Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getty Images Is Sued For One Billion Dollars

Getty Images apparently tried to shake down photographer  Carol Highsmith for using one of her own photographs on her own website.

Now she is suing them for a billion dollars (triple damages). This may be the tip of the iceberg! Something is very wrong with the DMCA and the morality of tech businesses that appropriate other people's works from the internet, and claim exclusive rights to those works.... and do not pay the creator, do not seek permission of the creator, and even seek to accuse the very creator of copyright infringement of their own works.

Getty Images was apparently sold a couple of years ago for over three billion dollars.

Here's an interesting discussion of what to do if Getty Images tries to demand a fee from you for images you are using.

Maybe, if you get a letter from Getty, you should first check the Library of Congress, to see if the image in question is one of the tens of thousands that the public has the right to use without paying anyone.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Microbiome Evolution

Recent research about the human microbiome—the ecology of the microorganisms that live in our bodies—indicates that the many species of flora and fauna inhabiting our digestive tracts originated with our prehuman ancestors and evolved in parallel with them:

Primates and Gut Microbes

A genomics researcher in Bethesda, Maryland, suggests that "this mutualistic symbiosis helped the human species evolve." We inherit not only our genes but our internal symbionts.

Another article I read about this discovery mentions that the cumulative mass of microbes in our intestinal tract typically outweighs our brain. It's boggling and humbling to contemplate how much of what we call our own body consists of alien organisms, most of them friendly or harmless.

This topic reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle's A WIND IN THE DOOR (sequel to her classic A WRINKLE IN TIME). Young heroine Meg becomes miniaturized in order to travel inside the body of her gravely ill little brother, Charles Wallace. She meets submicroscopic creatures who live in Charles Wallace's mitochondria. To these beings, a cell is their entire world, and Charles's body is a galaxy. They don't even realize their "galaxy" is sentient until Meg enlightens them. They and she become aware of the vital interconnectedness and inestimable value of all parts of creation, no matter how tiny or vast.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reviews 27 - FOREIGNER SERIES by C. J. Cherryh #16 and #17

Reviews 27
 C. J. Cherryh
#16 Tracker
#17 Visitor 

C. J. Cherryh has structured her very-very long series of Foreigner novels into trilogies.  I'm going to discuss #16 and #17 here, and no doubt will return to this series again as we expect one more novel in this 6th trilogy in the Foreigner Series.

It is a study in worldbuilding as well as Relationship driven plotting.

Here is the complete Kindle collection up to #16 on Amazon:

Here are the books so far, in publication order:

Foreigner, DAW Books, 1994.
Invader, DAW Books, 1995.
Inheritor, DAW Books, 1996.

Precursor, DAW Books, 1999.
Defender, DAW Books, 2001.
Explorer, DAW Books, 2002.

Destroyer, DAW Books, 2005.
Pretender, DAW Books, 2006.
Deliverer, DAW Books, 2007.

Conspirator, DAW Books, 2009.
Deceiver, DAW Books, 2010.
Betrayer, DAW Books, 2011.

Intruder, DAW Books, 2012.
Protector, DAW Books, 2013.
Peacemaker, DAW Books, 2014.

Tracker, DAW Books, 2015.
Visitor, DAW Books, 2016.

If you haven't read #1-15 of this series, you can still read #16 and #17 easily and understand what it is all about because the salient facts of "what went before" are filled in where needed.

C. J. Cherryh would never be considered a "Romance Writer" -- but if you are writing Science Fiction Romance, studying her works will give you all you need for springboards and themes that morph the typical Romance into real Science Fiction.

Of course, you can't just copy what she's built.  But you can see how she's brought her real-world education and background into the process of worldbuilding to create a convincing environment for stories that inspire study of her favorite topics.

To understand how she's used her background to generate her sprawling and complex Universe (the envelope title is "Alliance-Union" Universe), you do need to know something about her, and to read most of her novels.  Cherryh's professional background is in Languages, especially Latin, and her interests encompass all human history, pre-history, and cultural anthropology.

Her Aliens are Alien because she knows what "human" is, where it comes from, and how humanity develops and uses language.  That is the science behind her science fiction that produces such believable Aliens.

Here are some reference pages where you can see the sprawling, complex, background universe she's built for her Characters to explore.

And here's Wikipedia on the Foreigner Series:

In the Foreigner Series, we have a human linguist confronted with an Alien language based on Alien physiology that is treacherously close to human biology.  That closeness leads to inevitable errors in understanding because of the human trait of taking assumptions as facts.

Originally, such misunderstandings led to a human-alien war, which was resolved by a bit of more accurate communication.  Two hundred years pass after that war, and the FOREIGNER series starts with a linguist trained in that long tradition now tossed into the Alien culture which is thirsting for human technology, and resisting that technology for religious reasons.

Over the coarse of these novels, Bren, the Linguist, brings his world, humans and aliens alike, into a space age, then takes them out into interstellar space where they meet a new alien species that has space-ship mounted weapons and is not reluctant to shoot first and ask questions later.

Why are they not reluctant?

These two novels, Tracker and Visitor, begin to answer that question in a way that makes the Kyo (the new Alien species with big guns) seem easily comprehensible.  It is so easy to assume the obvious answer is true that one grows suspicious.

Also, over the coarse of these 16 novels, there is a kind of love-story woven into the linguist's life as Bren is isolated among Aliens.  And yes, he starts sleeping with the female whose personality bonds easily with his own.  They have a physical relationship, and a mental one, but emotionally  not exactly satisfying since these Aliens can't "love."

They trust each other. They seem to communicate well.  In Tracker and Visitor, they are at the "taking for granted" stage in a settled Relationship.  But the Alien female does not quite follow human conversations.

Think about the ideal Romance, the Soul Mate Couple meets, fight their attraction, reach an understanding, have their good times, have some bad times, and finally reach an HEA.  By then, every reader understands why these specific two people need each other, and why the world is better off because they are together.

The key to crystallizing a Soul Mate Relationship is communication.  Beyond that comes emotional satisfaction built on Trust.

Marriages can function without much overt communication as long as there is Trust.

The Relationship between Bren and his Alien lover (who is also one of his Security Guards) exemplifies and personifies the essence of Trust.  His life is literally in her hands, daily.  Her strength and reflexes, and her Will to place herself between him and danger, are at the root of this Relationship.

Their trust in one another is mirrored, thematically, in the growing trust between the human community stranded on the Atevi planet and the Atevi themselves.

Part of the appeal of the first 15 novels is the gradual unraveling of the Atevi language, and how it is at odds with (and yet akin to) any language humans use.  Since there are factions of humans, there are several human languages to keep matters churning.

Getting deep into the Alien mindset via language is actually very Romantic.  In any standard Romance, the key to keeping reader interest is how the writer unfolds the intricacies of the other's way of thinking.  Hence the Romance with conflicts rooted in misunderstandings and secrets.

In Tracker and Visitor, Cherryh new secrets that Bren must keep (or not) as he finds out what the Kyo are doing here, why they shoot first and ask questions afterwards, and then (in typical Bren style) acts to change the Situation.

His action, in this instance, is to commission (without the authority to do so) a new Translator, giving that individual the few clues to Kyo language and mindset he's figured out and turning this hapless individual loose to fend for himself among Kyo.

Any reader will see immediately that Bren's action has altered the Balance of Power in the Galaxy in exactly the way his prior actions in this series have altered the Balance of Power on the Atevi home-world.  Is it Luck or Fate that he's still alive after all the crazy things he's done either without permission, or against prohibitions.

In short, C. J. Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe novels, which may (or may not) co-exist in the same universe of the multiverse with each other, all exemplify the various principles we have explored on this blog.  The world is built around a bundle of Themes, and a bigger bundle of related sub-themes.  Various characters live out their personal Stories learning the lessons of those themes by running afoul of the driving force behind them.

The master Theme behind all the Alliance-Union novels may be about the Nature of what it is to be Human.  Communication (usually via language) is a key element.  Commerce (in ideas, goods, technology) is another.  Put Communication and Commerce together and Civilizations get Created and also Crumble.  The shards of dead civilizations become the fertilizer for new ones.

One of C. J. Cherryh's areas of knowledge (and opinion) is real-world Politics.  On Facebook, she often explains current Events in terms of the underlying principles overlooked by most media commentators.

In the Foreigner novels, she has created political situations around centralized governments that work out (sometimes explosively) in very logical, and often relentless ways.  The politics driving various (crazy) decisions that affect planets and interstellar affairs, are composed of Communication, Trust, and Commerce based on that Communication.

These vast, impersonal, ambient forces, historical currents and massive principles, are exactly mirrored in the close, personal Relationships the Characters use to make decisions.

The Aliens are truly Alien because biology and brain configure language to represent the concrete world in ways different from how a human would see that same world.  We know because we see the Aliens through human eyes, and (as a child Alien grows up) we see the humans through Alien eyes.

The Aliens are believable because the vast, impersonal forces shaping the non-concrete world follow the same "laws" that human History and pre-History seem to follow.  A well educated reader who is widely read and well informed will see these congruities immediately.  To others, the Aliens may seem unique -- until the reader makes the acquaintance with human History (and pre-History) and discovers how fiction mirrors reality.

If you are studying writing craft, look at the vast, gigantic, immense tapestry behind the Alliance-Union Novels, and then read just one of the Foreigner novels.  Note how a tiny chip off the edge of the Alliance-Union universe provides a huge, deep, wide canvas upon which to show how personal Relationships work out on a planetary scale.

The writer's ability to focus tightly on just one Character, who knows almost nothing about the universe he lives in, needs to be studied and replicated.  It is the cornerstone of all Romance because that is our own everyday reality.  We don't even know how ignorant we are.

The essence of the Romance Novel is the focus on the significant other.  While reading a good Romance, everything else blurs and vanishes into the mists as the significant other becomes more vivid, three-dimensional, and consequential.  The hot-ness of the Romance is proportionate to the tightness of that focus.

Each Series within the Alliance-Union saga has that kind of focus, and that kind of pair of characters who become "everything" to each other.  Not all hot relationships are sexual or romantic.  C. J. Cherryh rarely deals, square on, with Romance, but her plots are always driven by searingly intense, pin-point focused emotion.

Study how she achieves that effect.

The "science" in her science fiction is linguistics.  The fiction is derived from human history and anthropology. The Conflicts are "ripped from the Headlines."  The experience of "life" especially in what it's like to think in two non-cognate languages, is exactly as I experience it.

I particularly love the Foreigner series because, while Bren's crazy decisions and crazier actions, are driven by emotion, those emotions form as a result of careful study of a massive amount of data.  He knows what he's doing -- he simply doesn't know that he knows.  That is how real humans function in our everyday life.

C. J. Cherryh gets this effect with Space as her canvass, necessarily including Time as a property of Space.

Robert A. Heinlein did it with the multiverse, using Time itself as his canvass, necessarily including Space.

How will you do it?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 24, 2016

KickAss Torrents In Trouble

Authors don't have long tails.... when it comes to copyright enforcement news, and there was no mention of ebooks in the complaint against Artem Vaulin the 30-year-old owner of the hugely profitable KAT websites, that allegedly illegally shared billions worth of copyrighted materials without the knowledge or consent of the copyright owners. 

Kudos to Zachary T. Farden, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois for going after KickAss Torrents and seizing associated domain names. According to the complaint, over 50 million visitors a month visit the website, presumably with the intention of not giving copyright owners and those who rely on royalties and residuals as fair compensation for their creative work.

Apparently, this particular website is valued at over $54,000,000 and is funded by advertising that is estimated at between $12,000,000 and $23,000,000 a year. 

This author finds it astounding that no one ever talks about prosecuting the companies that place the advertisements on file sharing sites!

Authors might be interested in following a publicity rights lawsuit that is an object lesson in what not to do (like using a celebrity's name in to promotion after being refused permission to do so).

Lexology is a great resource for articles about legal matters.

As the advent of ebooks make governments' treatment of authors and their works more and more similar to governments' treatment of songwriters and musicians, it becomes more important than ever for authors to go to the (minor) expense and trouble of registering their copyrights.

For one thing, you cannot bring a lawsuit against an alleged copyright infringer if you have not registered your copyright.

For another, some very prominent politicians appear eager to allow Big Tech to seize "orphan works" and profit from them, and --as musicians have found with Spotify-- if you cannot be found, you will not be paid.

To be clear, an "orphan" work is a work that has not been around long enough to be in the public domain (lifetime of the author plus 70 years), it's a more recent work that someone wants to exploit, and they cannot easily locate the contact information for the author or the author's heirs.

On the other hand, if politicians are in favor of TPP (and EFF is not!) the international copyright term will move from "life of the author + 50 years" (the Berne standard) to the American (life + 70).

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sex in the Wild

That's the title of a four-part PBS series about animal mating and reproduction, each episode concentrating on a different species of mammal:

Sex in the Wild

The episodes feature elephants, kangaroos (with glances at koalas), orangutans, and dolphins (with some material on whales).

They include lots of intriguing facts that could be applied to the creation of aliens. Male elephants in the grip of mating frenzy (which can last up to five months) have been observed attempting to mate with hippopotamuses. Male dolphins (like many other species) are known to engage in homosexual activity; an example appears in the video. Because they're mating in water, or in midair while leaping out of the water, dolphins complete an act of copulation in seconds. Orangutans, on the other hand, may stay coupled for thirty or forty minutes. Alpha male orangutans, each of whom controls a large territory also inhabited by females and low-ranking males, grow large and muscular ("like the Incredible Hulk," as mentioned on the show) and sport cheek adornments called phlanges. A phlanged male seems to emit pheromones that prevent any lesser males in his territory from developing into alphas. Once the "king" is gone, another male undergoes transformation into an alpha. A female kangaroo has the ability to suspend development of a fetus until environmental conditions become favorable for pregnancy and birth. Thus, she may have three babies in different stages of development—an infant in the pouch, a young joey hopping alongside, and an embryo "in reserve."

Elephants have the longest pregnancies of any mammal, twenty-two months. (Aargh.) Kangaroos—and all marsupials—have three vaginas (connecting to a single outlet, through which the baby emerges)! The kangaroo gives birth after only thirty days of gestation, but that's because marsupial babies are born still in a fetal stage. They complete their development in the pouch instead of the womb, a pattern that sounds much more comfortable and convenient than our way. One of the hosts of the show pointed out that if our babies stayed in utero long enough to match the developmental level of newborn elephants, our pregnancies would last almost as long as theirs. Human infants emerge into the world about nine months sooner than our overall lifespan would predict, as a byproduct of the compromise between the newborn's large brain and the limitations of the mother's pelvic structure. So we undergo extensive development after birth that would normally occur in the womb. Just one of our species' many anomalous features (like our lack of body hair).

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 20: Crafting A Path to Selling Fiction

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 20
Crafting A Path to Selling Fiction
Guest Post by Miriam Pia

After hearing from Deb Wunder, a professional writer who found her voice in non-fiction,

I can now bring you a Guest Post by Miriam Pia who crafted her own path through side-channels and specialty magazines as the world shifted to Electronic Publication.

This is the 20th post in a series about Marketing Fiction in a Changing World.  Here is the index to all of those posts.

Many of the previous posts are about that changing world, about building an audience online, about connecting with that audience using various media based tools.

In this series, I have also noted many of the non-systematic changes publishing has undergone, in the haphazard way that Disruption works in a human-based-culture.

Draw a line from the print-only publishing world, to our own Indie publishers who work E-book only or E-book and Print on Demand (sometimes plus audiobook) only, but never distribute through brick-and-mortar stores. Look at how Amazon has disrupted Mass Market Publishing, and how Mass Market has fought back.

Distribution is the industry that is undergoing massive disruption of the kind we looked at last week.  The whole publishing industry was founded on Distribution from wholesaler to retailer. That structure has been disrupted. Understand how and why, and craft your own path into best seller status.

Today's distribution model is completely changed, yet (as with the post on Depicting Disruption last week) entirely the same. It is just a different technology being used to do the same task: gather and connect with a Readership.

So here is our Guest, Miriam Pia describing her path.


Crafting A Path
 Miriam Pia

Jacqueline Lichtenberg asked me to blog a little bit about my adventures with publishing so far.

Well, it has been what I myself consider a little bizarre.

Like most writers I started out as a child who learned literacy.  My mother encouraged me to write in English daily.  Unlike August 2010 to 8 April 2016, I was living in a nation where English is the main language.  By the time I was 12 or 13 years old I read a lot for recreation as well as having been a good girl who read what the teachers told me to read.  At some point, that means I was getting decent to excellent American educational publisher materials, and "Big 6" publishing house hits from bookstores and libraries.  Like most writers, back then I did not think about it that way.

My first adult awareness of publishers was a little unusual.  My boyfriend's parents ran a writing business from the family's living room and that guy's youngest brother used to write short fiction and submit them to magazines.  I lived with my boyfriend and was exposed to a lot of what went on, considering, but of course it was nothing like it was for the parents running the business or the young guy submitting fiction stories.

Mostly the parents expressed that they had to copy write for corporations to earn an entire living and the youngest would periodically report having received another rejection from another magazine.  He either said that he stuck the rejection slips onto a nail in his bedroom wall or else he said that Steven King used to do that.  For some reason I don't even remember which.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend felt even weirder than he had before he brought in a girlfriend who would also write a novel while hanging around at home.  The clackety clack had already been getting to him, and this only made it ...harder to quit smoking.

A few years later I had a first publication as a professional thanks to an older woman I met as a senior work colleague at a university.  She had a go at starting her own newsletter and included me as one of her published authors.  She paid a penny per word for a poem and a short story.  I was so happy to go pro!

It was more years later before I got anywhere with professional writing again, and for a while my best luck was to get a free copy of magazine.  There were several years when pagan magazines helped me.  A British magazine Comhairle Cairdre and another called Time Between Times published nonfiction and fiction.  I barely remember what happened that made it work, but I can tell you that I succeeded in not offending some English lady who ran a magazine or publishing company that controlled multiple magazines.

Another couple of years later, I felt I was having a tough time making any headway.  I managed to communicate online with some pagans enough that one lady took pity on me and let have some book reviews for Pangaia.  Goddess forgive me if it was actually Pagan Dawn magazine and not Pangaia.  It was like 15 years ago.   Some editor took pity on me.  Sorry but that's really how it was.  I was glad.  I had fun writing a few book reviews for a reasonably reputable magazine.

The next breakthrough I had was when I submitted a short story to the Iliad Press Summer Art Awards.  They gave my story an Honorable Mention.  While not a first prize and no cash, in this case a small press told me that my work was not horribly substandard which was really nice but not as nice as a prize with money involved would have been.  That was in like 2001 or 2002.

An Indianapolis paper NuVo accepted a couple of letters to the editor from me, but I never developed the rapport to write for pay with them. NuVo is a  newspaper that markets the entertainment industry to college students and yuppies in Indianapolis.  I did go to the same cafe as a woman who wore more dresses and succeeded in getting that same publication to pay her to write for them about food.  They mostly use staff writers and the first years earned about $13K for the year back at the beginning of the 21st century.  Most of them have degrees and majored in either communications or journalism but the organization has some wiggle room for the one who gets there some other way.

The International Society of Poetry publishes poetry anthologies and runs contests.  They serve a market that is predominantly to support amateurs in having a good time, but they also send out some rewards for work they think is particularly good and once or twice each year they run a contest in which the top prize is tens of thousands of dollars and a relatively serious publishing contract for like a book of poetry or something.

They published a few of my pieces in books and online.  They gave me 2 Editor's Choice Awards, but again, those awards did not include me winning money.  One award was in 2003 but the other was in 2008.   They have a mixed reputation because,  as mentioned above they crank out large anthologies which mainly serve amateurs as a way to have a good time and share some work with family and friends or to enjoy having a bunch of work by other people who were not known before.  They publish a lot of free verse poetry .   All of mine that they used were just 23 lines of free verse.

After that, my big breakthrough with publishers was another surprise.  It was corporate clients, who hired me to ghostwrite. That meant I wrote 'blind'.

Here's what I mean.  In the magazine industry most editors hire people who have read the magazine for a while and have really learned the style.  Writing that way is 'with sight'.  Blind is like with blind dates .  I just had no idea.  Magazine publishers say this is horrible practice but there it was: corporate publishers wanted this and I went ahead and did it.

Thanks to that, I got paid more than I had before as a writer but instead of an artist marketing my own creations I was writing something for someone else.  I had bid on the project so I had some idea.  What I liked best about it was that it mimicked good relationships with editors and managing editors at magazines and publishing companies in that I knew I was hired so I wrote and they paid me.  Especially when I needed to earn money that worked much better for me than spending God knows how long trying to get Fussy Editor 73 to decide she liked me or my article pitch enough to look at it after I wrote it and then maybe their magazine would use it and send me $20 half a year later.

Instead, I was hired and I wrote and they paid me for what I wrote.  That is what happens with traditional magazines and publishing companies after Fussy Editor 73 has concluded that you or I are good as gold but until then, good luck (sarcasm intended).  I would still like to befriend Fussy Editor 73 and the others, but wow, it can be tough.
So I wrote for people who don't know me and who's names I have mostly forgotten, to write and get paid.  The vast majority were corporations which means that my work appeared all over the place but usually as part of a corporate blog or on a website and without my name appearing anywhere.  I don't even know where my work appeared - which is hilarious in some ways and like a fun house mirror for my ego as a professional writer.

Here is a partial client list.  A few of the places I do remember are Closeout Explosion, BookRags, Latham Shindler's short stories.  There were also Jermaine Davis and Alan Northcott and Victor Ogazi.  There was EastBiz and an Atlanta Real Estate Blog and years later Allmand and Amp and Void Visuals.  The reality of writing professionally, in this way, has made some of what should be perfectly clear a bit of a blur, mainly because I was home working from my living room or typing away in a cafe most of the times that I did that work.  There have been other clients in the near and distant past.  Some may be offended to be mentioned, whereas others might be proud to be.

The most frequent project types with the corporate clients were articles.  Here is where we find a big difference between the way I worked and some norms in the industry.  What I did is both good and bad.  It is bad in that the majority of professional writers would have specialized much more by now.  For example:  'I'm a fashion article writer for such n such set of magazines based in NYC.' Or 'I do grant proposals'.  Instead, I am still in the professional stage of exploration, and have tried a number of different types of writing projects and continue to try more.

The good part about this, is that, over time, there are some signs of specialization anyways and thanks to the flexibility of some of the freelance services I have more freedom to go ahead and try to develop my skills in new areas within professional writing.

During the second decade of the New Millennium I finally had another type of breakthrough, in that I finally got a publication by book publishers with myself as the real and official author, rather than having ghostwritten a book or part of a book for a corporate or private client.

As most people can imagine I was delighted to get published by a regular press rather than being self-published.   It is true that personal connections helped in that a guy I found online who was a playmate of my older brother's, 30 years ago, helped get a publisher he knew to not ignore my submission.  Wilder Publications was able to publish as a POD a self-help / intro to philosophy booklet that I released and wow, do they want me to sell more copies above cost.  I agree but that gets into another part of the job.

Here is my self-help book:

Before then, I had a profound personal drama with an Indian publisher Alethia.  I was thrilled because they accepted a novel that I had written in 2006 and again  it was not self-publishing and I was glad.

They got so far as to design the cover but they did not release the novel according to the schedule that appeared in the contract so instead of that novel coming out with a price in Rupees from the publisher based in Pune, India it came back to me.

A few years later, that novel found release through SBPRA which is an author subsidized deal.  I need to find the readers and sell lots more copies but it is nice that there is a nice professionally produced version of this novel for sale.  That one got released in 2015.

Way back in the previous decade there was other excitement, hope, drama then nothing because Artemis publishing told me they were interested in a work of academic philosophy that I had produced.  My understanding is that they collapsed and were not able to follow through, and in 2016 I still have not found another publisher for that work, but have updated and modified that work.  I would rather not self-publish it because of personal limitations.  I just think self-publishing works better for certain kinds of people. It requires certain skills, only some of which I have.

This year, SBPRA
is working with me to release a science fiction novel under a pen name.

Whether sensible or insane, I threw a male pen name onto that one for a couple of simple reasons.  Even though both Jacqueline Lichtenberg and I are women who write science fiction, it is possible, most SF fans are young men.  There are older men and women who like it, but the market is still young men.

What I meant by the male pen name was for young  men to just see some other guy's name on the cover of some book and for them to just go for it even if for some weird reason they feel like they should go for something that some other man did.  Due to the nature of my own ego, my real name is listed in the acknowledgements.  Some will be offended but others will love the little trick.

The pen name is Robert Fitzgerald Jr. by the way, and the first novel on which that name appears is The Children of Loki which is about  interstellar mercenaries.  That man known as ‘Rock’ could portray the novel’s main character – Kiel Bronson, but to portray Gezka FaucMerz would rely on graphic arts and other special effects magic.  There are other male and female characters who are more normal.  What I am getting at is fully explained whenever one reads the novel.

 I have had some comedic fantasies about using a male actor to portray Robert Fitzgerald Jr. at book signings so the men can find the guy who wrote the novel they like.  Anyway, I may have created something I had not anticipated trying that, but that novel is due to be released later this year.    I mean,  I am the author so I would do the actual signing but uh – well, I’d try to make a rather amusing game of it when the young men show up to meet RFJ and there I am at the table with a pile of books and some guy dressed up as RFJ, so they’ll not be disappointed somehow.

That's what I have experienced with book publishing so far.

Meanwhile, I have periodically tried to get a literary agent and I would like traditional publishing company contracts.  I will continue.  I have had one agent, associated with SBPRA for a year several years ago.

At this point, that is what has happened to me.  I feel I still have a lot to learn.

Miriam Pia

------------------End Guest Post-----------

This post depicts the actual life of real professional writers.  Being a "professional" means putting your hand to any and every opportunity to make money. You acquire the craft in order to sell that skill.  It is not personal. You just do it.  

Then there is the Art of Writing.  That is personal.  You don't sell your Art. You hide it inside the craft that fits your Art into the commercial distribution channels.

As noted above, those commercial distribution channels are still seething with "disruption by technology."  Read last week's post on disruption and think about how your Art can find a place in that ever-changing world.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The C.A.S.E. Act is good news!

Potentially good news in a sea of evil for creators: a small claims court copyright act has been introduced in the House. This -the Copyright Alternative In Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016 would allow individuals a cost-effective (as opposed to cost-prohibitive) way to seek recourse against copyright infringers.


Thank you, Representative Hakeem Jeffries and co-sponsor Representative Tom Marino!

Authors and followers, please contact your own Congresspersons to encourage them to support CASE

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Insect Consciousness?

A honeybee scientist, Andrew Barron, and a philosopher, Colin Klein, have collaborated on a study that suggests insects may have consciousness and emotions:

Insects Are Conscious

Does insects' inner life comprise more than simple reflexes? Conventionally, the neocortex is thought to be the site of consciousness. Suppose, rather, the "much more primitive midbrain" synthesizes experience into "a unified, egocentric point of view"? Barron and Klein maintain that insects have midbrain-like neural structures that enable them to "model themselves as they move through space." (The quotations come from an article about this study in SMITHSONIAN magazine.) Insects may feel, at the very least, hunger and pain.

Since I've always shared the prevailing belief that invertebrates don't have enough neural processing capacity to feel anything, this hypothesis strikes me as rather unsettling. Insects do appear to "plan," in a sense, in that they pursue definite goals. They can learn from experience (even flatworms, a much "lower" life form, can do that), so do they have "memory"? They make choices between alternatives, so are they "deciding"?

Whether insects have consciousness and the ability to think depends, of course, on how we define "conscious" and "think." C. S. Lewis in THE PROBLEM OF PAIN points out that an unconscious human body may reflexively react to hurtful stimuli although obviously without being aware of pain. If by "self-awareness" we mean the ability to meditate on our own existence, possibly only human beings have that quality. Self-awareness on the level of recognizing one's own reflection in a mirror is confined to us, some primates, and a select few other animals. If "thinking" means only abstract thought that can be formulated in words, by definition we classify ourselves as the only thinking organisms on the planet. If any kind of problem-solving equals thinking, the field becomes much wider.

I once read a story (can't remember the title or author) in which one character tries to convince another that thought isn't confined to human beings and higher animals. He says, "With what does a plant think, in the absence of a brain?"—classifying a plant's phototropism as a form of thinking.

Barron and Klein hope investigating the mental lives of insects may throw light on the origins of subjectivity in "higher" species, including ourselves.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Depiction Part 16 - Reviews 26 Depicting Political Disruption From China To Today by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 16
Reviews 26
Depicting Political Disruption From China To Today
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 
Previous posts in the Depiction series are indexed here:

This post has two titles because I have two books to review which are perfect examples of an article which discusses a non-fiction book.

We have discussed in Parts 19 and 20 of Marketing Fiction In A Changing World how non-fiction writing is the mainstay of a professional writer's income.

Now, if you have many contracts for fiction novels coming in, as many mass market Romance Writers do, you can't dabble on the side in writing non-fiction.  There's no time or strength.  But even when selling fiction, you have to read a lot of non-fiction.  Romance writers and science fiction writers do a lot of research reading.  If you are writing the hybridized field of Science Fiction Romance, that is more than double the amount of non-fiction reading per novel produced.

Some writers shun reading fiction while writing fiction -- so as not to be "influenced."  Others gobble up books in the field they are writing in.

But no matter how you go about doing it, your fiction must connect the reader's real world with some less tangible world -- an ideal world, a future world, an alternate reality, or just artistic imagination.

Connecting layers of reality and imaginary perception is what writers do, in fiction or non-fiction. Readers most enjoy experiencing connections they haven't found for themselves, yet.

So today let's look at some science fiction and some fantasy that depicts political disruption by using Romance.

In April, 2016, Fortune Magazine posted the following article:

This Ancient Chinese Text Is the Manual for Business Disruptors by  Michael Puett ,   Christine Gross-Loh  APRIL 11, 2016, 8:00 AM EDT

Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh are the authors of The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us about the Good Life (Simon & Schuster, 2016)

The article starts out:

And no, it’s not Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.”

When disruption became the rallying cry for innovators a decade ago, they seized on ancient work of Chinese philosophy to prove their point. In Sun-Tzu’s Art of War, a new class of business disrupters claimed to have found the original manual.

They were right about ancient Chinese philosophy, but wrong about the manual.

As it turns out, another text from China, the Laozi, actually offers a much more expansive—and revolutionary—vision of innovation.
---------END QUOTE----------

And concludes:

That’s why those who aspire to innovate are better off seeing the world through a Laozian, not Sunzian, lens. If life is like a game of chess, Sunzians concentrate all their effort towards winning in a situation in which the board, the pieces, and the opponent are immutable. Laozian innovators know the chessboard can be tipped over at any moment. So they shift to another game entirely without anyone even realizing what is being changed.

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

Read the whole article if you can because explaining these two views of "disruption" can give you a deeper understanding of the world your reader lives in.  The writer's business is explaining the reader's world to the reader.

Now here are two books (both plotted around super-hot Romance) -- both in series -- one blatant military science fiction genre by Jack Campbell, the other equally blatant Fantasy by Marshall Ryan Maresca -- each depicting Political Disruption in such a way that the reader can recognize and relate to the Disruption Forces driving today's headlines.

The first book I want to draw to your attention, the latest in a long series, is by the New York Times Bestselling writer, Jack Campbell.

The Lost Stars: Shattered Spear by Jack Campbell ...

... is the 4th title in the Lost Stars series, but The Lost Stars is in the same universe, with the same characters, as 11 previous titles, 6 in Campbell's The Lost Fleet series, and 5 in The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier series.

This series is huge in scope, depicting the clash of two human civilizations in a 100 year war that hammers both of them to flat out desperation.

It turns out that this 100 year war is the result of non-humans (very alien aliens? - we don't know because nobody's ever seen them) playing a very human game of "Let's You And Him Fight."

Games People Play is so "disruptive" and currently interesting that it was reissued in a variety of modern formats in 2011

So taken as a whole, this 15 novel set by Jack Campbell accurately depicts a group of interstellar civilizations from the Chinese Laozian innovators' point of view.

This is accomplished rather neatly by introducing the rapidly changing political variables of these civilizations from the point of view of a man who grasps and understands 3-D interstellar war fleet combat in .

THE LOST FLEET part of the series gradually walks the reader through changing from a   point of view to a Laozian point of view.  The main Character, Black Jack, has an unconscious bias for the Laozian method of problem solving. The other characters, who have failed to understand that Constants are actually Variables, can't stop him from disrupting their 100 year war.

The Beyond The Frontier part of the series follows other characters who ride Black Jack's wave of disruption out beyond the borders that have been considered Constants and there they discover and bring back data about what is really going on.

You may remember me talking about The Alien Series by Gini Koch (here with me in the background)

and my delight at how Gini's main character figures out "what is really going on" --- which she does by applying the Laozian innovator's problem solving methodology.

Alien In Chief is the 12th and not the last in this Series.

In the Lost Stars series, Jack Campbell shows, without telling, how those whose lives have been disrupted by Black Jack's victories, now rebuild the shattered civilization into a new model, a little bit more of a democracy (but not too much, you understand).  They are forming alliances and stabilizing thing among the stars in their region of the galaxy.

The Lost Stars sub-series has a genuine Romance story-arc beautifully blended and balanced with long, long descriptions of space battles.  The space battles are long because they are realistic -- it takes a long time to maneuver whole fleets traveling at measurable fractions of the speed of light.

Doing the unexpected, (disrupting expectations) is the key to battle success, in the Romance story, the Battle Plot, and the Political Machinations.  These books form a poetic example of the Laozian view of the universe.

Marshall Ryan Maresca's THE ALCHEMY OF CHAOS... a Fantasy series incorporating a School of Magic campus, a former Circus Performer, a Drug Cartel (or two), and a social fabric straining under Laozian Innovation and the ultimate Disruption.

The Alchemy of Chaos is the direct sequel to The Thorn of Dentonhill, which I also loved.

In The Alchemy of Chaos we see the Romance between the main character and a real kick-ass-heroine heat up to dominate the action-plot.

The venue is the Magic School's campus plus the surrounding business and residential district (dominated by street gangs manipulated by organized crime).  

It is a wheels-within-wheels world where the Circus Performer-Mage Student is The Disruptor, solving his personal problems by understanding how Constants are actually potential-variables.  Being young, he thinks (Sorcerer's Apprentice style), that he is in control of all those disrupted constants he is trying to vary.

The author obviously has much more to say about disrupting nice, quiet, reliable constants when you are so absolutely (20-something-year-old) certain you are in complete control of the results.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Maradaine novels, for me, is the Romance and how true love, true soul mates, come together to deal with unexpected chaos together.  

Emergency Crisis Management is one of the major, core topics of all Romance but is especially relevant to plotting the Science Fiction Romance, or perhaps especially the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance.

In the Maradaine novels, Maresca has shown how a civilization might treat Magic and Science as separate topics that can not be mixed -- only to discover that they are not so separate.

So take all the Jack Campbell titles together with, interwoven with, the Maresca titles, do an in depth contrast and compare among those, then review the Chinese Philosophy discussed in that Fortune Magazine article.

There is, of course, much more to say and write about Disruptors.  The most devastating chaos always results from Soul Mates finding each other.  The best case scenario is that the chaos might be just transient, and stability might ensue.  Then again, it might be a hundred year war.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Week In Copyright

Romance and Science Fiction authors may like (or not like) to keep abreast with developments that may affect their rights and their income.

Follow the money:  What happens when a plagiarist self-publishes someone else's work on Amazon?

If you haven't noticed this story, you might find it interesting. There's more of it going on than one might suppose.

The Authors Guild is also following the money.

I think I've blogged before about how Google Books doesn't work the way Google said it worked in court. Roxana Robinson gives an excellent example in the above mentioned post.  She also explains how Amazon guts author income.

Roxana reports that Google, in the Court case, claimed that it would be prohibitively expensive if they were to pay authors, so they don't. Much the same arguments are made by You-Tube, Spotify, Pandora, Sirius about paying musicians... or at least, paying musicians fairly.



One must also be concerned when politicians consider that ebooks should be treated exactly like print books for library lending purposes.

The obvious difference is that a physical book can only survive a certain number of readings before it suffers wear and tear, and has to be replaced. Moreover, there are certain logistics with physical books to keep the lendings local. With an ebook, one purchased copy can be loaned to successive borrowers anywhere in the world for ever. Moreover, anyone anywhere can call themselves a subscription library and exploit digital works without paying the authors.

When a politician promises to make it easier for "orphan works" to be made available, I fear that this is code for enriching Google and Amazon at the expense of obscure authors and their estates. It seems to me to threaten a sort of eminent domain for intellectual property.

Remember the Authors Guild action when a number of easily located, website owning, living authors were declared to be undiscoverable, and their works were in imminent danger of being declared "orphaned" and appropriated?

Read more:

The trouble for authors, musicians, photographers, movie-makers and other creators is that lawmakers, courts, and businesses with the deepest pockets appear all to be in favor of entertaining the populace for as little cost as possible, which means the creators are being hammered.

On a more uplifting note, the Copyright Alliance is inviting intellectual property owners and creators (who are OneVoice members.... membership is free) to send them a photograph of themselves in a creative setting (deadline July 28th, 2016).

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Unintended Consequences

I recently saw an article about wildfires in Oregon, which are much worse than they would have been naturally because of the conscientious efforts to prevent forest fires in past decades. (Remember Smoky the Bear?) Without human interference, forests burn frequently enough to clear out underbrush and make room for new growth. Without periodic fires, the underbrush keeps accumulating to build up a copious supply of fuel, so when fire does eventually break out, it's disastrous.

That phenomenon is only one example of how human good intentions in manipulating the natural order can generate unforeseen negative consequences. Back when wolves were considered dangerous pests that ravaged livestock and attacked people, wolf packs were systematically eliminated in the U.S. More recently, they've been restored to their old habitats, thus repairing (many researchers believe) damage done by their removal. There's a theory that reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park, through predatory pressure on elk, allows the growth of certain trees (whose young shoots and saplings elk graze on) that beavers need to thrive:

Wolf Reintroduction

Everybody knows about the rabbit overpopulation in Australia, where introducing bunnies as a food source for colonists seemed like a good idea at the time.

Proper hygiene to eliminate disease-causing germs has saved millions of lives. Yet it's recently become known that a too-clean environment in infancy and early childhood makes children more likely to suffer allergies, asthma, etc. in later life. Apparently a little dirt is good for kids! Doctors used to recommend postponing introduction of potentially allergenic foods such as peanuts and wheat until well after the first year of life. On the contrary, new studies suggest that early exposure to such substances actually reduces the risk of becoming allergic later. The same principle seems to apply to pets; it's nice to know for sure that a lifetime surrounded by cats hasn't harmed our offspring.

Many decades ago, some doctors recommended that pregnant women take up smoking to lose weight! In the early twentieth century, feeding babies formula from bottles was the modern, "scientific" thing to do. My first obstetrician, an elderly man in the mid-1960s, must have been trained when this attitude prevailed, for he actually tried to discourage me from breastfeeding. (We moved to a different state in the middle of that pregnancy, and I'm glad I stuck to my plan even though nursing instead of bottle-feeding was still rather rare then.)

In the American Southwest, goodness knows how many millions of gallons of water are poured onto lawns to make people's yards resemble eighteenth-century English gardens, rather than cultivating plants native to the climates and ecosystems of those regions.

To paraphrase an old TV commercial, it's not nice to mess with Mother Nature—or, at least, we should investigate all possible angles before we do. Something to keep in mind when we eventually colonize other planets.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 19 - Guest Post By a Non-Fiction Writer

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 19
Guest Post By a Non-Fiction Writer

The previous parts of this series on Marketing Fiction in a Changing World are indexed here:

Here is an account of the experiences of a very creative person who found that fiction just was not the right venue of expression for her.

When she redirected her creativity to non-fiction, she had a different experience.

Writing in My Own Voice
Deborah Wunder 

I fell into writing for a living.

I was in a chat room, and a "Famous Writer" dared me to submit a story to an anthology he was editing. I did so, and the story made the cut.

So did the next four stories I submitted to various anthologies. I know it is not the norm to have four sales before your first rejection, but there it was. I had the sales.

Having the sales meant I was a baby pro writer. I was working in a field that is open to fans becoming pros - often with the mentorship of pros who had once been fans.

I next worked on expanding one of the short stories into a novel. That didn't work, even with the wonderful mentorship of Ms. Lichtenberg. The failure was mine. I wrote myself into a corner that I still - 20 years later - have not been able to resolve.

The thing is, I never felt comfortable writing in the sf/fantasy field. I did not have a lot of spontaneous ideas to write about. Inspiration did not come in a flash. I was not given to the "What if...?" that seemed to spark for many of my colleagues.

If an editor gave me an assignment, I could run with it, but left to my own devices, ideas were few and far between.

I did not stop writing, though. I went through copywriting for various websites, and I started my first blog. That blog was about financial basics and recovering from personal debt.

Over the course of that blog on personal finance, I found that my meter was blogging; I was an essayist by natural talent.

Here is an example of a blog reprinted to LinkedIn.

If I Ran the Zoo…(Just how important are proper spelling and grammar, anyway?)

This is a repost of a blog entry I wrote on 21 Aug 2008 in my very first blog, "The Dangling Conversation."

I continued to blog until about two years ago, when health issues interrupted my life. At the time I had to stop, I had four separate blogs, each of which was gaining in subscribers and views.

And here is one from my blog titled, "Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian"

I have not forgotten the satisfaction I got from writing essays. I am still working at regaining my health, but I find that the urge to blog again is rising.  Writing in your own voice is one of the most satisfying things you can do. It may or may not bring financial rewards. It will definitely bring authenticity to your work.

Writing in your own voice is taking responsibility for what you put into the world. It is one of the most powerful things that you can do as a writer.

For me, it is the only way I can go forward.

Deb Wunder

Think about Deb Wunder's experience as you decide what is the best vehicle for what you have to say. It might not be fiction.

That is the flip side of the commentary I developed in Part 17 of this series on Marketing Fiction in a Changing World

Non-fiction is a much more lucrative field than fiction in any variety (except perhaps TV or film), and the work in non-fiction is apt to be much more steady.

Journalism is still a growing, thriving field, even though news printed and distributed on paper is a dying industry.  Even with blogging and online newspapers, someone has to go out there and get the story, and bring the facts to the public.  Someone has to think about the maze of conflicting information and suggest ways to group information so readers can craft a personal opinion. Someone has to know that not everything posted to the internet is actually true.

Even today, the best fiction is ripped from the news headlines -- not always the news of today, but news.

"News" is pretty much defined as facts that require changing your opinion.

In Romance novels, the fact that comes to light requiring a change of opinion is the possibility of a serious Relationship.

"I'll never marry!" changes to "Well, but maybe I have to re-think that."

Meeting someone, discovering the fact of their existence, an impossible-to-imagine person who is real and standing right in front of you -- that is NEWS.  It changes everything, perhaps even your own identity.

So, while creativity might be a prime element in a person's character, he or she might not be a fiction writer.  Creativity is necessary for ascertaining facts - as one must first imagine what questions to ask, where to look for missing facts.  Creativity is necessary for compiling facts into a narrative that makes sense of the world. And after the sense of that narrative is established, creativity is necessary for formulating usable opinions.

At heart, a fiction writer is not all that different from a non-fiction writer.  They are not incompatible fields. But each writer will find one, or the other, or some combination is the best vehicle to showcase their creativity.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 03, 2016

"Tactical Laxatives"

Karl Marx wrote, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

Therefore, a science fiction writer, or a humorist, or epic fantasy movie-maker may well be inspired by history. My beach-read this week is war-studies-historian Philip Sidnell's "Midnight Ninja & Tactical Laxatives" ISBN 978-1848-843318, which is a well-sorted collection of fact-based narratives of dark doings and dirty deeds to debilitate, demoralize and otherwise incapacitate enemie.

Napoleon Bonaparte said, "An army marches on its stomach." (A reference to the importance of logistics and provisions.) However, as Sidnell's book points out, an army neither marches nor fights effectively when it is suffering from indigestion, food poisoning, alcohol poisoning, or diarrhoea... with the notable exception of Alexander the Great who did not let a little think like dysentery stop him from marching 150 miles in three days and nights to relieve Maracanda (a garrison).

Apparently, Alexander the Great died in bed aged thirty-three. Historians speculate that the cause of death may have been an accidental overdose of pain-killers.

Tactics to slow down the enemy included allowing the ravenous enemy to "capture" and consume cattle (raw) in woodless wastelands;  buzz-inducing honey; mandragora-spiked booze to invaders eager to celebrate an unexpected route of their foes with the liquid spoils of war; and hellebore-tainted water to the thirsty beseiged.

What worked for the ancient Persians, Romans, Greeks, and Macedonians can and does work for Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and perhaps for you????

All the best,
Rowena Cherry