Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing Wherever

I'll admit, I've never been a great Anywhere Writer. I am envious of writers like Shirley Jump who can sit down and write at stoplights or at school events. I think she even writes on backs of napkins. No, I think I'm far to ADD for that. I'm constantly distracted by what's around me. I lose my train of thought as it zips from one track to the next. One moment trying to figure out how a sentence my sound best, the next wondering if I took the right meat out for dinner, the next reminding myself that there's an email I forgot to write. I've never been good at focusing on small tasks.

I'm also finicky about my writing environment. I don't like to be too hot, too cold, too quiet, too noisy.... wow, I really do sound picky!

Take yesterday for example. Major Man suggested that the boys take over the main room where we are staying. Instantly I was in a foul mood because that room had the comfortable chair. And the comfortable couch. I was relegated to uncomfortable seating arrangements in other rooms. And even if the internet was better there, I still didn't want to sit and finish up the articles in discomfort.

Eventually though I did. I gritted my teeth and tried to sit so at least my back wasn't aching and my wrists weren't sore. See, my issue with comfort isn't just to be picky. I don't like to twist myself up in uncomfortable positions because they aren't ergonomically correct.

Yeah. That's it.

Today though I'm trying to push through again. I'm actually writing while standing in the laundry room where I have a view of the older boys in the pool. My daughter is asleep and my son is playing with his cousin and a friend. The dryer actually makes a peaceful sort of noise that keeps my active brain distracted so my creative brain can work. It also kind of helps that my ears are still plugged from this sinus infection and it feels like I'm listening through two pillows strapped on my head.

But this is what we have to do when we're writing mothers, isn't it... try to single-task while we multi-task. I may not be at my most creative. But there are days when quantity is better than quality. Because in the other moments when quality is better than quantity, I will go back and edit the words I wrote.

Monday, August 17, 2009

SFWA's Statement on the Proposed Google Book Settlement

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA), in conjunction with outside counsel, has reviewed the terms of the proposed settlement between Google, Inc. and the Authors Guild, Inc., and other class action plantiffs. On April 19, 2009, SFWA’s Board of Directors voted to stay in the claimant group in regard to SFWA-owned copyrights so that SFWA has standing to file a formal objection to the proposed settlement with the court. This decision should in no way be seen as an approval of the proposed settlement, nor construed as advice to either our members or writers with potential claims in general. Put simply, in order to file an objection, SFWA must opt-in as a claimant; should we opt-out, we lose our ability to formally object with the court.

Though it is clear that the proposed Google Book settlement is well-intentioned, the problems are myriad and, in SFWA’s opinion, the terms should be reviewed with extreme care by authors, in particular those authors who write fiction. Some of the particular problems we have identified include:
  • The proposed Google Book Settlement potentially creates a monopoly by granting Google excessive power to control the market for out-of-print books that are offered to the general public.

  • The “opt-out” mechanism proposed for the settlement contradicts the very foundation of copyright.

  • The financial impact on authors could be significant because the settlement would effectively thwart any third-party system from competing with Google and offering alternatives to authors of out-of-print works.

  • The terminology of the Google Book settlement makes no distinction, nor does it provide a mechanism for discovering the difference, between works deemed out-of-print and works in the public domain.

  • The class does not reflect the interested parties, primarily the holders of copyrights in “orphan works” where the rightsholder(s) cannot be identified or found.

  • The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers are poor representatives of the class as neither represents the types of work perhaps most significantly affected by the settlement, namely scholarly works.

  • The class representatives do not include any authors of adult trade fiction, an obvious issue for SFWA.

  • The class fails to consider fully licensees of works and fails to account for their interests.

  • By settling, Google never fully addressed and litigated the issue of copyright infringement/fair use, which was at the heart of the 2005 lawsuit brought forth by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The settlement further obfuscates the issue of how Google’s scans and publication of the snippets should be treated under U.S. copyright law.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but merely a sampling of some of the problems SFWA believes are inherent in the proposed settlement. SFWA is not advocating a particular course of action nor providing legal advice for individual authors, who should evaluate the proposed Google Book settlement based on their own situation and with the advice and input of their own legal counsel.

For the record, SFWA believes that the proposed Google Book settlement is fundamentally flawed and should be rejected by the court. With this public statement, we advise all authors and other writing organizations (in particular those who hold copyrights) to consult with legal counsel to ensure that they understand the precise meaning of the Google Book settlement, and the impact it may have on their own situation, should the settlement be approved.

For the Board of Directors,

Russell Davis
SFWA, Inc.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Postcards in Indiana

We’re on “vacation”. I add the air quotes because it is one, but it is not.

On the 6th of August, my father in law – Arthur Cook – passed away from liver cancer after a very short battle with it. In fact, it wasn’t much of a battle since he entered it at 84 years of age and it just sort of had its way with him.

I knew him as my husband’s father, the man who taught my husband how to be a good father. I knew him as my children’s grandfather even though they had precious little time with him, what with us living in two different countries and all.

I remember the first time he met my son and he coaxed the shyness out of him by offering to read a book with him. I bet he’d read it with many other grandchildren but as each page turned he pretended to see it for the first time.

You couldn’t help but like the guy. Nothing phased him. And why would it? Just out of high school he joined the army and they sent him to the Pacific. They were sent to an island that had been pretty much taken over by the Japanese, who had decimated the local population. Well, the locals weren’t really that happy. They happened to be head hunting cannibals. Art said it was the only time he was really afraid. The Japanese were still afraid of the cannibals, with their habit of eating the scouts they sent on patrols. The Japanese would walk into the American camps and surrender rather than be eaten. Not something you would think of those Kamikaze Japanese from WWII.

Nothing got to Art. Even the diagnosis. He accepted it and went about living… until he didn’t. The last time I saw him he said he’d “see me when he saw me” and talked about taking one day at a time. He died at home about two weeks later, in his sleep, surrounded by his beloved elephant collection. (He had thousands in the house.)

After finding out he’d passed away I got up, went about my day with a feeling of overwhelming sadness for what we’d lost as a family. I realized I’d never had a conversation with Art about what he believed. I knew my husband said there were no atheists in foxholes, so could I assume he believed in God? Could I assume he had found that “better place”? I’ll admit, it was stressing me out.

So I prayed about it. Now normally I’m not into telling God that I want a sign and, oh by the way, I want a specific one. But I did. I asked for a sign, like a postcard from Art to say he was ok and in a good place. And I wanted it to be an elephant. I figured they didn’t pop up in every day life and as long as I didn’t go drive by the zoo on acci-purpose, it wasn’t too likely that one would pop up.

So I got ready for work, went off and figured that if one was going to show itself… it would probably be in the evening news or something.

My boss came into work an hour after I did.

“Heather, I have to tell you about the toys I bought for my grandkids when we were on vacation… it’s three elephants. They stand all in a row and hold the tail of the elephant in front. It’s really cool.”

Yes, it is really cool.

Thanks for the postcard, Art.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Why do I insist on being a planner when I'm not that good at it??

Plan: To work out. Sometime. EVER.

Really the only time I have to work out is at lunch time. So why are my lunchtimes full all the time?! And when they are not I say "I am too busy today, I will workout tomorrow" and when tomorrow comes.... there's something I forgot I had to do.

Run home and make lunch for Army Boy, lunch meeting, lunch event, bank appt, downtown errand... things I can't do at any other time. ARGH.

Oh how I wish I had a normal schedule.

September Psychosis and the Fun on Facebook

I think I am having some kind of episode. I'm going to call it the September episode, even though it is August because September is approaching and it's always the approaching of September that sets me off.

It started after high school when all my friends went off to college and I hummed and hawed and thought about what I wanted to do.... I was a horse trainer and there was no school for horse training that I wanted to attend other than the school of Climb On Anything With Hair (and that includes cowboys, eek!). As I was working full time for good people anyway, I figured that I might just as well keep doing it. Though I made noise about going back to school and Becoming Something.

Eventually I went to Europe and lived there for a year and though I came back feeling a bit disheartened and overwhelmed with life (working 6.5 days a week will do that to ya) there was that really cool thing that was Meeting The Man I Would Eventually Marry (after a practice round). But still, every September I'd think "I want to go back to school". I never thought this in the spring time, which is when I should have been applying.... story of my life.

Digression: When I was graduating high school I went down to the counsellor's office and said "so I should apply to some schools then?" And she laughed and laughed and said "oh you are joking, right? Because you're a smart girl so you'd know that you should have applied in, like, March.... right?"

No. No one had told me that applying started early. That June wasn't the time to apply for the colleges or universities. Parents, Teachers, Friends... all had been mum. Then there was that thing my parents had taught me... "debt = bad". So all debt was bad. No one ever told me that there was good debt (school loan) and bad debt (consumer debt).

I think I've carried a grudge ever since.

A grudge that people are going to school and looking all carefree and learning stuff and here's me with no edjumucation.

Overall I think I've still done ok. I've gone into professions where the proof is in the pudding, not necessarily in the letters after your name: horse training, cook, salesperson, sales manager, writer...

As September approaches, that feeling begins again. Things are happening and I'm not a part of them.

Oh but soon I will be, I remember suddenly. Soon the Army Boy goes back to school and that means PTA and Cubs and Karate. The Banshee (formerly known as Army Girl) may start Dance and Swimming lessons. There will be much to be a part of.

This summer has felt really disjointed... there have been family illnesses, disappointments, changing job requirements, losses.... I have an overwhelming feeling that life is zipping by like a great big circus train where the rest of the world is hanging out the window and laughing and having a gay old time and I'm standing on a dusty old road watching them pass and wondering why no one told me the train was leaving the station.

Or maybe I'm just overdramatic like that.

Part of the problem has been Facebook. Yes that wonderful social networking site where you'll meet everyone you wanted to forget and still be unable to NOT friend them.

People put up all their fun pictures. If you're having fun then you must catalogue it. You must SHOW THE WORLD YOUR FUN.

Fine for you, but I'm sitting here in my pajamas at my kitchen table and your fun is looking a lot better than where I am and WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME AND TELL ME THERE WAS FUN HAPPENING.

Oh it's like junior high all over again but with less teenage angst and more wrinkles.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Birthin' a Book & Lessons Learned

A few weeks ago Kai and I were discussing "having a baby" and "writing/publishing a book". She asked about why I made the analogy about birthing a baby and a book. So here is a little more discussion on that topic.

Let's see how we make a baby. (Sorry, no videos for this one!)

Girl meets Boy & They Fall In Love
There's a proposal.
They Get Married (hey, its my analogy so we're going down the traditional path! )
They have a honeymoon and love each other A LOT.
They work hard at their marriage, realizing it's not like the movies.
They Get Pregnant.
For nine months she's a little crazy.
For nine months he's a little afraid.
They prepare, they read books, they ask other people.
They get lots and lots of unsolicited advice and everyone contradicts each other.
Labour begins and they realize they couldn't have prepared for this.
Baby enters the world.
They realize that there's a lot more work AFTER baby arrives than BEFORE!

So how do we make a book?

Writer gets a great idea and loves it a lot.
There's a proposal. The writer writes it. No rings involved.
Writer finds an agent and signs with her.
They like each other a lot.
Writer gets an offer from a traditional publisher. (Hey, again, it's my analogy!)
They sign the contract! Nine months until delivery!
For nine months the writer is a little crazy.
For nine months the writer's family is a little afraid.
Writer does lots of research, writer interviews a lot of people. Some people contradict others.
It's down to the wire and there are bits to review and edits to make.
Deadlines within deadlines come hard and fast.
The book arrives.
The writer realizes that there's a lot of work after the book arrives. Marketing, writing, interviewing, obsessively checking Amazon stats, wondering when it will ship, holding contests, getting press.....

Now, neither of these represents a complaint about the process. I loved being pregnant (if I had my druthers...) and I loved getting a contract and writing my book. But they were both learning experiences, especially the first ones!

I learned:

1) Plan ahead to be done all tasks before your deadline/delivery date.
2) Don't think you know it all.
3) Research like crazy.
4) Asking for advice will result in better info than receiving unsolicited advice.
5) There are people around you whose job it is to help you. Accept their help.

(Cross-posted at Mama Needs A Book Contract)