Category Archives: Guest Posts

Life Plus 70 by Ethan Ellenberg

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Photo by StartupStockPhotos on Pixbaby

I’m sure you recognize the provenance of that title—current Copyright law grants authors a term of the author’s life plus seventy years.

It’s an extraordinary grant by any measure and I can’t think of anything comparable in patents or any other system that governs intellectual property.

Copyright, however, is only part of what governs the working lives of authors. Far more consequential are the actual contracts and licenses authors enter into, which, as a practical matter, are the real governors of their creative and financial lives.

In ‘the old days’, when, for the most part, an author’s only recourse was a print book publishing contract with an established book publisher, there weren’t a lot of choices to make. Your income was tied to the success of your book that was in the hands of a traditional book publishing company. When it went out of print, its active life was essentially over.

More choices emerged as authors and their agents gained power and agents began selling translation and movie rights on the author’s behalf, in addition to negotiating the book publishing agreements seeking better terms and fostering competitive bidding.

Now we are in a whole new world. There are different ways to be published and author incomes are coming from a far wider range of sources. The standard book agreement that routinely grants the mainstream book publisher a license for the ‘term of copyright’ has to be reconsidered. If an author can make more money, have more control, and work with many more customers, his/her career decisions are more attractive, but also more complex and consequential.

The first issue to consider is whether mainstream book publishers will consider altering their traditional demand for a license that exists for the term of copyright. There’s no reason for optimism here, but Authors should start thinking about this. It won’t change without awareness and effort. I don’t like to use the word fair, but is it in an author’s interest to license their work for the rest of their life plus 70 years? Wouldn’t a change in this contractual term be hugely significant?

Beyond the term of license itself, one has to consider the Out of Print clause and the behavior of the publishers adjudicating it. I won’t explore all the intricacies at this time, and there has been good progress in this area, but more needs to be done. When small quantities of ebooks or a translation license are the only things keeping a book ‘in print’ and hence not eligible for reversion to the author per the terms of the agreement, things need to change. Publishers have to be more responsive to Out of Print requests. They also need to be more flexible in application of the rules. Books that are no longer performing for them should not go through long periods of decay as they age out, but should be reverted to their authors.

Additionally, as a traditional book contract ages, the original subsidiary rights granted to the publisher should be eligible for reversion, even if the book itself is in print. Whatever the subsidiary rights are, if they are moribund in the publisher’s hands, they should be eligible for reversion to the author.

Beyond what I believe are healthy, necessary changes in the basic terms offered by traditional book publishers, authors need to continue to evaluate the new paradigms that are available to them. These paradigms are already successful and there is reason to believe they will be even more so in the future.

Authors can self publish and having retained all the subsidiary rights, license rights to their books to audio publishers, foreign publishers and film/t.v. companies. There are challenges here to be sure, but the self-publishing paradigm has been proven successful and the most successful self-published authors have sold their rights in all these other formats. Here is where there is a radical change in the legal status of an author’s rights.

If they publish an ebook there is often no term of license and the author can change his/her plans at will. Audio licenses vary in length, with licenses of 3, 5, 7 and 10 years being common. Translation licenses also vary in length, with licenses also of 3, 5, 7 and 10 years. With talent available worldwide, authors can commission their own audio books and translations. Breakthroughs in print on demand technology may someday soon see printed books available inexpensively at all kinds of locations including coffee shops and salons.

To recap, there are a number of key ideas here that every author should be cognizant of in all of his/her dealings:

–Copyright is life + 70. Your work is protected, its value will last longer than your lifetime. Plan for it.

–Non-traditional publishing, retained rights, re-sale of reverted rights, and monitoring your publisher are essential. The active life of your book is no longer a year or two and you are key to managing this part of your career, whether you work with an agent or not

Authors need to organize all their contracts and licenses and realize they are in the intellectual property business, and not just book authors. With ebooks easy to publish and Audio rights in demand, the opportunities are ongoing and inheritable.

lit agent ethan ellenbergEthan Ellenberg opened his literary agency in late 1984 after holding jobs at both Bantam and Berkley/Jove. He is an acknowledged expert on the practical aspects of publishing including the publishing agreement and royalty accounting, and a long time industry observer and author advocate. His opinion and educational pieces have appeared in the newsletter of Novelists, Inc., the Romance Writer’s Report, and a number of F&W guides to publishing. His new venture is called Royalty Reminder, an author services company that helps writers and their heirs to store, manage, and monetize their intellectual property.

How to Deal with Writer’s Block by DG Kaye

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

A common problem many writers encounter is the dreaded writer’s block. It can hit us smack in the middle of our writing. We’re happily writing along until, boom! The creative well runs dry.

Because our craft is guided by mental focus and inspiration, it’s not difficult to imagine that sometimes we might get shut out from our creative energies. When life issues get in the way, I know I’ve certainly fallen victim to this freeze out of creativity while life is testing me with unforeseen circumstances that can take the wind right out of my writing sails.

When we implement self-imposed deadlines for our work, the mental pressure we put upon ourselves to accomplish our goals often have us scrambling to force our creative abilities.

Many writers have found their secret formulas for helping to get the creative juices, or their muses and mojos flowing, but many others struggle when the well of creativity begins to evaporate. So, what’s a writer to do?

Don’t change course by slacking off completely. Keep your imaginations open. There are many things we can do to re-ignite our creativity, often when we least expect it.

Read
Get newly inspired by reading a book or an interesting article or blog post. If you’ve allotted this time for writing, do something else to keep your mind in the creative realm. You will be surprised to find the ideas that float into mind while our concentrating efforts are focused on something else.

Write

Yes, you may get stumped on your current WIP, but working on another writing project will often summon up some new ideas for exactly the project you’re taking a breather from. If you don’t have another project to work on, use writing prompts to get the juices flowing again. Writing of any sort is a stimulant to our creative centers. Often, writing about a completely different topic will spark an idea for something else we’re working on.

Walk Away

You heard me correctly. When our heads are crammed with worry, doubts or blanks, forcing ourselves to remain at our keyboards staring into space looking for words to further our stories, it becomes an indicator that a timeout is warranted. Walking away doesn’t mean we don’t have to be thinking about our WIP; we’re merely changing the scenery and focusing on something else. If our WIP remains on the back burner in our minds while busying ourselves with a different task, something is going to give and eventually the flow of ideas will come back when we alleviate the pressure off ourselves.

Go Outside
Taking a walk while taking in the sights of people and nature surrounding us is a good way to calm the mind, which inadvertently allows creativity to brew again. Driving has the same effect for me, especially if I’m listening to music. Just be prepared to make notes about your new ideas or they may disappear into the ethers as quickly as they’ve sprung up.

Be prepared for those glorious moments when inspiration returns. Have journals or notebooks handy to write down those precious newly inspired ideas because if you’re anything like me, they’ll be forever gone if we don’t write them down. Nothing to write with? Keep your mobile phones handy. With the various apps available, such as Voice Note, you can record your ideas, so they are there when you’re ready to go back to your stalled WIP. Heck, I’ve even whipped out a lipstick and wrote on a napkin a few times while out at a restaurant. Whatever works!

I like to think of the blank out moments while writing as merely a delay rather than a block. Where there is a will to write, sometimes a diversion is all it takes to bring us back to inspiration.


Debbie GilesDebby Gies is a Canadian memoir/nonfiction writer who writes under the pen name D.G. Kaye. She writes about real life experiences and matters of the heart sharing life lessons in hopes to empower others.

Connect with D.G. on her social sites:

Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook

AboutMe | LinkedIn | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest

Come join our Literary Diva’s Library Facebook group for writers and authors.
Visit D.G.’s books at her Amazon Author Page

DG Kaye Books

Character Observers in Crime Fiction by Lisa Ciarfella

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Well it’s a pleasure and an honor to be asked back to NoWastedInk.com once again as guest blogger. Wendy’s asked me to chime in on my choice of the writing craft, so we’re talking about character observers in crime-fiction, the ones who help the sleuths solve the crimes and how they can help when writing in backstory.  It was Author Margot Kinberg’s latest blog post, “I Am the Observer Who is Observing* — at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist https://margotkinberg.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/ that got me thinking on all this…

So, how can the observer characters in crime-fiction help us write better backstory into our novels? In Kinberg’s post, she likens writers to those people in life who tend to be natural observers, hanging back and taking it all in. I tend to be like this, and I think most good authors probably are. In fact, we often like nothing better than to sit in open air cafe’s, pretending to be reading or writing on our laptops when really, we’re zeroed in on other people’s juicy conversations, stealing our next tantalizing idea for a story. Observers in our crime fiction stories do this a lot; nothing escapes these people.

As Kinberg points out, if you’ve ever read Agatha Christie, you know her main man Poirot is always looking to interview the observers in the room, and that these types are ultimately the best source for detectives and cops wanting to solve crimes. Likewise, if you’ve ever watched FX’s Criminal Minds or any of BBC’s Masterpiece mystery shows, you know that observers are often more helpful than any physical evidence found on the scene since they can point the crime solvers in the right direction when the evidence can only say so much!

“Observers often have a very interesting perspective, because they stand back and notice everything… Observers can give valuable information on what they’ve seen. And their perspectives can give the detective a sense of what a group of people is like So, it’s little wonder that we see them so often in crime fiction.” Kinberg

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Photo by Pam Evans

What intrigued me the most in Kinberg’s post was her mention of author Louise Penny’s book, Still Life. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list now. According to Kinberg, the victim, Jane Neal, seems to be the observer, albeit from after the grave. She helps the cops by letting them know she’d known things, a lot of things, that other people in town just may have wished she hadn’t! And that very fact, helped seal her doom!

Now since I’m writing up a novel where the victim chimes in after the deadly deed, this intrigues me! Especially as a way of dealing with a character’s backstory. Backstory is so challenging to write. It engrosses us as authors as we create our characters, and it can be all consuming if we let it. After all, it’s so easy to get caught up in the how and the why of our main players and lose sight of the most important part of the story, the action! Action is where it’s at for the readers, and if there’s too much backstory and too little movement, the story can fall fabulously flat!

And we all want to avoid that dreaded dumping scenario, right? The one where the reader becomes barraged with info. overload in one fell swoop! Or, as renowned crime fiction author Les Edgerton like to call it, doing “The Rubber Ducky” (http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/rubber-ducky.):

“The “Rubber Ducky” is Paddy Chayevsky’s term for when the hero or villain, at a lull in the action, explains that he is the way he is because his mother took away his rubber ducky when he was three…Always a nice scene… And totally unnecessary … It usually comes from not trusting the reader’s or viewer’s intelligence to “get it” ….

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…if all you’re trying to do is give your hero more emotional depth, for the sake of emotional depth, without integrating his back-story into your story, you run the risk of awakening the dread Ducky.” Edgerton

I don’t know how my attempt at incorporating my vic from beyond the grave will turn out, but it seems like going back in time and letting my victim tell some of the tale from an observer standpoint is a great way to deal- in her back-story without awakening that dreaded RD! 

I’m giving it my best shot anyway. Could make my tale so much more present for the reader, involving them intimately in the life of my vic by hearing her own voice relay her rough-ride. Much better her than me! And as author, I so want to get out of my character’s way and let them do the heavy lifting!

lisa ciarfella headshot Lisa’s a recent MFA graduate from California State University, Long Beach. She writes darkly tainted, noir style prose where bad things happen to bad people and not so bad people get caught up in the madness. In 2018, her fiction was featured at http://www.outofthegutteronline.com, Near to the Knuckle.uk, and at Short Mystery Fiction Society’s  https://shortmystery.blogspot.com/2018, as part of theirMay short story month’ series.

You can also find her work at PulpMetalmagazine.com, Nowastedink.com, Ashedit.com, StudentHealth101.com and other places.

By night Lisa’s currently cranking out more short stories and her first crime fiction novel, doggedly pursuing the game! By day, she shepherds high school kids with their daily grind, and on the weekends, likes throwing Frisbees around the beach with her pups and catching ball games.

Find her on Facebook at @lisajohnljc, or on her blog, at Ciarfella’s Fiction Corner

Magical World of Mish-Mash by Angela Castillo

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Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk . . . one of the challenges speculative fiction authors face is figuring out just what Amazon category to click when listing books. Especially in the case of short story collections, where many authors throw things together in a glorious stew of deathly curses, spaceships and roving mercenary camel-racers (runs off to write story about camel racers).

Most traditional editors are looking for definites. They want straight-up fantasy, sci-fi, space operas, or defined steampunk (is there even such a thing).

I say why choose? Some of the best fiction novels of all time are a happy jumble of several genres, and you don’t see the millions of readers who cherish them complaining.
Here are a few of my favorites. Please note many of them are children or YA because that’s what I mostly read!

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy

Spaceships, planets and government conspiracies all point to sci-fi, right? But hang on. In Perelandra we learn about the eldil, angel-like creatures that communicate through thought. Rainbow-colored flying frogs abound, and a mysterious woman (who is rather like a Biblical Eve) is discovered on another planet. In That Hideous Strength, an apocalyptic world emerges where the leader wants to turn humans into brain-powered machines. The mixed-up frenzy continues, and it’s all glorious.

The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles
Julie Andrews Edwards

Mary Poppins writes a delightful children’s fantasy? Yes please! But hidden in the story of the Whangdoodleland, complete with Whiffle Birds, furry creatures called Flukes, and a villainous creature called a Prock, are references to tessering (a type of matter and space travel also referenced in another glorious match-up, A Wrinkle in Time) and DNA sequencing. So there’s that.

The Giver Quartet
by Lois Lowry

At first this series seems pretty straight-forward Utopian/Dystopian. You have the seemingly perfect future world that slowly unravels into something heartbreakingly sinister. As the series unfolds, though, it becomes apparent Lowry has created an allegorical social commentary, with plenty of spiritual/supernatural (dare we say fantastical?) Though some of the story arcs can be frustrating, it would be a rare reader that could walk away from the series without some serious food for thought.

The Claidi Collection

Claidi is a servant of an isolated kingdom. The rulers of the castle are lazy, cruel, and treat their servants terribly. This introduction screams fantasy until a stranger crashes his balloon outside the walls of the castle. Thus begins a journey through a land of gears, machinery, and magic–or is it magic? This series keeps the reader guessing all the way through. While the MC, Claidi, can make some maddening life-choices, the series is still fun and interesting.

Do you have any favorite genre mish-mash books? Or do you prefer to read more straightforward, cut-and-dry, single genre fare?


Angela CastilloAngela Castillo loves living in the small town of Bastrop, Texas, and draws much of her writing inspiration from her life there. She enjoys walking in the woods and shopping in the local stores. Castillo’s greatest joys are her three sons and one daughter. Castillo writes a variety of genres, including sci-fi and fantasy mish-mash, and has been published in The First Line, Aardvark’s Ark, Heartwarmers, Thema, and several other publications, and also has works available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, including The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing.

 

Busy Moms Writing Guide Book Cover

 

Private Investigations in the Future by Meriah Crawford

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Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

I wear a lot of different hats (metaphorical hats, alas—I look dreadful in real ones), and one of those is that of a private investigator. I became a PI back in 2002 as part of an early midlife crisis, and did investigations full time for about three years. I’ve been a part-time PI ever since (sometimes very part time) but I keep my hand in because it’s such a fascinating gig. It also, like my college teaching job, sometimes gives me an opportunity to do good things in the world, like help people who the system doesn’t much care about. This work has given me a lot of opportunities to think about the role of private investigations and security in society, both now and in the future—and my love of sci-fi, as a reader, viewer, and writer, has offered me a different perspective on the subject than most will probably share. I hope this article will offer valuable information and insight for those interested in incorporating PIs and investigations in their own writing.

I first want to say: a lot of people have some major misconceptions about PI work. For example, a lot of people think it’s all online searches now. Databases and social media are definitely useful, but in fact, one of the complaints I’ve heard from lawyers over the years is that a lot of PIs don’t want to leave the office. They’d rather sit in front of a computer doing searches, or maybe make some phone calls. But there’s still so much you can gain from visiting locations and speaking with people in person. These things won’t completely change as time passes, though the amazing aerial and street-level imagery in Google Maps is already reducing the need to visit locations. I still catch many things that require a detailed look, or perhaps a sense of a place in the nighttime, or during rush hour.

I expect the spread of Skype and Facetime and other similar tools will also make interviewing people from afar more effective. But the best interviewing allows you to see the subject’s whole body to see posture, gestures, shifting, and so forth. And the people you most need to see in person are the ones who likely won’t agree to Skype with you, anyway, so again: in person is just better. Other technologies will have a big impact as time passes, though, including drones, tracking devices, and cameras. All of them are getting a lot smaller and more effective, as well as cheaper and easier to use.

Databases are an especially interesting conversation. There are many that PIs and other professionals have access to that the general public does not. Unfortunately, the data is often outdated. This was a problem for me on a recent case, due to people moving frequently and not providing a forwarding address, or simply using someone else’s address. As time passes, however, I expect the databases will become more accurate and up to date, and offer more types of data. To what extent depends on how much the government decides it needs to track us, how much we choose to offer our information freely on the web, and how effectively the data companies figure out how to collect that data.

There are also some really important laws that affect how I do my job, including federal laws like HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, and state laws involving video and audio recording, and GPS tracking, among others. These laws will continue to evolve, and new laws will be passed. In particular, I expect there will be a lot more laws about online harassment and monitoring over the next few years, but law enforcement is always shockingly and sometimes devastatingly behind the times when it comes to technology. This will continue to be an issue. Likewise, when considering the longer-term future, laws around robots and sapient programs will be problematic in many serious ways.

Another, more interesting question (not everyone finds federal laws interesting, for some reason) is why and when people will hire PIs. The answer to this in practice is that, if you’re not getting justice through the system, a PI can be very helpful to get the information you need to either pressure law enforcement to take action or proceed through the civil courts. In the future, depending on the world we end up with (or the fictional world you build), this will depend on the availability, competence, and priorities of law enforcement, as well as on the extent and quality of the electronic monitoring systems. PIs will also need to become better at technology, analysis, and interviewing—though that’s true today as well. I will be surprised if PIs don’t become a lot more important in the future, but in a strong society with low poverty and effective policing, they should be a lot less necessary–and that’s a future I hope to see.


Meriah CrawfordMeriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a private investigator, writer, and editor. She has published short stories in several genres, a novella, essays, a variety of scholarly work, and two poems, and co-edited the anthology Trust and Treachery: Tales of Power and Intrigue. Her novel Persistence of Dreams, co-written with Robert Waters, will be released in 2018.

Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her work as a PI, spanning over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglary, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons. For more information about her work, including articles about writing, visit her website, connect on Twitter or Facebook.