Thursday, December 18, 2014

Biology of Blood-Drinkers

From the author's note in a recent vampire novel, I discovered a book that would be fascinating and valuable to all writers who create vampires as well as anybody interested in the often "alien" weirdness of animal biology and behavior in our terrestrial ecosystems. DARK BANQUET (2008), by bat expert Bill Schutt, subtitled "Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures," surveys the "obligate sanguivores" (creatures that feed exclusively on blood) of the animal kingdom. The animals discussed range from vampire bats (the only mammal in this category) to leeches, bedbugs, ticks, etc., with glances at a few creatures that sometimes consume blood but don't live on it, such as "vampire finches." Anticoagulants and anesthetics in the saliva of vampire bats and leeches have inspired similar features of the naturally evolved vampire species in my own fiction. It's intriguing that, because of the high volume of water to nutrients (mainly protein) in blood, vampire bats have to ingest a large percentage of their body weight every day, yet leeches and bedbugs can go for weeks or months without feeding. What makes the difference—the metabolic rate of mammals versus invertebrates? If so, my own vampires' ability to survive in a dormant state, without nourishment, theoretically forever must be a bit of a hand-wave, but after all, it's fiction. I've also postulated that my vampires' saliva has antiseptic properties that keep the bite wounds from getting infected; the saliva of human beings and some other animals does contain antibacterial chemicals, but this book doesn't mention any such qualities in bats or leeches.

One vampire bat trait I definitely did not adopt for my fictional species is the need to get rid of excess water to make themselves light enough to fly away after drinking from a victim. The bats often start urinating even while they're still feeding. Far from glamorous!

After the opening chapter on vampire bats, enlivened (like the rest of the book) with personal anecdotes and observations, Schutt devotes a section to the physiology and chemistry of blood in the context of the history of medical science. One topic I wish he'd covered more thoroughly, instead of briefly mentioning, is the nutritional content of blood and the digestive adaptations needed for an animal to survive on what his final chapter labels "A Tough Way to Make a Living." I've often wondered how many calories are in a pint of blood and have never been able to find a definitive answer.

For me, the most fascinating tidbit of information in the book is that vampire bats have been observed to snuggle up to the brood patches on hens' chests. The hen relaxes, contentedly settling down as if the predator is a chick, and allows the bat to feed. On other occasions, a hen may respond to a bat on her back by passively assuming the mating posture, as if mounted by a rooster. So my premise that members of my vampire species lull or seduce human victims into willingly surrendering their lifeblood has a factual basis in biology!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 1: You Can't Fight City Hall by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Symbolism Integration
Part 1
You Can't Fight City Hall
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous post on Symbolism:

Is fighting City Hall romantic?  You bet it is! 

But first I want to point you to a short post by Margaret L. Carter here on Alien Romance.  She surveys the effect of going back in Time by watching very old TV Series and how those series depict characters.

The dissonance she refers to measures the sudden change in social norms.  It's too sudden for humans to adjust without psychological stress, according to Alvin Toffler in FUTURE SHOCK change in social norms.  I think we are still in the midst of that change, and therefore Romance Writers can leverage the chaos into massive commercial success bigger than mere destruction-derby, action, raw sex, or violence.

So let's journey back in time, then apply what we can learn.

One of the hottest hunks of an era was the guy who brought down the mob-corruption in Chicago when the mob had total control of "City Hall."  And the actor who portrayed that sexiest guy was likewise a heart stealing, larger than life, ultimate target for any woman worth her salt.

Here is an Amazon Video page with some of the titles available for a refresher course in that era.

The Untouchables Instant Video

And here is a Kevin Costner remake of that story:

The background theme in the mob story is "corruption."  Corruption is the way to "do business" and/or "Corruption is Dishonorable" and/or "Corruption is a figment of the imagination of those who want to control you."

The themes of Corruption are a theme-bundle, a set of independent but related themes that can be used to drive the stories of a whole set of characters who are in external conflict (plot), but each learning different lessons from being opposed.

Outside of a mere dictionary, the term "corruption" will be defined in a myriad different ways.  "This is corrupt."  No, nonono! "THAT is corrupt!"  "No actually neither is corruption at all." 

"Corruption" is a term with a huge, negative semantic loading (like EVIL, and we all admire the kickass Heroine who fights EVIL and protects our world from invasion and domination by Evil), but unlike Evil Corruption doesn't doesn't come in "Black" vs. "White." 

So with the shift of Generations, as time marches on, we see our very language morphing, words taking on new connotations, new definitions, and being used in new ways. 

Compare that Kevin Costner remake of The Untouchables with the earlier version from 1959 and watch that difference:

Now, consider "Corruption" in the abstract.  The concept lends itself handily to Thematic Statement -- what particular action in which situation actually equals "corruption" and what action does not qualify.  This is potent stuff, and crazy-sexy stuff, too because it makes or breaks Relationships. 

A woman looks for a "strong" man, a man who will stand for what she believes in, fight to the death to protect her and his children, never break his promises. 

Marriages founder on such broken promises, even if "Oh, that's not what I meant" comes into play when accused of breaking a marriage vow.

You see this argument unfolding in today's headlines, all the dodging and weaving to redefine what an oath actually means, what the US Constitution actually means (nevermind meant long ago) and what that has to do with "reality." 

Nobody knows how to resolve such an argument.  The internal parameters are fuzzy, foggy, blurred, and there's no concrete definition of what's right and what's wrong, nevermind what's legal and what's illegal.

This befuddlement affects people of different ages differently and thus your Target Audience is divided by age group.  To capture more than one age-group, you need characters of different ages bespeaking the attitudes and values of their own generation.

Remember how we broke down the Generations among your target audience according to what Sign of the Zodiac Pluto was in at their birth?

---------quote from that Part 6-----------
Gen Y came of age just as the possibility of video games emerged, and the home computer became financially feasible.

PLUTO IN SCORPIO kids -- only 10 years worth of kids -- grew up with computers in GRAMMAR SCHOOL classrooms and at home and became the market for the most violent video games. Pluto rules Scorpio, the Natural 8th House - when Pluto was in Scorpio it was its most POWERFUL. For the 1/12th of those kids born with Pluto in Scorpio in their own 8th House, Pluto issues are likely to rule the whole life.

There was a huge baby boom in the 1990's. Though it's only a 10 year span, 1985-1995 saw an unusual increase in the demographic significance of that generation who are now entering college and the lesser educated workforce.

That Pluto in Scorpio generation turned out the most young voters ever in this previous Presidential election, and you've all seen their vehemence (power) in political rallies (both sides of the issues!)

The generation reared on the most violent video games is determined to assert their right to their inheritance, their rightful possession by dint of the fact that they exist.

Employers have already noted that the current 18-20 year olds they hire are mortally offended by any workplace rule that prohibits texting during work hours. Employers have no right to restrict behavior or communication during work hours. (I saw a study about that posted online, and saw several interviews about it on TV, but didn't save any references, sorry. I may have referred to it in a previous post here.)

The Pluto in Scorpio generation (only 10 years long) has passed on their taste for video games to the Pluto in Sagittarius generation.

PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS, 1995 - 2008, are still just babies, and their buying power is still mostly controlled by Gen Y parents.

But for us, it's interesting to note the success of TWILIGHT with the Pluto in Sagittarius teens.

Gen X acquired a real taste for the teen-vampire novel. The sex appeal of Vampires with the edgy connotations of risking death is soooo PLUTO!

YA shelves filled with vampires in the 1980's, which naturally gave rise to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER a little later, and all sorts of vampire spinoffs for older people.

TWILIGHT and the urban-fantasy vision of reality as a thin film over a seething cauldron of evil is intensely popular with Pluto in Scorpio AND Pluto in Sagittarius.

Noel Tyl, an astrologer's astrologer, has identified the axis in the natal chart that describes one's deepest anxieties, fears, nightmares, repressed fears -- the kind of deep, inarticulate fears that rule our behavior and which we rationalize.

That axis is the 3rd House/ 9th House axis.

The Natural 3rd House is Gemini, ruled by Mercury (thought, communication, short trips, fast moves, and also indecisiveness and restlessness).

The Natural 9th House is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, and all about Philosophy, Courts, Social Justice, the generous and magnanimous King, the kindness of the world, success by expansion, growth. Sagittarius is all about open-honesty as the adjacent sign of Scorpio is all about hidden realities. Sag is long trips, foreign countries, PUBLISHING!!!

Kids with Pluto in Sagittarius are the teens who gobbled up Harry Potter (foreign published) when they were 9 years old, TWILIGHT etc, in their teens. TWILIGHT treats the darker (Pluto is "dark") aspects of the vampire as "out there" and mostly ignorable, while the vampires that are "in here" are trustworthy and above all that dark stuff - probably. In TWILIGHT the nasty part is "hidden" (Pluto).

Marketers have noted a leveling off of the growth of computer games sales (not shrinking, just not growing as fast as there are no more Pluto in Scorpio kids coming to buying age)

The trend in films toward ever more exaggerated violence and destruction, spectacle for its own sake, (TRANSFORMERS?) pleasures and amuses Pluto in Scorpio folks in some way that mystifies the Pluto in Leo folks. And I don't think it's just because the Pluto in Leo folks are older. I think it's because the Pluto in Leo folks have an Amusement Button that's configured differently.

When the Pluto in Sagittarius kids are 18-25, what films will they be taking their girlfriends to? What games will they spend their money on? What will amuse them life-long? What songs will they popularize? (already, I see lyrics changing)

The dark, ugly subject matter of the first wave of popularized rap is giving way to something else, but it's gradual.

If the Pluto in Scorpio generation pushed the violence in video games beyond all previous taboos, what taboo will the Pluto in Sagittarius generation (the obese kid generation -- Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius is famous for obesity, the JOLLY FAT WOMAN image is usually Jupiter on the Ascendant) what taboo will this new generation expand out of all sense and reason? What will obsess them as violence and destruction obsesses Pluto in Scorpio?
----------end quote-------

Yes, it's a long post, and that is a tiny slice out of the middle.  It was posted in 2009.

I still think understanding the generations, and the attitudes they have toward Government (what it should be used for, what it can do effectively, what it must never do, etc) is a vital key for writers who are aiming at a particular Demographic which is seen by publishers or producers as currently gobbling up a certain type of fiction.

The full effect of a generational obsession is not seen until that generation has a) money they earned, and b) power over others (e.g. getting promotions to management positions).  The effect is not seen in politics unless there is a significant portion of the total population born in that time-span.

For commercial purposes, industry (Public Relations Firms mostly) have named the generations and assigned them boundaries in years, then attempted to parse the statistics of the mass-behavior of these people.

Forbes Magazine did an article in July 2014 examining the breakdown of generations, and highlighting individual biographies to illustrate a point.

And it contains the key graphic writers can gain from, a chart defining the generations in percent of population, and their behavior at different life-stages.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Improving the DMCA Notice and Takedown System

A reminder that the USPTO and NTIA will host the sixth public meeting of the Multistakeholder Forum on improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown system. The meeting will be held on December 18, 2014 from 9:00am-12:00pm at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA. The link to access the live webcast for this meeting is: The phone bridge information for remote participation is: 1-888-453-9955; Passcode – 6039037. An agenda for the meeting is available here: .
For more information about the Multistakeholder Forum, please visit the Multistakeholder Tab at: For an archive of documentation relating to past meetings of the Multistakeholder Forum please visit
To register for the meeting, please follow the instructions at:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Separating Art from Artist

The Bill Cosby scandal reminded me of a topic that came up in passing at the Chessiecon panel on "Reaching Readers": In this era of all-pervasive social media, readers expect to interact in a quasi-personal way with authors, and revelations about an author's personal life can influence his or her reading audience. Where flaws and sins of creative artists in earlier generations might not have been widely known until after their deaths, nowadays fans will inevitably learn about misbehavior and rumors thereof—and may reject the artist's work on the basis of his or her character.

If you've admired the work of an author, actor, singer, etc. and later learn that the artist has done deplorable things in private life, do you feel the work loses its value? Don't the admirable qualities of the work still exist after the revelation of the creator's sins, just as they did before those sins were made public? Do fans stop watching movies or football games because an actor or athlete has committed reprehensible actions? Some do, of course; many don't.

My personal feeling, after long consideration, is that the value of the work isn't negated by the flaws or sins of the creator. A good book remains a good book even if written by a bad person (or a person known or rumored to have done bad things). Yet I can grok how some people might balk at contributing to the income of a writer whose character and actions they deplore. Does it make a difference if the offender is dead and past being harmed or benefited by boycotts or sales? Does it matter how long the artist has been dead? By all accounts, some classic authors and poets were dreadful people (e.g., Byron). Yet their flawed lives don't keep them out of English lit textbooks.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Theme-Plot Integration Part 15 - Protecting a Community by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot Integration
Part 15
Protecting a Community
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In Part 14 of the Theme-Plot Integration series,
we took a hard look at Ruling a Community -- what it takes to worldbuild a social environment for your Fantasy World, or for a Contemporary Romance, or a Historical.  Science Fiction on other worlds likewise takes a great deal of hard thinking about the social matrix your character is embedded within.

We noted:
1st House defines the Self.  7th House defines the one-to-one Relationships, but in some forms of Astrology 7th House represents also The Public.

What does it take to be a RULER of a Community?

Well, first, the only times Ruling ever works historically, you see that the Ruler was a member of the Community (not an outsider -- that always fails dramatically which makes good story fodder).

So in effect, a Ruler from a Community is subconsciously imposing his own personal values on the community, but he got those values by growing up inside the community, so though "ruling" implies "imposition" what he's imposing was there already.

Think of it as singing on key in a choir and the Ruler just steps out and does a Solo.  Has to be a solo from the same song everyone is singing behind him.  The Ruler's values have to harmonize with those of the Ruled -- or the Community fragments.

So Humanity has been on a millennia long search for the operational relationship between Self and Other.

-----------end quote-----------

You'll find a list of the posts on Theme-Plot Integration here:

And the series on Theme-Character Integration is listed here:

And as you know, I'm a big fan of fiction based on themes "ripped from the headlines" -- as long as it's the THEME you rip, not real characters, places etc.  If you are writing non-fiction, you have to get permission to use copyrighted work, so be careful what you rip out of the headlines.

In order to transform a "headline" -- or generally spotlighted public issue -- into a story or novel, you have to bore down deep into the material and extract the theme.

That's what we're going to do in this post today. 

One of the hottest political topics in the USA, and maybe the world right now, is the issue of cyber warfare,  Identity Theft, Industrial Espionage, Patent and Copyright infringement.

All of this rather abstract warfare is going on within the context of the  transgression of national borders.

In the Middle East, Isis renamed itself the Islamic State and trampled right over national borders from Syria to Iraq to Lebanon, and shows no signs of wanting to stop.  They are trying to carve out a new nation, then expand into a replay of the Ottoman Empire.

Some of the best Romances I've read have been set in the historical venue of the Ottoman Empire.  Think about Elizabeth Peters.

In Africa, similar groups are trying to move the borders of nations.

In the Americas, people from Iran, Syria, Iraq, etc. and Central American countries have poured over the US southern border at a time when there is a cultural movement among Mexicans living in the USA asserting that Arizona, New Mexico and parts of California and Texas actually must be re-possessed by Mexico.  (I didn't make that up!)

I follow these news headlines and park stories in a flipboard "magazine" called Pluto in Capricorn
because at this time Pluto is transiting Capricorn.  Pluto is about power, about transformation, and Capricorn is about government, discipline.  Capricorn is "The Power Behind The Throne" while Leo is about "The Throne" and its occupant.

Leo is about leadership, ruling, reigning.  Capricorn is the power behind that leadership that puts it in place then keeps it in place.

Today, that means Leo is about who has won the Election, and Capricorn is about the source of power that made that happen (Money, Media, Scandals hidden).  Pluto transits tend to open hidden scandals to the light of day -- and that generally happens with explosive power.  It's not a surprise (that's Uranus) but it is a revelation, sometimes a religious one. 

Pluto is rules Scorpio, and thus is all about Secrets.  The Power Behind the throne, not on it.

So one of the objectives of those "in power" who remain behind the throne, invisible, out of the media spotlight, is simply to remain in power, to be able to predict what large "masses" of people will do under given circumstances.

Thus the primary tool today of the Power Behind the Throne is Public Relations -- the now math based analysis of how to instigate herd movement in huge numbers of people (e.g. win an election).

The current trend is away from making LAWS to enforce behavior and toward making REGULATIONS to enforce behavior.

Regulations are made by appointees, often not subject to legislative approval, (EPA, NHS, NSA, IRS, Department of Education and other alphabet soup agencies), and thus not responsive to voters. 

If there's a regulation that you don't like, you are absolutely helpless to protest.

If there's a law you don't like, you can vote against your Representative at the next election.

You can speak out against that elected representative who voted for the law you don't like.

That open discussion keeps the conversation between the Throne and the Community.

It does, however, circumvent the Power Behind The Throne.  It can derail the plans of the Powers That Be. 

Regulations are made to please the Powers That Be.  Laws are made to please the voters.  The two interests, in a well knit community, will largely coincide and become indistinguishable from one another.

The Powers That Be behind the throne strive mightily to keep all control initiatives as regulations, not law.

They need to keep them out of the headlines and away from the knowledge of those who would object and call elected legislators to do something about it.

 So I was scanning my feed on Google+ and got interested in a conversation on reading, and disallowing children to read certain things.

This is a conversation about, long ago, students reading Nancy Drew in school were "forbidden" by parents and teachers from reading such terribly bad books.  It's bad to be exposed to such bad art.  Others chimed in with lists of their most cherished kid's books that parents and teachers tried to prevent them from reading, and their strategies of defeating such restrictions.  Readers vs. non-readers.

The conversation got quite long and far-reaching, and a comment emerged:

Another person joined the conversation and noted that in High School, she had to attend a compulsory pep rally for school spirit, held during school hours.  She did, but kept her text books open and studied, intent on college and a bright future.  She was sent to the Principle for discipline, argued and won the case, didn't have to serve detention.

The incident the comment cited was some while ago.  Would that happen in today's world?  Would a teacher order a student to not-study during school hours in order to participate in whipping up an artificial emotional peak? 

I thought about that problem carefully, and realized it is a Headline Issue teased apart down to the thread of theme behind it.  But connected to that thread of theme are many other themes forming the warp and woof of 21st Century attitudes. 

These themes form the perplexing set of fallacies upon which our current, real-world decisions are being made.  Politicians are now calling each other "liars" and applying euphemisms to avoid using that incendiary world.  Soon the word liar won't be incendiary simply from being used to describe someone who is telling the truth.

All that brings us back to the series of posts on the use of Fallacy in creating fiction.

The real-world fallacy under discussion here today is the fallacy of Protection.

Protection is very sexy, and a core element in any good Romance.

It's deep in human nature.  The pregnant female must be protected by a capable male, or the offspring will not survive birth.  The child must be protected by parents. 

The world is full of predators that eat humans (including human predators who eat souls), and those who can not protect themselves must be protected for the good of the community (or family).

A community that can not protect the young does not survive.

It's that primal.

But how does a community produce capable protectors?

By what process are protectors made? 

Those are questions spearheading the explication of A Thematic Statement - the core of your reason to write this novel. 

The theme is the reason your intended readers want to read the novel.  To get a browser to buy your novel, you must state the theme in the first sentence, with an enticing hook, a concretization of that theme.

A question is one way to construct a hook. 

For a novel with the theme "How A Community Produces Protectors" might be something like, "I never let my little brother get his feet wet." 

And then a conversation between the brothers indicating that the little brother, as an adult, does not feel capable of protecting (possibly a pregnant wife, or pregnant ex-wife?).  Something about the big brother always yanking a problem out of little brother's hands and fixing it for him, then being steaming mad that he has to do everything himself. 

See?  That is a show-don't-tell explicating the theme of "how protectors are made." 

Little brother was not allowed to mature into a protector -- and by disallowing that maturation, big brother managed to wreck his own emotional maturation.  Why?  Drunken parents?  Choose something that fits your theme to explain why these brothers just didn't make it to adulthood.

Or is that a fallacy?  Are protectors born, not nurtured?  Are only males capable of protective instincts?  (well, there wouldn't be any humans if human females weren't protective of their young).  What kind of Alien would have no protective instincts?

We all know the sexy jolt of suddenly finding yourself the object of someone else's protective instinct.  Like sucking, it is a primal reflex.

We suck at the breast for LIFE.  And our lives depend on being PROTECTED.  Sex is about protection.  (rape is the opposite)

But how does the CHILD become a protective ADULT? 

Is that romance novel material? 

So I thought about the issue of censoring kids' reading, prohibiting certain material, forcing other material. 

Everyone on the Google + discussion seemed to agree that Nancy Drew and similar works should not be prohibited, especially not by school teachers who had an urge (or directive from The Powers That Be) to regulate children's reading material.   

So I thought about other current school campus regulations that have only recently been enacted. 

Just as contradictory as prohibiting Nancy Drew is the current regulation enacted ostensibly for Security (a euphemism for Protection) of policing campus visitors.

We all know the shooting incidents highlighted by the media, but few of us know that the amount of such violence and the damage it does has actually decreased over decades.  Research some statistics and see what you find.  Many studies claim an increase; many claim a decrease.  It seems the current goal is zero incidents.

There's another theme in that.  "Is perfect control of all human behavior the responsibility of the government?" 

To defend students from all potential incidents, there is a new regulation (possibly not in your community yet) of not just forcing school visitors to identify themselves with photo-ID (guilty until proven innocent), but also to surrender said ID into a non-secure location.

Campus visitors must surrender a driver's license or unique photo-ID to a secretary who doesn't have even a Snowden-level security clearance, working behind a desk that doesn't even have Bank level security screens -- and in order to gain access to meetings on the campus, one must leave that secretary without a receipt for your unique identifier.

Such a card that actually identifies you is a card which is worth a bundle on the black market what with all the illegal immigrants a small portion of whom may be criminals, but all of whom are desperate for legit ID.  There's a whole industry devoted to turning stolen ID cards into illegal ID's.

But most people don't know such an industry exists.

Until you've had your Identity stolen, you have no idea how precious it is or how easy it is to steal (or the raped feeling that comes with that theft.)

Without your ID card, you are trapped on that campus as if it were an actual prison with barbed wire atop cement walls.  If you surrender your driver's license (and are law-abiding), you are a prisoner, and you've done that to yourself "voluntarily" in exchange for the privilege of attending whatever meeting you might be there for (PTA or whatever.) 

If someone with authority doesn't like what you say at that meeting, you might want to walk out and leave, but you can't if they won't give you your ID back until the Police arrive (even if you didn't do anything illegal).  Or you then would commit the crime of driving without a driver's license (unless you can get a ride -- maybe that's why UBER is so disliked by Authority?)

Do you see plot-threads spinning out of the core theme here?  Plot is fabricated out of theme -- remember that.  Character (strong and otherwise) is fabricated out of theme.  And the themes that sell books are the ones that make headlines. 

A Strong Character is likely to be a mature adult with full blown Protective Tendencies.  Such a person is likely to attend PTA and other community meetings, often held on school campuses (a lot of Hot Guys turn up at such meetings).

A strong character with protective tendencies who loves his/her Community is very likely to upset someone in authority from time to time.  That's the nature of being a Strong Character.

THEME: Should such Powers That Be have the ability to constrain the movements of a Strong Character? 

PLOT: What if the Power That Is makes a regulation and requires a hireling to enforce that regulation -- thus avoiding being available to Strong Characters who object to the regulation?  Powers That Be types of people are spotlight averse by nature.  They put a patsy up to take the fall for them. 

Already you see a cast of characters unfolding from a simple thematic element, and plots galore abound as soon as a Strong Character steps onto the stage.

So back to Regulations Today.  So after the meeting, you must (MUST -- the powers that be decree, must!) stand in a long, slow, line to turn in your visitor's pass and get your ID back provided nobody ahead of you in line has claimed it and absconded with it. 

A theft would make a nifty plot complication, but it works also as a plot-driver (the problem that must be resolved at The End.)

What if the stolen ID belonged to your female lead character, and the Hot Guy steps in and chases down the thief, tackles the Regulation-Maker and forces the State to make a law against denuding school campus visitors of their ID. 

Identifying yourself to gain entry to a public place is a reasonable invasion of privacy because the place is public.  Surrendering your Identification, thus imprisoning yourself, is not a reasonable invasion of privacy and could make a plot-driver if the Hot Guy at the meeting turned out to be a Lawyer, or have a little brother who is a lawyer.

Theft is a good plot-driver because for hours, your ID has been available to Identify Thieves for copying.

I know a bit about what can be done with hot-ID, and it is a card you NEVER let out of your sight. 

Even in supermarkets now, clerks don't swipe your card,  you do it with your own hands. 

Stripping the honest of their ID prevents the dishonest (or crazy) from performing illegal acts on school premises. 

How could attacking the law-abiding PROTECTORS (parents) benefit the PROTECTED (kids in school). 

Students in CUSTODY of a school gain no protection from adults surrendering their Identity. 

Custody.  That's a legal term for in jail. 

Kids are guilty until proven innocent.  It's more like The Inquisition than like modern courts -- you just can't prove your innocence if you're a kid, because some other kid somewhere MIGHT actually do what you're being actively prevented from doing (even if you wouldn't.)

Immaturity is a sin.  The punishment is custody.

But the sentence is only 18 years, and you might live to 100, so shrug.

You've heard the term "over-protective parent." 

Good parenting consists of total protection of the new-born, gradually (ever so gradually and not in a steady progressing way) lifting that protection.  Protection of children is like training wheels on a bike -- left on too long it creates dependence.

If, all through High School, we are kept in a vacuum sealed campus and protected from ourselves, as humans we remain children even after sexual maturity. 

The Powers That Be behind all Political Parties, find an adult population expecting life to be "safe" (without risk -- because such over-protected humans never learn risk-management by getting hurt and paying a price for bad judgement) much easier to manage, to control, to sell things to, to get votes from. 

Such adults, oddly enough, become much more amenable to launching into a war just because someone in authority points at a threat and tells them the only way to deal with that threat is war.

A child who hasn't learned risk-management the hard way becomes an adult who lets "someone else" manage risk for them.  Such an adult is not a "Strong Character."

So that's what happens to a child who goes all the way through college on campuses that are "protected" as if they are playpens, not the real world.

But what of the parent who goes to meetings at such campuses all the years of raising their children?

Parents required to do such things as surrender their Identification for the privilege of exercising a right lose all sense of requiring of themselves self-discipline and honorable behavior. 

Keep in mind, schools are funded by the taxes that the parents pay.  Schools work FOR the parents attending meetings.  Yet they treat the parents as if the parents were still children, imposing regulations, requiring this and that.  The thematic message is that no matter what you do, how old you are, how many children you have, or who you vote for, you are never -- ever -- going to be a decision-maker.  You are a school kid when you come back as a parent.

So throughout life, to survive (at work, play, and while parenting) one must be absolutely submissive, and set aside one's Identity.

OK, a card is just a symbolic identity, but we're talking fiction-writing and in fiction symbolism is a key ingredient.  It is key in fiction because in real life it is very powerful.  Read up on the math behind Public Relations and see how they use symbolism to sell cars and perfume.

Practice makes perfect. 

By surrendering a driver's license to a non-secure location run by a non-Security Clearance secretary, we are practicing submission to authority instead of practicing being the authority that we must be to execute Parenting well. 

So how can we teach children to manage the power of authority when they are adults if they do as we do rather than as we say, and we do not take responsibility for our own actions? 

Identity is Responsibility (Saturn, Capricorn).  Identity is defined by boundaries, borders, just as countries have borders.

You can't develop a Strong Character without a strong Identity (an identity with borders.)  It's the invasion of your borders that wreaks destruction in the aftermath of rape.  Rebuilding those borders is a process that gives your Main Character a colorful history and a clear reason to Be A Strong Character.

Strength doesn't come upon one without effort, without pain to create the gain.  That is called GROWING PAINS -- growing up hurts. 

Good parenting is about gauging how much pain it takes for your child to grow, and where exactly the border is beyond which pain leads to destruction not growth.  One gains that judgement by having been well-parented.  It's not inherited.  It's learned.   

Here is a news item related to the "don't read that book" decrees of teachers long ago via the Privacy Borders themes.

And here's the counter-argument on "privacy" -- at what AGE do you gain the right to privacy?  An infant has none, a teen some, but when do you get all the privacy a human is going to get?

Privacy is about being able to read under the desk in class, choose what books to read, (or not-read), read all night on a school night then perform well the next day despite that expenditure, try out something your associates disapprove of, and pay too much for an item. 

Privacy is about doing your own risk-assessment, then making your own decisions accordingly, acting on your own judgment and reading the book anyway, or studying during a pep rally anyway. 

Getting the right answers in your risk-assessment process takes much practice, and without that practice, no matter how old you live to be, you will never be able to make reliable judgement calls for yourself, or your children.

If privacy is violated at the age when judgement is developing, then the individual will never mature into an adult, no matter how many years are lived. To find plot-threads from that set of Protection-From-Privacy or Protection-Of-Privacy themes look carefully at who benefits from either set of regulations and/or laws.

WHO BENEFITS gives you the Cast of Characters.

WHO PREVAILS gives you the Main Character.

WHO HOLDS THE KEY TO PREVAILING gives you the B-story character, or the Secondary Character, the Main Character's lover, or second point of view character.

When you use two points of view, you need two themes, but the themes have to both be derived from the same Master Theme.

Privacy is about the right to secret ballot, and personal Identity. 

That decree to exclude Nancy Drew (a series designed for a pre-privacy age-group) is offensive because it violates privacy and therefore thwarts the development of a personal Identity capable of  relying on a personal risk-assessment, and then acting.

All of this reminds me suddenly that I did tackle many of these issues in a novel, PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE though many in this theme bundle were not addressed.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Trivia For Sci Fi Writers

It's been a while since I mentioned how much I love my subscription to DISCOVERY magazine, but I've subscribed for at least 10 years, and I heartily recommend the publication for those creating alien worlds, or time-travel-punk worlds.

Favorite trivia in no particular order:

Foetuses of reptiles, birds, humans all have gill pouches. No need for gillyweed, then!

Transfuse "alien" blood (even A into a B-type person) and it clots.

Excarnation is the (very) ancient art of removing the flesh of the dead from the bones for more efficient burial.

There are colors that human eyes cannot see.

In September 2002, DISCOVERY's cover story was "A New Ice Age" about how North America and Europe could be plunged into frigid winters. Apparently, the painting "George Washington Crossing The Delaware" showed boatmen pushing on ice on a frozen river. American rivers, as alleged in 2002, could soon be freezing over again.

My best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Chessiecon 2014

The first annual Chessiecon debuted over Thanksgiving weekend in the same location as its predecessor, Darkover, with many of the same staff members and attendees. Bestselling YA fantasy author Tamora Pierce, a regular guest at Darkover, was the author guest of honor. The Friday night masquerade wasn't reinstated, but they did hold a "Time Travelers' Social" in that slot, inviting people to show off their costumes, mingle, and share refreshments. The dealers' room offered the usual bounty. I bought two novels I'd heard mentioned in panels, illustrating the principle discussed at a session on "Reaching Readers"—that personal interaction is one of the most effective book promotions even in this age of Internet media.

I appeared on three panels—one on dark fantasy, one on the appeal of vampires and zombies, and a late-night session titled "Sex and the Believable Alien." The last had ample attendance in spite of its 10 p.m. time and its starting before the concert had quite finished. We addressed the question of how humanoid an alien has to be in order to fit into a romantic or erotic story. We agreed that the important factor isn't body shape but the expectations of the target audience and how the author handles the characters. The consensus was that the alien love object does not necessarily have to be humanoid.

In place of the folk group Clam Chowder, which has disbanded, the Saturday night concert featured filk singer Tom Smith. He has lots of funny material; you can read his lyrics on his website under the "Music" tab (including a Winnie-the-Pooh-Cthulhu crossover—I wish he'd sung that one!):

Tom Smith

Various singers performed casual music in the lobby, a nice feature. And the midnight sing-along of the "Hallelujah Chorus" went on as usual. I always enjoy listening to it from the window of our room overlooking the atrium.

The perennial problem with the hotel, which isn't the con's fault, continues to plague us: Slow restaurant service. Under the old management, the hotel served buffet dinners each evening, so we could easily allow ourselves an hour to eat and pop in and out with time to spare. Now we're at the mercy of the waiters. I had to leave most of my dinner uneaten on Friday in order to make it to my 7 p.m. panel. (Fortunately, our room had a mini-fridge in which to store the leftovers.) Admittedly, the restaurant staff seemed aware of the complaints and made a visible effort at later meals. Still, reinstating the buffet would solve the problem. I've run into similar restaurant foot-dragging at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, too. Wouldn't you think that a hotel hosting the same convention year after year would catch on that people have schedules to keep and want to get through meals quickly?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 11: Terminology in Romance by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 11
Terminology in Romance
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Last week we looked again at Marketing Fiction, and at what sells besides Sex & Violence.

So today we're going to discuss the part terminology plays in marketing and propose a new term to replace the term "fanfic."  We need to replace the term "fanfic" because of the Changing World in the title of this series of blog posts.

Fanfic has been the driving force behind much of the change, but fanfic itself came from something and has now leaped up to something that makes it require a new label.  That label will open vistas of potential only some of you have seen coming. 

So publishing terminology has its roots inside the fiction that's being marketed, which in turn is rooted in the writer's subconscious, in choice of objectives, in motivation for writing at all.

That's very abstract stuff, but language itself tries to make it concrete.

The classic question, "Why do you write?" is based on the assumption that there is A reason (not a plethora, not a whole personality profile).

Marketing fiction is all about finding fiction that is "aimed at" a specific "audience."  That assumes that a whole bunch of people all share ONE motive for reading (i.e. buying) fiction.

That assumption of a writer and reader sharing just one motivation is the reason that the question, "Why do you writer?" stymies writers. 

There is a why in there somewhere -- but it is not composed of anything you can articulate in a single word or sentence.

Yet all fiction is about that why.

You write a story that is about something (even if you don't consciously know what at the time).  The point of the exercise is not the "something" that the story is "about" -- but rather the "about" itself.  Being ABOUT is what Art is.

As I've discussed in these blog posts on writing craft, stories are Art.

Art depicts reality - it is not reality, itself.

And marketing Art shifts and changes, more rapidly now than ever.

Now consider that language, any language, also "depicts" -- the map is not the territory.  Language itself is symbolism.

We've discussed symbolism at some length:

The essential ingredient in fiction is conflict.  Therefore, the writer must depict both sides of a philosophical argument (a thematic statement) in order for the fiction to be 'about.'  The two sides of an argument must conflict, and ultimately resolve (even if there are issues left over for a sequel.)

The "both sides" structure of a story conflict is artificial.  That division into just two sides is symbolism, not reality.

Sifting two clear, opposing points of view out of the pea-soup morass of human experience so that each side can be clearly depicted is Art.

The process of sifting and defining the two sides is the same as the process of paining a picture.  The graphic artist "selects" certain lines, composition, arrangement, colors, sharp/fuzzy focus, perspective, to "lead the eye" just as a story-writer "leads the mind" via composition.

Having laid out a clean, clear, two-sided conflict, the writer must aim the narrative (a narrative is a beginning, middle, end set of points that are given connection by the writer's composition of the picture extracted from reality).

The narrative must be structured to aim at a particular audience.

If that audience is large enough, the economics of "publishing" (traditional publishing) takes over.  The widely-aimed story becomes commercially viable at a certain break point.  That break point is constantly changing.  It used to be the volume of cardboard consumed by China dictated that break point by dictating the price of newsprint paper used to print paperbacks.

China at that time was just beginning to become a manufacturing powerhouse, and needed boxes made from cardboard to ship finished product.

So trade treaties with China (politically controversial because of China's Communism) governed the subject matter and narrative structure, the composition, of mass market paperbacks, and thus of hardcovers that could be re-published as paperbacks reaching a larger readership.

Then came our "changing world" that I've been writing about here since 2007.

With the advent of usable e-reading screens, the e-book market which had grown via PDF download, dedicated reading devices of dubious worth, html websites posting fanfic, just plain exploded.

It pretty much caught traditional publishers by surprise.

They hadn't followed the growth of hits on fanfic websites. 

And for various reasons, traditional publishers had always been way out of touch with what "readers want" -- and more in touch with what a reader will buy based on a cover, or cover-blurb, or based on what books are placed in a bookstore window or "dump" carton in an aisle. 

Book sales are all that matter to a publisher.  And book sales don't matter at all to a reader, as long as the reader gets satisfaction, or can find the next book in a series they're following.

Book sales matter to a writer only insofar as their income stream is satisfactory.  When income is satisfactory, the matter of sales fades from the writer's consciousness.  The writer is concerned only with ABOUT, with the urge to DEPICT the world in a revealing light that makes sense out of chaos.

To a writer, only the story matters, only the narrative matters. 

That's why writers are so hurt and bewildered when a traditional publisher turns down the next book in a series.  The writer is about finishing the story.  The reader is about finding out the ending of the story.  The publisher is about efficient use of resources to make a profit. 

So with the advent of usable reading screens, the readers who wanted to finish reading the story, and the writers who wanted to finish publishing the story, and some entrepreneurs who saw that connection, founded small publishing via e-books.

The first commercial level explosion of e-book sales for such small publishers was in the Vampire Romance.

Traditional Publishing started this trend -- some might say, Anne Rice's Interview With A Vampire started the trend, but I think it appeared first in YA novels about a Vampire who turns up in a High School, either as a student, a teacher, or on the periphery.  13 year old readers become adult readers in about 5 years.

And it was about 5 years after the popularity of YA vampires that we saw the Vampire Romance emerge onto bookstore shelves, buried inside the Romance genre paperbacks.

A  couple years later, Vampire Romance got a label on the spine, different labels from different publishers.

Sales peaked, then started to fall off as other sorts of Paranormal Romance appeared sporadically.  How do I know sales peaked and fell?  Because I was marketing my own material via an agent at that time, and Manhattan lunches gleaned proprietary stats and reports on how the purchasing editors were thinking.

I found that by the time I wanted into that Vampire Romance market, the publishers were saying they were over-bought on Vampire Romance, had more than a year's worth in stock or under contract, and would not even consider another submission.

They ran out of Vampire Romances, and by then other sub-genres were selling better. 

There's a perverse logic in the publishing business model, rooted in the disconnect between the objectives of a writer and the objectives of a publisher.

So when Vampire Romance readers suddenly could not find any more paperbacks to suit them, they quickly learned on the grapevine that Vampire Romance was alive and well, thriving and growing in the e-book market.

That demand for Vampire Romance, in part, drove the demand for readers that drove the technological improvements in screens.  Improved screens increased demand for e-books, and other varieties of novels, and now even non-fiction, are all e-book.

And of course, you've all heard of the contretemps between Amazon and Hatchet and other publishers over the price of e-books.  Readers have been saying for a long time that e-book prices are about double what they should be.

Small publishers are consolidating (buying each other), and refining the business model.  Many, many publishers that started up in the nascent e-book market have closed.  And now the traditional publishers used their marketing strength (and Amazon & B&N) to yank the e-book market away from small publishers.

So writers who wanted to reach their own readers self-published.

Many self-publishing writers are New York Times Bestselling writers, taking back the rights to their NYT best sellers, re-publishing them by themselves or through small e-book publishers, and then finishing their series.  Sometimes they bring out new books in new series.

Meanwhile, a lot of writers who could not sell to traditional publishing went with self-publishing.

Some of these had honed their craft on fanfic websites, getting feedback from readers, learning to use beta-readers, and grow into a skill set that works to produce good novels that hit their readers nerves squarely.

Other self-publishing writers learned as they went. 

There's an organization for e-book publishers and writers something like SFWA or RWA, complete with genre book awards and cover art awards which I joined years ago when I had my first e-book out, Molt Brother.  Now it's in paper, e-book, and also audiobook, along with the sequel, City of a Million Legends.  is the website of the e-book professionals organization and it also has an active forum where people exchange a lot of information, writers find publishers, and so on.

These are the people generating the change in the world of publishing.

So we are seeing an increasing level of quality in self-published books.

Historically, Science Fiction Fandom invented fanfic -- fiction written by fans for fans.  For the most part, science fiction fanzines never published fiction, but rather discussed conventions and novels.  But fan fiction thrived in smaller circulation, often on carbon paper, though usually not using established characters of a professional writer. 

With the advent of Spockanalia and T-Negative, Star Trek fans discovered the joys of fanfic written to expand and expound on the TV characters.  And gradually, fan writers created original characters to interact with the established characters, revealing new depths to the shallow TV depictions.

That evolution of fan fiction is the main subject of my Bantam Paperback STAR TREK LIVES!

STAR TREK was the first TV Series to engage the fertile imagination of organized science fiction fandom.  Yes, organized.  There were (and are) clubs with constitutions, slates of officers, and annual elections, plus dues and publications.  The World Science Fiction Society holds the annual World Science Fiction Convention (worldcon) and awards the Hugo, as well as other Awards.

Science Fiction fandom was (and is) organized and connected.  Today it's connected via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.  Then it was snailmail and telephone.

From STAR TREK LIVES! and the New York Star Trek Conventions, the media picked up on the term fanfic (especially slash), and popularized the term FAN, fanzine, fan fiction, and eventually the term FANFIC. 

In that term, FANFIC, may lie the barricade between self-published Romance novels and the prestige they deserve.  It may also give us a clue as to where the resistance against Romance comes from in the general population, even though they flock to films with a tear-jerking Romance, and give awards to the RomCom (the romantic comedy) -- yet shy from Romance per se.

Terminology is key to changing people's assumptions, or prejudices.  We changed from the term "nigger" to the term Black to indicate elevating the prestige, the potential value of a person. 

The terms Liberal and Progressive, Communist and Socialist, Independent, etc etc are continuously redefined, and then changed. 

So let's examine the origin of the term "fan" to see what it is telling the world about us.

The media, and now dictionaries and major sources, keep insisting on a misconception about the origin and meaning of the term "fan."

They insist that the science fiction fan is a FANATIC (i.e. not sane but obsessed.)

That is the label that was slapped on science fiction fandom way back before it was organized, and even afterward for decades.

A fanatic is a person who is not in their "right mind."  And usually, being a mild conditiion, the fanatic "out-grows it" or "gets over it."

Can you imagine out-growing or getting over Romance?  Come on! 

But they are saying that science fiction is a "phase" that some teens go through and therefore it is negligible, and can safely be tolerated and disregarded.  There is nothing in it (they said in the 1930's) that has any bearing on reality or the future.

30 years later, that generation sent men to the Moon. 

The next generation of science fiction fanatics invented the internet and the web.

The next twenty years saw the advent of the cell phone, then the smartphone.

Fanaticism is a mental disorder suffered by teens, like measles was considered a childhood disease you just had to suffer through. 

Fanaticism is a disease.

Today they say of the same age-group that Videogaming is "addictive."  That's it's unhealthy for teens to communicate with each other via social media.

In the 1940's they said the same thing of that generation's teens who were communicating with each other via telephone.  The picture of the teen monopolizing the ONLY phone-line in a household, holding long conversations with fellow teens (often of opposite gender) was a feature of life in the 1950's, tolerated and scorned by adults.

If you're a writer intending to grab a market-share for your work, watch what teens are doing now.  It takes about 5 years to write a novel, from Idea to published, and in 5 years today's teens will be at peak entertainment consumer years. 

But they may pick up the scorn associated with terminology used when talking about Romance Genre novels, and never explore the rich, complex, and satisfying worlds Romance writers build.

Or, if they do browse mass market paperbacks, they may never discover the worlds being created by writers using small publishers or self-publishing in e-books.

I get a couple of newsletters pitching free and 0.99cent e-books, Romance genre, Mysteries, etc.

I often see books pitched as having many hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon.

The star-review has become the self-publisher's marketing tool, and yes, there is some fraud associated with this statistic, even though Amazon tries to prevent that. 

Still, read some of those reviews.  Even if you would scorn the book because of typos or need for editing out inconsistencies and filling plot-holes, look at the comments by readers who focus entirely on the payload, the way the STORY made them feel, not the technical flaws in the writing craft.

Those 5-star reviews are typical of fanzine reader responses to fanfic based on a TV-show. 

Get that free newsletter, click through to Amazon on a title with lots of 5-star reviews and read carefully.  And while reading, think about this.

Self-publishing is hard (writing the novel is easy by comparison).  The odds are against you selling a single copy to anyone you don't know personally. 

But there are associations of self-publishing writers who can teach you how to connect with cheap promotional strategies that might work. 

There is very likely an audience hungry for what you want to sell them.  You finding them, them finding you, or "going viral" is a long-shot.  Finding and serving a market is what publishers do -- their business model is suited to that process.  Writing uses a different business model.

But because of the adequate e-reader screens now available fairly cheap, there is a readership starving for what you write.  They just won't recognize it when starting right at it. 

What do we need to get that instant recognition?

We need a label, a symbol, a TERM which describes what this kind of fiction is, where it comes from, why it deserves their attention, and most important what it actually delivers.

The term self-published has gathered scorn because of the missing editorial steps people have become used to.

The term fanfic has gathered scorn because of the old (and inaccurate) term fanatic. 

What other artform besides writing has, historically, been a source of pure satisfaction and meaningful entertainment (and information)?

Think about the music industry.

Commercially available music has its origins in the Bards taking news, information, and historical Events and gossip from town to town, presenting it all as song. 

Isolated towns had their own youngsters who sang and played music.

Think about the old West.  Whoever in town could saw on a fiddle played for the square dancing. 

Along with all this, came one of the oldest artforms, which became known as Folk Music. 

Here's a wikipedia article on 1940's folk music.

In the 1960's, people like Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Woodie Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and people you've never heard of because they only played and sang at weddings and birthday parties.  Yesteryear's Garage Bands.

You can get this old music on Amazon, iTunes, and other websites.,+Paul+&+Mary/+similar

Yes, politics grabbed the folk song and ran with it.  Theodore Bikel's concert records have patter that reveals all that. 

But folk music reflects the life and times of those who perform and those who foster it.  It's folk, not professional.

In the 1960's it became big time professional, and highly respected -- because it made money for the music industry in records and concerts (and movies).

Country Music is the professional development of old, folk music by people who farmed and lived too far away from cities to associate with city folks.  Country was isolated because transit was slow, and internet didn't exist.  Today, many places only have satellite service if that. 

A lot of money has been made from Country Music -- and don't forget Elvis Presley came from that venue.

Today the term folk music doesn't carry the opprobrium that fanfic does.

But, if you examine folk music down to the roots, you will see that folk music and self-published novels (from people who were nerve traditionally published and actively do not want to be traditionally published) share a similar kind of popularity. 

And if you juxtapose real folk music (by folks not getting paid to do it) with professional music (by people who do it for profit), you will see an artistic similarity between folk and professional music that exactly parallels the similarity between fanfic and traditionally published fic.

Trace origins and development, find the driving force behind music, and trace how that force generated the Music Industry, and then do the same for novels.

Go back into the 1800's and study women's Gothic novels, circulating as hand-written copies among housewives.  That was fanfic.

I expect you can do the same study with Art.  There are Great Artists who are "Great" because we've heard of them.  And we've heard of them because they had Patrons and got commissions to decorate famous places (like the Cysteine Chapel, for example).  And there are folk artists whose work is left to us only as fragmentary remains on pottery sherds dug up by archeologists.

There's commercial art -- advertisements, book covers -- and there's fine art shown in galleries.  And then there's folk art, which you find in people's homes, done for the pleasure of their families.  Think about quilting, and going out to "the Country" to buy handmade quilts to hang on the wall as art. Those quilts are folk art, and they are respected.

Today, we also have Fan Art published in fanzines. 

All of these art-forms have a folk version, and a professional version.

Why shouldn't fan fiction and self-published fan fiction be the FOLKFIC of our world?

Self-publishing is so closely parallel, and often related to, fanfic devoted to underlying works and  published on websites for free reading, that the only difference is the homage paid to the underlying work.

Fanfic writers introduce original characters, and re-interpret existing characters, sometimes take them to new worlds, tell parts of a story not treated in the professionally published novels, but it is original writing.

You all know how much fanfic my Sime~Gen Universe novels have generated.  There are millions of words posted on alone.

Also, on we have posted some classic Trek fanzine material.

You might note on that /startrek/ index page that we have a new addition, the Scholastic Voice Magazine Star Trek Story Contest Winner from 1980.  It was written by a High School boy,  Thomas Vinciguerra, who went on to become a nationally published journalist, and who wrote many articles about Star Trek.  You can find links and the story at:

Here's a 2014 contest on marketing on the internet.
As part of its ongoing Seattle Writes initiative, the library has partnered with self-publishing and distribution platform Smashwords to encourage local writers to package their writing for an audience. The eyeball icing on the finger-typing cake? A contest, open until midnight on October 15, in which up to three entrants who publish via Smashwords will have their eBooks included for circulation in the SPL eBook collection.
The fine print is hardly daunting. Have an SPL library card. Be 18 or older. Publish your eBook (for free) with Smashwords on its website. Enter the contest.
Oh. And write the eBook.
-------end quote------

Also a new addition to the section is a short novel by a Sime~Gen fanfic writer, Mary Lou Mendum, done in Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire universe, using some of Catherine's characters, and a whole cast of original characters. 

Mary Lou is an example of a writer who specifically does not want to write professionally.  It's a hobby, and she does it to please specific people.  In the case of the Skolian Universe novel, it was done to entertain someone while ill.

She's an example of a folk-writer, writing folk-fic.

Or perhaps it should be called filkfic as akin to Filk Singing.

The term Filk to describe the original lyrics sung to popular tunes done at Science Fiction Conventions dates back to a typo in a con program book.  The term was immediately adopted as a badge of honor, though what they did with music was one of the oldest traditions in folk music (new words to old songs, variations on old tunes to adapt to new lyrics).

Folk Art is the baseline creativity of humanity singing the song of the universe.

Commercial Art (mass market paperbacks) is Folk Art leveled to the lowest common denominator, made accessible to all.

Fanfic and self-publishing are both types of folk art, folk-storytelling.

The material is popular not because an insane person created it, a fanatic, but because perfectly sane people with experiences in common resonate to it, enjoy it, and elevate the performers of it to local celebrity status.

The folk of the town admire and reward the local bard, the story-teller who teaches morality to children, the shaman who teaches history to children in rhyme, and the artist who draws pictures of local events.

Fanfic and Self-published works resemble Folk Music both in content, and appeal and business model. 

But "Folk" carries a much higher prestige than "Fanatic." 

The most powerful force in civilization is the folks, not insanity or teen phases.

You don't tolerate the folks.  You admire them.   Discount the power of the folks at your peril (or so the rulers of France discovered to their tribulation.  England had a problem with those pesky colonists and their Boston Tea Party, too.)

So I propose replacing the term fanfic with the term folkfic or Folk-fic, or some variant so it includes self-published original universe fiction.  Here you find the stories the folk (the largest market there is) really want. 

The More Things Change; The More They Stay The Same.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Digital Course-Pack Controversy

Is unauthorized copying of copyrighted material "Fair Use" if the motive is explicitly "to save money" by not paying the copyright owners ?

The House Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony on November 19th from the Association of American Publishers. The testimony is well worth reading.


In this digital age, there has arisen a “new jurisprudence” of courts that have strayed from the statutory language and Supreme Court precedent to justify practices that apply Fair Use differently to digital materials than to print.
Some courts have given less weight to the impact of systemmatic unlicensed copying of digital materials on the market for legal, licensed copies than to subjective ideas of "the public good" (and of course, the consumer will always prefer "free"), and those who would bilk authors for their own benefit will always claim that scanning a print work to create a digital copy is "transformative".


There is no general or per se exception for use of copyrighted material for educational purposes or by non-profit educational institutions under the U.S. Copyright Act, and such uses are not “presumptively” fair use. 

See P 3 for more on this. Teachers were never given a free pass to make multiple copies of copyrighted works to save their students money if that copying did not meet the criteria of "Fair Use".


Notwithstanding clear Congressional intent and Supreme Court precedent, court rulings in pending copyright infringement litigation by academic publishers against Georgia State University (“GSU”) have exhibited troubling hallmarks of the “new jurisprudence.” 

.... The GSU litigation concerns the university’s claim that its notable changeover from providing students with licensed paper “course packs” of portions of copyrighted works for curriculum reading to providing unlicensed digital versions of the same kind of materials for the same purpose is protected fair use.
..... the GSU case is about “a university-wide practice” of substituting unlicensed digital course packs for licensed paper course packs “primarily to save money.” GSU had always paid permission fees to use copyrighted works in a paper format but refused to do so when it used the same or similar copyrighted works in a digital format for the same purpose.
Comment: According to the principle of "media neutrality", a copyrighted work is copyright protected in all media. A faithful and exact digital copy of a work in print is not a transformation. It is a copy.

There's a great deal more in the testimony to inform and delight. I hope you check it out.

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day to all our U.S. readers.

Starting this year, the former Darkover convention, held north of Baltimore over Thanksgiving weekend, becomes Chessiecon. Mostly the same staff, some changes in programming. A new featured filk singer will perform Saturday night in place of the disbanded Clam Chowder folk group. With the continuing rise in steampunk content, for the first time in several years a costume event will be held on Friday evening.

I'm scheduled for three panels, two about the undead and dark fantasy, the other on alien romance and erotica. I'll post a report next week.

Here's the website with information on all the tracks:


Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 10: What Besides Sex&Violence Sells by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 10
What Besides Sex&Violence Sells
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
The previous parts of this series about Marketing Fiction In A Changing World can be found at:

We've discussed the definition of "strong characters" previously, establishing that the technical publisher's term "strong characters" does not mean muscles bulging or "kick ass heroine."

In the Depiction series we started in Part 1 with Depicting Power In Relationships.

We tend to see our real-world surroundings in terms of "Power" -- such as "Does The Government Have The Power to XYZ?"  or "Does a President have the Power to ZYX?"  "Power To The People!" 

What do we really mean by the term "Power?"

The bald truth is most people, including voracious readers of Romance or Science Fiction Romance (or even Paranormal Romance) have no clue what the term "Power" means to them, except that they want it.

The writer's job as an artist is to DEPICT their reader's ordinary reality in such a way that it makes the Fantasy aspects of the story seem "realistic."  Not real, mind you, but realistic enough to believe for a little while. 

Then, as you've seen in the recent political campaigning, "connecting with" the audience is the big, fundamental, and essential avenue of communicating.

"Connecting" means letting the ideas being discussed come from a person the audience members can "identify with" -- or in some way see themselves in.

In a job interview scene, you want to write the dialogue (very off-the-nose style) in such a way that the interviewee presents him/herself as having something in common with the interviewer, so they communicate smoothly. 

Or if the applicant is to be rejected, you want to make it clear that the interviewee just can't connect with the interviewer/decision-maker.

This is important when talking to Human Resources interviewer, but it is crucial when talking to the person who will be the immediate superior depending on this new-hire to complete tasks expeditiously.

Note: this is VERY important in the case of a hit-man applying for a contract from a Mob Boss.

So there are ways to study political posturing to discover techniques to employ in creating all kinds of fictional scenes.

One of the most critical techniques to learn about dialogue is that all dialogue is mortal-combat -- a jousting match between two (or more) people looking for an advantage, doing one-upmanship, positioning themselves in the power-dynamic of a Relationship -- or establishing a Relationship where they can define their own position as "powerful."

In real life, that's not always true.  There are all kinds of speech used for all sorts of purposes, and some of them actually do lend themselves to becoming a Scene's core dialogue.  There is Intimacy that does not have a power-agenda.  And there is Intimacy that does have a power agenda. 

In general, only a few pages of a 400 page book can be devoted to non-power-agenda dialogue.  Dialogue (as opposed to real speech) has an underlying power agenda.

The reason for the exclusion of non-power agenda Dialogue is that (in general) it doesn't advance the Plot.  All the words, every one, on the page must advance the plot, advance the story, AND enhance the context the characters are living in (description, narrative, exposition are the tools for context enhancement).

Non-power-agenda Dialogue can advance the Story when it does not seem to advance the Plot. 

As we've discussed before, I am using the following definitions for story parts -- different writers use different terminology, but every professional fiction writer knows and manipulates these components.

Story is defined as the sequence of changes in the Character due to the impact of external Events (actions by an opponent).  Plot is defined as the sequence of Events. 

In other words, regardless of the ostensible subject matter, the conversation between characters that survives the final-cut is about Power. 

Two kinds of Power that the writer does not have to explain to a reader are Sex and Violence. 

They sell big, are considered the essential ingredients in a work intended for large and diverse audiences, because they need to explanation, and they need no translation for foreign audiences (Filmmakers aim at World Distribution, and sub-titles just don't cut it if they must contain polysyllabic words.)

So "action" sells because it is violence, and usually needs no translation.  You can depict action easily in Show Don't Tell. 

Think of the 1980's  film THE TERMINATOR.

The Terminator had plenty of Romance, as did the Indiana Jones films.  So did The African Queen which was much more Relationship driven than violence driven -- so they added leeches, mechanical breakdowns, and threats.

If you haven't seen those films, dig them up and watch them.  Streaming has become the most invaluable asset for a writer.  You can pick up long-standing trends, and analyze what does not change decade to decade.

So Romance was top of the heap in World War II movies made in the 1950's, but it was more expensive to depict airplanes in dog fights and big explosions.  Good closeups were cheaper.  The sex scenes were "go to black" -- they happened off-screen.

As technology advanced, audiences came to adore the explosions, destruction of cities, massive crashes, and other violence they had only been able to imagine.  More minutes of a film were devoted to destruction and violence than to the slow-sweet development of a Relationship before sex.

As social values shifted, sex (nude scenes) replaced "go to black."  Step by step, Romance took a back seat to Sex. 

Whatever wasn't a nude scene had to be a violence scene, and those films and novels that spent more time on sex and violence and less on "What she sees in him" made bigger profits -- because "What She Sees In Him" is very hard to translate across languages and cultures.

All the way to 2014, marketing machinery has caused writers and film makers to trim back the time spent on Relationship and include only nudity or violence (or sometimes both at once). 

Some very broad trends in the reader/viewer's community can be traced parallel to this trend in entertainment.

These are decade-long waves of change.  The point in discussing them here is to  pick up a trend and extrapolate it to The Next Big Thing.

So here's a list to consider and research on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

1) The disintegration of The Family (trace Leave It To Beaver and The Brady Bunch all the way to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Lost)

2) The displacement of Loyalty, Patriotism and Honor with Betrayal, Draft-dodging, and Hatred of Parents.

3) The replacement of Character Arc expressed in Poetic Justice with Characters who just win and indulge their emotions (with sex or violence), mostly to just escape their fate.

These are 3 trends that depict the changes in the consumer's real world and are reflected in what those consumers (your market) enjoy in entertainment.

There are reasons for taste preferences in statistically large markets that can be most easily understood by writers via Astrology.  Here is the index post to all the Astrology Just For Writers series -

Astrology gives a handy way to capture the timing of generational shifts.  Marketers target people between certain ages because at those ages they tend to be more vulnerable to peer-pressure, sales pitches, and tricks of the Public Relations craft. 

That "certain age" lies between the advent of sexual awareness and mastery of the overwhelming emotions and physical demands of the body.  The demographic centers around about age 18, but spreads from 13 to 35, with decreasing gullibility after age 30 (after the first Saturn Return when Saturn (discipline) has been full experienced and internalized. 

As they say: Never trust anyone over 30 -- they might actually be able to think for themselves.  Wisdom sets in at 30.

In other words, at certain ages, humans tend to be better "Marks" for the grifter's tricks.  Public Relations is the grifter's art enhanced with mathematical precision. 

As entertainment producers discovered sales increased when sex&violence were ingredients, and followed the trend to making sex&violence the only ingredients, so too will they follow the trend to something that comes along and sells better.  Could easily be Romance again, with a new twist.

Keep in mind that it is to the advantage of Sellers to keep the Buyers immature and unable to discipline (Saturn) their own emotions (Moon, Venus) so that they will identify with characters who have no self-discipline who "model" impulse-buying and use the excuse "I couldn't help it" when failing to resist an emotion.

It is the hallmark of the teen years when sexuality kicks emotions into high gear that the teen's personal philosophy is founded on the conviction that the only right or wrong in the world is rooted in how you feel.  And we see that reflected in popular fiction -- especially Romance --- that there exists such a thing as an "irresistible" arousal.  And that is true for the immature.

Thus marketers have a vested interest in fostering the assumption of helplessness in the face of your emotions.  If they can induce in you a desire for something, you won't even try to resist because resistance is futile.

The writer's concept "strong character" means a Character whose character is "strong enough" to impose discipline on emotions, even raging arousal, and not succumb -- not even consider succumbing -- to an inappropriate impulse.

In fact, a fully mature human never even has an inappropriate impulse.  That is the Strongest of Strong Characters.  Such people do exist in real life, and every culture has a term for achieving that level of maturity and a theory about how to achieve it.  The achievement was once assumed to be a universal goal of all humanity and was lauded, applauded and rewarded with Rank and Power. 

In fact, the only humans trusted with Power over other humans were of fully mature, strong character.  Others who achieved Power without that Strength of Character we distrusted and rebelled against.

Thus Hollywood depicted Role Model characters, such as The Lone Ranger,

who had achieved that ultimate strong-character position dealing kindly with people who did not have strong character and thus inspired a generation to emulate strength of character (even if they didn't have it).  It was an admired and achievable trait to be beyond temptation via the emotions.

See The Untouchables - Elliot Ness's take-down of the Chicago Mob by being incorruptable - beyond the temptation of money, and beyond the fear of being targeted by a hit man.

Or P.N. Elrod's brilliant The Vampire Files series.

The Vampire Files  Now is in audiobook, too.

Character Arc means the experiences that develop that kind of incorruptible strength of character -- all the way to the point where the enticing vision does not in any way arouse or entice.

We call that an old fashioned value.  So writing it into a Romance can be a radical departure.

Maybe we won't go all the way back to "go to black" for sex scenes - but maybe onward to less air-time (or page-words) spent on nude athletics and more spent on the complex and abstract reasons for accepting this person and rejecting that one according to the self-discipline exhibited by that person. 

This change will come from a book and/or film that just includes that ingredient among the sex&violence. 

So where do we look for this new ingredient that will out-sell sex&violence?

First we have to examine where sex and violence come from in our society, and what those two things represent artistically, then find what other elements exist in human experience that harmonize with them.

In the Astrology Just For Writers series, I pointed out how Astrology describes the relationship between sex, violence, and love.

The sign Scorpio is Ruled By (or associated with) the planet (or whatever they are calling it now) Pluto.  Scorpio is the Natural 8th House which represents sexuality and death, as well as taxes and other-people's-money.  In other words, via the association of Scorpio with the 8th House, we learn the relationship between money and sex, and thus the reason why our Elected Politicians keep getting caught secretly (Scorpio and Pluto represent deep secrets which when revealed become scandals) having sexual affairs and questionable financial dealings. 

Our culture sees sex, violence, finance, Power Over Others, and secrecy as  separate things, as if you can have one without all the others. 

Scorpio Sun Sign is known for such intense privacy preferences that they are considered secretive.

Artists (such as writers) depicting this culture or marketing to this culture, can "see" (with the mind's eye and artist's understanding of poetic justice) that all these separate matters are the same thing.

Scorpio is raw, physical, animal sexuality, and also represents the deeper and more potent manifestations of Violence.  8th House is other people's Values or the Values of The Public.  And Values includes money, which means taxes if the topic is government or power-over-others. 

The current USA government policy is to use Taxes to shape the behavior of citizens.  We tax cigarettes to reduce smoking.  We tax gasoline to prevent driving so much.  This practice puts "Power" into the hands of the few -- the elected officials and bureaucrats who have climbed up the Civil Service ladder to gain decision making power in Agencies such as the IRS, NSA, EPA.

Those who make decisions governing your behavior, incentivizing healthy eating , or dis-incentivizing asocial behavior such as tax-dodging, have positions of Power.

If those individuals are individuals of Strong Character, they can't be bribed, just as Eliot Ness couldn't be bribed in The Untouchables.

And if they have Strong Character, they won't use their Power just to assuage their own emotions.  Say for example the emotion of Fear.  Tax Policy and EPA Regulations are Powers that can be used by those who fear global warming to assuage their fears by forcing people to stop doing what the Powerful believe causes global warming.

People driven by Fear can't be stopped by Facts. 

People driven by Greed (for money) can't be stopped by Facts.

So if one side of the global warming argument is driven by fear of global warming, and the other side is driven by greed for money (based on Fear of poverty?), it doesn't matter what the Facts actually are.  No fact will alter the behavior of either side because the behavior wasn't fact-based to begin with.

We all do this kind of disconnected thinking.  We all have an inner, emotional life that is fraught with Internal Conflict which drives our Story Arc.  That's why novels depicting an Internal Conflict are so vivid.

It doesn't matter nearly so much what the Internal Conflict of a novel-character is, the mere fact that it is an Internal Conflict establishes rapport with the reader.  A character who has an internal conflict that they "project" psychologically on their external world is a Real Person to a reader.

Thus if you are bringing a couple together where one is frantically working to stop global warming and the other is trying to stop the interference with his business by global warming fanatics, you capture the readers from both sides of the argument.

Most people don't know why they believe what they believe.  If your characters likewise don't know or care why they believe what they believe, and so are intransigent in their beliefs, you have a conflict that you must resolve in the end.

"To Agree to Disagree" is not a resolution of a conflict that can lead to a plausible HEA.

If this story is driven by sex and violence -- you will end up with one of this Couple murdering the other.

But if you make the story of the collision of a Believer with a Believer into a genuine Romance (Science Fictional or Paranormal) you another thematic dimension to the innate Sex&Violence collision of say Greenpeace with Whalers.

That thematic dimension is the core theme of all Romance in all sub-genres: Love Conquers All.

People driven by Fear (of Global Warming or Personal Poverty) who have the Power to make themselves feel safer can't be deterred by any arguments. 

Fear is overwhelming, primal, and even more irresistible than sexual enticement.  If these people (government officials or businessmen) have grown up convinced that emotions can not be resisted and had that proven by reading  stories about overwhelming sexuality, then they won't even try to master Fear.

But we have the theme of Love Conquers All.

Love Conquers Fear. 

Love Conquers Sex&Violence.

What's the difference between Sex and Love? 

Raw Sex which is the flipside of Violence is represented in Astrology by Scorpio and Pluto.

Love which is the flipside of Beauty is represented in Astrology by Libra and Taurus.  Venus rules both Libra and Taurus, and has many associations, all of them compatible with Romance which is best symbolized by Pisces ruled by Neptune.

Love is not Romance.  They are two different things, which is why we have so many "Honeymoon Is Over" stories of shattering divorces within the first 5 years of a marriage.  5 years about covers a Neptune or Pluto transit which define the epochs of our lives.

Likewise Love is not Sex.

Love is all about what you see (Libra, Natural Seventh House, Partners, the Public, open enemies) in (internal conflict) another person.  What you value (external conflict) (Taurus, Natural Second House, Money, Beauty, Moral Values) in another person grows out of that Love.

Love is all about what you are capable of perceiving -- not necessarily what is really there.

Love is Blind, as they say.  The symbol for Libra is Blind Justice holding her scales.  Being "blind" in the external eye allows "the sight" with the inner eye, allows seeing into other people.

So your job as a writer is to convince the reader that the reader is smarter than you are, and that the reader is able to see the true inside of at least one of the characters -- to see deeply and accurately enough into a Character to Love that character.

The easy way to do that is to create a Character who is ostensibly an adult but is emotionally immature enough to have no strength to overcome emotion such as Fear or Greed.  His own emotions have Power over him, and therefore anyone with Power over his emotions (of fear, greed, jealousy, etc) can force him to do their bidding even against his own will.

Remember, with Hypnosis, you can not get someone to jump off a roof and commit suicide -- but with control over his emotions, you can -- provided he has no control of his emotions.

The difficult part of telling such a Weak Character's story is to convince the reader that the experiences you put the Character through will cause the Character to strive for strength and thus to become a Strong Character.

Right now, Love doesn't "sell" very well without Sex&Violence added.  So many novels substitute sex and/or violence for studied exploration of the character's inner life.  This substitution makes it impossible to depict Poetic Justice.

Poetic Justice is the Plot Event that brings the reader's sense of right and wrong into alignment with the Character's resolution of the Character's internal conflict.

Poetic Justice is Poetic (a harmony) and Just (making things come out right). 

Poetic Justice is about the Beauty (Venus) of Justice (Jupiter).  The harmonizing element is Mercy.  Justice without Mercy is neither just nor poetic.  But Mercy without Justice creates co-dependence which is not Love and thus conquers nothing.

If you can depict Love conquering All, especially today's most potent Fears, without flinching from depicting those Fears, you may turn the tables on the Marketing decree that only Sex&Violence sells.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg