Thursday, February 11, 2016

Is Selling Short Stories Worthwhile?

Karen Hurley writes in LOCUS about the abysmal payment rates for short stories:

The Sad Economics of Writing Short Fiction

In the Golden Age of the pulps, when dozens of genre fiction magazines existed, a skillful, prolific writer might have been able to make a living from short fiction. Nowadays, as Hurley's examples illustrate, short-story markets that pay an approximation of a living wage (however one quantifies that concept in terms of writing-hours) are hard to find. A well-paying anthology will offer a few hundred dollars up front, plus (maybe) a later trickle of royalties, if the contract provides for such. PLAYBOY, once a major venue for SF and fantasy, no longer accepts unsolicited submissions, except during special contests. Even when they did, I suspect their $3000-per-story payments went to established, high-profile authors. And even those authors wouldn't have sold to PLAYBOY more often than once in a while. OMNI paid comparable rates but went out of print years ago. has just closed to unsolicited submissions. The slick women's magazines such as COSMOPOLITAN, REDBOOK, and GOOD HOUSEKEEPING used to run fiction, even genre fiction (Ray Bradbury's classic "Homecoming" first appeared in MADEMOISELLE), but that era has passed.

If a market pays five cents per word, a 5000-word story would pay $250.00. An author would have to sell about fifteen of those every month to garner enough to survive at a basic level in most American cities. Even if that many available markets of that level or higher existed, a writer would have to be prolific enough to produce a story every two days for years on end and gifted enough to sell everything he or she wrote.

Hurley mentions the alternative of self-publishing. Via that route, a story can continue to generate income indefinitely—but probably nowhere near a living wage. The big earners in that field would be high-profile authors who are already making a living from other sources.

For most authors, then, short stories alone may produce a nice supplementary income but never enough to live on. So why write them? Some writers do it for the joy of the process. The short form comes naturally to them. It doesn't, for me; my natural lengths seem to be novella and short novel. Short fiction, however, offers a way to keep one's name before audiences and, one hopes, attract new readers for those novels. I write occasional short stories to submit to anthologies, if the anthology theme appeals to me—for practice and, if the story gets accepted, for the promotional benefits and the money (even if it usually isn't much). For instance, my husband and I have a collaborative tale, "A Walk in the Mountains," in the anthology REALMS OF DARKOVER, forthcoming in May.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Reviews 22 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg - Karen Chance's Cassie Palmer Novels

Reviews 22
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Karen Chance's Cassie Palmer Novels 

I have not yet posted an Index to my reviews here, but this is #22 of the series of reviews about the field of Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance, and related genres and what you can learn by studying various novels "published as" various genres.

I particularly focus on "ingredients" in other fields that can be smoothly blended into a dynamic Romance plot.

The results of a smooth blend are clear in the Historical Romance field.

Historical Romance produced hundreds, maybe thousands, of titles over a span of a couple of decades, and then as those born in the 1970's became book buyers, Historical Romance writers blended Women's Lib into Historical periods -- with some justification, and sometimes as pure fantasy.  Women raised in the Victorian era were portrayed as undaunted feminists -- and sometimes that "worked" for modern readers, and sometimes not so much.

Growing up in an oppressive environment cripples and warps most Personalities, so that the occasional individual who weathers the storm of denigration and negative messaging becomes a social outcast among her compliant peers.

But such defiant individuals have existed in all epochs of human history.

Look to the Biblical story of Dinah, of Deborah, of the several named Yehudit.  Look to the female Saints.

It isn't womanhood per se that determines whether you are outstanding, exceptional, defiant, un-bendable, or in the parlance of the writing craft, A Hero.

The hallmark of most science fiction is that the central character, the Hero or Point of View Character, the protagonist is one of those Unbendable humans who marches to his own drummer.

I haven't seen any research on this, but just scanning the people I know and their life-stories, I can't see any difference in the percentage of those Unbendables who are male vs those who are female.

The Unbendables are rare.  Societies that treasure their Unbendables thrive.  Societies that trash their Unbendables perish quickly.

Parents of an Unbendable usually see they've spawned an Ugly Duckling very early in the child's life.  Some Parents are proud of that kid -- others keep trying to bend them.

To study the Unbendable as a Character, read (and it's a joy and a delight, not like a school assignment task) Karen Chance's series about her Unbendable character, Cassie Palmer.

It's Paranormal Romance, but the Romance plot develops very slowly over the story-arc of the novels.

The 7th novel in the Cassie Palmer series is titled REAP THE WIND.

Cassie Palmer Novels:
Touch the Dark
Claimed by Shadow
Embrace the Night
Curse the Dawn
Hunt the Moon
Tempt the Stars
Reap the Wind (2015)
Ride the Storm

Here's her page on Amazon where you can "follow" her and get an email when a new book comes out.
All these novels are recommended, but they are so well written that you can dip into the series at any point and completely understand the action and romance.

The entire (long) novel is Cassie's increasingly desperate attempts to rescue the guy she loves, a Soul Mate from a very neat, (original) curse ripped from the Arthurian Legend headlines.

This fellow was/is the Merlin of Arthur's Kingdom.

Legend has it Merlin "lived backwards" -- a concept not explained in most Arthurian literature.

The science fiction part of this Fantasy-Romance is the precise, scientific way the Curse is explained and the way to lift the Curse is posited.

Karen Chance has used the best skills of Game Oriented Worldbuilding to create a Magic dimension that makes sense.

The Situation is that long ago the Greek/Roman gods were swept out of our Reality and walled away from us.

The project of building that magical wall was a team effort, spearheaded by one of those Unbendable types, a woman.

Now, another group of women, bent on siezing Power, have decided to bring back one of those gods.  Like most Sorcerer Apprentice thinking, they truly believe they can control the results of their initiative to their own advantage.

Cassie Palmer is more realistic, though almost totally ignorant of the  Magical skills involved.

Cassie has been "chosen" by some kind of Magical Power to fill the (always female) office of Pythia, a Seer who can transcend Time and implement various sorts of Magic, given enough training in youth.

Cassie has not had any of that training.  She's learning as she goes, beset by enemies who leave her no time to learn.

She was raised by a formidable crowd of Vampires, short tempered folks with way more Power than is good for the world.  She learned to become inconspicuous, quiet, un-noticed lest she set off a violent storm among those Vampires.  But she is an Unbendable.

Despite her up-bringing, or perhaps because of it, she arrives at adulthood with the habit of thinking for herself, charting her own course, making her own decisions, and not standing in awe of what appears to be Authority wrapped in Power.

In other words, she is your typical science fiction hero.

She asks pesky questions, finds her own answers, doesn't totally believe anything she's told until she verifies it, plunges ahead with action based on whatever theory she considers most probably correct, and in the process takes a lot of personal, emotional, and physical damage -- and comes back swinging, relying on her next best theory.

She's a Strong Character, in the definition of the publishing industry.

Here are some of my previous posts on publishing's oft-repeated demand for "strong characters" -- a demand most beginning writers mis-interpret.  Karen Chance has gotten it right, so study Cassie Palmer for the traits highlighted in these posts.

And for Romance writers, I particularly recommend:

The Unbendables are only one sort of Strong Character.

The Unbendable Trait tends to generate fanfic about testing that character to destruction to find out what is inside the Unbendable shell.  That is the origin of much of the fanfic often called "Get Spock."  Or even, "Hurt/Comfort."

Before you can destroy (e.g. Bend) a Character with dramatic impact, you must first convince the reader the Character really is Unbendable, or Strong in some other way.  Towering, Formidable, perhaps justly Famous, or Great.  The Purely Strong Character invites the reader to destroy him.

This is why Superman collapses under the rays of Kryptonite.

But note that when stripped of his Powers, Superman adheres to his values.  How you regard Risk, and how you take Loss indicates whether your Character is Strong or Weak.  Adhering to values despite pain, loss or any other threat is Strong Character.

Every Unbendable Character must have a flaw, a crease, a crack, a weak spot.

Now look at Cassie Palmer's physical appearance.  She is short, built slight, -- wiry strength but no Titan.  She doesn't look formidable.  Physically, she is a mouse.

Then the Power chooses her to be Pythia -- which gives her access to Abilities Beyond Mortal Men.

But she has no clue how to use this Power.  To wield it as she would wish to, she would have had to be raised in the Pythia's household and trained to be the Pythia successor.

The girls who were so raised work to unseat Cassie from the Office of Pythia (i.e. kill her).

And the Pythia's Office itself has enemies out there who are not resting while Cassie learns the ropes. They do politics with explosions, spells, poisons.  They look for definitive solutions to the problem of Cassie Palmer.

The one ally she knows she needs is Merlin.  Her enemies win one by removing his Soul with a Curse that sends it backward in Time, skipping from one era to another, arriving to "inhabit" his own (somewhat immortal) Self, then skipping on --- a little like the 1989-1993 TV Series Quantum Leap.

