Monday, December 31, 2007

The Big Bad Wolf

You... yeah, you know who you are. You just read a book and thought it was so cool you LOANED to a friend or a family member or passed it around your office. Book sharing isn't illegal. Is it? Lucky for you, the publishing industry isn't quite as stupid as RIAA who wants to dictate what you do with your purchased CD's...

From an article in the Washington Post by Marc Fisher:

ow, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

Technically, they're right. They are unauthorized copies. But come on guys -- note that the plaintiff didn't share them with his buddies or sell them, he copied the songs to his home computer. The songs in question are still within his control. This is like a publisher dictating that you can only read their books in your den, not in your kitchen.

I know that piracy is a big deal, but coming from the publishing world where used books are sold in the millions and the authors do no receive any royalties off those sales, I'm pretty jaded about the "kick the customer in the balls" approach.

If you make it "Us vs. Them" the piracy rates will only go up.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Going Nowhere Fast

All was going splendidly yesterday as we prepared to wing our way to snowy Iowa. Dropped the car off at the off-airport parking place, took the shuttle in, checked in with Delta, "popped" through security in twenty minutes. Hubby went to get us a sandwich while I double checked our flight was departing from C30. (Disclaimer -- I travel a lot and I used to be a travel agent. Trust yet verify). No, not out of C30, but C36. Except it's not shown as departing from there either. So I check The Really Big Board. Canceled.

Quel bite. I round up hubby and the sandwich, stand in line and we hear the verdict: fog in Moline, Illinois (the closest airport to where my mum-in-law lives). The next flight to Moline is on Sunday. We'd have to come home on Monday or Christmas, if they could cram us in. We decline and decide the best thing to do is just drive. 12 hours. So hubby gets on the mobile with the sis-in-law while I call Delta using one of their nifty black phones. Report from sis-in-law: do not come up. Nasty winter storm due in Sunday with high winds. We cancel the hotel and rental car pronto.

So I tell the nice Delta lady on the phone we'd like to have a credit issued against future travel. To my shock, she refunds both tickets. Blew me away. I'll rebook this weekend and we'll go see the mum-in-law in January. Situation under control, though our dear mum is quite bummed.

I figured we'd zip down, claim our luggage and be in the hot tub faster than you can say "Kalamazoo." No way. It seems that Delta, in a zeal to get the luggage out of Atlanta has been trying to book it (not us) on other flights even though we'd canceled our reservation. This made me chuckle. Gee, aren't bags checked against passenger manifests? No Jana, no Jana luggage. Right? I always knew that was pretty amazing b.s. (except on international flights, that is.)

So we are told someone will trudge down into the bowels of Hartsfield and retrieve them. May take forty-five minutes to an hour. An hour and a half later, hubby finds someone else to talk to. This lady was brilliant. Bags are on the way to Detroit on US Air (oh, they have such a good track record with luggage, don't they?) She's baffled why they were even put on a plane.

We came home, faxed my mum-in-law the news (she's really deaf and it's the only way to communicate) and broke out a beer and some homemade chili. Then we settled in with our respective books and unwound.

My bag has been found. Supposedly it will arrive on my doorstep this morning, no doubt with many a tale to tell. The husband's is AWOL. "All my favorite shirts and my most favorite sweater!" he grumbled.

I sense a shopping trip in our future....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Of Hookers & Politics

Judging a presidential candidate is a lot like assessing the hookers who stand on street corners, displaying their wares. You see only what they want you to see. They don't tell you if they're likely to give you a terminal disease or of their $200/day coke habit. They don't mention that their pimp who just out of stir for aggravated assault. Instead, they put on their best smile, pose themselves seductively and hope you'll buy the goods.

You are only allowed to see a politician's best side. That's why I've never appreciated sound bites. I like context. I like to look at the candidates' personal history. What have they done, how have they grown over the years? Are they petty, malicious, have a tendency to lie when then truth would work just as well? Are they there for themselves or for us? At the core, I'm looking for a decent human with a sharp mind who understands that this isn't all about them.

So what those Democrats? For Hillary Clinton, it's business as usual. She would probably make a fairly decent president. She knows how Washington works and she has Bill to soften her sharp edges. Still, she is part of the problem and right now we don't need any more insiders. Sorry, Hillary, I'm not there for ya, though I do respect your achievements.

John Edwards continues to show his commitment to the have-nots in this country, whose numbers grow with each passing week. That earns him brownie points in my world. Still, I don't really get a sense of the man. However, if it came down to Edwards vs. Clinton, I'd go with John.

As to Mr. Obama, his lack of experience in Washington's shark pool would be a detriment. Still, it might not be a fatal flaw. Washington would probably try to isolate him to prevent "contagion" from new ideas, but Obama has overcome others of that ilk. He would be a fresh voice willing to sit down and talk rather than charging off like a half-cocked cowboy. Whether he would be capable of making progress with the sharks, I'm not sure. If it comes down to Edwards vs. Obama, it would be a tough choice for me.

Or perhaps an Edwards/Obama ticket. Possible, but I don't know if Barack would go for second fiddle. Frankly, I think it would be a smart move on his part. On the job training that might lead to him securing the presidency down the line. For America, having two young(er) and open-minded males might make a helluva difference. They'd have the energy to take on the Old Guard.

I'll continue to ponder the options. Much like making that choice at the street corner, you never know what you'll get until they take that oath of office.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Well, it has been a year for awards and this one is very special. Stephen Wylder, a frequent commentator on this blog, has tapped me for the Shameless Lions Writing Circle's A Roar for Powerful Words Award. Wow. Steve has also won this award, which is only fitting.

You see, he's a deep thinker. Always has been. That didn't necessarily play well with some of our high school classmates, but hey, it was *cough* the late sixties and early seventies. A time of vibrant and often disturbing change. RFK and King's assassinations. Vietnam War. Nixon. Lots of political and international upheaval. Like today.

So it is only fitting that Steve received the award and passes it on to others. My writings are nowhere as deep as Steve's but they do cut to the core of the issues we face on a daily basis. This blog is a means for me to examine what's going on and reveal my thoughts on various subjects. Not unlike thousands of other blogs. A collective weighing and measuring, if you will.

So it really cool to have someone give me a thumbs up for my postings. Thanks, Steve. You're an inspiration to the rest of us.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Irony

Just in case you missed this report:
Muslim Helps Jews Attacked on NY Subway

The irony is rich. The ignorance on behalf of the attackers, breathtaking. Instead of charging them for a hate crime, send the idiots to a comparative religion class where they'll learn about Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Maybe then they'll now why we celebrate Hanukkah and why they're an embarrassment to their fellow Christians.

Let There Be Questions - The End

A few more questions as I wrap up my session with the Kennesaw State University marketing students. I wasn't able to answer all the questions-there were tons-but I hit the high points.

Nikki R. asks, "Have you ever had problems with copyrights?"

No, not yet. I'm not a big enough fish to attract sharks. I'm sure that will change in time. I do register my books so I hold the copyrights thereto and I will vigorously protect those copyrights since the books are my livelihood. So if you rip off my characters, copy my book and put it on the internet with your name as the author, things get ugly.

I do, however, take a mellow line on FanFic (Fan Fiction). FanFic is where a writer pens stories based on someone else's characters/universe. Like writing an episode of Star Trek, LOTR, etc. but with your own plot. Some authors and publishers go ballistic over this. I don't. If you want to dabble in my universe, I'm okay with that as long as you do not sell your work or represent that universe as your creation. If I find someone has written a Time Rovers story and tried to sell it online, at a convention or to a publisher, all Hell(TM) will break loose.

I began in FanFic, writing Babylon 5 stories, with an eye toward publication Of course, I did exquisite research into the world, put the duology (two books) during a period of time that worked for the real series, etc. I'm like that. It was at this point I learned that only one publisher (I think at that time it was DelRey) pubbed B5 stories. My two query letters were ignored. I got irritated and decided I write in my own world from that point. The story lines were good. I think that someday I'll go back, strip out the B5 references and make them a nice two-book set. I never put them online (too much of a perfectionist for that) but they did "goose" me toward writing in my own world.

Paula DeL - "What are the most ineffective things you have done to market yourself?" and "What are the most effective things...."

Your professor would be proud of these questions. It's hard to judge "ineffective." At my stage in the game, any exposure is good even if it doesn't result in a lot of book sales. Of course, some kinds of exposure wouldn't be great "Author Runs Into a Busload of Nuns While Drunk". That wouldn't necessarily create new book sales. So it comes down to degrees of effective.

I haven't found chats (where a website invites readers to come chat with you at a specific time) to be very helpful. I'm not big enough yet and most of the chatters have not read my books. So the chats are not particularly meaningful. Guest blogging helps, as does being a member of a social network ( But those are also time sinks so you have to weigh benefit vs. time spent.

I've found one of my strongest assets (besides my books) is my personality. I'm pretty decent to be around. So I make sure I'm "out there" for folks to meet and talk to. If they find out you're not a jerk, they might check out the books. Because of that I do a LOT of conventions each year, sitting on panels, etc.

I also like to giveaway small things -- bookmarks, pens, postcards, etc. It allows a potential reader to take something home with them where they can surf the Net at their leisure and decide if my work is what they want to read.

One thing that has proven effective is my SOJOURN samplers. These are three-chapter samplers (or chapbooks) of my first book. They are really nice, with a gorgeous color cover. Readers can sample my work and if they get hooked, they'll buy into the series. I call these a 'gateway' drug into the Time Rovers. They've proven very effective for the cost.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Religion & Politics

I know it's the current fad to spend a lot of time talking about your religion while on the campaign trail. It lets you use certain "buzzwords" that resonate with members of the voting block. I, for one, don't want to hear it. The Constitution specifically states that no religious test should be applied for the office of president. So you can be Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Seventh Day Adventist and I really don't care. That being said, I have my own test.

"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."(Matthew 7:30)

I don't quote from the New Testament very often, but the statement is apt. Telling me you're a devout Christian (etc). is not like SHOWING me. Heavy-handed tactics do not impress me. Demanding that the 10 Commandments be displayed in courthouses doesn't rock my boat. I'm Jewish. My people received the commandants at the foot of Mt. Sinai, but I don't expect my Hindu or Muslim neighbors to be impressed by that. They have their own religious texts which are just as meaningful as the Bible or the Old Testament. What? How can that be? Read 'em, folks. The underlying beliefs are the same -- Love Thy neighbor. And what about the Atheists? Not everyone believes in a Higher Power. Who am I to tell them that belief is invalid? Despite all the promises, none of us will truly know until we're no longer here.

America was founded on the principal of religious tolerance. Choosing staff members at the Justice Department based on political loyalty and religious preference is anti-American. Spreading rumors that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim on a holy crusade to destroy America from within is just stupid. If a Muslim was the best man/woman for the job, you'd pass them over for some idiot who is of the "real" faith? Apparently so.

Jimmy Carter had it right. He is a decent man who has quietly led by example. He kept his faith private for the most part. He's built homes for the poor, monitored elections around the globe and earned his keep while in retirement from the Oval Office. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, will slink off to Crawford and cut brush. Period.

We've only got one country, folks. We need the best person for the CEO position. We've done a lot of damage to ourselves, our reputation, our economy over the last eight years. We HAVE to get it right this time. Deciding who should be the next president based on his/her religious qualifications is destructive. It's a sad thing to watch candidates preening for their religious constituency while the country swirls around the drain.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mike Huckabee's Skeleton

I'm a great believer in parsing politicians' words against how they behave. Most of them fall short. Right now Mike Huckabee is gaining ground in the primaries. But even the former Baptist minister has a skeleton in his closet, and it's a disturbing one.

What Was This Guy Thinking?

Huffington Post Article re: Huckabee's Pardon of a Serial Rapist

If you have women begging you not to let this pervert go, why in God's name would you pressure the parole board to do just that? I don't know how Huckabee lives with himself. We all make mistakes, but this one is just too disturbing to ignore.