Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Jane Austen, Game Theorist

Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Chwe

Here’s my executive summary of Jennifer Schuessler’s article presented below and an NPR interview.

First, I clued into this fascinating interpretation of one of our romance pioneers by listening to Freakonomics on NPR. Sheer luck on my part, because I had never heard the show before.

Jane Austen wrote Emma, 1815.

Emma, a twenty year old, decides she’ll never marry, but that she’s very good at matchmaking. She attempts to manipulate her friends into marriages she thinks are right for them. What ensues I would best describe as a bowl of spaghetti, with happily-ever-afters, in spite of and also because of her efforts.

In walks NPR. Steve Levitt (with Michael Chwe and Stephen Dubner). He presents the idea that Jane is the world’s first game theoretician. He defines game theory as generally applied on a small scale with few players. Emma plays a complicated game of matching people in Austen’s book. Gaming is all about thinking strategically. Chwe references Clueless, 1995 as basically an Emma adaptation and infers that all Austen stories highlight this type of strategic thinking and that the author does it consciously. “…that there are lots of little parables, or little asides in the novels, …but they do seem to be little explicit discussions of aspects of choice and aspects of strategic thinking.

{Your blogger, RWR adds: and tactical thinking}. I highly recommend checking out the NPR podcast which will take you to the written version.

Game Theory: Jane Austen Had It First


It’s not every day that someone stumbles upon a major new strategic thinker during family movie night. But that’s what happened to Michael Chwe, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, when he sat down with his children some eight years ago to watch “Clueless,” the 1995 romantic comedy based on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

Mr. Chwe (pronounced CHEH), the author of papers like “Farsighted Coalitional Stability” and “Anonymous Procedures for Condorcet’s Model: Robustness, Nonmonotonicity and Optimality,” had never cracked “Emma” or “Pride and Prejudice.” But on screen, he saw glimmers of a strategic intelligence that would make Henry Kissinger blush.

“This movie was all about manipulation,” Mr. Chwe, a practitioner of the hard-nosed science of game theory, said recently by telephone. “I had always been taught that game theory was a mathematical thing. But when you think about it, people have been thinking about strategic action for a long time.”

Mr. Chwe set to doing his English homework, and now his assignment is in. “Jane Austen, Game Theorist,” just published by Princeton University Press, is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” In 230 diagram-heavy pages, Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn’t merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare.

Or, as Mr. Chwe puts it in the book, “Anyone interested in human behavior should read Austen because her research program has results.”

Modern game theory is generally dated to 1944, with the publication of von Neumann’s “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” which imagined human interactions as a series of moves and countermoves aimed at maximizing “payoff.” Since then the discipline has thrived, often dominating political science, economics and biology departments with densely mathematical analyses of phenomena as diverse as nuclear brinkmanship, the fate of protest movements, stock trading and predator behavior.

But a century and a half earlier, Mr. Chwe argues, Austen was very deliberately trying to lay philosophical groundwork for a new theory of strategic action, sometimes charting territory that today’s theoreticians have themselves failed to reach.

First among her as yet unequaled concepts is “cluelessness,” which in Mr. Chwe’s analysis isn’t just tween-friendly slang but an analytic concept worthy of consideration alongside game-theoretic chestnuts like “zero-sum,” “risk dominance” and “prisoner’s dilemma.”

Most game theory, he noted, treats players as equally “rational” parties sitting across a chessboard. But many situations, Mr. Chwe points out, involve parties with unequal levels of strategic thinking. Sometimes a party may simply lack ability. But sometimes a powerful party faced with a weaker one may not realize it even needs to think strategically.

Michael Chwe, the political scientist who wrote “Jane Austen, Game Theorist.” Credit Reed Hutchinson

Take the scene in “Pride and Prejudice” where Lady Catherine de Bourgh demands that Elizabeth Bennet promise not to marry Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth refuses to promise, and Lady Catherine repeats this to Mr. Darcy as an example of her insolence — not realizing that she is helping Elizabeth indirectly signal to Mr. Darcy that she is still interested.

It’s a classic case of cluelessness, which is distinct from garden-variety stupidity, Mr. Chwe argues. “Lady Catherine doesn’t even think that Elizabeth” — her social inferior — “could be manipulating her,” he said. (Ditto for Mr. Darcy: gender differences can also “cause cluelessness,” he noted, though Austen was generally more tolerant of the male variety.)

The phenomenon is hardly limited to Austen’s fictional rural society. In a chapter called “Real-World Cluelessness,” Mr. Chwe argues that the moralistic American reaction to the 2004 killing and mutilation of four private security guards working with the American military in Falluja — L. Paul Bremer III, leader of the American occupation of Iraq, later compared the killers to “human jackals”— obscured a strategic truth: that striking back at the city as a whole would only be counterproductive.

“Calling your enemy an animal might improve your bargaining position or deaden your moral qualms, but at the expense of not being able to think about your enemy strategically,” Mr. Chwe writes.

The darker side of Austen is hardly unknown to literary scholars. “Regulated Hatred,” a classic 1940 paper by the psychologist D. W. Harding, argued that her novels explored containment strategies against the “eruption of fear and hatred into the relationships of everyday social life.”

But Mr. Chwe, who identifies some 50 “strategic manipulations” in Austen (in addition to a chapter on the sophisticated “folk game theory” insights in traditional African tales), is more interested in exploring the softer side of game theory. Game theory, he argues, isn’t just part of “hegemonic cold war discourse,” but what the political scientist James Scott called a subversive “weapon of the weak.”

Such analysis may not go over well with military types, to say nothing of literary scholars, many of whom see books like Mr. Chwe’s or “Graphing Jane Austen,” an anthology of Darwinian literary criticism published last year, as examples of ham-handed scientific imperialism.

“These ostensibly interdisciplinary efforts are sometimes seen as attempts to validate the humanities by attaching them to more empirical disciplines,” said Jonathan Kramnick, a professor of English at Johns Hopkins and the author of the 2011 essay “Against Literary Darwinism,” who has not read Mr. Chwe’s book. “But for some, myself included, literary studies doesn’t need to attach itself to any other discipline.” Even some humanists who admire Mr. Chwe’s work suggest that when it comes to appreciating Austen, social scientists may be the clueless ones. Austen scholars “will not be surprised at all to see the depths of her grasp of strategic thinking and the way she anticipated a 20th-century field of inquiry,” Laura J. Rosenthal, a specialist in 18th-century British literature at the University of Maryland, said via e-mail.

As for Mr. Chwe, he said he was happy if he could spread Janeism among the game-playing wonks. And which Austen character would he want leading America in a nuclear showdown?

Easy, he said with a laugh: “I would want Austen herself.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nihilism in Romance

I don’t use little used, cutsy words that much so I like to remind myself. The definition I want to use is:

Nihilism: 3a The belief that all existence is senseless…

Modified for romance: The belief that love cannot be found for either the hero or heroine or both.

Some might say, that’s farfetched, yet it shows up in almost every romance novel! It’s a trope that helps worry the readers and helps bind them to the characters. Right? Yes, except when it is done without some originality or little respect for the characters history and way they face the world.

In Summer in the City, a Hallmark movie, 2016, the heroine has been burnt in the pass by a fiancée who cheated on her, so she pushes away the hero. She also rationalizes that she must be about her job and has no time for romance.
The hero has been burnt “many” times but only takes this as a challenge to try harder to find the right person. You can just see his mind working overtime when he first sees her (and thereafter).

I enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it. Here's a short preview:;_ylt=A2KIo9fKybBXqQsAbnv7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTEwNnZ0NnY5BHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDQjI0MTYEZ3BvcwMx?p=summer+in+the+city+hallmark&vid=68bfff6ad9453b6c5840dbeb7aa3db9f&

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Sometimes I look for an excuse to play a certain tune at the end of the blog post and link it to my idea, like Promises, Promises, but today I was inspired by the exit song at St. John’s Encinitas, Surfin’ USA!

This choice might seem odd for a church but they’re having a party today, a fiesta. It fit.

Surfing is like carrying out a commitment.

A surfer is in love with la mer, the sea, respects her, can’t wait to get back to her. He takes his time with her seriously, never stops learning how to be one with her whim, her curves, how to please, how to find inner peace and fulfillment. When apart he dreams of her.

When your hero says, “Let’s go steady.” Or, “I do.” What are some of his initial reasons? Are they a mix of uncertainty, selfishness, lust? Nothing wrong with lust, but “linking-up” to have a great treasure (trophy) (taking her away from other men) or because he fears never getting hooked is not only not enough, it is likely the wrong reasons. No worries, this is certainly grist for the writer’s craft, his internal growth. If expressed by a great writer it can be memorable.
Don't just make a commitment, live it.
The Beach Boys, Surfin' USA, 1965 Warning: this song has the ability to lift spirits and get you dancing.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Romantic Hero

Romantic hero

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Romantic hero is a literary archetype referring to a character that rejects established norms and conventions, has been rejected by society, and has themself as the center of his or her own existence. The Romantic hero is often the protagonist in the literary work and there is a primary focus on the character's thoughts rather than his or her actions. Literary critic Northrop Frye noted that the Romantic hero is often "placed outside the structure of civilization and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting". Other characteristics of the Romantic hero include introspection, the triumph of the individual over the "restraints of theological and social conventions", wanderlust, melancholy, misanthropy, alienation, and isolation. However, another common trait of the Romantic hero is regret for his actions, and self-criticism, often leading to philanthropy, which stops the character from ending romantically. An example of this trait is Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Usually estranged from his more grounded, realist biological family and leading a rural, solitary life, the Romantic hero may nevertheless have a long-suffering love interest, herself victimised by his rebellious tendencies, with their fates intertwined for decades, sometimes from their youths to their deaths. (See Tatyana Larina, Elizabeth Bennet, Eugenie Grandet et al.)

The Romantic hero first began appearing in literature during the Romantic period, in works by such authors as Byron, Keats, Goethe and Pushkin, and is seen in part as a response to the French Revolution. As Napoleon, the "living model of a hero", became a disappointment to many, the typical notion of the hero as upholding social order began to be challenged. Classic literary examples of the romantic hero include Werther from Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Gwynplaine from Hugo's The Man who Laughs, the title character in Pushkin's Onegin, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, the main character in the epic poem "Don Juan" by Lord Byron, Chateaubriand's René, Tolstoy's Andrei Bolkonsky from War and Peace, Cooper's "Hawkeye" (Natty Bumppo) from The Leatherstocking Tales, and Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe from his seven novels about the Los Angeles detective. [end of Wiki info]

To me, a romantic hero is someone who is romantic around the woman he loves. He gives her his all. But, what do I know? Maybe I’m the only writer at RWASD & RWA who didn’t know this wicked Wiki interpretation. Chime in, please.

If you look up romantic in the Webster’s College dictionary you may compare quite different definitions:

1. of or pertaining to romance.

2. impractrical or unrealistic; fanciful.

3. imbued with idealism, a desire for adventure, etc.

4. preoccupied with love or by the idealizing of love.

5. expressing love or strong affection.

6. ardent, passionate, fervent.

7. …a style of literature that subordinates form to content, encourages freedom of treatment, emphasizes imagination, emotion, and introspection, and often celebrates nature, the ordinary person, and freedom of the spirit (contrasted with Classical).

8. of free expression of imagination and emotion, virtuosic display…

9. imaginary, fictitious, or fabulous.

10. noting the role of a suitor in a play [or book/RWR] about love; the romantic lead.

11. a romantic person.

12. an adherent of romanticism.

Why the dictotomy?

There is a strain of thought on romance novels, and we’ve talked to this before, that literary fiction is the only or much superior fiction of merit. I’ll follow the dictionary, which in twelve tries doesn’t come close to the Wiki interpretation.

It is useful to look at your hero and heroine through the prism of the definitions above so that their motivations are grounded in common understanding or why we fall in love and what it means to be in love.

P.s. I’d like to take a Wiki leak and rewrite the entry, if only I had the will, time and inclination.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Observations accrued by reading mistakes in romance novels (that aren’t addressed by the arc):
A man in love will never forget his woman’s things-to-do-together list. Her list is his list.
An act of love is shown through the mind or thoughts of the hero, through his lips as he translates his thoughts into action (and a kiss would work well to seal the thought) and in his heart as he puts into effect the action with joyful work.
Being “that” strong man in a relationship implies everybody else is weak. If he has something to give, he should also receive.
It’s not a climatic moment (pertaining to the climate) unless he’s a meteorologist. It’s climactic and they (including the reader) damn well deserve it!
Crossing racial and cultural barriers gives an author more to write about. This is done all the time in paranormal romances.
* * *

Below is for anybody interested in back cover/jacket/ or other promotional material. I would love any suggestions you might have on my attempt.
I've read some material on how to write back covers, etc. Basically, the author should grab attention, describe the story and subtley mention the benefits to clinch the sale.
Writing (copy) must include:
1. A call to buy.
2. A stressing of benefits.
3. Arouse interest.
4. Should not have empty overstatements.
5. Be accurate.
6. Be specific.
7. Be organized.
8. Write for easy reading.
*9. Appeal to emotions rather than intellect.
10. Don't offend.
11. Make use of reviews, etc.
12. Ask for a buy (in an indirect way in the case of romance novels).
13. Okay, start over, revise and edit.
THE THREE AND THIRTEEN POINTS above come from Words That Sell by Richard Bayan. It's a book on promoting products, services and ideas. I think it is a growing illuminating experience to study other media methods and apply them to fiction. have fun with it.

Here's my jacket material, third edit of Angel's Eyes.
She’s made of hunter/tracker stock. She is a blindfold and regular chess master. And not least, first in her class at West Point.

Colonel Bekah Carthage’s brigade loves her. Not because exotic looks made her the Stars & Stripes favorite pin-up. No, in order for a woman to lead, she shows talent and earns respect. To demand this, she adopts a hands-off approach. Due to her eerie ability to “see” enemy placements, no one fighting under her leadership has died.

She’s so effective, the enemy makes her death their top priority.

They almost get her six feet under. But, almost doesn’t quite count.

She loses her sight in an ambush. Then she’s forced out of the Army. And has to be sneaked out of the foreign war zone. The prescient and persistent enemy will not stop until they find her.

A newly recruited spy, Jay Boone, rescues a woman who still thinks she can do it all herself. To argue for her self-reliance she talks up her newfound talent, Blindsight, a sort of “seeing” while blind. So, she wishes, she could still serve in some way. She doesn’t want a man to lean on, not even this brainy hunk. He, a professor turned spy, debunked the paranormal or unexplained phenomena for NYU undergrads. But he remains objective, and not only because he crushed on her in high school. It’s either real or not. Nothing but the truth drives him, even while old unrequited feelings overwhelm him.

The two had shared a common bond on the high school chess team and maybe that’s the key he could use to open her heart and save her pretty behind. You might wonder if checkmate, an old friendship and her desire to serve is all that is on her mind when she begins to accept Jay’s help. Watch, with your eyes open, even while she can’t, as she explores her dormant femininity.

This story dives into the unexplained, celebrates a great woman and the man who loves her. The novel watches her harness her unusual talents in death-defying ways while she tries to understand what’s happening to her heart.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Wedding

I was blessed to be in New York City this weekend for the wedding of my nephew to a compassionate, exotic, beautiful, talented, loving gal.
Joe received his education at a Franciscan University. He had seriously considered the priesthood or brother-ship. The Franciscans encourage all their young men and women to find their calling wherever it leads. Joe and I had discussed his options. I relayed the story of my similar education and how I loved women too much to ever second guess. "Be true to yourself," I said.
Joe is the kindest, most sincere person I have ever met in my life. When Ilyane (Elaine - Dominican Republic spelling) stopped every man who wooed her before they got their foot in the door, she was not prepared for Joe.
She wants to get her doctorate and help the mentally handicapped. No man should slow her down. But Joe lit up her life and the light shown a path where she need not compromise. They are so good for each other and are now walking a path of grace together. Which includes a honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. I picture my nephew blown away by now by her. Man and woman, husband and wife.
I watched the way they looked at each other, her with her saucer eyes and big smile, he with his kind visage and total focus on his mate.
There was no place I'd rather be or do than witness their vows and celebration. My heart took a direct hit.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Let’s Talk About Your Hero

Who is he? A majority of men are not or only passingly interested in affairs of the heart, at least in books, movies and on TV. I’ve talked before about this dichotomy, but today, let’s go deeper.

A guy wants to love his mate, but does he really know how? He won’t participate in “chick” flics, true, but he will go through the motion of buying flowers, candy. He has been told to flatter a woman, open doors etc. Does he treasure her friendship; want to spend time with her? Is he a Renaissance man? Does he realize the beauty before him, whether it be physical or spiritual or both?

For a man, truly in love, his mate is an outrageous gift from God. He thinks of her, always. He plans to please her, to make her feel like a princess. He enjoys her humor, style, quirks, heart, empathy.

But men are socially driven to not let their guard down. Some men who are secure and thoughtful allow vulnerability. It is true that the best man is he who has a successful marriage and many males celebrate this through their actions. If you are writing a younger male or a man who scoffs over sickeningly sweet romances, you have your work cut out for you.

Guys don’t let our guard down because of fear. We must protect (the cave) and in standing on Maslow’s first rung, Survival, cannot easily grow.

Robin Williams and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, 1997
Or click here;_ylt=A2KIo9fnzYJXp0IAgxz7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByYXI3cnIwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDNA--?p=robin+williams+and+matt+damon+in+good+will+hunting&vid=b091ceeca097d31161f63d9e4adb3441&