Headlines are wondrous places to rip dramatic material from -- but old TV Series likewise provide grand opportunities.

Note how this theory explains the legend of Merlin "living backwards" and thus "knowing the future."

Cassie's current strategy in Reap the Wind is to remove the Curse on Merlin by time-teleporting back the one man who has the ability to cast a Curse-Removal-Spell.  The hitch is that she must go with him.

If they can catch up to Merlin at a moment when his future Soul is passing through backwards in time, and get that Curse-Removal-Spell thrown just exactly right, they can save Merlin's life and return to present time with a strong ally who knows a lot more magic than anyone else.

Cassie has limited energy for such Magic Stunts as transporting two people back thousands of years in time, or into the Realm of Faery.  She is kept scrambling and using more energy than she can afford by the former Pythia's students trying to derail her efforts to save Merlin.

REAP THE WIND is one wild time-travel-chase-scene liberally salted with mortal-combat and magic battles.

The action/battle scenes would make wondrous Indiana Jones style film material if this series is ever made into a TV Series or film.

As I've noted on many occasions in these blogs, the trend in novel publishing is toward the same structure that draws millions to theaters, as opposed to the few hundred thousand who buy any given novel in print, e-book or audiobook.

Romance Readers have an insatiable taste for Action today.  REAP THE WIND definitely provides a feast of action.

This novel leaves you eager for #8 in the series titled RIDE THE STORM -- a title that promises more breakneck action between love scenes.  "Follow" Karen Chance on Amazon to be notified when it is available.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, February 06, 2016

How Is the DMCA Working For You?

If you are a creator (author, musician, songwriter, photographer, artist) and have had your copyrights infringed by others, your thoughts, experiences and stories about piracy and the DMCA Takedown process could help the prepare their testimony for the US Copyright Office.

Please complete this survey

Thank you,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Why Groundhog Day?

Did the groundhog see his shadow in your neck of the woods? I've often wondered why a sunny day should forecast a longer winter. The notion seems backwards. It turns out there's a sort of rationale for the lore: Warmer air holds more moisture, conducive to clouds, so in winter a bright day is more likely to be colder than a cloudy day. (Hence my father's occasional remark, which baffled me as a kid, that it was too cold to snow.) Why do we rely for weather prediction on a large rodent? The habits of animals—badgers, bears, hedgehogs, woodchucks, etc.—used to be consulted for weather omens in many parts of Europe. German immigrants to North America brought this lore with them and attached it to a local creature in their new home, the groundhog. Some information about Groundhog Day on Fact Monster:

Groundhog Day

Why February 2? In pagan tradition, specifically Celtic, this date is Imbolc, a fertility-focused holiday heralding the earliest hints of spring:

Imbolc Traditions

This is the time when livestock begin to give milk and farmers start to prepare the earth for sowing. This website recommends spring cleaning in honor of Imbolc. It also describes the making of the Brideog, a straw effigy decorated with flowers, shells, etc., and dedicated to Brigit.

Associated with St. Brigid's day (February 1):

St. Brigid's Day

In pagan Ireland, Brigid (or Brigit) was a fire goddess. As St. Brigid, she is the "Irish aspect of divine femininity." Her feast day, according to the website, "celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring on February 1."

Early February was also when the ancient Romans celebrated fertility in the festival of Lupercalia.

All I can say about the "spring" associations of the date is that they must have originated in parts of Europe with much shorter winters than those in the upper half of the North American east coast! We could only dream of seeing "signs of spring on February 1" around here.

In the Christian liturgical year, February 2 commemorates the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple and the "purification" (after childbirth) of the Virgin Mary. The day is commonly called Candlemas because it was traditional for worshipers to bring their supply of candles to church to be blessed on that day. The "light" symbolism is appropriate to the celebration of this date as the halfway point between winter and spring. As an Anglican, I view the blending of pagan and Christian customs on seasonal holidays as a feature, not a bug. After all, the Supreme Deity is the Creator of nature.

In parts of England at one time it was considered bad luck to leave up your Christmas decorations after Candlemas. So when I don't dismantle the tree until after Epiphany (January 6), I'm not running late. I'm actually super early!

When the human species leaves Earth for other planets and star systems, I expect some of our holidays to voyage outward with us—for instance, Thanksgiving (all people enjoy feasts and understand gratitude) and Christmas (decorations and gifts have cross-cultural appeal). Groundhog Day probably won't come along, though, in my opinion. It's too closely tied to the seasonal cycles of one hemisphere of a single world.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Astrology Just For Writers, Part 12 - Virgo, 6th House and Soul Mates by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Astrology Just For Writers
Part 12
Virgo, 6th House and Soul Mates
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Often the best reason to go to a religious service is the jokes told by the Priest, Reverend or Rabbi.

These are usually very old jokes, and I do ever so much relish old jokes as plot-material for stories, just as cliche and misnomer supply reams of raw material for story tellers.  There's a reason old jokes survive generation to generation and get laughs from those who are too young to have heard them before -- and that reason is worth deep study if you plan a career in fiction writing.  It is most easily revealed by a study of Astrology -- not to "foretell" the future, but to understand Character Arc.  So this series of posts is Astrology Just For Writers.

The index to previous posts on Astrology is here:

The Alien Romance subject we need to look at here, and will later examine in the series of posts on, perhaps, Theme-Character Integration, is, "What exactly IS a human?"  Until we can answer that, we can't "create" the Alien who can fall in love with our Human Character.
What Is A Human Being? is a huge topic, much bigger than me, for sure.

But what brought it into focus for me is a joke, which is not surprising because the entire purpose of Comedy is to reveal that which is too big to see.  If you want to understand Comedy, study the Mary Tyler Moore show.

The particular joke that caught my attention, that I just can't get out of my head, was told by a Rabbi at Yom Kippur Services -- how incongruous!  But it worked to open an entire issue Romance Writers must pay attention to, especially when trying to depict an Alien-Human Soul-Mate pair, a very complex Relationship.  If it is a Romance, the Relationship must drive the Plot, and that means the writer must know much more about the structure of Human Nature than the reader is likely to know, as well as how and why Characters "arc" -- and how to depict a Character Arc.  The core of Depicting (show don't tell) is Theme.

Here is a post laying out the basics of Theme and story structure:

Here is my earliest post on Soul Mates.

We've been discussing Soul and Soul-Mate in the context of Romance Craft and how the Romance genre is a natural fit into the Science Fiction Genre for a long time.  We've even touched on Comedy, but not on how to use it to reveal an esoteric thematic point in show-don't-tell.  That's what this joke does -- expresses a huge abstract notion of the nature of humanity in show-don't-tell.

Here's the essence of the joke, which I can't repeat exactly because I'm not good at comedy:

God was challenged by a Mortal who didn't believe in Him.  The Mortal says he can make humans, too, just as God does.

So God accepts the challenge and they repair to an open field to compete.  God reaches down and picks up a handful of dirt, and Creates it into a Human.  The Mortal then reaches down and picks up a handful of dirt and begins to create a human, but God says, "Wait!  You can't use THAT dirt -- I Created that dirt."

If the Mortal uses material that God created, then the Mortal isn't Creating a Human "just as God does."  He's using the material God Created.  His work is derivative, not original, therefore the entity he creates isn't "Human" in the sense that the Humans God Creates are Human.

This joke begs the question, "What is a human being?"

To define "Human" we generally reference Genesis, where God Creates Adam -- or more precisely Adam Kadmon (the first Man).

Adam Kadmon is not a "man" at all, but a genderless, or composit, template with both male and female nascent within.

Then God separates the female, leaving a "man" who is no longer the First Human.

The premise of my Sime~Gen Series is that the Sime~Gen Mutation is of the same order of basic Creation as that separation into male and female, so you have male and female Simes and male and female Gens -- whereupon family relationships become extremely complex, and Romance takes on a whole new meaning.  Playing with Worldbuilding at that original level of Creation makes a writer research and ponder the very essential nature of humanity, so I've spent decades burrowing into Tarot and Astrology, as well as Kabbalah, and every other religion.

Free on Kindle Unlimited, or $3.25 on Kindle

This post on the Astrology of the 6th House is to mull over an observation about the meaning of the 6th House as it pertains to the phenomenon of Soul Mate.  The plot-driver of the Sime~Gen Series is all about Karma and Soul Mates.

By the time you read this, the audiobook edition of the Sime~Gen novel, Mahogany Trinrose, one of the more esoteric-based novels revealing a lot of the hidden ESP functions pivotal to the series, on amazon.

Mahogany Trinrose Kindle and Trade Paperback

As always when studying the "Houses" of Astrology, focus on the "Natural" Houses -- with Aries as the 1st House and Pisces as the 12th.

In this case we are studying the Soul Mate properties of the 6th House.

Because the Astrological zodiac is depicted as circular, divided into 12 "Houses" -- and 12 "Signs" -- which exactly coincide in the Natural position (with 0 degress Aries Rising -- or "on the Eastern Horizon" --) therefore the 6th House is opposite the 12th.

This is an obvious fact, one that is just so blatantly "in your face" that you don't see it.

But the astrological wheel graphically represents something that is equally obvious in the most ordinary glyph used to represent the Kabbalistic Tree Of Life.


That "something" is "opposites."  The very nature of opposites, the fundamental concept of "opposition" is so pervasive in our lives that we don't notice it even when we're talking about it.

Both the astrological chart and the Tree of Life smack us between the eyes so hard with this obvious fact that we just don't notice it.  It's too big.  The fact is too stunning to comprehend.

That fact is: opposites exist.

Matter exists.  So does "anti-matter."  The entire universe is constructed symmetrically -- so why wouldn't you think a Human  Being is not symmetric?  We are symmetric on the outside, sort of -- most people a just a bit asymmetric, which lends them "character."  If we are symmetric on the outside, why wouldn't we be symmetric on the inside, composed of Opposites?

It is so simple, so obvious, we just don't incorporate it into our thinking when we plot a Romance Novel.  We think male-female, and that's the only pair of opposites.  But look at the astrological chart, and look at the Tree of Life -- more than one pair of opposites make up the total pattern.

"Opposites Attract" -- yeah, we all know that and use it when creating a "pair" who will fall madly in love at first sight.

What is it about opposites -- and what has that to do with human nature as depicted in the Rabbi's joke?

The punch-line of that joke, which I can't replicate, is where God says "You can't use my dirt and say you are Creating as I Create."  You have to Create your own dirt, then make a Human.  Maybe you can Create humans -- but can you Create dirt?  Clay?  A specific type of dirt that can be molded into a human?

We, (most Human cultures) assume that the Spiritual is OPPOSITE the Material.

We assume Soul is different from, perhaps incompatible with, Body.

We assume Soul and Body are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.

We assume that Soul-Mate and Lust-for-Monkey-Sex are two different things.

We assume that one or the other must DOMINATE.

The proposition to mull over, in order to understand what the 6th House, Virgo, (the accountant, Ruled by Mercury) is that the target state is BALANCE.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of the "meaning" of the Houses given to beginners in Astrology -- misleading in many ways, but a starting point.  It "depicts" the Relationship of Opposites.

Ponder the concept of a dynamic equilibrium, a balance of balances where everything swings, and moves, dances, but stays in a dynamic tension with Pure Energy (what I've termed in previous posts here as Godshine) flowing from one state to the other and back again.  A circuit in perfect BALANCE.

All the assumptions about dividing the world into two-things and then fighting until one or the other dominates, are rooted in our modern culture's origin in the Hellenistic, or Ancient Greek culture that produced Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, et. al.

Fighting to Dominate is what the entire pantheon of Greek gods did, and the impetus to fight and to bully Humans, to rape Humans to create Heroes, came from the explicitly described dysfunctional (insane) family relationships among the gods.  It's all there in the mythology.

As a result of what we've inherited from the Helenistic Cultures, we live in a zero-sum-game culture, modeled and transmitted by Football, and other sports where you keep score to determine a winner, convincing all children that this is Reality.

This non-verbal absorption of a conviction makes any other concept of Reality "unthinkable" -- just literally unthinkable.  Our language contains no words for what the horoscope wheel and the Tree of Life depict, so we can't think these thoughts.

The science fiction romance writer must think such thoughts -- then find words to convey the illusion of understanding the alien.

So let's look deeper into the unthinkable alien.

To determine a winner, there must be a loser.

Winner and Loser are considered "opposites."  But are they?

Winner and Loser come in PAIRS - pairs of opposites - incompatible opposites where one must dominate the other. If one wins the trophy, the other can't have that trophy -- the trophy doesn't suddenly become two-trophies.  What kind of a "marriage" is that?  Where's the Romance in "I get and you don't."  Is winner/loser the correct paradigm to describe the reality of Romance?

Is the immersion of our culture in "Sports" the reason many readers won't touch Romance because the underlying concept of the Happily Ever After ending seems "unrealistic?"

In a true Happily Ever After ending, you can not have one of the couple dominating the other -- because the misery of the one dominated will eventually lead to rebellion.  The Sport paradigm disallows any kind of resolution where one does not dominate the other.

Is Reality Created in incompatible pairs of opposites?  Or is there another Relationship that explains how Reality really works?  This is the subject of The Not So Minor Arcana.  Here we're looking at that subject via Astrology.

Giving every kid a 'certificate' for showing up is not the same as preventing them from internalizing the dominance-based model of the universe, as it differs from the balance-based model of the universe depicted in the Zodiac and the Tree of Life.

The Zodiac was familiar to the Helenistic culture, but the Tree of Life was not common to Aristotelian thinking.

We artificially divide humans into Soul and Body to force the concept "Human" into that Aristotelian either/or model of reality.

The misconception is that Reality is "either/or" based (all computers today are either/or based).

The Bible, however, is entirely rooted in a totally different (opposite, and not incompatible) model of reality.

The Bible starts with that Creation story which culminates in the Creation of Male and Female -- in the Divine image.

Perhaps the concept "Human" as depicted in the Bible actually explains to us what we will encounter when we get out into Space and find Intelligent Life on other planets -- or perhaps we may find already space-faring civilizations.

So lets think about the concept Human in terms of the 6th House.

The salient clue is that the 6th House is the opposite of the 12th House.

6th House is labeled, in this diagram, Service and Health -- but it represents your job, what you do to make money, and the manner in which you do it.  6th House is Virgo ruled by Mercury.

The 12th House is commonly labeled "self-undoing" -- the syndrome where you are your own worst enemy, hoist on your own petard, "busted."  But that's only one possible manifestation.  The 12th House is Pisces, ruled by Neptune.

Neptune ordinarily manifests as "dissolution" or "confusion" -- but one common manifestation is Romance.  12th House, Pisces, Neptune, all together define Romance, and the Soul Mate experience.
The 12th House represents the summation of Life, the synthesis of all the other variables in the Natal Chart, everything so deeply merged and mingled that Neptune has the reputation of being 'confusing' or 'dissolving reality' -- Neptune transits are called 'disorienting.'

Pisces/Neptune/12th House synthesizes everything into one thing, dissolving the borders between different things, for example Husband and Wife becoming One.  Marriage is the perfect symbol of 12th House.  Truly, to be "married" means you must "undo" yourself to incorporate the Other within your notion of Self.

Why is Neptune 'disorienting?'

Because, given our Hellenistic heritage, we 'orient' ourselves in Material Reality by separating off the Spiritual and isolating it as if it were something "other" than Material.

The joke the Rabbi told SHOWS without TELLING that Spiritual and Material are not, in fact, two DIFFERENT things.

Spiritual and Material appear to be incompatible opposites -- just like the nitty-gritty, separate detail orientation of Virgo/Mercury is conceptualized in our culture as "opposite" Pisces/Neptune and its Inclusive Big Picture, everything smearing into one idealistic cloud, portrait of Reality.  Neptune obscures details while Mercury separates them and gives them sparkling-hard-edges.

As you read on here below, always keep in mind that Neptune, the Ruler of the 12th House, is the single most definitive significator of Romance in general, and the Soul Mate (and Happily Ever After ending) in particular.  NEPTUNE is the ruling planet of this blog.  It's all about Romance stories.

Astrologically, Virgo, ruled by Mercury, is the 6th House which represents both what you do to earn a living (your job as distinct from your Career) and your Health.

The connection between satisfaction and success at 'Work' (your job, what you get paid money for) and your Physical Body Health is famous in Astrological interpretations of the 6th House.

Beginners in Astrology puzzle and anguish over finding an interpretation for a 6th House transit.

Seasoned professional astrologers will nail one or the other manifestion, in body or health, with fair accuracy, mostly by ignoring the problem of what the connection is between Bodily Health and Job Performance.  Modern science has pretty much "explained" that to the satisfaction of most people.

This Rabbi's joke tells us explicitly that this designation of 6th House as "Body Health" OR "Job Issues" is nonsense.

This Rabbi's joke tells us exactly how these two apparently unconnected things -- Body and Job -- are actually the self-same-identical thing.

But that connection is apparent only through the Tree of Life view of Reality -- the Biblical Description of the nature of reality as a balance, or dynamic equilibrium.

How the Tree of Life view, the graphic representation of the Biblical view of Creation, tells us the relationship between Body and Job becomes apparent only if you understand that the 12th House (Romance) is the connection between Body and Job.

Get that connection into your head, and your Romance plots will never get stale or repetitive, or derivative.

The connection between Romance, Body and Job is the answer to the question, "What is a Human Being?"  

The assumption you make about the Nature of the Human Being generates all the Themes you use in worldbuilding.

Here is the index to the advanced craft posts on integration of theme, plot, character and worldbuilding.
You can use the Helenistic definition of Human, the Roman Definition, or the Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, Native American, or many other definitions to generate dynamite Romance plots.  You can adapt any of them to produce a Happily Ever After scenario if you study and internalize the mythologies of these civilizations.  But there will always be readers who just won't accept that the HEA is possible in real life.

If you do study all these civilizations, and then study the Biblical view of the universe, you will find bits and pieces, a fragment here a shard over there -- traces of the Biblical view in each of these civilizations' mythologies.

The Talmud has it that God offered the Torah to all of the Nations of Earth before he got to Abraham. Each of the Nations asked some questions (typical of their cultures) before answering whether they would accept the Torah, so God just kept on searching.  When he offered the deal to Abraham (then Abram), he just accepted the deal without question, packed up and went to follow God's ways, and then asked what those ways were.

This story explains why you find bits and pieces of Torah everywhere -- everyone got something for considering the offer.  It also illustrates the difference between the culture that accepted Torah, the Biblical View of Reality, and those that regarded that view with suspicion.  The descendants of Abraham are an oddity among humans.

But the Torah also states, boldly and loudly, that eventually all the Nations will "bow down" to God, understand that Biblical View of Reality and rejoice in that understanding.  Nobody loses.  Everybody wins.  Reality is not structured as "either/or" or "I win means you lose."  In the Biblical view of reality, "I win means everyone wins."

That is what is so odd, yet not incompatible, between the general culture's view of reality and the Biblical view of Reality.  When you get a more global grasp of the Biblical View from the perspective of Torah, Tanach, Talmud, Mishnah and Gemmara, you will find that it differs markedly, stubbornly, and emphatically from all the other mythologies.  It is "alien" to every other culture on this Earth, yet is reflected in those cultures, and even the basis of those cultures.

One core issue that distinguishes the Biblical View, yet appears in so many other cultures, is the matter of Body and Soul.

Some cultures say the Body must dominate: "If it feels good, it is good."

Some cultures say the Soul must dominate: "Pleasure is Evil."

Our culture currently is resoundingly rejecting Pleasure Is Evil as a theme -- and going with Pleasure Is The Ultimate Good.  In Romance novels, the first order of business is monkey-sex, then comes Relationship.  Sexual attraction (Body) is considered "irresistible."  Body needs, physical desire, must always dominate any value the Mind (Soul) holds dear.  There's no point resisting the Body because it Dominates the Soul.  That's a thematic premise pervading the Romance field today.

That is, Pleasure (especially sexual pleasure) is the prime indicator by which we distinguish a Soul Mate from the background population.  You have to try out a guy in bed before you marry him, or you'll make a big mistake.  And the guy must be "handsome" -- or the gal "beautiful."  The Body counts more than the Soul.

In other words, the modern USA  culture is working this problem of "What is a human being?" by using the assumption that EITHER the Body OR the Soul must dominate.

Dominance is the only possible way to resolve a conflict, and opposites are always in conflict.  That is a Theme.  You see it working out in International Affairs -- as well as the current Presidential Election cycle.

In other words, in our modern cultural assumptions, Balance is not an Option, unless it is a static balance and tilted to one side or the other.

There is no way to synthesize opposites into a unified whole.

Why do Romance writers and especially science fiction romance writers who deal in the Paranormal (Neptune rules the Paranormal) Romance field need a model of "Human" at all?  Why not just go with your readership's prevailing idea of what a Human is?

Well, if you just accept the prevailing assumption about the nature of Humanity, you will create a lot of read-and-toss, Airplane Read, Beach Read novels, all identical.

What distinguishes one novel from another is theme, and what distinguishes one theme from another is the distinctiveness of that theme.

In Alien Romance, if your Alien character is Human-with-pasted-on-quirks, you won't create a book or series that will be remembered and passed on to children and grandchildren as a "must-read."

The must-read classics are all novels with themes that challenge the unconscious assumptions about Reality, on such a deep subconscious level that the reader is not aware of having their notions challenged.

It's what screenwriting books like SAVE THE CAT! call "off the nose" writing.  You don't call a spade, a spade.  You don't name it on the nose.  You don't hit the nail on the head.  You come at the assumption at an oblique angle and strike a spark that lights tinder in the Soul of the reader.

To do that, you as a writer, need a number of significantly different notions of "what" a human being is.

Your human protagonist has to be able to recognize something "human" in your alien protagonist (preferably that no other human is seeing).

Your alien protagonist has to be able to see something alien in your human protagonist (preferably that no other alien is seeing.)

To pull that off, you have to understand how your target reader understands what a human being is, and you have to have a complete grasp of what other views of humanity can be understood by your reader if you can show them without telling.

As noted above, all cultures have some bit or piece of the Kabbalistic view of the human being. Astrology spans all cultural barriers and depicts mathematically and graphically what we all sense about ourselves, and how we "read" others.

Any reader looking for a Soul Mate novel with an HEA ending will be able to stipulate the existence of the Soul.

Most, however, will not be consciously aware that the resolution of the Body/Soul conflict in our culture is depicted as show-don't-tell in the work/health connection, the 6th House.

I'll give you one example of how this theory can explain the work/health connection, and from that you should be able to create new variations that could form a template for a comprehensible yet alien Alien protagonis.

Here is one way to understand the 6th House, Body/Work connection.

Here are two previous posts discussing the Soul-Time Hypothesis relevant to this quesiton about the meaning of the 6th House.

Here's the theory of what a human is that can generate infinite numbers of sexy alien protagonists.

Think back to that joke at the top of this post.

The nature of anything lies in its initial moments.  That's why Astrological Natal Charts of both human births and the "birth" of an Event -- the moment something happens -- hold usable meaning.

The starting point of a novel determines it's ending point, just as the start determines its middle.  Get those 3 points wrong, and the novel not only won't sell to a big publishing house, but it will be panned by comments on Amazon if you self-publish it.

The starting point determines the middle and end.

Or the middle determines the start and end.

Or the end determines the start and middle.

Unlike Euclidean (another Helenistic Greek) Geometry where it takes 3 points to determine a line, or a triangle, "life" only needs one point.

Or at least, that's the Kabbalistic (Tarot) theory.

In other words, in the Biblical View Of The Universe, there is no such thing as "random" -- but it's not "deterministic" either.  Determinism is one of the precepts of all the Ancient Greek plays that were updated by the Romans and copied by Shakespeare.

We live inside a pattern, but we have Free Will.

So any given starting point for a Life contains the potential for all sorts of middle and end points.

Free Will choice determines which of all the possible middle and end points will gain potential energy.  Which of those high-potential-energy points will be actualized is negotiated with God (who is not a Bully like the Greek gods; he doesn't dictate, He negotiates personally, individually.)

That's where the immense variety of human endeavor comes from.  We all contain Infinity because we were Created by the Infinite -- we are (like the Tardis) bigger inside than outside.

Here is a theory of what a child is that can be crafted into a Theme.

A child is born with specifically delineated Potential.  The child has a Soul from conception, but that Soul is enormously complex and thus doesn't all "fit" inside the baby.  The Soul has to "descend" as it prompts the baby's growth.

We say (also a thematic point) that when the Soul leaves the Body, the human dies.

But that idea is based on the either/or structure of reality.  Perhaps the Soul isn't either-present-or-absent.  Perhaps it is a gradual, step-wise, ever increasing habitation of the Body?

Kabbalah delineates Levels to the Soul - just like Atoms were first thought (by the Helenistic Greeks) to be the smallest indivisible particle of matter, but later were discovered to be composed of electrons and a nucleus, and all of those particles are composed of other sub-atomic particles, each with its own Character.

Likewise, the Biblical View of the Universe, gives us a vision of the human Soul as being composed of Levels, all very intricate and complex.

A baby has a Soul connected, but not fully descended.  At various ages, on the birthday (by the Hebrew calendar) the Soul descends a little more.

This explains how and why children at different ages have increasing capacity for self-control, self-discipline, comprehension of the abstract, etc.  The stages of human development show us what to teach at different ages.

Children learn by doing.  Thus, at each age, additional activities are added to the daily regimen, and additional responsibilities are added until at age 12 or 13 the child is fully responsible for the consequences of her/his actions.

Real learning is always non-verbal.  The deeds carve and shape our view of the universe.

With deeds, we learn the words that correspond to those deeds. Charity.  Justice.  Compassion.

None of those words means anything without the previous practice of the deed: "Don't hit your little sister!"  "Johnny, you must share that toy even though it is yours."

So as a child becomes an Adult (sexual maturity is a big part of that), the Soul descends and gains a firmer grip on the Body.

Throughout the rest of the life, there are milestone birthdays (70 and 80, 90 and 100, being major significators) that delineate a firmer and then weakening grip of the Soul on the Body.

For most of the productive (working at a 6th House job) life, the Soul fits into the Body like a hand fits into a glove.

The Soul wears the Body, and like the hand wearing a glove, stretches and shapes the Body into a replica (an opposite, like a plaster cast you pour molten metal into to make a 3-D object) of the Soul.

