Friday, March 31, 2023

Taking the Bucket Out of the Bucket List, Part 1 by Karen S. Wiesner

Taking the Bucket Out of the Bucket List,

Part 1

by Karen S. Wiesner

In this two part article, I discuss the wisdom and benefits of, and strategies for, drawing up a personal bucket list as early as possible--long before the curtain of a life is drawn.

Thanks for my fellow blog mates Rowena and Margaret for inspiring this impromptu article with their suggestions for potential topics I could cover on Alien Romances. Also thanks to those who critiqued this article for their suggested improvements and enthusiasm before it was posted.

About 10 years ago, I sort of watched the movie The Bucket List out of my peripheral vision. My husband is fond of watching movies on one of our TVs while I play Xbox games on the other. Condensing the theme of that movie, two terminally ill, older men come up with a wish list of things they want to do--and, in an abbreviated amount of time, they attempt to fulfill them--before their time on Earth literally runs out. My first thought in response to the theme of this film was, Why would anyone want to do this when they're old, tired, dying, and it's nearly too late? Why not do the things you're passionate about long before there actually is a countdown to death and while young enough to truly enjoy the adventure(s) undertaken? Few questions have ever motivated me more than these two.

As far as the internet can tell, the term "bucket list" was either created or popularized by that 2007, so-named movie. A bucket list is believed to relate to the idiom "kick the bucket", which is a term that originated in the 16th century. Be prepared to cringe: The wooden frame that was used to suspend slaughtered animals was called a bucket. I think you can guess what happened after they were hung up by their hooves. Yikes. Long story short, there was a lot of kicking done just prior to death. A bucket list, then, is created to clarify what one wishes to accomplish either in a specific timeframe (as in, "one and done" tasks completed in a short amount of time) or by the end of a life (long-term projects). Bucket list wishes can be self-actualization goals or ones you've set for endeavors such as charity work, career, or family or friend-related purposes.

While at that time I didn't really sit down and write up a formal bucket list of my own, I thought long and hard about which goals would make mine. The most important factors in doing this, for me, were, first and foremost, that I would be able to enjoy them all throughout the rest of my life, and, only slightly less important, that I'd be able to accomplish my personal goals earlier in life than "at the end".

My list actually wasn't that difficult to come up with, as I'm sure other people will discover as well, because many of these were already passions I was unwilling or unable to indulge in thus far in my life. In the process, I formulated a list of four things I'd spent my lifetime up to that point dreaming about but not believing I could do. My reasons for not doing them stemmed from a) the expense involved, b) the lack of time to undertake them, and c) being very aware that it takes me a long time and a whole lot of effort to learn new things (in part because I was already 45 years old when I embarked on this).

Unofficially, I suppose the first real bucket list wish I made started with writing. I wrote (and illustrated) my first story when I was eight, and I always knew that was what I wanted to do more than anything else. There was little if any encouragement around me for this endeavor but, in the defense of my friends and family, becoming a success in this field isn't exactly a stable environment or income. When I was 20, I was determined to make a go of it regardless. My first book was published when I was 27…just after I'd made the heartrending decision to quit writing because I'd already invested nearly a decade attempting and failing to get published. Sometimes it takes that kind of irony to kick you in the pants and inspire you to reach for more. I spent the next 27 years of my life setting goals and pouring my all into making something of my writing. As I near the end of my writing career at the age of almost 55, my published credits in most every genre imaginable have passed 150 titles and these have garnered nominations or wins for over 130 awards.

The bucket list of lifelong passions I officially came up with after watching The Bucket List was quickly assembled (written down here years later in all the detail I imagined from its origin), prioritizing my wishes according to my deepest desires:

#1: Learn to play piano. I've loved music all my life. I can't stand silence so music fills all my waking moments. I wasn't allowed to learn an instrument in school, and I'd wanted to from the moment the possibility was brought up. My goal in doing this wasn't fame or to perform in a professional setting. It would only ever be for private enrichment and perhaps to accompany family and friends--many of them musicians.

I started small with the first Alfred's Piano instruction book and my son's discarded keyboard. I practiced every day, teaching myself from the manual and asking my guitar- and saxophone-playing husband (who was part of the praise team band at our church) for help whenever I needed it. Naturally, that keyboard quickly didn't have what I needed to advance (88 keys and pedals), but a generous gift allowed me to purchase the beautiful piano I now cherish. I also started taking piano lessons nearly a year into my efforts and took them for more than four years. When my instructor moved away, I went back to teaching myself.

At the time I started, I committed myself to this, my #1 bucket list priority, and I was disciplined in daily practice and learning as much as I could about all aspects. I knew going into it that it would be the biggest challenge of my life, and, boy, was (and is) it. But it's worth it. Eight years in, and I'm still learning, still developing, still passionate about it, and it's something I'll do, and enjoy, until the day I die.

#2: Develop my drawing and artistic skills across many types of media. I've been writing children's books as long as I can remember, but finding someone to illustrate them hasn't been easy. I've had many stories that I've written that I couldn't get anyone to provide artwork for so they're sitting in my story cupboard, unpublished. In the past, I often wished that the fledgling talent I've had all my life in this field could be cultivated and honed into true ability. While I didn't at first intend to make illustrating children's books a career, when I made my decision several years ago to retire from writing soon, I realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do once I've completed the last of my book 16 series.

I started slow and cheap. Using inexpensive pencils and drawing pads or typing paper I already had lying around the house, I randomly drew whatever inspired me whenever I had downtime from writing. In the first year I undertook this, I produced a few good things. I wasn't trying to do anything serious beyond seeing what I could accomplish and what my strengths and weaknesses were. I knew if I let myself get too excited, it would interrupt my writing, and I didn't want to do that, considering I was counting down to completing my last several novels. I wanted to devote myself to making those stories the best they could be.

Last year, finding myself slowing down in general with nearly everything in my life, recovering from writing projects became much more difficult for me. I needed longer breaks and other ways to relax in between projects. I invested a bit more time and money into my artistic endeavors. I found a place that offers affordable DVD/streaming courses taught by some of the best experts in their respective fields and purchased three art classes on drawing, pencil coloring, and painting. These could be done as I had time and I could set my own pace. I purchased artist grade pencils, paper, and other supplies and equipment. Additionally, I reworked my daily and yearly goals to include times of writing and times of art. I also decided to bring along my readers on this endeavor by posting my art (such as it was) on my Facebook page. The response has been both motivating and moving.

As my artistic abilities grow, I'm finding the process hard, but also realizing I can do things I could never have imagined I was capable of in the past. At the moment, I'm still reining in how much time and effort I devote to these endeavors, but I'm only a few books away from finishing the last of two series. Until then (mid-2024, if I stay on track with my goals), I'm applying myself to learning and honing my artist talents in the time I've allotted to it each day, week, or month, so, by the time I'm ready to get started illustrating my first children's book, I'll have a wide variety of mediums I'm skilled enough in to utilize.

#3: Learn a second language. I took a year of French in high school and I was actually really good at reading and writing the language, just not speaking it. When it started getting mathematical (the way they do numbers is hard!), I dropped out. I've regretted my decision not to continue. My husband is very good at languages--he taught himself ancient Greek and he's using a program that makes learning a language fun and easy to advance for Spanish. He's constantly asking me to join him in the program, but with writing, piano, and art in my daily life taking up most of my time and energy, I'm spread a little thin. I used to have a friend who spoke native Spanish, and I always wished I could understand her when she talked to her family in the language. That would have been the perfect time to start learning, as I could have gotten real feedback and help in learning, but I was motivated at that time. After I retire from writing, I'll have one less thing on my plate and I expect I'll get involved with the program hubby's using to learn Spanish at that point. (I do actually have a loose goal of 2025 set to start this.)

#4: Learning. Just learning. Like most people, I have a lot of random interests that I've never had a lot of time to explore--learning to sing professionally (I do have natural talent in this regard, luckily) as an accompaniment to playing piano, finding out more about unique periods of history (Medieval specifically), geography, space, art culture, and science. The place where I got my art DVDs offers courses in a lot of these disciplines that interest me. I don't currently have a lot of time, but I've already mentioned that I don't care for silence. Usually I fill it with music or art lessons. However, there are frequent slots in my day where I could easily be listening to a lecture, learning more about any one of these random interests. I always want to be learning new things that may inspire any of my other abilities to new heights of creativity. That said, I wouldn't undertake this goal until I'm well into learning a second language.

Next week we'll talk about strategies in taking the next step toward achieving the goals in your life you're most passionate about seeing fulfilled.

"Seize the life and the day will follow!" ~Linda Derkez

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Visit her website here:


Find out more about her books and see her art here:

Visit her publisher here: 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

One Bite at a Time

Cory Doctorow's column for the March 2023 issue of LOCUS, for once, asserts a position I can support without reservation:


Concerning the many problems involved in making the internet user-friendly, a quest for perfection may result in no improvement at all. As Doctorow summarizes the situation, "The internet succeeded where other networks failed" because it didn't try to implement a "seemingly monolithic technological project" that would require all parties to agree on an ultimate solution that would deal with all difficulties once and for all. Instead, find one small element that everyone can accept. "Build that, then do it again, finding another step that everyone can get behind." In other words, figuratively speaking, eat the elephant one bite (or byte?) at a time. To quote Doctorow again, "I want a better internet now, not years down the road. I’ll happily take a smaller bite."

The main issue to which his current column applies this approach is the end-to-end principle, an older name for what's now usually called net neutrality. In brief, "when a willing speaker wants to say something to a willing listener, our technology should be designed to make a best effort to deliver the speaker’s message to the person who asked to get it." After decades of development of the internet, why don't we have this transparently obvious, user-friendly system?

When we ask a question with Google, why does it prioritize its own search engine's results over those of others that might be more relevant to the questioner's needs? When we search for a specific book or other product on Amazon, why do several other products pop up at the top of the page ahead of the one we typed in the search box? Why do Facebook posts from people and organizations we actually want to hear from get drowned in a sea of sponsored posts? Well, yeah, money and profit (duh). But why are such practices legally permitted? Why is Facebook allowed to restrict our access to posts from users we've liked or followed by blackmailing them into "boosting" their posts—paying to have their material seen by people who've expressed a wish to see it? Suppose when we tried to telephone a local business, the phone company routed the call to a rival business that had paid for the privilege? Nobody would stand for that, yet the equivalent happens online all the time.

Doctorow suggests examples of a few modest rules that internet companies should be required to follow: E.g. “The first result for a search should be the product that most closely matches the thing I searched for” and “If I subscribe to your feed, then when you publish something, it should show up in my feed.”

For a long time I was puzzled that my posts on my Facebook author page showed such low numbers of "Reach." The page doesn't have a huge throng of followers, but it certainly has a lot more than those being "reached." It was a shock to learn that in order to be read by more than a handful of followers, those posts needed to be boosted. In other words, I would have to bribe Facebook to carry out the function it purports to perform, connecting senders with willing receivers. Likewise, it's a constant, though minor irritant that searching for a book on Amazon often connects to a page where I have to scroll halfway down to find the desired item. According to Doctorow, the volume of ads and sponsored posts is delicately designed to stay "just below the threshold where the service becomes useless to you." I fear he may be right.

Will the limited ideal of his online utopia ever become a reality? Maybe not, but it's worth discussing.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Lorum Ipsum or Blah Blah Blah

My title should be lorum ipsum, but it indicates to printers not to waste ink, and I fear that the bots might over ride publishing when I click the Publish button.

The copyright/trademark/advertising law legal blogs are awash with thoughts about A1, so I am looking elsewhere again for today.

One of the blogs that I have followed for many years is that of Dr. Bob Rich.

There's a tab called How to change the world. If you click on it, you will be treated to a long, and thought-provoking essay.

Aside from the environment and Faustian bargains, and strictly in my opinion, one way *not* to change the world is a bumper sticker on an athlete's protective gear that advocates for third party thought control.

Using the present participle would make a big (meaningful) difference, but that would necessitate two more characters... more ink, smaller font, less visibility for the Message. 

Dimly, from my studies of philosophy and psychology at Cambridge, myriad moons ago, I seem to recall a school of thought (possibly Nietzschean) that the best way to eliminate an undesirable emotion from the culture is to remove the word from use or discovery.

If there is no name for an emotion or feeling, one cannot express that emotion or feeling. One might feel confusion and frustration instead...

For the purists, I am not so ancient that I have seen 10,000 moons since graduating. It's more like 600, but I like the alliteration of "myriad moons", and also the teachable moment it afforded (where it all comes down to whether "myriad" is a noun or an adjective.)

All the best,

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

Friday, March 24, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 3

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 3

Based on Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing (formerly titled Bring Your Fiction to Life {Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity})

This is the final of three posts dealing with three-dimensional fiction writing.

The word “three-dimensional” is not only easy to define as solid, realistic, rounded and lifelike, even living, but it also translates well into the craft of writing. Most writers know what is not three-dimensional writing. Simple words convey the concept: flat, cardboard, paper doll, unrealistic, unremarkable, un- or underdeveloped, dead. Writing that is three-dimensional seems to have length (the foundation of a story), width (structure), and depth (fully-fleshed-out characters, plots and settings rooted in layers of rich, textured scenes). Three-dimensional writing is what allows a reader to step through the pages of a book and enter the world created, where plot and characters are in that glorious, realistic realm that starts with little more than a line and progresses into shape and finally represents solid form. Once three-dimensionality is grasped, all things are possible: direction, motion, focus, vivid color, texture, harmony, variety in which change is attainable and value becomes concrete. But how do we translate dimensional foundations into the opening and resolution scenes we’ve written along with into the all-important bridge scenes between? That’s where three-dimensional writing gets sketchy and needs an examination of step-by-step technique. We'll explore all of these in detail in here and also provide a checklist that can be used to ensure depth and dimension as we revise.

Anatomy of a Three-Dimensional Scene

To understand what we need to add the necessary depth and dimension and fully develop each and every scene in a book, let’s explore the kinds of scenes each story needs.

There are three types of scenes: Opening, Bridge and Resolution. Opening and resolution scenes are the crucial support structures that bridge scenes are built between. Each must be well constructed with purpose, strong enough to carry the loads required of them.

Opening scenes introduce characters, plots, and settings, and where the story is going. Carefully consider and craft your hook—the opening line of your book. This pivotal sentence should either contain or suggest the end of your story. That first line should resonate throughout the book, parallel and/or reflect the resolution, and maybe even tie into the final sentence. Your opening scenes always introduce an "implicit promise" to the reader. If you don’t deliver what you've promised within your first scene by the time your story ends, you’ve stolen time, money, and even reader emotions, all with a careless shrug of purposeful neglect. Writers can take more time unpacking opening scenes than they can anywhere else in the story. If the reader doesn’t have a strong desire to invest emotionally in the characters from the very first scenes, he won't care what happens next, let alone how everything is resolved. The only difference between opening, bridge and resolution scenes is that the reader enters an opening scene knowing absolutely nothing thus far. New locations must be discovered, detailed and described in-depth at the opening of a story or when they're first introduced, but familiar locations don't require such an elaborate setup after the initial visit.

In the back of your mind, at every point in the storytelling, should be the fact that the end of your story is where you're going. You're continuously building toward the wrap-up. Your direction is crucial because, your story beginning should resonate throughout the rest of the book. It should match up with the resolution and may even tie into the final sentence. The end grounds and justifies the whole of the story. How your story ends is essentially a reward to your reader for taking the journey with you. All loose ends must be tied up adequately in your story. 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 feel cheated, and rightly so. All story endings must be logical, with a sense of inevitability. It's the final, not always the first, impression that will bear lasting judgment. The reader should feel that every minute of his time in your world—putting off, giving up, or altogether missing other things—was well spent. While it's been said the opening sentence can make or break the book, the ending is what makes or breaks the author. Have you ever finished a story and immediately sought out everything else by that author? If that's not your ultimate goal as an author, I don't know what is. The only difference between opening, bridge and resolution scenes is that your resolution scenes are where you'll resolve all conflicts from the viewpoint of a reader who expects you to keep the promise you made when you started the story.

Hands down, the middle bridge scenes are the trickiest to develop because the majority of your story unfolds within them, and that has to happen with ideal pacing. Every bridge scene should show a realistic, vivid picture of the story landscape within the first few paragraphs and as succinctly as possible such that the reader can step into it right alongside the main character and feel informed and eager for the next plot development. Until the scene is established sufficiently, the reader can’t enter, let alone be transported there without unfortunate repercussions. The secret to writing three-dimensional bridge scenes is that all of these scenes must set up before they can set out to tell their crucial piece of the story. Each bridge scene has to meet three basic requirements:

1.      Establish the three-dimensional characters (especially the POV character) you worked so hard to develop.

2.      Advance the plot. Be clear on every character’s agenda in a scene, and the agendas in conflict. If the scene doesn't have a clear purpose in progressing the story, it needs to be questioned. Having three dimensions of character, plot, and setting are crucial to advancing a story through the middle scenes.

3.      Construct the setting. Readers must be led through the story world step by step with information that first anchors, then orients, and finally allows them to move forward with a sense of anticipation. Scenes can't really function without time and place being indicated early (and concisely) enough so your reader doesn’t become lost, looking to establish where he is, was, and where he's going.

Ensuring that all of these requirements are accomplished in each scene in a creative, non-info-dump way isn’t for the faint of heart, and one that might demand a lot of revision. But the harder readers have to work to orient themselves, the easier it becomes to set down the book, possibly for good.

The three basics to scene setup we established above aren't all that's needed, either. The secret to writing three-dimensional bridge scenes is that all must set up before they can set out to tell their crucial piece of the story. In real life, a bridge has two sides and both must be firmly anchored to something tangible in order to successfully function. But your goal isn't simply to get your characters from Point A to Point B. Scenes have to connect, join, fuse, and be secured in such an intrinsic way that they flow from start to finish, one to the next, in a natural progression. The secret to providing scenes that anchor and orient readers, and lead them with purpose throughout your story landscape, always with a whisper of what's to come, is twofold:

1.      Connect the bridge from one scene to the next seamlessly. You can use this method for all the scenes in your book, because the technique is the same from one to the next. The only difference is that in the very first scene of the book (the opening scene), you’re starting from the viewpoint of the reader knowing nothing about what came before—hence the need for more room and clever acts of brevity that introduce the story elements of character, plot, and setting. There's nothing worse than dropping a reader in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night and he isn't given enough details to figure out where he is, what's going on, and who this character running ahead of him in the darkness is. In the same way that the first step in using a microscope is to focus the lens, we need to provide the focus for characters, settings and plots in our opening scenes.

2.      Extend the bridge into the next scene. What you're doing here is foreshadowing future events (the future dimension we discussed earlier). Victoria Lynn Schmidt describes this as "making the reader wonder what could possibly happen next, without making [him] incredulous after it happens." Obviously extending the bridge toward the next scene won’t be done in the opening paragraphs but closer to the end of the scene. As we said about an opening scene, the difference with resolution scenes is that they should tie up all the story threads while leaving a satisfactory sense of finality rather than making the reader question what happens next.

Doing these two things is something that takes a lot of practice to master, since you don’t want an opening with a recap like “Last time in our story…” let alone a transitional punch in the face from recap to the current story, such as: “And that brings us to the present…” Nor do you want to leave your reader hanging, wondering if your story is actually going anywhere. The reader needs to dread/hope about future events, or he won't care to keep reading. Unfortunately, there is no magical formula that translates the five W's into wonderfully written prose, since you definitely don’t want each scene to be set up exactly like the last.

Preparation (and a worksheet) should do the trick of ensuring we get all of this sketched out early so, when it comes time to revise the story, we produce prose with an efficiency of words that's creative and innovate in transporting informed, eager readers into full-fledged dimensionality of story. A simple three-dimensional scene checklist that covers the most crucial aspects would include the following:

Depth & Dimension Scene Revision Checklist

Connecting the Bridge to this Scene from the Last Scene (When): (Establish the "when" by alluding to what's happened previously. In bridge scenes, try to do this without becoming repetitive. You want to get readers up to speed for what's about to happen in this scene. For bridge scenes, it's crucial you give a definable sense of how much time has passed since this point-of-view character's last scene)



·         Who is the point-of-view character in this scene? (Only one point-of-view character per scene, and this is the only character you can get inside the head of for this scene.)

·         What other characters are in this scene when it opens? (These are the only ones you need to concern yourself with in the set-up.)


·         Establish what the main and other characters listed in the last section are doing physically at the time the scene opens.


·         Where are the main and other characters in the scene? Establish their location(s) in a broad sense as well as specifically.


·         What's going on in this scene in the overall unfolding of the story?

Extending the Bridge toward the Next Scene: (This will be done closer to the end of each bridge scene. Give the reader some light and anticipation for the path ahead.)

The good news is, the more you practice these techniques and identify them in the published books you read, the better your chances of mastering the fundamentals. If you have trouble doing this with your own work, try out the checklist using some of your favorite published novels.

Start by coming into each project with the necessary preparation of setting up before you set out. From there, you can translate each item on the checklist into well setup, three-dimensional scenes. All three of these steps will ensure that you’re creating a story so breathtaking it allows readers to eagerly enter the picture you’ve painted right alongside the main characters.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing

Volume 5 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, March 23, 2023

ICFA 2023

Last week the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts was held in Orlando (as usual). This was the second in-person conference since the two-year pandemic hiatus (which include a virtual con in 2021). Weather stayed perfectly sunny from Wednesday through Sunday, aside from some rain, maybe, in the middle of the night on Friday. However, Sunday morning was oddly chilly for Orlando in March, first time I've ever seen daytime temperatures in the 50s.

Conference theme was Afrofuturism. The Guest of Honor was Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, a Nigerian author, editor, and publisher of speculative fiction, who couldn't be physically present. His luncheon GOH speech was prerecorded. One point he emphasized was that elements of indigenous belief systems are often treated as "fantasy" when transferred into Western fiction, although they are an integral part of the cultural background in their societies of origin. After the talk was played, he appeared "live" for a Zoom Q and A. The scholar guest of honor, Isiah Lavender III, is author of AFROFUTURISM RISING: THE LITERARY PREHISTORY OF A MOVEMENT and numerous other works. As someone else remarked at one point, I think I came away from the conference knowing less about Afrofuturism than when I arrived. Starting from a general idea of what the term means, I encountered so many different perspectives on analyzing it that summarizing it in one succinct definition seemed hopeless. Sort of like trying to define science fiction! A completely new word I encountered was "noirum," analogous to the SF "novum," the innovation in science or technology that forms the premise of a science-fiction story. A noirum is (if I understood correctly) the sociological equivalent, "noir" of course suggesting "black."

Food at the two luncheons and the banquet was abundant and delicious, as usual. Not that every menu item equally delighted me, but there were always several dishes to enjoy. As for dessert, the kitchen staff seemed to have caught on that a chocolate selection must always be included. :)

Some highlights of the program for me: "50 Shades of Nay," a panel about consent in speculative fiction. I expected a discussion of sexual consent, but the topic was much broader. In all areas, how freely can a person give consent to a certain course of action if alternatives are narrowly constrained? If one agrees to something, what trade-offs might one have to accept? Likewise, the panel on gender and sexuality in speculative fiction covered a very wide spectrum of topics. There was also a lively panel on the craft of writing. I especially enjoyed a trio of paper readings about "hybridity," mainly mermaids. A session on Afrofuturism in comics was led by a moderator who appeared to be a human encyclopedia on every aspect of the history of comics, and some other people in the room weren't far behind. The moderator looked almost as old as I am; almost everybody else looked significantly younger. One member of the audience who seemed deeply well-informed nevertheless referred to the 1980s as "the old days" of the comic industry. LOL.

At one of the "Words and Worlds" reading sessions, in which several creators share their work in time slots of ten minutes each, I read part of a scene from my contemporary fantasy story "Bunny Hunt," forthcoming on April 10. People seemed to like it. The other presentations consisted of a poetry cycle, "Old Mother Hubble," about the dying Hubble space telescope, with beautiful photos; a short video of a witty poetic tribute to "Saint Onion," with medieval-style illustrations; and a darkly funny tale of a medieval kitchen boy sent to the woods to search for the hunters who are supposed to be supplying a boar for the feast of Saint Stephen.

At the meeting of the Lord Ruthven Assembly, our vampire and revenant studies group, we viewed THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, starring Vincent Price. This earliest and most low-budget adaptation of Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND is, oddly, the only movie that comes close to faithfully following the novel. Also, we had popcorn.

The flight home on Sunday had a delay in takeoff, but it arrived at the Baltimore airport safely and not too late.

You can read about the organization and the conference here:

International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Not For People With Children

One would have thought that drug companies ought to be among the most precise and accurate with the wording of their advertisements. Apparently, some are not.

This new "wonder drug" is probably not truly an example of familial status discrimination, but in a science fiction setting where the goal of a pharmocracy might be to reduce the human population, one might deny certain medicines to those who procreate. Conversely, on a human colony where fertility might be important, there might be steroid-like drugs given to non-reproducing workers (like ants or bees) which (drugs) would not be suitable for family members. 

Either scenario reminds me of The Time Machine where humans split into different species, one predatory. Another interesting read is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, where predators "converge" to look more like their prey.

To return to the advertisement, the complete wording is something like, "Not for people with diabetes or children." 

Grammatically, the "for people with" applies to both "diabetes" and "children". There is also an insinuation that children are not people.

It would probably have been better expressed as, "Not for children, nor for people with diabetes," or "Not for people with diabetes, nor for children."

Are sloppily-worded advertisements a symptom, or a small part of the cause of the decline in intelligence that has been noticed recently? By the way, is a great site with lots of grist for the intellectual mill.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday

Friday, March 17, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 2

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 2

Based on Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing (formerly titled Bring Your Fiction to Life {Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity})

This is the second of three posts dealing with three-dimensional fiction writing.

In Part 1, we talked about Present and Past Self. Let's continue.

Future Self

In contrast to backstory, the future we're talking about in respect to "future dimension" is not specifically referring to actual future events of the fictional characters we create. Nor is it a "futuristic" way of looking at what's going to happen at some point in the story of this character's life. In other words, we're not trying to show the character in a setting or situation decades in the future of the current story. Instead, the future self is about projecting forward to what may come in the future, what resolution may result at the conclusion of the story, based on the ever-evolving development of current events.

            Ask yourself these questions:

·                     What does your character want in life?

·                     What will it take to get that?

·                     What might change if she gets it?

·                     Just as important, what would happen if she doesn't get it?

·                     What's at stake? 

If you don't give characters fully fleshed out situations, conflicts, and goals and motivations for the future, you've essentially left the reader with nothing to hope for or look forward to. He won't be inspired to rage when it looks like the character might not succeed in her goals, nor will he be held in suspense waiting for the worst to happen. Whispers of the best and the worst that could happen are the very things that keep the reader engaged in the story. Don't underestimate the importance of including this in each and every scene of your story. Without an undertone of what's ahead, a reader will read each page wondering Where is all this going? What's the point of this? Is it worth reading? These hints are the very things that keep the reader engaged scene by scene.


To show future dimension of self is a way of allowing readers something to either anticipate and/or dread in terms of where the characters and story are going, as well as project possibilities, expectations, apprehensions, and anxiety about what might happen in the future at each stage in the storytelling. You want to produce suspense and outright tension, excitement, and trepidation. Bottom line, you want to create an uncertainty of outcome in every stage without creating an illogical or unsatisfactory resolution. The future dimension anchors and deepens the context for a resolution because the reader needs to be aware from one scene to the next where this story is (or may be) going, in what the direction events are unfolding, and where it may (or may not) conclude.

Obviously this is something that is constantly evolving in response to the character's own direction throughout the story. It's often been said that the beginning of a book should resonate at the end of the story. An opening scene or scenes should include, in some capacity, a hint of the character's ideal goal, what she ultimately wishes for her future. The bridge scenes that carry the middle of a story will gradually reflect or challenge this ideal as plots develop in reaction to internal and external conflicts, and as the character's goals and motivations transform. The resolution scenes will also mirror that objective, though it's unlikely that "The End" is exactly what the character envisioned at the beginning. In fact, that initial outcome is usually undesirable by the time the last scene comes, because all writers should strive for a logical—but unpredictable—ending.

The point is, without that future dimension that looks ahead toward the possible outcomes of a story, the reader won't be grounded in knowing exactly what he should be hoping for and rooting to happen. A reader who isn’t engaged is one you’ll lose sooner or later. For that reason, future dimension is as pivotal as the present and past.

All main characters need a fully fleshed-out future dimension of a character, woven in throughout scenes. Human beings desire purpose; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is at the heart of the reader's hope/dread response as a story is being told. We all have strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets, vices and virtues, failures and accomplishments, boundaries to set and hurdles to overcome. In combination, these will begin in our formative years; they will be the foundation of the person we currently are, and shape who we become in the future. Weaving this future dimension of self throughout a story is vitally important. Without it, there can be no satisfactory, logical—yet unpredictable—ending. If you can’t create a longing in readers for the main character to reach her story goal right from the start, to resolve with fierce motivation her conflicts and fulfill her goals, there’s no reason to read (or for the author to write) the book.

In the most condensed form, you'll see a main character’s three-dimensions seamlessly woven into nearly every story synopsis you read. To help you practice this, read a variety of back cover blurbs from published books and try to pinpoint which aspects are present, past and future self of the main character. Once you can identify them, try to write your own story summaries with the three dimensions in mind.

Without each of these “self” dimensions clearly defined before you start writing your story, your characters may end up two-dimensional at best—they’ll have shape without form. In the ideal, you’ll know your characters, plots and settings so well before you begin the multi-layered task of bringing the book to fruition, the groundwork for three-dimensional writing will be laid out and just waiting for you to root deeply into each scene you write.

In Part 3, we'll talk about adding depth and dimension to your story scenes.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing

Volume 5 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: