Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bird Intelligence

Last week’s episode of the PBS series NATURE featured crows. The program revealed the high intelligence of these birds, possibly comparable in their own way to chimpanzees. For instance, crows not only shape and use tools, they can implement a multi-step problem-solving chain of actions, using one object to get another object, which they then use to obtain food. It has also been shown that crows somehow communicate with their offspring to teach the young birds to later avoid, in the absence of their elders, dangers they haven’t encountered before.

Among avians, some parrots have also been found to be much smarter than previously believed, able to respond appropriately to human language rather than just “parrot” it. They can obey verbal instructions and solve simple problems put to them in words. So much for the premise that near-human intelligence can’t fit into a small skull. Think of the implications for mentally enhanced dogs and cats or mythical diminutive humanoids such as leprechauns.

Off topic, as a footnote to the “weird sex” subject, here’s an article about cross-species rape and necrophilia by male sea otters in Monterey Bay. We used to enjoy watching them from the pier when we lived there—who would imagine such violent behavior from such “cute” animals?

Other Side of Otters

Which illustrates two facts: Many human sexual practices that have traditionally been called “perverted” and “unnatural” aren’t unnatural at all. And “natural” is not necessarily desirable.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Audiobook, e-book and other formats


Here's a little success story for the business model and story-structure crafting posts I've been showing you and the source material behind my narrative about the shifts in the publishing industry and in audiences. 

I now have books in new paper, e-book (multi-format, but I'm giving you links to Kindle), and now audiobook, too, along with whole new story/plotlines designed for a videogame. 

For most of very recent history, all writers have been self-employed or employed to do "work for hire" (i.e. paid a level salary to write words they subsequently do not own the copyright on.)

Prior to that writers, as most all artists, worked under the patronage system, and didn't actually own what they produced.  Rich people competed to own the most popular of them. 

Prior to that writers worked mostly anonymously -- bards singing epic songs glamorizing and immortalizing actual newsworthy historic events.

Today, even writers who own their copyrights and license them to publishers end up doing a lot of their own publicity.  But sometimes things just happen. 

"Just happen" seems to be the major theme of the epic tale of the Sime~Gen Universe novels in the last few years.

A few years ago, Wildside Press came to Jean Lorrah and me asking for reprint rights to our backlist.  Wildside picked up the entire Sime~Gen series that Jean and I collaborate on and own together. 

We had barely finished doing the formatting work on all 12 extant Sime~Gen novels than a fellow who knew Jean's work via a connection to her University job as a Professor of English came to us wanting game rights to her novels.  We didn't have exactly what he wanted, but pointed him to some of the unpublished Sime~Gen work posted online, and it hinted at what he wanted.

For the last 7 months or so, we've been working to create the Sime~Gen galactic civilization, and meanwhile the novels have begun to appear in audiobook from audible.com which is a handy format many of his game development  crew prefer -- because it's hands-and-eyes free and allows for multitasking. 

Amazon's cross indexing is a mess, what with all the used copies for sale (cheap), so for reference, I'm going to list the Sime~Gen novels in publication order with links to the various formats of the new editions. 

You don't need to read them before playing the game because the game will include whatever background you would want to play in this universe's interstellar era. 

The novels were published in an order that has little to do with the chronology of history in the Sime~Gen universe.  For that chronology consult:

http://simegen.com/CHRONO1.html

Sime~Gen Universe Novels:

House of Zeor.

    Wildside Press, Borgo, 2011, paperback, e-book

    Audible.com, 2012

New Paperback:


Kindle:


Audible.com
http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B007JX14EM

Unto Zeor, Forever (won the Galaxy Award)

        Wildside Press, Borgo, paperback, e-book 2011

          audible.com, 2012

New Paperback:



Kindle:



audible.com
http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B00AHI6XI8

First Channel, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

        Wildside Press, 2011, paperback, e-book

New Paperback:



Kindle:


audible.com (?)


Mahogany Trinrose.

       Wildside Press, 2011, paperback, and e-book

New Paperback:


Kindle:


audible.com (?)


Channel's Destiny, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

        Wildside Press, 2011 paperback, e-book

New Paperback:



Kindle:


audible.com (?)
    
RenSime,

   Wildside Press, Borgo, 2011 paperback, e-book

    audible.com, 2012

New Paperback:


Kindle:


audible.com  
 http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B00AKNDHNE

Zelerod's Doom by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah

    Wildside Press, Borgo, 2011, paperback, e-book

 New Paperback


Kindle:


audible.com (?)


Ambrov Keon by Jean Lorrah (in Lichtenberg's series but not a collaboration)

        Wildside Press, Borgo, 2011, paperback, e-book

New Paperback:


Kindle:


audible.com (?)

To Kiss Or To Kill  Sime~Gen Book 11 by Jean Lorrah,

      Wildside Press, Borgo, 2011, paperback, e-book

       audible.com, 2012

 New Paperback:


Kindle:


audible.com
http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B00AJWTWQC

The Story Untold and other Sime~Gen stories, Sime~Gen Book 10 by Jean Lorrah,

      Wildside Press 2010, paperback, e-book

      audible.com, 2012

New paperback - printed 2-sided, with PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE on the flip side of THE STORY UNTOLD:




Kindle: (just The Story Untold)


audible.com (just The Story Untold)
http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B00AI1DY6S

Personal Recognizance Sime~Gen Book 9, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg,

      Wildside Press, Borgo, 2010, paperback, e-book

      audible.com, 2012

New Paperback


Kindle: (just Personal Recognizance)


audible.com (just Personal Recognizance)
http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B007L5CRQW


The Farris Channel Sime~Gen Book 12 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

      Wildside Press, Borgo, 2012, paperback, e-book               

New Paperback:


Kindle:


audible.com (?)

And just last week, one of the rarest and most expensive of the non-Sime~Gen Novels (originally a St. Martin's Hardcover, then a BenBella trade paperback) came out in ebook, Dreamspy.



Each of these novels, and a long bibliography of shorter works, has a long, involved story behind it, many adventures, many visits to various publishers and editorial offices, to book distributors and distribution warehouses, to bookstores and conventions.  And it's still going on, as publishers shift and change and morph and re-combine their operations and work with me in different ways.  I intend to transmit everything I've learned as things change.
              
There's a more complete bibliography with early editions and foreign editions listed at
http://www.simegen.com/bios/jlbio.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Other Senses, Other Worlds

This is the title of a 1976 book by Doris and David Jones. (Amazon still has used copies for sale.) It’s a great resource for creating aliens that make sense biologically and ecologically. The authors explore the perceptions of Earth animals with different sensory abilities from ours. On the basis of this information, the book imagines how extraterrestrials with those senses as their primary means of perception might look and behave and how their cultures might evolve. For instance, the book first discusses smell, with dogs as only the beginning, since many insects have olfactory senses far sharper and more refined than those of canines. The following chapter imagines a world of Olfaxes, intelligent beings who rely on smell instead of sight as the principal way to to navigate their environment. Olfaxes live on a planet with a murky atmosphere that makes vision of limited use, and they decorate their houses with artfully arranged patterns of scent instead of shape and color.

Later chapters reveal creatures that inhabit sensory “worlds” much stranger from our viewpoint: Animals that perceive polarized light, see into the infrared or ultraviolet range of the spectrum, sense electricity or magnetism, map their surroundings by sonar, or feel minute changes in vibration of air or water. What kind of planet might host life forms that rely on one of these sensory systems as primary, the way we rely on sight? To illustrate these speculations concretely, the authors invent several alien societies in addition to the Olfaxes. The book goes on to speculate about nonhuman methods of communication and types of intelligence alien to us, such as group intelligence. The final chapter, “Beyond Human Intelligence,” imagines where the future evolution of our species might lead. The sections on nonhuman senses, though, are what I find most interesting.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Plot Subtext Integration Part 1

I'm going way out into uncharted waters here to invent, whole cloth out of nothing, an entirely new term, maybe a new concept, in writing craft.

I'm terming it Plot-Subtext Integration.

Plot you all know by now is what I call the sequence of EVENTS in a story, the "because line" of what people do, what that causes to happen, and what other people do about that happening. 

Story is all about what the characters learn from the events that happen -- to make a story work, a writer has to create Events that happen TO the characters, i.e. plot events that drive the story, which then causes character motivations that drive them to act creating further plot events.  That is the integration of plot and story.

If you missed this post, look through it now:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/08/plot-vs-story.html

The key ingredient, you'll notice, is character at the nexus of plot, story, conflict, -- all of the moving parts of the composition come together at character. 

Sometimes in SF (even Science Fiction Romance) you have "characters" who are machines (R2D2 or Data), and characters who are actually Forces of Nature. 

But what makes all this interesting, what makes it a story, is how all these separate ingredients interact. 

Characters act generating plot, and characters speak revealing story -- sometimes they speak to themselves inside their own heads. 

Characters speaking is dialogue.  We studied dialogue, and will come back to it in the future. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/08/dialogue-part-4-legal-weasel.html

One key ingredient in great dialogue is subtext.

What exactly is subtext?  It's what the character really means to say, but does not or will not exactly put into words. 

In sarcasm, for example, the character says one thing and means the opposite.  A prime example is the word, "Wonderful!" delivered with just that sarcastic intonation.  The un-wonderfulness is the subtext while the actual text is the word WONDERFUL.

Very often subtext is carried on a change of subject:

"So when will you invite me to the Opera?"
"Would you like more coffee?" 

Ostensibly, the subject is fishing for a date -- the subtext is "I want this." and "I'm not ready for this."  Or depending on the context, and the business (for example, texting while talking) the actual subject, the subtext, could be almost anything.  Consider if the exchange were between two spies trying to seduce each other.

So the "subtext" is what the dialogue is really about, and the text can be ostensibly about almost anything else other than the actual subject.

I've rarely seen the term "subtext" applied to elements other than dialogue.

Dialogue can be wordless -- coded into actions, gestures -- one staple of Hollywood films used to be smoking a cigarette, a series of actions that defined character, gave indication of the character's mood, station in life, relationship to the other characters, etc.  Consider the cigarette holder.  Consider the very long cigarette holder.  Watch some old movies if you've missed this.  It's called (in screenwriting) "business" -- the things actors do to communicate subtext.

Well, if subtext can be encoded into cigarette smoking - i.e. actions - then it can be a  component of PLOT.

However, I never realized that before I read this book:




And as I read this "can't put it down" book by an author I love and admire no end, Tanya Huff, it suddenly hit me that the plot lacks subtext.

It hit me only by its absence.

I thought I'd be the only one to notice, but one of the comments on Amazon which gave the book only 3 stars and became the most critical review, noted just in passing that somehow the plot seems to wander.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R282ZQT8Q5RUOZ/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R282ZQT8Q5RUOZ

I think I've found the reason for this review/comment. 

Now this is a good book by a very good writer, and is well worth its Kindle price.

It reads like a story that she just had to tell, just had to write out, scene after scene that's just engrossing, characters revealing themselves -- it reads like raw material that was just typed out.  Then there were a lot of typed words, so the author looked at it and decided it had to be a book because to tell the rest of this story, there has to be this character development.  So she searched her worldbuilding notes and decided to use an Environmental activist group to generate some kind of plot.

Why do I think that's the tacked-on element (and I haven't asked her! I'm just guessing.)?  Because environmental activism is not argued from all sides in the plot. 
When I got to that point in my analysis, I realized that the THEME (what the novel is really about) has to be the SUBTEXT of the PLOT. 

That's the relationship between Theme and Plot discussed at such depth in the 6-post series in January 2013 titled Theme-Plot Integration and all about how to use FALLACY as a plot generating device.

Here are the links to those posts, and there is a 7th one in that series coming March 26, 2013.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/12/theme-plot-integration-part-1-never-let.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/12/theme-plot-integration-part-2-fallacy.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/12/theme-plot-integration-part-3-fallacy.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/01/theme-plot-integration-part-4-fallacies.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/01/theme-plot-integration-part-5-great.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/01/theme-plot-integration-part-6-fallacy.html


Once plot and theme are fully integrated, you have an inseparable whole it's impossible to "analyze" (i.e. take apart into its components) because the theme becomes the subtext of the plot.  The theme is what the Events of the plot "really mean" not what they "say they mean." 

Usually, that "sub" level of an artistic composition comes from the artist's own "sub" level - the subconscious. 

A book without such a sub-level is extremely rare in print -- and it is even more rare from a writer who is fully steeped in her craft.  That's why this example of a novel with a subtext-less PLOT is so valuable.

The Wild Ways has plenty of subtext in the dialogue, in the characters, in their learning and practicing of their musical arts -- and in their advancement in their magical application of their musical arts.

It has subtext in family relationships, and all the dialogue with the "Aunties" (power-users among the magical family) and every other aspect of this novel is perfect.

That is what makes the absence of plot-subtext easy to identify.

I can't tell you, "Don't write like this," because obviously there's a nice, huge, market for this type of composition. 

But I do suggest that if you do it, you do it with conscious deliberation and, if you will, "Malice Aforethought."

Note also that it very likely won't work for readers who have not read the prior book where the worldbuilding is set out with great care to crafting the theme.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, February 17, 2013

As some of the readers of this group blog may know, this author (Rowena Cherry) takes a very serious interest in copyright, and the erosion of copyright protections for creators that are offered by current law.

Frankly, I am disturbed by the reported/published opinions of judges and of legal scholars, of educators and other members of the intelligentsia who ought to understand what the law is with regard to the rights of authors, musicians, photographers and other creators to be paid whenever their work is enjoyed by a new user or monetized for profit by a third party.

Sometimes, good-hearted people use sloppy language. I hope that this was the case in a legal blog that came to my notice yesterday.

A big question about the future of the book publishing business: who sets the price of eBooks?

The author of the article for Lexology was written by one Mr. Fisher. As an author, I believe that there are a few misstatements of fact, that do authors and creators a disservice.

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=298fb103-b597-4c73-8696-f6812cc16e0d&utm_source=lexology+daily+newsfeed&utm_medium=html+email+-+body+-+federal+section&utm_campaign=lexology+subscriber+daily+feed&utm_content=lexology+daily+newsfeed+2013-02-15&utm_term=

For instance, there is this statement, which refers to music and publishing.
 "There are significant differences in the two businesses, even though they both obviously involve sale of copyrighted content."

I find this wording problematic. The copyrighted content is not sold ever. In the case of paper books, the paper is sold and First Sale Doctrine obtains. In the case of e-books, the right to read the content is licensed.

The lawyer continues
"Book publishers have always set the suggested list price of printed books. Bookstores were free to sell the books to customers like us at any price"

To which, I respond....
Please note that Copyright law gives the copyright owner the right to set the price of the work.
 
The lawyer and customer continues the tired argument, much loved by freetards: 
"In other words, many publishers wanted to price their eBooks at prices very similar to their print books, even though with eBooks there is no need to buy paper and pay binderies, no warehousing, no trucks to transport boxes of books, and no returns (the expensive system through which book publishers accept unlimited return for full monetary credit of unsold physical books from bookstores)."

In my view, the public (and scholars) widely over-rate the value of that part of the business. The greatest costs in producing novels are the hours and years spent writing the work, the hours and hours spend editing and copy-editing and proof-reading the works, in paying editors, secretaries, artists, authors .... myriad overheads that apply to e-books just as much as to print.

Regarding "and no returns" in my opinion, he over simplifies.
Amazon accepts returns of e-books for up to 2 weeks, I have heard. Authors are hurt just as much by e-book returns as by physical book returns, if not more because of the possibility that during that 2 period, unlimited perfect copies could have been made of the work.

Persons who opine on the book industry should also be aware of the practice of "stripping" in which bricks and mortar stores such as would return only the cover of the unsold books (to save postage) for a refund or credit, and would sell the "pulp" to the paper recycling plant. The paper book was destroyed, and the authors got no royalties.
 
 The lawyer concludes: "Moreover the effect of piracy and swapping of files is not the same in the two copyright industries. The digital revolution will disrupt and restructure the book publishing industry even further – including what publishers charge for books and how much we pay for them.  That’s for certain".
 
 I disagree. From what I can see, the effect of piracy is devastating for both music and literature. In my opinion, everyone should check out www.thetrichordist.com for insights into what has happened to musicians and what is happening to authors.
 

Another good resource for standard excuses for piracy and common sense replies is
http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/02/why-piracy-is-never-okay/

One of my good friends recently found an illegal copy of a book that is sold only and exclusively on Amazon being offered on a WORDPRESS site. This is an example of an offering (not hers):


If you would like download "XXXredactedXXX  by ReactedFirstname RedactedLastname (2 Feb 2012), you are in the right place. On the website we have this file in doc, pdf and epub.
http://ebookeoredactedurl.com
  (The url will not work, because I have messed with it.)

Clicking a bitly shortened url (also messed with) http://bit.ly/WXXXN brings this popup
Complete an Offer to Continue Your Download!
_Please complete an offer below to unlock this page!_

*You could win the new iPad2!*
*Watch the Funniest Videos Online!*
*Choose Correctly & Win an AUDI Sports Car!*
*Fill up at Sainsburys Petrol Stations on us!*
*Chance to take a £1,000 Shopping Spree!*
*WIN the New iPhone 5!*

It appears to this author that APPLE, Sainsburys, and AUDI are making it profitable for a pirate to infringe the copyright of an author. WORDPRESS is making it profitable. I assume that an online payment processor is facilitating payments to everyone involved except for the person who spent years writing the book.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More Weird Sex

In honor of Valentine’s Day, consider some of the many strange modes of lovemaking in the natural world. For inspiration on alien mating habits, try WILD SEX: WAY BEYOND THE BIRDS AND THE BEES, a 1991 book by naturalist Susan Windybank. Almost everything you might want to know about animal reproductive biology is at least touched upon in this book. The author traces the evolution of sex all the way from protozoans up to mammals. Some chapters have provocative titles such as “Bondage,” “Fatal Love,” “Virgin Birth,” “Polyandry,” “Incest,” and “Transvestism” (which should more accurately be labeled transsexualism, the conversion of an animal from one sex to the other, as normally occurs in some species of fish), among many others. Boxes inserted between blocks of text offer odd information such as the facts that the female canary must hear the male’s song in order for her ovaries to ripen, armadillos always give birth to identical quadruplets, and a male garter snake plugs up the female’s vagina after copulation to prevent other suitors from mating with her.

Other weird reproductive factoids:

Cockroaches have multiple hook-shaped penises.

The female bedbug has no vagina. The male has to drill into her abdomen to insert sperm.

The Surinam toad carries her eggs and hatchlings on her back until they outgrow the tadpole stage and become immature frogs.

The eggs of the mouthbrooder fish are fertilized inside her mouth. She catches her eggs in her mouth, then performs “oral sex” on the male fish to receive his sperm.

A pair of Indian pythons has been observed copulating for 180 days.

The male octopus uses a specialized arm to insert packets of semen into the female’s body cavity. Sometimes this appendage breaks off and stays inside her, where it used to be mistaken by scientists for a parasitic worm.

Offspring of the Chalcid Wasp can breed in the egg phase of development. Like tribbles, they can be born pregnant!

As Willow says on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, “Love makes you do the wacky.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 2 - Advertising Video Writing

Other posts directly on Worldbuilding:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/04/worldbuilding-building-fictional-but.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/worldbuilding-from-reality.html
(this is Part 1 of "worldbuilding from reality")

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/01/worldbuilding-for-science-fiction.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/12/worldbuilding-by-committee.html

And I've done whole sets of posts on Worldbuilding integrating Plot and integrating Theme into the entire composition.  I'll have to collect them in a reference post soon.  Meanwhile, here's a list of links to my posts on worldbuilding that don't have "worldbuilding" in the title:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/06/worldbuilding-link-list.html

One reason I harp on Worldbuilding as a writing craft subject, hitting at every angle, is that it is the single weakest skill of Romance Writers. 

Most Romance writers work in some version of the "real" world -- even historicals have "facts" that delineate the world the characters live in and that the readers have to agree are "real facts" because they know them from "real world" sources outside the fictional reality of the story. 

Writers study "researching" assiduously, (which is good, and necessary), but they don't learn how to use research to "make up" imaginary facts then "sell" them to the readers as real.  That's the skill necessary for Paranormal Romance writing, and even for Science Fiction which goes beyond known science extrapolating into "what if science is wrong about this? Then what might be right?" 

Most Historical Romance readers are magnificently well educated in historical cultures, and you just can't fool them.

The same is true of science fiction readers -- they know science, so you better know your science when you write for them or they can't suspend disbelief well enough to romp with your characters. 

Fantasy and Paranormal Romance readers know anthropology, archeology, mythology, and a lot more -ologies  -- so you better know your Magic systems from historical reality when you invent a new one.  To invent a Magic System, you must first invent the world in which that magic system can plausibly function to get the effects on the characters you need. 

Since the Romance readers have developed a taste for Alien Romance, Romance writers have had to learn this whole new skill set I call "Worldbuilding."  It's a skill set that allows a writer to immerse a reader painlessly and seamlessly into a story set in a totally fictitious world, a completely impossible world, a world where a set of highly improbable character developments, and especially Relationships, are inevitable. 

Such an impossible world, properly "built," becomes "Art" when it is built to reveal some higher truth, some fundamental aspect of our everyday reality that is masked from ordinary consciousness.  Google+ and Google are amazing sources of oddball items you can use to achieve this kind of "Art." 

Here is a recent book by a brain surgeon who experienced a "higher truth" about the structure of reality during a coma and wrote a book about it:



You can find a long article about this book here:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/11/18/the-science-of-heaven.html

As I've pointed out in my series of posts here on Astrology, Romance generally occurs to real people during a Neptune Transit.  Astrologers associate a Neptune Transit with a blurred or erroneous perception of reality, but mystics have learned how such Neptune transits reveal Higher Truths - the reality behind our reality - in which "Happily Ever After" is the inevitable outcome of a well lived life.  That is not a "reality" in which there are no rules, so a writer can just make up anything that occurs to them.  In such Neptune governed realities, there are very strict rules indeed, but communicating those rules to your readers who live in "normal" worlds is an entire skill set peculiar to Science Fiction writers.

Science Fiction writers developed this skill set over the decades from the 1930's or so, and I learned at their feet.  So I'm passing on what I've learned, only I'm using contemporary (to this writing) examples.  You will pass this on using examples contemporary to that future time, but the essence is the same. 

The fictional world you build has to start here and now in your reader's real world, and extend outward to that fictional realm of "far away places with strange sounding names." 

If you need inspiration, here's a song for MP3 download of "Far Away Places With Strange Sounding Names":



And a biography of one of my favorite writers, Allan Cole, about when he was a CIA brat dragged to Cyprus where his father dealt in Cold War secrets and he dealt with a British school that didn't like Americans.  The book reminded me of that old song, a primary inspiration for many of my novels because the song is an entry point into that "other" level of consciousness.



Closer to home and everyday reality, I've also done sets of posts on the whole new world we live in where writers have to do a lot if not all their own advertising, promotion, and marketing, often at their own expense.

That is the world your reader lives in, so you don't have to explain it when you are telling a story.  But the trick of storytelling is that the teller has to know more about the subject than the listener, yet not tell or even show, all she knows to the reader.  The key is to ignite the reader's imagination so the reader tells herself her own story -- not yours. 

Think about it - do you want to listen to (and pay close attention to) someone who obviously knows less about their subject than you do? 

A novelist, a writer, isn't exactly a 'teacher' per se.  A writer is in a dialogue with their reader.  Books are a conversation among those who are writing the books, and letting the readers kibitz.  Eventually, those readers will have their say, too, either by writing a book of their own or by flinging a comment up on Amazon or somewhere, or just going off to imagine their own ending to your story.

Think about being at a party in a room full of people, and you're standing in a circle with a nice drink in your hand, holding forth on a pet subject.

To keep the others in the circle quiet and still while you make your point (i.e. advertise your wares) you need two things:

a) something to say
b) something you know that they don't, or that they haven't viewed from your perspective.

Perspective is what LUCKY IN CYPRUS shows you how to achieve.  It's a book worth studying, just for that alone. 

You need to offer to add something to your listener's understanding of a subject, even if it's not more than the mere fact that you agree with them but can say it better.  If you can explain what they are feeling or knowing without words, they will grab that explanation and spread it around - often citing you as the source. 

A lot of what goes on Google+ or Facebook is just that - "samplers" (little artworks with words) that state something people are thinking, but spin it a new way.  People see what they feel stated in words and click "share." 

So when you set out to write a novel, especially in a well-explored genre like Romance, you have to have something new to say -- at least something new to the expected readership. 

What have you got to say that your readers don't already know?  What have you got to say that your readers know in their guts but can't quite articulate for themselves?  What can you add to the quality of their lives -- what can you give them to "share" or repeat to their friends saying, "You just have to read this book!"

What can you say that will make them remember your byline? 

THAT thing -- what you have to say -- is what you put into your book trailer that gets it "shared" on YouTube. 

Every novel is an argument set out step by step, enumerating things the reader already knows, then embroidering those things together into a new pattern, something memorable that encapsulates a Life Lesson (such as Love Conquers All).  That life-lesson is the theme.  And you get it from that "other" place the neurologist's book, The Science of Heaven, talks about.

That's where "theme" comes from - your visits to that other "place" which most people access only during sleep.  But you never quite remember your dreams.  Writers are the sort who can put those dreams into words (or pictures) so others recognize that other "place" they regularly visit.  That's where "life's lessons" come from. 

The life-lessons are pretty much the same over thousands of years, but the application can be very different and require a lot of original thinking.  That original thinking can reveal major flaws or fallacies in those old life-lessons.

But sometimes, that original thinking involves understanding a long-term (decades or centuries long) cycle.

Human affairs, from love to politics, from religion to war, from law to justice, move in short cycles and long cycles.  History, as all students of Romance Writing know, is remarkably cyclical.

Look at Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain novels -- she shows us how women's rights in Rome differed from the previous Hellenistic culture, and how women lost rights in the Middle Ages, struggled in Victorian England, emerged again -- what's happening now in this world? 

OK, so you get the picture.  You must have something to say that a group at a party (or buyers of a novel) will stand still and listen to, appreciate, recognize as their own gut-level response to their "dreams" writ large.  They will repeat to others what you've said, point to you and become your "word of mouth" advertising. 

What you have to say must be original and different -- yet recognizable as what your listeners already know to be true, but can't quite say. 

So find a repeating CYCLE manifesting in everyday reality that describes what they experience in their dreams, in their nightly visits to "heaven" as the nuerosurgeon described it, and demonstrate that dreams can be real -- or not depending on your theme!   

In "Magic" it is taught, "As Above: So Below" -- and that's what this neurosurgeon was talking about with his coma experience of Heaven.  He discovered there really is an "Above."  He just doesn't know which is the cause and which the effect: brain or mind?  And of course, the artist's question is: "Does it matter which is which?"  That kind of question defines THEME. 

Which brings us to an online video that is a waste of a bit more than an hour of your time that could pay off big if you can understand what it's saying that you can use in a Romance Novel. 

This video is ADVERTISING, and it uses clever (even diabolical) techniques (skills) to open a vista into that "other" place evoked by the SONG (Far Away Places With Strange Sounding Names), visited by Allan Cole in his biography, and daringly admitted to by a neurosurgeon in his account of his coma. 

This video "romances" its viewers with a whiff of their most cherished hopes and dreams - enticing, hooking, then finally getting to the point -- 'buy this and realize your dreams.'  At the end of the video, notice particularly how the word "safe" is used.  There are a hundred Romance Novel themes in that one word's usage alone.  Study this video:

http://pro.stansberryresearch.com/1210THIRDLIA/LPSINC01/

It is a sales pitch that you've seen advertised all over the internet -- even on TV, I'll bet! 

It's in a format I've seen used by sales pitches now for a couple of years.  I absolutely hate it, and this particular one makes me squirm. 

But it's so pervasive for a reason.  It's latched onto something eye-stopping for a "hook" (Obama's Third Term), and then follows up with a lot more "hooks" -- all loaded with 'bait' to keep you hooked.

Then it "explains" as if giving you information you don't already have. 

The information about previous Presidents and what they've added to the USA historically is accurate, cleanly presented, and nicely packaged, carefully selected to make this video's point.

And all of it is laced with more bait, but not "hard-sell" -- it's very cleverly written.  This thing illustrates "worldbuilding" at its very best. 

The video is a pitch for an Investment Company that wants people who have a lot of money to become "clients" -- to subscribe to a newsletter, and then hire the company to deploy investment capital for them.

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THEY PAID TO GET THIS VIDEO'S TEXT WRITTEN? 

Could you make that much on a Romance Novel?  Really? 

If you are putting so much effort into mastering worldbuilding skills, don't you want to maximize your return on investment?

Do you think this sales-pitch video is not "worldbuilding at its best?"  Do you think it's not "fantasy?"  Do you honestly believe this video is not "romancing" these potential clients? 

Remember the old adage I've been showing you how to use as a plotting tool, "If you want to understand what's happening, follow the money."

Look at this video.  It has one stationary, public domain picture, and a set of words with a voice reading the words to you at a very slow pace.

Do you think it was cheap to make?  Well, comparatively, maybe, but simple elegance is not CHEAP! 

There are lots of other videos like this all over the internet using this exact format.  They work.  They get people to do whatever it is they're pitching.

Study how the argument is constructed.  Really, sit through this video a couple of times and take notes on the structure of the argument. 

See if you can find the most glaring grammatical error I saw.  See if you can spot the "bait and switch" tactic -- OK, I'll give you a hint.  It starts out talking about the oil drilling in the Dakotas that you've all heard about and know, then ends up trying to sell you on investing in natural gas which the earlier presentation on oil clearly indicates will plunge in price.  Then it says you should buy the most risky investment I know of (distressed debt instruments) because they're "safe."  But of course you can't invest in this safe investment by yourself - you don't know enough or have the skills.  You have to hire them to do it for you - because, you see, it's safe. 

This sales pitch format - filled with logic holes and ignoring known facts by just not mentioning them - is extremely effective in triggering the behavior desired by the pitcher.  How would you use this methodology to "sell" the idea that "Love Conquers All" and "Happily Ever After" is the normal, ordinary condition of life that anyone can achieve? 

If you've been watching TV shows like Leverage that I've discussed previously, you won't fall for the grifter's tricks in this video - and you'll learn how to use them to your own advantage without doing anything immoral or unethical. 

By the time you get to that switch from oil to gas in the video, notice how you're ready to believe the video is giving you some real advantage in investing -- maybe because you're bored out of your mind with oil and the change in topic restores interest, but mostly because the speaker has gained credibility by telling you what you already know (that oil drilling is a big deal all of a sudden).

There's one passing shrug about green energy - pointing out the price differential with a very quickly shown table you don't have time to study.  There's no handy way to roll the video back and re-watch a page or two to check you understood it, which is very clever disabling of online features.

The whole thing is full of tricks you have been learning to use in writing Paranormal Romance - tricks to get readers to believe the impossible.  Some of those tricks are used to present the obviously true -- so the trick itself isn't obvious when the video gets to the obviously untrue.

The whole thing is a marvelous study in motivation-manipulation.

Remember, I've mentioned the science behind this kind of advertising many times.

We start with the raw math of Game Theory and the Overton Window (Google those terms if you haven't studied them yet) and layer on top of that the entire science of advertising.  This video is predicting an Overton Window, or saying that such a window is open right now.  And it's purporting to show you how to play this game to your advantage (by hiring this company to do it for you).

And deep inside this video, if you reverse engineer it using the clues I've been talking about in the Worldbuilding posts, you will find Edward Bernays that I've mentioned over the last few months.

Here's a neat article from npr on Bernays:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4612464

Look up Bernays on Wikipedia for more nifty bits and tidbits.

The techniques founded on Bernays principles are suavely orchestrated into this video.  I can see how it was done.  Can you?  Yet?  Study.  Study hard. 

And all those techniques are yours to use a) in your constructing of your Romance novel most especially Paranormal Romance, b) in your constructing of your advertising for your novel, and c) in taking contracts to write advertising like this for others selling things other than your novels.   

Very few novelists make a living from novels -- advertising copy writers make a good living.  This video is nothing but copyrighting and good, dramatic reading.  Study it carefully. 

A very large percentage of novelists make their major income from a day-job writing non-fiction -- in journalism (as Allan Cole did after his stint in Cyprus -- before his screenwriting career and his novel writing career), in paid blogging, or advertising. 

Study this video and ponder your career moves based on whether you can master these copy-writing and advertising constructing skills to a level where you can sell those skills as your primary income source, so you can write your novels your own way. 

But keep in mind that this video has been all over the internet for years before I decided I had to watch it.  I had to watch it because it's all over.  Every time it is offered in a side-bar, the company being advertised in it is paying a fee.  They wouldn't keep doing that if the video didn't bring in customers.  You want to understand what's happening -- follow the money.  Closely. 

Now, when you're ready for worldbuilding on a more sophisticated level, restudy that video after re-reading the Theme-Plot Integration series on the use of Fallacy as a plotting tool -- 6 of those posts went up here in January-February 2013. 

By the way: I've recommended in many of these writing craft posts that beginners start learning to write by reading the biographies of writers (and autobiographies).  This one cited here, LUCKY IN CYPRUS, is an excellent example.  Note Allan Cole's eclectic interest in reading, in devouring a variety of subjects, the thirst for knowledge and for learning, the focus on first-hand experience, and the globe-trotting lifestyle at a young age.  These elements are common to all the most successful writers.  Read this biography closely.  Here is Allan Cole's credit list on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0170426/

There's a couple people with that same byline.  That imdb page is by the fellow who wrote LUCKY IN CYPRUS and the Sten Series of novels.  See him on Amazon here:
http://www.amazon.com/Allan-Cole/e/B000AR9N24/

This kind of biographical history is a very firm predictor of commercial success in writing.  There are apparent exceptions, of course, but the preponderance of evidence is on the side of a "colorful" early biography.  With that in mind read my blog entries on Pluto. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/08/astrology-just-for-writers-part-10.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Assault On Copyright

"An economy built on the illegal exploitation of artists, is very simply an Exploitation Economy." Quoted from http://thetrichordist.com

If you are an individual author, or photographer, or songwriter, or musician, or artist, big business wants to change the law and the morality of the free world so that they can strip you of your copyrights, steal your works, and make money for themselves without paying you.

Nowhere have I seen the reality so clearly explained as on thetrichordist.com. Read the Orphan Works series. Or check out the War On Authors posts.

We (copyright owners and creators) are being exploited, dissed, screwed, and called "greedy" while those who aggressively avoid paying authors are happy to pay very large sums of cash Google, Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, Amazon and dozens of other true fat cats.

My eyes have been widened as I read the articles on the trichordist blog in preparation for an interview with one of the trichodrist team for my Crazy Tuesday radio show. Every so often, I invite guests to talk about copyright, and this interview is going to be very interesting.

Meanwhile, noted sci fi author and president of SFWA John Scalzi has the liveliest of discussions taking place on his blog. Of especial interest (in my opinion)  is  
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/02/07/second-hand-ebooks
and also 
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/02/07/no-wait-i-do-have-another-thought-re-used-ebooks/


As many of Mr. Scalzi's correspondents speculate on the probability that Amazon's patent is purely motivated and benignly intended to prevent less ethical internet enterprises from ripping off authors and killing the market for new ebooks, I checked out Amazon’s Sell Your Stuff gateway page.
 
This is the link for anyone who wants to sell their used copy of Mr. Scalzi’s e-book A Voice In The Wilderness.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/seller/search.html?ie=UTF8&index=stripbooks&keywords=A%20Voice%20In%20The%20Wilderness&ld=direct-link&x=51&y=6


They can't. So, why is his ebook listed at all on the Sell Your Stuff pages? My ebook is also listed, and again the dotted lines are broken and there is therefore no box indicating that my ebook could be "re-sold". I am reassured to see that there is no indication at all that the illegal ebook versions of some of my paperbacks-- that never should have been created and offered for sale-- ever existed. 

It should be noted that re-selling ebooks is apparently legal in the EEC. 
One should check   sell my stuff amazon co uk   also http://www.amazon.de/b?ie=UTF8&node=949953031

So far, it seems reassuringly as if ebooks are not being sold by the general public to other members of the general public with no commission to the authors. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Weird Sex

There’s an Argentine lake duck that has a corkscrew-shaped penis as long as its body, almost half a meter:

Argentine Duck

Surely he doesn’t insert the entire length into his mate, so nobody knows exactly why he possesses such an oversized appendage.

Contemplating this duck’s love life brings to mind Larry Niven’s classic essay about Superman’s hypothetical sexual difficulties:

Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

I found out about the Argentine duck in THE DAWN OF THE DEED: THE PREHISTORIC ORIGINS OF SEX, by paleontologist John A. Long. Although this author focuses mainly on the prehistoric origins of internal fertilization with extended discussion of extinct fish and modern sharks, the book also devotes space to some other strange sexual practices in the animal kingdom. Life right here on Earth offers plenty of ideas for weird alien biology.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 6 - Use of Media Headlines


PREVIOUS PARTS IN THIS SEQUENCE OF POSTS:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/09/theme-worldbuilding-integration-part-1.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/09/theme-worldbuilding-integraton-part-2.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/09/theme-worldbuilding-integration-part-3.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/09/theme-worldbuilding-integration-part-4.html

http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/10/theme-worldbuilding-integration-part-5.html

And here we are at Part 6.  Remember the posts that have two skills and the word "Integration" in the title are advanced writing lessons - more a "meta" level of study, a study about a study.  We are examining in slow motion -- sometimes excruciatingly slow motion -- what happens inside a writer's mind before the flash of "inspiration" that causes the shout, "I've got an IDEA!" 

That level, before the idea surfaces, is usually where the beginner's fatal mistakes are made.  Errors made at that "before the idea" level of writing craft are un-fixable, which is the reason so many writing textbooks insist you must write a million words for the garbage can before you will turn out anything remotely publishable. 

If you want to build a fictional world -- no matter how close to this one or how "fantasy fraught" and far away from this one -- START here.

"Here" is right here in your reader's everyday reality.

Every work of fiction is a journey for the reader, up and away, out and away, far and away, to someplace or somewhen else than where they normally live.

That's both the enchantment and the value of fiction-reading -- an adventure into a point of view that is so different from normal, everyday reality that you can return to your work-a-day world and view it with new eyes.  You get the same effect from an expensive vacation!  You return to a world forever changed! 

That's what a writer provides to a reader that is worth the price of the book. 

So how do you do that?  What's the mechanism? 

It's very much like stage-magic.  Once you know the "trick" it isn't a trick anymore.

If you're "just" a reader (hey, guys, we need readers!), then you may not want to read this series of blog posts about how it's done.  On the other hand, sometimes knowing the trick enhances the effect. 

So look back over the previous 5 parts of this sequence on integrating Theme and Worldbuilding -- and you will find a lot of mentions of the use of "misnomer" as a dramatic device.

The misnomer is extremely powerful when used on "readers" (people who gravitate toward absorbing the written word as a way of having fun) because the reader is very verbally oriented in the way they conceptualize ideas.

Today, more young people are being trained to absorb concepts and ideas from images rather than the linear method of one word after another.

A picture is worth a thousand words, you know -- and nowhere is that more evident than in media such as the graphic novel.

EXAMPLE:


...is 321 pages of linear text



...is about 120 pages of pictures with balloon-dialogue snippets and barely scratches the surface of the contents of the linear text of the first volume in this shapeshifter/werewolf/romance series.

And the text novel has a sequel, too --



Which is described nicely as: Mated to werewolf Charles Cornick, the son -and enforcer -of the leader of the North American werewolves, Anna Latham now knows how dangerous being a werewolf is, especially when a werewolf opposes Charles and his father is struck down. Charles's reputation makes him the prime suspect, and the penalty for the crime is execution. Now Anna and Charles must combine their talents to hunt down the real killer -or Charles will take the fall.

And it really is that good!  Patricia Briggs is an excellent writer, toying with the outer edges of human/animal sexuality. 

So the misnomer is a technique that is most powerful in text, true, but has its applications to the "story in pictures" format used in film and in graphic novels.

Now let's think about how a writer, creating a fictional world, can use Media Headlines to draw pictures in words using the misnomer.

Remember, the theme-worldbuilding integration technique is of most value where you must condense the story into fewer words.  Today's published novels tend to run long -- writers trained to be succinct are having a very hard time expanding their stories to the necessary length.  But that trend will reverse as it always does.

Being a "professional" writer means being able to fulfill whatever requests an editor (who is getting requests, even demands, from the bean counters wearing suits) might toss out.  So the same story that occurs to the writer after reading a headline can be tailored to fit whatever constraints an editor with a budget needs fitted.

By using a HEADLINE -- perhaps glimpsed in passing by a character in your story, or perhaps about one of the characters in the story -- you can evoke IMAGES in your reader's mind, even though you are working in linear text.

And when you use such images, you can reduce the number of words -- i.e. the amount of printing space -- necessary to print your book.

So here's an interesting headline from last November that evokes thoughts of industrial espionage, always a fertile ground for both worldbuilding and plotting.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-29/the-curious-case-of-samsungs-missing-tvs#r=read

The Curious Case of Samsung's Missing TVs

It's a news story about some crates packed up with TV's inside, not-yet-marketed state of the art TV's, big industrial secret technology, that arrived at a trade show without said TV inside the crates.

The article speculates that a rival company might want such a TV to reverse engineer the new technology - steal a march on Samsung.

Who knows?  Who cares?  We're writers.  This is a story-idea playground of an article filled with wondrous plot twists we could use. 

But better yet, this headline is part of the everyday world of your readers, the world they want to get away from, get far enough away from to gain perspective on.

So extract the idea of industrial espionage, and look for another setting and a Romance twist to use for your story. 

And don't forget the MISNOMER technique. 

OK, here's a headline from December 2012 that might give you an idea.

http://news.yahoo.com/netanyahu-brushes-off-world-condemnation-settlement-plans-142559939.html

Netanyahu brushes off world condemnation of settlement plans

To your potential readers, such a news article would appear to be about the politics of the Middle East and the abysmal misbehavior of one faction (the Israeli faction that is relentlessly building houses where a faction of their opposition doesn't want houses built).

Take a closer look at how that headline is phrased and ponder how you can use it.

Did you spot the misnomer?

Unless you follow Middle East politics, you probably didn't spot this because you've only seen this one story about it, or one headline or TV news clip.

The brutal fact is that Netanyahu DID NOT BRUSH OFF anything.  He's not an arrogant person, but you'd never know that from USA news coverage.  Only arrogant people (real villains) "brush off" condemnation of their actions by oppositions that have sensible objections to the actions. 

KNOWING IT, though, knowing that Netanyahu is not arrogant, you can suddenly see the dramatic potential for a really, REALLY hot "Alien Romance" brewing in this misnomer! 

He didn't "brush off" his opposition.  A third party (media) is portraying his action as a "brush off" -- carefully choosing those exact words with their semantic loading of "only a villain would do this action" in order to portray an honorable, dignified and gentle individual as an arrogant villain spoiling to be taken down.

Consider that this headline appeared during a period when Israel was in the middle of an election fight as hotly contested as the Obama-Romney contest of 2012.

When you read the headline that says X "brushed off" Y, you instantly know who is the hero and who is the villain in that interaction. 

That's the nature of all MISNOMERS -- they reverse the positions of the admirable individual and the nefarious individual.  That's what makes the technique so insidiously powerful and so perfect for a writer to employ in a novel.

Remember, the essence of story is conflict.  What conflict is better suited to alien romance than the wrenching decision of who is the Hero and who is the Villain?

This is the core of many of the most successful Regency Romances based on the triangle.  It works in Paranormal Romance particularly well -- you have a woman who falls in love with an alien, and along comes another alien who falls in love with her.  But the two aliens are enemies (for some, very good, reasons)  Now she has to sort out which is the good guy and which is the bad guy.  And sometimes LOVE by itself makes her choose to go be with the bad guy, even knowing he's the bad guy! 

The absolutely firm, unquestioning belief that THIS is the Hero and THAT is the Villain can be planted in your reader's mind by just such a subtle trick as was used in this Netanyahu headline. 

Only those who have an independent information source know he's not a villain, and even armed with that knowledge, they will doubt Netanyahu -- because only villains 'brush off' legitimate objections.

Now, take your setting out of International Politics on this Earth -- remember the headline about disappearing TV Sets -- and put this MISNOMER technique of "brushing off" into an INTERSTELLAR INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE ROMANCE, and your reader will have no trouble leaping into your world, falling in love with your villain and being utterly shocked to discover the real hero is the other guy.

Think of the thousand things you don't have to explain if you use real-world elements like these, think of all those words you don't have to write so that you have room for the parts you do want to write. 

You might title it: Giving Your Alien The Brush-off  -- and see where that takes you.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com