We now know that you can have many genes that are not "turned on" or "expressed" -- and that the experiences of Life can switch genes on or off.  You are not your genes.  You are not pre-destined (a Helenistic concept incompatible with the Biblical View of the Universe) by your genes.

You are what your Soul can make of you.  That can be infinite possibilities in infinite combinations.

Or maybe you are what "you" make of your Soul.

In the Helenistic view of the universe, the question would be, "Well, WHICH is it -- the Soul that makes the Body or the Body that makes the Soul?"

In the Biblical view of the universe, that question is utter nonsense.

See how you can use various views of the universe in various human cultures to depict truly Alien aliens who can be Soul Mates to a human?

An Alien who has never heard of the either/or zero-sum-game view of the universe would be sorely puzzled by the very question "which is it?"  The question itself is nonsense.

In the Biblical view of the universe, Body and Soul are really the same thing (Neptune synthesizes).

Remember the Rabbi-joke?  "You can't use that dirt.  You have to Create your human from scratch as I did."

That's MY dirt.  I created that dirt.

What dirt is that?  It's the "dirt" or "clay" from which our bodies are "molded."

Just as that clay was Created specifically to be the body of a particular individual human, so too was the Soul that will wear that Body Created.  They are a pair, synthesized, made one, Neptune style.

We know, today, that our Body is a few pounds of carbon, minerals, etc. (dirt) and a whole lot of Water.

We don't know yet what our Soul is, or is made of, other than it is the breath God blew into Adam's nostrils.

In a previous post, I pointed out the Soul-Time-Hypothesis that I think explains a lot about why "science" can't peg the Soul and prove it exists.

Theory: the Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of Time.

The Soul has no material dimensions -- no height, width, breadth, mass, weight, not even "energy" as in electrons or magnetic fields.  That's why modern science can't even find it, nevermind measure it -- all our instruments are made of matter.

The Soul doesn't inhabit the Body or Possess the Body.

The Soul is not the Body, but it is not an "either/or" relationship.

The Body and the Soul are both created by God, designed for each other, just like in the joke.  "That's My dirt!  Make your own."

Now, back to the 6th House.

Theory: suppose the Soul is given a free will choice before conception.

Astrology assigns the meaning of the MC, the 10th House Cusp, to the Purpose of this Life.  Natural 10th House is Capricorn, the Manager, and is ruled by Saturn.  While that 10th House cusp can be in any sign, depending on where and when you are born (when your Life begins), it adds attributes of Capricorn and Saturn to your personal 10th House cusp.

Science shows how hormones trigger birth, and the trigger starts in the fetus.  The fetus's Nature determines the moment of birth.

So suppose the Soul chooses the Parents and the moment of Birth to make the "purpose" of this life.

The Soul takes on a Life to realize the potential encoded into the 10th House cusp.

That sign/ruler combination chosen by the Soul is inflected by Capricorn and Saturn (Management and Discipline).

Saturn is often regarded as "purpose" or "ambition."

You are born with an ambition to realize your potential for completing a certain job, a purpose in life, a career.  By Noel Tyl's theory, the Moon position by sign, ruler and House represents your driving need, and Saturn organizes the world around you to fulfill that need.

But to do that, you need to make money, have a job, 6th House.

Another interpretation of the Natural 6th House, Virgo, is "service."

Virgos make great secretaries, accountants, detail oriented people.  Unless they have a Big Picture attribute highlighted elsewhere in their Natal Chart, they tend toward project-oriented professions. They make great health-care professionals, treating each patient as a project.

But there's nothing shallow about Virgo.  They aren't subservient by nature.

The 6th House is put to the service of the 10th -- the ambition, the Purpose Of This Life is served by whatever you do for a living, as a job.  Your career is the purpose of your life, your job is a means to walk the paths of that career.

It is often said the key to real happiness (as in Happily Ever After) is to Serve.

THEORY:  If your 6th House (job) is serving the Purpose of Your Life, your Body (6th house) will be healthy.

In other words, your Soul took God's job-offer to be You and do Whatever Job He Had That Needed Doing.  As long as you are doing the job you were hired by God to do, you will be healthy enough to do it.

You might not be "healthy" by general human standards.  You might be what is termed crippled or disabled.  You might be melting down with autoimune disease.  You might be missing limbs. You might have impaired senses.  If you are doing the job you were hired to do, then you will be healthy enough to do it.

Sometimes the job is to  be sick, dependent, impaired.

Sometimes the job is to be hale, healthy, strong, and the person upon whom the lame and weak depend.  Sometimes the job is to support the weak.  Sometimes the job is to be weak so that the Strong can do their job.

It's all 6th House.  Service equals Health.

The 12th House, the opposite to the 6th, is about the transcendent Soul, the summation of the Life, what it all means.  Neptune is idealism, a transcendent vision through the Soul's eyes, not the eyes of the Body.

There are a lot of insights into the meaning of the 12th House, Pisces ruled by Neptune (which rules Romance, as I keep reminding you).

The 12th is "reflected" into the 6th House.

Here's a story that illustrates (show don't tell) how this 6/12 axis of the Natal Chart works.

We can regard God as the artist who is Creating one-of-a-kind original artwork, each one a human being (or maybe an Alien Soul Mate for a human being).

All of the crafts our artisans practice express a way that the Divine Creates us.

One of those crafts is the silversmith.

If you research on YouTube you might find a video showing how to smelt silver where the silversmith gives tells the student how to determine when all the dross, or impurities, have been burned out of the silver -- leaving only pure silver.  How do you know when to stop smelting?

The clue the silversmith looks for is the reflection of his/her own face in the melted puddle of silver.

When purified, silver becomes a mirror, reflecting the smith's visage back at him/her.

The metaphore for why God smelts us in the fires of Life, gives us all this hardship, obstacles, difficulties, sorrows and grief, is that he's purifying us as silver is purified.  And he'll know we're finished, we're pure, when he sees Himself in us.

The Biblical description of God has long lists of attributes shown to us over the ages - for example, there are 13 Attributes of Mercy (and that's just one thing, Mercy).  Other Attributes likewise have parts.

When you reflect those attributes, He'll stop heating you in His fire.

Any Romance writer trying to create an Alien Love Interest, a non-human Soul Mate for a human, can use one or a few of these attributes to establish the essential humanity of the non-human regardless of the non-human's biology, form or figure.

Here are the 13 Attributes according to My Jewish Learning.

– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful before a person sins! Even though aware that future evil lies dormant within him.

– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful after the sinner has gone astray.

– God (El)–a name that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that God’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name.

– Compassionate (rahum)–God is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty.

– Gracious (v’hanun)–God shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed.

– Slow to anger (ereh apayim)–God gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.

– Abundant in Kindness (v’rav hesed)–God is kind toward those who lack personal merits, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, God tips the scales of justice toward the good.

– Truth (v’emet)–God never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him.

– Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations (notzeir hesed la-alafim)–God remembers the deeds of the righteous for thebenefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs).

– Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)–God forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents.

– Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)–God allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent.
---------------End Quote-----------

It doesn't matter what religion you espouse, or even if you're an Atheist or Agnostic, you recognize these behaviors as desireable and a signature of the Lovability of a person (human or not).  So most of your target audience will respond to a show-don't-tell illustration that your Alien character just naturally (without thought or consideration, without hesitation) exhibits one or another of these attributes.

And the reverse is true -- the Alien protagonist will recognize the Alien-Within your human protagonist when one or a combination of these traits comes to the fore in the plot.

Notice the phrase above: "as long as the sinner repents."

You may be surprised how fast the "repents" scene, the confession scene, the tell-the-truth scene, establishes rapport between the Character and your Target Reader, even if the Character is Alien.

The Target Reader is selected by what is repented, to whom, and why (maybe also when in the narrative arc confession and repentance take place).  Different readers will applaud a Character's choices of when to fess up to what, and why fessing up is necessary (or not necessary).

Think about the TV Series I Love Lucy -- every episode with a very funny confession scene.

The Values (2nd House) of your Confessing Character are shown-not-told by that choice of when and to what to confess.

In the 3rd book in the Romantic Times Award winning Dushau Trilogy, I hinted at an Alien's contemplation of condemnation by his father and grandfather when he finally would get home and confess.

His trepidation at confronting his family showed a similarity to human values -- even though he is so definitely not human that his wrong-doing does not seem wrong to a human.

Those 13 Attributes of Mercy embody the essence of what it is to be Human, a  Soul wearing a Body that fits like a glove, a work-glove designed for a specific task which the Soul is dead-set on completing come Hell or High Water (10th House Purpose In Life) using that Body (6th House) to do the Job (6th House).

When fully integrated (purified) into that task, the Soul shines through the custom-Created Body and attracts the Soul Mate.  It is the Soul that is "mated" -- not the Body.  So you can easily depict a Human/Alien Romance.

Romance (Neptune/ 12th House) blossoms, Love At First Sight happens, and Health-Job-Service and everything Virgo manifests as the Virtue of Virgo rather than the Vice.

Every astrological sign can manifest as its best virtue or its worst vice, and it could be that whether virtue or vice is apparent depends on how much of the Soul has infused the Body.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Digital First Sale Rights For Now

I am pleased to report that authors' incomes will not--for the time being--be further decimated by "First Sale Doctrine" being applied to e-books.

A report issued today by the U.S. Department of Commerce recommends amendments to copyright law that would provide courts with both more guidance and greater flexibility in awarding statutory damages.
In its "White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages," the Department’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) sets forth its conclusions on three important copyright topics in the digital age: (1) the legal framework for the creation of remixes; (2) the relevance and scope of the “first sale doctrine;” and (3) the appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and secondary liability for large-scale infringement. 
The White Paper recommends amending the Copyright Act to incorporate a list of factors for courts and juries to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award. In addition, it advises changes to remove a bar to eligibility for the Act’s “innocent infringer” provision, and to lessen the risk of excessive statutory damages in the context of non-willful secondary liability for online service providers. 
With respect to remixes and the first sale doctrine in the digital environment, the report concludes that the evidence has not established a need for changes to the Copyright Act at this time. The Task Force makes several recommendations, however, to make it easier for remixers to understand when a use is fair and to obtain licenses when they wish to do so. It also recommends the development of best practices by stakeholders to improve consumers’ understanding of the terms of online transactions involving creative works. Finally it notes the need to continue to monitor legal and marketplace developments to ensure that library lending and preservation concerns are addressed.
In making its recommendations, the Task Force was mindful of the need to protect copyrights effectively while also promoting innovation on the Internet.
This new report follows up on issues first discussed in a 2013 IPTF Green Paper, "Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy," and is the product of two sets of written comments and five public meetings and roundtables conducted through the following year.
The IPTF is made up of representatives from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and other Commerce Department agencies. 
The White Paper and additional background information can be found online at:

Thursday, January 28, 2016


"Snow-Bound," by nineteenth-century New England Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, was my mother's favorite long poem. (Her favorite short poem was Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Notice a theme?) "The sun that brief December day, Rose cheerless over hills of gray...."


Any East Coast readers here? How did you fare during the blizzard? Record inches of snowfall accumulated in this area. Our supermarket was predictably thronged on Friday, as if people expected to be stuck in the house for weeks instead of two or three days at most. (I was there because Friday is my regular grocery day, and I knew going on Thursday instead would have been as bad if not worse.) The stereotypical supplies of bread, milk, and toilet paper weren't noticeably depleted. Kitty litter (presumably bought by people who neglected to stock up on snow-melt powder ahead of time—luckily our cats were NOT in danger of running out this week) and bottled water, however, were stripped from the shelves. And there seemed to have been inexplicable demand for a few strange products, e.g. green onions and plain yogurt. (I managed to get enough of each from the small amounts remaining.) We were very fortunate to escape a power outage. Years ago, we lost electricity for a full 48 hours after an ice storm while the temperature stayed in the twenties (Fahrenheit) the whole time. I never want to do that again. By the time the power came back on, the interior and exterior temperatures had equalized. Pipes froze, but happily they didn't crack. Without electricity, we have no running water because our neighborhood gets its water from wells, not the public system.

And how about the familiar lore of statistical "baby bumps" nine months after a major weather event? I've always thought that was baloney, an urban legend based, if it ever held any truth, on birth patterns in preindustrial societies. It turns out, according to an article I saw a day or two ago, that there's some truth in it. This pattern, if it exists, makes no sense to me. Okay, so couples have unexpected leisure and few options for entertainment. Getting stuck in the house without electricity makes them suddenly forget how to use birth control? Enough people just happen to run out of condoms or contraceptive prescriptions during a snowstorm or hurricane to generate more than a tiny blip in the numbers?

During the present crisis, there have been relatively few highway accidents locally, because citizens paid attention to the mayor's and county executive's pleas to stay off the roads. With 29 inches of snow and drifts piling much higher, by Saturday most people couldn't have left their houses anyhow. We certainly couldn't have. We were snowbound with our computers, televisions, and other modern luxuries. Also with the chore of walking the dog several times a day in snow too deep for my boots; being a St. Bernard, she loved it and seemed baffled that I wouldn't take her any farther than the edge of the front walk.

Whittier's poem, at its heart, is more about nostalgic memories of his childhood and family members who've passed away than about the snowfall itself. In addition, though, the poem does include lots of vivid details about daily life in rural New England in the midst of coping with a blizzard that confined the family to the house for most of a week. It has often occurred to me that people in that kind of environment would have gotten along better during a major winter storm than twenty-first century people deprived of electric power in a similar situation. Whittier's characters already depended on fireplaces, wood stoves, candles, and oil lamps. They would presumably have stocked plenty of fuel for all these. Their wells, unlike ours, didn't rely on electric pumps. In the absence of a medical emergency, a farm family wouldn't need to go anywhere, so impassable roads were only an inconvenience. If they had to leave home for some urgent reason, "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh..." and a smart horse would refuse to budge if the "white and drifting snow" got too deep. Cars have no judgment (not yet, anyway). The computers, televisions, telephones, etc., that we urgently miss when they fail weren't a factor for our pre-electronic-age ancestors. In "Snow-Bound" the storm causes only one major change in the household routine, the chore of digging a path to the barn to care for the animals. Whittier does mention the ominous gloom of the wintry sky and the fierceness of the blizzard, but once the family gathers inside around the fire, they are cozy and contented. After the storm, people greet with joy the teamsters coming through to clear the road, as we might cheer for the county snowplow. They're happy to receive newspapers after their days of isolation and don't seem upset that the news is a week old.

On one of Michael Longcor's filk albums, he discusses dealing with a power failure after a big winter storm. Because his household was prepared, they were living in the nineteenth century, as he puts it, while most of their neighbors were living in the tenth century. I'm reminded of DIES THE FIRE, the first book in S. M. Stirling's "Emberverse" series, in which all advanced technology ceases to function instantaneously and permanently. (Spoiler: The gods did it to keep humanity from annihilating itself.) My favorite aspect of that book is the vivid, detailed account of how the survivors cope with the reversion to a preindustrial world. I especially enjoy reading about Juniper MacKenzie's Pagan community, which embraces a lifestyle of harmony with the cycles of the seasons. And unlike many post-apocalyptic novels, DIES THE FIRE ends on a note of hope and promise. In the "next generation" stories that follow the first three books of the series, only the elders clearly remember any other way of life.

Nevertheless, I agree with Longcor—I'd much rather read it than live it. I'm very attached to my central heating, running water, electricity, and modern communications.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reviews 21 - Douglas Adams and Doctor Who by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 21
Douglas Adams and Doctor Who
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Today we'll look at a novel made out of a Doctor Who script, which is perhaps one of the most famous Doctor Who episodes, CITY OF DEATH.  It is wry-serious-science-fiction humor, accidentally written by Douglas Adams when he was script editor on the TV Series.

Does any woman, teen to elderly, know any figure more "romantic" than The Doctor?

In most all his incarnations, The Doctor has it all.

I seriously doubt the originators of this kiddie Radio/TV Series (complete with no budget, cardboard sets, and actors knowing they were playing to a kid-audience) had any intention to create a Heart-throb.

Yet most women who watch a few episodes (for me, it's Tom Baker's Doctor) want to become a Companion.

We would be willing to fly away through time and space with The Doctor.

Maybe the best Mary Sue Companion is Romana.

For those who don't know, The Doctor is a Time Lord (not human) and Romana is a young, female (just over 100 years old, hardly an adolescent) genius Time Lady.  The Doctor is fascinated by Earth's humans and does his best to defend us, often picking up Companions to travel with him away from Earth, then bringing them back to their own time and place.

When The Doctor dies, he "reincarnates" -- comes alive again in a changed body (because they change actors, they invented this gimmick and now they're stuck with it.)

Reincarnating is one of the most fascinating attributes of the Time Lords.

So not only do most of the really great actors want to land the part of The Doctor, but the best of the writers gravitate to this program.

At one point in his early career, Douglas Adams (yes, that writer) was Doctor Who's script editor, and when the script, CITY OF DEATH was being developed, all chaos broke loose (as usual in TV), and the script editor saved the day by writing the actual script for CITY OF DEATH.

This story is told in the author's afterword, and the author is James Goss, who converted a version of the script (pre-broadcast version) into a book that is very readable.

It is full of The Doctor's famous scarf (Tom Baker's signature), Romana's famous immature and innocent genius, and situations threatening all human history.

Yes, this was a kiddie show, but the kiddies grew up and so did the show right along with them.  Much of the humor is adult, not a lot of sexual innuendo, but many allusions to issues pertaining to adult life (such as an unhappy marriage).

This particular series of episodes presented in this book are set in the city of Paris, 1979, with running commentary on famous features of that city.

It has all the pacing hallmarks of great episodes of Doctor Who -- chase scenes, plot-twists, developments that bewilder the doctor, moments when he catches on faster than others, and moments when Romana is ahead.

The narrative ranges over several points of view, and the points are in the plot.  The dialogue is important (to me) and James Goss who converted the screenplay format into narrative did an excellent job blending action and dialogue with inner thinking, showing how people figure things out when they are looking at them.

This book is a fun read -- breezy, quick, and you just smile your way through it, whether you've memorized the broadcast episode or not.

You can buy the DVD, or find it in various forms.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on this serial:

It was the second serial (Doctor Who is broadcast in half hour segments, with longer story arcs of several or many episodes.

This book contains the entire story arc of the second serial of the 17th season.

It has no Romance, but it strips the Gorgeous Hunk template down to the barest outlines.  If you want to write novels that contain an implicity rather than explicit answer to the question, "What does she see in him," read and analyse this book, which differs a little from the broadcast version.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Are Wars Inevitable? (In worldbuilding)

Discover Magazine, in June 2012, published an excerpt from "The Social Conquest Of Earth" by Edward O. Wilson, who is one of the world's leading biologists. That was long before the march of Syrian refugees and a certain Presidential candidate's outspokenness about the immigrant invasion of an America with porous borders.

"Population can be controlled by predators, pathogens, or wars." However the ultimate limiting factor on any population of any life form is the food supply. If there is an abundance of nutrients, life forms will multiply. If there is a dearth, life forms will die off (or down), until sustainability is achieved.

If Wilson's analysis is correct, humans, chimpanzees, wolves, lions, birds will never welcome an influx of competitors for their (never limitless) natural resources. Perhaps, though Wilson does not say this, the Eurozone is an unnatural construct which will eventually fail.

Assuming that most science fiction is based on humans, (with human DNA and instincts inherited from Paleolithic ancestors), it is reasonable to build worlds and civilizations that either fight or succumb to pathogens, predators, and warfare.

Could there ever be a society that does not swing from one extreme to another? The citizens would either have to have tremendous self control, or they would have to lack some of the senses we enjoy.  For instance, beings without taste buds might not enjoy eating. The food supply would last longer if no one ate more than absolutely necessary to avoid hunger pangs. But, that wouldn't stop over-breeding. Even when there is famine, people continue to breed (unlike rabbits.)

Preventing females from enjoying sex doesn't stop over-breeding. Assuming that reproduction is sexual, the stronger, more physically dominant gender would have to dislike sex, or at least be indifferent to it. That rules out romance in science fiction!

In "The Sparrow" there were strict rules, and third sons were not allowed to have sex, unless with other males or genetically incompatible other species.  In "The Gods Themselves", it took three individuals to breed. Now, that's a better solution. It makes breeding more logistically challenging, which ought to slow the process, without necessarily banning romance, and yet providing more opportunities for sexual tension and conflict.

I've not said much about pathogens and predators. Mankind is pretty much the apex predator, at least on land, and mankindly ingenuity is constantly at work to conquer pathogens. Which means, wars are probably inevitable.


Friday, January 22, 2016

A Quick Announcement

New Audiobook Release

On Amazon, you can find the audiobook on the main page for this novel, with Kindle, Trade Paperback, and links to an assortment of previous editions. Audible is offering this book free with a new subscription.

Here is the Audible page:

Mahogany Trinrose Audiobook

Mahogany Trinrose: Sime~Gen, Book 4

Written by: Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Narrated by: Christine Rogerson
Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins

Series: Sime-Gen, Book 4
Unabridged Audiobook

Mahogany Trinrose: Sime~Gen, Book 4

Written by: Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Narrated by: Christine Rogerson

Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins

Series: Sime-Gen, Book 4

Unabridged Audiobook

The ancient and dangerous secret of the Sime~Gen Mutation threatens to topple the ruling dynasty of the House of Zeor. How much torment can one teen girl take before the fate of the world doesn't matter to her anymore? How much psychic power can one young woman handle? What options can she create when she has no options left? And - can love truly conquer all? As the great SF writer Andre Norton said of this book: "Imaginative and outstanding. It captures the reader and won't let go."

Read more

Publisher's Summary

The ancient and dangerous secret of the Sime~Gen Mutation threatens to topple the ruling dynasty of the House of Zeor. How much torment can one teen girl take before the fate of the world doesn't matter to her anymore? How much psychic power can one young woman handle? What options can she create when she has no options left? And - can love truly conquer all? As the great SF writer Andre Norton said of this book: "Imaginative and outstanding. It captures the reader and won't let go."

©1981, 2011 Sime~Gen, Inc. (P)2016 Wildside Press, LLC

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Animal Friends

Have you read about Amur, the Siberian tiger who made friends with a goat offered to him as a meal?

Tiger and Goat Are Still Friends

The goat was introduced into Amur's pen in November, and instead of eating him, the tiger became friendly with him. As of early January, this relationship continues. (Amur still eats live prey, but not goats; the keepers give him rabbits instead.) They play hide-and-seek and butt heads together for fun. You can watch them frolicking in a video clip on the website. It sounds like the Old Testament prophecy of the kingdom of God, a future paradise in which the lion will lie down with the lamb and the leopard with the kid. As C. S. Lewis remarks, the prediction that the lion will eat straw like the ox would probably sound to the lion like hell, not heaven. So what explains this Siberian tiger's odd behavior? The theory is that Amur didn't eat his offered prey because the goat didn't show any fear. This mind-blowing reaction "freaked out" the tiger, who therefore didn't see the goat as a potential victim. Reminds you of Simes and Gens, doesn't it?

As a vampire fan and writer, I love this story because it shows that predators and prey can overcome their instincts and develop affection for each other. Now I have a rebuttal for critics who scoff at the idea that immortal blood-drinkers might feel friendship, even love, for inferior creatures the immortals should regard as mere food sources.

In other news, an experiment with chimpanzees suggests that they practice "trust" in their social contacts, and they trust their friends more than non-friends:

Chimpanzees Trust Their Friends

Scientists observed which chimps were best friends on the basis of time spent hanging out together, grooming, etc. An experiment with food-sharing demonstrated that the chimps were more likely to trust their friends to share special treats than just any random group member.

It seems more and more plausible that animals really do experience affection for each other. Concepts of "love" and "friendship" that would have been dismissed as mushy sentimentality in the past are now being substantiated by hard-headed science. Some philosophers would claim these phenomena demonstrate that human beings have no better claim to "souls" than "lower" animals do. I prefer to view it from the opposite angle—maybe some species of animals do have "souls" in a sense. Not that anyone has yet come up with a universally satisfactory definition of "soul"!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 5 - How To Create Using SHOW DON'T TELL

Theme-Symbolism Integration
 Part 5
How To Create Using SHOW DON'T TELL
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg  

Here is the article, published August 2015, that we'll discuss today.  It contains the clue to solving a fiction writer's income problem.

Here are the previous posts on use of theme.  Keep all these points on THEME in mind while reading about the comparison of Trump and Reagan in that article.  (yes, it's a far right website, but this particular article reveals a truth writers need to absorb and use to crack the income problem.)

Foundation Posts on Use of Theme:
-- on structuring nested Themes into a novel.
-- defining the terminology I use in these posts to distinguish plot from story and why they are indistinguishable.
-- compares use of Theme in a movie with the use in a Novel.
-- explains something arcane about how to create a symbol to explain a truly Alien Civilization to modern Human readers.

Remember, I pointed out that fiction writers in general do not even make minimum wage if you consider the hours spent vs the income over the years.  You need to get up to where they are making blockbuster movies from your books to have a decent wage, and when that happens at the end of your  career, they tax your income as if you always made that amount and always will.

They cancelled the provision in the tax code that writers always depended on to allow them to recoup the losses on time invested.

It was called Income Averaging, and allowed you to pay taxes on your average income over the previous 5 years, not on the "windfall" that comes through when your publisher suddenly decides (probably because of a writer's organization audit) to pay what they've owed you for 10 years.

As a result, fiction writers are trapped in pauper status virtually forever.

To smooth out income and make up the difference, most fiction writers do something else to earn a living.

One way out of the trap is to write non-fiction as a "work-for-hire" which earns you current income as wages, not royalties.

Here is where I discuss that:

Here is the point that article makes that applies to fiction writing, and how to create using SHOW DON'T TELL.  It also ILLUSTRATES (shows without telling) exactly why fiction writers must master this technique.

Someone else had a talent for doing this. Ronald Reagan. (heads up, if you accuse me of saying Trump is another Reagan I swear by the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress that I will ban you)

From Hedrick Smith’s epic and under-appreciated 1987 book The Power Game: How Washington Works.
This is the set up. CBS News’ Lesley Stahl was convinced that Ronald Reagan is an empty suit. A nincompoop. Someone who was skating along on imagery and who was pretty shallow and inconsequential. So during the 1984 campaign they took advantage of Reagan’s visit to a flag factory to use that as a metaphor for just how bad Reagan was. This is some of the text from the television report (what follows are jpgs via Google Books because I don’t have access to my library right now).

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

Here are the png images included in that article excerpted from Google Books.  I recommend you look up this book on Google Books or Kindle or whatever.  It was a best seller for a reason.  You can make your fortune using your fiction skills to write books like this one.  Here are the 3 excerpts the article writer chose to include, without the comments interpolated between.  I recommend you read the actual article on (nevermind, just read it.  It won't kill you to read it.)

----------excerpts from Google Books----------------

-----------end excerpts----------------

-------QUOTE from article-------------

The reason Stahl had to rely on those visuals for her hit piece was because Reagan and his staff carefully stage managed the visual aspect of all of his appearances. They knew, as Scott Adams says up top, that the visual is about 10 : 1 in impact when compared to the verbal. No matter what Reagan said, the imagery was going to be what the television viewer remembered.

This is what people are failing to understand about Trump. The political class thinks he is a buffoon (a buffoon who could buy and sell his critics by the truckload, mind you) because he refuses to play by the traditional rules. As Leon pointed out, he is operating so far outside the political experience of the rest of the field that no one is even sure how to attack or criticize him. The media can criticize Trump for tossing this Ramos character but to do it they have to show the video. Once they show the video, no one hears what they say because Trump dominates the imagery and the conversation.

The way Trump handled Ramos should be the way all of our candidates handle the mindless gotcha questions like those that characterized the first GOP debate.

-----------END QUOTE-------------

I remember reading The Power Game: How Washington Works, full of "Aha!" moments.

This one, however, did not surface in my mind until I saw this article flick by me on where I collect items on various topics of interest to fiction writers:

So here's the point.  Mastering SHOW DON'T TELL, mastering what screenwriters call "story in pictures" -- mastering the non-verbal arts -- is the real key to communication.

will save your butt as a writer.

I can't emphasize that enough. It's a series on screenwriting but it is the key to novel writing, for exactly the reasons sited in this article.

Words,  vocabulary, spelling and grammar, lexicon, all of that matters.  It matters vitally.  It makes all the difference.  But "difference" from what?

The difference from confusion, mixed messages, which vitiate the effect of your Conflict and Resolution.

The visuals you select, all of them without exception, must precisely and exactly illustrate and depict your theme -- the theme and the images must say the same thing, or you get the effect described in The Power Game: How Washington Works, and the effect Donald Trump produced evicting a reporter from his press conference.

People, readers, accept and believe the images and ignore the denotation of the words.

First comes the visuals.  They penetrate the mind, connect to the autonomic nervous system, elevate and activate and communicate with the animal brain.  After that point, the only words that are "heard" are the ones that agree with, expound upon, and adorn the image.

Yes, words are mere decoration wrapped around visuals.

There are animals with far superior vision to humans, but most of them are predators with fairly small brains and one focus, hunting.

Humans are multi-purpose creatures, flexible -- which is why we survived the last Ice Age and can survive the coming Global Warming whatever the reasons for the shift in conditions.  (we can, but will we? -- that's the question fiction writers play with: "Will we?"  "Will we?" is all about politics.)

So what do our multi-purpose eyes and brains glean from images?

What element of a novel does the basic-animal-brain extract from a wall of type, an impenetrable page of fiction in words?

There's a linkage, a series of synapses, that young people either develop -- or not -- at a certain age when they can learn languages and reading.

Pretty much by age 7 or so, the ability to create these synapses begins to wane -- and it's fairly gone by age 10.

With vast effort, such things can be learned later, but the effort is vast so the reward has to be obvious.

Watching someone staring at pages in a book, (or an e-reader) for hours and snarling at interruptions does not convey the magnitude of the reward.

What happens when you read print?

You interpret.

The brain cells involved in grasping the words hand off the "meaning" extracted from the black squiggles on the page to other parts of the brain.  The synapse we're talking about here is the hand-off of language to images.

When people who love to read fiction immerse in a book, they SEE the images, smell the smells, feel the velvet tingles -- senses engage.

Words translate into the activation of other senses.  It isn't strong as if you were actually seeing the image.  It's a bit "removed" so it is easier to read about something ugly or repellent, and still feel as you would if you had actually seen it -- just not so strong you have to run vomit.


Using the words that tickle the visual cortex for the reader is what a writer does for a living.

Symbolism is all about visuals.

If a word becomes a symbol, then it is stylized -- you use a special font to register a trademarked word.  You can't trademark a lexicon word, but you can trademark the image of a word.

The IMAGE triggers the associations to the company or product, but the lexicon word does not.

That is the nature of humans.  Writers are artists who know how to use that nature.

The images you choose to evoke with your words are the "symbolism" component of your romance story and your romance plot.

What the symbols mean and why you need them in your novel is called the "Theme" component of your work of art.

You don't TELL the theme; you SHOW the theme in symbolic images.  If you tell the theme and say THIS IS WHAT I MEAN! but the images say something different, the images will be believed and the words ignored.

The symbolism is more compelling than any word, just as with the Reagan/Trump comparison in this article from

Donald Trump is a businessman, a graduate of a premier business school.  I'm fairly sure they don't teach the art of fiction writing to such Business Majors.

But they do teach THE ART OF THE DEAL.  That's the famous book Donald Trump wrote that you should read to learn how to write dialogue scenes.

Here it is in Kindle.

Donald Trump's book is as popular and informative as The Power Game: How Washington Works.

Put the two together, you have a Romance Novel of gigantic proportions - sex and politics, power and fame.

Dealing, negotiating, is an art.

You don't get what you deserve.  You get what you negotiate.

Everyone knows this truth, but few think about it consciously or articulate it.  It is stored in memory as the dejected posture of the loser walking away from a meeting, being fired from a cushy job, or being rejected by a lover.  

Therefore, you as a fiction writer can use negotiating in scene structure.  And you the non-fiction writer can use negotiating in speech writing.

Speech writing is akin to writing a sex scene.  Think about that.  Listen to some famous speeches and graph the emotional peaks and valleys, overlay that graph on a graph of a famous sex scene and see how they match exactly.  It's called wooing an audience for a reason.

If you are writing a dialogue scene, the Characters are negotiating -- i.e. they are at war, they are in Conflict, they are at cross-purposes, they are communicating in words, but they will each be understanding what is really happening via imagery-symbols.

They call that, in theatrical stage writing, "business."

"Business" is actions that have nothing to do with what is being said, but everything to do with what is meant.

An old fashioned example of "Business" is how famous, sexy actors and actresses added sexual innuendo and power-talk to dull dialogue scenes by lighting a cigarette then mashing it out on the floor, punctuating the end of the scene.  Today, they play with their smartphones.

Negotiations turn on actions, and the visual impact of actions within the cultural context of the Characters.

When Trump just quietly nodded to his Security guy to remove the fractious reporter, that was a visual symbol of power.  It was an actor using "Business" to convey meaning without words.  It was the entire theme of his campaign in one tiny movement of his head - power, greatness, decisiveness.  When he immediately announced he'd be bringing that reporter back to get his turn at asking questions, and then did that with great aplomb, he used show-don't-tell to illustrate the theme of reasonableness and compassion.  At the end of the exchange, when the reporter admitted that Donald Trump was correct in one assertion, Trump praised that reporter for his honesty and invited him to lunch.

Most observers agree, it was not scripted but spontaneous on Trump's part.  But screenwriters recognized the underlying "scene structure" template, and all viewers saw (visually) Trump in the role of the Main Character, even maybe the Hero or possibly the Villain depending on what other visuals they had absorbed.  Trump knew what to do and how to "play" that scene just as Reagan did -- because he'd played that scene many times before.  That's why he did it so smoothly.

There was another such scene that deserves consideration as you learn how to create using show don't tell.  It is the famous one when a shoe was thrown at President Bush during a press conference in Iraq in 2008.

To the USA audience, it was a stupid act of aggression of no meaning except to illustrate the boorishness of the uncivilized people.  To the Iraqi audience to whom turning the sole of a shoe toward someone is an unforgivable insult, Bush's reaction showed them that the USA culture is stupid and weak, without moral fiber.

Both audiences saw the same IMAGE -- each extracted a different THEME.

You can do that between a human from Earth and an Alien from Elsewhere if you create the Alien civilization using theme-symbolism integration to the point where you can show-don't-tell the meaning on a non-verbal level.

Your Alien may "play the scene" out of practiced habit, and your human can totally miss the point, causing the human to take actions that cause the Alien a lot of trouble at home.

Here is another neuroscience article from August 2015 to consider.  We know how images affect people, but we don't know all the mechanism behind that.  So when creating your alien species, mull over some of the research like this:

Theme-symbolism integration is the secret to getting a reader of a page of text to burst out laughing or melt down sobbing.  It's just words -- but the meaning blossoms into parts of the brain that have no words.  That's the most powerful part of the brain, the real decision making part.  Most of the time, words just "rationalize" the decision the "gut" has already made.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg