Friday, April 29, 2022


 Introduction: In Which an Old Dog Learns a New Trick

This is the first of fifteen posts dealing with surprising things I learned in the course of writing a science fiction series.

I write (and I'm published) in nearly every genre of fiction you can imagine. Science fiction horror is my favorite genre to read, and I'd always wanted to write in that genre. Though I'd written mild horror and many speculative fiction titles, science fiction was new for me before I decided to embark on what felt like an epic quest when I started the Arrow of Time Chronicles. At that time, I'd been published author for more than 20 years, and this old dog was about to learn quite a few new tricks.

 A timeless universal truth:

A timeless universal truth: No simple solutions, no easy answers, and nothing is ever free…

Long before I actually had any specific ideas about potential science fiction plotlines, I was talking to my son and husband about wanting to write something like Star Trek and having my Clumsy Girl Zoë Rossdale (of Clumsy Girl's Guide to Falling in Love and Clumsy Girl's Guide to Having a Baby) onboard the spaceship. My son, especially, thought it was brilliant and encouraged me to make it happen.

Fast-forward a few years and finally I'm getting ideas for a science fiction series. The premise I started with was a sci-fi saga set not too far in the future when mankind has finally begun traveling the stars, mainly in desperate and dire need of finding new homes for the population stranded on Earth following the Great Catastrophe (basically, Climate Change reaching the critical point). What if Humans built orbital habitations for their people not only in their own planet and moon's lagrange points (you can do a search for what these are if you need to) but also in the L-points of other planets and moons all over the galaxy? In the course of constructing these space dwellings suitable for Humans, what if one of the moons and planets they build above is in a nuclear winter and there are actually survivors down on the planet below? What if there are others originally from the planet who'd achieved space travel before the war that destroyed their planet and these hostile Napoleonic aliens return to their homeworld to find Humans "squatting" in their territory?

That catalyst is what led me to writing this series, but another thing that compelled me was the idea of having cultures (what I call the alien races populating my series) spread across the galaxy that, genetically, are so similar, it begs a billion scientific, cosmological, and theological questions.

The horror angle I wanted to develop in this series turned much milder than I intended in the form of phantom energy--an unconscious force of dark energy--dominating and "expanding" like a space-eating tumor throughout the universe. Eventually, its rapid destruction spreads everywhere and threatens all life in the galaxy.

In case you're wondering, yes, my Clumsy Girl Zoë's descendant, Astoria "Tori", is on board the Aero spaceship, klutzing it up in the most endearing way!

Before I started writing my Arrow of Time Chronicles, I believed science fiction had to be the most complicated genre imaginable. Not only do you as an author have to create all types of characters, but most of the time they're part of an alien race that hails from a different part of the galaxy altogether. World building becomes *universe* building. Gulp! And technology…wow, where do I even start? It's no wonder a lot of sci-fi authors are scientists (Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Fred Hoyle) 'cause, frankly, who else can really understand all these things? Intimidation galore!

Of all genres, I think science fiction also has the most opinionated authors. I tease a bit here, but seriously I don't believe in placing too many regulations on writers. If an author can get something to work in a story, then who cares about some long-standing rule that says no, you cannot do that here? How many other genres are you told from the get-go that, as a writer, you absolutely should not dare to change something that's been as established the cardinal rule? Additionally, you're also told that all your science and tech better be legit…despite that…{clearing throat here} you're writing **fiction**.

While I was writing my Arrow of Time Chronicles over about 2, 2 1/2 years, I found out in the process of learning everything I could and in some ways teaching myself how to go about the process of understanding the mechanics of writing in this genre that science fiction was definitely the most complicated genre imaginable. There was so much to absorb, so much to construct, so many ways to go wrong and have it all fall apart.

After I was done writing my sci-fi series, I felt a whole kaleidoscope of emotions about writing science fiction: Triumph, relief, awe, sorrow, complete and utter exhaustion. And, my conclusion was, yeah, science fiction is the most complicated genre imaginable--hands down! There is simply no comparison. Even mysteries, police procedurals, and action-adventures were a walk in the park compared to this genre. I learned so much in the course of writing my sci-fi series. Before I ever started writing Arrow of Time Chronicles, I read every book I could get my hands on about how to write in this genre. Yet I was left with quite a few curve balls that I couldn't have foreseen. I knew I had to overcome these things if I had any hope of accomplishing this epic undertaking that promised to bring about my magnum opus.

The posts in this long series coming to Alien Romances blog are the basis for my writer's manual titled Writing the Overarching Series (or How I Sent a Clumsy Girl into Outer Space), which will be included in my 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection. In the posts that follow in this series over the next three months, I'll go over the surprises I had in the course of writing my first science fiction series, including the following topics:

·         Of the Overarching Series and Its' Connection to Speculative Fiction

  • ·        Surprise #1: Of Not Having to Reinvent the Wheel For Everything

·         Of Research and Developmental Tool Requirements, Part 1: Surprise #2: Research Overwhelm

·         Of Research and Developmental Tool Requirements, Part 2: Surprise #3: Development Tool Underwhelm

·         Surprise #4: Of Deliberately Limiting Story Potential Development

·         Of Arcs and Standalones, Part 1: Story Arcs

·         Of Arcs and Standalones, Part 2: Series Arcs

·         Of Arcs and Standalones, Part 3: Establishing a Series Arc Early in the Writing Process

·         Of Arcs and Standalones, Part 4: Establishing Story Arcs Early in the Writing Process

·         Of Arcs and Standalones, Part 5: Surprise #5--Why Standalone Series Stories May Be Impossible in the Sci-Fi Genre

·         Of Arcs and Standalones, Part 6: Cliffhangers and Conclusions

·         Of Lessons Learned 

·         Of Rewards Earned

·         In Which a Clumsy Girl Goes into Outer Space

Happy writing!

 Writing the Overarching Series (or How I Sent a Clumsy Girl into Outer Space): 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection by Karen S. Wiesner (release date TBA)

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series, including the romantic science fiction series, ARROW OF TIME CHRONICLES

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ascendance of a Bookworm

That's the title of a Japanese novel, manga, and anime series by Miya Kazuki. (I've been reading/viewing all three formats simultaneously, as installments become available, with the result that I sometimes get confused as to the progress of the plot since they've all reached different points in the story.) I've never come across anything quite like this story's intriguing premise: A Japanese college student obsessed with books—even more than I am, if that's possible—ironically gets killed by having a bookshelf fall on her during an earthquake. With her dying breath, she prays to get reincarnated in a world full of books. The gods apparently have a dark sense of humor, for she wakes up in the body of a sickly five-year-old girl named Myne, the younger daughter of a poor, illiterate family in a preindustrial world. (It's implied, though never explicitly confirmed, that the "real" Myne died during her latest attack of illness, leaving her body vacant for the heroine to enter.) Books are rare, hand-copied, expensive, and owned only by the clergy, nobles, and very wealthy commoners. Myne determines that if she can't acquire books any other way, she'll make them herself. Paper and ink, however, are also scarce and expensive, so she has to figure out how to make those products first. Fortunately, she gets a head start from extensive reading about the history of printing, along with her prior-life varied experience dabbling in arts and crafts. Still, as a five-year-old girl prone to collapsing whenever she exerts herself, she has an uphill battle even convincing anybody to take her wishes seriously, much less gathering the materials she needs. In the course of her "ascendance," she not only manages to introduce movable-type printing to her new environment and spread literacy, she also achieves what I think the "gods" might have intended by placing her in this world: As well as continuing to love books, she also learns to value relationships with people. Along the way, readers pick up a lot of incidental knowledge about the manufacture of paper and the process of printing.

The further I delve into this series, the more Myne's plight seems to resonate with some real-world analogs. While she knows herself as an educated adult on the inside, at first everybody else sees her as a lower-class, perpetually sick, fairly useless child. In this quandary, she brings to mind people suffering from disabilities that make communication painfully difficult even though their minds are as sharp as anybody's. Or transgender people whose outward appearances conflict with their core gender identity.

On a more personal level, I can identify with Myne from childhood and teen years as a bookish academic overachiever who got no respect from her parents aside from a few minutes once every six weeks during the school term, when report cards were distributed. Now, in old age, I realize the adults knew many important things to which I, as a child and teenager, was oblivious. Yet, in retrospect, I remain aware that I wasn't totally wrong to think I did know some things my parents didn't.

This heroine also reminds me of my early experiences as an avid reader of horror, fantasy, and science fiction—all that "crazy stuff." Nowadays that field of interest is probably considered less "weird" than in the 1950s and 60s. Nevertheless, I believe most lovers of speculative fiction share the feeling of not fitting into the mundane world around us, of being aliens whose true home is elsewhere. Maybe that's why we started to read fantasy and SF to begin with.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Cop Music

This takes the biscuit for copyright-infringement-related theories about music-loving motorway enforcement:

Nicholas J.Krob, legall blogger for McKee Voorhees and Seese PLC analyses what might or might not be a "thing" and the motorways of America, and why you should keep your ears open.

If the Lenz baby can dance to pop music, and the dancing is fair use, and even transformative, then whatever interactions take place between a motorist and a peace officer to a background playlist emanating from a protecting and serving vehicle is probably not going to be taken down if posted (by an indignant motorist) on the internet on the grounds of copyright infringement.

Here's how Brandon W. Clark explains copyright. 

Meanwhile, in New York workplaces, employers who wish to police whatever their employees are enjoying during work hours on devices in the workplace (including music), are required to give the employees written notice.

Legal blogger Frank J. Del Barto of Masuda Furnai Eifert and Mitchell LTD  discusses the policy.

Given that many data breaches seem to begin with an unwary worker clicking an unsafe link on the internet and opening the door to malware, this seems quite sensible.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry  

Friday, April 22, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: The Pick-up-the-Pace Ploy for Writers

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Pick-up-the-Pace Ploy for Writers

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

While at one time in writing, it was popular to have long scenes. These days, shorter scenes are in fashion, and I feel there's good reason for that. If you want your book to be read swiftly, with pages flying, you can write one scene per chapter and keep those scenes short, with a single theme or purpose—this is an effective way to keep your readers from noticing they’re sitting in the real world with a book in their hands. In fact, your readers probably won’t even notice you're doing these things on a conscious level.

Short scenes accomplish several things:

Ø  In the most obvious sense, fairly short chapters allow the book to move along swiftly from one chapter to the next. Try reading a James Patterson thriller (and possibly his stories in other genres) if you want to see how this works in an almost shocking way. I won't deny that the brevity in these stories at times compromises dimensionality a little or a lot. However, if you want to see how pages can fly, you'll get that with his stories.

Ø  When chapters are short, there's generally a single focus. In other words, the scene has a singular purpose, a goal to achieve. The complication to the reader is minimal. He absorbs the premise easily and is ready to move on from that point when it's time. In the ideal that an author should continually be striving for, he'll get a hint of "future dimension" that will provide him with the eagerness to keep going.

Ø  Your reader is likely to read more in one sitting, since many will glance ahead to the next chapter when considering whether or not to stop reading for the time being. If the next chapter is short, he'll be much more inclined to read “just one more” chapter. Frequently, he won’t put the book down for several more short chapters.

Ø  Short scenes may produce more reviews that are likely to include comments like “page-turner,” “nail-bitter,” and “couldn’t put it down.” Who doesn't want that?

For example, Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with the Pearl Earring has no specific chapters or scenes. However, the book is divided into four parts, each based on a year in the life of Griet, the main character. Each scene within those parts is very short—in most cases, no more than a page or two—and scenes are divided with a fancy curlicue rather than numbered sequentially. I read the book in one sitting, in less than seven hours. The short scenes flew, always leaving me panting for more from one to the next. The singular focus was within each of these unspecified scenes, along with a whisper of what was to.

The only book I've ever read that does the opposite of "short, focused scenes" and yet has the same effect is The Ruins by Scott Smith. There are absolutely no chapters and almost nothing to interrupt the flow. When a scene ends, he skips one line and moves directly into the next without actual chapter breaks or even asterisks to break things up. Somehow this makes for a book that I read from start to finish in a single sitting whenever I take it off my keeper shelf. I literally cannot put it down once I start it.

If you want to pick up the pace of your book, try this simple method.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Cohesive Story Building

Volume 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

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

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Pregnancy Alternatives

On this season of one of my favorite TV shows, CALL THE MIDWIFE, a recently married character just suffered a miscarriage. This episode and the overall premise of the series reminded me of the ways some animals seem to have an easier time with reproduction than we do. Suppose women could resorb embryos to terminate an early pregnancy, like rats and rabbits, but consciously and at will? Or wouldn't it be more convenient if we were marsupials? Imagine giving birth painlessly to tiny, underdeveloped offspring and completing gestation in a pouch, which doubles as a cradle and food source for the growing infant. Moreover, performing mundane tasks and working at a career would be facilitated by the ability to carry babies around with us, hands-free, twenty-four-seven.

Better yet, wouldn't it be nice if fathers shared the burdens of gestation? Seahorses, of course, fertilize their mates' eggs in a pouch on the male's body where the eggs are sheltered until they hatch. TV Tropes has a page about this phenomenon in various media:

Mister Seahorse

Remember the TV series ALIEN NATION? The Tenctonese (who have three sexes, female and two types of males, but that's a different topic) transfer the pod holding the fetus from mother to father partway through gestation. The father undergoes all the typical experiences of pregnancy, including birth. If human beings had evolved this system, imagine the radical differences that might have historically existed in women's political rights and career opportunities.

Laying eggs like Dejah Thoris (John Carter's wife in Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars series) would be a less attractive alternative. Even with high-tech incubators, parental care after hatching would be intensive and prolonged. The babies would be small and helpless, probably more so than real-life human newborns because of the limitations of an egg rather than a womb. The only advantage of oviparous over viviparous reproduction would be that both parents could share the work equally.

How about artificial wombs? In my opinion, they're never likely to become universal and replace natural reproduction as in BRAVE NEW WORLD, in the absence of some catastrophic fertility crisis. As long as the natural method remains viable, the expense and technical complications of in vitro gestation would surely far outweigh the potential convenience, except maybe for the very wealthy. Robert Heinlein's PODKAYNE OF MARS includes a less drastic technological modification of the human reproductive cycle. Some couples (those who can afford the cost, I assume) choose to go through pregnancy and birth at the optimal physiological age for healthy reproduction but bring up the children at the optimal economic stage of the parents' life. They achieve this goal by having newborn infants placed into cryogenic suspended animation until parental career and income factors reach the desired point.

Would I want to have done this, if possible? I'm not sure. Getting through college and graduate school would have been easier without babies and toddlers. On the other hand, young parents probably have more energy for chasing after kids than they would in their thirties or forties, and there's something to be said for "growing up with" one's children. Having given birth four times over the span from age nineteen to age thirty-four, I've experienced both ends of that range.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, April 17, 2022

So you are ready to hire a publicist. Maybe you need some help with social media. Maybe you want someone to handle your blog posts, or to create blurbs. Or, maybe you are ready to sign a contract with a webmaster or webmistress,

In that case, you need to know a little bit about what is "work for hire", and to whom the intellectual property of what someone writes on your behalf belongs.... just in case there is a falling out, down the road.

Legal blogger Pramod Chintalapoodi of The Chip Law Group has a very helpful article about Intellectual property issues and contractor agreements.

Work for hire applies when someone is your employee, but not when they are an independent contractor. If they are independent, you would report your payments to them using a 1099-MISC or a 1099-NEC. If they are an employee, you use a W-2. 

Talking of independent contractors, the Authors Guild has an explanation of tax reporting for authors who use Audible/ACX to create and sell audiobooks.

It is helpful, but not terribly timely, given that tax filings are due tomorrow. 

In a nutshell, as I understand it, Audible/ACX reports all net earnings as as author royalty income, including the share of those royalties that Audible/ACX diverts at source to pay "producers" such as the voice talent, and the recording studio talent.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday


Friday, April 15, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: It's a Miracle, Lois! or Why Your Hero Needs to be the Hero of His Own Story

Based on CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}

The resolution at the end of a story with improper CPR (Character Plot Relationship) development may read the way a miracle does to those who witness it. Literally, the resolution came out of nowhere and was in no way hinted at, let alone justified, in advance. It defies all logic. Against all odds, somehow (and readers are usually never enlightened or are told in a mishmashed way) the character had an epiphany that magically changed everything. This character became Superman and turned the Earth on its axis so she'd have a "do-over". Maybe a higher being intervened in order for everything to come up roses for her. The "deus ex machina" resolved the conflict, not the character. This god in the machine device introduced a resolution brought about by something outside of the story, something cataclysmic or even supernatural that’s not cohesive or logical with the rest of the story.

To give you an example, I had a problem writing the third novel in my Wounded Warriors Series. Mirror Mirror is romantic paranormal psychological thriller. Spoiler alert! This book continued to elude my best efforts to create something wonderful, suspenseful, and cohesive. My first draft of the book was so bad, I refused to send it to my publisher, even if it meant keeping my fans waiting. I made a long list of notes on all I thought was wrong with the book (believe me, it was a huge document!), then I put the book in my story cupboard for three months in order to get the story brewing on a low flame again. At that time, I came up with another unworkable outline.       

Feeling increasingly desperate, I put the story aside again, terrified I’d never finish something that had already been promoted as “coming soon”. More months went by, during which I had a series of creative percolations that made me rethink the direction of the book. I reshaped all my characters and relationships, consciously trying to flesh them out in ways that related to the plot much more than they had in the past. 

However, it wasn’t until I realized something so obvious, I feel silly about it now that I finally knew why my previous drafts hadn’t worked. The heroine wasn’t directly involved in the resolution of the plot. How could this character achieve her full potential if other characters solved her problems for her? How could the story be cohesive if the character had nothing to do with how the conflicts wrapped up? 

My second realization was that I had to make the plot and subplots fit more naturally with my main character’s struggle not to accept her gift of clairvoyance by pushing it away and feeling ashamed for it. She needed to use her gift in order to solve her problems. Also, her relationships, and how those related to the villain, needed more cohesion. 

I also acknowledged that my little hint earlier in the book that the villain was terrified of dogs was the key to having her save the day. Finally, I decided that the “glue” in making my story cohesive was to make the hero and the heroine’s pasts merge and parallel. Everything fell into place after that. 

You see the challenges I had with the book. I had to make the heroine’s gift of clairvoyance and her beloved dog mesh with the villain’s terrifying curse of clairvoyance and his fear of dogs. All of these things had to fit with the hero and heroine’s pasts, which intersected in ways neither of them ever dreamed prior to the "present" time in the story. The relationships of all the characters also needed to work with conflicts, goals and motivations. I wasn’t sure I’d fully succeeded in this task until a reviewer said of the book, "An excellent psychic thriller that will have you holding your breath until your lungs ache. The author uses her writing gift to connect both Gwen and Dylan’s pasts with a dark, menacing force and tangles a web so strong that readers will not want to stop reading."    

You can’t wrap up a story with an act of nature, something symbolic that parallels a character’s conflict but isn’t actually part of it, or in a (godlike) stranger-to-the-rescue type of event--it won’t be believable or fair to the reader, who’s spent the entire novel waiting to see your characters, plots, and the relationships reach the goal of logical, cohesive self-fulfillment and success.

The main POV character absolutely has to lead the action and save the day on her own without supernatural or miraculous intervention. She isn't in a supporting role, nor can she be rescued when the going gets tough. She can't fall backwards into success. This is her story, her time to be a superhero, her moment in the spotlight. As Galadriel said to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, "This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.” Or should. 

Never allow resolutions to stem from symbolism, events, or other people. Clear and cohesive choice, purpose, and action are the only viable resolutions. Don't take the true victory away from your main characters by letting anyone or anything else do the work for them.  

Are there defy-explanation moments in your story? You may need to rework your CPR developments to make sure your POV characters are doing their jobs and not letting someone or something else do it for them.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}, Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy reading!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series, including MIRROR MIRROR, Book 5: Wounded Warriors Series

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Slime Mold Intelligence

Slime molds, a type of gelatinous amoebae, despite having no brains, have the capacity to form memories:

Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence

One species "can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu." When chopped into multiple pieces and scattered through a labyrinth, a specimen not only reunited its separated bits but modified its behavior to find the most efficient routes. As well as mapping their surroundings and retaining memories of areas they have explored, they apparently "navigate time as well as space, using a rudimentary internal clock to anticipate and prepare for future changes in their environments." The article describes some of the intriguing experiments that revealed slime molds' abilities. Lacking brains or nervous systems, nevertheless they "choose conditions most amenable to their survival" and "remember, anticipate and decide."

I once read a story in which two characters argue about the potential intelligence of some nonliving entity. One man asks, "With what would it think, in the absence of a brain?" The other one counters, "With what does a plant think, in the absence of a brain?" Do slime molds and plants "think"? If we equate intelligence with abstract thought, probably not; if we define it as the ability solve problems through adaptation, intelligence could be attributed to almost any kind of organism. If a centuries-old redwood has thought processes, they might operate on a time scale so different from ours that it couldn't communicate with us. If we visited a world dominated by sapient slime molds, would we recognize their intelligence and vice versa?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Elephant In The Reading Room

The Elephant in the Reading Room is Amazon and its policies that hurt authors.

Patricia Bates hosted a Zoom conference on Facebook titled "Storming The Castle" which I highly recommend. Well informed authors and a lawyer from Authors Guild discuss the problem of readers who repeatedly buy, read, and then return ebooks for a full refund. 

Some would call that pretty dishonest. Perhaps the readers do not understand the difference between paying for a KU subscription in order to read KU books, and lending Amazon the price of an ebook for a week.

One can enjoy the production without logging in to Facebook.

Kobo, Google, Barnes and Noble, and Apple are much more author-friendly in their ebook policies. By and large, they will help a reader who buys an e-book and then has difficulty accessing the pages, but they make it very difficult to return an ebook once it has been downloaded or opened.

Rightly so.  An online buyer can read several chapters of an ebook on the bookstore site before making a purchasing decision.

It is fair to be able to return an ebook that was bought by accident, which appears to be the intent with the Amazon Kindle book return policy, but it should not take seven days to discover that one has bought something accidentally.

In the seven days that Amazon allows, a reader can easily read the entire book, and still return it for a full refund.  People do that, and boast about it on TikTok, apparently.  Perhaps those people do not understand that it is the author that they are ripping off. Amazon does not pay the author when a book is borrowed and returned through the ebook sales program.

Amazon controls about 80% of all ebook sales in the USA, and therefore, in theory, 80% of all ebooks sold in America are susceptible to being read and returned.

Cheryl Davis, of Authors Guild is asking for as much data as possible to refute Amazon's claims that the problem is not great and few authors are affected. Any author who has experienced excessive returns is asked to contact

She warns that businesses that claim that all calls are recorded are not keeping the recordings for the benefit of the caller.  Recordings may not be made, may not be kept, may not be retrievable. Anyone contacting Amazon about Amazon's policies or returns should be sure to put their issues into writing, and if sending an email, they should cc themselves for proof that they have made contact. 

Again, please watch, like, share this: 
All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday