Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inconvenient Truthiness

I’ve recently finished reading A QUESTION OF MAGIC, by E. D. Baker, a YA novel I highly recommend. It’s a fresh twist on the Baba Yaga legend. In this tale, Baba Yaga is a title rather than the name of a unique individual. The heroine, Serafina, gets snared into becoming the new Baba Yaga, mistress of the chicken-legged cottage, its resident talking cat, and its animated skulls. She also gets the task of answering the questions of an unending procession of visitors. The gift or curse of the Baba Yaga entails that she has to answer the first question anybody asks of her and must reply truthfully. She can answer only one query from each person, and the rules don’t allow her to ask a question of herself or prompt anyone else to ask it for her. The magic takes over her so that she speaks in a voice not her own.

Unlike the involuntary statements of the hapless lawyer in the film LIAR, LIAR, who can’t lie but speaks only truths within his own knowledge, Serafina’s answers provide information from a supernatural source beyond her. Naturally, her “gift” of the full truth sometimes pleases her questioners but often quite the opposite.

I’m reminded of a similar supernatural gift-or-curse in the book (and movie) ELLA ENCHANTED, by Gail Carson Levine. A well-meaning fairy’s spell guarantees that Ella will obey any instruction or command given to her. Like the “gift” of always speaking the truth, this spell might sound benign when applied to parent and child, but Ella reaches adulthood still having to obey anybody, no matter how careless or malicious. Unlike Serafina, who becomes a helpless mouthpiece for supernatural forces when asked a question, Ella has a bit of wiggle room to work around the conditions of her “gift.”

A different kind of obligatory truth forms the premise of an early Brian Aldiss novel, THE PRIMAL URGE. A skin patch is invented that reveals the wearer’s emotional state, mainly sexual arousal. When this device pervades society, nobody who’s attracted to another person can conceal his or her feelings. Complete “honesty” in sexual matters sounds like a good thing to many people in the 1960s world of the novel, but is it really beneficial for every fleeting impulse of that kind to be instantly apparent to all observers?

In the realm of “be careful what you wish for,” if all human beings were perfectly virtuous and kind, would universal truthfulness be desirable and unproblematic? Or would a veneer of social deceit still be justified in some circumstances?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 5 - Ace Doubles by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 5
Ace Doubles
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg


In Part 3 of this series we began looking at Making A Living as a writer.  The discussion of how to achieve that continues here in Part 5.  Part 6, next week, will bring these ideas together. 

Here are the previous parts of Marketing Fiction In A Changing World:

Part 4: Understanding The Headlines You Use For Springboards:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/02/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world_18.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/02/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/03/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/05/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

Long ago, in the mid-20th Century, Science Fiction was just getting a start.

A lot of publishing projects, writing projects, etc. were all put on hold for World War II.

That interval concluded around 1947 - a couple of years after the official end, troops had mustered out, reclaimed or acquired spouses, found jobs, started families, -- and in England, were still in the process of rebuilding buildings.

By the mid-1950's the rebuild had primed the pump of world economies and we were roaring along in publishing.

During that era, many science fiction magazines thrived, and niche imprints were created for books. 

ACE books, which still publishes some of the best stuff, especially in kick-ass heroine fantasy, launched a unique, exploratory publishing program called Ace Doubles. 

It was the biggest publishing genre innovation since maybe The Dime Novel which brought the Western genre to the densely populated East Coast -- ignited dreams and send droves of people to colonize the USA mid-West. 

The Ace Doubles ignited a furor of book-buying of science fiction.

Now these "books" were really composed of 2 novella length works -- longer than magazine stories, but shorter than Novels. 

Ace put 2 of these long-stories back to back, but upside down with respect to each other.  Each side of the volume was a "front cover" with illustration.

They packaged a well known writer on one side, and a beginner or unknown on the flip side.

Many great writers got their start this way. 

But at the same time, by using this format, ACE was able to import works from England, introducing popular English Science Fiction to the US audience. 

Marion Zimmer Bradley's SWORD OF ALDONES (her first novel; she had sold short work to a magazine prior to that) was an ACE Double.

It was a marketing ploy, and it worked fabulously well by making longer works cheap and accessible, and exploration of new authors painless.

E. C. Tubb was one of the British imports. 

I've recently picked up the audible.com version of the first three novels in Tubb's DUMAREST OF TERRA series, remembering it and finding it still stands up.

Here is a glimpse of the ACE marketing and decades later, the audible.com marketing via Wildside Press.  Study this.
              
If you're just starting out as a writer, this is what you aim to accomplish -- longevity.  Tubb's heirs are benefiting from this series which ran over 20 books.

Now, I have to tell you about DERAI, the second in the Dumarest saga.



Dumarest is a man from Earth, traveling the galaxy (much populated by various human cultures).  He has gotten so far from Earth that nobody's ever heard of it except as the legendary (how ridiculous!) birthplace of humankind.













 Now look at this non-fiction book from Wildside Press (available for reading on google) is an excellent history of science fiction, and the influential writers of so long ago.






Google this:
E. C. Tubb Serialization 

You should find this book at the top of the list and it will display a comment on Tubb's work in the mid-1950's.

I have this vague memory of my first encounter with Dumarest.  I used to haunt the used book stores and buy British magazines (tattered and yellowed with age) and other very hard-used paperbacks, reading Science Fiction from the 1930's and 1940's while waiting for the next new book.

Today, there's no way any one person can read everything the big publishers are churning out in Science Fiction Romance, Fantasy and PNR.  That has not always been the case!

So in my mind, E. C. Tubb and Dumarest and this style of storytelling he uses seems to me to have been one of those used magazines from the 1950's -- it was old when I got it, and is long since gone.  So I can't check this.

Everything online, and the serious scholars who have searched hard, are saying the Dumarest material dates from the mid-1970's Ace Doubles -- see the covers above. 

I could be confusing two different Tubb works. 

According to this book:
http://books.google.com/books?id=9j70AAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA138&dq=E.%20C.%20Tubb%20Serialization&pg=PA138#v=onepage&q=E.%20C.%20Tubb%20Serialization&f=false

Tubb dominated the British SF magazines in the mid-1950's and it could be some of that material that grabbed me.

Later, ACE did Tubb works in Ace Doubles. 

In the mid-1970's, the copyright laws were changed, so many earlier works were re-copyrighted so heirs could benefit from re-sale.  Nobody knew then what e-books would do to the reprint market -- or what the advent of Science Fiction Romance would do.  But right now, those older works are re-appearing, and they reveal the origins of SFR, PNR, etc.

Read page 138 of the book on Google.  Part 4: REBIRTH AND BUSINESS PLAN (1954-55).

It claims that Tubb wrote in a melodramatic vein.

That word, used in reference to science fiction, is a perjorative. 

It was used to disparage some of my favorite works -- the Lensman Series by E. E. Smith, Ph.D. -- along with the term "Space Opera."

These are terms which simply scorn anyone who respects these works.

But the fact is these works were and still are, deep, far-ranging philosophically challenging explorations.  They could even be seen as "subversive" -- even today! 

The second Dumarest novel, DERAI, is a Romance.

It is a standard modern-day ROMANCE!  (except for the ending, plus the idea that the man who marries the heiress gets control of her fortune).  It even has a Heroic-Heroine Telepath who falls in love with the Hunk Hero non-telepath assigned as her bodyguard. 

The ending, by requisite marketing formula, requires the heroine to die, leaving Dumarest single, free, available, and able and willing to travel to the next planet in search of Earth. 

That's what the series is about - Dumarest's quests to find his way back to Earth, and all the adventures he has getting there.

But using a science fiction twist, Tubb leaves her alive and even happy! 

Meanwhile, she has informed Dumarest of who knows where Earth is.  And he is now in hot pursuit of that information, knowing the galaxy-spanning organization is his mortal enemy.

So the Dumarest saga is about how one man confronts seemingly overwhelming odds to go home to Earth.

The other thing I noted about E. C. Tubb's writing which didn't distinguish the work against the background of contemporary works, but causes it to stand out against today's novels -- vocabulary.  The choice of word is excellent, precise, jewel-like (very much as you find in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain Vampire novels).

Tubb doesn't reach for those OED gems, though -- he uses normal, everyday vocabulary, but uses it well.

So I recommend the Dumarest saga as a way to study how to achieve inconspicuous but elloquent precision in vocabulary usage.

Just like a TV Series Hero, Dumarest has to stay footloose.  But his character is such that he does form relationships, and his personal integrity requires him to risk even his life for the sake of those relationships. 

He demonstrates Self Respect -- something you don't find a lot of on TV Series these days.  When you do find it on TV, it's watered down compared to this.

Which brings me to an article published last year, the 13 attributes of successful people.

If you are building a character to be the center-pole of a long series, a quintessential Hero, use this list and test every line of dialogue and every decision that character makes against this list.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/11/18/mentally-strong-people-the-13-things-they-avoid/

Check Dumarest against that list.  See what markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Now, why would a modern Romance writer want to study dusty old adventure-action novels written for boys?

It's not the "dusty" or "old" part that you need to study -- or emulate.  (Please, no emulation of the dusty or old parts!).

To figure out what to do TODAY that will last and last and come back into print to put your grandchildren through college -- study the parts of these novels, the ingredients, that have lasted.

The parts that still work will very likely still work 50 years from now. 

To figure out how to use that information to create a galaxy you can tell a long-romance-saga against, you do need to know something about what else was going on during the early 20th century. 

What did life feel like?  Well, Hollywood isn't a reliable source of historical information, but it does show the Fantasies and Aspirations -- the wishes, dreams, spirit -- of that time.

Combine watching some really old films on Netflix with some non-fiction written at that time (not in modern times) about the world-forces shaping people's lives.  "Life" is mostly about wedging yourself a place between sweeping, storming forces.  We all try to find our place, our "Home" as Dumarest does, and make a safe place to raise children.

I should also note that board gamers look at the Dumarest of Terra Series as the origin of the extremely popular (Dungeons & Dragons level popular) TRAVELER game. 

Study the Dumarest phenomenon (how popular it was -- it is in the same category as the Sten Series, also from Wildside) against those two dimensions, Hollywood dreams and cold-hard-facts of history, and you will understand what Ace Doubles were and what they did for science fiction.

That is what has to be done for the HEA plausibility in the Romance genre.  We have the leverage now.  We have but to use it.

Here is the first of the Sten novels:
http://www.amazon.com/Sten-The-Series-Vol/dp/1434430979/

There are 8 main novels and several additional newer volumes.  They are in paper, e-book, and audiobook. 

Sten dates from the 1980's or so, and the series was written concurrently with a large number of screenplays (mostly TV) by Cole and Bunch. 

Stack up STEN next to DUMAREST, and contrast-compare what innovation they brought to their decade's audience. 

While you're at it, you might want to make a third column for the 8 original Sime~Gen volumes (there are now 12 volumes). 

Look at the strong influences and criss-crossing thematic lines.  Look at the character-formulae relative to that list of 13 things successful people avoid. 

Now look around at the current headlines.  Evaluate the current culture surrounding your target audience.  Check your Market. 

Wildside Press is today reviving the Ace Double format.  Two of the new, first publication Sime~Gen novels are part of that program. 



These two new novels are available in this paper Doubles format, and individually as e-book and audible.com editions.

Study these achievements that test out over time, adapt the principles behind these achievements to your purposes, and launch a byline that you will live with for the rest of your life.

Up until recently, Romance Genre was never considered "reprintable" -- today, Bestselling Romance writers are bringing their own backlist books out as e-books (yeah, Bestselling writers are self-publishing).  And these golden oldies are selling very well!

Yes, pre-cell-phone plots seem awkward.

Yes, women who lack adherence to those 13 principles of successful people in that article seem implausible. 

But yes, that's how life was -- and still is for a lot of women world-wide.

Consider that when you're rummaging around in your mind for a story that's marketable today and for the next 50 years.

Then ponder this article, and why it is that self-published writers don't make much money.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2013/12/09/how-much-money-do-self-published-authors-make/

And in that article is this link:
http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/self-publishing-debate-part3/

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Latest Bionic Man Development

A new prototype bionic hand allows an amputee to experience tactile sensations through the prosthesis:

Bionic Hand

This device isn’t ready for public release yet, being bulky and dependent on wired connections to the brain. And it doesn’t transmit subtleties such as temperature and texture. However, the wearer can feel shape and hardness, and with this artificial hand he can grasp objects by touch, able to sense the amount of force needed in a natural way instead of having to work by sight with trial and error—more than any previous bionic limb could do. The subject in this test reported that he felt as if his missing fingers were moving.

One more step closer to the Six Million Dollar Man (remember him?) or RoboCop. Or, to speak in really retro terms, it’s tempting to think of RoboCop as a high-tech version of the Tin Woodman of Oz: How much of a human body could be replaced and still allow us to consider the subject as the same person (or as human at all)? As long as the brain remains? Suppose the mind’s data are uploaded into an electronic brain in a completely artificial body? Is that the “real” person or merely a computer program copying him or her?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 4: Understanding The Headlines You Use For Springboards by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 4
Understanding The Headlines You Use For Springboards
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of this series:
Last week:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/02/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

And long ago:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/03/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/05/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

The Story Springboards series:

 http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/01/index-to-story-springboards-series-by.html

I've been illustrating how to use a Headline as one ingredient in your Springboard via my posts on Google+ and Facebook. 

You've heard the phrase, "Ripped From The Headlines" as part of the hype for a film or TV Miniseries.  It tries to sell you on the idea that you must see this film (or read this book) because it is relevant to the world as you already know it.

Last week we examined the role of PR (Public Relations the mathematical discipline underlying advertising) in self-publishing.

If you license your novel to a big publisher, you don't have to know anything about PR beyond filling out the questionnaire the publicity department sends you, and doing any radio or TV interviews that come your way. 

If you self-publish, you need to know much more. 

It's all about the business model of the Entertainment Industry.

In this blog, I've talked about the impact of new technology on the writer's business model as the e-book has emerged since 2007.  Yes, I've been posting on this blog since March 2007 - almost 7 years now.

In 2007, few were aware of the potential in the e-book market - and self-publishing was an idiotic idea.

Today, the big publishers are aware, and perhaps alarmed, at the emergence of the Indie writer and a plethora of Indie publishers.

The same is happening in Music and Film - YouTube is a game changer. 

The underlying concept of "Business Model" is morphing fast enough to frighten those who have spent a lifetime building a big business.

So today we'll look at the business of Journalism.

Last week, I mentioned in passing how publishing in the early 20th Century was a business run for the purpose of losing money.\

Publishing companies were owned by large, profitable corporations as a tax write-off, and therefore could spend a lot of money publishing and promoting "Important" books filled with ideas too abstract, or too difficult, for a person of average education to grasp.

In fact, the average person just wouldn't be interested in such ideas. 

Remember, Silent Films and the Talkies burst into the fiction scene during that publishing era.

Movie moguls made "stars" of comely actors -- or even those would couldn't act. 

During those decades, newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, radio news and the News Reel (a short headlines with snatches of film shown between features at a movie theater) were the sources of information people used.

Then came TV News, a daily newsreel that quickly replaced radio news.  Radio news is back now, but call-in, talk show, and commentary dominate.  Radio is mostly web-radio.  "Spectrum" is expensive, sold at government auction.  A lot of it is going to smartphone service.  Satellite radio is struggling financially.

So, against that historical background, let's look at how Journalism has morphed in response to advancing technology.

Last week we established why fiction writers need to understand Journalism as a business. 

I've pointed out many times the Journalism background of many famous writers.

Most particularly, you should note the autobiographical works of the screenwriter (whose writing you know very well, even if you've never noticed his name) Allan Cole.



and later, Allan Cole's screenwriting career launch, and how having been a professional journalist helped:



And here's a newly available copy of Allan Cole's first written screenplay -- that got optioned many times, but never made.  It's mentioned in Hollywood Misadventures and now you can read it:




This non-fiction writing for profit first business model doesn't just apply to screenwriting. 

Journalism, and/or general non-fiction writing gives a huge boost to Mystery or Romance writers.

Here's one I found offering a freebie copy via BookBub.com
Susanne O'Leary -- non-fic turned fic writer shows another path:



-----------------
About O'Leary -- from Amazon:

I was born in Sweden and live in Ireland (married to an Irishman). I started my writing career by writing non-fiction and wrote two books about health and fitness (I am a trained fitness teacher). While writing these books, I discovered how much I loved the actual writing process. My then editor gave me the idea to write a fun novel based on my experiences as a diplomat’s wife. This became my debut novel, ‘Diplomatic Incidents’ (the e-book version is called ‘Duty Free’), published in 2001. I wrote three further novels, ‘European Affairs’ (now as an e-book with the title ‘Villa Caramel’), ‘Fresh Powder’ (2006) and ‘Finding Margo’(2007). The latter two were published by New Island Books in Dublin. In 2010, when the publishing industry started to decline, I broke away from both publisher and agent and e-published my backlist, along with two novels that were with my agent for submission. Since then I have written and e-published four further novels and, as a result, now have ten books out there in the e-book market worldwide. I write mainly in the women’s fiction genre, some chick-lit, some contemporary romance, with two historical novels and two detective stories thrown into the mix. I enjoyed writing those but my first love is romantic fiction with a lot of humour and heart. My bestselling romantic comedy, Fresh Powder was translated to German last year and, with the title ‘Frischer Schnee’, is selling well on Amazon.de. My website: http://www.susanne-oleary.com Blog: http://susannefromsweden.wordpress.com/ Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Susanne-OLeary/e/B001JOXAJO
-------------

So, as far as staying marketable in a world where the very business model is morphing under your feet, never mind the background drumbeat of shifting audience taste, the beginning writer should not skip the non-fiction-career-step.

If you think you should skip that step, read more biographies of writers like the type of writer you want to be.  It's possible you are one of the few who should skip the non-fiction step.

It's true, I didn't work in journalism before selling fiction.  However, the connection to that discipline is deep within me.  I was raised by a mother and father who both worked in journalism.  I lived and breathed those disciplines from before I knew how to say a complete sentence.  So don't use me as an example of skipping that step.

So, we've talked about how fiction publishing in the early 20th century was a "for-loss" business, not a "for-profit" business. 

Since loss was not only allowed, but encouraged, especially in high-tax years, "Important" books had a chance to get well published. 

But what about Journalism?

Today, headlines are full of lay-off notices at big Newspapers, of bankruptcy filings of all kinds of print-media outlets, the sale of famous print-magazines to other publishing groups (that would change the editorial slant).

Simultaneously, professional journalism is finally moving online.

As with the advent of e-books which was ignored as a trivial market-share by Big Publishers, so print news outlets ignored the blogosphere until things like The Huffington Post changed the landscape.

Twitter is regarded by TV News and Finance as way over-priced at $50/share, but at the same time is seen as THE one and only place to 'be' with a breaking story.  All the big news media put headlines there. 

How did the journalism business model get to a twitter-driven base? 

Well, the path is parallel to that of fiction publishing.

This is the little-known fact dredged from history that you should take away from this blog.

In the mid-20th century, News was not a for-profit game. 

Prior to Radio and TV News, there was print-media news.  And that ran at a slim, but real profit margin.

Newspapers didn't make a profit from NEWS.  They made their PROFIT from advertisements, especially "The Classified" (think Monster.com ) And grocery coupon advertising. 

Before Radio and TV, News stories were printed as the bait to collect eyeballs to deliver to the advertisers.

That business model element was adapted to Radio News which was also advertising driven.

When Radio was replaced (mostly) by TV News, again it was advertising driven.

News Reels in theaters were sandwiched between feature films, cartoons, and serials, but customers paid for access to that bundle.  Even in the mid-20th century, box-office did not support the expense of renting the viewing bundle -- concessions did, and still do, represent a theater's profit margin.

Today, theaters have reduced access to 1 feature film plus a whole lot of advertising reels (except of course the material is digital, not on reels of film).

Around 1985, when the Internet was beginning to connect individual households to the outside world (Prodigy, AOL, local ISPs), you begin to see an inflection point where this old, stable business model suddenly would morph into what we're seeing today.

What we're seeing today is essentially chaos.  That always happens at major transformations -- for better or for worse, transformation has a chaos phase.  We're in it.

The point to remember is that NEWS -- the pithy reporting of facts -- has only ever existed to attract and hold eyeballs to advertising. 

Advertising has gone from random, artistic expression to mathematically based PR. 

It's germane to your business model as a writer. 

Once you get your mind around the longer, historical perspective of the "changing world" of the fiction-delivery-system I keep talking about on this blog, you will be able to chart your path, as a writer, into the rapidly morphing future.

It has often been said that the internet (and e-book creation/distribution) is an Event in History as significant to society as the advent of the movable type printing press.

The printing press was the high-tech innovation that heralded the overthrow of Aristocracy as the main means of government.

OK, we have a new type of "aristocrat" today -- but really, it's not the same.

We are at an inflection point which, after all the turbulence is over, will be regarded as heralding another new era of society.

There are those who are pushing (hard) to eliminate the entire philosophical concept of "copyright" -- of Intellectual Property.  If you think something, it must be because others influenced you, so what you think belongs to everyone.

It's an interesting argument (worthy of many novels with all kinds of themes!).

The Internet and self-publishing e-books (and POD) are going to change things you wouldn't expect fiction to touch, never mind change.

To figure out where you, personally, fit into the new pattern (that hasn't emerged yet), study the business model with a long view.

Get used to thinking of fiction and non-fiction (and docudrama or News Analysis or Opinion Op-Ed) as simply the bait for eyeballs.

The business-model is really just about gluing eyes to screens long enough to flash an advertisement crafted of PR-informed-techniques, to arouse EMOTION to the point where people form herds and stampede toward the advertiser's goal.

Learn to see the TV News that way.

Learn to figure out why they do segments on this or that topic, and why they say one thing but avoid another -- why the choose the language they do. 

You will see how the emotion aroused during a segment is used by the advertising between segments.

It's easiest to see on "News" -- but now watch some fiction shows.

Now analyze the advertisements to discover what audience those TV shows are aimed at. 

You have to reverse-engineer the composition you are watching on TV.

Note that BOOKS don't usually (yet) carry advertising except the publisher's list of other books at the back.

It's coming.  Watch for it.  Embedding video ads in e-books is only a step away.

Here is an item on how much self-publishing writers make from writing:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2013/12/09/how-much-money-do-self-published-authors-make/

If those writers could make up the difference by embedding ads, would they?

How would that change what they put in their writing? 

Nobody is going to TELL a writer exactly how PR works, you know.  It is a secret -- well hidden in plain sight.

Stuffy, obtuse college textbooks teach you about it, but who reads those without being forced to take the course?

Advertising is all about emotion.

I saw an article in December explaining that all advertising now relies entirely on rousing emotional pitch, and never on actual information.  I've re-surveyed some ads, and yes, that seems to be true.

So maybe it's a trend.

Parallel to that shift in advertising, we have the dilution of News content, and the invasion of "slant" into "hard news." 

As I pointed out previously, I was raised in a journalism family. 

The cardinal rule of journalistic writing (e.g. news stories for news papers) other than write with an 8 year old's vocabulary and syntax, is to choose language that is absolutely devoid of any hint of your own personal opinion.

In Part 5 I referred you to a non-fiction book about the history of science fiction in which a certain work is called "melodramatic."  "Calling" is revealing your own personal opinion.  An adjective like "melodramatic" refers to a quality which is only present subjectively.

The usage has changed the meaning over time. 

In the mid-20th Century, the Merriam-Webster definition -- ( emotional in a way that is very extreme or exaggerated : extremely dramatic or emotional ) held true.

The word was used to refer to an "extreme" or "exaggerated" situation - a caricature of reality.

The more modern Urban Dictionary says:
The state of being overly emotional - therefore often in a situation that does not warrant such a strong reaction.

Can you see the subjective judgement components?

What is "extreme" -- well, that's your opinion, and might not be mine.

What is "exaggerated"  to you may seem in correct proportion to me, or even understated.

What is "overly" emotional?  What exact degree of emotion does in fact warrant 100% response?  What is "over" what?  Where that borderline is depends on who you are and what else you've experienced.

So a JOURNALIST can't use the word Melodramatic -- not ever, except when quoting someone, and then only to illustrate how judgmental that person seems.

The word itself is commentary -- and Hard News is factual and only factual.

So there are a hundred little tricks of the trade journalists used to use (assiduously) to keep all hint of opinion out of News.

Another characteristic of Old Fashioned Hard News was that, while every outlet had an editorial slant (clearly delineated in editorials and never hinted at in News items), and each outlet selected things to report on according to their slant, they did not CRAFT A NARRATIVE.

Today, TV News (and most other media outlets) blatantly admits (via TV anchors) that they omit any item that "does not fit the narrative" being crafted to justify their editorial slant -- no matter how much hypocrasy oozes through the cracks.

 Very few people channel-surf News programs and do relentless contrast/compare studies to sift out the few real Hard News Facts buried amidst the torrent of opinion.

That group of channel surfers is so small that most people have no idea there is a Narrative being "sold" (via precise mathematical PR techniques).  And in fact, if you told them, they'd consider you a bit daft, or maybe a flat-out liar.

To understand what's happened to the world of fiction publishing (and how to leverage that to the advantage of the Romance Genre HEA credibility), we'll look at the world of TV News.  The changes have happened in lockstep in both fields, and the reasons for those changes in both are the same.

The reason is PR.

Behind that, the reason is quite simply profit. 

It's a business-model shift that caused a shift in content. 

The shift in content is easiest to see in News -- but is also visible in fiction.

Next week, in Part 5, we'll look at some fiction -- and in Part 6 the following week, we'll examine the News Game. 

Put the two perspectives together and you will see what you can do to gain credibility for the HEA and Romance in all its crossed-genres.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Saving the Cat Query

Having recently read Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT, which Jacqueline has often recommended, I’m wondering about an apparent exception to the “save the cat” rule in classic literature. Snyder lays out the principle that the protagonist should do something early in the story to make the reader (or viewer) like and root for him or her, to hint that even if the central character looks like a bad guy, he is redeemable. As an extension of this principle, Snyder says that if the protagonist appears to have no redeeming traits, the same goal can be achieved by introducing another character who’s even worse.

So how does Ebenezer Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL fit into this pattern? In the opening scene, he does nothing whatever to win our sympathy or display any redeeming characteristics. Everything he says and does in that scene, in fact, seems designed to demonstrate what a lost cause he is. He bullies Bob Cratchit, rudely dismisses two gentlemen collecting for charity, drives off a boy singing Christmas carols, and picks a quarrel with his nephew who drops in to invite him to dinner. Scrooge does perform one positive act, giving Cratchit Christmas Day off, but it’s done so grudgingly I have trouble seeing it as a “save the cat” moment. The Scrooge figures in some of the many film adaptations behave even worse. The singing star in A DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL makes her entourage work on Christmas. In AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, the Scrooge analog even fires the Cratchit analog on Christmas Eve. Returning to Dickens, some readers might suggest that Scrooge’s bleak, solitary lifestyle is meant to evoke sympathy, but I think any tendency to feel sorry for him is undercut by the evidence that he’s perfectly content with the way he lives. (“Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”) And in no case does the author (Dickens or later adapters)—in the opening scene—present a character worse than Scrooge to make him look less unappealing by contrast.

The latter technique appears to striking effect in a modern novel, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. While Dr. Hannibal Lecter isn’t the protagonist and shows no sign of being redeemable, the author gives him audience appeal by implicitly contrasting him with characters who make him look good by comparison. Dr. Chilton, head of the institution where Lecter is incarcerated, makes a strongly negative first impression on Clarice Starling and on the reader. The inmates of cells adjoining Lecter’s are crude, violent men who verbally abuse Clarice. Lecter, in contrast, apologizes to her for the ugly treatment she receives. Moreover, he helps Clarice by giving her cryptic but useful clues in her investigation of the “Buffalo Bill” killer. Also, while we’re TOLD about Lecter’s horrible crimes, what we SEE at first glance is a brilliant, cultured man suffering harsh imprisonment. In fact, Thomas Harris’s strategy is so effective that, when HANNIBAL came out, some fans actually insisted in online comments that Lecter wasn’t such a bad guy after all! So one of the villains of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS comes across as more attractive than Scrooge, a much less evil character who’s the protagonist of his story and destined for redemption.

When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows up, we begin to witness a side of Scrooge that’s worth saving and capable of being saved. That happens quite a way into the story, though. Of course, a genius such as Dickens can get away with breaking “rules.” Still, is there any way the reader’s first meeting with Scrooge can be interpreted to fit into the “save the cat” pattern? Maybe Dickens’s strategy of making old Ebenezer, although grotesquely unattractive, an irresistibly entertaining character (his dialogue includes many examples of dry wit, though that impression might be more attributable to the acting skills of stars such as George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart rather than to the character as written) fits the criterion. But that seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 3: Making A Living At Writing by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 3
Making A Living At Writing
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous Parts in this series:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/05/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/03/marketing-fiction-in-changing-world.html

So here we are in 2014 and the world of marketing fiction is morphing even faster than ever.  In fact, "marketing" in general is under a high-impact game-changer of an ad-campaign.  The targets of this campaign mostly have no idea they've been targeted -- which is the way Public Relations is supposed to work, sneaking through your critical thinking filters. 

The groundbreaking ad campaign was launched for the film Anchorman 2.  Ron Burgundy suddenly appeared all over the place, coming at you from every medium.

http://www.hypable.com/2013/12/04/ron-burgundy-quotes-anchorman-promotional-appearances/ 

I saw several items on the financial news back in December 2013 about this ad campaign for Anchorman 2, during the talk about how the only thing wrong with Obamacare is the lack of a sufficient PR thrust to cause people to sign up for Obamacare (while news items kept appearing about the lack of Security on the back end of the healthcare.gov website.)

In the Entertainment biz, (of which publishing is a part), no matter how interesting your story, if it doesn't have an appropriate ad campaign, it won't make you a profit. 

Do you know how it "happens" that something like the Burgundy promo suddenly appears on NEWS SHOWS?  And everywhere else, while ads are appearing -- most hits on the YouTube video which has been pushed viral?  That it didn't "go" viral but was pushed viral on purpose is the story.  But how did that story make it onto a news broadcast?

Publicity Release, that's how.

There are a number of online services that promise free or fee-paid distribution to news outlets for a press release you write -- and they even admit that there is a standardized technique for writing such press releases.  They show you how.  But that isn't enough.

Any reporter, editor, etc. is now bombarded with thousands of these things a day. 

It's not enough to "put out" a "press release" -- professional back-channel access to the decision makers is necessary, and before that can be effective, there has to be a "story." 

This is the NEWS GAME, behind the scenes.  It has its own language and buzz-words as well as an entire business model for attracting the attention of large numbers of people who, because of whatever they have in common, will very likely do something with the information.

The most successful novelists I know of (and sometimes know personally) have one of two starting-professions under their belts before they "make it big" in the book biz.

1) Journalism
2) Marketing

It doesn't matter what kind of Journalism and it doesn't matter marketing what.  These two professions ingrain an entire outlook on the world that trains the subconscious to think in certain ways when organizing an Idea for a Story.

So we're going to examine how the News Game has changed -- where it was decades ago, why it was that way, and what forces caused it to change.

ANCHORMAN 2 is a marvelous case in point since it is sort-of about NEWS, but is fiction, and got this groundbreaking Public Relations Campaign.

That's what's "wrong" with self-publishing -- most writers just don't understand Public Relations, or how to create an ad campaign (nor do they have a sufficient budget).  And they don't understand Journalism -- which is the interface between the writer and the audience.  If you get "reported on" you are important.  How do you get "interviewed" on a news show and have them introduce you as the author of a book which they put on screen?

How do you get a cover design on your book that an eye-blink of exposure on a TV screen would give a viewer a need to buy that book?

It's magic, right?  Sheer dumb luck?  It could happen to anyone?  All you have to do is get your book in print?

What do you need a "publisher" for? 

PR, that's what. 

PR is the most expensive part of producing a book.  Just as in film production, the writer gets the least amount of the budgeted money, the book writer gets the least amount in advance from the publishing budget, and the least of the profits. 

Self-publishers who establish a publishing budget covering all the items a big publisher puts into a budget have a very good chance of succeeding. 

One reason writers go to self-publishing is that they learn how the author's contract pays them 6% to 10% of the NET proceeds from sale of the book.  The publisher keeps the rest.

No, actually not.  The publisher SPENDS the rest on staff and tasks required to produce and market that book.  Publishing (like the News Game we're going to discuss) used to be a zero-profit business.  It used to be that big companies owned a publishing company for the prestige of it (I'm not kidding; I know first-hand), and the company policies of the publishing arm of the company were designed to lose money.

The publishing company's job was to lose money AS A TAX WRITE-OFF.

They were in the business of exciting original thought with stimulating IDEAS, of instructing, informing, investigating, and incidentally entertaining.  The business aim was to break even -- make office rent, salaries, printing fees, etc etc -- not to make a profit.  So for every big, best seller, they would deliberately publish really "important" books that just could not possibly earn what it cost to print and distribute. 

The mission statement didn't include this, but the real mission was to lose money and gain prestige for the company that owned the publishing company.

That all changed when the US tax laws that governed warehousing of product changed.

Two decades later, technology swooped in and blindsided paper publishers -- e-books are now the battleground, and self-publishing may be our Renaissance.  (we're seeing this trend in Indie film and Indie everything else.) 

Note also that most all the US operating publishers are actually owned by foreign companies.  The shift in the tax laws gutted US Publishing to the point where we had an era writers called "Pac Man Publishing" where companies ate each other (this is happening with our Airlines now, and Healthcare delivery and innovators are entering that phase.) 

Just remember this:  IT IS ALL ABOUT THE TAX LAWS. 

So let's add a third starting-profession to the list of pre-published-author professions:

1) Journalism
2) Marketing (PR is part of Marketing)
3) Business Administration

One of the items in the BA curriculum is Public Relations and the place and function of the PR Department in the corporate structure.  Accounting is supposed to cover Tax Laws, but if you self-publish, you have to learn all that, too.  Tax laws are the elephant in the room.  You stand or fall as a business on Tax Law.

A self-publisher is a corporation -- has to be!  At least an LL.C.  There's an annual fee imposed on corps by each state -- a tax.  It's all about taxes. 

If you self-publish an e-book, and get sued, they can take your house, car, any other property.  Put the book into a corporation, and all the laws are different, but they are different in each state. 

And a self-publishing writer has to be a Master of administering or managing a PR department -- even if she wears all the hats in this corp, she has to do the PR and be the PR Department manager herself.  Each of these jobs is a full time job, and each requires a 4-year University Degree or at least the knowledge acquired in that degree work, plus the real-world, hands-on, skills gained by working with people. 

So google the following query:
anchorman Burgundy promotion

Study the results from the point of view of 1) Journalism ( a news organization deciding this film's promotion is NEWS - not the film itself!), 2) Marketing (that provides the news organization with the material to make that decision a slam-dunk) and 3) The Business of monetizing an investment in a piece of fiction (watch the film).

From the outside, the results of PR look like magic.  It's not.  It's science so advanced that it looks like magic. 

So beginning writers assume they can write a great novel, self-publish it, and LUCK may strike and boost them into this pinnacle of profit that the Burgundy films enjoy simply because their writing and their story are so much better than that movie (which they probably are). 

It's true: Luck Can Do That.  And the odds tilt in your favor if you write well. 

But self-publishing for profit requires a whole lot more savvy than that. 

It requires understanding business. 

Being a successful self-publisher means understanding the business structure well enough to know exactly where "Talent" resides in the Business Model, and precisely what the value of the content produced by Talent is worth in terms of ROI. 

Remember the old Hollywood saw, "I'll make you a star."  Mostly, the producer saying that was a grifter who just wanted to "make" the girl, but sometimes they could and did "make a star."  How talented an actress was Marilyn Monroe?  How good a singer is Madonna?  Are there better actresses or singers?  Why aren't they as well known? 

Is fame proportionate to ability?

See this entry on FAME:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/12/theme-character-integration-part-5-fame.html

Making a living at writing (even if you use a publisher) also requires the writer's concept of their product's place in the business model to morph as fast as the business model itself is morphing.  (which in 2014 is fast!  Tax law changes will ensure even faster morphing, never mind Healthcare changes.)

Take the ANCHORMAN 2 promotional campaign as an example of how your PR approach must now shift.

The Business channels carried items noting how the unique aspect of this promotional campaign was because it utilized multiple media forms simultaneously - a timed barrage. 

It's on TV, Radio, YouTube, Internet ads, and I don't know about print, blogging.  The campaign itself is the news item, as much as the sequel to a popular movie.

OK, the subject of the movie has wide appeal -- but the effectiveness of the YouTube ad plus all the multi-channel hype was highlighted on the Business channel coverage when one of the anchors said his whole family wants to see that movie -- the teen from YouTube or Netflix exposure, his wife from another medium and himself from other sources. 

Each channel of communication with potential audience demographics now requires a different medium of communication of the "message."  But "messaging" is still King. 

Apparently, the producers of this film spent more on promotion than on the movie, and one of the stars is getting his cut off the back end (not up front which is usual).  In other words, he gets a percent of the box office, so he's out there beating the drum just before the film hits -- TIMING is the other biggie in advertising.  Messaging (saying it in a way that gets across) and Timing are the keystones of an ad campaign.

And it is a campaign.  It's a WAR between those who can profit from selling you the product, and your resistance to spending that money.  Also the consumer has limited time to spend on entertainment.  You are, as Heinlein said, vying for the buyer's beer money and leisure time.

There is a whole science behind getting "people" to DO SOMETHING. 

That science, PR, works well enough that the cost/benefit equation works better in favor of those who know and utilize that science.

Advertising used to be an Art.  During the 20th century, it became a science (Public Relations is now math based on statistical studies of how large populations respond to messaging).  You've seen TV news using "focus groups" to predict elections or graph public opinion of viewers watching a segment.

PR is founded on the assumption that "people" are a herd -- that people see a person (a leader or influencer -- such as Klout attempts to spot by analyzing your social media interactions) move in a direction and they just follow like a herd.  Therefore, the only way to "make a profit" is to control that herd's movements, and PR is the math behind that control.  We've discussed all that at considerable length on this blog.

Here are 3 previous items on this blog that discuss PR:

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/2013/01/theme-plot-integration-part-4-fallacies.html

Control the Influencers - the Leaders - and you control the herd.  Any cowboy/gal can tell you how that works.

For a century, this science has been growing, becoming refined and more accurate -- so successful that the general opinion that an individual has of "people" is that they (people plural) aren't very smart. 

"Yell FIRE in a dark theater!"  It brings to mind that image of a stampede for exits.

One PR principle is to keep that herd in a panic -- or some peak emotional state, pathos, sympathy, revulsion, all do the job.  The key to controlling the herd is whipping up emotion because emotional states (fear-fight-flight) wipe out critical thinking, paralyze the ability to discern the con-game, the grifter's skills at work.

We discussed the TV Show Leverage here:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/01/business-model-of-writers-in-changing.html

If you missed prior discussions involving PR, review them here:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/04/story-springboards-part-2-tv-shows.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/10/believing-in-happily-ever-after-part-4.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/10/believing-in-happily-ever-after-part-3.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/10/believing-in-happily-ever-after-part-2.html

If you've studied Leverage, (and the many other TV Shows that focus on con-men tricking "marks" into self-destruction) you are equipped to make yourself PR proof. 

Once you see the strings of greed and fear con-men pull to make their "marks" dance, you will never be a "mark" again.  If you can achieve that mindset, you have a serious chance of being successful at self-publishing. 

Seeing is believing. 

Until you see what PR at publishing houses does, and how they do it, and how you have been a victim of it, you have no chance at success in self-publishing. 

You don't need a college degree to do this, but you do need to know what is in those textbooks.  You don't need a teacher.  Teach yourself.  Go to the library or buy some used textbooks (much cheaper now in e-book format!) and just learn it. 

So returning to the grifter's secondary tool of "fear."  That's "Yelling Fire In A Crowded Theater."  Just get the herd moving, and human stupidity will do the rest for you.  Remember, the principle behind PR is that Aroused Emotion obliterates critical thinking.  Once you've short-circuited human critical thinking, you own that herd.

As long as you, the writer with aspirations of self-publishing, are a member of the herd that Publisher's PR Departments own, you will not succeed at self-publishing.  Your indignation and defiance are emotions aroused by the "stupidity" of publishers who refuse to publish the "better" kind of book you write, and thus your critical thinking is shunted offline, and they own you.

As long as you are in rebellion against traditional publishing, you will fail because they own you.

You will not fail because your book is not marketable (though that does cause failure).  You will fail because of your emotional state.

You can master your emotional state easily by coming to understand how the Confidence Operator is jerking you around.  Find where your handles are sticking out, and don't let them get hold of you by your handle.

For writers, that handle is generally, "I write better than that."  And very often, that's true.  What the writer must learn to go professional, especially as a self-publisher, is that there is a low, but clearly defined threshold that a story must meet, and any quality above that just doesn't matter in marketing.

How well you write just doesn't matter.  How important your story is used to matter -- in today's publishing world that publishes FOR PROFIT ONLY -- "importance" of what you have to say doesn't matter.

Once you get that fixed in your mind, you can research why lesser works than your own sell so much better.

But you won't understand the data you're gathering until you understand PR.

Many times great disasters with horrendous death tolls have occurred in public places (such as bars or theaters) with insufficient exits.

"Messaging" is the science of figuring out what to yell in that darkened theater to raise the emotional state to the point where critical thinking evaporates and the mindless herd is created (in politics, it's call a Bandwagon).

"Timing" is the science of picking when to Yell.

Targeting a Market is the science of "getting all those people packed into that theater" -- "finding your audience."

"What Is The Lowest Common Denominator that all those people share?"

That's what "audience" means to PR folks -- not the definition of the word audience, which is about "those who hear" but how to gather those people all together to yell your emotion-raising message causing the herd to lunge all together in one direction.

If you think about what that means, you may see why Science Fiction is not so popular.

Science Fiction has been defined as "The Literature of Ideas."  That is, it is about THINKING.

Only in ROMANCE is it possible to have truly peak emotional experiences while at the same time still thinking critically.  (I said Romance, not sex.) 

Science Fiction is always about the story (fiction) of some revelation about the structure of the universe (science) that organizes (science) the knowledge gained into a pattern than can be used to invent new things.

In the typical, old fashioned, science fiction a young boy (always a boy) who has a brilliant mind discovers some new fact that his elders could never have found.  Using this new fact, the boy invents, fixes, adds-on, or otherwise morphs what tools his elders were using and thus solves a problem older people could not.

The driving force in old style Science Fiction is the boy's emotional need to "prove himself" -- or one of the other emotional issues of teen boys, but never the sexuality inherent in the teen years.  SF was usually set in the time of life of the Rite of Passage into adulthood, and thus defined what it means to be an adult, as opposed to being a child.

That type of Science Fiction has almost disappeared from the shelves (or Amazon). 

Stories about the process of becoming The Adult In The Room via the application of critical thinking and bold exploration of new ideas have not been given the PR push (that Anchorman 2 has gotten) for at least 10 years.

It is as if those selecting books to put PR muscle behind do not want young people to admire and emulate those whose behavior is controlled more by critical thinking than by emotional-herd-behavior. 

People who default to critical thinking when someone yells FIRE, are generally the sort who simply will not respond to advertising for shaving cream, perfume, tooth paste, or a muscle car.  They simply can not be fooled by advertisements, not even for political candidates. 

People who default to critical thinking are immune to advertising, and every other grifter's trick. 

Science Fiction, from the publishers whose mission-statement included losing money, or break-even at best, taught readers not only to admire critical thinking, but also how to do it when the whole mob around you is screaming, "FIRE!"  The science fiction fan was always the one who grabbed the fire extinguisher before the blaze got out of hand -- or set himself to become that person as an adult.

The measure of adulthood was the ability to default to critical thinking, no matter what others were doing.

That's not the same as being "emotionless" (as Spock was portrayed).  It's not lack of emotion.  It's that one trains one's emotions to be subordinate to critical thinking in the decision-making process.  Once that training is complete, one is an adult. 

From another view, Science Fiction is the fiction about people who defy the rules (because that's how science advances -- by people finding the mistakes in previously accepted Laws of Science). 

These individuals have the characteristic that Klout.com is looking for -- the clearly delineated difference from everyone else.

The lowest common denominator of the Science Fiction reader is high intelligence and unique critical thinking in the midst of peak emotion.

That's what makes the Science Fiction hero/heroine a prime candidate for Romance Genre.

For the astrology buffs reading this -- Romance is usually signaled by a Neptune transit.  Critical thinking is generally associated with an easy Mercury/Saturn connection, and/or Saturn transit to the 3rd/9th axis.  When the two are combined, you get prophetic brilliance, or Love At First Sight.  The true Happily Ever After generally results from that combination, whereas the hard Neptune transit "Romance" generally results in a really rough "The Honeymoon Is Over," moment. 

So now I'll give you a week to review Marketing, PR, the history of publishing, and other points I've skimmed through here.

Next week we'll discuss more about why it is that Journalism is a great way to start a fiction writing career aimed at making a living from writing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Monday, February 10, 2014

For authors interested in copyright

1.
 jopadownloads appears to be a phishing site. I have heard that they have no ebooks. Don't rush to send DMCAs. On the other hand, if you object to your name and your titles being used as lures by phishing sites, you might report them to Google and the reputable search engines.

2.
We can learn from the music industry experience. It doesn't seem fair that musicians who performed prior to the early 1970's get no royalties on their music (Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones etc) while for profit enterprises such as Sirius exploit the "free" music. Can the wrinkly rockers put the genie back in the bottle?
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/record-labels-seek-punish-siriusxm-677944?goback=%2Egde_36621_member_5838017169702531073

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 06, 2014

What Makes This Book So Great?

That’s the title of a new book by SF and fantasy author Jo Walton. This collection consists of 130 of her blog posts on books and reading from Tor.com. Most of the reviews discuss older works; her overall theme is rereading. This is a fascinating book to dip into. Who could resist essay titles such as “The Weirdest Book in the World” and “The Worst Book I Love: Robert Heinlein’s FRIDAY”? Walton writes about some of my favorite authors, e.g., Heinlein, Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Connie Willis; some writers toward whom I’m lukewarm; and many I’ve never read. There are essays about such topics as cursing in genre fiction (“The Knights Who Say F—k,” except that she spells out the word) and how to talk to a writer (mostly on what not to say). What I like most, though, are the articles on reading in general. She asks whether we “gulp” or “sip,” meaning whether we demand an unbroken chunk of time to enjoy a book or pick it up and consume it in small bits throughout the day. She talks about the joys of rereading—familiar books as comfort food. I agree with her on the point that sometimes we crave a reading experience we know we’ll find satisfying, rather than taking a chance on a new work that might disappoint. Best, for me, is a book I remember well enough to know I liked it but recall little enough that rereading holds surprises.

Or, as Walton lucidly summarizes it in a Tor.com post about “the right age to read a book”: “I actually prefer re-reading something to reading it for the first time. The first time there’s a certain amount of anxiety about whether it’s going to stay good, and also about what’s going to happen. On a re-read I know I can relax and trust the book.”

Occasionally I feel as if I’m indulging in a guilty pleasure when I return to a favorite book, because of the new materials waiting for attention in my bedroom stack and on the Kindle. I still sometimes have to remind myself that I finished college and graduate school many years ago, so nobody is timing or grading me.

Other topics: Walton discusses the difference between genre and mainstream and between literary criticism and what she sees herself as doing. She contemplates the appeal of series and differentiates the various types of series. She muses on why she rereads books she doesn’t like. She asks, “Do you skim?” Her position is that on first reading one shouldn’t skip the “boring” parts, because an important plot or character clue might lurk there. I must admit I sometimes skim “action” or fight scenes.

Most appealing to me, she confesses her habit of constant reading. She’s always reading whenever she isn’t doing anything else (and sometimes even then)—during meals eaten alone, in the bath, in lines and waiting rooms. She carries a book with her everywhere and uses any idle minutes to read. I’m glad to discover I’m not the only one. I read while eating, of course. I read during TV commercials and a little during the shows themselves. I constantly have at least three books or magazines in progress, one each for the bedroom, the bathroom, and the stationary bike (the last doubles as occupation for the five minutes or so, twice a day, I’m waiting for the dog to empty her food bowl). Anytime I’m in a car that somebody else is driving, I’m reading. And even if I’m the driver, I often bring a book in case the passenger wants to make a stop somewhere. On public transportation, of course I have to carry a supply of reading matter. Some people seem to think I’m peculiar that way. In the legislative editing office, where we worked in pairs, my partners often marveled that I could pick up a book or magazine and read (and retain) a paragraph or two while the partner briefly left the cubicle. Even my father, who also loved books, thought I was odd for reading on a tour bus instead of constantly watching out the window. (As exciting as it was to visit Eastern Europe, after a few hours one mountain or horse-drawn wagon looks a lot like all the others.)

Happily, Walton vindicates my literary habits. She might even agree with the motto on the button I bought at a con that reads, “Of course I have a life. It’s a life filled with books.” So—am I weird?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Reviews 5 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg E. C. Tubb's Dumarest of Terra novels

Reviews  5
by Jacqueline Lichtenberg 
E. C. Tubb's Dumarest of Terra novels


This continues the Reviews series of novels for Romance writers to study. 

Here is a Hot Science Fiction/Paranormal Romance without sex scenes and with some antiquated tech in the background.

You'd think the "Mixed Genre" trend we follow on this blog was a new thing.

It is not.

And it didn't exactly start with my Sime~Gen novels -- though they pushed the limits way farther than anything before.

In the mid-1950's Marion Zimmer Bradley gained considerable note for her first sale, a short story published in a magazine.  It had characters and a relationship driven plot.

But at the same time some of the male writers were exploring just how "real" they could make their characters and the relationships in their stories.  Hal Clement caught on with Mission of Gravity where the "Relationship" between a male (sort of) Alien on a high gravity planet and the human male on the high gravity surface in a capsule could relate to each other to solve a technical problem.

During that same era, E. C. Tubb made me a lifelong fan.  I read his Dumarest of Terra novels with that "Yes, but ..." response most women had.  But I was just sent an audiobook version of The Winds of Gath (Dumarest of Terra #1) and was blown away by it.

The Winds of Gath is an example of the very best MODERN Science Fiction Romance --  because it has the really Hot Hero (Dumarest).  It also has a character that reminds me of the Grandmother in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels.  It does have the "damsel in distress" character but that character is the "Grandmother" character's protege and great-granddaughter so you can guess just how much damsel there is in that distress.

Here it is on audible:
http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Winds-of-Gath-Audiobook/B00EUE9ULC
And here it is on Amazon -- you can get the collector's old original first edition, or the Wildside e-book or paper reprint:

http://www.amazon.com/Winds-Gath-Dumarest-Terra-Book/dp/0441893023/

Wikipedia says WINDS OF GATH was first published in 1968, but I think it's older than that, and someone picked up a reprint that didn't credit the older edition (common practice).

Here's the wikipedia entry with a list of the 33 novels:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumarest_saga#Books

I have long been a fan of E. C. Tubb -- especially Dumarest of Terra.  But I read them in used ACE Double paperbacks years ago, tucked the author and title names into my GREAT-WONDERFUL-ALWAYS-RECOMMEND list, and went on with my own writing career. 

Little did I know that having forgotten the details in these novels, I would incorporate some of them into my own Sime~Gen Series which only began selling to the major publishers in the 1970's.

Bits and pieces of elements you will find in THE WINDS OF GATH turn up oddly in some of my other novel series.  So if you've found my novels intriguing, you should check out the DUMAREST OF TERRA series then look for how it inspired other writers. 

That effect -- firing up a new generation with an urge to write stories -- is proof positive that Tubb has created a true Classic.  Dumarest lives on via the writers Tubb inspired.  And there are a lot of us. 

Recently, I was given the audiobook of THE WINDS OF GATH -- and copies of the next two in the series in audiobook -- or I probably would not have taken the time to rediscover Dumarest (a sexy hunk to die-for!). 

But the Dumarest novels are not "classic" in the sense of being a chore to read, of being a duty to your education -- they are delightfully entertaining and just plain fun.

If you write SF Romance, you will see the frustrating holes, the MISSING SCENES, and the reason that books like this inspired a whole new type of Science Fiction. 

So when I was given a review copy of the audiobook, GATH went straight to the top of my to-do list.
I am blown away!  Dumarest is sexier than I remember!  Everything I love about Modern Science Fiction Romance is present in this novel even if only by implication. 

Not only is the audiobook's reader, Rish Outfield, top-notch terrific, but the whole composition comes to life in audio because the writing is so good! 

OK, Tubb uses "tape" recording on a scientific instrument, omits cell phones or any Trek-type handheld, no warp drive (they travel in cold sleep or under some drug).  This series was started in the 1960's after all. 

Consider, though, that Tubb was lured into writing more and more of the Dumarest of Terra series for decades after that-- because it just sold and sold.  It was popular for a reason. 

It has stayed popular for a reason -- it is Mixed Genre at its very best, a 2014 novel published in the mid-1960's. 

You have a whole saga of the galaxy spread before you once you get into Book 1.  Books, 1,2, and 3 are in audiobook already.

Read these with a focus on the social issues, and issues of Character (what it takes to be a Good Person - what makes people turn really Dark -- what sorts of social orders foster what kinds of changes in people.)  The characters in the Dumarest novels are deep, multi-faceted, realistic. 

These novels are masterful explorations of the Major Social Issues of 2014 on Earth Today.  These novels give you something to think about.  Like Star Trek at its best, these novels leave you with Questions, with the essential Conundrum of Life, and a hint of what it would take to resolve that puzzle. 

So you can take what Tubb has sketched out, and add in the decorative parts expected in today's market, update the tech, and create a new universe for younger readers to explore. 

The Dumarest of Terra Series is an example of the material scorned worse than video-games are today -- a vacuous waste of time to read, something to keep your kids away from.  Kids who read this stuff were considered social outcasts. 

Guess what!  I disagreed with my elders as a kid when I was reading these books, and on rereading (well, listening), I have confirmed that I was right and they were wrong. 

Tubb's writing is both masterful craftsmanship and as profound as any of the great Classics in Latin and Greek. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Depravity, Intuit, and Superbowl Ads

Why did Goldieblox win a $4 million dollar Superbowl ad, plus priceless plugging on Fox and CNBC?

Was it absolute proof that the majority of Americans approve of copyright infringement? Was it proof that rules don't matter? I think so, and I find it profoundly depressing for all artists everywhere.

http://thetrichordist.com/2014/02/01/goldieblox-and-intuit-appear-to-have-vioalted-rules-in-superbowl-ad-contest-did-they-also-break-state-and-federal-law/#comments

It seems to me that Goldieblox shamelessly exploited The Beastie Boys and the American legal system for publicity, profit, and in order to win a valuable contest. As you want their advert on the superbowl tonight, reflect on the precedent.

Any alleged copyright infringer or alleged plagiarist can now, with impunity, sue any author, movie maker, musician, photographer, model or other intellectual property rights owner to PREVENT the author, movie maker, photographer etc from asserting lawful copyright remedies under the law, and in doing so, can gain sufficient fame and approbation among the freetard populace to win valuable online contests run by Big Tech.