Sunday, December 10, 2017

In Praise Of Procrastinators....

Well, perhaps not "in praise", but I like alliteration in my titles. It would be more accurate to title this article, "Sympathy For Procrastinators."

If you are a common or garden blogger, you are probably not an OSP (Online Service Provider), and you probably do not need to register your Copyright Agent with the copyright office.

Or perhaps you do. If you have a YouTube video of your own promotional book trailer in your footer, are you sure that YouTube isn't showing--and won't ever show--something similarly titled, without telling you?

For $6.00 and the loss of some privacy, you can register yourself as the copyright agent for up to ten (10) websites and blogs, and you will be covered by the Safe Harbor provisions of the DMCA in case some visitor posts someone else's copyrighted content (a photo, or hyperlink, or lyrics) without permission.

Or maybe you have a website and a webmistress, and you never asked her where she licensed the images that decorate your site.... or whether she licensed the fonts.

You start here:

You create an account with a user name and a password, then wait for an email from to confirm your DMCA Designated Agent Registration Account.

When it comes, you follow the link, sign in, and follow a 4-step process filling in your real name, real address, real phone number, also your business name. All authors ought to have an LLC.  Then, you add the names of your websites and blogs. Then you check for accuracy, and you pay.


For those more motivated by what lawyers say in their blogs, there's "Two Copyright To-Dos Before Year End", from  Elizabeth A. Tassi of Stinson Leonard Street LLP

It's a well-written article.  This author recommends it.

"December 31,  2017 Deadline to Avoid Loss of Safe Harbor Protection Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act" is a short, to the point reminder from David A. Donohue, blogging for  Frosse Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu PC (arguably the largest lawfirm in the world dealing with trademark and copyright law).

Another worth-your-time legal blog is "The Low-Down On DMCA Regulations And Take-Downs".

For Burr & Forman LLP, legal bloggers Brooke Penrose and Deborah Peckham include a warning about the consequences of failing to designate an agent.

Finally, for our European readers (who know all about the cookies that Blogger puts on their equipment), there's a heartening article about Pirate Bay and Torrents from legal blogger Jaroslav Tajbr of Noerr LLP.  (My Mnemonic : No Error).

That's "Torrents At The European Court Of Justice Of The European Union." And, it's about time someone ruled that torrents are infringement, IMHO!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Stylistic Superstitions

There are a couple of too-prevalent over-corrections often seen in published writing that especially bug me. "Lay" as the past tense of the transitive verb "lay" particularly makes my teeth grind. As in, "He picked up the book and lay it on the table," instead of the correct past tense "laid." It's as if the author thinks "laid" sounds too crude. Likewise, many people overuse "whom" because they seem to think "who" is incorrect everywhere except when clearly the subject of a main clause. The tricky kind of sentence that trips them up goes something like this:

That's the man who I believe robbed the store.

Often someone will write "whom" instead, under the impression that it's the object of "believe." In fact, the object of "believe" is the entire relative clause (of which "who" is the subject). A lucid illustration of this point that I read not long ago rearranges the sentence this way:

That's the man who robbed the store, I believe.

By "superstitions," however, I'm referring to a different phenomenon, usages people think are grammatically or stylistically wrong even though they're perfectly innocuous. By now everybody probably knows that there's nothing evil about splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition. Those "rules" were invented in the eighteenth century by grammarians determined to make English conform to the structure of Latin.

We still hear stern admonitions, though, not to start a sentence with "and" or "but." As a pupil of the strictest old-fashioned English teachers imaginable, in the 1960s, I never heard of such a "rule." It seems to be a relatively recent invention with no rational basis. "And" and "but" are coordinating conjunctions, used to introduce independent clauses, so there's no reason to forbid them to introduce sentences. And if you want to find numerous examples of such usage, take a peek at the King James version of the Bible.

I once had an editor who insisted the possessive case couldn't apply to inanimate objects. Quite aside from the grammatical fact that the possessive ("genitive" in Latin) has other uses besides indicating literal possession, substituting an unnecessarily clunky "of the" phrase for apostrophe-S with all non-living nouns contradicts both normal conversational English and venerable precedents in formal writing. For example: The dawn's early light. The twilight's last gleaming. The church's one foundation. New Year's Eve. Numerous familiar phrases such as "the year's best books" and "the world's oldest person."

Another editor of my acquaintance had what I consider an irrational objection to "stand up" and "sit down." On the grounds that the "up" and "down" were redundant, she made me delete them everywhere. In many contexts, plain "stand" or "sit" sounds abrupt and/or stilted. When inviting someone to take a seat, we say, "Sit down," rather than barking "Sit" as if addressing a dog. Also, we often need the preposition to distinguish between verbs of position and verbs of action. "Stand up" and "stand there" mean different things. If you write, "She sat on the couch," do you mean she was already sitting there (using the simple past "sat" to avoid the past progressive "was sitting," another construction many people irrationally condemn, with the mistaken idea that it's "passive") or that she was in the process of taking a seat?

Too much contemporary published writing, alas, is riddled with more than enough genuine errors, without muddying the waters of correct style by imposing groundless prohibitions on top of the established standards.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Theme-Character Integration Part 11: Creating A Prophet Character

Theme-Character Integration
Part 11

Creating A Prophet Character


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series are indexed at:

The last few weeks we have discussed the use of Prophecy in crafting a world against which to showcase your Characters.

Note, Prophecy, like ESP of any sort, or "Magic" by enslaving a Djinn, speaks to the way the laws of physics (and maybe even math and Chemistry) differ in your world.  The reader very often buys a book based on whether it is set in "real reality" or a reality made up by the writer.

The difference in the Laws of Nature between your Romance Novel's reality and the reader's reality is the primary SHOW DON'T TELL element that defines your THEME.

The general rule is to allow only one such difference per novel.  That's a corollary of the K.I.S.S. rule.

In other words, you can't insert a Prophecy into a real-world novel without informing the Reader that your world is not "real."

It is the same for the Soul Mate thesis -- if Soul Mates exist, then Souls exist, and that is not part of all your reader's realities.

But if Souls exist, then it is very likely that Prophecy exists in your world.

Souls, by definition, are "immortal" or transcend our physical reality.  Neuroscience is busy proving that everything about human life and perception can be explained by brain functions.

Here are a couple of recent articles about how your reader thinks.

They have identified a multitude of cognitive biases, assumptions that cloud our thinking and cause us to misinterpret new data or discard it as unreliable.  Robert Heinlein wrote Hero Characters who called this type of thinking "lazy thinking."

Here is the infographic featured in that item:

Here is an article showing how they are still discovering new organs in the human body, changing the scientific view of how our immune system connects to the brain.

Since we are considering the use of Prophecy in Science Fiction Romance, let's explore one way to use the Theme of Prophecy.

In this World where Prophecy is real, but Science still works and exists, (i.e. in a Science Fiction Romance), we need Characters whose internal conflict centers on the Theme.  So we need first a thematic statement about Prophecy and Science.

THEME: Science Disproves Prophecy - (astrophysics about how Time works)

THEME: Prophecy Disproves Science - (Spirituality about how Time works)

THEME: Prophecy Can Come True Only If Source is Creator of the Universe.

THEME: Anyone Can Foretell the Future With The right (scientific) Device/Gadget

THEME: Reality is fungible: Prophecy and Science do not conflict.

The cliche plot would work out a conflict between a True Believer and a Scientist.  X-Files is an example.  There are a few newer shows using this conflict, and a wide variety of themes.

So if you are using your reader's "real" world, and changing only the element that says "Prophecy Is Real," then you can design several sorts of Characters to place in conflict to each other.

Theme is the statement derived from the outcome of that Character vs. Character conflict.

If the Character who accepts Prophecy as real is proven correct, the THEME is PROPHECY DISPROVES SCIENCE.

If the Character who debunks Prophecy is proven correct, the THEME is PROPHECY IS BUNK.

You can save yourself 20 years of rewriting (I am not kidding; I know writers who worked and reworked novels for that long, finally selling it only when the theme was clarified).

If you have to change the theme of a novel on rewrite, you are in for a world of hurt.

There is another theme that goes with using The Unseen as a concrete element in your world:

THEME: I am correct and if you don't believe me, you will be sorry.

Or put another way, a Character whose life revolves around The Cassandra Complex -- remember Apollo gave her Prophecy and cursed her with not being believed.  Many science fiction and fantasy novels have been written around this theme: "I know something you don't know."

Would two Characters be able to stay in love, get married, raise children, after one proves to the other that their entire worldview is incorrect?

It has happened in real life via Religious Conversion epiphany type experiences.  But can you make it plausible to your target readership?

You can use three major Characters, perhaps a love triangle, where one is the Prophet, one the Scientist, and one the Believer (but not necessarily a True Believer; perhaps a skeptical Believer.)

You can use an Ancient Prophecy and the True Believers who accept it is about to come true.  And in that context, you can bring that Ancient Prophet onstage in your novel, via flashback (a very, very difficult technique to master), and show don't tell your reader the Prophecy the contemporary Characters are dealing with was a) made up as a scam, b) was genuinely Received from the Creator of the Universe, c) has already manifested fully and is moot to your modern Characters.

I'm sure you can think of other possibilities.

The most important part of creating a Prophet Character is that the Character's Internal Conflict (and thus his behavior under the impact of Plot Events) has to be about the Message to be delivered.

The Prophet Character can be conflicted over the very Reality of Prophecy, or like Jonah who fled to sea rather than deliver God's message, resisting the Message itself as well as his own Agency in delivering the information.  \

In the Biblical story of Jonah, Jonah was not in internal conflict over the existence or dominion of God.  He did not want to be the bearer of this message to those people.  After being swallowed by an ocean creature and barfed up on land, Jonah went and delivered his message, and many people believed him and took his advice, to their benefit.

One (of many) points of the story is simply that if God tells you to deliver a message, do yourself a favor and just go say what you're told to say.

If a Prophet Character is your skeptical scientist Character, he might well resist saying this nonsensical message or be loath to say it to the target audience.  In the film, OH, GOD!, John Denver is non-religious but becomes convinced this is God who is telling him to get the Word out.  It only takes a few little miracles.  But he can't convey that conviction to his listeners.

And the message is not a Prophecy that will come true, or not, and thus be proven real.  It is simply that the world is designed to work, but only if you stop killing each other.

Making a film for a wide audience, you can't come down on one side or the other.  They presented God as real (George Burns at age 100 did a fabulous job playing God), and wrote the Message in the way of most Prophecy -- wide open to interpretation, and dependent on what people choose to do.

Thus you can make a tight case for either side of the argument.

But that is film.  A novel reader, especially in the Romance sub-genres, wants something more substantial and unequivocal.

Once you inject that substantial element into your Prophecy, it can be proved or disproved.

Note that in the study of Philosophy, the hypothesis of God is considered non-falsifiable.  There is no way to disprove God's existence, therefore there is no way to prove God is real.

So if your Prophecy can be proven, then its Source is proven real.  If that Source is God, you might be able to sell the novel only to the Christian Press -- but they won't go for ad hoc Prophets walking contemporary Earth.

The market for proven Prophecy is the Best Seller Blockbuster Biblical Code market -- like The Davinci Code:

That novel revived an old Genre.  Note how Amazon will pull up books about demons in the same search with Davinci Code.

There is room in that market for a whopping, James Michener sized Science Fiction Romance - maybe with more than a touch of Paranormal.

So select your Theme by considering what your target readers want.

Many read novels for the ideas, or a view of far away places with strange sounding names.  Many read novels for stimulation or to whet the appetite for aspiration.

Would any in your target readership want to be inspired to become a Prophet?

Is your Prophet Character the Hero, or the poor sucker being used by a relentless paranormal force?  Was he/she a good guy turned corrupt by this outside influence?

Does your Prophet Character need rescuing from this Controlling Force?  (Cassandra style).

"Who" is your Prophet -- inside, subconsciously, what needs and ambitions beset this individual?

How does either being infected with Prophecy from childhood, or blossoming suddenly into a Prophet affect the priorities of that individual.

Would Love and ultimately Sex relieve the individual of Prophet duties?

Consider what the answers to those questions reveal about your THEME.

A theme is a non-verbal, show-don't-tell, statement about what is "right" in life, and what the price of doing the "right thing" will be because of the nature of your well-built World.

So the answers to those questions define your Theme.  The theme is what you have to say on this topic.  How you say it depends, as in any conversation, on who your audience is - what they already believe, and how you argue your point until you convince them.  Maybe you can't convince them that your theme is correct, but you might plant a doubt about whether their notion of reality is fully formed.

"The Truth Is Out There" - was the theme of X-Files, and it is still a theme that works today.  Truth is not fact, information or data.  Truth is not "in here" inside your mind.  It is external, objective, and often unknowable.

Most Cognitive Bias functions to relieve us of the need to think through the ramifications of what we "know."  It is lazy thinking, and feels good because we never have to consider the nature of Truth.

Cognitive Bias often leads us into Royal Pickles and Adamantine Plights, Horns of Dilemmas, and dark miseries.

At the peak turning point of those Situations we often have to break out of our Cognitive Bias and stare Objective Truth in the eye.  Those who don't do that do not survive the moment.

The Prophet Character will be, like the hapless Grocery Clerk in OH, GOD!, the one who has penetrated Cognitive Bias and found a new truth.

The film dealt with the Prophet Character from the inside, telling his story of wrestling with the truth of the Impossible.  Taking a different point of view for a novel would lend the air of mystery and suspense.  Your erstwhile Lovers might well be fighting each other over the genuineness of your Prophet Character.

You might even consider making your Prophet Character a Matchmaker, bringing the two Lovers together for a most improbable match made in Heaven.

Fortune Telling or Foretelling the Future, divination and oracular pronouncements, is an entirely different thing from Prophecy.  In Prophecy some Force from outside reality thrusts a message into the Prophet's mind.  In the various forms of fortune telling, like the Oracle at Delphi, someone asks a Talented person a question and the person uses that Talent to SEEK the answer -- to find out, to observe reality from a different perspective.

The Fortune Teller is making an assumption, a Cognitive Bias, about the nature of Reality -- that what information they can access will remain unchanged.

That is the Fortune Teller is using the Hellenistic concept of Destiny - rooted in a polytheistic view of reality.  The gods decree, and humans suffer.

The Biblical view of the Universe incorporates the (cognitive bias) that humans have Free Will, but that the Creator of the Universe is still Creating it moment by moment, and can (at Will) create a different path for an individual's life.

