Sunday, March 31, 2013

E-books and the abuse of return policies

Happy Easter.

Now, back to business.

Apparently, authors are reporting a serious increase in e-book returns on Amazon, and also that readers are boasting in forums and on groups about buying e-books, reading them, and then returning them for a full refund.

Authors who do business on Amazon are already very generous with their low prices, willingness to post sample chapters, give-aways of free e-books, and consent to lending and account-sharing.

Please consider signing the petition and/or leaving a comment with your suggestions for a more fair policy, and encourage friends, family and colleagues to share the petition.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts occurred last week in Orlando. Neil Gaiman was the guest of honor, Kij Johnson (author of FOX WOMAN) was the author guest, and Constance Penley, who writes on popular culture, science, and feminist issues, was guest scholar. I read a paper on Robert Louis Stevenson’s horror story “Thrawn Janet.” Also, I appeared on a panel about Redefining the Undead, which of course spent a lot of time on zombies but also considered the between-life-and-death status of many other beings, including some entities and issues that are already a reality in today’s world, such as people whose hearts have stopped and “returned to life.” And what about patients who receive organs from dead donors? Speaking of zombies, they popped up frequently throughout the conference. There was even a session on undead romance in YA fiction.

Some highlights: Neil Gaiman gave a luncheon speech on genre. He proposed an interesting test to determine the genre of a work of fiction: Does the plot exist to take the reader through a series of set-pieces without which readers would feel cheated of what they expect from that kind of story? If so, those set-pieces determine what genre the story belongs to. Later in the weekend Gaiman read from a forthcoming novel, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. Constance Penley’s luncheon speech described a project she participated in under the auspices of MOCA (the Museum of Creative Arts), a collaborative artist-student-fan contribution to the TV series MELROSE PLACE. The team created a secondary character and crafted subplot story lines for their character. Penley is the author of NASA/TREK, an analysis of NASA as a popular culture entity juxtaposed against STAR TREK fandom, with particular emphasis on slash fiction; it’s amazing to see how she draws all those threads together. She has also written on feminist pornography. I’ve ordered a book on that subject edited by her. Judging from the lively text of NASA/TREK, it should be fascinating, although I wish she wouldn’t use the derogatory term “porn” indiscriminately for all sexually explicit fiction.

Another highlight for me was a panel on comics, which discussed fiction and poetry about superheroes but also, which I found more interesting, the crossover process from novels and TV series to graphic novels based on them and how those spinoff products are marketed.

The food at the two luncheons and the awards banquet was excellent this year. I was especially pleasantly surprised by a lunch with a curry theme, which struck me as pretty daring. I love Indian food, but the organizers couldn’t count on its being a hit with everyone. My plane was scheduled to leave at 3:05 on Sunday, already a later departure than I really liked. Then bad weather hit the Midwest, with a cascade effect that delayed all the Sunday afternoon Orlando flights. I ended up getting into our airport about 9 p.m., therefore not arriving home until near 10. While waiting for our plane’s departure, we experienced the excitement of watching, through the big airport windows, a violent wind and rain storm with tornado warning rage through Orlando. It passed quickly and didn’t seem to do any local damage, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

On the bright side, as usual I came home with lots of books, most of them free.

Margaret L Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Theme-Plot Integration - Part 7 - The Fallacy of Trust

First of all, Happy Passover, Easter, whatever!  It's SPRING!!!  This is the time all young men turn their fancy to love, right?  So let's talk about the mood of the season. 


All Romance situations revolve around TRUST because when swept off your feet by the discovery of true love, "romanced" into daring to love, the backlash of that dive off the cliff is DISTRUST.

The sweeping, sinking, falling-in-love feeling is a loss of "control" -- of yourself, your emotions, your life, your ability to make choices.

It seems in that moment that a major life-direction choice has been made for you, and there's nothing you can do about it -- THIS IS MY MAN (or WOMAN).  This one is MINE. 

But what if you can't, don't, won't, TRUST that person, or that decision, or even yourself to deliver to that treasured person what that person deserves because that person is a treasure to all humanity?

Discovering the true value of a PERSON -- another person other than yourself -- is one of those moments when Divine Force opens your inner eye and shows you the stakes you are playing for in this world. 

And that is an awesome experience.

The stakes of "falling in love" -- of recognizing a Soul Mate -- have nothing at all to do with yourself in that moment of recognition of the stakes.  The stakes you play the love-game FOR are the children -- and their children and their children, long after you're gone.  The stakes of love are eternal.

And if you make a mistake, you are responsible for the Souls yet to enter the world for their turn.

Oh, boy! 

