Monday, March 25, 2013

Free Short Story

For the next few days, I'm running a promotion: The "Spring is for Unicorns" short story giveaway, where you can get a free copy of my tale "Wish Wary" from Amazon. The irony to this is that it is decidedly un-springlike here in the Greater Philadelphia area, as I watch snow blanket everything outside.

The story I'm giving away is a quick little ditty, meant for a quick diversion, for some resonance with a simple folk tale or bedtime story form. Drop in and grab a copy, and if you feel inclined, leave a review. Review quantity has a large impact on whether little-known-writers become better-known-writers.

Thanks, as always, for your support. Your word of mouth has the power to move books, and the more books I move, the more likely it is I can continue to write further tales. You, dear readers, have the power.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Intellectual Property is Still Property

Recently, I attended a church production that did a really excellent job delivering the message of God's love and his desire to redeem our lives, no matter how big or how numerous our mistakes. The production quality of the show was absolutely professional, and the actors, singers, and dancers involved all showcased high-quality talent.  I wanted to enjoy that production without reservation, but there was a problem.

The show was "homegrown," which is great. I admire the effort it takes to work from scratch if you can't find a pre-packaged dramatic production that fits your needs. However, there were a couple items in this homegrown commodity that left me questioning the legality of their use.

One large section of the story was told utilizing the text from a published collection of children's stories. However, nowhere in the program or anywhere else did I see any credit given to the author or publisher of this text. I know for sure my own publishing contracts make very specific mention of and provision for who owns the rights for dramatization (in any form, film, audio book, or live performance) of my writing. As with any author, if I don't retain those rights, the publishing house controls them, and therefore, it is against the law to use someone else's writing without either purchasing or otherwise procuring the rights.

I'm not saying this church did not procure the rights legally, because I don't know if they did or not. I don't attend there, and I was just a visiting audience member. If they did procure the rights, it would have been nice to see something in the program acknowledging the source. At the very least, the author and publisher deserve a shout-out for their hard work. Such a shout out prevents rules-driven people like me from stewing over whether the church did what was right in terms of copyright law.

But if they didn't procure the rights and just went ahead and used this author's text, boy does that put a bee in my bonnet. A whole swarm of them.

The process of getting a children's book written, picked up by a publisher, illustrated, edited, typeset, released, distributed, and into the hands of readers is a process that takes countless hours--years, literally--of many people's lives. Most writers scrape for every penny they make at their passion, so every time somebody misuses or misappropriates their work, it takes food from the mouths of their children or keeps new shoes off those kids' feet. For a church to use content without permission, even for a production that was free to the public, is unconscionable.

My husband put it like this: would the church steal the lighting equipment they used for the show? No, they rent it and pay whatever it costs. (And there was some really fabulous lighting for the show, I have to say.) How are lights different than content? I would argue they are less important! All the lights in the world can't convey the message the text does.

The last point I'm going to make about this is this: if we as Christians think we can skirt the proper handling of intellectual property, that creates another reason for non-believers to point at us and call us hypocrites. "See? They're no different than any of us. Just a bunch of lying thieves, hiding behind good intentions." Even if souls are impacted by the message a less-than-legal production conveys, for me, the ends don't justify the means.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Constant Terror of Being an Author

On my lunch break today, I ran an errand of such gut-twisting formidability that I’m lucky the lunch I scarfed down on the way back to my cubicle stayed where it belonged. What was that errand, you ask?
Dropping off my first load of books at the local, independent bookstore to be shelved and sold on consignment.

Maybe this doesn’t sound so terrifying to you. It probably isn’t to most people. But for artistic types like myself who are consistently underwhelmed by our own talent for making the thing we can’t help but produce any more than we can help breathing, it was enough to induce heart palpitations.

You see, I handed those books to a real person in the store. (A kind woman by the name of Kit who actually reads the stuff local authors bring to her in search of shelf space.) This woman had no prior connection to me. She didn’t seek my books out, I brought them to her and asked for a spot on her shelves. She was a perfect specimen of someone both objective and knowledgeable, and that, my friend, is the most terrifying person in the world to hand your paper babies to.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What's Coming Next for Vinyanel?

A while back, there was this blog hop drifting around people were calling “The Next Big Thing.” I got tagged at least four times for it, and being the distracted mother, conference planner, author, advertising associate I am, I never got to post while this was still news. I’ve had bits and pieces of his post kicking around for weeks, so I’ve decided I need to actually get it in place. The point of the blog hop was to encourage authors to share in succession what they are working on in their writing life, to link to other authors who tagged them and who they intend to tag, and to generally raise awareness about what’s up and coming in the fiction market. All good stuff to do if you have time. So here I am doing the informational part, sans tagging.

Most of my motivation to finally post this stems from the fact that I have been getting feedback from Beta readers on my “next big thing,” Book III of The Windrider Saga: Valor’s Worth. They say you need to write a million words before you know what you’re doing in the world of fiction writing. Valor’s Worth takes me up to about 750,000 words written so far, if you don’t count blogging, so I do believe I may finally be hitting my stride. The feedback on the book has been extremely encouraging, and I am really hoping this book will hit the market with a bang and some acclaim!

So thanks to Kat Heckenbach who technically tried to tag me first for The Next Big Thing. Also thanks to Kessie Carol, whose tag I am formally posting in response to. Here goes…my next big thing:
1) What is the title of your next book/work?

My next book to release, Lord willing, is Valor’s Worth. It’s book three of The Windrider Saga, and unlike its novella-length predecessors, will top out at close to 120,000 words. Not just a novel. A fat novel. (That’s about 480 pages for those of you who would rather look at it from that angle, which is a similar length to Curse Bearer.)
2) Where did the idea come from for the book/work?
This book has arisen out of subplots that have remained unresolved in the first two Windrider stories. Most prominently, the passing back and forth of the Chalice of Gherag-Tal, the fiend summoning artifact Vinyanel started his adventures trying to keep out of the dragon-kin’s hands. This book will deal with his burning need to recover that once and for all, and along the way, he’ll have to face his emotional woundedness that arises from his past, both recent and distant.

3) What genre does your book/work fall under?

This book, as well as just about everything I write falls under fantasy, basically of the sword-and-sorcery subgenre. Except the system of magic is entirely divine in origin, rather than being some kind of neutral power source a user can tap into. I hesitate to use the word sorcery because of the red flags that start flying on that, but style-wise, it’s very much like classic caper fantasy.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Captain America: The First Avenger
fame, would be the actor with the right look for Vinyanel. The beefed up version of him that Marvel trotted out should work nicely. That is if he can sport a substantial pair of prosthetic ear points and a long platinum wig. I think he could handle it.
For Veranna: I keep coming back to Penelope Cruz. Try as I might to scan Hollywood for another face, she keeps coming up with the right combination of skin tone, hair, and pluckiness.
And for Majestrin: Jeremy Irons. The depth of his voice and smooth accent make him perfectly suited to Majestrin, in my opinion. I can just feel the floor of the movie theater vibrate after the sound mix adds even more bass to his voice.
Although this wasn’t a question, I also want to add that the sound track should be written by either Howard Shore, Alan Silvestri, or John Powell.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Grrr. (No that’s not my answer. That’s my reaction to this exercise. Is there an author who likes one sentence synopses?) As for the boil down: When Lieutenant Commander Vinyanel Ecleriast learns of an imminent plot to employ the sinister artifact, the Chalice of Gherag-Tal, he takes upon himself to intervene, but his impulsiveness and the determination of his enemies test both his mettle  and his understanding of valor.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book, as far as I know right now, will be published through a traditional publisher, but it’s not under contract yet, as of this writing. If things go as planned, it will be a contracted work.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Too long. This book has been in the works since about March of 2012, and the draft wasn't really done until late December. But in the meantime, I have been editing Curse Bearer and dealing with its release, so that has been a big part of the long drafting time. Since January, I have been editing like a lunatic in an effort to catch up.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This book compares somewhat to the Dragonlance book series written back in the 80s and 90s by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It’s meant pretty much entirely for entertainment purposes, with hopefully just enough depth to be memorable.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The evolution of the Windrider saga has been a bit unusual, since it has its roots in serial fiction for Digital Dragon Magazine. Honestly, the content of the other books, which left the plot element of the dragon-kin having re-stolen the chalice of Gherag-Tal with the full intention of putting it to malevolent use, required I follow that thread through to its end. Couple that with the fact that I’ve been wanting to write a straight up Windrider novel, outside of the constraints of the serial format, and you end up with what I’ve got brewing.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

This book makes greater use of the red-haired dragon-keeper elf maiden who Vinyanel encountered in book 2 of the Windrider Saga, A Greater Strength, so I think readers who have been following along this far will be interested to see how she weaves into the story.
The book gets into a little bit of Majestrin’s back story, and readers will learn the awful reason why he is extremely uncomfortable around hatchling dragons. (We authors are so mean to our characters.)
This book is a little bit darker than the previous Windrider books, so it will be interesting to see how my readership reacts to that.

That pretty much covers it for now. Hopefully I will have this book tied up within this month, and then I will send my initial query on it and see how the publishing end looks. Hopefully circumstances will progress smoothly, and the book will make a quick trip to market.