Sunday, July 31, 2022


Today, and without straying into Karen's "Craft" territory, I should like to discuss a useful tactic for when a writer has to edit for length. This also applies to editing for advertisements, where every nanosecond, and every word counts.

Look at every "so", and every "very", and assess --brutally-- whether or you really, truly need them, and whether or not they strengthen or weaken the words around them.

The idea of my "very own" slippers, or "your very own slippers" disturbs me on a visceral level. Who shares their footwear?

The possessive adjective "my" or "your" is sufficient to describe ownership of the slippers. Adding "own" as in "my own slippers" is emphatic, but redundant. The listener, or reader is invited to wonder about other slippers in the household, and whether some slippers are communal. 

Throwing a "very" into the phrase to limit the adjective "own", means that the focus is decidely on the competition within the household for slippers. It is one thing for a child who reaches a milestone in growing up, and is given a room of his/her very own. A room of ones own is a big deal, especially if the youngster previously had to share.

"Own" is an adjective when preceded by a possessive and followed by a noun. Inserting "very" adds information --albeit precious little information-- about "own"; thus "very" is an adverb. The noun "slippers" now has three hangers-on, two adjectives and an adverb.

Think remora. One can have too much of a good thing.

"So" is another pet peeve of mine. It can be an adjective, a pronoun, a conjunction, and more. Of these, its least useful function is as an adverb, in my opinion.  

"So much," is redundant unless the speaker is in front of one, using both hands to demonstrate the yardage (size) of the absent trophy that is being described, for instance as in a fishy lie, "The trout was so big."

If a remedy helps you "so much", try a synonym. "So much" is no better than "a lot" but uses two extra characters.

An exception might be Rudyard Kipling's "Just So" stories, which you can read here:

In this case, I believe that "so" is a pronoun, and "Just So" could be replaced with "Exactly like that", which would be longer and less efficient... and which makes me think of the large and brilliant British prestidigitator and comedian Tommy Cooper, whose catch phrase was "Just like that", with the "just" a little slurred.

Those episodes don't show it, but I share them anyway, because the late Tommy Cooper's use of English is hilarious.

"Thus" might be more succinct as a synonym for "Just So" but I digress. One of my English professors at Cambridge, Mr. Cornwall, used to speak of the thusness of a word or phrase, in the general sense that the phrase or word in question could not be improved upon.

I will now end abruptly.

All the best,

Friday, July 29, 2022


Of Rewards Earned

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

Thus far throughout this 15-part article series, we've looked at a lot of what could be considered the hurdles that have to be leapt over in order to write an Overarching science fiction series. But there were a lot of amazing things that came with the endeavor as well. Let's talk about a few of the wonderful perks earned in the process of writing an Overarching Series in a few random musings.

Showing Off Your Baby

Cover art can be the icing on the Overarching Series cake. It's my opinion that the cover designs in the speculative fiction genre can be some of the most eye-catching of any category of fiction…or they can be simply generic, which really sucks and, hey, talk about a missed opportunity! I started designing my own covers for my sci-fi series during the early part of researching the series, and, as my series evolved, I continued looking for just the right cover graphics that truly fit the series and stories contained in each book. I wanted to be able to look at the covers and forever remember the events, thereby immortalizing them in my mind. I also wanted readers to take one look at them and think, Wow, how cool. I gotta read this. Later, just before my series went to the publisher for editing, a professional cover artist finalized my initial designs into the oeuvre d'art you'll see below. I've lost track of how often readers tell me how striking the covers are. 

 The ship on the cover of the first book is my beloved Aero, the Human Corvette cruiser, coming out of a space corridor.

 The graphic on Book 2 is the Vreah battleship, Vashtii, which, despite being a slow, massive, heavily-armored stealth warship also resembles a luxury "cruise" ship in space.

 Book 3 not only shows the light and fast Quing ambassadorial ship Vlacos but you can see that the "black maw" (the dark energy menace in the series) has eaten part of a planet, possibly their own planet Qu or Gurgh.

 Finally, the last cover shows the secret military base Neth-Beo, militarized by the warring Sinshe-Shojani, along with their most deadly dreadnought, Paladin. Behind it is the weapon of mass destruction they've been building, which is also a stealth ship.

While personalizing your cover designs makes them super cool, breathtaking and memorable, there's another reason for going the extra mile with them. Covers this gorgeous can't help but get noticed by the buying population. Additionally, having similar cover designs for each book is a huge help in creating instant recognition for that series and a series logo should also be a priority. (The four-pointed arrow at the bottom to the left of my name is the series logo for Arrow of Time Chronicles. It also served as the series break graphic on the interior.) Looking at the Arrow of Time Chronicles covers above, you can tell they're all part of the same series, can't you? Yet they're all distinctive separately as well. We talked about series branding in Chapter Four, and cover art is definitely part of that, especially for an Overarching Series.

Be proactively creative in even these "outer" aspects in bringing a series to life as well as offering it proudly and lovingly to your readers. Showing off the cover art is definitely one of the most rewarding perks I've found in writing a series like this.

Baby's Got Back…matter

One of the things I love most about the speculative fiction umbrella is all the lore associated with these genres. As a reader, I can't get enough of this stuff and I always buy the books associated with series covering the lore. If I can get that in the back of the books themselves, that's an even better bonus.

In my science fiction series, this meant I finally got something I've always wanted to be a requirement for my books: Back matter! While the word "back matter" can have many definitions, the one I'm talking about here is the sections in the back of the book that provide further reading, deeper explanations, and a whole host of interesting information about aspects of the series. I love reading this kind of thing in any series, whether it's a book, movie, or videogame. I want to know more. In fact, I want to know everything!

In the case of Arrow of Time Chronicles, I had a specific reason for including back matter in each installment of the series that, unfortunately, really had nothing to do with It's just so cool! Because there were so many characters, locations, historically significant events, and distinctive cultures in my series, along with unique Standard Operative Procedures, I included three appendices: 1) a Human timeline/history, 2) brief culture and homeworld specifics, and 3) a dictionary of terms. These were placed in the back of each book in the series. Even the longest one in Book 4 was little more than 30 total pages. I didn't want to significantly add to the page length of any of the books, since most of them were pretty large anyway, close to 100,000 words. The biggest reason the back matter was necessary, was because I didn't want to repeat large chunks of crucial information from one book to the next that could have overwhelmed any of the chapters in the story in a hurry. Instead, I included the important information that readers might have forgotten from one book to the next or simply needed a refresher on in a place that wouldn't overload the text. That freed me up to get on with the storytelling. 

Rejoice when you get to cross a few cool things off your bucket list with the rewards earned.

Next week, we'll conclude this article series covering the surprises I had in learning to write a sci-fi series. 

Happy writing!

Based on 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, July 28, 2022

How Many Brains Does a Creature Need?

Leeches have 32 brains. Well, sort of. Each of its separate segments contains its own neuronal ganglion. As one answer on Quora puts it, "precisely it does not have 32 brains but a single brain that exists in 32 parts throughout the body," yet because each ganglion works independently, we might say it literally has a brain for each segment.

Is It True That a Leech Has 32 Brains?

Here's a page with thirteen wild and wonderful facts about animal brains:

13 Facts About Animals' Brains

Starfish have their neurons distributed through their arms instead of concentrated in a central location. A spider's brain is too big for its head and extends into its legs. Octopuses, similarly, keep two-thirds of their neurons in their tentacles instead of in the central brain. Thus, like spiders, they can perform amazingly complex feats with their limbs. The octopus, in fact, has the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of any invertebrate. This article explores octopus intelligence, including their ability to use tools:

How Smart Are Octopuses?

On the other hand, although we consider ourselves the planet's superior life form because of our intelligence, the humble sea squirt doesn't appear to value brainpower very highly. In the transition from its immature, mobile phase into an adult rooted in one spot, it "eats" its own brain. Among other animals that seem to consider brains optional, a cockroach can survive a long time with no head (until it starves to death). Then there's the famous case of a chicken named Mike, who lived for eighteen months after being (mostly) decapitated:

Mike the Headless Chicken

So maybe we members of the species Homo sapiens ("wise human") should be a bit more modest about the power to rule Earth through our intelligence? Maybe alien visitors would single out ants or termites as the dominant species, since there are so many more of them than us, and their excavations produce significant effects on the landscape. Or how about grasses? Not only do they cover much of the globe, they obviously employ us as their servants to help them spread and thrive.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Trouble With THE

Today, I'm talking about trademarks, specifically about a trademark of the definite article. "The" is the definite article.  "A" and "an" are indefinite articles. Articles definite and indefinite are a class of adjective because they provide additional information about a noun.

For a very good explanation of articles and other parts of speech, see this:
We writers are not always laid back when we hear that someone has trademarked a word that we use every day. One or two words have created a furore (or an American furor). Even the word "furor" was trademarked.
In the case of the furor trademark, subsequently abandoned, it was only valid in connection with the sale of certain enumerated garments.
If I had time, which I don't because I am racing an incoming thunderstorm, I would wonder what kind of clothing might cause a furor. I have one idea.  

There are phrases and sayings that are difficult to trademark, although some have tried to do so, because they are in common use. Mostly, if a trademark is approved, it is because the use of the word is limited, specific, and confined to a certain context: such as a clothing brand, or a series of novels by a certain publisher.

Here's an interesting link:

It would seem that a quick-on-the-draw innovator cannot sit on a lovely, useful (or even useless) word and make a fortune from harassing hapless folks who happen to use it. One probably could not trademark "absquatulate" (, a word that has fallen out of general use. It is a pompous word for "leaving" with mildly scatalogical undertones. It makes me think of a military man suffering from an exotic tummy bug, getting up suddenly from his place around the campfire, and rushing into the darkness downwind of his fellows.

"THE TROUBLE WITH THE" is probably a nothingburger. Legal bloggers Ashley J. Heilprin and Andrew W. Coffman for the law firm Phelps Dunbar LLP discuss the trademarking of the definite article by The Ohio State University for use in connection with their brand for sports apparel. 

One cannot protect a word without context, and one cannot trademark a design. One can protect a brand.

Lexology link:
Phelps link: 

For anyone  who might be confused or outraged or alarmed that someone can trademark "THE", this is a very well-written and helpful article covering the entire issue, and much more from what a trademark is, to what rights exist and what do not, to why anyone would go to the trouble and expense.

"A trademark or a service mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies the source of goods or services. When applying for the “THE” mark in 2019, The Ohio State University originally submitted a shirt with the word “THE” and the school’s logo prominently displayed across the chest as its specimen..

The Trademark Office found that the specimen did not show the use of the word “THE” as establishing a source of goods, but was merely an ornamental design. A design on a T-shirt is not normally protected as a trademark. Instead, what is protectable is the brand itself. The Ohio State University then offered a second specimen that included “THE” not in the design of the shirt, but on the tag. Generally, the Trademark Office considers brands on tags as evidence that consumers associate the mark with a single source of goods."

Talking of trademarks, Indian legal blogger and senior associate Udayvir Rana, of Remfry & Sagar  penned a very interesting analysis of the unique position taken by the Delhi high court over the sale of keywords for the purpose of commercial advertising.

Original link:
Lexology link:

I have to end abruptly, the thunderstorm is upon me.
All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Friday, July 22, 2022


Of Reader Reactions and Lessons Learned

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

Learning to write a complicated Overarching Series brought with it hard lessons I didn't expect to have to learn like reader expectations not being what I hoped for and getting back up after getting iffy reviews or criticism. When the dust settled after the fallout, I also discovered there are unexpected rewards that might make up for any disappointments. We'll talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly you might have to face while writing an Overarching Series in this chapter. 

When I went into writing my first Overarching Series, I had a lot lofty aspirations and weird ideas about producing something so groundbreaking, so electrifying and life-changing, it would be talked about in hushed whispers even after I was dead... Yeah, okay, so maybe that was stupid. I was and still am a novice in this genre and with this type of series in general, but I will admit that, even though I've now got two very complex Overarching Series under my belt, I still go into these particular projects with the hope of coming out with an authentic magnum opus.

Underneath the silliness, I did actually go into Arrow of Time Chronicles with a few unwavering intentions. I deliberately didn't want the series to answer all the questions it posed. The first thing I wanted to embed within the series arc was the unspoken commentary that nothing ever really changes and sentient beings rarely reach a pinnacle of peace and solidarity, regardless of how advanced they might become. Even if you leap forward into the future, most things still work the same way (especially the way so-called intelligent entities fight about every little thing and politics rules every community, whether certain members of it want it to or not). I had a scene in Book 3 where representatives of all the cultures from all around the galaxy are in the same room arguing about the best way to handle a situational conflict that faces them all. That heated conversation was viewed with confusion and surprise from the perspective of a young, mischievous girl, her differently-abled friend, and their unique pets while in a well-chosen hiding place. It's one of my favorite scenes in the entire series for its humorous narration on timeless sociology mores. Did readers get what I was going for with these vows? I doubt it. But it was important to me anyway.

Related to the previous unspoken commentary in the series arc was the second series question I wanted to remain ambiguous. From the start of the series, I knew I wanted to instill the sense that the threat of war is always on the horizon, that wars never truly end, and, when a new threat ultimately presents itself, we'll always realize that it was actually there all along, something left over from the previous war, waiting to resurrect and implode. However, after the series was published, one reviewer commented that, "This novel concludes the series, but a large, threatening thread is left dangling."

We've had in-depth discussions about cliffhanger endings in this manual, but what this reviewer was referring to wasn't a cliffhanger in any sense of the word. My story and series arcs were all resolved completely. She was referring, more accurately, to what I call a "possible reemergence ending". Basically, in the final scene, the conflict or opposition reemerges, implying that at some point the bad thing that happened in your story/series will happen again in the future. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… Readers tend to love or hate these kinds of endings, but if a possible reemergence ending fits, each author has to decide whether or not to take the risk and use it.

In my case, I admit I waffled about including that reemergence epilogue for a long time while I was outlining and then writing the draft of the final book in the series. I finally did decide to go with it because I didn't break the implicit compact that's built into the offering of any book to a reader, which is to satisfactorily tie up every loose end--series and series arcs. I also didn't give anyone a "lady and the tiger" ending, which I passionately hate myself. A little more about that:

Frank R. Stockton's book, The Lady and the Tiger, in which he leaves it up to the reader to decide which came out of the door--the lady or the tiger--is the inspiration behind what writers dub a "Lady and the Tiger" ending. While some love this kind of ending, few would call this type of resolution anything but a cop-out. All loose ends must be tied up adequately in your story and this kind of ending denies that, refuses it, kicks the reader in the face. I personally believe these kinds of unfinished stories are written for the sole purpose of making the author and/or select readers feel superior about knowing something other, lesser minds don't and can't grasp.

Not providing satisfactory resolutions violates the contract between the writer and the reader, forcing him to do without an effective tie-up of some or all story threads. I also suspect some authors do this because they simply want to leave the resolution of the series arc mysterious and unanswered. They either don't have a good enough resolution planned, or they want to encapsulate the mystery indefinitely. For an example, we never did get a straight answer about what really happened to Mulder's sister in X-Files, not in nine seasons and a couple movies (nor did I get the definitive answer in the miniseries that aired in January 2016).

If the author is never going to answer a nagging question, why invest anything, especially time and passion, in the story? Leaving a story thread dangling isn’t something an author can do without making readers furious, perhaps enough to ban your books for life. They’ll feel cheated, and rightly so. Don’t underestimate the damage a vengeful reader can do to your career. (Have you read Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne?) Seriously, to write a story is to promise the closure and/or resolution of unanswered questions. Authors should never cheat their readers, bowing out before actually finishing and avoiding the provision of an ending complete with answers to all burning questions.

In any case, it bothered me tremendously that the reviewer left my series feeling the way she did, although I knew when I added the reemergence ending that it was a risk. I pointed out to her the truth about what kind of an ending this was, and she did agree I didn't actually leave any of the story threads dangling. Nevertheless, she didn't revise the review she put up everywhere. So I have to live with that and some readers might be turned away from the series unfairly as a result. Sucks, but there's very little I can do other than see the bright side that, luckily, other reviewers put a positive spin on the potential reemergence by saying the ending gave them goosebumps and startled them with new possibilities.

Being misunderstood can and does happen, especially to writers. As I mentioned in the Introduction, I told my husband and son one fateful day of wanting to write something like Star Trek (a series I love in all its many iterations) with a Clumsy Girl on board the spaceship. In truth, I didn't really want to write another Star Trek wannabe. I went out of my way to avoid having Arrow of Time Chronicles end up like any other science fiction saga that was popular. I wrote me, which by definition is probably different than almost everyone and everything else.

One of my first readers of the series had little experience with the genre. Star Trek was actually the only sci-fi program this reader I'll call Bob had ever seen and he hadn't read any other books in that category. Because he was expecting the same premise and story he would get from that sci-fi program, I think there was ultimately no way for him to find a way to like my series, which actually made him a great critique partner because he saw things from a perspective I didn't get from any of my other critique partners. I highly recommend that all writers try to get a first reader or critique partner who doesn't read in their genre by choice just to allow the work to be viewed from every conceivable perspective. As much as I initially hoped to bring Bob onboard and make him a believer, he'll probably never delve any further into this genre in large part because he just didn't get what I was trying to do with mine, even if he found my attempt well-written. Oh, well. Apologies and gratitude, nevertheless, Bob. No hard feelings.

I considered adding a subtitle to this section of the chapter along the lines of "What Else Can You Do with Bad Press?" At this time, all the reviews I've received for my sci-fi series have been between 4 and 5 star ones. However, the lowest ranking review (which still rated 4 very impressive stars) that bothered me most taught me probably more about writing in this this genre than anything else. But, dang, if it didn't hurt more than any other review I've ever gotten in more than two decades of being a published author. Woven in with great comments about the final book in the series, loving and worrying about the happily-ever-after of the characters, fascination with the suspense events that unfolded and resolved satisfactorily, and looking forward to more from an "amazing author", I received a comment that bit the big one. The tactful way to say it is that the reviewer felt the showdown was rushed.

Sigh! Science fiction, like most other thrilling genres, is supposed to be packed full of action and adventure, thrills and spills, awws and oohs. I felt I met that criteria in spades throughout the series, but final battles are hard to write and I doubt too many authors would tell you otherwise, regardless of their popularity or skill. As a writer, you do your darndest to provide readers with lots of hairpin twists and turns, emotional exhilaration and suspense along with nail-biting, whipsawing action. And, as an author, you'll doubt yourself every step of the way, too. Maybe I didn't add enough complications or drama, maybe I didn't raise the stakes and withhold the prize long enough. I've learned to always question my showdowns, always layering the clash with multiple tiers of heightened tension and potential for failures, throwing more obstacles than I'm comfortable with in the way of steady progress toward the story goal, and withholding the ultimate achievement of success until the reader feels like he could collapse on the floor, little more than sweaty pulp, from the tenterhooks of anxiety he's been hoisted up on. I've learned not to be content with stimulating tour-de-force but to take it up a further notch to heady blood-rush. And, maybe most importantly, I've learned to be grateful for positive reviews and not to dwell too much on the negative.

Learning to use the good, the bad, and the ugly reviews not just to take center stage on your dartboard is a skill--a grace, if you will. Accept that you can't please everybody and that not everyone will understand what you're trying to do. But, at least in my case, I still found that the outcome of my efforts were worth every bit of the sweat, blood, and tears I poured into it because I could always remind myself of the burning purpose I felt when I first wrote my series.

It's never easy to pour your heart and soul into something only to have the public throw rotten tomatoes at it. Remember the  purpose that compelled you to write the series in the first place. Learn to take the good from the bad. 

Next week, we'll take on the wonders of writing in this genre in a slew of random musings.

Happy writing!

Based on 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, July 21, 2022

The Future of Elections

Earlier this week, we voted in the primary election in this state. Thinking about voting reminded me of a story I read many years ago (and don't remember its title or author). This speculative piece on how elections might work in the distant future proposed a unique procedure that could function only with a near-omniscient AI accumulating immense amounts of data.

After analyzing the demographics of the country in depth, the central computer picks a designated voter. This person, chosen as most effectively combining the typical characteristics of all citizens, votes in the national election on behalf of the entire population. The really unsettling twist in the tale is that the "voter" doesn't even literally vote. He (in the story, the chosen representative is a man) answers a battery of questions, if I recall the method correctly. The computer, having collated his responses, determines which candidates and positions he would support.

This method of settling political issues would certainly make things simpler. No more waiting days or potentially weeks for all the ballots to be counted. No contesting of results, since the single aggregate "vote" would settle everything on the spot with no appeal to the AI's decision.

The story's premise seems to have an insurmountable problem, however, regardless of the superhuman intelligence, vast factual knowledge, and fine discrimination of the computer. Given the manifold racial, political, economic, ethnic, and religious diversity of the American people, how could one "typical" citizen stand in for all? An attempt to combine everybody's traits would inevitably involve many direct, irreconcilable contradictions. The AI might be able to come up with one person who satisfactorily represents the majority. When that person's "vote" became official, though, the political rights of minorities (religious, racial, gender, or whatever) would be erased.

A benevolent dictatorship by an all-knowing, perfectly unbiased computer (if we could get around the GIGO principle of its reflecting the biases of its programmers) does sound temptingly efficient at first glance. But I've never read or viewed a story, beyond a speculative snippet such as the one described above, about such a society that ultimately turned out well. Whenever the Enterprise came across a computer-ruled world in the original STAR TREK, Kirk and Spock hastened to overthrow the AI "god" in the name of human free will.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt