Can David Beat Goliath? FCRA Case Against Google Dismissed

David and Goliath

Source: Google Images/zacharyfruhling.com

I published a post on March 10, 2021 on data mining and our loss of privacy in this digital world. In that post, I mentioned a lawsuit filed by attorney Matthew Sandofsky against the mega-giant Google. In January of 2021, Matthew filed the lawsuit claiming that Google and similar companies “violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because employers and landlords can use the search engine to learn about a potential employee or tenant.” In the post, I wrote:

“I don’t know if his lawsuit has any teeth but I’m very curious what the District Court will decide. “

Toothless After All

Turns out the lawsuit didn’t have any teeth. On Tuesday, July 13, 2021 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts (Boston), the case was dismissed:

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 5 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“The complaint does not contain sufficient allegations of a FCRA violation to survive a motion to dismiss. Crucially, it contains no information providing a plausible basis that Google actually is a consumer reporting agency. Instead, it merely asserts, in conclusory terms, that “[i]n as much as [Google] returns search results on consumers not generally the subject of publicity, [Google] is a credit reporting agency under [the] FCRA.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). It therefore does not plead sufficient “factual content” for the FCRA claim to be plausible on its face. See Iqbal556 U.S. at 678. Rather, it “merely recite[s] the language of the [FCRA] in an attempt to come within the confines of the FCRA, or stretch the statutory language beyond its intended purpose,” and therefore must be dismissed. In re Sony Networks & Customer Data SecBreach Litig., 996 F. Supp. 2d 942, 1011 (S.D. Cal. 2014).”)”

(for full reading of the dismissal, click here)

Too bad. I was kind of rooting for the guy – hoping David would once again beat Goliath.

But Matthew aint givin’ up.

Takin’ One More Shot

He filed an appeal on August 23, 2021. Having read most of the dismissal, I’m not sure he’s got any chance of righting this perceived wrong. Sure, it’d be great to bring a Goliath like Google to its knees for some long-needed reckoning. I’m not hopeful it will happen any time soon. Can’t blame the guy for trying, though. Maybe the negative press will lead to something better down the road.

Sometimes all it takes is one unlikely hero…

Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 6-7 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“In any event, the complaint does not sufficiently allege that Google provides the information “for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f). While it does not appear that the First Circuit has addressed the question, at least three other Courts of Appeals have concluded that the FCRA mandates that an entity must have the specific intent that the information it furnishes be a consumer report in order to qualify as a consumer reporting agency.”)”

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 8 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“There is no allegation that the “employers, landlords[,] and others” who allegedly obtain consumer information from searches are charged a fee for obtaining that information. Simply making money—from advertisers or other sources—is not enough.”

“Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss the FCRA claim will be granted.”)”

#Google #lawsuits #USdistrictcourts #Massachusetts #Boston #FCRA #saturdaystories #thedigitallife #datamining #consumerreports 

Whether the Weather is Important to Your Novel

First draft of book cover for Rescue on White Thunder

Today I read an interesting post from a fellow writer/author about using weather in our stories (thanks for the inspiration, Damyanti). That got me to thinking… about how every story needs atmosphere (figuratively and literally) and how weather can define a plot or reveal something about a character. And oddly enough, after reading Damyanti’s post and a couple articles on this subject, I realize that I don’t pay all that much attention to weather in some novels and I’m not sure why. (But now I will thanks to that post!)

“The setting of a story informs the mood, the attitude of the characters, and the presentation of the themes. One of the most important elements of the setting is the weather. In literature, weather plays many roles such as a plot device, a way to set the atmosphere, a symbol for cleansing or misery, and much more.”

Hannah Aster, Weather in Literature: Rain Is Never Just Rain, at https://www.shortform.com/blog/weather-in-literature/

My personal favorite is fire. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been transfixed by fire. It has a hypnotic quality about it whether it’s coming from your fireplace or blazing through a forest. I’m not a pyromaniac; I simply enjoy and respect fire for its beauty, danger and power as one of nature’s indomitable forces. Which is why I made it a running theme throughout both of my fiction novels (1 unpublished, 1 unfinished):

“Braddock and his team reached a grove of pine interspersed with hemlock and western red cedar above the trees burning to the southeast and dug as if their lives depended on it (because it did). The ground was still a bit hard from a cold winter and the digging was arduous. Fires spread quickly over a fresh, loose layer of humus covering the solid ground. Tree trunks caught fire one after the other as flames overran the surrounding brush and now-dead timbers toppled from last year’s big storm. The crackling roar of the fire amplified and they had to shout to hear each other. Braddock knew they would soon be forced to move to higher ground. Some of the firebreaks held but winds were increasing in strength and velocity, propelling fresh embers to other areas. More trees and small brush ignited, creating walls of flames that nearly licked the upper branches of the tall pines.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Fire in a story is a powerful motivator as it can often connote a life or death scenario: 

“Unaware of the situation below, Braddock scanned the perimeter. Flames were everywhere, from the pine needles and grass on the ground, to the upper branches of the trees. He hadn’t fought fires in a long time; but it’s something one never forgets, he reminded himself as he struggled to figure a way out. He had to find Annie – it was the one thing that drove him to do what he did next. He choked on the smoke so he grabbed a bandana from his pocket, poured water on it, and held it over his nose and mouth. Pockets of blackened earth began to appear as the fires burned the forest floor clear and Braddock saw their opportunity: a narrow stretch of burned over ground leading upwards between two patches still ablaze. 

He looked down at Smoke, “Think we can do this, boy?” 

Smoke looked at the tight space between the towers of flames; he winced and tried to wag his tail in support.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Just following this last quote from my first novel, another character (the second protagonist) used the smoke from the fire to hide in as he snuck up on antagonists. Like two birds with one stone, eh? Using a force like fire in a story ratchets up the action. It can make heroes out of likely or unlikely characters. Fire speaks to one’s primal fear of being trapped in a blaze (in a house, in the woods, etc.) and brings readers to the edges of their seats.

Weather, in short, can be the tie that binds a story together and bring it to an exciting or unexpected conclusion.

#thursdaytips #writingtips #writersdigest #authorsoninstagram #fires #wildfires #fridayfuntips #saturdaystories #fictionnovel #writingfiction #hotshots #firefighters #mountainrescue #howtobuildaplot #literati #mestengobooks 

A ‘Workiversary’ Worth Noting

Work-Anniversary-Memes-10

Source: Google Images/dontgetserious.com

Well, I made it through another year without ending up dead or in jail. I call that a win.

Anniversaries have a funny way of creeping up on me. Over the years, I’ve paid little attention to the milestones in my life. Probably came from the fact that my parents barely celebrated our birthdays beyond a cake after dinner. No parties, no balloons, no star-spangled celebrations with friends and neighbors. I learned early on that my birthday and other events were treated equally with my parents’ nonchalance. Perhaps it was because they were too exhausted from working such long hours; down time was at the end of long, arduous days, rewarded with a pilsner glass of Budweiser before dinner (mom) or vegging in front of the TV (dad) until an early bedtime.

Stickin’ With It Ain’t My Thing… But It Is For Now

In a few days, I’ll mark my 6th ‘workiversary’ of Mestengo Books. Honestly, I’ve surprised myself, as I rarely stick with anything this long. It’s a form of adult-ing in which I rarely engage; I can blame ADD and an artistic slant for that. Once I’ve learned it or learned what I need from it, I’m gone, on to the next adventure/project/task/person/city. I have found a sense of comfort in having some regularity in my life, in having my blog/website. Even though most of you don’t comment or respond to questions I still feel like I’m sharing stories with willing listeners.

And for that, I thank you all for taking the ride with me these past 6 years.

I don’t know how much longer Mestengo Books will be around but I do know this: both your presence and your absence has bettered my writing and clarified my creative process. 

#happyanniversary #Mestengobooks #writerslife #blogging #storytelling #creativity #selfpublishing #writersdigest #writersofinstagram #authorsontwitter #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #writingcommunity #tuesdaytips

Writers: Are You Living a Psychologically Rich Life?

idea-609x419

AHA!

Yesterday I came across a fascinating article and had a major Aha! moment. Written by Bella DePaulo, PhD, and published on the website Solo Living (wearesololiving.com), Dr. DePaulo separates out the personality types and characteristics of people who are single by choice (yes, this is a ‘thing’ and it’s not bad) and who prefer to live alone from those who live more conformist lifestyles.

“According to Kierkegaard, a married person with a secure, well-respected job and children may have a happy and (in many respects) meaningful life, but not necessarily a life rich in diverse perspective-changing experiences. Although most people choose such a conventional, secure, and well-respected life, others… choose the esthetic wanderer’s life instead—unconventional, unstable, and uncompromising.”

Is This You?

According to Dr. DePaulo, there are three key characteristics of a psychologically rich life: “variety, interestingness and perspective-changing experiences.” What kind of people live psychologically rich lives? According to the article, these people are curious, open to experiences and who experience emotions (negative and positive) more intensely. Does this sound familiar? Writers, or any person involved in artistic endeavors, would certainly fit into this mold. I know I do.

“At least three personality characteristics typify people who lead psychologically rich lives:

  • They are curious.

  • They are open to experience (e.g., they have unconventional attitudes, artistic sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, flexibility, depth of feeling).

  • They experience emotions intensely, both positive and negative ones.”

A light bulb came on and suddenly I made connections with issues I’ve been dealing with for years. Years of struggling because I was ‘different’, because I didn’t fit into the conformist mold that my parents and family members expected. With being more broad-minded, artistic, and so on, I’ve struggled with feeling accepted. For years I’ve felt like a failure because I couldn’t start a business (building a structured environment and all of its details = conformist personality). Now, I realized, I can work in an established business (working inside an already-built structured environment = adaptable/flexible to my surroundings). That changes everything. And it has a name: psychologically rich.

“…psychological richness is the kind of wealth that can contribute to a truly good life.”

To Be or Not to Be…

Some of you may fit into one of the other personality types (happy and meaningful), but if you’re artistic, I doubt it, unless you’re lying to yourself about who you really are. People who live happy lives (or so they think) need comfort and security (white picket fence, 2.5 kids, house in the ‘burbs, etc.). People who live meaningful lives must have significance and purpose as goals. Either way, both of these require a level of conformity and maintenance of static relationships. Living solo frees us from the confines of these personality types.

Do you prefer a happy life? Then you’re going to need time, money (discretionary income) and relationships (romantic, business, platonic, etc.) with the same people over and over again. Maybe you’d prefer living a meaningful life: do you have strong moral principles, broad-based relationships (including networking) and are you consistent? Put plainly, people who prefer to lead happy lives get personal satisfaction (of living up to parents’ and societal standards); people who prefer meaningful lives get to contribute to society in some way (think scientific, medical discoveries and such).

The Best Way to Go, In My (Expert) Opinion

If you want to live a psychologically rich life, expect to be curious, have time on your hands, have plenty of energy and be spontaneous. Novel activities will take precedence over rote tasks and there is a preference for challenging activities where one actually learns and engages. This equates to the gaining of wisdom; this circles us back to the point that this type of life offers a richness beyond material wealth and conformist security.

In summary, people who prefer the solo life generally have many of the characteristics of the psychologically rich mindset. This article validated who I am at my deepest core and taught me to accept that my differences are exactly what enrich my life.

What about you?

#wearesololiving #thesololife #soloadventures #singleandlovingit #writerslife #bloggers #creativityrocks #wednesdaywisdom #solopreneurs #bloggingaboutlife #psychologytoday

A Time for Storytelling and Rest

cherokee bonfire

Source: Google Images/visitcherokeenc.com

Winter is a special time, a time of quiet, a time of slowing down and doing more indoor activities like yoga, reading and writing. It’s also the time of year for storytelling in many traditions, especially for Indigenous Peoples. In the old days (and still, for many nations), it was a time marked by the first snowfall or the Winter solstice. Bands of tribes gathered together to share their stories and pass their histories on to the next generation.

Days of hunting and gathering food for winter stores were over; cold winds blew across the prairies and mountains and the days were shorter. What else was there to do? Stories both entertained and informed; they carried a people’s history with them wherever they went. Oral tradition is still revered today. Regardless of your ancestry, storytelling is alive and well in many cultures around the world and you would do well by touching base with yours. Storytelling long preceded the written word, which forced people to use their brains to retain an amazing amount of detail surrounding important events in their lives.

Do you and your family or friends gather for the purpose of sharing during the winter months? In these modern times, we’re busy working, running errands or are too tired. Storytelling traditions force us to slow down and take the time to LISTEN. When we allow ourselves to participate in this ancient form of socialization, we are energized and connected to something much larger than each of us.

Winter is also a time of rest though skiers and snowboarders might disagree. When was the last time you bundled up (assuming you don’t live in FL) and took a walk in the snow? It’s one of the quietest, most Zen experiences I’ve ever had. If you listen very carefully, you can even hear the snow fall.

This is the embodiment of winter: slow down, listen (to family, friends, your body), rest (to rejuvenate for the spring) and eat deeply nourishing meals (soups, stews).

Indigenous Peoples have had this down for eons and I think it’s time the rest of us catch up. Take some time out for yourself this winter. Rest (it may be four letters but it’s not a dirty word). Read. Write. Appreciate the shorter days and quiet moments. It is in these spaces where we can find peace and contentment to last us throughout the year.

#writers #wintersolstice #storytelling #restandrelaxation #authors #yogapractice #reading #writingcommunity #writersgottawrite 

Oh Pooh…On Copyrights

pooh1

Source: Google Images/goalcast.com

The Masters are Freed

This morning a bit of interesting news landed in my Inbox from Smithsonian Magazine. Creative works published in 1926 (authors, songwriters, playwrights, etc.) are, as of 01.01.2022, available and free to use as we please. No more copyright. That means a lot of artists’ works will enter the public domain this year. What does that mean for current writers, painters, movie makers and such? I cringe at the thought of someone turning a masterpiece like The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway into something unrecognizable.

For instance, The Great Gatsby entered the public domain last year and someone wrote a graphic novel adaptation. I haven’t read it so I don’t know how much the story was changed (time period, characters, etc.). What this does tell me is that original works, masterpieces dare I say, could end up as some sci-fi adventure or even anime – or worse. I worry that instead of coming up with something unique, poor replication and representation will ensue.

Then again, maybe not. 

Pooh On Public Domain

Writer Benjamin Hoff authored The Tao of Pooh and later The Te of Piglet based on the wonderful stories of A.A. Milne, author and creator of Winnie the Pooh. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both books. Because of copyright laws, Hoff agreed to pay the Milne estate thirty percent of the hardcover profits and forty percent of the paperback profits. If he wrote either book this year, he would pay nothing and reap all the benefits of a long-beloved classic. (Note: the cartoon films are still copyright protected because they’re owned by Disney.)

Which makes me wonder:

Will unencumbered profits become a motivating factor in rehashing old classics?

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.” — Winnie the Pooh

Not a Thief, Just Borrowing

Poems by Dorothy Parker and Langston Hughes are also now in the public domain. Sounds like a ripe opportunity for some people to plagiarize and they will be free to do it without consequences. Ethically speaking, I can’t imagine stealing a single line of poetry from the likes of T.S. Elliot or stories from the likes of John Muir or Henry Thoreau. It just doesn’t feel right. Can you imagine The Sound of Music or The Maltese Falcon revamped? Blasphemy!

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic (well, I am an artist)…but the concern is all too real. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens when a classic meets a modern artist. Keeping my fingers crossed.

#aamilne #winniethepooh #ernesthemingway #dorothyparker #langstonhughes #publicdomain #copyrightlaws #taoofpooh #classicnovels

Will The Real Rudolph Please Shine His Nose…

Rudolph book cover

Source: NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

I came across this NPR story some time ago on an IG post. What is Christmas without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? How many of you know the real story of how he came about? Let me summarize…

The Real Story

It all began in 1939 (yes, that long ago and on the verge of WWII) when Montgomery Ward execs asked one of their ad men to come up with a story for MW’s children’s book, an annual holiday promotion. The ad man, Robert May, made a list of possible names before settling on Rudolph. So May, an aspiring novelist and known for his wit at parties, came up with a story of a reindeer underdog named Rudolph. His boss wasn’t very impressed but May, undaunted, went to a friend in MW’s art department to draw up some sketches to go with the story.

Names of Rudolph

Courtesy of NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

Then something awful happened. May’s wife died of cancer. He was devastated but forged ahead, telling his boss that he “needed Rudolph now more than ever” after his boss offered to give the project to someone else. Rudolph was a big hit and copies sold around the country. But by now May was in deep financial straits from his wife’s medical bills and was trying support himself and his child on a copywriter’s salary.

The Big Hit

For reasons that remain unclear, the CEO of Montgomery Ward gave May the rights to Rudolph after WWII. May’s brother-in-law was a songwriter, so May enlisted him to write a jingle about Rudolph. Miraculously, it was loved and picked up by none other than the famous singing cowboy Gene Autry. As a result, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer sold over 25 million copies and was later picked up by Rankin/Bass, who made the stop animation film we all adore (I watch it every year).

If you’re curious, you can follow this link to the whole story, including reading the original book/story that was changed oh-so-slightly for the Rankin/Bass film:

https://www.npr.org/2013/12/25/256579598/writing-rudolph-the-original-red-nosed-manuscript

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to one and all. Stay safe and healthy and prosperous wishes for the New Year.

#Christmas #Rudolphtherednosedreindeer #RankinBass #Christmastime #holidayseason #RobertLMay #holidayclassic #fictionwriters

Supporting Local Authors is Good for Business

A Reason to Go Local

I’m sure many of you watched the news about the devastating tornadoes, including the leveling of an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. Upon seeing the destroyed warehouse, one of my first thoughts, after concern for survivors, was “Oh man, lots of people will be angry about their Xmas packages not arriving on time.” Gifts and gotta-have-it-now items purchased online from other parts of the country, other parts of the world. It’s a “Xmas fever” that spreads around much of the world for a short season and repeats itself year to year.

Then it got me thinking…

For many years I’ve enjoyed shopping locally (I find more unique items this way) and these disastrous events have certainly emphasized my choice. I love supporting local businesses, especially those hit hard by the pandemic. You can go to a local bookstore or business and pick out the gifts yourself. I like the personal touch; I feel it gives the gift a greater meaning if I took the time to pick it out, take it home and wrap it.

Less Really Is More

Mass material consumerism has reached an all-time ‘low’, in my opinion. We have football stadium-sized warehouses where people toil under the digital gun (their movements are tracked and timed every minute of every day) to get your purchases to you ASAP. This harkens back to the factory laborers of the early twentieth century (with not much more labor protections, it seems). Complaints about late deliveries even though there’s a huge labor shortage (which some folks refuse to recognize), issues with availability of raw materials, etc., persist with no end in sight. Keeping your shopping local may decrease your purchase options but increases the opportunity to meet your neighbors and find unusual treasures.

Local Support Strengthens a Community

One way to resolve this global issue is to help our own community members thrive and supporting local authors is a good way to start.  Many towns and cities often have yearly events that introduce local authors to the community. I was one such fortunate author when I lived in New Mexico, where I published my first book (it even won an award!). What a wonderful way to meet readers and other writers and discover new stories.

While much of writers’ works have gone digital (eBooks, Audible, etc.), I feel it vital to support as many members of our local writing communities as possible. Small or local bookstores, libraries and cafes are often great places to meet local writers and authors via book readings or writing groups (professional, Meetup. etc.). Grab a cuppa and have a listen.

Show Your Local Library Some Love

Another wonderful way to support authors (both local and worldwide) is through your public library. I find them an amazing source of discovery and entertainment. This week I discovered a new Asian author, Gail Tsukiyama; I took home two of her books: The Language of Threads and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms. Libraries offer a wide variety of books from local authors to best-selling authors and everyone in between. And it’s a great place to review a book before going to the bookstore to make a purchase.

Post Script:

(Yes, large companies like Amazon provide jobs and help boost the U.S. economy (GDP); they may be, in some places, the only option for employment. That’s not the focus of this post and I continue to support buying locally so we can boost our local economies, which in turn will have a positive effect on the national GDP.)

#writersoffiction #supportyourlocalauthors #placergoldwriters #writersdigest #meetupgroups #poetry #buylocal

Holiday Memories: An Old-Fashioned Christmas

Xmas at Gramps circa 1976

Xmas at Gramps’, mid 70s: me, Gramps, Uncle Norman, Uncle Connie, my father

While cleaning out my computer files (see last post), I came across this paper I had written for an English Composition class back in ’93. Every time I read it my mind is flooded with wonderful childhood holiday memories. I want to share this with you and hope you have similar holiday memories.

An Old-Fashioned Christmas

Christmas at Nana and Gramps’ – this was the one bright spot of the frigid New England winter season. I’d always looked forward to that one day a year, when all of my mother’s family gathered to celebrate. It seemed like a hundred people were stuffed into that three-story Victorian house, when actually there were only around forty at a given time, since people came and went most of the day. Us kids just liked all the food and places to play and hide in that big, old house scented with roasted turkey and all its trimmings.

Gramps_Xmas early 80s his house

Gramps

I can remember as if it were yesterday: Upon arrival, we stepped into a small but clean hallway entrance, where it was ten degrees colder than the rest of the house because it wasn’t heated (neither were any of the bedrooms or the bathroom upstairs, for that matter). We were greeted by the warm face of my Nana or an aunt as the aromas of all-day cooking filled my nostrils. On a small antique wooden side table to the right of the main door rested a black vintage telephone dated from the 1940s; it was one of many items in the house from another time.

Opposite that table was a tall coat rack, where what seemed like hundreds of coats piled up toward the ceiling and finding yours at the end of the day was like searching for a needle in a haystack. From there we would disperse – the kids (me and my cousins) to the living room to play (they had no TV), women (mom and my aunts) to the kitchen, and the men (father and uncles) to the large adjoining dining room, where they would collapse into the same chairs as they did every year. Mom would head straight to the kitchen where she placed her famous California Eggnog Cake on the stove top. She would then help Nana and her sisters prepare the cold turkey and stuffing sandwiches and various pies/cakes to be served later as a light dinner/dessert.

My father and Uncle Connie would take their appointed seats in armchairs located at either end of the steam heater set below the expansive dining room window. Uncle Normand, one of my mother’s older brothers, stood nearby, injecting the occasional teasing remark that got everybody laughing. They all sat in the same chairs every year, regardless of what time they arrived – it was understood. The men laughed and talked and drank cheerily all night long. Gramps sat in his rocking chair on the opposite side of the room, by the kitchen door, listening to all the commotion, not uttering a word, just enjoying being surrounded by his large family.

Nana, Mom, and the rest of my aunts gathered in the kitchen, mulling over the leftovers of roast turkey, three different kinds of homemade stuffing, and various cakes and pies, all made from scratch. My personal favorites were mom’s California Walnut Eggnog Cake and Nana’s cinnamon pie, a decadent pie also known as “piquin” (pronounced pitch-you-anh) pie, made only from cinnamon, sugar and butter. Aunt Vic would be busy mixing and perfecting her fruit cup made of bananas, strawberries, and other fruits. She carefully monitored the servings – we were each allowed one small Dixie cupful and had to sneak into the kitchen when she wasn’t looking for seconds. 

My cousin Danielle and I picked through the huge bowl of fruit cup to find our favorites (mine were the bananas and strawberries). Later, around six o’clock, the cold turkey and stuffing sandwiches came out and we all ate until we thought we couldn’t eat another bite. Stomachs were bursting by the time my mother would start slicing her special Christmas cake. It was a sponge cake filled with fresh whipped cream, walnuts and brandy, topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries. She made it only at Christmastime and we all made room for the measly slice she handed each of us. She would stand guard over it to make sure no one took more than one slice – there were too many mouths to feed.

Xmas with Dot Vic Audrey_early 70s

Aunts in the kitchen; Xmas circa 1970

While the adults were busy eating, my cousin Danielle and I would run off to the frosty hallway, find a spot on the stairs and for the next few hours, rummage through old family albums kept on a long side table beside the stairs. They contained pictures of family members we’d never known and pictures of my aunts and uncles throughout their lives before we came along. Ours was a past rich in history and ancestry and we were mesmerized by the old photos. (Mom’s family is so large I still joke that instead of having a family tree we have an orchard!)

Then came time to open presents. A small number of gifts were exchanged between my mother and her siblings, and the rest were given to us kids from our respective godparents or favorite aunt/uncle. My godmother always gave me socks. Every year. And they were some of the ugliest socks I’d ever seen. The only cool socks I ever got from her were the multicolored “toe socks” she gave me in the 70s when they were the “in” socks to wear. Some kids got toys. I always got socks – except for one year when I was in my late teens, she gave me a key chain with my name engraved on a silver medallion. I still have it.

Xmas in Nton c. 1964

Christmas at Nana and Gramps’ circa 1963

Afterwards, a bunch of us kids would head for Gramps’ small barbershop adjoining the dining room. All the vintage furnishings were intact, right down to the leather strap he used for sharpening his straight blades, and barber’s brushes and mugs he used for applying the fresh whipped shaving cream. Here we played in the stuffy but worn barber’s chair, bouncing up and down again and again, releasing air that made a whooshing sound every time we landed on the jagged tear in the center of the bulging black leather seat. There were old comic books in the magazine rack attached to the chair that we must’ve read a hundred times. Then it was back to the kitchen for one more helping of fruit cup before heading outside into six-foot snowdrifts to frolic until our snowsuits were wet and we were cold to the bone. The temperature was always twenty degrees colder at my grandparents’ house but the air seemed so much clearer and crisper up there.

Late into the night, after we had all filled ourselves with food and drink and fatigue filled our sleepy eyes, our parents would load us, the presents, and leftovers into the cars and head home, with yet another year of happy holiday memories at Nana and Gramps’.

Happy Holidays to one and all!

mistletoe1

#Christmas #family #holidaycelebration #shortstory #nonfiction #memoir

The Scraps of a Writing Life

writing scraps

Source: Google Images/annkroeker.com

End of Year Cleanup

I’ve spent the better part of today cleaning up the multitude of computer files I’ve hung on to for years. As I cleaned up the so-far-unused information, I wondered what to do with the scraps of my writing life. I have unfinished works in various folders: a new book on the Chinese Medicated Diet, a humorous Chinese Pediatrics e-Book on using natural remedies for growth spurts, an anthology of an alt-med newsletter I wrote and published for many years, and research for a variety of articles yet to be written.

A part of me can’t stand unfinished business; another part misses writing about natural health and wellness (Covid created some financial difficulties and I was unable to renew my medical license this year). That’s a lot of saved information for future articles I won’t be writing. 😦

Yet I can’t quite let go.

Decide What to Keep

I’ve deleted some information and kept other bits. I think part of the reason I can’t let go is there’s a tiny flame of hope I’ll get around to putting something together with all the scraps. Like using a bunch of leftovers to create a new meal. Maybe all I have to do is think more creatively, as writers tend to do. I have some vague ideas but nothing concrete. Can’t quite pull it all together – not yet, anyway. If I hang on to some of the scraps long enough, I’ll come up with that whole new “meal” – perhaps a book or lengthy journal article.

Or, perhaps, I need to change direction and focus on some new topics. Perhaps.

The point of this post? Don’t give up, don’t throw away all your writing scraps. Keep the good scraps and maybe you, too, can create something new and wonderful.

#thewritinglife #fiction #nonfiction #smj4w #bookworm #holidays #xmasgift #amazonsmile

Writers, You Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do!

book index3

Source: Google Images/illuminationsmedia.co.uk

Afterthought

It wasn’t until well after I’d published my nutrition book in 2016 that I realized an important piece of the Chinese medicine puzzle was missing: an index. I assumed readers with no exposure to or background in Chinese medicine theory would clearly understand my book. It was written, after all, for the general public, I reasoned. It has occurred to me, however, that many of the terms and theoretical premises won’t jive with what most people know (hint: Western medicine). That means I need to add an index.

You Have Options

Not all is lost; an index, while time-consuming to create, can be easily and quickly added to your nonfiction work using MS Word, Adobe InDesign or several other software options. In addition to creating indexes, many of these options (see below) will help you with your writing process. Personally, I’m still a fan of Word; I prefer the wide open, blank page – similar to working on a typewriter (from my childhood school days) – to the more technical-slanted software, like Scrivener. I don’t like breaking up my book into pieces; I prefer to flow from one chapter to the next to maintain the rhythm of the story.

But I digress. 

Take Your Time

Nonfiction book indexes provide information on where the word, phrase or concept appear in your book (page numbers, chapter, etc.). This is the time-consuming part; you have to read through your book and choose the words, phrases and concepts that need to be included in the index. Luckily, MS Word is one of those helpful options.

“Microsoft Word comes with a built-in indexing tool that can automatically create an index based on the entries you choose. All you’ll need to do is use the Mark Entry tool to mark each word or phrase you want to add to the index. Terms in your index can point to specific pages in the document or cross-reference to other indexed entries.” Wikihow

And This Word Points to…

Choose key words and phrases but it’s not necessary to include every single example of a topic. And, according to a recent blog post from The Book Designer, you should “only make sub-categories when it’s important and related to the topic of your book or helps break up a large chunk of long page references.” This option would apply to my book since there are various phrases and words that fall into multiple diagnostic categories. Note: make sure the book formatting is maintained throughout the index.

The standard is to begin every index word with a noun. For example, in my recipe section I might find the term ‘roasted garlic’. In the index, it would be listed as “garlic, roasted.” Index words are not capitalized unless they’re proper nouns, e.g., David, Senator, Massachusetts.

Different But Important, Too

Another aspect to book writing (both fiction and nonfiction) is using a glossary. A glossary is a list of defined terms, not always alphabetized. I created an Indigenous tribe and language for one of the main characters in my fiction novel so it was necessary to define and show pronunciation of each word or phrase. A glossary is useful when there are words and phrases likely unfamiliar to the reader and can be included in both fiction and nonfiction works.

A Short List

The following are software options to help you with an index and writing in general: 

#microsoftword #scrivener #hemingwayapp #nonfictionauthor #googledrive #googledocs #bookpublishing #selfpublishing #writingfiction

The Long and Short of It

alphabet2

Vintage Alphabet Source: Google Images/pixiepaperstore.com

Growing up before the Internet and a digital world, my generation learned much via “the old-fashioned way” – like cursive and script writing. I have vivid memories of the Roman alphabet in upper and lower case bordering the chalkboards of my grade school classrooms.

Sister Rose de Saint Marie taught our second-grade penmanship classes and she was a typical hard-nosed teacher/Catholic nun. I religiously (pun intended) practiced my penmanship at school and at home. (Which is why, all these decades later, I’m still complimented on my handwriting.) There were two classrooms for grades 1 through 8 and penmanship was taught daily at least until sixth or seventh grade in our Catholic grammar school. I even remember the paper we used: solid lines on the top and bottom for the upper and lower parts of the capital letters and dotted lines in the middle for the lower case letters. 

This morning, as I filled out my student loan recertification document, I realized that a pen in my hand felt a bit strange. I don’t like that. I spend less and less time writing longhand, whether in cursive or script, unless I’m leaving a note to myself on my desk. When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory. It’s as if I’m forgetting how to sign my name with the characteristic loops and artistic flairs that have long been my mark. Losing my longhand skills means, to me, losing a sense of myself.

We are losing the personal touch, the individual-ness of each human, becoming less so as AI infiltrates our lives. Google is the answer to EVERYTHING, it seems. Can’t spell a word? Google it. Not sure if it’s a verb or adverb? Google it. The internet has short-circuited our ability to learn via sensory memory (touch, taste, smell, etc.) and in the process something very personal, unique to each of us, is lost.

“When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory.”

J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books in longhand and still writes that way. Imagine the difficulty in maintaining the pace of your writing with what’s whizzing through your mind as the story unfolds. How many writers today are even willing to attempt such an undertaking? Still quite a few, thankfully.

“A friend of mine who’s a film director turned me on to the Blackwing 602. What I like is that it sharpens to a really fine point, and it’s got a great feel to it that I just can’t describe. It’s like when you taste a really good wine or a cognac: You know it’s good stuff.”

Andre Dubus III, author of Bluesman and House of Sand and Fog

For me, the Digital Age provides too many shortcuts, too many quick ways around learning what we need to learn. Forget working out a math problem with a pencil and paper; now Brainly will do it for you. But what is lost in the process? We lose the concept of critical thinking; how to get from point A to point B. Working out a problem, like writing in longhand, allows our brains and minds to problem-solve, which translates into many other areas of our lives as we grow. We can’t afford to lose it or I fear we’ll lose some of our humanity.

“A pen is a much more primitive instrument. You feel that the words are coming out of your body and then you dig the words into the page. Writing has always had that tactile quality for me. It’s a physical experience.”

Paul Auster, author (https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/)

Writing longhand is a form of sensory memory and connects us to each word in a story and the story itself, as a whole. It fortifies memory and the ability to spell, to slow us down enough that we get the story on paper without too many revisions. We become more deeply engaged in our stories.

“Studies have shown that writing (and rewriting) information in longhand is one of the most effective ways to retain new information; this is apparently because writing the old-fashioned way stimulates a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or the RAS.”

Fred Johnson, at https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/ (and yes, he “Googled” this information)

Laptops may allow for the collection and storage of information – but on the laptop, not in our brains. Efficiency is nice but LEARNING and RETENTION are more important. So in the best interest of humanity – pick up a pen or pencil and have at it.

Deepen your writing, deepen yourself.

A quick post-script (11/4):

I was so enamored with the thought of getting back into longhand I purchased some sleek cedar-scented graphite pencils. What a joy to use! Brought back some nice childhood memories… and inspired me to write this little ode to pencils:

The Poetry of Pencil

Smooth charcoal, cedar scent

a cherished childhood of homework spent

writing and re-writing until perfection or corrections attained;

Mathematical problems, grammatical errors

erased with ease;

Sharpened stylus dulled with use,

scratching numbers and letter in columns and rows,

learning my ABCs and 2+2s.

#ABCs #handwriting #longhand #scriptandcursive #writinglonghand #writerswrite #pencilsandpens #charcoal #romanalphabet #sensorymemory #RAS #artificialintelligence #grammar #harrypotterbooks #authorswhowritelonghand

Watch Your Tense and Don’t Be Passive or Reactionary in Your Writing

passive voice

Source: Google Images/yoast.com

This week’s post topic came about after (once again) reading grammatically-challenged articles online. I automatically proofread everything these days – every article, book or online missive. I can’t help myself (thanks a lot, Catholic grammar school nuns). What I find all too often are: 1) multiple tenses in one sentence (make up your mind); 2) passive voice (MS Word or Ginger Software can help with this); and 3) a reactionary style of writing, where the protagonist is responding to something or someone instead of taking action.

your tense must make sense!

No matter what you’re writing (blog, book, article, etc.), it’s important to maintain the correct tense in each sentence and avoid the passive voice. FYI – each tense has its own passive voice, created by using a form of the auxiliary verb, to be (am, is, was, are, were, will be, etc.).

In a recent blog post from The Book Designer, I found this very mistake at the top of the article:

“One way to do this is by learning what passive voice is, how to find it, and eradicating it from your writing.”

I discovered the errors the first time I read it. Do you see them? Read it again, with a bit of change:

One way to do this is by learning to learn what passive voice is, how to find it, and how to eradicate eradicating it from your writing.

The author also began the sentence with “one way” and proceeded to list three ways (in reference to grabbing the reader’s attention). This is how I would write the sentence, with correct tense and active subject/verb:

“It’s important to learn what passive voice is so you can find it in your writing and eradicate it.”

Boom.

Don’t Be Passive, Be Active!

Passive voice in sentences is when the subjects (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) are acted upon by the verbs instead of the other way around. Active writing is when the subjects are proactive, not reactive. Active writing makes for stronger, more interesting characters and an entertaining read.

One example of passive vs. active writing:

Passive: My laptop was stolen.

Active: Someone stole my laptop.

Once you learn the difference between active and passive writing, you’ll find it easy to maintain active sentences (unless passive is necessary in a character’s dialogue). Ginger software, for example, can teach you how to avoid the passive voice and in the process you’ll become a better writer.

Better for you, better for your readers.

#writing #fiction #nonfiction #grammar #gingersoftware 

Find Inspiration With a Vision Board

vision board1

Source: Google Images/https://www.google.com/www.lisareneejohnson.com

Last night I watched a movie titled “The Women” starring Meg Ryan and Annette Benning. Meg Ryan’s character was a designer who worked at her father’s firm. Long story short, he eventually let her go and she decided to start her own design firm. What’s the first thing she did? Started a vision board, of course. Using time-lapsed video, you can see her adding ideas and inspirations to the vision board: colors, sketches, the name of her business, etc. I know movies love to show how everything always works out for the protagonist but real life isn’t always so rosy. A vision board, however, is realistic and doable and helps one stay focused.

Vision boards can be inspirational and help us stay focused and reach goals. Years ago, I created my first vision board after realizing that lists never worked out for me. To be honest, it didn’t go well; perhaps I had too many goals going in too many directions. Or maybe I didn’t put the board together quite right (if there is a ‘right’ way). Could be any number of reasons why my goals on the board didn’t materialize. Seeing one in the movie inspired me to try again. Perhaps I was too worried about a specific order of the pictures and phrases; maybe I need to be more random with placement.

So I’ll give it another shot. I’ll focus more on the ideas and goals rather than the placement. I tend to get distracted by the orderliness and lose sight of what’s important – the goals to be accomplished.

To writers and creatives: do you have this problem as well? Our minds tend to be in overdrive much of the time so a vision board might be ‘just what the doctor ordered.’ Can’t hurt; if nothing else, it can bring new perspectives to your life and perhaps clarity as well. And with all those creative thoughts whizzing about, clarity would be a good thing. Let a vision board help turn your life in a better direction!

I’m old-fashioned and I like to touch the items for my board (there’s that tactile learning common in artists). If you prefer a digital version, there’s a template at PicMonkey. If you need help changing your thoughts, this site will help you create the vision board you need. Don’t focus on perfection, focus on what inspires and motivates you to reach your goals. Visualize them, then put them on your board.

Get creating!

#visionboard #create #writers #makeacollage #positiveaffirmations #inspiration

You Can’t Copy That…

David_LaAccademia Florence13 (2)

Michelangelo’s David, Florence, Italy (my 2018 trip)

Important to Repeat

I’ve written about copyright issues in several previous posts yet the how-to-protect-your-work articles continue to show up in my Inbox. That means it’s an important part of publishing any works, written or otherwise, including photos. Social Media abounds with photos people have taken whether they’re professional photographers (think National Geographic) or not. I’m guilty of saving many beautiful photos that struck me just right in the moment; however, I never used them in any of my written or artistic work. That would be copyright infringement.

According to attorney Matt Knight of the Sidebar Saturdays blog, we have to be careful using others’ photographs as they may contain someone else’s copyrighted or trademarked work. That can be any item or person or logo somewhere in a picture. For example, you photograph a friend while at an art museum with a famous painting in the background. While you can probably share that photo with friends to show off your visit to the museum, you can’t use it in any type of commerce situation (that means where you would profit from the picture). 

A Long List

In the U.S., copyrights give exclusive rights to “use, reproduce, and distribute” your creative works. When discussing copyright issues, many people first think literary. But protections extend far beyond that. Matt Knight writes:

“… copyright protection also extends to paintings, photos, maps, drawings, charts, lithographs, sculptures, globes, stained-glass windows, pottery, jewelry, labels, wallpaper, furniture, toys, buildings, and fabrics. Photos contain many of these items.”

Whew. What a list!

Copyright Tidbit

Here’s a little breakdown: any work created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protections last for the LIFE of the creator PLUS 70 years. If no one knows when the artist/creator died, then it’s 120 years from the date of creation of the work. After all that, the work enters public domain and can be used by anyone for commerce or personal reasons. You can check out Matt’s blog for the rules on works created prior to 1978.

What can’t be copyright protected? Plenty. Here’s a short list from Matt’s blog: “Titles, names, short phrases, slogans, logos, inventions, facts, ideas, and procedures.” Still have to be careful, as trademarks may exist with any of these. Always smart to check first, with the Federal Copyright Office at copyright.gov.

More Legal Protections

Fair Use is a rather complicated part of copyright law; I’m not an attorney but you can read more about it in detail here

Trademarked products are also protected. Trademarks are often thought of as brands (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Geico, etc.). If the trademark is used in commerce (like the three I listed), they can be used in perpetuity (like the three I listed). Matt writes:

“Trademarks can be words, symbols, slogans, logos, packaging, colors, figurines, toys, sounds, scents, or combinations thereof.”

Basically, you can’t use something trademarked by someone else because it causes confusion of ownership “as to the source of the goods.” And you can get into a lot of legal hot water for it. It’s not worth the risk, even with all the gazillion photos and creative art works all over the Internet. Watermark or sign your work to protect your creations. If you’re still not sure how to do this, check out this page from the late (what a loss to our community) Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer. Or on Matt Knight’s blog, Sidebar Saturdays.

#copyright #copyrightinfringment #watermarks #trademark #sidebarsaturday #joelfriedlander #thebookdesigner #worksofart #michelangelo