Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yahoo Mail Outage

Ok, normally I would keep personal issues off my blog, as I feel this is strictly a writing forum.  However, I have been unable to conduct business for over 24 hours now due to a Yahoo screw-up.  Their site states that the account is inaccessible due to scheduled maintenance, but that is obviously a lie.

Yahoo has not addressed the issue, has only communicated to the public with a Tweet that said the problem would be fixed by 1:30 pm yesterday.  They lied.  Now they will not answer their phones, email, or anything else.  They are avoiding their customers (yes, some actually pay for the service!) and handling this in a very unprofessional manner.

An email outage, even a partial one, is catastrophic for many, and this is no exception.  This is similar to something I heard in a movie once, where the protagonists were going to war and the captain said, "We will probably only have one or two casualties."  The response from one of the soldiers was, "yeah, that's not a problem unless you're the one."

Yahoo has failed on a massive scale, and I can't imagine ever going back.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Structuring Your Story

Structuring Your Story

Conflict & Tension: The Engines of your story
    Conflict must be the umbrella that is always present in your story.  This could be internal or external (such as an evil genius or weighing options for a decision)
·Tension, like conflict, drives the story, but this is your accelerator / brake; tension (or lack thereof) will guide the pace for your story, and will keep the reader turning the page

Basic 3-Act Structure
·The great majority of stories follow a 3-act structure (few exceptions exist, such as nonfiction, historical fiction or nonfiction, and epics like Gilgamesh or the Bible).  It is important to at least understand this type of story structure because if your story is commissioned for a screenplay, it must follow this structure strictly.

Act 1 - The Backstory
· The first thing you must achieve as a writer is provide the reader with a hook - something that will interest the reader and make them want to read your story.  Make sure your hook is more than just a gimmick, though, or your reader will not be interested.  Know the difference.
· The first act helps to establish the daily routine of your characters, their backstories, and the setting
·         In this first act you must establish the beliefs of your primary and secondary characters to set the stage for their development through the story
·  You must also set the stage for what is at stake once the character is drawn into the story
·  What sparks the STORY (not the protagonist) is the inciting event.  This is something the protagonist will eventually be engulfed in, but he or she may not know it at first.
·  The event that triggers your protagonist's involvement is the key event - also known as your 1st plot point.
·  The inciting event can happen before your story begins (bank robbery, fire, death in the family, divorce) - this is called in medias res.
·  This act takes up about 25% of your story.  Too much Act 1 and your reader will be bored, and too little will make your reader not care about your characters so be careful!

Act 2 - The Meat
·   The key event ends the first act and begins the second act.  The characters' daily routines are changed by the event, and they try as best they could to deal with the new circumstances.
·   The characters' reactions must move the story forward, and along the way the antagonistic force (character's ethical conviction, evildoer, fire, etc) will have several small victories that both show off its power and raise the stakes, pushing the protagonist to try new things to be able to win.
·   The antagonistic force has another major victory over the protagonist.  This event raises the stakes even higher for the protagonist and causes him or her to change from simply reacting to circumstance to taking charge and seeking out the antagonistic force.  This is known as the 2nd plot point or midpoint
·   After the midpoint, the protagonist starts a series of aggressive actions to defeat the antagonistic force.
·  The antagonistic force has another minor win.
·  Some of the subplots are resolved
·  The protagonist has a eureka! moment (read Isaac Asimov).  The best example is probably in The Matrix, where Neo finally realizes he is the one.
· The lowest point for the protagonist is the biggest victory for the antagonistic force (brother dies in the fire, girl is humiliated by all her classmates in front of the boy she wants to win over, protagonist is kidnapped or trapped).  This is the 3rd plot point.
· This act takes up 50% of your story, so it is the meat of your story.

Act 3 - Climax
· The third plot point sets the protagonist into motion on rapid-fire.  This is where the protagonist fully embraces his or her new skills to defeat the antagonistic force (The slipper fits in Cinderella, for example).  This must be inevitable but unexpected.  It must hit the reader from left field, yet not leave them thinking you cheated in some way.  For example, in The Hunger Games, the protagonists use poisonous berries they had found earlier in the story to get their way.  Avoid doing something like in Stephen King's "It", where the clown was really a giant spider in a cave that the kids kill with a rock.  This leaves the reader thinking the author copped out of spending some time to create an intriguing ending.
·  The climax proper is a single scene that permanently stops the antagonistic force.  It could be a revelation (The Wizard of Oz), a fight to the death (The Dark Knight), overcoming fear (Cyrano de Bergerac)
·         Some stories can have a faux climax (popular with horror stories), in which the antagonistic force is not really destroyed, or there is a bigger force behind the whole thing.
·  What follows is the resolution, where you must tie off any final loose ends, leaves the characters ready to continue life, but in a slightly different way.  The protagonist's change must be obvious, but not spoon-fed to the reader (show don't tell).  Also, it must stir emotions in line with the tone of the book (for romance novels, the girl ends up with the guy, for example).

Endcaps: Prologue and Epilogue
·  These are not popular sells for new authors, so try to avoid using them early in your career.  Some stories demand a prologue and/or epilogue, which are scenes that sit outside of your story.
·  Prologues usually work in mystery or detective novels, to show the reader the crime being committed.  They can work in historical works as well, and some horror (Dracula). 
·  Epilogues show the reader what happened to the characters after the resolution.  Sometimes these are used to close off a series or to set up a sequel to the story.

Scenes: Building Blocks
·  Scenes must be interesting and exciting - and must move the plot forward.  Use action, movement, and proper pacing in context with the scene.  If it is a mysterious scene, or an educational one, the pace should be slower than a chase scene or a revelation.  All scenes must have tension.  Even a simple visit to grandma's house can have tension with something like a hint of trouble during her marriage that she slips hints of then refuses to discuss it, a legend about the house being haunted or someone being murdered there before she bought the house, or something embarrassing little Fanny doesn't want grandma to reveal in conversation to her new husband, Rob.
·  Scenes need three things: a goal, a conflict, and a "disaster".  The disaster does not mean it should be something deadly or large-scale; it is simply something that sets the protagonist or main character within the scene a step back from achieving his or her goal.  These dilemmas should not be easy decisions like "Should I have chicken or fish tonight?" - they should be more like, "should I save my mother or my son?"  One step forward, two steps back!
·   Scenes are followed by scene sequels - these are what captures the reactions of the characters to the disaster of the scene, resolving a dilemma or forcing a decision that builds the character.

·   Protagonist and antagonist should share a common goal or motivation, but they approach it differently.
·   The protagonist should be flawed, and some of those flaws are corrected at the end of the novel (character development), but not all of them.
·   Antagonist should be likeable, and not all evil.  He or she should have some level of humanity so that the reader can feel conflicted about rooting for either the antagonist or protagonist.

Other tips
·         Remember to vary your sentence structure
·         Vary the pace
·         Don't state the obvious or spoon-feed your audience
·         Cut or repurpose cliches

·         Avoid big words or sentences.  Impress your audience with your crafty sentences and sensory detail, not your vocabulary.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


I just had a baby a week ago and a friend of mine recommended some books about raising a child in a "green" environment.  Now, I'm not usually the environmentalist type, but having a baby changes things for people, and for me this was one.  So, this friend, Hanna, also started a petition that was so well written, that it has gained some momentum for Disney to make changes at their parks and resorts.  Following is a bit from her message to me:

Recently, I wrote a  petition on asking Disney for Organic & Non-GMO Meal Options.
In part my petition reads: 
"...the recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics that indicates pediatricians are urging parents to choose organic food to reduce kids' exposure to pesticides.  According to Joel Forman, an associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a lead author of the report:  "Clearly if you eat organic produce, you have fewer pesticides in your body. Children – esp. young children whose brains are developing – are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures.”

This shows the importance of good writing, not only for storytelling, but for changing our world in positive ways.  Would this have had as much success had it been poorly written?  Probably not.  In any case, if you are interested in signing this petition, please follow the link above.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Creativity Workshop

Creativity Workshop

"People have to go out of their minds before they come to their senses" - Timothy Leary

"There is only one trait that marks the writer.  He is always watching.  It's kind of trick of mind and he is born with it."  - Morley Callaghan

+ Get your right brain working.  Try music!

+Write a biography of yourself that does not say anything about your past, but instead uses similes and metaphors

+ Place random words in a bag and do a "Boombox" activity - pull words out of the bag and create a story using those words.  For example, words: Camaro, potato chips, onion.
                A Chevy Camaro that smells like potato chips is driving down the road.  It runs on onions instead of gas.
                Word: "Shoe"
                A Chevy Camaro that smells like potato chips is driving down the road.  It runs on onions instead of gas.  It uses shoes instead of tires.
                Word: "Cop car"
                A Chevy Camaro that smells like potato chips is driving down the road.  It runs on onions instead of gas.  It uses shoes instead of tires, and is being chased by a cop car.
                Word: "Circus clown"
                A Chevy Camaro that smells like potato chips is driving down the road.  It runs on onions instead of gas. It uses shoes instead of tires and is being chased by a cop car with a circus clown hanging off the siren lights.

+Buy a cheap comic book or painting or picture and use that as a prompt to write the story behind it.

+Play pictionary - this is a great creativity booster

+Symphony - comeup with a list of characters, create a basic plot and write from the point of view of every character involved. 

+Pick up a random item and write the story behind it.

+Read "Title" by Greg Allen.  See a performance of it here

+ Create a poem using every clichè you can think of, but use each one differently then was intended

+ Write the same story in three different genres: horror, comedy, romance, drama, etc.

+Write the same story in three different ways: poem, short story, play

If anyone can finish the sentence, it is a clichè.
Clichès, idioms, and "word packages":
Wake up and smell the roses / coffee
Put the cherry on top
The icing on the cake
These boots are made for walking
The light at the end of the tunnel
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink
Butterflies in your stomach
It's just scratching the surface
Out like a lamp
The writing is on the wall
The place was crawling with cops
See the big picture
His life would never be the same
Put a cork in it
Finding a needle in a haystack
Time to pay the piper
Dive in head first
Have the upper hand
compare apples to oranges
the best means of defense is a good offense
Keep your friends close, your enemies closer
Never say never
You only live once
Hit it out of the park
Bringing home the bacon
No such thing as a free lunch
Think outside the box

Try some of these instead:
"You know what they say about horses and water"  "I felt like I'd eaten a bag (or a garden) of butterflies"
"His life would never be different"
"Never say never (Again)" "You only live twice" (James Bond)
"Think outside the bun"
"Nobody wants a free lunch"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Adventures in Publishing

Adventures in Publishing

+ Self-publishing
                - Currently 10,000 books are self-published each day
                - Many con artists are trying to capitalize on the self-publishing trend, and offer ridiculous                            deals... for a fee.  Don't EVER pay to get published.  A publisher should be paying YOU
                - A great example is "Atlanta Nights" by "Travis Tea" - read the story here:                     
                - Check the Writer Beware website for daily updates on scams aimed at writers:       
                - Make sure your book stands out: title, cover, and story must be professional and captivating
                - Revise, revise, revise.  Even the greatest writers in the world make mistakes (Shakespeare's   "Othello, The Moor of Venice" when Desdemona is killed).  Try reading the book aloud to see if        it makes sense; play the story as a movie in your head.         
                - KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.  Make sure you define a target audience before you set out                to write.  "I'm writing for myself" is no excuse to create a book or story that is no good unless it    really is just for you.
                - Act like a writer; introduce yourself a writer or author, get business cards         

+ Traditional publishing
                - Although things are changing, you will usually need a literary agent to get your foot in the door               of a traditional publisher.  Getting an agent is often more difficult and tedious than getting a               book deal.  Be sure you have a query letter that stands out.  For general tips on writing a query                 letter in all genres, go here:
                - The best way to land a literary agent is to find NEW agents who need to fill their portfolios        quickly.  Magazines like Writer's Digest are great with this.  Check their website         ( for a blog on new agents, updated daily.  If you wait until it's in      print, it's probably too late.

+ Rejection
                - If someone negatively criticizes your work, THEY'RE WRONG!  Do not waste your time arguing                 with the person as I've seen many self-published authors do on  Remember that your reputation is your greatest asset!
                - Many great writers (Steven King was one) have three, four, five or more books rejected before            they get published.
                - Once you query an agent, wait one month before following up with a quick note or email.  Do                 not contact an agent more than once after you query them, and don't wait more than 6 weeks.        Most agents read EVERY SINGLE query they receive - this is how they make money, by   representing writers.  If they do not respond, they're not interested at that time, but they may     be for a different book.

+ Marketing
                - Create a website and Facebook page
                - Tweet often.  Join Tweeting groups/ websites:, Triberr, HootSuite, and the like
                - SEO - Search Engine Optimization.  VERY IMPORTANT!  Find someone who knows about            computers ( to help if you don't know how to do this     
                - Create a book trailer.  This is the new trend in marketing books.  Search on for    book trailers to see some examples.

Elevator Pitches (My examples):

The Wistful Heads

Children are turning up dead around Staten Island, and a new dwarf detective is assigned to solve the mystery and stop a madman.  Needless to say, things get really crazy.

 Killer On The Noose

When serial killers are found hanged to death in New England, FBI Special Agent Tim Marrow, a little person, must make the toughest decision of his life: let a killer run loose, or hunt down his greatest ally.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Writing Roadblocks

So I'm planning a discussion in one of my writing groups about "Writing Roadblocks".  I got stuck for a couple of days wondering what types of roadblocks most writers encounter when setting out to write, and how these can be overcome, but I kept running into the same ones: 1. Family distractions and  2. Internal editor.   After some sleep (and a nice long chat with my kids Malakai and Tobi about their never-ending neediness) I came up with about six.  So here they are:

1.  "The Fam" - this is a Supervillain Team that constantly threatens to derail my writing efforts.  Even when I lock myself in the garage (my Superhero Headquarters!) this pestering posse of dutiful distractors manages to find a way to foil my plans to greatness.

2.  "The Editor" - this guy acts like my friend, but is actually the most evil of all.  He takes what I create and shreds it down to a single word: "rewrite".

3.  "The Riddler" - cousin to the editor, the Riddler stands beside me in battle, but distracts me with incessant, irrelevant questions such as, "Should I start this chapter with 'My name is' or 'People know me as'?" or "Should I make them the Doublemint Twins or the Tripleberry Bunch?"  or "Should Mr. Dopleby be wearing a green jacket or a red one?"

4.  "The Jock" - much like the one I knew in high school, this archetype of anti-typing likes to spend his time (and MY time) thinking about how great he is.  He revels in his own imagined greatness, and forces me to do the same as distracts me from working on new material so he can look back on his previous work and gloat about his genius.

5.  "Fats" - once a skilled and popular pool player, this guy now spends his time getting up from his workdesk to have a snack.  His usual line: "Ah!  We just finished putting those two words together beautifully!  Look at how 'one' and 'day' hug each other like Jack and Jill!  Let's reward this awesome accomplishment with a quick snack break."

6.  "Mr. Tudu" - ah, Mr. Tudu; so helpful.  I was introduced to him by my parents and then my teachers.  He constantly distracts me with reminders of other tasks I need to complete while I am trying to write, and whispers the list to me repeatedly until I close my laptop and wave to it; "toodaloo".

And there you have 'em.  My worst enemies when it comes to writing.  I still need to figure out how I'm going to fill an entire two hours at the meeting, so I would LOVE to hear your comments, and your own lists of "Antityping Archetypes".


Monday, August 12, 2013

Legal Aspects of Publishing

Legal Aspects of Publishing

o   Copyright
                + Unless the work is in "public domain" you should use caution when quoting work, including
                                song lyrics, poems, etc.  To obtain permission to use musical works, you will need to      
                                contact ASCAP or BMI to find out who owns the rights to the work, and you will need to
                                pay royalties for any quote beyond a single line.
                + Book and song rights may be owned by more than just the author - the publishing company
                                often owns most of the rights to a work.  Send requests with an authorization form and
                                include a SASE to facilitate the process for the person or company you are contacting.
                +Rights are protected for 95 years from publication date or 120 years from production date for
                                anonymous work, and for 70 years after the death of the last living contributor.  So, if
                                you and Joan Rivers co-write a book, you can be sure the book will be protected for all
                + You cannot copyright an idea.  Do not become infuriated if someone writes "fan fiction" based
                                on your work - the person is not stealing from you.  If you created the world of
                                "Bumarth" keep in mind you do not own that idea.  Other people can write in that world
                                and be protected.  Many people have written in the Star Wars universe, for example,
                                and for contemporary fiction, set in "planet Earth in the year 2013"
                + What is protected are your words.  similar words can be protected also, but only if to a
                                common person the new phrase draws images of the original too closely (e.g., "Duke, I
                                am your father.")
                + You can copyright the content and cover of your work
                + Avoid the "Poor Man's Copyright" method in which you mail yourself a copy of the work and
                                keep the sealed, stamped envelope in a safe until you have to present it in court.  This
                                does not hold up well in court, and lawyers are notorious for raising doubt as to the
                                validity of any evidence presented, and a stamped envelope is an easy target.
                + Copyrighting can take 30-90 days to process for electronic submissions.
                + Copyrighting a work costs $30 for online submissions, $60 for traditional (snail mail).  You will
                                need to submit a summary of your work, along with a complete copy. 

o  Trademark
                + There are two types of marks that can be protected by the government: A word or phrase
                                ("Coca-Cola", "UPS", "What can Brown do for you?"),
                                or a symbol/picture (ups_logo.jpg).
                + A logo can be protected one of two ways: specific to the color, or black and white (which
                                protects all variations in color).
                + A  "™" means the person or company is claiming exclusive use of the phrase or logo, but is not
                                registered with the USPTO - so they may not be protected.  However, infringing on this
                                claim can still leave you open to a lawsuit.
                + A "®" means the product is protected by the USPTO and you cannot produce anything similar
                                with the same name or similar logo.  The basis for infringement is in the perception of
                                the consumer, so it is a subjective assessment in a court of law.
                + A "SM" symbol is like a trademark, but it protects a service rather than a product (Tanning
                                session, delivery service).
                + You can trademark a publishing company name or logo, or a subsidiary name or logo
                + Trademarks can take 7 to 18 months for review for electronic submissions, and last 7 years.    
                +Trademarks cost $375 for traditional filing, $325 for electronic filing.  Keep in mind there are
                                other fees that you MUST pay in addition to the filing fee, and those vary depending on
                                the type and the planned use.  Expect to pay closer to $900 to $1,000 per trademark. 
                                You should also do an extensive search to confirm that you can lay claim to the
                                trademark before you file, or you will lose your money and your time.  For more
                                information on fees for trademarks, go to

o   Using real names in your work - Libel (Note that laws vary by state - this is a generalization)
                + The law protects two aspects of a person's rights - the "Double "D"s: disclosure and
                                                - Disclosure is the right of a person's embarrassing secrets to remain      
                                                                private.  Even if true, these details should not be in your book unless
                                                                they are crucial to your story.  For example, "Al Roker pooped his
                                                                pants".  He has admitted this, but it does not mean you should use it in
                                                                your book or story. 
                                                - Defamation  is the declaration (as fact) of negative information about a person
                                                                or business.  If you include something negative about a real person or
                                                                company, be sure you have PLENTY of supporting evidence in case you
                                                                need to defend yourself in a lawsuit. 
                + You can protect yourself by having your subjects sign a waiver stating that they allow
                                the use of their name and description in your work for "liberal use".  This is not
                                easy to obtain from people, but you can try.
                +You can also place a legal disclaimer on the copyright page to state the work is fictional, or
                                fictional "based on true events".  Regardless, you should avoid using real names.
                + The law protects opinions, so you can declare your statements as opinions rather than fact.
However, you must truly believe the statement and be able to swear under oath that it is an opinion.

Here are two examples of opinions: "That Joseph - I don't like him. I believe he goes home and drops on all fours every night and licks his dog's bowl clean." This will be deemed a statement with malicious intent, because there is no basis for your opinion.

Compare that to the following: "That Joseph - his breath always smells like Alpo. I truly believe he gets home and eats out of his dog's bowl." That's a protected opinion.

                + If a person is deceased, it is called "calumny" - and it is protected by law.  Usually a dead
                                person cannot be defamed because they have no character to defend.  However, if the              
                                accusation reflects poorly on somebody else, you can be sued.  For example, "Robert
                                Ferguson, deceased, in his final years, hosted wild parties filled with drugs, alcohol, and
                                kinky sexual orgies."  This would be fine, unless Robert Ferguson lived with his wife and
                                kids in his final years.  This implicates the wife and the kids, and they can each sue you
                                for defamation.
o   Using a pen name
                + Pen names are used to write in different genres than the ones for which you're known (e.g.,
                                Stephen King with "The Green Mile" or "Shawshank Redemption").
                + Publishers ask you to use different names in a few of your works
                + You write too many books.  They say in writing your only competition is yourself, and that
                                couldn't be more true than for a prolific writer.  If you release 5 books in a month,
                                readers will most likely only choose one to buy, then turn to a different author.  Unless
                                it's the Harry Potter Series.
                + To protect your family or yourself from rabid fans
                + To hide gender
                +Using a pen name can affect inheritances, royalty checks, and copyright.  It cannot protect you
                                if you use it to plagiarize someone else's work, defame someone, or break the law.         

o   Legal disclaimers and what they protect
                + A legal disclaimer will protect you legally, but it will not stop someone from suing you.  Also, if
                                you use real names, products, or places and defame them using accurate descriptions to
                                the real-life version, you will not be protected.
                + Always use a legal disclaimer.  If your book becomes a bestseller, there will be thousands of
                                people who will try to get a free ride and take your hard-earned money the easy way. 
                                Don't make it easier for them.

o   The title of your book
                + The title of your book cannot be copyrighted unless it becomes an implied copyright.  That is,
                                you can't title your book, "50 Shades of Gray" or "The Perks of Being a Wallfower".
                                Some variations can be used, but it must be significantly different, such as "80 Shades of
                                Gray" or "The Perks of Being a Floorflower", but not "50 Shades of Grey" and "The Perks
                                of Being Wallflowers".

o   Characters
                + Characters cannot be copyrighted, unless you copyright them in design (like in graphic novels
                                and comic books, or children's picture books).  Don't waste your time with a Sysyphean
                                task suing someone who "stole" your character.
                + Character names cannot be copyrighted, but they can be trademarked if they become a brand,
                                like "Yoda", "Darth Vader", Harry Potter, etc.  These trademarks only protect the name
                                when used in reference to that character specifically.  So, if you create a dog character
                                named "Harry Potter" the trademark does not apply.

o   Lawyers and liars
                + Lawyers are expensive, but sometimes necessary to protect you in your career. 
                + Have a lawyer review every agreement, contract, or legal document before you sign it
                + A signed napkin can serve as a contract, so don't sign anything if you don't agree
                + Do not let your ego blind you - the recent boom in independent authors has opened a
                                floodgate of scams, including fake publishing companies, agents, and more.  Before you
                                agree to any terms or submit work to a website (an implied agreement in the eyes of
                                the law), have a lawyer review the terms. 
                + If it was too easy to secure a publishing contract, it's probably fake.  Do your research - look on
                      , and similar sites.  Ask
                                other authors.
                + Join a reputable writer's guild or organization - they provide agent and publishing company
                                listings and also publish reports on scams.
                + A typical entertainment lawyer charges between $70 and $150 per hour for consultations, and
                                $300-$5000 for document review.           

o   Artwork / Photography
                +Try to get the artist or photographer to produce work for you as "work for hire",
                                which means the rights to the work are all transferred to you.  If you fail to do this,
                                you may have problems down the line when using the work on business cards, flyers,
                                advertisements, etc.
                + If you do your own photography, be aware that the photographer retains all rights to any
                                photographs, but it is recommended that you get signed disclaimers from any
                                subjects (people) who appear in the photograph to avoid problems in the future.
                + If your photograph contains any trademarked product, try and get permission to use the
                                product in your photograph or edit the trademarked portion with photo editing
                + Stock photography can be purchased for commercial use at or similar
                                sites, or you can hire someone to do art or photography for you.
                + Work for hire (photo and art) can cost you from $100 to $750.

o  Royalties
                + The royalties you earn will vary depending on your contract, and if you self-publish you will
                                need to check the terms offered by the website or publishing house. 
                + Agents typically charge between 10 and 20% royalties, with 15% being the most common. 
                                Have a lawyer review your contract before you sign it.

o Works for hire
                + Writing for a publication (magazine, journal, newspaper), ghostwriting, copywriting,   some                                     freelance writing, etc.
                + When you do a "work for hire", you usually give up rights of ownership and grant them to the                                                publisher or purchaser.

o   Plagiarism
                +  If you have contracts with various publishers be careful quoting your other work.  Depending
                                 on your contract, you may actually be plagiarizing yourself.  Ask Neil Young - he sued
                                himself once for copyright infringement; well, not he to himself, but one record
                                company sued another for copyright infringement when Young copied lines from one
                                song and added them to another.
                + Plagiarism occurs even with paraphrasing if proper credit is not given to the original author.

o   Citation and MLA / APA Standards
                + Formal citations are usually not necessary for fictional works, but be aware that in the literary
                                field MLA is the standard.  Thus, you need to cite line and page numbers if you quote,
                                paraphrase, or use a concept presented by another writer in your non-fiction work.
                + is a great way to quickly type an ISBN number or enter the
                                details of the work and get the proper way to cite the work.  
                +  Even personal accounts and interviews need to be cited.

o   "Cease and desist"
                + Before bringing a civil lawsuit against anyone, keep in mind that civil suits are ruled by
                                preponderance of the evidence.  That is, whichever side presents the most plausible
                                case will win, even with reasonable doubt.  you must establish two things: intent and
                                - Intent is established by proving that the offender did the stealing on purpose.  This
                                                is simply established by first sending a "cease and desist" letter, demanding the
                                                offender remove the stolen portion form their work.  Your letter should be very
                                                specific with whatever it is you are claiming - provide complete paragraphs,
                                                descriptions, etc.  Define your claim to rights (trademark, copyright, service
                                                mark), the date or year you secured those rights, and a statement that you are
                                                demanding immediate correction to comply with the law.
                                - Plausibility is established by proving that the person had the means and opportunity to
                                                come across your work and has seen it in detail.  If your work is available on
                                       ,, or other popular website, you have that
                                                established already.  Facebook, your blog, and your personal website do not
                                                count, unless the person is one of your followers or friends.
o   Tools to help monitor who is stealing from you:
                + Sign up for Google Alerts (, which will send you an email whenever
                                the specified terms appear on a new website or search.  Others include Yahoo
                                (, and
                +Pay a company to monitor your online presence.  Here's an article on that:

o Websites recommended also include: DemonJack and

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's Always Been There!

Shark Short #5 - another kids' story.  Enjoy!

It's Always Been There!

I quickly swam up to where the guys were swimming in circles, around some human in his tight black suit.  The man was taking pictures of the guys and feeding them some tuna carcass - you know, the usual.  I waved a fin for Perry to come over just outside the group to where I was.  I was so excited for him to see.

"Do you think she'll notice," I asked as he swam my way. 

"Oh my GOLDFISH!" he screamed.

"What?  Is it that awesome?" I asked.

"It's hideous!  Why would you do that?" he asked in shock.

"What?  It's just a gold tooth.  I got it at the old wreckage by the reef.  One of the eels found it for me, and it fit perfectly over my tooth.  Maybe you didn't see it clearly.  Thsee?"   I opened my mouth and showed him my new gold canine.

He looked confused.  "Who cares about your tooth?  I was talking about the black sea urchin on your head.  What... why?" he said, holding his fins out.

I reached a fin to the top of my head and felt the spiky thing on my head. 

"Oh this?  What are you talking about, it's always been there!"

"No it hasn't, Ronald," he said sternly.

"Sure it has.  Remember at your party two years ago?"

"Ah, I'm thinking no." 

"Well, maybe you just weren't paying attention."
Just then, Todd came swimming my way.  The human was heading back up to the surface, so the fun was over.

"What in the SHELL?"  He screamed before breaking into uncontrollable laughter.

"Do you like my new tooth," I asked, "I got it to impress Lola."

"Forget your tooth, man.  Ronald, why are you wearing that RIDICULOUS thing on your head?"

"Oh, the urchin?  What are you talking about, it's always been there."

"You look like the humans, how they wear those sea urchin-looking things on their heads."

"That's their hair.  And I have always had this.  That's why Lola likes me - because I have hair like a superstar."

"No, man. She'll never talk to you again if you show her that."

Kyle swam toward us  and when he saw me he just fell into hysterics.

"What?  Don't tell me you're laughing at my urchin."

"What were you thinking when you put that thing on top of your head?" asked Kyle.

"Really, Ronald.  Of all your silly ideas, this has to be the worst," added Perry.

"You better go hide, man.  Look, Lola's coming," whispered Todd.

"Oh man, what should I do?" I asked.

"HIDE!" screamed all my friends in unison.

I quickly hid behind a rock and watched as Lola swam toward the guys.  She was so beautiful.  Her dorsal fin was so smooth and pointy.  Her gills opened and closed like a jellyfish swimming.  Her beautiful black eyes were hollow, empty - just the way I like them.  And her teeth - her four rows of teeth were just perfect.  Her teeth went every which way, her gums nice and pink.  She was chewing on a lionfish, one of its flamboyant fins hanging out the side of her mouth.  She was so beautiful.

"Hi Lola," said Kyle.

"You look especially scary today," said Perry.

She looked left to right at the guys and continued swimming toward the reef.  After she'd passed, I came out.  "Oh, man I want to take her out for tuna one of these days," I said.

"Good luck while you're wearing that thing," said Kyle.
Ugh.  The love game was so hard to play.  I swam away from the guys and stayed by the rocks, swimming past all sorts of other marine life.  I reached the wreckage and went into the sunken ship to explore it a bit. 

"Hey handsome," I heard a voice call out from behind me.  I turned around and saw that it was Lola.

"Oh!  Hi... Lola,"  I said, as I tried to cover the urchin with my fins, but they were too short unless I turned my head to the side - but that would just look awkward.  I decided to play it cool and forced a smile.

 "Wow, nice tooth!" she said.

I had forgotten about the gold tooth.  "Oh, this old thing?  An eel gave it to me here at the wreckage," I said.

"I like it!"


Lola came over to me and looked closer at it.  "Wow, it's really fancy."

"I know.  The minute I saw it I knew I had to have it.  Hey, what are you doing for dinner?"

"I don't know.  I was thinking of hanging out near the reef - some human is bound to come down to feed us."

"Oh!  I was going to do the same thing.  Why don't we go together?" I asked.

"Sure, I'd like that!" she replied.

We spent the day swimming together, scaring sea turtles and exploring the reef.  When dinnertime came along, we almost missed it because we were having so much fun together.  As we swam toward the guys, who were already circling a couple of humans, Kyle turned toward us. 

"Hey guys," he said, "What are you guys up to?"

"We just came to play with the humans and have a nice tuna dinner," I said.

"So... you guys together now?" asked Perry as he came toward us.

"Yep.  See?  Lola is wearing my gold tooth," I said.

"But what about - you know - the thing on his head?" asked Todd as he joined our group.  I could see the humans taking pictures of us in the distance.

"What?  The sea urchin?" asked Lola.  She turned to me and looked at it.  She squinted her eyes.  I gulped hard.  Oh no, I thought, I forgot to take it off!  Now what was I going to do?

"Yeah that hideous black sea urchin," added Perry.  "Do you like it?"

Lola turned her mouth sideways and looked up into her head.  "Hasn't it always been there?"