The Prophet carries a message of the form, "If you keep on doing this, then I will do that."  Or, "if you don't stop doing that, I will do this."  Prophecy is conditional on free will acceptance of the divine Will.

The film, OH, GOD! hedged that message form down to a plain vanilla message without pointing to what humans are doing wrong (except the generally accepted killing each other) and no defining of the penalty for continuing to do wrong.  For an example, read Ezekiel.

So one of the thematic choices you have to make is whether your World incorporates Fortune Telling as efficacious - or if Prophecy is real -- or both.  For example, Fortune Telling and Prophecy might both be real, and the Prophet has been sent to issue a cease and desist notice to the Fortune Teller.

STORY: A pagan gypsy Fortune Teller meets a genuine Prophet of the Creator of the Universe who objects to the Fortune Teller's using cognitive bias as a weapon to cripple the Free Will The Creator gave them. .

Prophecy is usually about the shaping of civilizations, nations, and thousand year spans of history.  Fortune Telling is usually about an individual's personal fate.

Is "fate" real in your World?  Or can an individual "Be Saved" by a Divine Savior, just by believing?  Or maybe you have to save yourself by making amends, fixing what you broke, cleaning up your mess, then relaunching your life along the lines of righteous behavior?

In Biblical times, there were thousands of genuine (well vetted by their guild like organization) Prophets who could be consulted by individuals regarding the proper course of action through a dilemma.  People did consult them, and the advice consistently proved correct.  The Prophets would take the assignment, and then sleep on it overnight, dream the answer, and come back with their best description of what they had "seen."

The Book of Prophets contains the writings of the few great prophets who advised Kings and Princes - whose words moved nations and are still relevant today for the principles revealed.

After you've sketched out the science fiction romance novel you want to write, read the Book of Prophets -- maybe also the first 5 Books of the Bible with the story of the life of Moses.  Moses was different among all the Prophets as he spoke with G-d face to face, not in dreams.  Nothing was open to interpretation.  He repeated what he was told.

Decide if you need to create a Character who moves International Politics, or one who founds a Nation, or one who advises individuals.

Decide what the penalty would be to your Prophet should he speak falsely.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Seeking Pirated Content, And Support H.R. 3945

More than 430,000,000 (four hundred and thirty million) people seek pirated "content" every month. Most of these people would never dream of shoplifting, but they see nothing wrong with going out of their way to avoid paying for that which they seek, if it is available online.

Source : Keith Kupferschmidt

People who visit pirate sites are 28 times more likely to pick up malware and spyware, and often, the quality of whatever they download is inferior to what they could have purchased safely and legally and for a very reasonable price.

Talking of a reasonable price, many copyright owners would benefit from being able to take the next step in enforcing their copyrights if it was possible to pursue an infringer in small claims court.

Currently, a copyright owner may send a DMCA (takedown) notice to a site that hosts user-uploaded files.  You can find a sample DMCA Notice here or here.

However, if the copyright infringing user files a "Counter-Notice" stating that that user believes that he (or she) is entitled to publish and distribute the author's copyrighted work, the site will reinstate the pirated files or links, and the copyrighted work will continue to be published and distributed forever.... unless the copyright owner is wealthy enough to bring a lawsuit in federal court. Few are.

H.R. 3945 would permit copyright owners to take action against an untruthful "Counter-Notice" through a small claims court. The cost to the plaintiff would be less. The potential fines would be much less.

The Copyright Alliance asks authors and other copyright owners to use their system to customize and personalize a sample letter and to let the Copyright Alliance forward it to their  Representatives and Senators.

Click this "Add Your Voice" link.  Click the orange "Ask Your Representative... To Cosponsor H.R.3954...."   On the next page, fill in your address and zip code.  Clicking the blue "Search" button will take you to the Copyright Alliance's template letter to your own unique Senators and Representatives.

Customize the letter.

Example:  Copyright Alliance's first paragraph

I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2017. This bipartisan bill is important to America’s photographers, illustrators, authors, songwriters and other creators and small businesses that own copyrighted works.
Example: This author's first paragraph.

As an independent author who does not make much from the legal sales of my works.... I implore you to consider stepping up to co-sponsor H.R. 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2017.

It's December. For those who allow anyone at all to upload files to their sites, if you wish to retain safe harbor protections under the DMCA, you must register a copyright agent for your site asap, and certainly this month.

For more information:

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 30, 2017

ChessieCon 2017

With my husband and youngest son, as usual, I spent the weekend after Thanksgiving at ChessieCon (formerly Darkover). Guest of Honor was Ada Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series. Art Guest of Honor was Megan Willis, a storyboard artist on the MY LITTLE PONY series. She gave a talk with Q & A on the animation process and her own career. The principal musical guest was T. J. Burnside Clapp. I loved her songs and was disappointed to find she doesn't have an album currently available. (The two tapes from her former group, Technical Difficulties, didn't make it onto CD because of an accidental misfortune in the transition process.) However, you can hear her beautiful "Lullaby for a Weary World" on YouTube.

I participated in two panels, on Steven Universe and the appeal of horror, and took part in the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading. My husband was on panels about animals in fantasy fiction and the burning question, "Is it harder to teach science to English majors or English to science majors?" Two of the most thoughtful sessions I attended discussed Feminist SF and Feminist Manga. Neither conversation actually managed to define feminism. The manga session brought up the important point that while a work that grapples with gender issues may be feminist, it doesn't have to be. The two overlap but aren't identical. A high note (so to speak) of the weekend for me was the "Totally Not the Clams" performance, music by members of the disbanded folk group Clam Chowder, whose Saturday evening concert was formerly a major event at this con.

Unfortunately, staffing problems didn't allow a full-scale art show as in previous years; a display of the guest artist's work was all they had. Instead of a mass signing event for all the attending authors, the con decided to offer small-group "meet and greet" sessions of about five authors each. Les (my husband) and I had the 9:15 p.m. time slot. Since it occurred in the hotel atrium, plenty of people casually passed by even at that hour. We didn't sell any books, but we had some nice chats. Saturday night ended, as usual, with a show tune sing-along and the traditional singing of the Hallelujah Chorus at midnight. I made sure of getting a room overlooking the atrium so I could listen to those. I still wish the con would reinstate its Friday night costume contest, which faded away from lack of participation several years ago. It's fun to observe hall costumes but not quite the same. One very welcome improvement that has come about in the past year or two: The hotel now has lunch and dinner buffets in addition to the breakfast buffet, plus a concession stand in the lobby for several hours around lunchtime. No more wait, wait, wait to get served, missing convention activities just to eat.

This is a friendly, relaxing con with a strongly book-focused and writer-oriented program, as well as plenty of musical performances and a thriving dealer's room. Highly recommended for any fan who lives near enough to get there conveniently on Thanksgiving weekend.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 17 - Creating A Prophecy

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration

Part 17

Creating A Prophecy


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The index to Theme-Worldbuilding Posts is here:

Last week we looked at Depicting Prophecy

Next week, we'll look at Creating A Prophet Character.

Now let's consider how to craft a fictional Prophecy.

Before you decide your story needs a Prophecy, you need to look at the Characters and Plot to determine if you need a Prophecy that the Characters will (or will not) believe, and that the target audience will (or will not) believe or accept.

Are your Characters going to believe the Prophecy, and then find out it is a sham, a scam, grifter's trick, or a "false religion?"

Why do you need a Prophecy to tell this particular story?

If your story absolutely requires a Prophecy to "work," then you have to create one, or lift one from Earth's rich history.

Do you want to borrow a real Prophecy (one that has, or has not, already been considered to have materialized?) or do you need a completely fresh and original Prophecy?

As noted last week, depicting a Prophecy in a Science Fiction Romance or any fictional work, requires two main things:

1. If you include a Prophecy - the story and plot become about Prophecy, and the non-material (mystical) dimensions behind your built world.

2. Once included, everything else in your built world, every detail, must be consistent with the mechanism by which Prophecy works in your World.  

If you use Prophecy, (or foretelling, or divination, or ESP or any form of foreknowing) you don't have to let the Characters or the Reader know how it works, but you must know how it works.

This is a general rule in writing Fantasy of any sub-genre -- you have to know  more than your reader, and you should let the reader know everything you know.  Just tell your Character's story -- the Characters do this, and that happens, and then the Characters do that.  Just telll the story.

But to get to where you can tell the story without thinking about the details, you must know how the world works so you will invent or pick details that depict the same "world."

If you skip across World Boundaries (as Simon R. Green and Jean Johnson do), the rules by which things work may change.  Sometimes cross-dimension contact changing the physics underlying a World, so how and why things happen can change.
 can get very complicated -- but if you pull it off, as Gini Koch
has done with her Alien series -- you can build a huge readership that feels they live in your world.

Consistency is the key to all this love of your Universe.  

Our real world is stable and consistent while our understanding of our world changes (often as abruptly and radically as taking the Red Pill ).  In our reality, only the Creator of the Universe really knows how things work -- and for all we know He might be changing the rules behind the scenes.  But we see the world as stable, reliable (drop stuff on Earth, it falls - drop stuff in orbit, it floats).

Part of the enchantment of Romance is the "adventure" -- as discussed in the last few weeks -- which is what makes Romance so easily blended with Science Fiction.

Romance is all about The Unknown Tall Dark Stranger, and what's going on inside that dark head -- Science Fiction is all about The Uknown laws of physics, math, chemistry, dimensional geometry, or Alien Species out in the Galaxy.

Meeting a new person (or kind of person) and meeting a new Law of Reality or kind of Reality is Adventure.

Adventure is the action (plot) of going OUT of your comfort zone, or having your comfort zone invaded by something unknowable.

In our modern science (which is changing daily on the topic of "what is Time?" ) it is not possible to predict The Future, but it is possible to extrapolate from data known about the past and present.

Take hurricane forecasting, for example.  Given modern data collection methodology, wedded to modern computational power, and massive advances in mathematics, we have a large handful of "models" for where a hurricane will go and how strong it will become (and when and where it will end).

A hundred years ago, that kind of predication would have been Prophecy -- or Divination.

So what tools are available in your built world?  What can they know?  What can't they know?  And a totally different question:  What do they actually know, believe, accept, act on?

Will your Character act (plot) on the information provided that (as far as he knows) can't be known?

If predictions from one specific source keep proving out, when will your Character begin to accept the next prediction and act on it?

Then you must answer the core question, "Is correct prediction due to random chance, a trick, a scam, a Talent, a Message From God, or simply an illusion -- or perhaps the old, "self-fulfilling Prophecy."

Which mechanism you choose to be "real" to you, the writer, does not have to be known to the Character or the Reader.  Over a series of novels, the Reader should be able to figure it out, and in a good Mystery-Adventure, the Character should figure it out after the Reader has a prime suspicion.

After the Character figures out how the Prophecy happens, then the Character must TEST (as in Science) if that hypothesis is true.  The Character devises some sort of test and executes it (plot) (that can take a whole novel), gets results and comes to rely upon the new Theory of Reality.

In a long series of Science Fiction Romance novels, the main Character(s) may concoct and disprove a long list of theories about this onerous and obscure Prophecy that seems to be determining or directing their lives.

Since the reader knows that on Earth, among humans, prophecies of doom are promulgated by cults, usually gathered around someone who is a bit unbalanced, and so far doom hasn't happened as predicted, the Reader is not going to believe the plot-Prophecy you introduce is really Prophecy.

You have to argue and convince the Reader that, in this World you have Built, Prophecy is "real" and this prophecy is actually true (or not-true).  Characters you have led the Reader to respect have to lean toward whichever answer your plot requires.  Characters you do not want the Reader to respect should be leaning away from the answer.

To craft those Characters and make them plausible, you have to know the answer.

If you change your mind as you write -- and that often happens! -- then you will have to rewrite, and the novel or series will become boring to you after many detail adjustments.  In fact, this error (deciding things about your World in an unproductive order) often leads to dropped manuscripts, discarded Ideas after years of investment in them, and even Writer's Block.

If you, the writer, know too much about your world, your characters, your theme and plot, before you start writing, you will get bored or hit a wall where you can't write any more.

If you don't know enough, what you write will develop inconsistency -- Characters will behave "out of Character" and choices and plot events will seem "implausible" -- when you, the writer, lose the thread of the narrative (the because-line), then your Reader wanders off the line, gets bored, and tosses the book aside.  Your byline gets tagged in their minds as "not worth the price."

But how much is "enough?"

That amount varies from writer to writer, and from project to project.

The old, general advice is to become a professional writer, you must do a million words for the garbage can.  In other words, practice gets you to Carnegie Hall.  Practice is professional work, too.

With practice, if you do it the way a musician learns an instrument or a particular piece, with a goal of mastery in mind, you will be able to know before you start writing, how long this story will be.  And you will know just when you know enough about the story to tell it.

Playing a musicial piece on stage is the same skill as writing a story.

Writing is a Performing Art.

In music, you have Waltzes, Symphonies, Jigs, etc -- each type of musical piece has a structure which defines it.

When you write an Alien Romance, you write within the structure of Alien Romances -- yes, the genre has matured to a point where it does have a structure.  These structures are invented via a collaboration between writer and reader, and publishers eventually choose to publish those novels which conform to the structure that sells best.  Structures sell.

If you want to dance a Waltz with your partner, and the band plays a Jig, it just isn't going to be much fun to watch or to do.

The moves (the plot of the novel) have to match the structure and rhythm of the genre, so everyone has a good time.

So when you are about to start writing your story, you know when you know "enough" to start writing because you've practiced this "piece" on this "instrument" until you are master of telling the Alien Romance story.

A musician on the stage is not thinking about what note comes next, but rather about the grand effect the sound has on the audience.

Likewise, when you are starting to write, you start the music with an introduction, a crash of symbols, or a tinkling sparkle of sound -- you choose the tenor of the opening sentence knowing what "key" you are writing in.

You "play" the piece for your Readers.

Only with practice do you learn how to tell when you (specifically, you the writer, the individual who is different from all other writers) know enough, but not too much, about the world you are building.

How much do you need to know before you "reveal" this world to people who have never heard it before.

So, one of the things you need to know about your World before you start to write (or face the daunting task of a major rewrite) is whether the Laws of Reality in your world allow for the existence of Prophecy, disallow it, or make it the object of scam artists.

Since we are discussing Science Fiction Romance, romance between human and Alien, we can consider how on Earth (so far) Prophecy has been traditionally vague, misleading, and open to interpretation whether it has come true, or not.

Suppose you write on our Contemporary Earth, but inject newly arrived Aliens.  Your reader knows all about Earth -- discovering all about the Aliens is the adventure.

Suppose the Aliens have actual, for real, always comes true in a literal and obvious way, Prophecy.

Where are they getting Foreknowledge?

Are they time-traveling?  Being informed by God?  Scamming Earth by cheating somehow?

Suppose the Aliens are sent by the Creator of the Universe to scold and correct human behavior, and they deliver Biblical Style Prophecy -- "if you don't change your ways, this awful disaster will befall you."

Your Aliens (one of whom falls head over heels for your Human Character) have a direct pipeline to God (or some force or entity that may as well be God.
God has rejected humans for all our scurious behaviors.  God favors these Aliens.  Are they Angels?  Are they flawed?  Did they used to be as misbehaved as humans?

Your human Lover has to search for (and find) an answer to that question that satisfies your reader -- but not necessarily in Book I.

Prophecy Is Real = A Theme.

Prophecy Is Not Real = A Theme.

Choose the theme, build the world around it.

Soul Mates as a concept depends on the existence of a Soul.  Do Souls have a destiny they can not avoid?  Or is Destiny Negotiable?

Is a Prophecy proven valid if actions avoid the prophesied consequence?

What price would your Soul Mates Across Species Lines be willing to pay to save humanity from some prophecied fate?

What if the Alien's Mission On Earth is ostensibly to save Earth by changing Human Nature -- but actually, what is really going on (known only to you, the writer, for several novels into the series) is to save the Alien Species from extinction by cross-breeding?

What sort of Aliens would be assigned by the Creator of Fates to save Humanity?  Are they willing or unwilling participants in this Mission?

Was seducing a human Lover part of the job, or a violation of the work contract rules?

What do these Lovers start out believing about this Prophecy?  What do they discover and learn along the way?  Where do they end up (parting ways, or married, or married-and-parting-ways?)

Is there offspring from this Union?  What role does such an offspring have in the Fate of Humanity?

Does your world have other Dimensions, and are these Aliens from Across the Dimension Divide?  On the other side, God is Real -- but on this side, not-so-much?  Can you create a truly God-Foresaken Reality adjacent to our own?

The story you can tell depends on the Universe Parameters you establish on Page 1.

Ordinarily, when you present an element like Prophecy -- saying "here is the cardinal rule of reality in this story" -- the reader expects that rule to be violated, disproven and replaced during the story.

That artistically huge element you wave in the reader's face before they get to know the Characters is placed first to signal the reader that THIS is the obstacle or adversary.  THIS is what the Characters fight against, and the conflict This vs. Characters is what the reader expects to see resolved.

So where and when you introduce the Worldbuilding Element of Prophecy or Foreknowledge of any kind tells the Reader if it is Obstacle or Tool.

And in a long series of novels, you can turn many Obstacles into Tools the Hero can use to solve the real, underlying, problem the reader learns is there during the course of the story.

To qualify as Science Fiction Romance, you must bring your Lovers to a Happily Ever After state.

But since it is Science Fiction, you can redefine Happiness, and even redefine the parameter "Time" so that "ever after" takes on a meaning unique to your World.

Is Prophecy = Reality a happy thing?  Or a disaster?

Is Prophecy = Scam a happy thing?  Or a disaster?

If you don't decide which Theme to use as the Master Theme before you start to tell the story, you will very likely end up in multiple rewrites, striving to bring everything into logical agreement with one or the other.

For a very long series of novels, you can postulate that THIS Prophecy turns out to be a Scam, but Prophecy can be Real.  Or vice-versa -- that THIS Prophecy is actually real, but in general all known Prophecies were scams.

That is complex and very hard to do.  It can be done, though, if you are meticulously consistent about building your world around the major Theme that will infuse every Character's story.

Here are a few posts discussing Theme and how to use it.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Privacy In The Toilet

Imagine that you watch Next Generation Television on your mobile device, and it watches you back. Also you have some pre-installed software on your mobile device, which is easily hackable, but the reason for it is to target you for advertisements.

Now imagine that your device is "protected" by facial recognition. If a password is hacked, you can change a password. If your face is hacked, you cannot change your face.

Well... maybe you could, if you thought about it early enough.  That is, before you activated your device. It would mean that every time you wanted to use the device, you'd have to wear beauty patches, and you'd have to have the patches in the same spot, every time.

For a brief history of beauty patches:

I imagine, someone will make a fortune taking a clear strip, like the backing of those things you peel, and slap onto wet skin to pull the blackheads out of your pores, and sticking an attractive pattern of black dots to it.  Give me credit, won't you?

Nowadays, too many people use tiny tattoos to cover small scars. The trouble is, if you look up tattoo ink, some of those inks are carcinogenic.

A futuristic language of  facial spots would be fun.

By lip; "I'm a kisser."
By eye; "I'm watching you."
Between brows; "Don't cross me."
Right of  forehead; "Originalist."
Left of  forehead; "Change the Constitution...."

Back to the toilet. You could be sitting there, engrossed in your streamed series, having lost all track of time, and place. Suddenly, you receive pop-up advertisements for constipation remedies, bowel blockage surgeons with expressions of deep concern on their faces,  perhaps some decorating tips for your bathroom.

Just like that young lady who took a selfie of herself in a restroom, with no regard to what was lurking behind her inside the toilet and plainly visible, the association once made might never go away. Your face might target you as interested in stool softener for the rest of your online life.

Here are my law blog inspirations:
"Moving Beyond Passwords" by Eric A. Packel of Baker Hostetler LLP

In this article on Facial Recognition, we are assured that the chances are one in a million that someone else would look so much like you that they could unlock your phone. There's a very intriguing suggestion that advertisers might be able to use facial mapping to gauge how interested you are in their advertisements.
I wonder what they'd do if you frowned at every offering. Maybe pitch wrinkle cream? Anger management courses?

Other Baker Hostelter LLP blogging lawyers S. Benjamin Barnes and Alan L. Friel write
"Deception and Unfair Practices Come Preinstalled"

They use an example of a person actually shopping for an owl shaped pendant, and being bombarded with    unsought advertisements for other owl shaped pendants. They also reveal by how much these pop-up advertisements reduce internet speed for the unfortunate device user by 25% if they are trying to download something, and by 125% if they are trying to upload something.

The bottom line might be, if you are interested in the internet of things, and are linking your devices, you really do need to read every word of the TOS and TOU before clicking "I AGREE".

For Kelley Drye and Warren LLP, legal bloggers John J. Heitmann, Jennifer Rodden Wainwright, and Alysa
Zeltzer Hutnik write "Will Your TV Watch You? FCC Green Lights Targeted Advertising In Next Gen TV Broadcasting Standard."

Interestingly, the FCC did not find the privacy concerns to be persuasive.

I keep an address label stuck over the eye of the camera on my Air Mac. How about you? And I don't stream anything at all in the bathroom.( I do Sudoku.)

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy U.S. Thanksgiving! This weekend, as usual, we'll be attending Chessiecon (formerly Darkover Grand Council). My husband and I will each appear on a couple of panels. I'll report next week. This year Thanksgiving falls very early, nice for driving weather, but it feels sort of strange to have the date sneak up on me so fast.

Yesterday, of course, was the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. If you're old enough to remember 1963, where were you when you heard the news? I was in class (history, I think) when the announcement of the shooting came over the school loudspeaker. The first thing I thought of was the alleged "curse" of death in office on Presidents elected in years divisible by twenty. For the next three days or so, television stations broadcast continuous coverage of the assassination, its aftermath, and the funeral observances. My stepmother, who idolized Jackie, ran the TV constantly.

Two other distinguished men also died on November 22, 1963—C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley (author of many works of fiction and nonfiction in addition to his classic BRAVE NEW WORLD). There's a fascinating little book by Peter Kreeft, BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL, that depicts a meeting of Kennedy, Lewis, and Huxley immediately after death in a kind of celestial anteroom. As they wait for whatever comes next, they debate philosophy and theology. Lewis, naturally, represents mainline "mere Christianity," Huxley the eastern pantheism that dominated his thought in his later years. Since the real-life private religious views of Kennedy, who in this book speaks for modernist Christian humanism, aren't well known, he serves more as a foil for the other two positions. Highly recommended!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Depiction Part 34 - Depicting Prophecy

Depiction Part 34
Depicting Prophecy 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in the Depiction series are listed here:

In the Depiction study we have discussed Proverbs and Psalms

It is assumed the writer who wants to write Romance (with or without sex scenes) would study the Bible (all of it).  A lot of it is erotic poetry, and a lot more is depiction of a world view at odds with your reader's world view, and thus perfect fodder for Science Fiction, and creating Aliens who see the Universe differently than we do.

The appeal of Science Fiction lies in the encounter with the Unknown and the assessment of whether it is knowable (or not).  There were Science Fiction and Paranormal Magazines called, Unknown, Astounding, Amazing, Worlds of If -- and of course STAR TREK "where no man has gone before."

Science is about exploring the world we live in.  Fantasy is about exploring what is propping up the world we live in.  Science Fiction (Romance, Paranormal or Fantasy) is all about EXPLORING.

A good Romance starts with a First Encounter with the to-become Significant Other, and how that Encounter re-configures the couple's notions of "reality" -- of what is possible, of what is preferable, of what it would cost to abandon a career and move where they could live together.

Very often, a Romance may start with an encounter at a Psychic Fair with a Tarot or Astrology reader.  The famous "Tall Dark Stranger" line is famous and enduring for a reason -- Encounter With The Unknown.

The Unknown is sexy.  (Witness: Spock's Ears)

The writer of Science Fiction Romance is at an advantage for structuring a "page turner" because the genre includes both Romance and Science which are "adventures" -- Romance is the adventure into another person's headspace, and Science is an adventure into Reality.

Each is a process of facing the Unknown.  Any book on writing craft will instruct about the necessity of keeping your eye on "so what happens next" -- because readers turn pages to find out "what happens next."

As I have said many times in these entries, to make Romance plausible (and science fiction, or fantasy, too) you need more than "what happens next."  You also need BECAUSE this, THAT happens next.

Characterization is one variable that reveals BECAUSE.

Watching a Character absorb and respond to a Prophecy reveals to the reader vast amounts of information about the Character and the Character's interface with the Reality around him.

The Scientist Character gets curious and starts constructing experiments to test the Prophet and the substance of the Prophecy.

The Gullible Character lets the substance of the prophecy determine future actions, and even emotions (horrible things will happen = paralyzing fear)

So the existence of a Prophet (whose pronouncements materialize in Reality on time, in place) tells the reader about the Nature of your World.

Remember, the Bible is all about Prophets who delivered messages from God, who is deciding what happens next.

The Oracle at Delphi was consulted as a Prophet.

The film Oh, God, staring George Burns as God and John Denver (very young) is about a modern day grocery clerk called by God (the real deal) to deliver a Message to modern mankind.  Like Jonah, he tries to flee this task, but it doesn't work and he has to stand up and proclaim the Prophecy.  If you haven't seen that movie, be sure to look it up.  It is a comedy.

At that link, you will also find a list of similar movies listed below it -- check out the ones you haven't seen.

So like ESP (telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation etc.) Prophecy (prescience, some might term it) reveals lot about the scientific underpinnings of the Reality you are introducing your readers to.

Is this Prophecy the educated guess of an Astrologer or perhaps the psychic impression of a Tarot reader?  Or is this Prophecy a message from the Creator of the Universe (for real).

Today's readerships contain a high proportion of people averse to the notion there is a Creator.  They want fiction set in a world free of such dictatorial restrictions.  Other readers are comforted by seeing Characters doing Good Deeds as specified in the Bible.

So if you inject Prophecy into your Worldbuilding, you (not necessarily the reader, just the writer) need to know how it works, what the existence of it implies, and how the World you are Building differs from your target readership's Reality (both as it really is, and as the reader wishes it to be.)

That is a lot of information -- and it could come as a plot-stopping, expository lump.  We studied Expository Lumps here:

Only put on the page the specific fact the reader needs to know - after you have evoked the reader's need to know it (not before!).  Make the reader curious, then satisfy that curiosity with a tidbit that suggests more questions.

Putting a Prophecy (or a Prophet) or the hint of one in your first Chapter awakens that curiosity -- will the Characters take it seriously?  Will acting on it bring them good or bad results?  Will fleeing it lead them to disaster?

Prophecy may be distinguished from Oracular Pronouncements (by Psychics or Astrologers, or actual Priestesses of Delphi) by noting the way Prophecy of the Old Testament is written, and how it "came true" or seems about to.

A message from the Creator will come true.

In the era of The Prophets there was a vetting method for finding the real Prophets.  There was a lot more going on than the Book of Prophets preserves - so you might want to study up on that.  God spoke to the Prophets in dreams, and they reported what they were told.  Then, when their Prophecy came true many times, they were proclaimed a Prophet (there were hundreds more than those recorded).

They spoke to Kings, (who mostly ignored them), true, but ordinary people consulted many of these long forgotten Prophets who would "sleep on it" and bring a reply that would prove reliable and useful (not like an Oracle, speaking in metaphor and tricky veiled references).

So when you inject a Prophecy and/or a Prophet into your Worldbuilding, you reveal vast amounts of information about that World in a "Show Don't Tell" way that avoids the Expository Lump.

Last week
we looked at two recent novels by Simon R. Green, Dr. DOA and Moonbreaker (two volumes but one single, continuous story and plot).

At this writing, I do not remember which volume the consultation with the Drood's resident oracle/prophet scene happened.  I suspect it was in Moonbreaker.  I read both in one continuous session.

In this episode of The Secret Histories series, Eddie Drood has been poisoned by some alien substance no magician or scientist can cure him of -- he is dying.  He and his Witch sidekick make an offhand, somewhat low priority, casual stop to talk to a Prophet/Oracle known to speak in riddles, but also known to be correct.  It's just that you can never see the "correct" coming, or figure how to use the information to make things come out as you want.

Sure enough, the Oracle tells them that to survive Eddie must die.

And that is exactly what happens, but not the way the reader expects.

The existence of an entity that has access to such previewed information tells you a lot about the Natural Laws governing both Green's "our reality" Universe and his "Fantasy" Universe (called The Nightside.)

Both Eddie Drood and his Witch partner have had their adventures in The Darkside.  Most readers will have read some of the Nightside series novels.  The Prophetic dimension is not a surprise or new for most readers.  How the prophecy works out could be predicted if you understand the rules of the two Universes and how they connect and reflect each other.

And that is how you depict Prophecy.

It must arise from your Universe Premise, and be true in every instance and every bit of science and magic, even the items you do not use or reveal in a particular novel.

It is consistency.  

Consistency is the key to Characterization -- characters must not act "out of character" without a plot-generated "because."

And consistency is the key to Worldbuilding.  Every detail is derived from the basic universe premise -- not chosen as they occur to you as bright ideas, or a real cool thing to do, or something that is marketable.

You build the elements into your world from the Top Down -- and the reader decodes them from the Bottom Up.

God Creates the Universe from the top (nothing) down, and Science decodes what He has Created from the bottom (here) up.  There's a whole lot of "nothing" out there!  We really have to discuss Dark Matter sometime.

The reader sees the tiny details and infers what is behind them.

You decide what is behind all the details, and derive the details from that.

If the writer is consistent, the reader has a grand time decoding, EXPLORING (which is both Science and Romance's driving purpose) and feeling like a meticulous scientist discovering the truth about reality.

You amass the plethora of consistent details all pointing to whatever is behind your premise by establishing that premise in our own mind (not necessarily in your notes).

The relationship between your Character and their Universe, as it works out in the plot, in the problems they are confronted with and the goals they choose, the tools they create to conquer their problems, that relationship is the Master Theme you are working with.

Here is the series on Theme-Worldbuilding Integration:

Here is an entire Fantasy-Kickass Heroine series by Jennifer Roberson (one of my favorite writers) with a searing hot Romance leading to marriage and kids, all based on a generations long Prophecy and now in e-book:

We discussed Jennifer Roberson's series here:

We discussed Jean Johnson's series -

which includes a scientific Time-Travel/Prophecy plot mechanism here:

So you can write hard-science novels with prophecy -- and you can write Fantasy novels based on prophecy.  You can base your Prophecy mechanism on the Paranormal (a ghost or "control" tells me) or on Astrology and psychic vision -- or God whispers in dreams.

You can have prophets who understand what they're saying -- and those who have no clue, just repeat what they "hear."

And you can have both (Moses is an example of both - faithful repeating, then reaching a real understanding of what was said).

You can write novels based on Prophets in a God-Is-Real and Soul Mates are real universe and Prophets where some other forces direct destiny (Greek gods who play at keeping Soul Mates apart.)

You can have cruel gods and merciful or capricious gods that use humans to delivery information not otherwise available to humans.  And as Jennifer Roberson wrote, you can have a single Prophet whose words are cast in poetry and passed down for centuries in expectation they will come true some day.

There is one thing you can not do when depicting Prophecy.

You can not just inject a Prophecy into a story without you, (not necessarily the reader) knowing exactly what mechanism makes it come true (or fail).  Where did the information come from, how did it get into this Prophet's head (or out his mouth), can it be changed, can it be fulfilled symbolically?  You must know the features of your World that you Built that enable Prophecy.

You might not know it consciously, but the reader will stop "buying" it if you let any contradiction enter your story.

Depicting Prophecy requires Worldbuilding consistency.

Readers remember (and believe) what they figure out for themselves - not what you tell them is so.  All your readers are 'scientists' in the sense that they figure your world out, concoct experiments to test their hypotheses, and accept only what they can prove.  So show them, don't tell them.

And if you use Prophecy as a plot element, as Simon R. Green did, then how it works out is your THEME.

Prophecy (or an Oracle) is an "Elephant in the Room" item, not decoration you can ladle on top of your main plot.

You must account for its existence in some way -- if the Prophecy comes true, the theme statement is Foreknowledge Is Possible -- but if avoided, Foreknowledge can be useful -- and if no avoiding maneuver is done, the Prophecy is ignored and nothing comes of it, then the theme is "scammers abound."

Don't believe everything you're told is a great Theme.

Failing to heed good advice leads to disaster - is a great Theme.

Theme is depicted by the Relationship between the Character and the World he is working in.

Don't use Prophecy or an Oracle -- or a seance or uncanny ghost, as a plot device without accounting for it in Character, Plot and Theme.

Remember, much of what the writer "knows" about the World they are Building resides in the writer's subconscious.  So if you don't know that you know, don't panic and make something up.  Go exploring into the world you are building -- be a pantser for a draft or two -- but don't turn out the final draft leaving the Prophecy mechanism, and how "time" works, as a loose end.

You need to know - but you don't have to tell all.  And you can change your mind later.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 19, 2017

On Losing It (Privacy, That Is)

This week, I was notified by a bank that they had taken "the difficult decision" to close my accounts. I believe it is because I refused to give them my cell phone number.

Aol (now it is an "Oath" company) continually harasses me with "Hey, this is important" default screens, and delays my ability to log in to my email, because they want my cell phone number. Google does the same. I am sure that Facebook would do so, too.

Am I obliged to purchase an expensive device and an expensive service that I don't want, simply because it is a convenient way for big companies that sell advertising to find out lots of information about me?

By the way, why is it that an increasing number of services require that one is a member of  Facebook? I noticed the other day that there is an author/book promotion service that will not accept business from anyone who does not give them a link to a Facebook page. It's not an option. Is that lawful?

What focused my mind on the cell phone issue was Argument IV in an article about the awfulness of Amazon by Jorge Carrion. "Against Amazon: Seven Arguments, One Manifesto."  Also Argument II

Argument IV is about how much Amazon knows about you... in addition to your real, physical, legal and banking and location data, the Zon knows what you read, write, eat, buy, wear (and your size), give as gifts (and to whom). Soon, they'll know what you drink.
Argument II proposes that we have all turned ourselves into cyborgs, because we are all so dependent on cell phones that they might as well be an implant that controls us.... I must say, some people do seem to be slaves to their smart phones. I remember feeling the same about my Franklin Planner...

If you haven't given Facebook your cell phone number, consider how much your mobile phone number exposes.  Jessica T. tells you:
"Anyone can use your number to find out a wide range of personal information about you from your full name and educational or career history to your current home address, a list of your close friends, relatives and known associates, where you used to live and even pictures of you and your family."

In an older, but still relevant article, Quentin Fottrell explains why hackers want your phone number. A smart phone is a data storage device.
"typing just a mobile number into Facebook will reveal the profiles of the owner if he or she added it to their account information."

If you plan to rob a bank (which is not something this writer recommends), consider buying a map to plan your route(s) and leaving your smart phone at home. Suspects have been charged based on their smart phones telling the police their vicinity at the time of the crime.

Talking of spying, Jorge Carrion's Argument V is "Because I don't want them to spy on me while I am reading." When I read a print book, I enjoy absolute privacy. No one can track how many times I turn back to the cover of an alien romance novel to admire the alien hero's pecs or gluteus maximus, or how many times I re-read the affirmative consent scenes, or which pages I skip. (I never skip, dear reader!)

Email scammers today are very convincing, and take full advantage of lists from the dark web. Pastebin seems to be a preferred source of names and email addresses... and of twenty-year old passwords. One phishing email that I received this week was convincing enough to fool PayPal. It  purported to be from PayPal, and told me I had made a very large donation using a PayPal account I almost never use, and that I keep barely in the green. I forwarded it to The clever bots at PayPal replied that the email was genuine, and suggested that I'd made a transaction at EBay. Who uses EBay in order to donate to a charity or cause? So, beware. Good bots can be wrong.

In the snail mail this weekend, I received a Domain Name Expiration Notice from iDNS. If you receive one, this is not an organization with which to do business without doing due diligence. See here.  If you own a trademark, you may receive deceptive mailings suggesting that you need to renew that.  It could be a scam.

However, if you do use a trademark, be aware that if you don't use it, you could lose it. The USPTO is modernizing, as explained in this USPTO Director's Forum Blog on Improving the Accuracy of the Trademark Register. If you have any thoughtful insights on "streamlining" trademarks (and perhaps making it easier for people who want a trademark for their own commercial use, that is currently registered to someone else but not in commercial use) you can submit a written comment

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Domesticated Brain

Another article about self-domestication:

The Incredible Shrinking Brain

This article gives an overview of a book called THE DOMESTICATED BRAIN, which ranges over many fields such as evolution, childhood development, genetics, neuroscience, and social psychology in an exploration of what makes us human. In domesticating ourselves, we became able to live together in groups, with all the benefits of that lifestyle. As a result, we became more dependent on each other.

One intriguing feature of domestication is that it tends to make animals' brains smaller. That trend applies to human brains, too. Several hypotheses are suggested to explain this phenomenon, but no definite answer is given. It does seem to have some connection with our development into highly social creatures. For one thing, lower levels of aggression mean less testosterone, which is linked to smaller brains.

I wonder whether a reduction in typical brain size might have something to do with our developing a corporate memory. We don't have to rely on our own knowledge for survival. We can draw upon facts and lore known by our neighbors, handed down from our ancestors through tribal traditions, or (once writing is invented) recorded in fixed form to be available to everybody theoretically forever. We don't need to grow our brains to ever-larger size because we have access to an external mind of potentially unlimited scope.

The linked page comprises the preface to the book, THE DOMESTICATED BRAIN, which looks interesting enough that I ordered a copy. It seems to be out of print, but Amazon lists multiple used copies.

When we encounter alien species, will we discover that living in social groups is a prerequisite for advanced intelligence in any species (at least, any humanoid or mammalian creatures)?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reviews 34 - The Implausible Made Real by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 34

The Implausible Made Real


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

As the AI singularity approaches, social values are experiencing whiplash as strong and turbulent as this year's hurricane season.

In fact, global warming may be accompanied by a kind of values warming.

People rely more now on modern society, what their friends (often strangers known only on Facebook, or met by chance at a street rally) believe, than on Ancient Mystical texts.

Countercurrent to this is a revival of Spiritual Pathwork, a neopaganism, pursued by those who sense a non-material aspect to our reality, or wish they did.

And most astonishing of all, there are megachurches forming all over.  This year I've heard of new giant churches being built in Texas and Arizona, right in the heart of their respective radical socialist populations.

The philosophical life of your target readership is swirling as energetically as the hurricanes scouring buildings flat.

People get caught up in the fury of the moment, usually in details of matters they can do nothing about, except donate some money or pray.

Meanwhile, fiction on TV and movies -- and books -- portrays the fraying and broken families, severing links of love and understanding between generations -- grandparents are not revered simply for having survived.

So what seems plausible to the modern reader is very different than it was just twenty years ago.

In fact, today, a good swath of the Romance Reader target audience is convinced that the past was never good, and all the great historic figures were dirty rats in angel's clothing.  Tear their statues down quick before someone gets the idea that we respect their accomplishments (even the accomplishments that weren't racist, few as those may be.)

We are rewriting history (again).  Remember, history is written by the victors, and the vanquished rarely get a fair shake.

So if you set out to write an "off-beat" Romance, one that challenges current notions of right, wrong, good, bad, and the decisions made by those who lived in a different epoch conforming to different values, then you have to give some thought to plausibility.

The Implausible can be made Real to a readership by explaining it from a specific and well established point of view - a Main Character's point of view where you can follow the decision making process step by step.

Way back when, the Romance field frowned on sequels and never did reprints.  I know established best selling Romance writers who were appalled when an older title of theirs was reprinted.  Romance genre was regarded as read-and-toss fiction.

Today, that trend has reversed and we now see Mystery Romance series about the same characters, and Paranormal Fantasy series, and so on - with an ongoing and evolving Relationship.

One of these, which I've recommended many times, is by Simon R. Green -- two distinct series with different characters, set in two separate worlds, but both belonging to the same built world and followed for many novels.

Green is now converging these two series in a very natural way.

One is about "the Nightside" -- a literally dark world where all manner of perversions and creatures abound --- and The Secret Histories (of the Drood family.)

We follow a Witch and a Secret Agent from being mortal enemies to being lovers, and now a very committed couple.  They are obvious soul mates, but their lives in this wild fantasy/magic world interefere with their settling down to raise children.

In fact, the total lack of children running around the Drood family castle/home just rings false to me as the characters keep referring to growing up there.

The two novels in question today are actually one novel published in two books.  It looks to me as if Green just wrote this very long story, and the publisher decided it had to be severed in half because it was too big.

The first of the two is titled DR. DOA,

and the second is MOONBREAKER. 

DR. DOA starts with the realization that the main character, Eddie Drood, has been poisoned with something that can not be identified (possibly unearthly origin), and is relentlessly dying.  And it ends with a solution, hinted at obliquely by an oracle they consult along the way, that depicts poetic justice at its very best.

The plots of all these novels move from odd location to more and more bizarre and implausible locations, with combat against ever stranger and more twisted opposition.  Victory is not always assured, and never without cost.

The Witch and the Drood rescue each other, fight side by side and back to back, and drill relentlessly forward toward their shared goal.  In these two novels, the goal is to cure the poison eating at Eddie Drood.  The poison is implausible, the cure is implausible, and the ending makes the implausible real.

The banter among the characters -- including a flying, time and dimension traversing, talking dragon (yes, fire breathing) -- is bound to tickle any BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fan.

The writing is relentlessly smooth, seemingly effortless, as Green is a virtuoso of wordsmithing.

So these are easy to read novels, and easy to remember so it is easy to pick up the next book a year or more later.

This is writing worth studying just for the techniques, but the underlying story is a pithy commentary on the modern world around us, as it has been, as it should be, as it will survive to become.

The Witch and the Drood are partners, and Soul Mates, equals in power, intelligence, imagination, determination and moral strength.

They do, however, not share exactly the same moral code at the beginning of their relationship -- and very gradually, over many books, corrupt each other.

The Witch loves punching adversaries with her magic -- and is a former Magic wielding Terrorist.  Eddie Drood loves solving problems with psychological judo these days, but has been a proponent of clean devastation as a solution that lasts.

They have each, separately, been to the Nightside, the location of the other branch of this series.

Now they have been summoned to deal with a new problem together, the violation of a treaty that keeps the Nightside separate from the day.  The Nightside is expanding -- and must be stopped.

Do you see the Gulliver's Travels style social commentary on today's politics in that?  Treaties broken, advancing armies taking Territory, and an underlying tussle of a debate about whether to stop them with brute force or somehow negotiate without killing (very many) opponents.

The battles cross dimensions, time, and space, and reveal a panoply of creatures (some quite horrible), most of whom might eat you but not consider you an enemy.

These two Characters, the Witch and the Drood Secret Agent, combine the very traits that made them arch enemies into a Force the enemies of Earth and us muggles truly fear.

This is the Implausible made Real by the Characters -- because you can't help but wish we had heroes like this.

On the other hand, maybe we do.

Study how these novels, set in two world of the same Universe, show us ourselves through a Romance tinged lens.

 Jacqueline Lichtenberg