the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ideas From Published Authors Needed

Another blogger and writer is seeking ideas, in order to put together a book to help all writers sell their books. She has requested that anyone who is willing repost her call for help, so here it is, below. You can also click on the link to view the original, with links.

"After posting about some interesting movements in the music industry, Colleen at Loose Leaf Notes asked me to look into book publishing.

Inspired, I set out to answer her question.

At little background first. Book publicity has changed drastically in the last seven years. When we started the Open Grove in January, 2001:

* In-house publicists from hundreds of publishers sent dozens of copies of books. I received 12+ books a day. I heard that Oprah received over 50 books a day. Yikes!
* Almost every author went on some form of a multi-city book tour.
* I received telephone calls, letters, and a few emails (2001) from publicists hungry to get their clients on the Open Grove.

Within two years:

* publishers began to merge into multinational conglomerates,
* the tide of books became a trickle, (Thank God)
* authors financed their own book tours,
* some savvy best selling authors began publishing their own books, and
* small book presses were growing.

By 2007:

* many of the major book publishers had closed their publicity departments,
* authors whispered that they spent their entire advance on a publicist - some where helpful, most were not, and
* the publishing industry lost 17%! Book publishers closed left and right.

Walt Whitman sold his book door to door. What’s an author in 2008 supposed to do to sell his or her book??

* What works?
* What doesn’t work?
* What are people doing to promote themselves?
* What was the data? Which marketing endeavors increased sales? What had no effect at all?
* Self publishing? Big New York Publisher? No advance publishing? E-book publishing?

I asked my favorite Marketing forum and came up with some good ideas, but no data. I sat through ridiculous seminars run by sharks and charlatans. (No, Janet, I didn’t kill them, I only WANTED to kill them.)

What sells books in 2008?

No one knows.

I mean, I have some ideas? But I’ve already written about them.

Unsure of what to do, I did nothing. Then I noticed a little project of Brad Feld’s (Liz, he’s the venture capitalist I was talking about). I decided to steal his idea.

I’m sending out an SOS.

Let’s collect our information and experience. We don’t have to toil alone. Together, we can create a resource for authors. With information, we wrestle our creative efforts from the mouth’s of sharks.

(100% of these proceeds will go to Wounded Warriors. )

What I’m looking for:

* Direct experience marketing a book, selling a book or even getting a book published.
* What is working for you?
* What hasn’t worked for you?
* What do you believe is the single most important factor in selling your book?
* You book can be a self-published book, an e-book, a New York publisher.
* Did your book tour work?
* How much publicity help did you get from your publisher?
* What sells your book?

I’m thinking a short (100 - 300 words) this worked, this didn’t.

In return for participating, you will receive a free copy of the book. I’m hoping to collect 100 authors to participate in this project. If you are interested, please send me an email at: or leave a comment at On a Limb with Claudia. If you know a published author, please let them know about this project."

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Thursday, May 29, 2008


This week's 100 word challenge at Velvet Verbosity features the word Against. Well, I'm against using the same format for every effort, so here's a poem for your (doubtful) pleasure.


I cry out -
Death and loss.


Against the inexorable current of

Cruelty and its craving:

Lies luring us astray -
Every party, every candidate -
Good intentions soured, presented as fresh,
Cures worse than diseases,
Distortions of truth
Winning votes,
Betrayal of all
Who trust promises.

Thoughtless obedience -
Slayers of creativity;
Hatred and intolerance,
Harsh enforcers;
Enemy of infinite variety.

Which cultivate
Indifference to all
But their satisfaction;
Bitter fruits of indifference.

Rigid law,
Rules, regulations,

War in any form.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Author Interview: Tristi Pinkston, Season of Sacrifice

Today, I have a special guest on the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author. Tristi Pinkston, author of several thought-provoking historical novels, is touring the blogosphere to alert readers to her newest book, Season of Sacrifice. One of the things I personally find most intriguing about Tristi is the fact that she doesn't write historical fiction that seems taken from a third-grade textbook. Instead, she explores viewpoints and areas of history that are often ignored, even topics some people would prefer to forget. In the process, she provides a much richer and fuller view of history than the usual "one side is good, the other bad" treatment. Welcome to the Unending Journey..., Tristi.

As a writer myself, I'm interested in how you write. Do you plan an outline first, or do you just sit down with an idea and see where it takes you?

I do a little bit of both. I always have a historical timeline in front of me so I know what major event happened when and so I know when to move my character from place to place. From there, I let it flow and see where it takes me. I've tried writing with a tight outline and gave it up after about three days. I need more freedom and flexibility than that.

Do you follow a routine when you write? If so, what seems to work best for you?

I always check my e-mail first. For some reason, if I think someone might have e-mailed me, I can't just write and ignore it. My e-mail boxes must be cleaned out. Beyond that, I just dive in. Oh -- and I usually have a glass of ice water sitting next to me. I'm ashamed to say that yes, I do chew on the ice.

Do you have any favourite writing techniques, or any suggestions you think might be helpful to fellow writers?

I frequently recommend to new writers that they imagine they are in the scene they are writing and allow themselves to feel the emotions that are present. The very best writing comes from feeling the emotion, and so if you are terrified of the falling bombs or you have vertigo staring down the cliff, so much the better. You can write it more effectively.

What about tools? Do you have particular writing software you can't live without, or perhaps a favourite type of pen or ink? How do these things help you as you write?

Writing software is evil. No, I'm just kidding, but sometimes I feel that way. I use Word but only because it's industry standard. If I had my way, we'd do everything with Word Perfect.

I can't live without lip balm. Let's see, right now I have huckleberry on my desk. And I can't live without my yoga ball chair and my ergonomic keyboard. Everything else is flexible.

Who are the people, writers or not, who have influenced you most as a writer, and how has each one influenced you?

My grandparents on my dad's side were huge believers in me, and made me feel like I could do anything. My parents have also been supporters of my dreams. They put up with me when I went through my depressing poetry phase in my teens, and if you can live through that, you can live through anything.

Now, I really rely on my writers group, the LDStorymakers. We started out as an online support group for authors, and have become a family. Those folks teach me, uplift me, and keep me going.

Do you do all your research before you sit down to write a book, or do you find yourself needing to check details as particular points come up?

Both. I try to do all the research beforehand, but it's impossible. You never know what you're going to miss. I tend to immerse myself in research for a couple of months before I start writing, and then I hit the Internet for those missing details as I go along.

What techniques do you use to help you capture the feel of the times and places you want to write about?

When I pick a time or a place to write about, I spend about two months concentrating on it. I read all the books I can find, watch all the movies I can find, search the Internet for hours. I'm not focusing on just facts; I'll watch romantic movies set in that place, for instance. Whatever I need to do to get the feel. I don't read much else or watch much else for those two months. Then, when I sit down to write, I really feel like I've captured the flavor of the time and place, and I have had people compliment me on that as well. So I guess it works.

You clearly have sympathy for those who are persecuted, and a real inclination to use your writing to remind readers of the humanity that can be found in any group. What experiences taught you to see, for example, that a girl growing up in Nazi Germany could be a sympathetic character? What influences roused the need in you to highlight the forgotten aspects of history?

When I was a little girl, I had a deep desire to go to Russia. I wanted to go there like nothing else. When the opportunity came for me to go, I was fifteen, and it was right before the coup in 1991. My parents were freaked out about letting me go. They grew up in the era where it was believed that the Russians were nothing but evil. They were just sure that if I went, something bad was going to happen to me. I stood on my head to get them to let me go, and once I was over there, I discovered what I'd instinctivly known all along -- Russians aren't bad. Their government has been corrupt, but Russians aren't bad.

I've always hated blanket stereotyping. You can't take any group of people and label them. We are all individuals. I want to deal with
people on a case by case basis, not as a group.

When it came time to write about Nazi Germany, it really came as no surprise to me that the Germans weren't bad. Their government was corrupt. The German people as a whole were very good. What has surprised me is the reaction I get when I make that comment. Most of the Nazis were just people and were just doing what they had to do. Only a small percentage actually understood what they were doing and actually enjoyed doing it. Most of them had been pressured into service and didn't see a way out.

As far as my need to highlight those forgotten aspects of history, I really feel that as long as we only focus on the "popular" part of
history, we're only partially educated. To understand a war, we really have to look at both sides. And we can't say we understand humanity at all without recognizing that our enemies are humans too.

With your current book, Season of Sacrifice, was it inspired by family research you'd already done, that you felt outlined a story which needed to be told, or did you have an idea for a book based on an ancestor you had vaguely heard of, then set out to research his life in greater detail?

We'd had a family history book kicking around my house for most of my childhood and I'd never really paid any attention to it. But one day about five years ago, I picked it up, read it, and knew this was a story I had to tell. I called my dad, asked him for more information, and he gave me several more pieces of information and some books. I set to work and fleshed out the story that was outlined in the family history stories. I'd known the story, growing up, but I hadn't known the details. They were fascinating.

Your other books were set amidst real events, but featured fictional characters. How was writing Season of Sacrifice different, knowing you were portraying the lives of real people, your own ancestors?

It was stressful, because I wanted to get it "right." I didn't want to write anything that would embarrass my family. But at the same time, it was exhilarating. I felt that I was really doing something important. And, with the family history books and excerpts from my ancestors' journals, I felt as though I'd been given every tool I needed to succeed.

You chose to tackle an issue in Season of Sacrifice I think most writers would be afraid to explore. Were you able to draw on many contemporary documents that offered an insight into the views and struggles of individuals who dealt with polygamy as a reality in their own lives, or did you have to use your own insight and imagination to reconstruct their attitudes as best you could?

I was able to find something of my ancestors' feelings in the family documents that I have, but a lot of what I wrote was conjecture. I wrote it from the gut, and when it felt right, that's when I knew it was ready.

In learning more about polygamy and how it functioned in practice among the LDS settlers in Utah, and in struggling to write about it and portray it accurately, did you find your own opinions or feelings on the issue changed at all? Do you hope Season of Sacrifice will bring your readers to a better understanding of the people who were confronted with such difficult decisions?

I really did struggle with writing those aspects of the book because it's not a principle I've ever understood. My feelings have changed, though, in that I realized that these people wanted to be obedient at any cost. Once I realized that, I was able to move forward with writing those scenes in what I believe is a very realistic way. Polygamy, when practiced righteously, was a blessing to those who lived it. Those who lived it unrighteously weren't blessed for it.

I do hope my book will shed some light on that era of my church's history. I would love for them to understand a little more clearly the emotions that were involved and the depth to which these people felt the devotion to their cause. I'm not saying I expect people to really understand it, because it's tough and I don't think I even understand it. But I do admire and respect those persons to whom obedience was everything, and I would like the reader to understand that.

What scene or aspect of Season of Sacrifice do you hope will most capture readers' interest?

I love the scene where the pioneers go through the Hole in the Rock. I hope I wrote it in such a way that the reader can feel the terror of the scene, that they get a little bit sick as they contemplate it, and that they breathe a sigh of relief when everyone is at the bottom.

What would you like to say to anyone reading this interview to persuade them Season of Sacrifice is one book they don't want to miss?

This book is well-researched, compellingly written, and contains moments you will never forget, and they're all true. These pioneers faced challenges that modern engineers have said were impossible, and yet they conquered them with faith in God and with handfuls upon handfuls upon miracles. This book is by far my best, and I'm a pretty darned good writer, so that's saying a lot.

Are you working on a new project yet? If you are, what can you tell us about it?

I'm always working on a project -- I'm sort of compulsive that way. My current project is a comedy/mystery and is based on this: Everyone says that the women of the LDS Church are nosy and know everything that's going on in the ward. What if they really did? It's a Relief Society meets Miss Marple kind of story, and I'm totally enjoying it. It's a departure from anything else I've done.

Do you have a web site where anyone who is interested can go to learn more about you and your books?

You can find me in a couple of different places. My website is, I maintain a blog at and I also write media reviews for You can read those at

Thanks for coming, Tristi. It's been a pleasure having you here.

It's been a lot of fun for me. And I'll be checking in throughout the day, so if anyone would like to ask any questions, I'll be more than happy to answer them.

I hope many of you who read this will stop by Tristi's web site to pick up your own copy of Season of Sacrifice; as I set up this post, I noticed she is offering autographed copies at no extra charge. Season of Sacrifice sounds like a very interesting book, and it looks like a good deal to me!

Wandering Author's footnote: My regular readers know I utterly oppose the evil actions that overwhelming evidence shows were carried out at the orders of the Nazi government. Nevertheless, I agree with Tristi completely when she says not all Germans were evil. To believe all, or even most, Germans alive during World War Two were evil is to fall into the same trap the Nazis did - to blame an entire group for the actions of some. Yes, most of those in positions of great power in Nazi Germany were evil. Clearly, many Germans who were evil flocked to the Nazi party early, as a place to satisfy their darkest impulses. And, as evil people always do, after the war some men muddied the waters by pretending to be ordinary, innocent citizens. None of those things prove, or even suggest, that most Germans were inherently evil.

Some Germans actively conspired against their government, or risked their lives to hide Jews. Some refused to join the Nazi party. And even among those who did, many were reluctant members, who followed orders only because they truly felt they had no choice. There is ample historical evidence to support this. Frequent suicides among concentration camp guards are dramatic proof some could not bear the things they had done unwillingly. For another example, the story of the U-869, recounted in
Shadow Divers, tells of a U-Boat crew composed mainly of men who hated Hitler and loathed all the Nazis stood for. The captain himself was no admirer of the Fuhrer. They were ordered to go on patrol near the end of the war - they were sure Germany was already defeated and theirs would be a useless gesture. They knew they would die. Yet they did not feel able to refuse; families and friends were hostage to their "good behaviour". They sat weeping the night before they sailed, yet they did sail - because they didn't feel they had any other choice. Men don't go to their deaths unless they really believe there is no other choice.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This week's 100 word challenge at Velvet Verbosity is on the topic of distraction (don't allow yourself to be distracted by the list of last week's entries, scroll down to the bottom). Well, I got so distracted that I wrote two entries, so I'll post both of them here for your amusement. One is a story, the other is, well...


Eyes on the controls before him, Thurman struggled to concentrate on the reaction he was expected to monitor and control. Distraction is your enemy. They’d drilled that into him during training. Distraction kills. Making the continual necessary corrections was nearly impossible even with the reminder. One of the visiting bigwigs had brought an assistant, a tall, lushly built redhead in a dress that concealed little more than it had to. One glimpse left him hopelessly aware of her presence. She leaned over his shoulder, curious. Thurman had just time to think distraction kills as the fireball incinerated the control room.


It is best to avoid distraction while writing, lest some catchy jingle such as Nothing But Gingerbread Left disrupt the flow of your thoughts. If you are distracted, the result may be a very good cat, with whole phrases or sentences nonsensical or out of place. If you do find yourself with nothing but gingerbread left, you may be forced to discard whole paragraphs you’ve written. It can be difficult to pet a purring cat in your lap while typing, or reconstruct your ideas later. A distracted writer is a catnip carrot. Only those who can concentrate should eat gingerbread.

A note for the curious: Nothing But Gingerbread Left is the title of a story by Henry Kuttner. In keeping with the theme, it seemed only fitting and appropriate to work this in as a tribute of sorts, although I didn't think of the story until I'd started to write the basic idea. The link leads to an article which tells more about the story, for those who don't know it and don't understand why it is so appropriate to reference. Finally, a Google search to find the article also revealed that Henry Kuttner may have adapted his jingle from a traditional marching cadence.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Indelible Memory

Rapt in words,
Yet the dreadful blast
Of one world’s ending
Smashing midnight quiet,
Tore my mind away.
Icy voice foretelling the worst,
Swiftly thrust aside, denied.

Even sirens in the night,
Unexpected snarling saws
Slicing through sleep,
In daylight a tree
Torn free, toppled to earth.
All reminders of the night’s fright,
None heeded.

Eleven simple words, so few
To bear the weight of fateful news.
All gone, in an instant.

There was a crash. The driver died. It was Michael ------.

Once read, such words cannot be unsaid.
Stories, rumours fly, settle on my soul,
Smothering drifts of numbness.
In my mind I see
The shattered tree, tangled golden dreams,
Puzzled eyes staring holes in pale face,
Lying on the hard ground. Alone.

Stark light of tragedy
Illuminates dire decision,
Reveals two choices but one fate;
Shadows of guilt darken the rest.
Truth’s point remains; you needed to talk.
I left you, alone.
Was my hand steering your life that night?

Years drowned in infinite tears,
Life forever altered in eleven words.
Every year, the indelible memory
Is still clear.
The awful sound.
Sudden fear.
Words impossibly true.

There was a crash. The driver died. It was Michael ------.

This poem was edited on the 19th of May; several lines were changed to better reflect reality.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

A Would-Be Writer's Dream

A short while ago, I had an incredibly valuable experience. I was chosen to act as beta-tester for Holly Lisle's new e-book, How To Write Page-Turning Scenes. As I've noted here before, I am an affiliate of Holly's online shop, but I'd be excited about this book even if I wasn't.

What makes it so special? First of all, like most writers, I've bought and read a lot of writing books. Few of them did much to help me improve my writing, but I kept searching. Holly Lisle is an author who has been writing, and selling her work to publishers, for some time. She has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about, and analysing, the processes she uses.

She does not lay out a set of rules for you to follow. She teaches you about a set of tools that might help you. It is a key difference. In my own case, reading How To Write Page-Turning Scenes did not reveal any secrets that were a surprise to me. So why am I so excited?

Simply put, I understand all the things I've learned to do as a writer much better, so I can settle down to writing more effectively. I've spent years writing, working on drafts, getting stuck on novels, everything every writer does. I've been at it long enough that in my case reading How To Write Page-Turning Scenes didn't add any new tools to my toolbox, but it did clean up, adjust, and sharpen every tool I already had in there.

If you're already happy with how quickly and well you write, if you've got a few novels under your belt and don't feel the need for any improvement, then you won't want this book - although I suspect even then it just might make you a bit better at writing. If you have novels you're stuck on, you need this book. One reading, and I could see ways to make progress on novels I've been stuck on for over a dozen years. If you only want to write short fiction, or non-fiction, this book may not help you, although understanding what it takes to make a novel work might just aid you even in those other areas.

What if you're just starting out, and don't even have enough written to be stuck halfway through a novel yet? Well then, you have even more to gain. This book has done an incredible amount for me, and it accomplished that in a weekend. You may need months to work through it and take in all it has to offer, but in those months, you'll make as much progress as I did in ten years or more of writing.

One key secret to writing well is to keep practicing. I wish I had this book ten or fifteen years ago. I would have spent more time learning all it had to offer, but then I would have been much further ahead, and I'd have that much more time in my life to practice what I learned. I know writers don't have a lot of money, but this book is more than worth it.

If reading it once isn't enough for you, go back and read it again. Do the exercises. Learn all that you can, and enjoy the benefits. I suspect some of you are remembering that I'm an affiliate, and wondering if I'm getting this carried away just because I get a commission if you buy a copy.

First of all, Holly Lisle made a deliberate decision to keep the price down, and sell a course easily worth more than a hundred dollars for much less. She offers fair commissions, and I'm not complaining about that, but each sale doesn't exactly make me an amount of money I'm going to get carried away over.

I may also be self-conscious about my work sometimes, as most writers are, but I'm also proud enough of what I've learned I'm not suddenly going to gush over how much better a writer I am now (thus making myself seem so much less of a writer before) unless I believe that to be true.

Finally, whatever your opinion when you read the book, I've given you my honest opinion and I can hold my head up. If I spouted a lot of advertising copy just to sell something to you, I'd be too humiliated to ever face anyone again, which would defeat the whole purpose of trying to sell things online.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tragedy In China

(Updated) As many of you know, a severe earthquake struck China not far from the city of Chengdu the other day. The latest official estimates are at least 14,000 people dead, and another 25,000 people buried in rubble. Many children are buried in the rubble of their school buildings, and vital moments are ticking away. Every moment they remain trapped in the rubble, their chance of survival decreases.

Since I first posted this, the Chinese government has estimated that the death toll may reach at least 50,000 and has issued a public appeal for rescue equipment. Since China's government seldom issues such appeals, as their own resources are extensive, this is an indication of how very tragic and desperate the situation is. Of course, the magnitude of the earthquake indicates it released roughly 600 megatons of energy, so widespread damage and devastation was sure to result.

If you visit the American Red Cross' informational page on this disaster, you will see that there are only a few things you can do. Do not donate supplies as an individual or as the result of a collection. If you own a company and are able to donate in bulk, please contact the Red Cross to see if they can use your help.

Even if you were able to drop everything and rush to China, the Red Cross asks that you not do this. In any case, by the time you could arrive, it would probably be too late for those who need help most. If you can spare a donation, read the Red Cross page and earmark it for post-earthquake disaster relief in China at the time you donate.

Even if you are broke, there is one thing you can do. Copy this post, with my full permission: I waive any and all Copyright rights in this post and place it forever in the public domain. Get the word out. Countless buildings are destroyed, survivors are huddling in the rain on piles of rubble, and every bit of help will make a real difference. Please, if you do nothing else, let the world know of this opportunity to help those in desperate need in Sichuan Province, China.

Please do whatever you can to help your fellow human beings, and at the very least pass this along in the blogosphere.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Velvet Verbosity 100 Word Challenge: Want

I recently became aware of an interesting blog, Velvet Verbosity, and an interesting challenge run there each week. The 100 word challenge involves writing exactly one hundred words on a one-word prompt. Those words can be poetry or prose, fiction or an essay. Nevertheless, writing exactly one hundred words, not one word more or less, is much more difficult than it seems.

This week's challenge is on the subject of "want". The top of the post features entries from the last challenge, on Eden, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the post, you'll find this week's word. I hope some of my readers will take up the challenge. My own entry follows, in bold text, with my comments on what I've written following it.

Want was all Michael had ever known, the one thing he understood. It was a mixture of cold and hunger seasoned with fear. Watching his brothers and sisters turn hairless and thin as sticks, seeing his mother’s dull eyes follow them as she slowly wasted away, every cell of his body crying out in want, he was the last of his family. He died alone, surrounded by their bodies. All the while, mocking the want that consumed him, food left Ireland’s shores to feed the demands of mercantilism. Experts agreed with the British politicians such inhumanity was the best decision.

Some of you may think this is melodramatic. However, such things happened in the late 1840s in Ireland, and happened all too often. Food really did leave the shores of Ireland while her people starved. Politicians really did think their theories were more important than human lives. Granted, this isn't a balanced account, but it is true history.

Half my ancestors came from Ireland. I could legally qualify for Irish citizenship, on two grounds. I don't know the exact experience of every family during the Great Famine, but as they were Protestant Irish, they were likely to do better than most. Notice that I don't say I agree with how Irish Catholics were treated; that was, however, how it was at the time. At least I do know my ancestors were poor enough they weren't busy making life difficult for Catholic families.

In addition, contrary to the myth that Protestant Irish families had no Catholic ancestors, I am aware that any family that lived in Ireland since before Cromwell, as at least one of my lines did, had Catholic ancestors and relatives, however much some of them hated to admit it. So those people who died were my people, some of them related to me, however distantly.

For the past several years, this episode of history has haunted me. I've written stories set during this time, and have several unfinished ones I'm working on. When I saw the word "want", this was the subject that naturally leaped out at me. Those who died in the Holocaust also suffered from want, but they suffered far more from other, more pointed evils. The Great Famine is, to my mind, the perfect showcase for want.

And, yes, this is how I tend to think of politicians and the experts who advise them. All too often, they are trying to do the wrong thing. Even when they try to do the right thing, they pass laws that appear as if they're doing something, but don't really tackle the tough problems head on. That's why I haven't been all fired up about the election; I suspect at least half my blogger friends could do a much better job than any of the candidates.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

The World Is Poorer Tonight

Tonight, the world is a poorer place, since the death earlier today of Irena Sendler. In the midst of World War II, in Nazi occupied Poland, Irena Sendler dared to risk her own life to save the lives of roughly 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto. She was a social worker who stood up to the Nazi authorities and insisted on inspecting sanitary conditions in the ghetto.

On her visits there, she invented various ingenious ways of smuggling out babies, young children, and even teenagers. For those who do not know, in 1943, facing what they knew was certain death, the inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto began to fight back. Untrained, with only limited, smuggled weaponry, they managed to tie up an impressive number of supposedly superior German soldiers armed with all the powerful tools of death the Nazi state could give them.

Finally, the Nazis admitted they couldn't stand up to the Jews face to face, even with superior weapons to back them up, and they pulled back. They shelled and bombed the ghetto into ruins, then surged in with overwhelming force to pump deadly gas into the sewers and cellar holes where survivors might be hiding.

In other words, of those who lived in the Warsaw ghetto, there were very few survivors. Of that number, 2,500 and their descendants owe their lives to Irena Sendler. Later, arrested by the Gestapo, she stood up to their torture rather than betray the names of those who helped her, and bore the scars of that torture on her body until the day she died.

Although she lived in obscurity for most of her life, and was embarrassed at the attention she finally received in her old age when her story was remembered, this was a woman we could all learn from, a woman worthy of admiration. The world is always in desperate need of more people like her. Anyone who believes in goodness and decency should mourn her loss tonight.

As we mourn, I think she would approve of this advice: learn from her life, from her love, from her courage. Stand up to help the weak, rescue the endangered, and protect the persecuted. Do what you can to make the world a better place. Look up to the true heroes: they aren't the richest men among us, or the most beautiful women. They aren't business leaders or celebrities. They are quiet heroes, who do what they can and expect no reward. Irena Sendler, may you rest in peace.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Artists, Photographers, and Writers, Wake Up!

I had planned to post several stories here tonight. That's right, several. I'm sorry to say that instead I am posting a warning about new idiocy contemplated by the United States Congress, idiocy that may deter me from ever posting a story again. Very quietly, something called the "Orphan Works Act" has been prepared to modify the Copyright laws.

Note that even if you live outside the United States, this would make it easier for a US citizen or corporation to pirate your work. It is also intended, in the arrogant plans of the US Copyright Office, to serve as a "model" for other countries dealing with the same problems.

I hate to tell my faithful readers this, but if it passes, I will be taking down many of the posts on this blog. I may take them down in anticipation of its passing. I hate to punish you, my honest readers, but like many other creative people who are already aware of this, I do not feel with such a law hanging over my head it is safe for me to share my work as I have done in the past.

Google that term, and read the details on this proposed law. If a work could truly be established as orphaned, something its creator had lost all interest in, I wouldn't mind the law. Owners of old photographs who want to get them retouched, but can't find the original photographer? There should be a way they can get their photos fixed up legally.

What concerns me is the vague legal language corporate interests have managed to get inserted. I learned, a few years ago, that the real lawmaking isn't even done in Congress any more. Those idiots just rubberstamp ill advised invitations to disaster, then, regulations are drawn up to define what the laws 'mean' by their vague language. That is when the real damage happens.

In this case, major corporations that would just love to steal intellectual property such as artwork, photographs, and writing at low cost, or get their hands on works the creator won't sell to them at any price, now have a great loophole. They only have to make "reasonable" efforts to find the copyright owner. So long as they follow "best practices" whose definition they can influence, they won't be breaking the law.

In addition, they have armies of high powered lawyers on constant retainer: with loopholes like this for their corporate sharks to rip through, no copyright holder who has to struggle to afford a lawyer at all will ever stand a chance against them. On one forum, an artist is calling for all artists, photographers, and writers, and the businesses that depend on them, to organise a day, 24 hours, of international protest against this proposed travesty of a law.

What would we do to protest? Take down all creative content, replacing it with a statement: "This is what the Internet will look like if corporate interests have their way, and the Orphan Works Act is passed in the US Congress. If you don't like it, call your congresscritter now." I hope we can pull something like that together. If you think that is a good idea, you have my permission to reprint this post, in its entirety, or write your own post and link to this one.

One final note: the Copyright Office endorses this invasion of our rights in a snarky statement that implies copyright is somehow a privilege. Let's go further, and seek our natural rights. If a carpenter works on a table, is it not his to dispose of as he wishes? We work on our creations - they are ours. It is no privilege to say we own them. Let's seek full legal status with every other person who works for themselves, and has the right to keep the product of their labours, or to part with it on terms they choose.

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