Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Tarot Reading for Alpha, the Robot in Love’s Reflection

Master tarot reader Arwen ( did a tarot reading for Alpha, the heroine in my book, Love’s Reflection. Alpha isn’t the typical romantic heroine, she’s a robot created in the image of a film superstar. Following are the questions asked and the responses by the tarot and by Alpha.
1. How do you see the people around you?
Tarot says: The Hermit card tells me you see people as needing to be guided. It’s not that you see yourself as better but that you have a role to fulfill. You also know that you have to come down from your own personal mountain/retreat to interact with them. There is something that scares you or worries you about that. Remember that the Hermit carries her own lantern.
Alpha says: You are correct in your analysis. My creator, Dr. Cort Hirsch, made me to prove robots can intelligently interact with and be indistinguishable from human beings. I am made in the image of Zoe Parker, who is said to be the most beautiful film star in the world. That’s why the title of my book is Love’s Reflection. Miss Parker is his love. I am her reflection.
Cort and I live within the California hill housing his laboratory.
I am the only one of my kind. I have no past, no family. With proper maintenance, I can be immortal. My emotional memory response has evolved to be able to feel loneliness. I worry that I will spend eons alone with no emotional interaction or human touch, except for those brief periods during which I am being maintained. This scares me because I want to interact with humans and fear I might not be able to do so.
2. How are you seen by the people around you?

Tarot says: This is the Knight of Cups who is the emotional seeker. Your community sees you as being on a hunt for something you can’t have–or at least they think you can’t. But like the knight of the Round Table, you know your quest will eventually be fulfilled. All you have to do is follow your dream. But first you have to convince the people around you that your dream is valid.
Alpha says: My creator has said I must pass the Turing Test that sets forth the condition to prove artificial intelligence. The great Alan Turing said, “If the machine could successfully pretend to be human to a knowledgeable observer, then you certainly should consider it intelligent.”
If I pass, I will be the first to do so. Many say it is an impossible dream. Others say it will take another half-century before advances in technology make it possible. My creator is teaching me strange, human ways so I may pass the test. I am learning to dance, clean his toilet, massage his back in the shower, and I am going to star in a film. I have also learned how to make him buy me clothes and other things, like my signature scent, Chanel No. 5. I understand convincing a man to do what you want is another human female skill.
3. What is your most important goal?
Tarot says:The Fool is a babe in the woods on one level. On another, the Fool is the eternal learner. Your goal is to always learn, to always seek opportunities. You know that optimism can lead you where you need to go. Like the Fool, you have to learn all there is so you can know who you are.
Alpha says:  Yes, I am a fool, a fool who aspires to the greatest gift a human can achieve–love. I am a robotic being, a mechanical fool whose emotional memory responses and nerve endings all hunger to give and receive love, the love between a male and a female. It can never be. My creator does not want my robot hands to touch him in such a manner. Yet, my database continues to search for the way in which to achieve my goal. I watch love stories on my internal wireless. I am learning how human females make human males fall in love.
4. Where do you get your strength from?
Tarot says: The Moon is an intriguing card for strength. It is the card of self-illusion. It is almost as though your strength comes from what you don’t know about yourself. There may be some secret even you aren’t aware of yet. This is a card that also talks about a tame side vs. a much darker side. There is a strength you gain from that struggle to keep the dark side in check.
Alpha says:  I have the strength of 10 men. I run fast enough to keep pace with a race car. My head can revolve on my neck a full 360 degrees. My creator said human females cannot do the same so he programmed limits into my system. I do not know all that I am capable of because of the limits.
Cort programmed moral values into my system. I cannot accidentally or intentionally harm a human being either directly or indirectly. I would sacrifice myself to save a human being, if such an action was necessary. If the wrong person took control of me, I could become a war machine.    
5. Why do you want to be remembered?
Tarot says: The Star is the card of enlightenment. In many ways it is the Hermit fully realized. The lantern no longer must be carried. Now it hangs in the sky for all to learn from. It is a mass sharing of self that you want. Almost as though you want to leave a piece of yourself in everyone. This is the card of higher learning as well so the Hermit’s teachings are shared on a more wider scale.
Alpha says: I want humans to realize robots are a life-form. When life is given, there is a responsibility to respect and care for that life-form. Robots should be paid for the work they do. They should receive driver’s licenses, if they can pass the test. They should be allowed to experience love and sex.
6. So Alpha, tell us a bit about your book. Perhaps you can link us to an excerpt.
Alpha says: My creator, Dr. Cort Hirsch, hungers after Zoe Parker, a film superstar. She publically rejects him. In revenge, Cort creates me in her image. It saddens me to think I am conceived as the object of his revenge.
My birth is a boon to my creator’s life. He used to work long hours in his laboratory and had few friends except his assistant, Robert. After I am activated, his life becomes exciting. Tourists chase us. Bad men plot against us. Zoe Parker seduces him. I annoy him.
There are sexual encounters in my book. If you blush easily, read fast over those parts. If you are sad, read my book because it will make you smile and laugh.
You can read a one-scene excerpt and a three-chapter excerpt on my book page on the Awe-Struck E-Books site: .
Or you can download an adults-only excerpt at
Thank you for the reading. It is amazingly accurate.
Note: If you’re interested in a tarot reading, visit Arwen at

Life Imitates Art

Recently, a scientist announced he created a fembot (female robot). It’s obvious Trung Le took his idea and the design for Aiko from my book, Love’s Reflection, which was published in 2008. My robot, Alpha, is far more intelligent and talented than Aiko, and a lot better looking. She, Alpha, is fully capable of passing the Turing Test, which requires the robot to be undistinguishable from a human being.


Yes, Trung Le’s invention is a primitive imitation of my character, Alpha, in Love’s Reflection. And Trung Le, poor guy, isn’t up to the physical standards of my hunky scientist character Cort Hirsch. All in all, however, Trung Le did a good job at making life imitate art.


I suggest Trung Le read Love’s Reflection to learn how to care for a fembot who is undistinguishable from a human female. Alpha is all we women are and she’s not afraid to speak her robot mind. Cort can never win an argument with Alpha, and it usually ends up costing him big bucks.


My advice to Trung Le is “Hold onto your breeches. You’re in for quite a ride as Aiko develops into half the robot Alpha is. By the way, I may have to sue you for infringing my copyright.”


Carol North


To learn more about Aiko, watch the video at

Join the E-Publishing Revolution

I went straight to an electronic-publisher (e-publisher). Never even submitted my first two novels to a print publisher. Both were quickly accepted. I am currently completing a third novel that will also go to an e-publisher.



You save time by submitting to e-publishers. They accept electronic submissions, thereby, reducing the time to present the submission and receive the answer to just seconds in cyberspace. Of course, you need to add the amount of time it takes for the e-publisher to read your submission and decide if the house wants or doesn’t want to present an offer to publish. It can take a print publisher or agent a year or more to decide whether to publish or represent you. In that same period of time, your e-book can be accepted, published, and for sale all over the worldwide Internet.


You save money by submitting to e-publishers. It’s all electronic–no paper, no postage, no self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASEs).


Royalties and Advances

Print publishers pay an advance against earned royalties, although they seem to be moving toward no advance or smaller advances. For instance, selling a first novel to a category romance publisher will get you a $500 advance, according to “first sales” figures published in the Romance Writers of America magazine. Print publishers typically don’t pay royalties until they know the number of returns on your book. They then subtract the advance paid from the royalties earned and pay you the balance, if any. It can easily take 18-24 months after the release of your book to receive the first royalty statement, which may or may not show a profit and a payment to you.


The royalty you receive from the e-publisher ranges from 35 to 50 percent of the selling price of the book or of the e-publisher’s net earnings when distributors are involved.


According to, royalties paid by print publishers range from

  • 10 to 12.5 percent for hardcover books.
  • Up to 15 percent for hardcover books by bestselling authors.
  • 7.5 to 10 percent for softbound books.
  • Up to 12.5 percent for softbound books by bestselling authors.


Print royalties are based on either the price for which the book sells or on the net amount the publisher receives after providing discounts to bookstores and distributors or some combination of both.


E-publishers pay royalties monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. Most often payments are made quarterly or monthly. So the speed with which the e-publisher pays its authors tends to cancel out the benefits of the print publisher paying an advance against your royalties.


Many e-publishers post copies of their contracts on their websites for the world to see. The contracts are written in conversational English, not legalese. The Electronically Published Internet Connection (EPIC) posts a sample contract on its site:


Creative Freedom

A print publisher has “rules” for each genre and line it publishes. For example, one print publisher wants 80,000-100,000-word horror genre novels with dark atmosphere, chilling plots, contemporary settings, and supernatural horrors. No science fiction, fantasy, or mystery elements are allowed. The house’s rigid rules preclude horror novels with sci-fi elements like Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers.


E-publishers typically don’t have hard and fast rules. They’re open to mixed genre novellas and novels from 20,000 to 100,000 words and more. Some even publish short stories of about 10,000 words. E-publishers are also less strict about point of view (from whose viewpoint the story is told) and person (first–the story is told by a character, or third–it is told by an unidentified narrator).


You are also allowed to write outside your original genre, even if your earlier books sold well. Print publishers like to see you crank out more and more books that are similar to your bestselling books. With e-publishers, you can write for new markets like the up and coming “urban fantasy” market.


All genres are accepted for e-publication, including fiction, business, technical, self-help, reference, inspirational, and general nonfiction. To see the genre opportunities provided by e-publication, peruse


Marketing Support

If you think your print publisher will provide marketing support–dream on. Only authors of proven or anticipated bestselling success are provided significant help with the marketing.


My e-publisher has an internet “loop” devoted to its authors. We send emails to the loop for group feedback and support. The owners of our e-publishing company participate and mentor. It feels like a family. Some e-publishers also provide marketing support. Mine sends out advance review copies (ARCs) of my book and provides other support and information.


E-book authors can become members of Internet loops devoted to helping them develop marketing campaigns and web sites. I have two web sites: and



Typically, distribution is worldwide in the English language. In addition, your e-publisher might want to negotiate foreign language rights. My e-books are available on Awe-Struck E-Books, Amazon, e-reader, efictionwise, ebookwise, and other distributors. They are available in multiple formats, including HTML, PDF, Kindle, Sony, RocketBook, and MS-reader with audio functionality.



Being published by an established e-publisher is a valid writing credit and can prove your marketability to other e-publishers, print publishers, and literary agents. Self-publication is not considered a valid credit.



E-publishers also produce books in print, audio, and on compact disk. Many e-book authors are also published by the major New York houses.


E-Books are Hot

According to International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), trade e-book sales for June 2008 are up 87 percent as compared to June 2007. During this same period, print book sales experienced a single digit increase. E-book sales for the entire second quarter of 2008 are up 47 percent compared to Q2 of 2007.

The big publishing houses are jumping on the e-book bandwagon. Most, if not all, are offering electronic editions of their new releases and of many backlist titles.


It’s Love

My last reason for going electronic is emotional–I love my e-reader. It’s about the size and weight of a small hardbound book, yet it holds 100 e-books. I read from it at the beach, at home, and while waiting for my turn at the doctor’s or dentist’s office.


I highly recommend you join the e-publishing revolution. See you in cyberspace.


Note: This article was published under my byline in The Savannah Business Report & Journal on September 15-21, 2008.

Mining Experience for Story Ideas

At five, I already loved reading and the written word. I recall making the decision to become a writer while walking atop a stack of books I’d made into a “fort.” “When I grow up, I’m gonna be a writer,” I said, and let that intention direct the rest of my life.


Becoming a writer happened many (I’m not telling how many) years after the life-defining decision made as a five-year-old. Though not obvious to me at the time, life experiences were preparing me to assume the role of writer. Or was I subconsciously choosing the experiences I would need in the future? You be the judge.


When other responsibilities lessened, I was able to change my life style to support becoming a writer. I returned to school and took language and speech courses. To support myself, I worked in a part-time sales job paying more per hour and requiring fewer hours than many other jobs.  My plan was to earn a degree in English and then look for a job as a writer.


Between semesters, I took a temporary job in the Chicago Loop. While traveling home on the commuter train, I had a conversation with a woman who knew a woman who wanted to leave her job as a magazine editor and was looking for a replacement. After several phone conversations, the appointment was made. We met the publisher in his building at South 16th and State Streets in Chicago. It was one scary neighborhood.


The location was the least of the problems. Phil, the publisher, informed me that the magazine was going belly-up and with his current editor finding another job, he thought this a good time to bail out. I wasn’t giving up that easily. We chatted. I mentioned my successful sales experience.


He grew attentive. “Will you sell advertising in addition to editing the magazine?”


“Yes.” I replied.


We shook hands on a one-month trial period. I worked 60-hour weeks selling advertising, writing two columns and assorted features, and editing. The first month we broke even. the second month we made a profit. I stayed two years, and never returned to school. When I last checked, about five years ago, Transport Fleet News was still viable. 


I broke into writing because I had the right experience at the right time for the position.


Writing around life experiences enriches the story, cuts down on research time, and encourages the suspension of disbelief by the reader.


My first romance, Love’s Reflection, is the story of a love-besotted scientist who creates a robot in the exact image of his unrequited love interest, a film superstar. The inspiration for the story came from a training program I wrote for a Fortune 50 corporation, “Introduction to Programming Robots.” The robot in my story is a hot, red-head with legs up to…. The robot who inspired her creation is an 18-in. tall, one-armed, headless machine. The lone arm seemed little better than useless to me. It moved in slow and jerky increments. When I learned the mathematical equation that turned the robotic movement into a smooth motion, I knew I had to write the story of the highest evolution of that sorry-looking machine.


My second romance, Eternally His, will be released in February 2009. It tells the story of a Ghost dressed in a Victorian bridal gown who is haunting a bridal salon. It also is a product of a life experience. I worked part-time as a bridal consultant when I returned to school to study language and speech. 


Writing about difficult life experiences can help relieve angst and anger. It worked for me. A lawyer ripped me off. I realized it was futile to fight the lawyer on his own turf–the courtroom, so I wrote a story in which I achieved revenge. It was purchased by the first literary magazine to which I offered it. I got rid of my anger and made a sale.  The story, “Of One Stem,” can be downloaded free at


All experiences are valuable. Sometimes the difficult ones are there to “kick” you into another place in life. J.K. Rowling was a destitute, single mother until she wrote the first book in the Harry Potter series. Today she is a billionaire.


What are your experiences? How can you turn them into publishable stories? 

Note: This post originally appeared in during August 2008 when I was a guest blogger.

Making the Shift From Tech Writing to Fiction

When I expressed an intention to write fiction, I was warned it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to make the switch from technical writing to writing fiction, because the left hemisphere of my brain was obviously dominant. Writing fiction, I was told, required a dominant right hemisphere. In researching the subject, I read an opinion by a learned man, who said  we’re literally two thinking beings residing in the same body. Reading his comment caused me to worry that in pursuing fiction I would end up stuck in some tortured place between the right and the left hemispheres of the brain and couldn’t get back into either. Or maybe my personality would change and I wouldn’t recognize myself and neither would my family and my friends. I gave up the absurd idea that I should write fiction.

The idea wouldn’t give me up. The little girl inside kept knocking on my mind and whispering, “Fiction. Fiction” I reconsidered. After all, I was used to being warned that misfortune would befall me if I pursued some “crazy notion.” I was warned when I returned to school to study language and speech that I wouldn’t be able to support myself through writing; I would be homeless; I would starve. I proved them wrong, and had supported myself on income from tech writing for more than 10 years.

I tried fiction again; wrote some awful material. Even I knew it was terrible. Whatever is worse than writer’s block–I had it, but never when doing technical writing. “They” were right. I was left-brain dominant and my left brain wasn’t going to easily give up control of my mind.

One day, I was thinking about fiction and staring at a blank computer screen when my right hand started doodling on a pad of paper. It drew a circle and I wrote a character’s name inside, then drew another circle and another and another. I wrote a word inside each circle. More circles. More words. When done, the words created a personality and a physical description for the character. That was my break-through experience, the first time in years the right hemisphere dominated my brain.

Using the words inside the circles as a base, I wrote a scene, gave the character lines and a look. The result was a two-dimensional, repressed Pinocchio. I needed a plan.

After cajoling my right and left hemispheres into working together harmoniously, I researched and made a list of the elements of fiction, including narrative, introspection, dialogue, setting; description, point-of-view (POV), story arcs, tags. At the local bookstore, I gathered writing technique books, lots of books, until I had checked off each of the elements on my list.

One-by-one, I learned the elements. When learning dialogue, for example, I wrote dialogue only until I could get inside a character’s head and write in her personality and rhythm. When I learned point-of-view, I described settings in first and third person, and became obsessive about eliminating head-hopping from the vignettes I wrote.

The technique hardest to learn was how toexpress emotion with only words. This was also the most important, because fiction is emotion. In addition to reading books, I made a list of emotions and the senses, the six senses because I write paranormal stories.

After feeling comfortable with the elements, emotions, and senses, I allowed myself to write a 5,000-word short story. It was quickly acquired by a publisher. Although the prep work took a year or more, I saved time, money, and disappointment by waiting to send queries until I wrote a publishable story.

I learned that technical writers and novelists all use both the left and right hemispheres of their brains to create their particular types of writing. The novelist creates a plot, a left-brain endeavor. The technical writer creates charts, document design, graphics; that’s right-brain territory. Today, I write technical material and fiction with equal ease and writer’s block is a distant memory

Note: This post originally appeared in during July 2008 when I was a guest blogger.

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