That is why all "Falling In Love" is about FEAR -- and why Romance itself is a genre of exemplary courage on display.  It takes far more courage to LOVE than it does to murder someone or commit suicide.

In fact, it takes more courage to hug than to shoot a gun into a crowd or an army. 

That's why all Romance is about fear, the bigger internal fears we bury when we think we leave childhood behind. 

Puberty is a time of eruption of sexual adult hormones, a transition to what we call adulthood.

But sex alone doesn't create adults out of children.  In fact, it can stunt the development of the child into an adult.

When that happens, and later the pseudo-adult who encountered sex too early in life, at too immature an age of character, then the encounter with the Soul Mate and the "falling in love" experience of true Romance is fraught with eruptions of sheer terror, fear like nothing ever felt before - fear of failure as a person, fear of having children. 

If you can't trust yourself, you can't trust anyone else -- ever!

This is the stuff of true drama and and it is the core of the reason that ROMANCE -- as a genre -- deserves much more respect than it has ever (yet) garnered in the public square.

OK, then if TRUST is your core theme for your new novel -- what's the plot?  Where do you find a plot that has all the opportunities to explore the issues of TRUST buried in all current young adults?

And I really think that "all" current young adults (anyone under say maybe 30) are in this category of having been introduced to the adult world of sexuality too soon in their character-arc.  You can connect with this audience directly if you can understand all sides of this issue, and why these fears and trusts have to be revisited in the encounter with a Soul Mate.

Oh, yes, it's very possible that these fear/trust issues have been laid to rest in a prior incarnation and so, the pre-teen child is actually beyond them in this life, ready for adulthood at a very tender age.

And that individual makes a great character for a Romance novel - simply because they're "different" and have to wrestle with the fact that lot of their contemporaries (most likely the one they've fallen in love with) have not surmounted these issues. 

OK, so given a theme of TRUST -- what's the plot? 

If you can nail a theme and a plot before you even begin to think about characters who will live through that plot, you will very likely be able to produce saleable fiction on second draft.  The knack of writing fast, lean, easy-to-read stories is all about getting the structure right before you start drafting.

With that structure laid out, you can find characters who will advocate each side of the thematic issue you're tackling. 

You find the SIDES that you must illustrate with the backgrounds and current issues of your characters by reading non-fiction about the thematic substance you're working with.

One of the best, clearest argued, sources I've found for these kinds of "all sides of the issue presented without bias" is actually a religious source. 

In the case of FEAR/TRUST the issue roiling through America today is GUN CONTROL.

And here is a very cleanly structured, all sides of the problem laid out clearly with references, article on the position of Judaism on gun control.

Read that article -- you don't have to know anything about Judaism to see instantly that this is Romance Novel fodder. 

When you get to the end of the article, see if you have found my question nagging your mind.

It isn't what the article says that's important.  It's what it does not say, or ask, or question, or approach.  Look for the fallacy.  By now, you've trained yourself to find those fallacies everywhere, especially in news stories -- but look for it underneath this article.  Here it's harder to spot. 

Remember, this series of blog posts is about Theme-Plot INTEGRATION (i.e. doing both at once, putting your theme into your plot so you never ever have to articulate the dry, boring, repellant philosophy in a self-indulgent expository lump).  In fact your characters should not know diddly about philosophy, or care.  And your characters should never know the reader is there listening.  So they don't explain their philosophy to the reader in expository lumps disguised as dialogue. 

Philosophy creates emotions -- show don't tell the character's emotions and you have your theme and plot integrated cleanly and you have made your story a joy to read.

That is the secret I learned from the greatest writers who mentored me.


What you subconsciously believe causes you to feel.  What you consciously believe leaves you cold.

Fiction writing is all about your reader's subconscious beliefs.  Not the conscious ones.

And it is within the subconscious of your reader that you will find the neatest, and most powerful, fallacies you can use to generate plot.

Search that article for the FALLACIES you can use to discuss the hot-button issues of TRUST in love, war and marriage.

The author of this piece (and it may have had a number of authors other than the ones cited) harbored a fallacy shared with the intended audience.

Spot that fallacy and you've got a Romance Genre series -- or a blockbuster film rivaling the blockbuster novels/film series by Robert Ludlum THE BOURNE IDENTITY etc. 

Here's the fallacy I see in that article that just drips Romance Genre Plot. 

"What if the government is the one with "Evil Intent"?"  What if it's the government you can't trust? 

OK, a lot of people are running around the world today ranting and chanting about not trusting government. 

If you've read the book I've been discussing in this Theme-Plot series, You Can't Lie To Me, you know why we elect folks who are honest just like we are, and then those same folks turn dishonest without our noticing the transition.  When we notice it, we rant and chant about how untrustworthy they are. 

Has anyone noticed that those in charge of the USA's government today (and even of the UN) are the very ones who ran around ranting and chanting in the 1960's that they didn't trust the government? 

Is what you rant and chant against what you fear -- or what you love and then become? 

Is loving what you fear a sign of sanity?  Is becoming what you fear inevitable? 

The question that is not asked in the article is "What if...?" (an SF keyword question) "What if the government -- i.e. the majority -- is the source of Evil Intent?"  As I said, that is the one question the intended readership for this article would never, ever, consider asking. 

That's the kind of fallacy you can use to generate plot because it is so widespread. 

As this Theme-Plot Integration series has pointed out, the writer who can depict the reader's subconscious philosophy's contradictory beliefs commands the reader's attention.  If that subconscious belief is held by a large number of people and is fallacious, that writer gains a Robert Ludlum size audience.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Greetings from Florida

This week I'm at the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. What a delightful change from home, where daytime temperatures are in the 40s on the first day of "spring"!

Here's information about the event:


Neil Gaiman is a guest at this year's conference (wow!). I'll be on a panel about "Redefining the Undead." I'll report on the highlights next week.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Putting Violence In Its Place

What is Violence?

Really, just exactly what is violence?  Not what does the word mean, but what is the phenomenon of Violence?

Most fiction these days has some sex, some violence, and sometimes sexy violence, but for the most part Romance and Violence just don't mix.  Why?

What is it about Violence that is antithetical to the mood of Romance?

Well, then, what exactly is Romance? 

Or put another way, what does violence have in common with romance? 

Isn't that a heretical thought?

The first thing that comes to mind is of course domestic violence.

People who live in the same space (dare I say "together?") develop a close personal relationship where they learn how to "push each others buttons."  It's so easy to take out your anger at a workplace situation on your domestic co-residents.

I'm saying "co-residents" because I'm including in domestic violence all the kinds of violence that happen between domestic partners, significant others, part-time cohabitants, AND spouses and their children.  Parents spank children, or yell at them, intimidate etc.  Children "turn on" their parents in their teens and try to break free.

All these criss-crossing tension leads to verbal abuse, violence against women, violence against children (for just being childish), even domestic tensions carried into the workplace creating workplace violence. 

Now look at the pairs of kinds of people I've mentioned who get into violent exchanges.  It's the same list that LOVE EACH OTHER.

Children love parents.  Parents love children.  Men love women and vice versa.

People you work with, you bond with.  Someone comes along and starts bad-mouthing a person who has helped you through a rough patch at work -- you will intervene if you've got a spine and any sense of morality.  You bond with people in all kinds of situations. 

The tighter the bond, the more energy is released when the bond breaks. 

That released energy CAN (shouldn't, but can) express itself as violence.

Romance creates bonds, but violence doesn't break such an annealed bond.

Violence can't break a romance -- but violence is one possible way the energy bound up in a romantic bond CAN come flowing out when that bond breaks.

Maybe we should look at Romance as stored energy.  If so, violence is released energy.

But even if that's true -- or true in special cases -- there's another way to look at both the question, "What is violence?" and "What is Romance?" and find the same answer to each question.

What is violence?  It's a problem-solving activity - an attempt to FIX SOMETHING that isn't working right. 

What is Romance?  It's a problem-solving activity - an attempt to FIX SOMETHING that isn't working right. 

The "something" that is seen as "the problem" may actually be the same something!

In Violence applied to solve a problem, very often the problem is something of the form "LISTEN TO ME DAMMIT!"

Violence is often the attempt to get someone to do something -- or not do something,  or at least not do that something again.

In other words, violence is an attempt to communicate.

In Romance applied to solve a problem, very often the problem is something of the form "I HEAR YOU!" 

We fall in love when we resonate to another person's emotions, and feeling the reality of that other person's very existence makes us real to ourselves.  Romance, (dating, candle-lit dinners, walks on the beach at night) is an activity of communication.

Violence and Romance are both attempts to communicate something having to do with the fact that your life has been effected by the actions or reactions of another person.

Workplace Violence, and domestic violence too, are so very often attempts to get someone else to understand how you feel and why you are important in the overall scheme of things.

The PROBLEM violence is used to solve is the same problem Romance solves -- "I want you to understand what I mean when I tell you how I feel."

Very often, when the mentally deranged grab guns and shoot up a crowded public place, it is an attempt to shout loudly enough to be heard, "I MATTER! PAY ATTENTION!"

And isn't that the bottom line in Romance? 

But in Romance, the dialog takes place quietly, with an exchange of glances, a smile, an invitation out to lunch, a proffered cup of coffee, a dozen little favors chosen carefully after close study of the other person's preferences.  It's all about saying "You matter, and I'm paying attention."


Violence and Romance are both activities which attempt to solve a problem in communication. 

"All's Fair in Love And War." 

"The Battle of the Sexes."

Think about it.  It's all about communication.  And it's hard to make the case that what's being communicated is really so very different! 

If an incident of mass killing erupts into the News and becomes a focus of news coverage for days, that incident becomes an Overton Window -- a window of opportunity for people who want to "control things" to push public opinion in the direction that benefits the few rather than the many.

Pundits and Politicians call for a ban on assault weapons, or handguns, or whatever object was used to kill a lot of people, as if making it hard to obtain the means of communicating will make people stop wanting to communicate. 

Why do people grab a gun, a machete, or a rock and inflict damage on others?

Is it because nobody would listen to them?  Not usually.  It's more likely, I think, that the person who is yelling out their message does not FEEL that they've been heard.  They may have been heard, but if they don't feel it, it may as well not have happened. 

That's the key point for a Romance writer to grab hold of.  It's all about "What does he see in her?  What does she see in him?  What does he think she sees in him?  What does she think he sees in her?" 

Without closing the feedback loop, the problem can't be solved.

In life, we don't want to be heard -- we want to KNOW we've been heard.

So both Romance and Violence are actions undertaken to solve a problem.

Success at solving that problem gives us strength to go out and deal with "life" on many other levels.

That's why we read Romance, and write it.  We need to feel successful at solving a problem, so we can go solve another.

And that's why people play violent videogames.  Or read "Action" novels, or watch action TV or movies. 

The presence of violence on TV or in games doesn't cause people to go out and shoot up their workplace or a theater.  I'll bet one day they'll prove it's really the opposite -- that engaging in vicarious violence actually prevents violent behavior (in the sane).

But almost everyone I know has noticed the non-stop, wall to wall, violence in entertainment, becoming more graphic by the year, and can't see how that doesn't cause people to behave in a more callous or violent manner.

I don't think the presence of violence causes people to commit violence.

If it did, imagine how many perfectly HAPPY MARRIAGES we'd have among Romance readers!  If satisfying sex in fiction caused people to change their sexual behavior so that they, too, had nothing but satisfying sex -- well, there wouldn't be any sexually deprived people left in the world.

No, fiction doesn't CAUSE people to model their behavior after that of fictional characters. 

But who among us can't point to a work of fiction that affected them in their youth?

Many have pursued a career in science because of Star Trek.  Many have found the courage to take a chance -- go adventuring -- when inspired by heroic fiction.  Others have taken trips around the world and other adventures after reading about far away places with strange sounding names. 

These actions are taken after thoughtfully processing information garnered through both fiction and non-fiction.  These actions which originate perhaps in a bit of fiction found in early youth become implemented in life after pondering alternatives.

And there's the key concept - alternatives.

Consider what TV, film and videogames have become -- distilled and concentrated sex and violence, because sex and violence sells.

Ask yourself whether it's the presence of the fictional sex and violence that  causes customers to go out and become promiscuous or shoot up their colleagues at work.  Or if maybe it isn't the presence of violence, but the absence of any OTHER successful problem solving technique that leads some isolated individuals to believe there exists no other way to solve their problem.

Is our social problem the presence of violence or the absence of other successful problem solving techniques?

In real life, violence doesn't solve the problem of being misunderstood.  Romance doesn't, either -- in fact I'd say their success rate in real life is about equal. 

There are, however, a number of social-interactive techniques that are tried-and-true methods of solving this essential, core problem -- knowing you've been heard, taken seriously, taken into account, and in fact have prevailed at least sometimes.

We don't need less violence (or less Romance) in our fiction.  We need other alternative methods of solving the problem sprinkled into our fiction so we have choices to ponder.

You might want to read this older post that nails this question of communication on a more esoteric level:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Search engines dedicated to copyright infringement

Copyright infringement is hugely profitable for everyone except the authors of the content which is being infringed and monetized. For more information, please visit and

Unscrupulous opportunists take advantage of the ignorance of the masses to cite Google as their inspiration, presumably in the belief that, if Google does it, it must be legal.

Here are two enterprises that, in my opinion are dedicated to copyright infringement because they specialize in directing their Members and Users to where illegal downloads can be found. 

DISCLAIMER : EbookScam (not its real name).com is a search engine of ebooks on the Internet and does not upload or store any files on its server. We only index and link to content provided by other sites much like how Google works.

Note: FREEBIESCAMMER (not its real name) does not host any files to items listed. We simply index file links we have found on other websites on the web (similar way to how Google works!).

They are wrong, in my opinion, and should not be imitated or followed.

Google is a Search engine that locates all sorts of information. It does not discriminate. It is automated. It does not select which images, blurbs, and links to show, and it does remove infringing links in response to lawful notices from copyright infringers (although, those infringing links are still made available to all the world on a separate Google-sponsored site), and Google does list a DMCA link and a means to reach its copyright agent.

EbookScam (not its real name).com  and FREEBIESCAMMER (not its real name) do not, in my opinion, pass the smell test listed on the site because:

1. They are dedicated to helping freetards find places to download ebooks without paying for them. (In the case of the Freebiescammer, they also point freebie-seekers to movies, music, magazines and more in addition to ebooks.)

2. They post images of the ebooks' cover art, also reviews and blurbs even though they claim not to host or control the actual files. To that extent, they choose and control the content and actively "know" or could be reasonably assumed to know, what they are doing.

3. They do not post the name of a copyright agent. 

Both these so-called seach engines for ebooks make money from advertising, and from pay-per-click type monetization of traffic, and from donations..... Unfortunately, I cannot help but conclude that at least one of them is also an Amazon affiliate and may be paid by honest readers who use his links to visit a legal buy-the-book page.

Just to illustrate and comment on the irony of these "giveaways" for the purposes of education and --yes-- commentary, one of them is giving away an issue of the Economist. I will share the image (on the popular assumption that a thumbnail is public domain)


And the other, is giving away a book by a former colleague of mine, along with a review that seems to me to be the absolute epitome of irony.

 "The book is superb, Jana DeLeon is a huge talent and more people should know about her. Unfortunately, I can't recommend buying her book from here because the ex-publisher, Dorchester, no longer owns the rights to sell it and is now effectively stealing from the author."

 Showdown in Mudbug

It all goes to show, in the minds of these internet exploiters, two wrongs make it all right for them to rip off authors and content providers.

 By the way, EbookScam (not its real name).com  is asking Users to "Help others and Let the good reciprocate! Earn the respect of thousand of eReaders by submitting a verified download link to this ebook" which seems to me very much like a blatant solicitation of copyright infringement.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Celebrating E-Books

Last week was Read an E-Book Week. This week is the annual EPICon, put on the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. (I couldn’t make it there this year. Attending EPICon is hard for me because of the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, which starts Wednesday of the following week—two cons so close together are exhausting and expensive.):


It’s amazing how the world of e-publishing has changed since the publication of my first e-book, vampire novel DARK CHANGELING, in 1999 (which won an Eppie Award from EPIC in the first year the awards were established), and the first EPICon, in 2000. E-books have advanced from an exotic fringe technology few people outside the industry understood to something everybody has at least heard of, in large part thanks to Kindle and Nook. Authors now have a wide-open market for niche works and writings of awkwardly small or large word count. Their backlists never have to “go out of print.” Writers’ organizations are beginning to unbend and recognize that substituting high royalty rates and frequent payouts for advances and skimpy royalty rates is not evil but is a valid alternative business model that many authors prefer. I’m proud to have been an early adopter of e-publishing.

DARK CHANGELING stars Roger Darvell, a psychiatrist suffering from a dark thirst and a very strange midlife crisis. It can be found here on

Dark Changeling

Recently I have even ventured into the deeper waters of Kindle self-publication with the electronic release of DAYMARES FROM THE CRYPT, a little chapbook of supernatural verse I self-published on paper many years ago:

Daymares from the Crypt

When I left my day job in December, my co-workers surprised me with a cake based on that book cover. How cool was that?!

Daymares Cake

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Business Model of Writers In a changing World Part 2: Google+

This post is about the career (not at all atypical) of a powerful Science Fiction/Fantasy writer as it relates to the Business Cycle (one of those boring economics things we have to force ourselves to pay attention to.)

I know many such life stories (from many decades of publishing career-stories), but I want to share this one with you because this fellow's success was particularly well deserved -- yet the business cycle swamped him, too. 

Tobias S. Buckell on Amazon

There he is on Amazon. 

He hit the brick wall of 2008, and now he's BACK!!!  And he's using the tools I've been telling you about since 2007 -- Web 2.0, social networking, interactivity, and now crowd sourcing.  We live in a new world, and some writers will grab hold of it and leverage it to commercial success.

I found the link to his blog on Google+  -- a social network that's recently added Communities (as Facebook has Groups, and others have other ways to sub-set your connections.)

Here's the blog entry I found on Google+  is the fellow who posted the link on Google+ 

2008 is widely acknowledged as the time when the Housing Market crumbled, and the USA went into severe financial crisis right in the middle of a big Presidential Election.  Yeah, but it was all easily predictable by SF writers in 2006 and 2007 -- you didn't even need to follow financials to see it coming.  Book sales told the story, a "Leading Indicator" as they say. 

Here's a quote from Buckell's blog post:

My first science fiction novel debuted in 2006. Crystal Rain was flavored with a science fiction stew of Caribbean refugees fled to a lost world, steampunk, a dangerous dreadlocked cyborg in a trench coat, and an ancient evil pressing down on our heroes. The first of my Xenowealth novels, it was followed by Ragamuffin in 2007 (a Nebula nominee), and Sly Mongoose in 2008. I was in my mid to late twenties. I wanted to write more. I wanted to grab the dream I had since I was 14 (and indeed in 2008, after much hustling, most of my money was coming from fiction and I was pretty much living the life I’d been striving toward).

The books didn’t do too well in chain bookstores, each time getting a smaller order. As we know from real estate: location location location. So each book sold less in bookstores. It was quite dramatic with the step between Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin (where a small buy-in from Wal-Mart even buoyed first time reader numbers, but was not repeated for following books). And yet…

…readers of the series compensated for the loss of chain bookstore placement by switching to ordering online off Amazon. Independent stores were still really nice to me (special shout out to Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, which always was responsible for moving the highest number of copies). Library orders still remained okay. Sales didn’t increase, but they weren’t dying. In fact, Sly Mongoose slightly grew in hardcover (it just came out in paperback this year after a 3 year delay, so those numbers are still trickling in). Tor had agreed to buy two more books in the series, giving me my planned 5 book series.

But I am nothing if not a realist. In later 2008, when I met my editor after seeing that Sly Mongoose was barely carried in any bookstores we had an honest discussion about the chances the 4th Xenowealth book would have. It would probably get even less bookstore placement, being harder for readers to stumble on. Based on the core, awesome, dedicated readers I already have, we guessed that it would do okay. Just like Sly Mongoose it would get enough readers to offset the loss in bookstore readers, and indies would help. But overall, I wouldn’t be growing sales much. Just ticking up slightly.

Some have wondered if my publisher killed the series. No. It was a mutual decision hashed out over a business lunch, the topic raised by me. My editor and I thought, hey, let’s change direction. I started working on a novel called Arctic Rising.
-------------END QUOTE------------

Now right after the end of that quote, Buckell tells of how life dealt him blow after blow -- a typical Pluto Transit situation but I don't know his natal chart, good things (wife pregnant with twins) and bad things (he had health disaster) along with a career wipe-out he attributes to health. 

And for him, that's true -- he might have leapt across the economic chasm of 2008 because he's that good a writer, but he got floored by a massive health problem while the rest of the world shattered.

As he came out of that long, dark tunnel a year later, he investigated self-publishing on Kindle -- but that route is chancy at best and he had a family to support.

Meanwhile, Kickstarter began to attract enough attention that his friends were telling him about it.  And in 2011, he launched into a Kickstarter project.

Now, go read how he researched Kickstarter.  There are a lot of "crowd-sourcing" websites operating now.  It's a trend.  But research - ah, that doesn't change.  Learn to do it for one kind of thing, and you know how to do it for everything, with only a few quirks to learn for each application.

Now I'm not expecting you to want to use a crowd-sourcing website for your Romance novel. 

Crowdsourcing works best for you if you already have a following or an "in" with a connected market, or a ready-made crowd to use as a source. 

But things like Google+ Communities are making crowds which will become "sources" -- imagine the world that capital raised this way will create.

It will be a different world than we've lived in -- some of the problems created by Big Business raising capital on Wall Street will go away, but other problems will be generated that we have to imagine and write about in Science Fiction Romance.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Writing Schedules

At the 2012 Darkover con, I took part in a panel on “how to make yourself write.” In that session I publicly announced my intention to commit myself to a regular writing schedule once I quit my day job. Well, as of December I’m “retired” (if it’s possible, technically, to retire from a part-time job), and I’ve started collecting Social Security. So, having committed myself, I’ve begun implementing my plan. Some notes on how it’s working out:

A while back, it dawned on me that at a rate of 1000 words a day, an author would complete the draft of a novella in a month and a standard-length novel in three months. It takes me about two hours, sometimes less, to churn out 1000 words. Even I, methodical and often downright sluggish as a writer, can force myself to write for two hours in a day, given an available chunk of time that size. Following that schedule, over the span of mid-January through mid-February I did produce a novella to submit to one of my publishers for a March 1 deadline.

One thing I discovered is that, in practice, I won’t be writing for two hours, seven days a week. Two of the weekdays are a little crowded, so my output on those turns out to average closer to 500 words. Also, Sunday afternoons typically have to be set aside for this weekly blog, my monthly blog for the VampChix site, and working on my monthly author newsletter. So I can complete a 20,000-word novella in about a month, but probably not a 30-000-word one. A full-length book would take closer to four months than three; however, my typical novel is closer to category length. Given enough viable plot concepts I could get excited about, I could produce a novel and two novellas (or two or three short stories), or more than two novellas and short pieces, per year with plenty of time for revision. Plus occasional travel and the inevitable down time between projects.

One of the other panelists at that Darkover session asked whether I counted other kinds of writing-related activities in the daily two-hour commitment: Revision? Editing? Outlining? Promotional activities? The mechanics of submitting to publishers? I waffled on that answer because I hadn’t thought about it before.

I’ve decided rewriting, editing, and galley proofing definitely count as legitimate activities for the “writing” slot of the day. The part of the outlining stage that’s done on the computer counts. The preliminary handwritten phases (e.g., rough notes on characters and plot points), I think, get done at other times of the day or week. Promotional stuff doesn’t apply against the two hours because promotion isn’t writing (any more than grocery shopping and paying bills are housekeeping, even though some people who give advice on managing household chores count them as such). Neither is correspondence with editors.

In addition to scheduling definite times for writing and my writing-related commitments (blogs and newsletter), I’ve resolved to do at least one promotion-related thing per week. I belong to a couple of lists specifically set up for sending out excerpts and announcements, yet weeks or months go by when I don’t post anything. Without a commitment to motivate myself, I easily “forget” to take advantage of such opportunities.

How do you “make yourself write”? What kind of schedule, if any, do you follow? I’m always interested in other writers’ working processes. Maybe somebody knows “the secret”!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Happily Ever After Life Patterns Part 2: The Cheating Woman

Part One with this title was posted in 2007,

We've examined the practicalities and plausibilities of the HAPPILY EVER AFTER ending, the HEA, at considerable depth and from many angles.

And here's a post with links to the previous 6 parts getting deep into this subject:

What Does She See In Him -- the key question all Romance writers must keep firmly in mind when crafting the plot:

It remains that half or more of the USA population claims (sometimes bitterly) that they don't believe in Happily Ever After -- and have defaulted to "Happily for Now" - a term I've heard used in TV drama dialogue, it's so common.

It's a philosophy of life, like the irksome and extremely destructive fallacy which we've also discussed, "I'm doing all I can ..." 

What's the relationship between these two philosophies?  And what has that relationship to do with the growing commonality of the Cheating Woman and the popularity of a book I'll point you to below.

"I'm doing all I can ..." means I don't have to make any actual effort to accomplish anything -- I'm off the hook once I've just done what I already know how to do.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER -- the HEA ending -- requires heroism on the part of both people in the relationship. 

Heroism is doing MORE than you can.  Heroism is accomplishing the task regardless of your personal limits, regardless of what limits your environment, social custom, work-rules, etc. put on you -- regardless of any external force acting on you.

Once you have given your Word of Honor, you do what you said, regardless.

That's why giving a Word of Honor is an extremely rare and precious occasion.

Saying you will do something and then just not doing it because "I can't" corrodes the strength of your character -- and often has little effect on anyone else.

The Word of Honor is something that has likewise been suppressed in our current culture. 

I suspect you could make a case in a well written Romance story for the Word of Honor (Noblesse Oblige, too) being a component of most Religions (or mystical practices).  And the discarding of the Word of Honor may be a "baby and the bathwater" situation -- where we have scrubbed religion from public notice, but along with that eradicated all personal Honor.

That's what "I'm doing all I can" actually means -- it is a plea to regard your Honor as unsmirched because you have fulfilled your Word, despite the fact that the task is not accomplished.

If you can't quite grasp this, I recommend you read a few of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint Germain novels. 

So Happiness is actually a mental/emotional condition that originates inside your deepest Self where you find you are satisfied with your own performance.

You can't live "Happily Ever After" if inside yourself you find your personal structure disintegrating -- which it will if you don't keep your Word in all things all the time, regardless of whether you can or not.

Note that when you do something you can't do -- it becomes something you can. 

It changes you, inside and outside, when you accomplish a task that is beyond you at the moment you start out to do it.  So "I'm doing all I can" is a pledge to never change, never grow, never mature, never set a record, never raise the bar for all humanity.  That's a Word given -- and if you keep that Word, you will likely never achieve the HEA for yourself.   

The "I'm doing all I can" defense is a plea for another person to accept that your inner character is intact -- to try to prove to yourself that it actually is intact when you know for a fact that it is not intact.

Our culture has elevated "appearances" above "truth." 

If you induce others to acknowledge that you are blameless, then you can accept that you are.

Only it just does not work that way -- no matter what, we KNOW that coming up short of accomplishing what we've promised to accomplish (or been paid to accomplish in our jobs) is corroding our personal integrity as battery acid corrodes the contacts in a car until the car won't start.  The metal of the contacts crumbles, eaten by the acid -- and "doing all I can" then not persisting until the task is accomplished has an acidic byproduct that destroys the character's "contacts" with -- whatever it is that's "out there" and is the source of Love in the universe.   

When that contact stops working, the Love energy stops flowing. 

So that's the relationship between "Happily Ever After" and "Doing All I Can."  In a word: Love. 

Now, what has that to do with the cheating spouse?  In this case, I'm talking about the plot element The Cheating Wife.

I hope that this article is still available when you are reading this post:

According to the UK Adultery Survey 2012 by, cheating women are more likely to stray as they are seeking emotional fulfillment, an improvement to their self-esteem and romance. When women cheat will depend on how fulfilled they feel in their marriages. But according to the survey, wives who cheat will do so five years into their marriages whereas men will do so seven years in.

After much soul-searching, I finally got to understand what drove me to cheat and why I had stepped into the shoes of cheating women:
-----------END QUOTE----------------

The article goes on to point at everything in life except what leaps out at me as the most obvious point.

It's all about "doing all I can" and the loss of the attitude that you don't keep your Word of Honor simply to the point where you CAN keep it -- you just keep it, regardless, no matter what. 

Why would anyone torment themselves with misery just to keep their Word of Honor? 

Look at the history of miserable marriages -- we've all read those Regency Romances, arranged marriages, marriages to way older men, and we know that legally grounds for Divorce can be phrased as "incompatibility."  That just means it's too miserable, I quit. 

In other words, marriage is temporary, and you can quit whenever you're not happy or have "done all you can" to make the other person happy.

Read that article, and maybe explore the book it's from -- it does make the point (vividly) that nobody can "make" you happy -- happiness does not come from outside.  Nor does misery. 


Back then, I bought into the notion that because I wasn't happy, someone else could dish happiness up on a silver platter. As my ex husband was not able to, someone else could surely, right? This of course wasn't true and to this day, it still isn't. In fact, the whole ordeal stressed me out and exposed me to more confusion and unhappiness.

Lesson learned: Being part of the cheating women club, I understand now that running away from myself was not the answer and that I am responsible for my own happiness and fulfillment. My happiness is, under no circumstances, anybody else’s responsibility -- least of all whoever I am in a relationship with.

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

So this author has articulated the essential fact that the issue is inside the miserable person -- as shown by statistics changing husbands doesn't usually solve the problem in one go.  (It's something else when the husband cheats and leaves, that's usually his problem, and if you haven't noticed men are different from women in a couple of ways.)

And much of this ruminating (all of it fodder for novels!) is about finding, isolating, and solving that issue causing the misery, whatever it is.

But if you're looking to write that blockbuster novel or screenplay that just sweeps the nation and gives you immortal fame, you need to find the fallacies upon which this author is basing her thesis.

She sums up the thesis this way:

All of these reasons may sound like excuses, and you know what? Cheating was a selfish act. I will be the first to admit it. I could have chosen not to do what I did, but if I put myself in the shoes of that young girl, at that time, I really felt that cheating was the solution.
--------END QUOTE------------

But she does not address the source of the "selfishness" -- or why "selfishness" is not a good thing, or what to replace it with.  She doesn't even define what selfishness is so that others can examine themselves internally and discover their own selfishness.

She notes that looking back, she can see her younger self was selfish.

How many people do you know who, while in the process of deploying "selfishness" throughout their lives (job, home, kids, fun, volunteering, charity events, social clubs like Masons, church) as a behavior principle actually call their motive "selfish?" 

How can you look at your own self (as the Main Character in your novel reveals to the reader their own inner self) -- and identify the "selfish" elements and judge them against an external, fixed, value system to discover how selfish they are?  This book does not appear to provide that clue. 

Pondering the fallacies in this author's thinking -- fallacies that make her non-fiction and inspirational speaking so popular -- will show you the fallacies within your reader's minds.

Armed with the inventory of fallacies your reader has never questioned, does not want to question, may actively snear at questioning, you can create characters to speak for all these points of view. 

Pit conflicting fallacies against each other via characters who have based their self-esteem on such fallacies, and you will have a story.  Look at the quotes I've extracted from the article above -- see how they tell a story?  They tell a STORY -- but do not constitute a PLOT.  You can tell that same story with a dozen different plots and found a writing career that will last a lifetime.  Really!  There are that many permutations and combinations to these fallacies! 

For more on Fallacy as a foundation for theme (which generates both story and plot) see the 6 part series of posts in January 2013 titled Theme-Plot Integration.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg