Thursday, January 18, 2018

An Author's Obligation to Readers?

With the TV series GAME OF THRONES having outrun the books on which it's based, there have been speculations that George R. R. Martin may never finish the "Song of Ice and Fire" multi-volume epic. On the other hand, in July 1917 Martin assured the public that he's actively working on WINDS OF WINTER, which might even be released sometime in 2018. (We've heard that sort of claim before, haven't we? :) ) I'm reminded of Neil Gaiman's well-known blog post admonishing fans that George Martin does not work for us:

Entitlement Issues

Gaiman maintains that writing the first book in a series does not constitute a "contract" on the part of the author to write sequels, much less finish the series. He justifiably points out that writers, even bestselling ones, aren't "machines" and have a right to private lives. And I have to concede that readers aren't "entitled" to any and all books they want to read. Still, I don't completely agree with Gaiman's position.

I'm not talking about open-ended series—for example, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe and most detective series. These could in theory go on forever, if the author were immortal or, as with Bradley, Tom Clancy, and many others, bequeathed his or her fictional universe to literary heirs. A series like this doesn't tell a single, unified narrative building toward a conclusion without which it would be incomplete. (It's worth mentioning, however, that in her prime Agatha Christie thoughtfully wrote "final case" novels for both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, to be published after Christie's death.) Works along the line of Stephen King's Dark Tower epic, Gabaldon's Outlander series, and, yes, "A Song of Ice and Fire" do fit the second pattern.

Not that I condone harassing an author about not writing fast enough. Some fans apparently complained when Diana Gabaldon published novellas and novels in the Outlander spinoff series featuring Lord John Grey, on the grounds that she should have been working on the next mainline Outlander book instead! Gabaldon patiently explained that her process doesn't function that way, and the Lord John stories had no effect on the progress of the "big novels." I do believe, however, that when an author starts a series that comprises a unified story, he or she makes an implicit promise to finish the story. A multi-volume narrative, in that sense, is no different in principle from the serialized novels popular in the nineteenth century. While public nagging and angry demands are unacceptable, there's nothing wrong with what we might call "reasonable expectations."

Speaking of which, while I don't begrudge J. K. Rowling THE CASUAL VACANCY and the mystery novels, what happened to that Harry Potter encyclopedia she as good as promised us? She even forced a fan project to shut down because she intended to produce such a guide. All we've gotten, so far, is Pottermore, a flashy website that delivers world and character background material in sporadic chunks and seems more geared to interactivity than information. No, writers don't work for readers, but we can legitimately feel disappointed when we get "teased" with promised books that never materialize. While Gabaldon (for example) goes a long time between release dates of her "big novels," she transparently keeps readers updated about the current work in progress to forestall cries of "when will it be out?"

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dialogue Part 12 - Plotting An Executive's Story by Jaccqueline Lichtenberg

Part 12
Plotting An Executive's Story
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of Dialogue are indexed here:

All the parts through 12 are linked there.

Hitherto, we have taken great care to distinguish between Plot and Story -- because confusing the two leads to the biggest (and least fixable on rewrite) errors beginners make.

Which element you call Plot and which you call Story really doesn't matter much.  Different "schools" of writing use different nomenclature.  But I've never met a prolific professional writer who does not hold the stark distinction in mind, and finger it unerringly in beginner's manuscripts.

The Plot-Story dichotomy is very often the last thing new writers learn, and upon mastering it, they begin selling.  It is hard to learn because real life does not have any such distinction.

I use "Plot" to refer to the "because-line" (a term I invented) -- the sequence of Events, Decisions, Actions that drive the visible scenes of a novel.

I use "Story" to refer to the effect the Events have on the Characters.

For me, a good novel is "about" the effect the events have on the Characters.

I have read many best selling "action-thrillers" in which the wildly adventurous Events mean nothing to the Characters -- net-net in the end of the novel, they are the same people they were at the beginning.

This lack of "Character Arc" was a requirement in Anthology TV Series like Star Trek, so the episodes (which were, technically, just that, episodes not stories) could be viewed in any order.  That was required because of the way the distribution system worked.

The fiction distribution system has changed, drastically.  So now we can have major Character Arcs in Series like Babylon 5, or the remake of Hawaii 5-O.

Dialogue is the show-don't-tell tool the writer has to convey the impact of Plot Events on the Character, and "tell the story."

What people say, how they say it, how what they say changes upon Event Impact, is Dialogue.

What the Characters DO in response to Events is PLOT.

Speaking is Doing!!!

In other words, spoken words are plot -- but they are also story.

Here's the thing.

Spoken Words are Theme-Plot-Character-Story-Worldbuilding.

The Dialogue makes the reader figure out (and thus believe) all those plot elements.

See Dialogue Part 11 for where in dialogue you can put exposition about your Worldbuilding that readers will believe.

So, deeds are plot. But not just the deeds.  The criteria by which a given Character chooses what deed to do in response to which Event is Characterization which shows up in inner-dialogue (thoughts) as well as word said to other Characters.

The phone rings -- some Characters answer it; others wait for the Butler to answer.

Answering or waiting (with or without patience) is a deed, a plot element.  WHY the answering is done, or not done, is worldbuilding.  A Character shifting attitudes about phone answering is story.

For example, in scene 1, bad news arrives by ringing phone.  In the final scene, the phone rings, and the Character hesitates, chewing her lip, before answering -- clearly thinking about bad news arriving by phone.

Characterization relies a lot on Dialogue, at the point where words and deeds intersect.

Here is an article (listicle) that lets you Depict a successful person.  The opposite traits would work to convey that the Character is a Loser.

This is a list of what people do when things happen, and what the public looks for to find a person poised for "success."

Successful People:
embrace change
talk about ideas
accept responsibility for failures
give credit where it's deserved
want others to succeed
ask how they can help others
ask for what they want
understand themselves (their motivations)
always listen without talking much

This is a list as old as the hills -- you can use it in a pre-historic setting, Middle Ages, or Space Age.

Each of these attitudes is backed by an upbringing that infuses self-image with strength -- and that can be transmitted only by a parent who had such an upbringing.  Therefore, depicting Characters with these behaviors, reactions and responses to their world (study Captain Kirk's humor) telegraphs to the Reader that this Character will succeed, and depicts their upbringing in show-don't-tell.  Sometimes it is not an actual "parent" that transmits the attitude, but a surrogate (Mentor, Sports Coach, Science Teacher, Boy Scout Troop Leader, step-father, local beat cop, etc.)

I assert it is as old as the Hills - because this set of traits is actually depicted and prescribed in the Bible, and other writings from the BCE epoch.

So Dialogue is where the rubber grips the road in writing.

With two or three well chosen words you show-don't-tell if your Character is an Executive and if she is Poised For Success -- and if the other Characters see and understand that, or may be blindsided by the Character's success (this works particularly well in Paranormal Romance).

Who will be the "winner" and who the "loser" at the end of the novel is clearly presented on Page 1, with a few well chosen words.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Stop The Torrents! Copyright Infringement Is Not Protected Speech.

Apparently, there are people who think that, if they pay for a VPN subscription, they are a protected class, and have a Constitutional right to remain anonymous and not to be publicly shamed in the same way as anyone else who is found guilty of copyright infringement.

There are even some judges who appear to agree that privilege and protection can be purchased by anyone.

"Anonymous Internet Users Beware," is the legal advice of  bloggers Siena Sophia Magdalena Anstis  and  J. Alexander Lawrence  writing for  Morrison & Foerster LLP . "New Presumption In Favor Of Unmasking The Losing Anonymous Defendant."

Read more:

This legal blog has an interesting discussion of an argument presented by an anonymous blogger who was successfully sued for posting a hyperlink to a downloadable copy of an ebook without the consent of the author and copyright owner of that ebook.

The same lawsuit with a slightly different perspective is also covered by Brian J. Willett for Reed Smith LLP  in "Sixth Circuit Suggests Liability for Copyright Infringement May Justify Reduced First Amendment Protection for Anonymous Speech, But Recommends......"

There's a bit of a spoiler in quoting the entire title.

Read it here:

For our European readers, please notice that Lexology offers sidebar links to different treatments of similar cases in the United Kingdom, in Canada, and in the Netherlands. (Where guilty copyright infringers wish to remain anonymous in defeat.)

In the USA case, the would-be anonymous blogger claimed that being anonymous is an aspect of Free Speech, and as such is protected by the First Amendment.  (How ironic that one pays a VPN as little as $40 per annum for this aspect of "free speech".)

The good news for copyright enthusiasts is that a judge said copyright infringement is not protected speech. The copyright infringer is publishing and distributing someone else's copyright-protected written expressions of ideas.

If the copyright infringer's "speech" is not protected by the First Amendment, it follows tha the guilty copyright infringer's identity should not be protected by the court.

As for VPNs, most online banking and brokerage houses won't allow clients to use them.  Their use tends to trigger annoying captchas...  even if one is attempting to donate to a charity.  One wonders if they are even much good for foiling those who would target advertising.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

PS. Disclaimer.  The reference to "torrents" in the title was purely artistic. I went from a vulgar, "No SHHH!" to a snarky "Wow!" to "Stop The Presses!" to ... the current form. Apologies for any disappointment.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Grabbing Attention

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS essay expounds upon the "arms race" for our attention in the media. He compares the "race" between the purveyors of memes and the consumers of them to the evolution of our immune response in reaction to the mutations of pathogens.

Arms Race for Your Attention

A fresh meme—for instance, the exciting new game everybody's playing—hits the "attentional soft spot" by deploying "cognitive traps" that lure the target into an "escape-proof limbic dopamine loop." Most people do eventually escape, though, as they build up resistance to the allure. So the forces clamoring for our attention have to escalate their intensity and develop new tricks.

By comparing old-style advertisements to those we see today, Doctorow illustrates how much harder we are to captivate than earlier generations of audiences. I'm reminded of how tame the TV commercials of my childhood in the 1950s and early 60s were, in contrast to those on the networks nowadays. Viewing some of those old commercials on DVDs of vintage TV programs vividly highlights the difference. Although I wouldn't go back to the 50s unless a time-twisting genie offered to compensate me with wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, in some ways that really was a more innocent era. Of course, nowadays we can fast-forward through commercials, so the ads have to become really flashy and cool-looking to snag our attention and keep us from skimming past them. As for Facebook ads, the scam e-mails that flood our in-boxes, and phone solicitations (which appear positively quaint compared to the Internet messages), does anybody actually respond to any of those appeals? Strange as it seems to me, SOMEBODY must, or the would-be sellers wouldn't keep producing them.

Doctorow also remarks that the battle for our attention is waged for more serious purposes than selling stuff and hooking people on games. It has political applications, too. So it's important to keep our "immune systems" healthy.

As for us authors, how can we best attract the attention of potential readers—in polite ways that don't backfire by turning them off? I've never paid for an Internet ad (although I've accepted the offer of free ads on a review website, where at least people visit voluntarily and are interested in finding new books). Since I ignore those kinds of things myself, why would I expect potential buyers of my books to respond to them? I don't want to become one of the scammers (which is the only issue discouraging me from trying that "boost post" strategy Facebook keeps nagging me about). On the other hand, if I don't promote myself in some way, nobody will know my books exist. When e-books were a novelty, being an e-published novelist was enough to attract attention. When my former publisher Ellora's Cave, the pioneer of erotic romance for a female audience, was practically the only game in town for the erotic paranormal romance subgenre, being one of their authors distinguished a writer from the throng, at least in a modest way. Now it's become a prime example of Doctorow's thesis that potential audiences invariably develop resistance to each new "attentional soft spot."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Dialogue Part 11 Writing An Executive's Dialogue by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 11
Writing An Executive's Dialogue
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous entries in this series are here:

All the 10 previous parts are there.

One epic fail new writers experience when presenting a story that really grabs them is a disparity between what they tell the reader about a Character and what the Character seems to be to the reader.

We all have different experiences of "life" at different ages.  As we meet and work with different people, we get an idea of "who" a person is by "how" they talk.

Writing dialogue is nothing like transcribing real speech.  Dialogue, every line and every word or grunt, must propel the plot -- create an Event -- to which other Characters react, or which creates consequences.

In Mystery as in Romance, and even Science Fiction/Paranormal genres, one powerful plot driver is all about who knows what, and when they know it.

Who does not know what?

Who understands the connections among what they know -- and who doesn't.

Maybe most important, who can "fake it" until they "make it."

Getting a promotion, for example, often involves concealing what you don't know, then going out and frenetically learning it.

If you read fanfic, especially adventure fanfic, or space adventure-drama like Star Trek, you will have to write dialogue for a Ship's Captain, an Admiral, or even a Lieutenant who is in charge of some Ensigns.

What distinguishes the ranks -- and what tags a Character as ripe for promotion?

It's very simple -- but hard to create if you, yourself, do not have these traits.

Here is a way to acquire the speech habits of Captains and Admirals, of Corporation Heads, Planetary Governors, etc -- cocktail party conversation that moves the plot, depicts the top level a Character will be considered eligible for, and conveys reams and reams of exposition without any lumps and without disguising exposition as dialogue.

Remember, I pointed to an epic fail of expository lump in a previous post when discussing the Best Seller contrasted with a fun read.

So how do you craft dialogue to do all these things?

The process -- as opposed to the end result -- is by successive approximations.

You just write out the conversation as the Characters yell at each other -- write down all of it.

Then you edit out the kernal, the central operating system that runs all the "programs" you have to run to get the reader to know everything you want them to know.

Dissect out the central plot moving dynamic of the conversation.

Then carefully add back in, layer by layer, each objective for this scene.

Dialogue is the best tool for Characterization, but it works only if the two (or more) people conversing are sparring, jousting, jockeying for position (social or competitive).  One-upsmanship is a great tool.

So whether you're doing a Victorian Paranormal Romance, or a formal Conference of two Interstellar Civilizations in a War of Extinction, Dialogue is a potent plot tool because it can "show don't tell" motivations.

But along the way, even if your Main Character is on the wait-staff, you will have to craft dialogue for Movers And Shakers -- people who have worked their way up to top decision makers.  You have maybe two paragraphs to convince the reader this Character really is a top executive of his/her/its species.

How do you do that?

Here is an Article that explains, succinctly, just what your Reader will believe is the hallmark of a top executive (or someone on the way up that ladder, for sure).

I taught Andrew a technique called PREP, which he reported back to me, worked wonderfully.

It stands for Point, Reason, Example, Point, and it's a great tool to help you structure an impromptu speech or to answer a tough question when you're put on the spot.

This is how it works. Think of a situation where you might be required to defend your position or argue your point of view on a critical issue. This might be at your next executive meeting or perhaps in front of a potential client. Or at that next dinner party.

To illustrate, let's take an extreme example.

Suppose you're attending your next executive meeting and the CEO puts you on the spot, singling you out, she asks:

‘So, what's your view on how we're functioning as a team?'

If ever there was a question guaranteed to provoke an emotional response, this is it. It would be easy to become defensive and evasive in this situation, but that's not how a top executive would respond.

This is where having the structure of PREP to fall back on can help.

Note –before responding, pause and count to two. We sound ill-considered when we rush straight in. By pausing for two seconds you will sound more considered and it'll give you the thinking space to provide a concise and structured response using the PREP approach.

Point: "I think there is room for us to improve."

Reason: "The reason I say this is I feel we are tending to operate in silos and this is impacting our ability to cross-market and to service our clients effectively. It is also affecting our ability to communicate a consistent message to the business."

Example: [Provide one and preferably two relevant examples to illustrate your point.]

Point: "So, on that basis, no I don't believe we are operating effectively as a team right now. I think we have room to improve."

PREP allows you to deliver a mature and reasoned approach, which relies on facts not emotion. Others might not agree with you but you've delivered a mature and reasoned response befitting of an executive.

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

You should read the whole article if it's still available, or look up that technique.

Reading books advising executives how to behave and how to speak, how to do a Powerpoint, etc., will help you evoke the image of such a person with any Character.

But this simplification is an wonderful clue how to let your Characters "overhear" something that will motivate them to move the plot while letting the Reader figure out what is really going on that various Characters don't (yet) know about -- i.e. you create suspense!  With Dialogue - the most versatile tool in your craft tool box.

Note where the speech pattern inserts "example" -- it is inside that example that you hide your exposition, which has to be OFF THE NOSE.

In other words, you don't just say what you want the reader to figure out, you "code" the information so that the Reader can figure it out.

People believe what they figure out for themselves, not what they are told -- well, maybe not people in general, but I guarantee this is true of inveterate Science Fiction readers, and the modern Romance reader.

Here is the dialogue post on OFF THE NOSE.  This is "the nose" as in "hit you right in the nose" -- or force an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with an inconvenient truth.  Fiction works better when it sneaks up from the blind side, or hits in the back of the head (or the gut).

"On The Nose" is for nonfiction (which you might have to craft in the course of a novel), but fiction is about the emotional nuances that color our comprehension of facts -- so off the nose is the technique to master.

So, learn this PREP structure to keep your exposition off the nose, AND at the same time, depict Characters headed for the top of their professions (which makes a guy very sexy, you know.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Mashing The Mot Juste

Do you believe that words are "fungible"?  Are all synonyms equal, or are some synonyms more equal than others? In other words, does the "mot juste" exist?

Mot Juste = the exact, appropriate word.  (Plural: mots justes )

As some rely more on AI, and on automated plagiarism, "mot juste" will probably be expunged from Dictionaries. It is not a helpful concept. If there is no word for "the exact, appropriate word", people will cease to think that one word might be more exact and more appropriate than another.  Thoughts cannot exist without words. Vocabulary matters.

There's a rumor that pirate plagiarists are taking popular authors' published works, running these copyrighted works through an app to change the characters' names, place names, verbs and adjectives, and self-publishing the result as "original works" on certain online self-publishing platforms.

The name for such mashing up of words is "synonymize".

Check out this blurb for its logical flaw:

"Our machine is using paraphrasing software to replace words with synonyms to prevent plagiarism, but provides the same meaning of the content..."

No. That is not "prevent(ing) plagiarism". That is enabling and encouraging plagiarism.  It's purpose is not to "prevent plagiarism" but to prevent your plagiarism from being detected.

The plagiarism profiteers give fair warning, "...please note that it's only automatic tool and we cannot guarantee its quality..."

They know the difference between "it's purpose" and "it's only". Kudos for that. They seem to understand that their tool cannot deliver mots justes. However, from their use of English ("it's only automatic tool"), they may not be native English speakers. They hide who they are behind a Denver based privacy protection service.

They appear to offer to help one plagiarize ones own resume. Or ones own university admission letter. Or a document. Or a scientific paper. Why?

Here's an apparently British based rival with no illusions about what they are doing, if one can make such an inference from their "plagiarisma" name.  They are a free "article rewriter".

Some mash up enthusiasts gave the public fair warning on their Kickstarter campaign that mashing up Dr. Seuss Stories with Star Trek characters and imagery might land them in court.
While we firmly believe that our parody, created with love and affection, fully falls within the boundary of fair use, there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights. And we may have to spend time and money proving it to people in black robes.

As David Stewart  legal blogger for Williams + Hughes (an Australian law firm) points out in "'Litigation, Jim, but not as we know it': Dr. Seuss, Star Trek, and Copyright Infringement in the US."     that disclaimer was clear evidence of wilful infringement.

David Stewart cites this helpful reminder to would be for-profit mashers.
The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that “the claim of parody is no defense where the purpose of the similarity is to capitalize on a famous mark’s popularity for the defendant’s own commercial use.” Hard Rock Cafe Licensing Corp. v. Pacific Graphics, Inc., 776 F.Supp. 1454, 1462 (W.D.Wash.1991).”
David Stewart's article is excellent reading, but for the few who want just the bottom line, "wilful infringement", if claimed and proven against the loser defendant, can treble the damages assessed.

Jesse M Brody, legal blogger for Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP  (a very interesting law firm) also discusses same case and the same question of when is a claimed parody not a parody in "Oh The Places Copyright And Trademark Law Go!"

Jesse M. Brody examines the fourth factor of fair use (or not), which is whether the defendant's obvious use of  Dr. Seuss trademarks, font, titles, style, and stories combined with Star Trek characters and images could negatively affect future income for Dr. Seuss, for instance to the market for the licensing of Dr. Seuss's derivative works.

For more,

And visit

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

PS.  My apologies for the lateness of this article.

PPS. Here's an example of a not-mot juste.  "That salacious book" that everyone is talking about.
The mot juste would be "scurrilous", as in "That scurrilous book".

A book cannot be "salacious", especially given the cover art of that particular book.  Salacious means lustful, lecherous, appealing to sexual desire.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Fictional Chronology Versus Real-Life Time

How do you handle the problem when the timeline of a fictional series slides out of sync with the real passage of time? The novels in my vampire universe were written and published over a span of many years, but the characters all exist in pretty much the same time frame although the technology of each book reflects the decade when it was written. Mostly, I don't worry about this situation, since the novels and stories can each be read independently (although some characters recur), aside from the novel that's a direct sequel to DARK CHANGELING, the first one published.

Now, however, my urban fantasy/horror novel FROM THE DARK PLACES is soon to be re-released, and I'm faced with a difficulty caused by the late-1970s setting. I've written a next-generation sequel set in the not-strictly-defined present, with cell phones, electric cars, and the Internet. The heroine, born at the end of the first book, is twenty-one. If time has passed in the books as in the primary world, she'd be about forty. What changes should I make in the new edition of FROM THE DARK PLACES to reconcile this inconsistency?

Some creators avoid the problem by aging characters more or less in real time, maybe a little slower but not slowly enough for their environment to fall out of sync with the reader's world. For example, the comic strips FOR BETTER OR WORSE and GASOLINE ALLEY do this. Another strategy is to ignore the discrepancy by changing the technology and cultural references to fit the time of publication while keeping characters the same age or letting them age very slowly, sometimes only a few years over several decades. The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary does it that way. On TVTropes, this phenomenon is called Comic-Book Time:

Comic-Book Time

In the James Bond novels, Bond's background was tacitly updated over the series, as the setting advanced with dates of publication. Therefore, as one critic noted, according to his age in the later books, he would have been a teenager in the first one, CASINO ROYALE. The TV program MASH famously lasted over twice as long as the actual Korean War, and there isn't much if any attempt to maintain consistency in the internal timeline, much less factual correspondence to the historical progression of the war. For a show produced before it was expected that fans would be able to buy all the seasons and repeatedly re-watch them, the discrepancies probably weren't obvious at the time.

Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (beginning with SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD) spans only a few years in the characters' lives, although the novels have been published over several decades. Duane has addressed the problem by issuing "Millennium Editions" of the earlier books, updating the years of the action and the associated technology, so that the characters now age roughly in real time.

As for my current quandary: The editor has agreed to go with my suggestion of locating FROM THE DARK PLACES in the indefinite past, by removing all explicit references to the 1970s but leaving the technology of the story pretty much as is. To avoid confusing readers, I plan to add a note stating that the book takes place before cell phones and widespread home computer ownership.

What do you do about a series whose internal chronology becomes disconnected from real time? Authors of historical fiction, futuristic SF, and secondary-world fantasy are lucky in this respect; they never need to worry about their stories becoming outdated. Although the Star Trek universe does have a peculiar problem along this line—some of the technology in the original series has been overtaken by present-day tech!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Theme-Archetype Integration Part 6 - Woman Warrior Marries A Bully

Theme-Archetype Integration
Part 6
Woman Warrior Marries A Bully

Happy New Year.  Hoping you find many good books to read, and even more good story ideas to write.

Previous Parts of the highly abstract series on Theme-Archetype Integration are here:

This is Part 6 of this Series.

We've discussed the Bully issue in many contexts.  Here are a few:

We have discussed Bullying and the Bully Character in the Romance context because this behavior is much in the news these days.

"Ripped From The Headlines" sells books - provided the headline appeared long enough ago, or the approach in the novel is unique.  I pointed out two novels of International Intrigue, SAVING SOPHIE and VENGEANCE, using the setting of the Middle Eastern Conflict, a Headline Generator as powerful as North Korea, or various Russian scandals.

The problem the Web and the Internet now pose to us is highlighted best by the threat to children subjected to Bullying at school, and then every time they pick up an internet connection (phone, computer, tablet) to do homework, there is the Bully again right in the privacy of home.

And that, as you note from the source is an International problem, maybe worse than politics.

Keep in mind that child bullies grow up to be successful business owners, and maybe progress to sexual harassment.  Using the power to fire a person in order to get them to do something (well, personal), is just another school-yard-bully in action.  Girls and Boys both are equally prone to bullying.  So sexual harassment, or in International Politics, quid pro quo "deals" involving "favors," are adult versions of the school yard (or now Web Streaming App) bullying.  Bedroom bullying is now available to kids, not just married couples.

The "Arranged Marriage" Romance novel is another form of Bullying.  Forcing a couple to marry for the sake of (the Crown, Descendants, Fortune, quid-pro-quo deals among parents) anything other than their affinity for each other is Legalized Bullying.

Just because it's legal, does that make it "right?" 

Can Bullying be "cured?"  Is it a "flaw" in human nature or a "feature?"  Answer those questions and find a Theme.

Can "The Good Guy/Gal Be A Bully?"

Is it OK to force an arranged marriage to save the human species?  A country?  A dynasty?  A Fortune that hires thousands and provides their sustainance?  How big do the stakes have to be in order to regard Bullying someone into doing something as a Righteous Use Of Power?

That is a theme -- the ends justify the means.  (or not)

The Bully can be regarded as an Archetype for the purpose of constructing a Science Fiction or Paranormal Romance Novel.  Like The Priest, The Warrior,  The Mother, and so on, The Bully is an Idea, not a specific person, not a Character.

So you can create almost any Character, and draw down the mantle of The Bully, to create a Character readers will believe is realistic.  Readers will know someone like that.

If you do that, if you impose "The Bully" Archetype on a Character, you are showing, not telling, a Theme.

THEME: Bullying Is A Removable Add-On to Personality.

If, however, you depict The Bully Character as intrinsically Evil, one who can only be stopped by killing, then you are showing not telling a different Theme.

THEME: Bullying Is Not A Behavior But Rather An Intrinsic Trait.

If Bullying can't be removed from a human person, a behavior adjustment most of us have seen, then humanity has no recourse but to make this behavior (emerging in childhood) a capital offense.

We have other examples in human behavior that we have not found "cures" for, such as pediphilia, or serial rapists.  There is an organized movement to make pediphelia legal.  That, too, is another Theme.

THEME: no human behavior should be illegal.

That is the sort of topic a University Debate Team might tackle.

Could your Main Character fall in love with someone who won that debate?

So studying Themes and studying Archetypes and how these two, very abstract, elements combine to become a cornerstone of any fictional universe, can take you a long way toward outlining a novel you can write, and that you will be able to finish writing and bring to market.

"Writer's Block" is not a real "thing" -- but misconceived novels are real.  Once your subconscious understands you have gone off the rails writing a confused story, you will just stop writing.  This can undermine your self-esteem.

Find a Theme and the Archetypes that illustrate that theme, and you will produce a whole story or novel.  It may turn out badly written, badly constructed, or with implausible Character motivations, and may or may not be something you can rewrite, but the task can be completed.  That, in itself, gives you career rocket fuel.

So, if Bullying is an inherent trait that can not be altered, then it is something that Love Can Not Conquer.

How many good Romances have you read about the "Bad Boy" - we all believe the right woman can tame even the most "lost" man.

Love Conquers All is the theme of our universe.

The joy that explodes within us at discovering "Love" alters the way the universe behaves in our vicinity.  The joy of love alters the odds, shifts the probabilities in our favor, and opens paths to impossible futures.

Of course, in real life, we all know of instances where it didn't work.

But we also know of many cases where "miracles happen."

A novel can start with a "co-incidence" but the conflict must not be resolved with a co-incidence.  That is called Deus Ex Machina.  Just SAYING that something unexpected (not foreshadowed and not logically impelled) happened and it just accidentally resolved the conflict will not give the reader the feeling of completion at the end of the novel.

You want your reader to feel the relief at the conflict being resolved, to look into the future of these Characters and "see" their happily ever after.

So you can't just have a Bully Character suddenly "see the light" and say, "I do."

The reader will "see" a future of an abusive marriage.

To pull off the "Bad Boy" transition into worthwhile keeper Husband, you have to delve into the psychology of "bad boys."  The Bully is one of the Bad Boy Archetypes (there are others).

The classic cure for Bullying is to punch the bully in the nose - a remedy I have seen work very well indeed.

Bullies are very often intrinsically cowards.

Traditionally, society "cured" (or suppressed) the Bully Behavior by other strong individuals repeating insistently, "Go pick on someone your own size."

That saying meant put yourself in danger of receiving the treatment you are dispensing.

The huge percentage of bullies who are in fact cowards quickly learned to avoid bullying behavior.  The rest went right on misbehaving.

Social rejection is often more feared than a punch in the nose.

Worse yet, is being rejected by potential sex partners.  Thus it takes a Woman Warrior to "tame" a Bully, and not always with physical resistance, but with Character Strength.  It is often noted how men change when they marry -- and later have a child.  Testosterone levels famously become lower, and men become more sensible once testosterone has achieved the objective it exists for, to procreate.

So if you are writing a futuristic Romance, create the society (worldbuilding) either for or against Bullying, depending on your theme.

Societies will be "for bullying" if they value (oddly) non-violence.  If violent behavior is out of bounds all the time, and for any reason, then all the non-violent people will be very non-violent, and thus marks for the bullies.  Good people will not fight back.

Societies will be anti-bullying if they value Disciplined Violence -- an application of force where and when necessary, and nowhere else.  In other words, where children are raised to be physically and mentally strong, self-willed, indomitable, and drilled to apply "good judgement" about when to use that strength (and when not to.)

Learning "where and when" a use of force is "necessary" can be the lessons in Love that come to the Bully from a Soul Mate.

Usually, (among humans), Bullies acquire an older man (or woman) mentor, parental figure, or role model teacher, who disciplines the Bully while getting at the source of the need to hurt others and bend them to the Bully's will.

Setting two such Societies (the pro-bully vs anti-bully civilizations) against each other can be the foundation for a long series of long novels.

Here are a couple of entries on "What's Eating Him" and "What's Eating Her."

And don't forget, The Hero Vs. The Bully

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Polite and Witty Take-Downs

"Stop Using Our Trademark... please... pretty please," writes ENSafrica  Legal blogger, Gaelyn Scott.

This highly readable blog tells the story of three courteous, witty and charming Cease and Desist notices that resulted in good publicity for the enforcers, and no apparent hard feelings from the recipients of the notices.  There are also at least four examples of heavy-handed approaches that backfired. So.... something for everyone.

Jeffrey S. Edelstein, legal blogger for Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP taps for inspiration the medieval-royal-banquet inspired advertisement for a certain brew. It is a charming story of a well received, themed takedown.

"Dilly" by the way, is also a nickname for a stage-coach. Before trains and coaches, there was a very fast stage-coach service, known as the Diligence. I have this on the authority of "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable."

Yes, there really is a "Brewer's Dictionary." It was recommended to me by one of my English Professors at Cambridge, whose surname was Brewer.

"Dilly Dilly" is a refrain in the old English song, "Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, Lavender's green..." which was made popular by Burl Ives.  I have a vague recollection that the "lavender is blue/lavender is green" may have stemmed (pun!) from the different perspectives of lavender enjoyed by a butterfly and by a caterpillar.  The plant looks one color from below, and another from above.

Apparently, Disney appropriated "Lavender's blue, dilly dilly..." for a Cinderella cartoon movie.

Online, which girl's name is abbreviated to "Dilly",  I would have thought "Delilah", but offers Dilys, Dilwen, Daffodil, and then there is the masculine Dilliver, and possibly Dillon.

Other meanings of "dilly" can be found here:

Sometimes, I am baffled that the Trademark authorities award trademarks for words and phrases that have been in common (or even in arcane) use for decades.

Ending on a sour note, this author was disappointed to see a regular guest on a Fox News program on Saturday speak approvingly of Britain's London School of Economics (as I recall), which I understood her to claim provided subsidized photocopying services to allow students to photocopy textbooks instead of purchasing or renting them. Photocopying textbooks may well be copyright infringement if one copies subtantially. It is not "fair dealing", under UK law, if the copying of the work is a substitute for the purchase of the work and affects sales of the work.

One guide for educators in the USA.
A guide for educators in the UK

One should be wary how one uses a photocopier!
For our European readers,Advocate  Elaine Gray of AO Hall in Guernsey offers comprehensive and timeless advice from 2010 about copyright.

Authors, have you audited your websites and social media pages recently? If you host images or music that was created by someone other than yourself, are your licenses and rights up to date? Are you sure?

Wishing everyone a healthy, prosperous, and happy New Year!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year's Goals

In January, I prefer to set "goals" (modest, achievable ones) rather than "resolutions." The latter word sounds more intimidating (and yet fragile). Assuming the annual "Sword and Sorceress" anthology appears again in 2018, I plan to submit a story to it, as usual. Also, my husband and I will work together to come up with a submission for the next Darkover anthology. We had collaborative works in the 2016 and 2017 volumes but didn't make it into the one forthcoming in May 2018, so there's a challenge for us.

Writers Exchange E-Publishing is gradually re-releasing my former Amber Quill books. (By my count, there are eight more to go.) I've written a next-generation sequel to one of those, which I'll submit to Writers Exchange sometime soon. Since they don't publish erotic romance, one of my 2018 goals will be to compile e-books of my erotic romances from my other defunct publisher, Ellora's Cave, toning them down a little from heavily graphic to steamy. I've already released two self-published Kindle steamy romance books. ARDENT BLOOD (originally published by Amber Quill) comprises three novellas, featuring werewolves, vampires, and a lonely undine:

Ardent Blood

DEMON'S FALL (originally included in a multi-author Ellora's Cave anthology) stars a fallen angel who defies his infernal lords to save a woman he's been assigned to tempt. I think of it as inspirational erotic paranormal romance, if such a genre crossing can exist:

Demon's Fall

My next steamy romance bundle will probably contain my three related vampire novellas from Ellora's Cave, because it's important to me to have all my "Vanishing Breed" vampire tales available for purchase. I've combined two linked stories in that universe from the fanzine GOOD GUYS WEAR FANGS 4 into a short e-book, VAMPIRE'S TRIBUTE:

Vampire's Tribute

I'm also putting together a collection of stories my husband and I had in the discontinued fantasy webzine SORCEROUS SIGNALS.

Other than short stories for submission to the "Sword and Sorceress" and Darkover anthologies, I don't have any new works planned for the near future. I do have a light paranormal romance novella out on submission and hope to find a home for it in the coming year. What are your writing goals for 2018?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Finding The Story Opening, Part 3, Should A Pro Write Fanfic? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Finding The Story Opening
Part 3
Should A Pro Write Fanfic? 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in Finding The Story Opening:

The week before last, we looked at 3 novels, two widely published hardcovers from major Houses about International Intrigue, and one widely popular Fanfic novel about Interstellar Intrigue.  One of the hardcovers had a ten year old girl in it, and the fanfic has a 10 year old boy in it.

I expect by now you've read all 3 and done your contrast compare study.

I assume most reading this blog are either Romance genre readers or Science Fiction genre Readers -- and some of the readers are writers.

Last week, the author of the (hugely) popular Fan Novel, The Ambassador's Son, about Sahaj, Spock's son who turns up in Spock's life for the first time when he is 10 years old, presented us with a
very brief summary of what she learned subsequent to blasting out the first Sahaj story and flinging it into publication in one of the early Star Trek (ToS) fanzines - a 'zine she founded.

Her summary of the learning curve, and final summary of what she had to internalize to produce the gorgeously polished current versions of these stories (and with stories in her universe written by others, some of the most brilliant writers in ST fanfic), brought into focus many of the topics we have discussed here, and examined in minute detail.

I recently saw some news interviews and items on Venture Capitalists looking for products to invest in.  Just like film producers, they are interested only in items that can be summarized IN ONE SENTENCE (or maybe two short ones).

The "pitch" has to be so short you can write it on a paper napkin, or the back of a business card.  An "elevator pitch" -- you can say while the doors open.

Those brief words must be the concept, and it must "haunt" the person you pitch to, and do that in such a way that they know where to find you to get more.  In other words, your Identity must be wrapped into that concept, without actually including name, address, phone number, Twitter handle etc.

Pitching is the secret.

It is the core of the dreaded "Query Letter."

Most beginning writers have an Idea and plunge right into WRITING, just too excited by their own interest in the Idea to stop and wonder why that Idea grabs them so.

That is what Leslye did with her first plunge into telling Sahaj's story.

And that, actually, is the core secret to writing vastly popular fanfic like Sahaj.

Story Telling is a craft, and all "craft" is boring to learn, just like beginning piano lessons and the incumbent practice sessions.  Parents have to tie their kids to the piano bench.  But ten years later, the college student is the toast of the dorm playing while friends dance in the hallways.

At that point, the musician is having fun, making the instrument talk for him, creating joy to gift to others, making memories and not thinking where to put fingers to make this or that sound.  The years of practice create brain synapses that allow the adult to think the song, and it comes out into the air with no awareness of what the fingers did to achieve that.

Telling stories is the same way.  At first it is laborious, boring, depressingly difficult, and you have to think about each move, force yourself to follow the metronome and hit the notes to the beat of the measure.

Yes, fiction has a beat, called pacing.  Each genre has a rhythem, a "key signature" and "time signature."  Each type of story, or novel, has a structure, like a poem.  But each story set to that music is unique.

Sahaj was one of the first "Spock Has A Child" stories.  And perhaps the first to rub his nose in it, and make him raise that child.

In other words, Leslye Lilker made a name for herself telling stories to a very specific readership segment -- the fanzine reading Star Trek-Spock fans who understood "life" is more than "adventure" and Romance running around the galaxy and writing scientific papers.

That segment of the TV audience that knew how incomplete the Galactic Hero's Adventure is without the "raise your children to be Heroes, too" part of the story read Sahaj and went on to produce many variations.

And that movement dragged many other Movies, TV shows and text-based-books into the question, "What happens AFTER the adventure?"

What happens after the Romance?

Lesley Lilker is working on how the Romance happens after the adventure, and plans to tell us some of those stories.

This is a clue about how to structure stories for our new genre, Science Fiction Romance - or Paranormal Romance - or a mixture of the two, Alien Djinn Romance.

So there are two problems all writers, beginning writers, selling writers, big name writers -- all writers -- have.  Finding the Target Audience and crafting a Narrative Hook, an Opening Scene, that will rivet that audience's attention.

After you get their attention, of course you must deliver the goods, with style and substance and satisfaction.  But no matter how satisfying your story, it will not deliver satisfaction if it doesn't first grab attention.

And you can't be polite about it.

You must "grab" attention -- yes verbal violence writ large.  You won't get it by requesting attention, or politely pinging a silver knife on a crystal glass.

Grab the attention of those (always very few) readers starving for this particular story you know and they don't.

Your opening lines and opening scene are your elevator pitch, the whole series in ONE SENTENCE.

The real implications of the payload you are about to deliver may be hidden, wrapped in symbolism and iconography as we've discussed, but all of it, including the inevitable END, and the very inevitability of that END, must be wrapped into that opening.

From then on, you unfold that package, like decompressing a program you've downloaded, then installing it in the reader's mind, then customizing it, then running that program.

Writing a story is the opposite of reading a story.

Note how Leslye Lilker's post last week starts with the oft repeated fact that everyone is a story teller.  When you answer a friend's question, "How have you been doing, lately?" you are "telling a story."  First you live the story, then you edit it down, select specific facts and couch them in specific words chosen specifically for the individual person you are speaking to.

But, though you may say only true things, you are weaving a fictional story from the facts of your life.  First you lived, step by step, through the last few weeks, then you met your friend again, and EDITED OUT (deleted) what you thought would seem irrelevant or TMI to this person.  Then you embroidered the high points and displayed them in a "light" (oh, pretty good lately -- or oh, it has been so hard).

In other words, you added in the emotional textures of your own point of view to convey to your friend the reality of your life (or to conceal it by saying things were fine when they actually weren't).  Very often, when we summarize our life experiences for a friend (or enemy) we select what to tell and what to withhold based on what we want that person to FEEL - about us, about themselves, about the world.

This is fanfic.  This is sharing a viewpoint, and as fanfic often does, "fixing" what seems to need fixing.

Everyone does this - some better than others, but everyone does it, and everyone puts effort into learning how to do it from the teens onwards.

You are a "fan" of your own life.  You are a geek who knows more details than anyone else wants or needs to know.  EDIT.

OK, since you know how to talk to friends (and enemies, bosses, co-workers, etc), why should you write fanfic of a TV show?  Why not just leap directly into professionally selling fiction, pitching at the biggest publishing houses?

Well, some people do seem to do that successfully (usually there's more to their story, but yes, the direct leap has been done successfully.)

But most people need those years of boring practice at the keyboard that produces a piano player you can dance to.

You can edit your life because you know all the details.  You can edit your life FOR a particular person or group because you know those people.  So you know the process.  You can play chopsticks.  But can you play Chopin?  At Carnegie Hall, filled with piano virtuosos, and those who believe they are virtuosos?

That "wider audience" target is the tricky part.  You can edit your universe for those you know, personally -- and you can leverage that skill to where you can edit your Imaginary Universe for an Imaginary Audience, but producing polished prose for such a large, Imaginary Audience takes practice.

To sell to those larger Publishing Houses takes practice.  Such publishers are not interested in the one-time-wonder who is presenting "my book" -- as if there is one and only one in a whole lifetime.  Such publishing houses need authors who are productive -- who know what they are doing and can produce to deadline.

In other words, those publishing houses are looking for writers (not authors) -- writers who are ready to "take the show on the road" and produce large numbers of copies of a particular performance at the scheduled time and in the scheduled place.  Like a road show.

You may adopt a number of bylines, one for each genre you write in, but each byline must be associated with a uniform product produced efficiently (not labored over).  Writing is not hard.  Learning to write is very hard.

How do you know when you're ready for Prime Time?  When you are ready to reach wide audiences because you understand how to edit your Imaginary Universe to "grab" the largest number of people who have a single trait in common, and little else?

You know you are ready for Prime Time when you can find "The Story Opening" to ANY STORY -- yours, someone else's, or just make one up and recognize it as an opening.  "Oh!  That is a springboard into a story."

How do you get to where you can create story openings that hook specific, but very large, audiences?

You work in universes that hook very large audiences.  That is, you read, write, and discuss, analyze (beta read) fanfic in a universe that has an audience that you want your fiction to reach.

You either pick an existing TV or movie fanfic base to join, or you create one by self-publishing.  Self-publishing works best if your byline is already known to an existing fan base, but studies have shown that fanfic readers don't easily follow their favorite fanfic writers into prof fic.

One beginning professional writer who learned a lot from this Tuesday blog series, took my advice and absorbed and studied the SAVE THE CAT! series by Blake Snyder, whose books explain the structure of Blockbuster Movies.

Note this series is mentioned in Part 1 of Finding The Story Opening.

Recently, after years of studying SAVE THE CAT! and writing to the "beat sheet" revealed in those books, she Tweeted me:

Kimber Li @KimberLiAuthor

I can't watch a t.v. show now without seeing something I need to fix, like the structure fell apart in the second act. @JLichtenberg

Well, that's how you know you've made the leap over the vast divide between reader and writer.  You can't not-edit, can't not-see flaws.

Sometimes millions spent on advertising can push a product to the top sales rank, despite flaws.  But it costs less to push a product with fewer flaws.  However, no product is worth pushing at all unless it is delivered on time.

Kimber Li also asked, some months ago, about writing fanfic, especially after having begun to sell.

It used to be that if a Major Publishing House discovered you wrote fanfic, they would never buy from you.

As you have noted, if you've been reading this blog a while, I was a professional writer before I began placing Star Trek fanfic stories in the ST:ToS 'zines - my Kraith series.

At the time, all the members of SFWA I knew advised me not to use the same byline on fanfic as on profic - such as my Sime~Gen Series

But I did it, anyway.  Now the world has changed, and a number of writers are widely known for both prof and fan fic.  Writing fanfic is not a stigma anymore.

The reputation of "geeks" "nerds" and fen has changed.  Maybe STAR TREK LIVES! had something to do with that.

Now ponder what Leslye Lilker wrote last week, about theme.

If you can't state your theme in one sentence, you will not have an anchor onto which to hook other elements.  In other words, theme is the glue that holds the story together.

Theme provides the title, and IS the hook for your audience.  It is the story in one sentence - it is the version you can write on a napkin or business card.

The same Imaginary Universe you have created (from scratch or from some Movie or TV Series) can produce Characters, Situations, Settings and THEMES for any audience.  You edit your whole Imaginary Universe to extract the particular details that will intrigue your intended audience, and leave out the rest.

Can't emphasize that enough -- Art is as much about empty white-space as it is about the words.  Music is not music without "rests" -- the little pauses between beats.  What you leave out depends on your audience.

"Steamy" Romance gives every detail in a sex scene.  "Adventure Romance" just "goes to black" and hard-cuts from first caress to the shocking awakening in the morning when the bad guys attack.

How do you know what to write and what to leave out?  By knowing your audience.

Like Kimber Li noted, if you study Film (via SAVE THE CAT!) then go to movies, you will see things you never saw before.  Those who can't see those things will still enjoy the film.  So study the audience.  Instead of watching the film, watch the people respond -- listen to the breathing, (and watch for secret-cell-phone texting because they're bored).

Those people may be your intended audience, people to buy your books in the genre of that film.

Find something like that - a film, TV Series, Netflix Original, Google to see if there are published stats about the size of the audience, pick a film or series that leaves you bursting with IDEAS - write fanfic for that audience, showing them how you would fix the flaws you see (that they don't) and how much more enjoyable the story would be if the flaws were fixed.

That's what Sahaj does for ST:ToS fen -- note that years later, they provided Kirk with a son, and Spock with a sister (they did read Kraith, you know).

The lack of family, of ancestors and descendants, of cousins and wives, was seen by that particular audience as a FLAW.

It was not considered a flaw by Hollywood-circa-1966.

Science Fiction was thought to be a genre that only teenage boys would enjoy, so it had to be devoid of complex emotional webs creating tight-knit family structures.  It had to be full of danger, fast movement, and the specialness created by being THE FIRST to ever see or discover something.

Hollywood had no idea that Science Fiction was always and would always be the Literature Of Adult Women, and that the lack of Romance would be considered a flaw not a feature.

Hollywood has learned, since then.

But as I have pointed out, Romance readers and fans are among the best educated people and have stringent requirements for their fiction, just as science fiction readers do.

How does a writer meet such requirements?

Practice.  Boring hours of practice.

If you study how to teach piano, you will find that there is a method that gets you to effective and efficient practice.  The method is to just play-through your mistakes -- don't stop when you miss a key, but rather just keep the beat and pick it up.  Then repeat the whole piece or at least a section as a single whole.

That method is akin to learning writing by writing fanfic.

Pick a fandom that contains the readers you want to buy your books.

Pick a skill to practice.

Now ask yourself why you like this fictional universe?  A portion of the fans of this universe will like it for the same reason you do - most have other reasons.

The people who like it for the same reason you do are your Readership.

Show don't tell them why you like this universe - and that is your theme.

A professional writer is not wasting time or creativity writing fanfic if the fic being written practices the skills that still come awkwardly.

I was not proficient at Theme-Everything-Integration -- all the various series of Integration posts I've done here to explain what I've learned -- when I wrote the first Kraith story.

Here is the opening I concocted way back then.

----------quote SPOCK'S AFFIRMATION----------

The Admiral's office was quiet, efficient and so neat it resembled an unoccupied hotel suite. Admiral Pesin sat with both hands on his desk calmly reviewing the curious orders he was about to issue. In the guest-chair to the Admiral's left, sat a Schillian security officer. The Schillian looked rather like a man-proportioned toad, or perhaps lizard. The Star Fleet uniform pants and tunic only emphasized his differences.

          Presently, a transporter beam built two figures in front of the desk. Captain James T. Kirk and his First Officer, Commander Spock, of the USS Enterprise, presented themselves with proper formality and then Admiral Pesin introduced the Schillian as Lieutenant Commander Ssarsun of Star Fleet Security.

          "Gentlemen," Pesin said, "be seated."

          He looked from Ssarsun to Kirk and finally to Spock where his gaze became unreadable. After a long thirty seconds, he said, "Commander Spock."

          "Yes, sir."

          "It is . . . with regret I must inform you that Sarek is still missing, and the Vulcan authorities insist that, though there is still hope, your father must be declared legally dead."

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

But somehow, mysteriously, I did manage to get most of the required elements into the first few paragraphs.

A) The best thing about Trek was ALIENS
B) The Most-Best thing about Trek was TELEPATHIC ALIENS
C) The missing element about Trek was Vulcan, and Family

Spock is being called upon to step up into his father's sho
es.  But it is complicated.

That opening hooked legions of fanfic readers when it appeared in T-Negative, and as with Leslye Lilker's mailbox, my mailbox burst with Letters (typed on paper, sent in an envelope with a stamp) explaining A) why this is a great story and I love it, and B) why this is a terrible story and just plain all wrong, or C) how to fix it.

"How to fix it" is fanfic.

And fans of Kraith wrote a lot of fanfic in the Kraith universe.

I used what I learned to craft the opening of House of Zeor, which was the first novel in the Sime~Gen Series, and fans have written a lot of Sime~Gen fanfic, most of which is professional quality writing, and is now being published in the Sime~Gen Universe by a professional publisher.

So fanfic breeds fanfic.

If you want to create a Classic, a series that other writers will be inspired to adopt and write in, then writing fanfic is the best way to learn how it is done.

The fans of the Intellectual Property that turns you on will be able to tell you what you do right -- and wrong -- in creating in "their" universe.

You may not learn writing, but you will become proficient at executing the craft.  It is practice, and only practice (with feedback just like the piano teacher correcting the angle of your wrists, and the straightness of your back) performing before an audience (a recital) can bring your craft skills to concert pitch.

Once you have found how to captivate an audience and inspire them to their own Art, you will be ready to take your show on the road.

One sign you've made that transition from passive consumer to active producer of fiction will be, as Kimber Li noted, that you can't not-see the errors that others make.

We used to use a blue-pencil to mark up books as we read -- today, on Kindle, you just highlight and sometimes make a note.  No writer can resist editing someone else's work.

The most compelling fiction to "edit" like that is fiction that somehow strays from the THEME showcased in the opening.

The story opening is the theme.  Any detail or scene or character that strays from that theme will be seen as an error to be fixed.  Readers may be aware of the "error" and lose interest because they don't understand the story, but writers will just wade in and fix the "error" -- recast the Character, rewrite the dialogue, imagine missing scenes.

Find the story opening by asking yourself why you want to write this story.  The answer to that question will be the reason readers want to read the story.  And it will be your one-sentence pitch to an editor who wants to publish the story - because the readers of that imprint like that kind of story.

You get to Carnegie Hall by practicing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Coal In My Stockings (Merry Christmas)

This will be short and sobering.

Santa sprinkes coal dust: we learn that there has been another data breach, this time involving Amazon Web Services, Experian, Alteryx and a mysterious unnamed Other.

Thank-yous to T. Fox-Brewster of Forbes for the insights.

Amazon Web Services owned the leaky "bucket" that was left "open" for anyone to view.  Apparently, 248 different data files were available for each of 120,000,000 American households, including information on hobbies, and interests.  How does a credit rating agency know about ones hobbies? What does ones passion for armchair bird-watching have to do with whether or not one is a good credit risk?

Why do we accept "targeted advertising" as a good thing?  Is it really a good thing that the social media sites and aggregators are able to collect and sell every intimate detail that can be extracted, teased, coerced, and inferred about us all?

Have you ever worried about the three "secret" questions and answers that banks and other sites require you to answer? One would almost have to subscribe to to know the right answers to some of the questions. And, if the bank account customer has to go there to find out the name of their oldest maiden great aunt's illegitimate first born (not really), why shouldn't a crook do the same?

Authors are particularly at risk. As public figures, more of their/our information is publicly available than usual. Think about copyright registration, website registration, domain name registration, ISBN registration, announcements in Publishers Weekly or Publishers Lunch, entries on Romance Wiki....  for starters.

Perhaps, for that last minute Christmas present, our readers should consider purchasing a $30 credit freeze on TransUnion, also on Equifax, and also on Experian. Also, a Lifelock subscription. Also a privacy protection service if the local bank offers one. Just, don't give any of them all of your credit card numbers.

On the copyright front, the USPTO has announced Thursday January 25th 2018 as the date for the second Public Meeting on "Developing The Digital Marketplace For Copyrighted Works".

To register, and for more information:

There is talk of databases, and facilitating licensing, and tracking ownership, and improving the ways customers access and use photos, films, music, text.  It sounds like cookies to me. More Silicon Valley middlemen angling to take a cut of creators' creative works.

On that uplifting note....  Happy Christmas!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holiday Entertainment Recommendations

Any Lovecraft fans here? If so, you really want to hear the Cthulhu Mythos Christmas albums, A VERY SCARY SOLSTICE and AN EVEN SCARIER SOLSTICE. They contain Lovecraftian filks to the tunes of classic carols and popular holiday songs. My favorite selections are "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen," "Away in a Madhouse," "Harley Got Devoured by the Undead," and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth." Songbooks are available, too. The producers, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, also offer other goodies such as audio dramas and vintage-style films:

H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society

Thanks to the wonders of home video, I can watch my favorite Christmas movies at will, unlike in my childhood when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and we could catch old films only if they happened to be rerun on television. I'm an avid fan of A CHRISTMAS CAROL in its many variations. My top favorite film adaptations are the Patrick Stewart and George C. Scott versions. The Mr. Magoo cartoon is surprisingly good, within the limits of its short length, and it includes some lovely songs. The Disney animated rendition in which Mickey Mouse plays Bob Cratchit unwisely fails to incorporate much of the dialogue from the original, but it's fun to watch anyway just to see Uncle Scrooge in the role he was named for. The excellent AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Henry Winkler (yes, the Fonz), isn't a straight retelling but, rather, a re-imagining set in small-town America in the early twentieth century. In the "better than you'd expect" category is a made-for-TV movie I've watched many times, A DIVA'S CHRISTMAS CAROL; a black, female singing star plays the Scrooge role. That one clearly takes place in an alternate world where Dickens' novel doesn't exist, because nobody bats an eye at a rich woman called Ebony whose manager is Bob Cratchit, with a terminally ill son named Tim. One classic I watch every December is LADY AND THE TRAMP. Although not labeled a Christmas movie, it starts and ends at that time of year.

Then there are the holiday episodes of TV series. In the MASH Christmas episode I like best, children from a Korean orphanage share Christmas dinner with the MASH crew. Because their supplies for the feast didn't make it to them, the men and women pool their personal goodies to make a treat for the kids. The cool, upper-class, acerbic Major Charles Winchester contributes only a small can of smoked oysters, although everybody knows he received a mysterious package from home. It turns out that the package contains expensive specialty chocolates that he donates anonymously to the orphanage, in accordance with his family's tradition. The second plot line involves the senior doctors struggling to prolong the life of a fatally wounded soldier past midnight so his children won't have to think of Christmas as the day their father died. Of the numerous TOUCHED BY AN ANGELS Christmas episodes, my favorite is the one in which Monica reminisces about her encounter with Mark Twain on the Christmas when his daughter had just died (the latest of several grievous losses he'd suffered). One thing I like about this program is that, unlike some of the episodes, it doesn't present the mere apparition of an angel as enough to comfort or convert the human character. Twain's initial reaction to meeting Monica is essentially, "All right, God exists, and I still don't want anything to do with Him." Another element I especially like is that the episode features one of my favorite carols, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," which we don't seem to hear so much nowadays. An outstanding animated program, especially if you have kids to watch it with, is ARTHUR'S PERFECT CHRISTMAS. The title character has an ideal image of how the holiday season should unfold; of course, everything goes wrong but turns out right in the end. The show also touches on Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the possibility of inventing one's own holiday traditions as an alternative to the hype and stress. As for stand-alone Christmas specials, I have a particular fondness for "Shrek the Halls," in which the grumpy ogre, who's never celebrated anything before, tries to create the perfect holiday for Fiona and the babies by following the instructions in CHRISTMAS FOR VILLAGE IDIOTS. Very funny even (or maybe especially) for adults!

Books: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, of course. And I love THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, by Barbara Robinson. It's narrated by an elementary-school-aged girl whose mother gets reluctantly stuck with the church Nativity play. The town hooligans, the Herdman children, swoop in and take over the pageant, with results that are deeply moving yet not sappily sentimental. There's a film based on the novel, with a screenplay written by the author herself. Connie Willis's holiday stories, lavishly showcasing her incisive wit, are indispensable for SF and fantasy fans. She has recently released A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS, an expansion of her earlier Christmas story collection. My favorite pieces are two novellas that weren't in the old edition. Thousands of radio re-playings of multiple covers of "White Christmas," augmented by the stubborn insistence of a prototypical Bridezilla that she MUST have snow for her Christmas Eve wedding, spawn a worldwide blizzard in "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know." Snow even falls in locations that have never seen it before in recorded history. You can read this work online:

Just Like the Ones We Used to Know

You really should get the book, though. My other favorite novella in it, "All Seated on the Ground," features the narrator's experience on a committee tasked with a first contact project. The alien visitors don't behave hostilely, but they don't speak or otherwise give any indication of their purpose in coming to Earth. Until they're taken to a mall, where they hear Christmas carols—and respond to the line "All seated on the ground" by suiting their actions to the words. Only the narrator, with the help of a high-school chorus director, notices this reaction and manages to decipher its meaning. Hilarious, but as in all Willis's work, the humor arises from character and situation, not one-liners. A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS includes an introduction by the author plus an afterword listing her personal holiday movie recommendations.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt