Responsibility

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Something has been nagging at me since I watched the news the other night – the concept of crowdfunding. It’s strange to me that it has become acceptable for so many people, including writers and authors-to-be, to ask for free money from strangers to help with a book/situation/health condition. (I get asking for help with disaster relief.) But is that money truly free? No. You have a responsibility to spend that money on what you campaigned for and nothing else (or you might end up in legal trouble). I don’t understand how people  can ask for money to help publish a book, then ask them to spend more money to buy the book. 

There are so many affordable and even free options out there; you just have to do the research: Lulu Press, Amazon KDP, Lightning Source (Ingram), just to name a few; these are great options. Check their criteria to see which one fits your needs best. I’ve always used Lulu Press and have had good results. They pay me on time every month, without a hitch. To get your book into bookstores, libraries  and other public venues, Ingram Spark is the way to go. There are a few up front expenses that you must budget for: book cover (eBook or hard copy), editing (developmental or finishing touches), and layout. And there are so many options out there for these, you certainly can find what you need to fit your budget.

On the news the other evening, there was a blurb about a new website, GoFraudMe. Its purpose is to expose fraudulent crowdfunding campaigns, mainly on GoFundMe. I searched through the site and read about several campaigns where people have fraudulently collected a lot of money (one was for over $400K for a homeless guy who never saw the money) and spent it NOT on the issue of the campaign or just plain faked the health issue or situation. Luckily, the folks at GoFraudMe are bringing these cases to law enforcement and many are or have been charged with the crime of fraud, some as felonies. So be careful where you donate your money. 

That said,  if you have a campaign to help with publishing your book, make sure that money only goes towards publishing and keep receipts/details of your expenses. I’m thinking that because others have paid for the publishing and other miscellaneous expenses (editing, layout, etc.), that you cannot claim them on your federal taxes, as these were not paid for with your money. Might want to check with a tax specialist to be sure, or call the IRS, to be safe. 

I did read about a new crowdfunding option to publish one’s books on one of the author blogs I follow. A new site where crowdfunding campaigns can lead to a publishing contract is Inkshares. This is a legitimate site where, if you navigate their process successfully, you can land a publishing contract. After a quick read, I surmised that this might be a more plausible option; they will offer a publishing contract if you can secure a pre-order of 750 books. According to their FAQs page, they write: “We publish any work that successfully hits a pre-order threshold on our platform.” Sounds like a good deal if you’re on SM and have 750 friends who might be willing to ante up. Certainly is worth looking into, don’t you think? 

Inkshares appears to be a safer, smarter crowdfunding option for those who choose this road. I still question the integrity of asking the public to pay for both the process and the finished product. When it comes down to it, as writers, we have a responsibility to be both self-sufficient (to earn a living this way) and to provide work that is worthy of the price we charge. That, in my opinion,  is our responsibility. 

Scribbling

Clothesline Notes in Jack London's Country Cottage

Courtesy Jack London State Park, Google Images

Here in Northern California, we’ve been experiencing a spate of wildfires (15 statewide total) that have all but drained our firefighting resources. A local news station did a Special Report on the damage inflicted by these wildfires, including land, homes and lives lost. Terrible. As they looked back over the past seven years to show how fires have increased in frequency and size, they focused on the 2017 Tubbs fire, the most disastrous fire in California history. They talked about how it nearly decimated the Jack London State Park in Napa County. For those of you who grew up reading great classic authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, etc., Jack London was a prolific writer and adventurer who settled here in the Napa/Sonoma region in the early 1900s. In fact, it was much of his worldwide adventuring that lead to the writing of some of the best works of the 20th century, including my personal favorites, White Fang and The Call of the Wild. 

The newscasters shared details on how State rangers packed up his personal belongings in order to save them in case the fire reached his home and property (it came close, but thankfully missed), storing them all the way out here in Sacramento for safekeeping. Now returned to its former glory, his writing room still contains all of his writing instruments and materials, his desk, and other accouterments: the twine strung across a closed-in porch, with a multitude of little notes clothes-pinned to the line. Jack scribbled these notes on small square pieces of white paper whenever something came to him (which was daily, evidently). He pinned them to the line for later use in his books. And did you know that Jack London wrote ONE THOUSAND words EVERY DAY, BY LUNCHTIME

The closest I come is a notebook marked “Write What You Know” on the front and it’s where I scribble when I need to unload. It’s not a journal; it’s simply a place to jot down whatever is rumbling around in my mind at a certain moment in time instead of pinning them around my house and looking like a crazy person. It’s where I scribbled the first chapter of my novel (I mentioned this in an older post), a dark short story, and some senseless meanderings I tore out. But I have never come close to a thousand words a day and likely never will. I’m not that motivated, even in a good month.

Out there on the world wide web you’ll find a plethora of expert advice by professional writers telling you to write daily. That’s nice if you’re fortunate to be earning a living from your writing, but what if you aren’t? And does it really matter if you write daily? I think not. I think we each should adhere to whatever writing principles fits our lifestyles, since one size surely does not fit all. Jack, like many famous writers, wrote daily (what else was there to do in the middle of a jungle at night?); I think it’s because he had so many stories in him to share it was the only way he could get to the next book. Do we have any less stories? Perhaps, perhaps not. Some of us don’t travel or adventure as much as folks did back then, when it was easier and more affordable; you didn’t need a passport (until WWI), so moving between countries was much easier. And we’re busy working full-time jobs, part-time jobs, raising families, caring for parents, finishing a college education, etc. We have (modern) lives to live! Which brings me back to the point of the title – those lives give us fodder for our stories. So if you’re not scribbling daily, that’s okay; but it’s probably a good idea to at least have a place (notebook, clothesline, etc.) for you to scribble your ideas – the good, the bad, and the ugly, so at some point you, too, can turn them into a cohesive work. Like Jack.

Scribble on!

 

Creating Movement in an Action Novel

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Source: WSET, Virginia

I don’t know why, but I’ve been fascinated with fire since childhood. The duality of its beauty and danger captivate me; flames licking, eating, destroying; yet warming, inviting, even trance inducing. Many years ago, as the first chapters of Rescue on White Thunder formed in my mind, it was very different from the end result. I suppose that’s where the creativity and individuality of the writer comes in to play. Fire has become a running theme in my books and it is once again a large part of the next installation in what has become a series because I so enjoy the characters I’ve created. (And I’ve already got ideas and a premise for a third.)

For a writer who prefers to write a good action story, movement is crucial and including fire made it easy. Fire provides good movement in a story, whether it’s the fire itself or the characters involved with the fire and what they’re doing with it or to it.

In this excerpt, you can see how the characters move into action as a result of fire:

Braddock was already well above the rest of his crew on the fire line when Jim suddenly yelled, “Wind change!” 

The crew immediately stopped what they were doing and ran downhill. When Braddock and Smoke turned to do the same, a flare-up stopped them in their tracks. It was an unexpected blowup – the southeasterly winds, with pressure from the storm overhead, shifted north and caused crown fires to increase rapidly. Flames raged high and hot and separated Braddock and Smoke from the rest of the team. Braddock turned in every direction, trying to find a way out as the flames shot through the loose underbrush, creating a wall of fire around them. Branches burned off trees fell to the forest floor, spitting burning embers everywhere.

In this portion, the fire itself is the action, providing rich imagery as well:

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.

You can also have both the characters and the fire creating action where one influences the other:

6:30 am: The explosion reverberated throughout the house. Braddock flew out of his chair at the breakfast table and Jim sprung to his feet, knocking his chair to the floor, both of them spilling their mugs of coffee.

Quite a distance away, they could barely make out a thin grey line of smoke over the trees southwest of White Thunder Mountain. Minutes later, the wail of police sirens pierced the air; honks like foghorns from multiple fire engines interrupted the morning’s serenity.

When it comes to action, you have multiple opportunities to create movement in your story when you include an active subject matter like fire or other extreme forms of weather. Track whether the story flows or if it skips; too many changes between scenes may break up the story’s rhythm. Use whatever tools work best for you; have friends/family read portions for feedback, build a story board on a wall in your home office (or where in the house you write), even sketch out the physical layout of the story’s location (this works for me) to keep timelines and movement in sync.

Remember, movement is life in a good action story.

Graphic Un-Design

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Memorial Weekend loomed and my anticipation escalated; I’d been looking forward to this for a long time. Over the past year or so, I have contemplated changing the eBook cover to my fiction novel, Rescue on White Thunder. I knew the basic, cheesy cover was not really helping sell my book and I obsessed over making a change. I also discovered a few writing errors I missed with my hundreds of previous edits, so I set about making those changes to the manuscript but delayed a new book cover due to budget constraints. With all the options out there on the World Wide Web, surely there was someone I could afford to have design a new cover for my eBook. Or so I thought.

Alas, it was not to be. I stupidly went to Fiverr to get an affordable book cover since I’d had good luck with my nutrition book there (well, sort of…long story that ended in my favor). I located a young woman here in the U.S. (which is difficult, since many of the people on Fiverr are not). After reviewing her book cover portfolio a few times, I made the decision to purchase a book cover from her. Sadly, it did not go well. First, the order arrived later than promised. When I finally saw the email that my work was completed, I anxiously opened the message, anticipating a sparkling new cover that would now sell gazillions of copies of my book. The new cover looked NOTHING like the book summary I’d sent. Did she even read it? I asked myself. I sent the cover back with a revision request, my hopes dashed in an all too quick moment of ecstasy. I waited for a response. And waited. And waited. By now, Memorial Weekend was almost over and still no response. Perhaps she’s working on the revision, I tried to convince myself. It is a holiday weekend, maybe she’s out having fun, I excused. By the end of the fun-filled (for someone else, I’m sure) weekend, still no response. With great regret (and an imagined loss in gazillions of book sales dollars), I cancelled the order and requested a refund. Oddly, she responded to that request within twenty-four hours and agreed. Hmmmm…

It made me rethink the whole eBook thing. With scammers on the rise and sites offering free copies of eBooks illegally (I had this problem and it was a pain to clear up), I made the decision to take my book off Amazon/Kindle, at least for a short respite while I re-evaluate. Instead, I’m going to invest in a new book cover for a hard cover print book because I think that will serve it better than even a paperback style. Seems to me that print books still sell better, as people like to curl up with a good book and a hot cuppa. I know I do (just today finished a fabulous read titled Three Souls by Janie Chang – a must read). And I’ll have better control over scamming issues, since it’s harder with print books. I imagine I’ll still have to deal with the occasional idiot third-party seller on Amazon trying to sell my work for an ungodly amount.

Part of what bothers me is how devalued graphic design work has become with the advent of the Internet and the multitude of websites where we can find these so-called experts in graphic design. I’ve reviewed many portfolios and I see a pattern: each graphic designer has a singular style that they seem to use for all their projects, changing only color, font, and background as dictated by the genre. Even the young woman who created my nutrition book cover falls into this repetitive pattern as a blueprint for all her works (which I didn’t notice until after the fact). It’s bad enough we have additives in our foods to make them all look and taste the same in every bottle; now graphic design is following suit. Conformity, lack of style and originality; unless we can afford only the best of services, many writers are doomed to copycat book covers with little novelty. 

Caveat emptor, my fellow writers – Buyer Beware. And, lest you forget – you get what you pay for, so make it worthwhile.

Jack-of-Many-Trades

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There’s an old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It’s been on my mind frequently as of late. I use the word ‘many’ in the title since I am not a Jack-of-ALL-trades but rather a person of many talents who has not bothered to master any of my talents. I’m a dabbler; I like to dip my toes in here and there, testing different waters and enjoying different experiences to enrich myself and my life. Or so I’ve told myself over the years. Perhaps I’m just unwilling to go the distance in one area – no, that would be boring. Maybe it’s why writing (still) appeals to me. I can test different waters again and again without it feeling repetitious. There’s so much to explore in both fiction and nonfiction realms. Unlike Hollywood, which seems to be running out of (good and original) ideas, the people who live the stories will continue to have stories to tell. And write.

Even when feeling lost (as I am this week, for some reason), we are still living our stories, they are around us and in us. We must draw from our well of jack-of-many-trades when our stories need help. I’m having a crisis of confidence this week so I’m having difficulty drawing from other areas of my life to get busy writing beyond this blog (which I avoided for over a week). I’m also avoiding a crucial re-write of segments of one of my fiction novels; to be honest, I feel like I’ve failed the story by getting those segments wrong. As a dabbler, it’s sometimes difficult for me to fully invest the time and energy and focus because I’m convinced I need to be elsewhere in my life. Truth is, I’m avoiding the one thing I want most – to finish the novel and publish it. Not sure why.

The down side of being a jack-of-all-trades is that boredom sets in quickly; we are fast learners who get what we need from a situation/job/story/etc., then move on. We tend to have multiple things on our plate (job/s, hobbies, etc.) so our attention is often drawn away from where we need to be in our stories. At the moment, I do have some more important tasks at hand but I add more tasks rather than go back to finish what remains incomplete. Aspects of the novel ramble about in my mind yet I avoid updating the manuscript.

The upside of a jack-of-all-trades is we can draw from many corners of our lives because we have experienced life spherically – in all directions. We can use our ‘dabbling’ as a force that pulls pieces of a story together like the many colors of yarn that weave a beautiful tapestry or rug.

I’m trying to find a way to use what I have learned as a jack-of-all-trades in my stories and in my life. Are you?

jack of all trades

Stories with a Purpose

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I keep a collection of books – it’s not a large library collection, rather a smattering of interesting topics, in addition to all my medical texts, herbology books, and notebooks. I also own two trilogy sets (one fiction, one nonfiction) that I read at least once a year. They are Native-themed books that provide much-needed life lessons when times are trying and they remind me of what’s really important. For some reason, I rarely read self-help books; to me, they seem preachy in some way (even if they’re not) and I don’t feel they’re speaking to me. I believe each of us has a path in this life so self-help books, for me, only serve to muddle my truth, which is different from the self-help authors’ truths. I don’t know, I was never much of a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” kinda gal. But hey, if it works for you, read ’em if you got ’em.

That said, I do own a book by authors Richard Leider and David Shapiro titled “Claiming Your Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose.” I’ve read other books they’ve written and found them to be enlightening because they present the information in a way that forces me to think more deeply. This particular book deals with the dilemma of becoming an elder (usually around age 55, which I have surpassed) in this modern, white-dominant materialistic, youth-obsessed culture and what your role is, if you have or make one, in your community. Traditional cultures (Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples around the world) continue to revere elders, as they understand the importance and sacredness of having lived a longer life. So they ask, what role are you playing in your community? I ask, are you sharing your stories so others can learn and grow?

Youth is more valued here in the U.S. but we have much to learn from our elders. As many know, experience truly is the best teacher. Wisdom can only come with age, from having lived one’s life. Turn on your TV and count the mindless shows that dominate the air waves: post-apocalyptic zombies, reality (not really) shows, cheesy soap operas, and remakes of movies (sometimes remakes of remakes) since Hollywood seems to be running out of original ideas. They teach little that is worthwhile and only serve to numb our minds and disassociate us from our realities. Which is why, in this current culture, it’s vital for us, the writers, the storytellers, to share stories with purpose. Our stories will serve to teach, guide, and open the hearts and minds of our readers and ground them in the history of us as a species and from many cultures.

Ask yourself: Who am I? Where do I belong? What is my story? What is my life’s purpose? These are not necessarily self-centered questions; instead, they invite introspection as to our historical circumstances and to the lives we are born into, in a particular period or place or time. By recalling our stories we become connected to both past and future. Even if you write fiction, as I do, sprinkle in social issues, cultural issues, moral issues; let your characters represent forgiveness, healing, and light in the face of violence, aggression, and darkness.

As Leider and Shapiro write in their book:

“The form of purpose matters little; the desire to benefit future generations is crucial.”

Write on!

 

Lunch Among Giants

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This past weekend I was one of those fortunate few to experience Muir Woods, the southernmost coastal redwood forest in California. I awed at their grandeur as I strode along the boardwalk that meanders through the forest floor. I became hungry after exploring groves of these giants, many of them born well before me, and ate my lunch on a bench encircled by behemoths who have witnessed more than their share of our history.

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Later, as I hiked the upper trails threading through forests of coastal redwoods, ferns, clovers, and moss, words like ‘ancient,’ ‘sentinels,’ and ‘steadfast’ swirled in my mind. I could feel something forming, a poem, perhaps, or a statement to their tenacity and survival. This is what I came up with:

Lunch Among the Giants

Ancient sentinels stand steadfast

Guarding primordial woodlands;

I am but a speck in their imposing world.

They speak of tall tales;

For they have witnessed

Civilizations come and gone.

Born of fire and deeply rooted,

We envy their prominence,

For we shall never be

As steadfast as these trees.

I thought about how John Muir must have felt walking in these very woods, how lucky he was to have done it with no other humans (the place was mobbed with tour buses and hundreds of humans milling around making all kinds of noise). What an awe-inspiring experience that must have been, which, I’m sure, is how he came up with this quote:

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Amen.

Shakin’ It Up in the New Year

I was more than a bit disappointed with my last blog post. I asked for readers’ opinions on the title of my first novel because I’ve been thinking about changing it slightly to better catch people’s attention. I did not receive one single response to my survey. Disheartening, to say the least. Which made me ponder whether to keep this blog going since I can’t seem to engage folks out there. While I’m good at speaking in public (lectures/seminars) or talking to people in person, I don’t seem to be very engaging online. With that realization, I have decided that in the new year I will upgrade this WordPress blog to a full-blown site where I will have all my books available and the focus will be on drawing attention to the books, not my musings on writing and life. Sometimes a dose of reality stings, as in this case. But I look forward to the new challenge of putting more of my work out there for folks to enjoy. I’ve been editing and adding new chapters to my booklet on Pediatrics in Chinese medicine and it’s about 85% complete. Typical of my personality, I’ve written it with as much humor as is needed when dealing with kids and their maladies, especially growth spurts, which is the focus of the book. It teaches parents how to use herbal remedies and hand techniques to alleviate symptoms arising from growth spurts and other mild issues instead of drugging them. I feel if I complete some of my incomplete works, that alone will bring more attention to my site, as I’ll have more books available to a wider audience.

Thanks to those of you, though few and far between, who have read my blogs and occasionally “liked” them. I appreciate your support.

Let’s all endeavor in the new year to create something we have not yet created, to challenge ourselves in a way that forces us to move out of our comfort zones (which, it turns out, is not all that comfortable to begin with), and to finish what we start with the same zeal we had when the idea first formed in our minds.

Merry Xmas/Kwanza/Hanukkah and Happy New Year

mistletoe

Survey Says…

What’s in a title? That’s my question, well part of it, to you. How important is the title in selling the book? Or is a good book cover more important to generate sales? I’ve been asking myself these questions for some time now and have decided to ask you, my readers (all seven of you, ha ha), what you think. I’m contemplating changing the title of my current novel, Rescue on White Thunder. I’m also going to put it into paperback and have a new cover design. Does the title make you want to read the book? Or does it seem a bit ingenuous to you? I’d really like to hear what you have to say. I will remove the eBook from Amazon (too many issues, I won’t go into here) and move it over to Lulu Press, where I have my nonfiction nutrition book . A former classmate once told me she thought the title sounded like a Hardy Boys’ novel (ouch). Do you think that’s true?

So I’ve set up a survey to hear what you think about the title and whether I should change it. I would greatly appreciate your input, readers, to help me decide. I definitely will upgrade the cover work as the original, in my opinion, looks cheesy. That’s what I get for having a graphics student do it instead of a graphics professional. You get what you pay for, right?

I’ve also included three options for a tag line, one which I already use. Feel free to comment on which one you like, if any.

Thanks for helping me out.

 

Tag/Secondary Line (I like to use these):

A Novel Adventure (no change)

A Braddock Novel

A Braddock Adventure

From Blog to Book: Turn Your Knowledge into Profit

I recently unsubscribed from a book publisher’s blog because I wasn’t getting much from it. So I took a chance and subscribed to Joel Friedlander’s blog, The Book Designer, and haven’t regretted it. Joel is an experienced book designer, writer, and publisher, and I highly recommend you check out his blog.

In his most recent blog, Joel offers his new book, Book Construction Blueprint, for FREE. That’s right – all 225 pages – for FREE. But that’s not the point I want to make. Something in his blog got me thinking about all the writing I’ve done over the years: alt med newsletters, articles, and a nutrition book, plus two other non-fictions sitting in my computer at the moment. He wrote that his latest book is really of compilation of all the free blogs he’s written for so many years. He wrote that this is actually his second book based on his blogging that he calls ‘booking my blog’ (I like this phrase). Joel writes on his recent blog:

This is a good example of “repurposing” material that was originally free when it appeared on the blog into a financial asset that will produce income for years to come.

If you’re a blogger with specialized knowledge, and you write in logical categories, you should be able to do the same.

It got me thinking: what if I took all that information I’ve shared over the last twenty years and put it all into a book? It could be a collection of some of my best work; most of the information has remained the same, albeit a few updates. I have to spend more time working out the details but I feel renewed from this recent post.

If you have specialized knowledge, why are you not doing this? I have a friend (come to think of it, I will send him this blog immediately) who writes weekly blog articles with intelligence and a wry humor. This would be perfect for him, since he once tried to recruit me to put together a book of his blogs (it didn’t pan out at the time).  Why aren’t more people doing this? Sharing the wealth of their accumulated knowledge and specialty training? Get started now by going through your blog posts to see which ones would make it into your book. Start an outline, see where it takes you.

Book Sales Fraud or Smart Marketing?

Today is a day off for me so I decided to catch up on some online work and update my books’ Facebook, Lulu, and Amazon pages. I came across something on Amazon that I have encountered there before; I wasn’t happy about it then and I’m not happy about it now. Have you (authors) found someone, a third party seller, trying to sell your work for an unreasonable (and I mean ungodly) price? I published my first book, a creative nonfiction, back around 2007. A few years later, I retired the book (it was a personal memoir and I’d moved on by then) but Amazon never completely removes the page (their policy). There are probably two dozen or so copies of the book (yeah, I was a monster publisher back then, ha ha) in circulation, most of them signed by me at a book award ceremony back in 2006 (yes, I actually won an award for that little book). Not that my “autograph” begs that kind of money, mind you, but I do have to question the veracity of the seller when my simple paperback is available for ONLY $629.81!!!!!!

Red Rhino Fraud Book Price 09.11.17

Unbelievable.

When I encountered this issue with my nutrition book (a third party seller was offering it for a huge, unrealistic amount, again on Amazon), I contacted a publicist and book marketing expert I’ve been following for some time now. She was nonplussed about the situation and told me I already got my money so don’t worry about it. Am I worrying too much about this? Or is this fraudulent activity? At the very least, it’s misleading since the seller lists the book as ‘new’ and there are no new copies available. What would motivate someone to price a book at that level? Have any of you experienced this? What did you do? Were you successful or not? I’d love some advice here…maybe it’s just me but I’m perturbed about some greedy idiot trying to overcharge for one of my works…and offering it as ‘new’ when it’s not. Not that anyone’s buying it at that price, I’m sure…but I did contact the seller via Amazon so we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, it’d be nice to hear from some of you about your experiences and how you handled them. In this Digital Age, I think, some illegal activities will be beyond our control…including when it affects one of us personally. Like I don’t have enough stress in my life…

Sheesh.

Update 09.18.17: the fraudulent offer has been removed! It’s sad to have to monitor our work so closely in this Digital Age; lots of scammers out there and people who ruthlessly take advantage of hard working writers. A flick on the forehead to them.

Copyright Tidbits

I’m a bit surprised at the lack of likes on my most recent post (A Lesson in Futility). I guess not everyone gets my sense of humor (though most of you usually do). It was meant to be a humorous look at the writing process for writers who struggle with choosing the right words (I can’t be the only one). So back to the serious writing advice, this time on copyright issues. There are some great tips provided by Joel Friedlander on The Book Designer website. Initially, I included the article here but was immediately contacted by an administrator of the site, giving me the impression I shared the article without their permission (even though I properly credited Joel and his website, and included the link to the actual article). 

Mea culpa

I still have much to learn about copyright issues, whether intentional or not. Instead, I’ve updated this post to include only the link where you can find the complete article. It’s a good read and it never hurts to be reminded of these important points. The Digital Age has certainly made copyright issues a bit more of challenge, I think, and many of us (including me) will make unintentional mistakes from time to time when sharing good information.

My apologies to Joel Friedlander and his admin and thanks for pointing out my copyright snafu!

 

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/01/6-copyright-page-disclaimers-and-giving-credit/

 

A Lesson in Futility…

Or – A Writing Exercise to Stretch the Mind and Challenge One’s Vocabulary Language Terminolgy Lexis

Scene:

I’m seated on a black wrought iron chair in my favorite Italian market/café/deli (the only good one in town, really, and as it wins Best Of in the Italian category each year) at a table for two so small there’s barely room for me. It’s cold and stiff and hurts my ass butt behind because of the shape of the iron, with a overall design I can’t begin to describe because I don’t have the requisite architectural training lexis in my repertoire vocabulary range. The waiter places my chicken parmesan lunch plate in front of me as I salivate over the forthcoming feast of fat breaded chicken breasts, pasta with fresh plum tomato sauce, and a rather poor excuse of a salad (iceberg lettuce, a few pale tomatoes, and onion slices slathered in a very too vinegar-y Italian vinaigrette) served so often in Italian restaurants (don’t they know about arugula, spinach, and red leaf lettuce?).

Writing pad is to my right (because I’m right-handed, duh) and it awaits my handwritten commentary (yes, I still know how to right write, because of thanks to all those Catholic grammar school penmanship classes) on the meal before me as an exercise in descriptive writing (just a food lover with a need for a little mental workout). I’ve eaten here before, so I know I’ll get another two meals out of this serving lunch, it’s that big (not bad for $11). It’s crowded (as usual) and I managed to find a small table for two (with barely enough room for me) in the corner by the door (so my writing can be interrupted disrupted by every new customer who walks in for the same reason I’m here – the best meal of the day).

I slice into the done-just-right battered chicken slathered lovingly coated in their famous, daily-made plum tomato marinara sauce and slowly place the steaming chunk in my mouth. I am immediately transported to another time and place: the Northeast (aka home). Nothing better than living in a strange place and discovering a little slice of heaven to make it feel more like home. Chewing is a delight of the senses in layers of flavors: moist and slightly lightly crispy crisp boneless breast meat, sweet plum tomatoes, a little basil, oregano, olive oil, fresh parmesan cheese…they export many of their ingredients directly from Italy. The pasta, spaghetti (always), is al dente, of course, and also married with their famous tomato marinara sauce. I eschew the salad for the first several bites as I’m in some sort of Sicilian or Roman (the family’s actually from Verano, up north) heaven and can’t pull myself away from the chicken or the pasta. Finally, the salad begins to make its way into my mouth and it’s an unsurprising predictable humdrum plate of flavorless lettuce too heavily drizzled with an overly tangy creamy Italian dressing and flavorless bland tomatoes (unlike the ones in the sauce), but the bread crumbs are crunchy and flavored with a nice blend of herbs like rosemary and thyme.

It’s my day off, so I celebrate this lunch with a nice glass of Sangiovese (Tuscan) wine from their lengthy extensive list of wines from Italy (where else?). The spices and berries berry notes warm my mouth and my tummy permeate my palate, infusing the meal with a layer of flavors savory-ness indescribable too wonderful for words. I moan in culinary ecstasy – to myself, of course, as I’m not trying to re-create the famous scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally (and wouldn’t work since I didn’t have a Billy Crystal sidekick joining me for lunch) where Meg Ryan’s character has an “orgasm” over a turkey sandwich. As the famous line goes, I’ll have what she’s having!

So here it is…an exercise in figuring out which words/phrases fit and which don’t. I find as I age I struggle more with this (actually I think it’s because I don’t write as often as I should and my mind is getting soggy), so I need to get off my proverbial ass and write.

Cin Cin! Salute! Chin chin!

Talk to Text: A Writing Lesson

My mind whirls at a pace my fingers simply can’t keep up with, so getting my thoughts down on pen and paper or on the computer can be difficult at times. Then an idea came to me: what if I tried talk to text? Speaking is one of my better skills, so why not? Nowadays most computers and cell phones offer some version of this (Dragon, Voice Recorder apps, etc.), making it easier to get our thoughts, ideas, and writing topics more organized. Or so I believed.

As I recorded this thought string, I found myself at a loss for words, except for the ums and ahs, of course. (It doesn’t help that I was walking down a busy street, running an errand, while I did this. Not recommended.) Ironically, I don’t normally use ums, ahs, or other filler words during a recording or live radio broadcast because they’re annoying and make me sound less intelligent. I’m not at a loss for words – most of the time – but trying this talk to text, for some reason, has me stumbling and mumbling.

It’s also good practice for enunciation and how you come across in an interview, which can make or break book sales. (Note to self: do I really sound that nasal? Ugh.)

It’s a good experiment to record your book or article ideas; then you can go back and listen to the quality of your words and better understand your thought process. We speak and write differently and using the talk to text will help flush out the filler words as well as provide a template for the writing process that is unique to each of us. Even if you’re writing from a narrative point of view, it’s important to watch for and listen to word flow in the story.

Go ahead, give it a try. Hope you have better luck than I did!

 

 

Every Life Has a Story…

One of the ongoing contentious issues where I live is how to deal with the considerable number of homeless citizens. Our city has estimated that there are several thousand folks, at any given time, in this difficult and frightening situation. I frequently pass snacks from my car window to a homeless vet or other individual and have even purposely sought out hungry homeless (that’s redundant) people  in my area to pass along a leftover sandwich or drink. I often consider trying to talk to one of them, to find out what happened.

Police, politicians, and the community express a wide variety of opinions on how to handle this devastating situation (they’re not, actually, they just spend time arguing about resolutions that never materialize). The constant harassment by police, who then dispose of the camping equipment, blankets, and other personal items, is a sore spot for the community and especially the homeless. While many of these less fortunate people have addiction and/or mental health issues, it’s not the same story for each person. It was because of this controversy that this occurred to me: Every life has a story and every story has a life.

As writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, for journalism or some other purpose, it is our duty to share the stories that bind us together as a race (humanity), a community (your area), and as predecessors to a new generation of writers/storytellers. We are responsible for being honest in our characterizations,  even with the creation and convincing representation of fictitious characters.

Go forth and listen to what people have to say. Get their stories. Then tell those stories in a way that moves people (emotionally, to take action, etc.). Don’t be afraid to tell the tough stories about misunderstood people (real or imagined). Use these stories to color your fiction work, whether they be shades of gray or bright pastels,  and paint each life/story as important because it is.

A friend once told me each person that crosses your path knows something you don’t.

What have you learned today that can be a part of a story?