Journal Writing vs. Social Media

Dark Demon by ChrisCold

Dark Demon by ChrisCold

Guilt shreds my mood, rips through my mind, killing any creative impulse I may have had today. Wow. From where did it emerge? The Black Lagoon? No, it’s quite simple. I feel guilty because I haven’t been writing as much as I have wanted to in the last 13 months, specifically in my journal.

For many, many years, I’ve written almost daily in my journal, by hand, in a regular spiral-bound 3-subject notebook. While working at home for myself, my journal-writing time was immediately after lunch for about an hour. Whenever I worked in an office for other people, I wrote in my journal in the evenings, usually, and on weekends. This writing time I considered to be time spent with myself, learning, analyzing, working through problems, raising questions to wrestle, and celebrating as well as documenting my life. I have no plans to publish my journals.

The notebook I use for my journal

The notebook I use for my journal

Writing anything by hand nowadays is something of an ancient artifact of expression. But I continue to love pens, love the physical act of holding a pen, pressing its tip to paper and watching the ink flow onto the paper in organized shapes and swirls. This past week I wrote a personal note by hand in a blank card and I could not remember the last time I’d done that. What’s happened to me? Thirteen months is the longest period of time I’ve gone without writing in my journal in so many years I cannot remember the last time it happened. In fact, I doubt I’ve allowed such a long period to pass without journal writing since I began keeping my journal when I was 11 years old. And now I’m struggling with returning to it.

This struggle feels very much like wanting to reconnect with a friend but not knowing how to approach that person after too many years. There is no social media for journals and their writers to ease the way. In fact, I suspect that social media has prevented me from spending time with my old friend, my journal.

It’s not as if I spend a lot of time on social media. I rarely go to LinkedIn, even when I’ve been in the throes of a job search. When I do, I probably spend an hour or two. I’m not a big tweeter, and I don’t much like Twitter, to be honest. I don’t use Instagram or Pinterest or Tumblr or what else? Oh, yeah. Facebook.

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Facebook is the monster that consumes my time. I enjoy spending that time with friends, though, and with the few relatives that I have left. I decided several weeks ago, however, that I need to spend less time on Facebook because the political stuff bores me or disgusts me, the social commentary has been getting absurd lately, and the violence, the violence. Facebook amplifies everything about 500 times.  This is great for kvetching with friends, but heart-splitting for everything else.

I was thinking this morning that if I’d written in my journal instead of spending all those hours the last 13 months on Facebook, maybe I wouldn’t be aching from guilt today. My journal writing feeds into my fiction and nonfiction writing, too. And I have to say, journal writing is private, personal, and between me and myself so I can write anything, experiment, look at the different angles of a problem, etc. Facebook is not conducive for that kind of writing.

I used to feel a compulsion to document my life in my journal so I wouldn’t forget anything. But I still forgot things because I couldn’t possibly write everything down. Maybe this time away from it will help me come back to it with a different goal, a different attitude, a new feeling for it. I know it’s not the end of the world if I miss a day writing in my journal.  I’ve missed 13 months and I’m still here. But I must admit that I have missed it as I would miss a close friend.

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The Copyright Conversation

copyright symbol

Recently, I attended a potluck picnic of a bunch of friends, and at one point the conversation turned to the length of time that copyright is in effect for creative product such as novels, TV shows, and movies.  It began with one friend telling us about some new Star Trek fan videos that included some actors noted for their Star Trek characters like Walter Koenig who played Chekhov.  Paramount Studios, the TV and motion picture company that bought Desilu Productions, the original producing company for the show, had taken legal steps to stop any more fan videos from being produced.  Paramount owns the Star Trek franchise, and the copyright, which began with the original series in 1966.  Several friends jumped on Paramount for stopping fan creativity and fans using their creativity to “move the Star Trek universe forward.”

Paramount has the right to earn money by selling its product whether it’s a TV show, a movie, or licensing the rights to develop new TV shows based on the characters of an old one they own. They are in the process of developing and producing a new Star Trek TV show with CBS.  They have a new Star Trek movie coming out this July. It’s not like they aren’t using their property.  Since the original show was copyrighted in 1966 (I think), it’s been only 50 years, and far less from the other shows in the franchise like Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The pro-fan fiction friends wanted copyright to end much earlier than it does and for property like the Star Trek franchise to enter the public domain much sooner.  They weren’t against the protections that copyright offers, just that those protections last too long, in their view.  One fellow suggested that others could use the original work to “build on” with their own creations.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107As a writer who owns copyright on my writing, including Perceval’s Secret, I was horrified. I periodically do a search of the internet to make certain that my creative product has not been scavenged and sold to benefit someone else. And by scavenged, I mean sold as someone else’s work, with a different author name, etc.  It astonishes me how many people (especially those not involved in producing creative product like writing, composing music, painting, etc.) think that writers, composers, photographers, producers, etc. should not be able to benefit from creating their novels, music, photos, TV shows and movies, etc. for the current copyright period of life plus 50 years.  One fellow commented that well then a writer should write more books.  Hmmmmm.

Let’s review current copyright law which went into effect in 1978.  For works created and copyrighted before January 1, 1978, copyright protection has two terms.  The first term is in effect from the date the copyright is secured (by publication or registration) and for 28 years thereafter.  In the 28th year, the copyright may be renewed for a second term which has a duration of 47 years.  If not renewed, the copyright ends and the work goes into the public domain. Star Trek was created before January 1, 1978, and I suspect Paramount renewed its copyright when it came up for renewal in 1994. Paramount still owns the copyright until 2041.  For works created after January 1, 1978, the duration of copyright is the duration of the creator/holder’s life plus 50 years, and the work does not have to be published or registered for the copyright to be in force.  There is no renewal.  Copyrights can be transferred but revert back to the original owner after 35 years.

Most books are not bestsellers.  In fact, I, for example, will be happy to have midlist books that earn me a consistent, steady annual income in royalties.  That money is my payment for the years of work I’ve put into my writing when I earned $0, i.e. the last 20+ years. Going forward, one book usually doesn’t earn enough per year to make a huge difference, so writers generally do write more books (as well as other things like articles, essays, book reviews, etc.), each new book adding to the royalty income stream.  I have no idea how much a midlist author earns per year on one book, two books, five books, or ten books.  And it depends a lot on the market, of course.  Some books bomb.  Others do better than average.  As a writer, I DESERVE that royalty income as payment for my work, and I want that copyright protection to be in force for the legal duration. Taking that copyright away from me, for any period of time, is like robbery.

As a writer, I’ve also done “work for hire” writing, which is probably what Gene Roddenberry was doing when he created the original Star Trek series.  This type of writing is done under an employment contract of some sort, and the product  produced is owned by the employer, including the copyright.  When I do work for hire projects, I am paid a one-time fee for the writing project. This is how I worked with my clients when I was a freelance copywriter.  However, newspaper reporters are employees for their newspapers and their job, for which they are paid, is to produce writing.  The newspaper owns the copyright. Then there is the freelance writer who sells first serial rights to a magazine for an article or story but retains copyright.  There are several sub-copyrights that can be sold in publishing such as audio, digital, print, movie and TV, first serial (for publishing excerpts), and then by geography, such as North American rights, English language rights, foreign rights. (This is a very brief overview of a complicated topic.)

Of course, I suspect that my friends wouldn’t care much about any writing or TV show or movie that didn’t interest them.  But Star Trek? They were quite certain that for that, Paramount should relinquish its copyright so that others can develop that universe for free.

What do you think?

 

Series vs. Stand Alone Novels

Power of Words

A little history about the Perceval series: When I first began Perceval’s Secret, I thought it was a short story.  It grew to 100 pages and I thought it was maybe a novella. I didn’t want to write a novel, but Evan Quinn had other ideas. He just kept going, so his story ended up being a novel. At the time, I considered it to be a stand alone novel. But Evan just did not want to stop which was annoying until I figured out what direction he was going and why.  Isn’t the imagination amazing?!  I realized that there was definitely a sequel to Perceval’s Secret, and as I began work on it, I realized that no, it was the second book in a series. At first I hadn’t a clue how long the series would be.  As I began to flesh out my plot and story ideas, the series gelled together at 5 novels.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107At the same time I’ve been working on the Perceval series, I’ve been playing with a possible mystery series but have not gotten very far with it.  The main character is a young woman who’s working for a private investigator, and the first book deals with the murder of a Buddhist monk. This was always a series, not stand alone books, although I suspect I’ll write each book as if it were a stand alone, which is what I’m doing with the Perceval series.  Then I’m working on a memoir that grew into a series of memoirs, each book addressing a different subject and my relationship to it: medical/healthcare experiences, money, love/sex, religion.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m capable of writing a strictly stand alone novel not a part of a series.

Short stories are my stand alones, I guess. Each one is so different from the last that there are no connections between them other than the form.  Short stories challenge me beyond everything else. They take me a long time to write.  I can dash off the first draft of a novel in a month or two when I have nothing else on my plate (I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had that experience, i.e. nothing else on my plate, at times in my life and I miss it).

Wish this was mine!

Wish this was mine!

The novel is my home form.  I love reading novels, the journeys through human behavior, psychology, and experience on which they take me, the characters I get to know intimately, and the different worlds a novelist creates, even those still on earth.  (I wish someone would pay me to read novels!)  I love science fiction, fantasy less so, espionage thrillers, and mysteries, but I also love a really provocative literary novel, i.e. one with a real story in which stuff happens and characters who are real people.  I’ve gone through phases.  In high school and college, I was crazy about Russian literature as well as journals (diaries).  I progressed to broadening my reading to European literature, spy novels and other thrillers, memoirs and biographies.  For a couple years, I read only mysteries. Right now, I’m alternating science fiction novels with everything else.  I’m not wild about horror stories but I’ve written them.  I’m also not wild about westerns, romance (except romantic suspense or thriller), war stories (although I do have a fascination with the effects of war, especially World War II and the Vietnam War, and spies during war), vampire stories (although I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot), and porn or erotica.

Does it matter that I write novels in a series rather than non-series stand alone novels?  Oh, probably not.  But I do feel like it takes longer to get to the end of the story with a series of novels…..

Violence in Fiction

smoking gunHuman against human violence has become too commonplace in our lives. Much of it explodes out of hatred and/or fear masquerading under the guise of a religion or nationalism or territorial conquest. Then there’s jealousy, greed, betrayal. I’ve been thinking the last few weeks about how much violence is also a part of fiction. This is no surprise since violence is so much a part of human life.

When I first began writing fiction, I idealistically declared that I would not write explicit violence or sex in my stories. Then Evan Quinn entered my life and I learned that there are different kinds of violence, not only the kind in which one human uses a weapon of some kind to hurt or kill another human. Violence can also be psychological, emotional, spiritual. Yes, humans are terribly creative in the ways that they perpetrate violence against one another.

As writers, when we write violence of any kind, what is the purpose of that violence?

As writers, when we write violence of any kind, are we being violent with our readers?

As writers, when we write violence of any kind, are we showing others how to be violent against people?

As writers, do we have a responsibility not to perpetuate violence? But how? By showing its effects? And if so, how do we do that without showing the violence?

These questions have been tormenting me.  While writing Perceval’s Secret, I was conscious of what I was getting into.  How could I write about political assassination without showing it?  I thought of The Day of the Jackal. Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon novels. John le Carre’s novels. And other thrillers that I’d read over the years.  Each writer had approached this question of violence in different ways.  Sometimes by being matter-of-fact and not using prose that romanticized or made the violence appealing it was possible to show the violence but not make it exciting. I wish I could remember the writers and their books in which they truly captured the horror of violence.

Evan Quinn has been a victim of violence.  I wanted to explore how he thought and felt about that fact of his life.  What I learned was the violence had colored his perceptions of people and the world as well as of himself.  The violence he experienced created the belief that violence was an appropriate response to something or someone he didn’t like or wanted to control or feared or hated. And yet, he’d had an important influence in his life at the same time that showed him that violence was not appropriate or acceptable. What happens to Evan, much to my ongoing surprise, in Perceval’s Secret and throughout the series is an inner conflict between these two powerful influences.  Good and evil.  Power and powerless.  Love and hate.

These questions about violence have been asked for a long time about movies and television.  We’ve moved into a world in which violence has become acceptable in those mediums. What about novels?

Do you have these questions about violence too as a writer?  What are your thoughts?  Do you have any answers?

That Time Again: Writing Update for June 2016

Summer has arrived with a vengeance this week!  Yesterday was 91 degrees here with dewpoints in the 60’s and intensely oppressive.  But I love the longer days of light and feel more energized to write during the summer.  I promised myself last December that I’d do a better job of posting updates about every six months or so, whether or not anything had changed. While nothing extraordinary has happened since last December, nothing terrible has occurred either.  Not that I lead a boring life, or maybe I do….

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Perceval Novels:
More reviews at Amazon for Perceval’s Secret and I’ve asked several other book reviewers to review it for me. Charles Ray gave it a nice review here. Sales continue to be slow at Amazon, and none at Barnes & Noble or Kobo.  I found the novel on sale at an online store that I had not asked to sell it, but learned after contacting them that they have a selling agreement with Kobo.  If you have not yet bought your copy (only $2.99!), please do, and give it a read.  The reviews continue to be good to excellent!  I’d love to hear from readers through reviews at Amazon and B&N, or at Goodreads.

As for the other novels in the series, I’ve pulled out all my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series. My plan is to revise it this summer, then move on to finish the first draft of Perceval in Love, the third book (I have half the first draft done already).  I continue to write notes as I’ve gotten ideas about the other novels.  I’ve decided to definitely set Novel 4 in America as a contrast to Evan’s life in Austria.

Marketing:
Working as hard as time allows on marketing and promo for Perceval’s Secret this year.  Doing a lot of research into free marketing and promo, especially online.  I need to talk more about the novel and hand out the postcards for it far more than I do.  Still need to utilize the marketing/advertising tools at GoodReads, LinkedIn and Publishers Marketplace.  Time has not been kind to me.  I continue to promote the novel on Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve been writing more posts at the Perceval Novels Facebook page, too.  Please go and like it, and visit often for updates on the novels.

Indiegogo Project:
The credit card debt I’d been carrying from production, publication, and marketing expenses that I incurred to publish Perceval’s Secret as an e-book has been transferred to a different credit card to take advantage of 0% interest for 15 months.  I’m now paying off the principal rather than having the interest eat into my payments, and I continue to pay more than the minimum each month.  This has been a huge step in the right direction.  I’ve also been revising my Indiegogo project — the website has changed the format for their project pages. I have it about half ready to launch now, and need to record videos for it.  I hate asking for financial help through crowdsource funding, but I don’t have the resources to deal with this all by myself.

Short Stories:
I continue work on the science fiction short story, Light the Way.  I’ve taken down the two stories that were on Wattpad, The Negligee and The Light Chamber, and will be revising The Negligee. I had one of those “lightning strikes” of an idea for that story, and I’m eager to work on it.

Essays:
At the end of last year, I decided to stop writing “Word Power” essays monthly for Mensagenda. It was a volunteer gig, and I really need to bring in more money with my writing. I continue to write posts at the Eyes on Life blog (as Gina Hunter) and here at Anatomy of Perceval.  My focus at the Gina Hunter blog has become a bit fluid: I continue to write “The Successful Patient” posts, but in addition I want to focus more on the experience of being one of the Working Poor, so it’ll be about economics, money, working, etc. I think.  Life as one of the 98%. This is still in development.

Paid Gigs:
I’ve written two essays about my personal experiences with classical music for ClassicalMPR.org so far this year.  I will continue to pitch ideas to them.  In addition, I continue to search for other places that will pay me to write about subjects that interest me (or that will pay for fiction).

Yager Editing Services:
I finally launched the website for this small business at the end of March.  Not long after, I received what I thought was my first project proposal for proofreading, but it turned out to be a guy trying to scam me out of about $3000.  Fortunately, I figured out the scam so I didn’t lose any money, but it was a very depressing and discouraging experience.  These scammers believe they don’t hurt anyone because they’re actually stealing from big banks, but that’s not true at all.  I was excited to have work for this business that would bring in good money that I really needed.  This scam hurt me a lot.  I’m not giving up, however.  I just stopped marketing and promoting the business. I know that I”ll need to ratchet that promo up again, probably at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

The Successful Patient:
I’ve been thinking about this memoir project a lot, even though it’s on a back burner this year.  I continue to be amazed by how my mind works.  I’d like to get something down on paper this year, to get it started.  I think it’d be an excellent book to have out there and would sell well. Its structure still bugs me.

Part-time Job:
I continue to work part-time at the customer service job this year. I’ve expanded that position into receptionist work at the same employer and am looking forward to a raise in July. I really enjoy the receptionist work, and I’ve been thinking that if I need to find a fulltime position, I’d look for a receptionist position (or maybe an editorial assistant).

Reading:
For 2016, I signed up at GoodReads for another Reading Challenge and chose 36 books to read over the year.  There’s a mix of books on the list of fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, mystery, and literary, books in my personal library, at the city library and on my computer.  A friend gave me an e-reader last December that I’ve loaded with ePub books.  It doesn’t accept Kindle books.  I find that I still prefer to read printed hard copy books, and I especially like to read on my work commutes.  How I’d love being paid to read!

Health Update:
I had several sick days in April with lung and GI issues that was apparently an allergic response to something in my living environment.  I’ve since begun a deep and thorough cleaning of my apartment, and my health has improved.  Otherwise, with autoimmune diseases, the most frustrating symptom is fatigue, and that’s been especially intense this year. Fatigue challenges my schedule every day.  I’m doing a very slow taper off prednisone to insure that I won’t have any disease flares, but I’m still experiencing muscle pain and joint pain that responds to heat nicely.  I’ve gotten out my yoga DVD, I’m walking a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and I’m figuring out where in my schedule to put the yoga and my Falun gong practice.