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Author: Jessica

How to Protect Yourself When Writing Stories Online

So now let’s talk about what you can do to protect yourselves when posting your stories online.

First, a key distinction (and I only make this again because in conversations, some keep trying to sidetrack the conversation and wrongly conflate the terms). All authors have to deal with piracy at some point. Piracy is where they take your story with your name attached and upload it to a site. It may be a mirror site, it may be a separate site. They tend to target well-known authors because that draws the readers to their site.

Plagiarism and theft is when they take your words and your story and take your name off. They may change some small details, but the vast majority of the story is the same. These individuals typically focus on unknown and smaller authors because it’s more likely that they can get away with it.

Authors never benefit from having their works plagiarized. There may be some who will argue that piracy is not much of a detriment to authors. But the reason that it is difference is because the author’s name remains on the manuscript. They can still potentially gain new fans. It is not a great argument as authors should maintain control of the manner and method of their distribution. In fact, it is deeply flawed. But victims of plagiarism/theft do not receive even this.

Understand What Most Thieves Want

For the most part, thieves want an easy buck. They are not the same as pirates. Pirates typically make their revenue through ads and phishing schemes and viruses on the sites. Thieves/plagiarists typically make their money off the royalties. Because this is hit or miss, they are inclined to do a lot all at once.

In most of my dealings with thieves, they grab multiple stories and do mass uploads or they stuff a single book with stolen items to maximize per page revenue payments. Generally the stories bring in small amounts that then accumulate over time. These thieves are not in it for the big money. Most don’t want to be noticed. It’s about accumulation. (Also in my dealings, most of these thieves are in countries where a US dollar will go a lot farther.)

Determine if You Can Risk Theft

When you post online, you run the risk that someone may steal it. I do not say this to absolve any of the writing platforms from their duty to their writers. It is simply something to bear in mind. Do not buy into any of the promises that they give you that they are different or that they will protect you. And even the best security may not keep out some thieves. (I do expect a good platform to keep it from being as easy as the click of a button, but I won’t move into that rant right now.)

If your project is such that you can absolutely not risk it being stolen, don’t put it online. (And let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that you are cowardly or somehow stuck in the dark ages. It is recognizing the nature of each writing project, and what works for one may not work for another.)

You need to make sure that you take time to search for your stories and check to see if you have been robbed. Or you need to not care if someone takes your story without giving you attribution.

Don’t Post the Full Story in One Place

Remember that most thieves want a quick and easy buck. So if a story is explicitly declared as not finished, it is less likely to be targeted. (Please note that by finishing, I don’t mean editing. I mean it literally does not have an ending. Thieves don’t seem to care much about grammar.)

The other benefit to not posting the full story is that if someone steals it up and uploads it, the ending will be missing. You will have the ending. That may not be prima facie evidence, but it is quite solid, nearing Big Eyes territory.

Now again, this is not foolproof. Some intrepid thieves may be willing to add an ending. In the Rachel Nunes case, the thief added some sex scenes.

So what about your readers? What if they want the ending and you want to share it with them?

Well, you’ve got a couple options here.

First, if you do choose to not post a full story, make sure to note this at the beginning, particularly if you are on a site like Tablo or Inkitt or Wattpad where serials are common. This way you can temper your readers’ expectations. You could choose to not publish the ending at all until formal publication. Readers can then purchase your story. But please give your readers notice. They want to support you, and they need to be fully informed as well.

You can also time out your upload of the chapters to coincide with the release of your book. This way the final chapters go up online after the book is formally published and registered with the copyright.

If you don’t care for either of those options or perhaps don’t want to pursue formal publication, the other option is to upload the final chapters elsewhere. Say in a different book or on a different profile or on a different platform altogether. Now, please note that this is not much of a protection. It relies essentially on the speed and ease with which thieves want to take your story. It throws up a roadblock. If they do some research and find it, it is simple enough to join the files together.

Register the Copyright

Now personally I don’t recommend doing this before the work is done or filing for preregistration (also there are some other restrictions for preregistration.) However, it is your call, and you will need to consider your situation and possibly talk to an attorney. (Yes, I am an attorney, but I am not giving specific advice here.)

Also please note that I will be doing a followup post on how to do an Unpublished Collection through the Copyright Office, but that will take a little more research to confirm some details.

If your country allows for this like the US, it’s just a much simpler way to prove ownership. In the US, it costs about $30 – $40 ($35 for me the last time I paid). And it is relatively simple to go through.

Also foreigners can register their copyright in the US. You can check out what the Copyright Office has to say on this and limitations. But for my readers who have asked most about UK residents specifically, yes, you can register with the US Copyright Office.

To register in the United States, you can go through here.

Note that their completion times vary significantly, but if you do everything properly, the date of copyright is the date that the application is received in full.

Officially Publish Before Posting

Now, let’s get something straight…officially publishing does not mean you are golden in terms of copyright registration. Most traditional publishers, including small, will register your copyright for you. If you are indie, you will need to register your copyright (and I do encourage this even though copyright belongs to you once you create; copyright registration opens additional options and creates prima facie evidence). But even if all you have is the finished book, it is a little more persuasive than a time stamped web page if it comes first in time because you also have sales and release data, usually from more than one site, which leads to the next point.

When you publish, go wide. Again time stamps and dates like this are not foolproof or guaranteed, but they help to build a stronger case. It also makes it more likely that your story will be seen and known.

Utilize a Copyright Registration/Index Service

Copyright registration services are something of a misnomer in that they are not exactly copyright registration unless they are affiliated with the government (and even then depending on your country, you’ve got to doublecheck). It’s actually more accurate to refer to these as indexes, which is what some call themselves. (It depends on your country what the most common terminology is, but an official service will have a .gov ending.)

Essentially for a fee you submit your work to them, and they receive it, date it, and secure it. They can then be used as a business record of note and provide data. It is harder to fake this, and so it is generally more persuasive than a website time stamp as those can be easily faked.

Now bear in mind that some of these may be more expensive than the actual copyright registration service. It also does not create prima facie evidence. But it is not worthless.

Full disclosure though, I have never used one of these services.

Be Precise, Unique, Connected, and Descriptive

In looking over books that have been stolen and uploaded under another author’s name, I have noticed that stories that are more generic tend to be more common targets. To date, most of the targets I have spoken with wrote romance, contemporary, or thrillers. I suspect that this is because the settings tend to be more generic and the general arena quite heavily populated, making it easy for them to blend in.

So add in unusual descriptions and features that are often present in your other stories. In other words, develop a vivid voice, which is great for your writing anyway.

Now this is not always the case. In the case of my Tundra Queen, it was a high fantasy science fiction story with a lot of elements that, even if the thief had changed the names (she did not), it would have been easy enough to prove my ownership. I also failed to note that the story was part of a larger series (another factor, other than the copyright that worked in my defense).

Standalones also seem more likely to be targeted. In most of the cases I’ve dealt with, the story stolen is on its lonesome. Not part of an interconnected world. I would recommend prominently advertising that it is part of an interconnected world if it is (and that will also be good for your readers).

If you have parts of the interconnected world/series officially published, it makes it that much easier to prove that the other one is part of your catalogue and not the thieves. Particularly if you have registered the copyright or taken other steps to secure your property.

Regularly Check For Thieves/Plagiarists

You need to make it a regular part of your routine to check for your stories if it bothers you that someone might take them without giving attribution and you want to stop them.

Now admittedly, this is sometimes hard to do. Particularly when you have a lot of stories up. But take some time to set up Google Alerts. Also take the time to search paragraphs from your story. Personally I take certain key passages with descriptive language. I don’t focus as much on names because names are easily changed. Characters’ physical descriptions and setting descriptions as well as unique bits of dialogue are some of my favorites for this.

Go through Amazon and check for your titles. Bear in mind that the word search that works for most websites will not work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, etc. You’ll want to check for title matches. It isn’t often that thieves are foolish enough to use the same title, but sometimes they do. Also check in keywords. Focus on elements that are not likely to be changed such as the character’s occupation, setting if it is essential and not easily changed, and the core conflict. One friend found her story on Barnes and Noble by searching for New Orleans nurse high school reunion romance.

Read in your genre. Most of the time, thieves publish their stolen goods in the same primary genre because that is what the story is set for and it is hard to change that much.

Prioritize checking for stand alones and books that are the first in their series and from time to time check the others.

Note: Have your author friends’ backs. If you see something suspicious, let them know. Don’t attack the person you think might be a thief. Your friend will know better if it is actual theft.

Make Your Story Tumblr Style

Tumblr, as you know, is not a text based site but rather employs images and blocks of color with text in them. Photographs of words are harder to scab. Now, people can still right click and save these, but it would take more effort to get the text into a publishable form.

If you really want to mess with thieves, then you can do a mixture of text and text on images. This is a little bit of a pain to do, and I am not inclined to do it myself. But who knows? If it gets much worse, I might give it a try.

If you need options for how to do it, you can either use a service like Canva to create images with the story. Or you could upload it to a story platform site, take a screenshot, and then upload it. Just make sure that if you do this that a single image does not hold the entirety of the story.

Do Not Leave Stories Up For an Indeterminate Amount of Time Without Protection

Now this is playing more against the law of averages and the odds of your work being stolen rather than actual protection. However, if you leave a story up without protection and don’t check up on it, the longer it is out there, the more you risk theft.

A thief just has to come by at the right time and the right place to rob you, but if you never lock your door, you make it easier.

Personally I like the solution of putting up stories for a brief time and then removing them. You may want to inform your readers that you will be doing this. The appropriate time frame varies based on how comfortable you feel.

It will also likely depend on what you have experienced. Right now I am more cautious because I have been targeted by thieves. I am on some of their radar (hopefully someone not to tangle with).

Stay Open to New Ideas And Know That What Works May Change

There are likely lots of other ways to inhibit thieves. We just have to come up with them. The image idea was one I got after a conversation with a site that allows people to download stories without the author’s permission. The developer mentioned that currently there was no way to download images along with stories but that wasn’t a problem because the images weren’t important. For me, that was a lightbulb moment.

Again all this might change. Tech and coding alike change regularly, which is why we rely on the experts to help protect us, and it is important to keep up with it as much as you can.

Remain Involved in the Writing Community

Some writing platforms will not let you know when the game changes and your work becomes vulnerable. Regardless of how much they claim to care about their users, their ultimate concern is to protect themselves. Do not believe otherwise.

With that said, being in touch with other writers is often your quickest route to knowing what’s going on even if the platform does let you know what is happening. It also goes back to the having one another’s back, and if someone sees your story stolen or if you see someone else’s stolen, you can pass that information on along.

Additionally, you can hopefully keep up with new techniques and new ideas to protect your work.

The Revenge Thief

Okay, there is one other type of thief that needs to be addressed here. This is the thief who is out to ruin you personally. This has nothing to do with the bottom line or business. It is personal. I have run into a few cases of this. This occurs when an individual is determined to target you and destroy your stories.

Now for the most part, this individual isn’t going to come out of the blue. They will harass you and do other things to make you as miserable as you can. Stealing your stories is only one aspect of that. In this case, you need to document everything and look into other charges that can be filed other than plagiarism. You’ll want to check into your state or nation’s laws if there is cyberharassment or intentional infliction of emotional distress or something similar that you can pursue. These may be easier causes of action to prove with greater available damages.

In this case, you will generally know who your thief is. You need to save everything and get legal counsel from someone who handles this sort of case as soon as you can. Evidence, particularly online evidence, can be difficult to obtain, so you will need professional counsel. Until then do not exacerbate the situation or make threats. Just collect the evidence and go get help.

Concluding Thoughts

Thieves are a reality of writing and publishing now, and there are no benefits to the authors. We have to be prepared.

When you post online, make sure you post informed. If you find your work stolen, take action. You don’t have to hide your work away. You just have to be vigilant.

What To Do When Your Story Is Plagiarized

Copyright may be yours from the moment you write a story, but that won’t keep some people from trying to steal it and pass it off as their own. While professional authors used to dismiss one’s risk of another’s work as being stolen as being the mark of a paranoid and delusional writer, theft of an authors’ works in many arenas is becoming increasingly common.

At this point in my career, I’ve dealt with multiple thefts. Thankfully, so far, they have been resolved fairly easily all things considered though they are frustrating and often time consuming. Now, in fairness, while it has become increasingly common for thieves to steal stories and upload them as their own, this is not a guarantee that this will happen to you. But it can, and you should be prepared for it.

So here are some things that you can do.

Some Parameters

Let’s define a few matters. In this article, I will be dealing with plagiarism of books and stories, not theft of Facebook posts or articles or blog posts. Not because these aren’t important or worthy of discussion but because they have different steps and issues that need to be addressed.

Also plagiarism is not the copying of ideas. It is the copying of an individual’s words. Some minor changes may be made including character names and the insertion of a few details or even scenes, but by and large the actual words chosen are the same. Idea theft is another matter altogether and actually much harder to prove with a lot more nuance.

For this article, we are going to talk about true plagiarism, not piracy. (The key distinction is that in piracy, your name will remain on the story and perhaps other attribution whereas in plagiarism, the plagiarist takes credit or gives no credit to anyone or to someone other than you.) Piracy is another conversation entirely and much harder to deal with.

As many will tell you, in the world of online theft, there are many shades and tragic paths which it follows. This is only one of them. This information is intended for general informational purposes and not as specific legal counsel for individual cases.

What Can You Do?

Get It Published and Formalize Your Copyright

First in time helps with your claim so one of the safest things you can do is publish the story and registering the copyright. If someone takes your work from a free to read site rather than a known book site, it can be harder to track and harder to stop. Plagiarizing thieves aren’t as likely to steal work already on Amazon for obvious reasons (though this does not mean that just because it is on Amazon it is entirely safe). If your work does appear on sites like Wattpad, Radish, Reddit, Fanfiction.net, Medium, Writing.com, and other locations, it is more likely to be seen as available and an easy target. The fact that you are not particularly well-known makes the theft all the easier. Speaking anecdotally I have seen far more situations occurring in small ways on these sites than I have on Amazon.

You can technically register your copyright before a story is officially completed, but because of the inevitable changes to the manuscript and cost of registration, I prefer to wait to register the final copy and then send two copies to the Library of Congress. Just make sure you haven’t signed an exclusivity agreement. (Also, you don’t need an attorney to help you file for this. It can be done on your own.)

Search Your Titles

Second, regularly searching for your titles and key sections from your stories can make a difference. In one of the more recent cases, I stumbled upon a stolen story because I was checking the title to make sure no other story in my genre had it. Lo and behold, there was my own story. The thief hadn’t even bothered to change the title or the cover.

Ask for Help

Third, ask your readers, friends and family members to keep an eye out for you, particularly if they read in your genre. Most of the accounts I hear involve random discoveries as readers go about their business. Let your readers know that if they find your book, they should let you know ASAP, whether on an official for sale site like Amazon or uploaded on another site without your permission. They shouldn’t engage or drown the individual in one star reviews or attacks until it’s confirmed that it is indeed your story (and even then over zeal can actual hurt your prospects rather than help).

Keep Anything That Helps Prove Your Ownership

Fourth, keep all proof of ownership even if it is not admissible in court. The poor man’s copyright and many other elements of proof aren’t something that you can use in court (and you should never rely on them for protection if you are in a US court; in a UK court, however, it seems there may be some value in the poor man’s copyright), but they can be useful in the pre litigation phase. So save them all. Save your copies. Save your conversations. Save everything within reason that indicates your ties and ownership to the story.

This can sometimes get a little bulky. If you need to, set up a separate file, get a flash drive, and dump it.

Search for Sections of Your Story

Fifth, regularly check key passages of your story through plagiarism checkers. There are more and more on the market. Copyscape was one of the best ones for me for quite awhile though it does cost a little bit (just a few cents a search). However, there are plenty of free versions out there. I have also used Google Alerts for key words and phrases, but that has been increasingly hit or miss. It doesn’t hurt to set it up, but you shouldn’t rely on it wholly. Incidentally, these phrase checks are how I find most of the stolen works.

Do note, however, that these do not always search for words in published books. Book blurbs, however, do seem to show up with more frequency.

Be Open About What You’re Working On

Sixth, do talk about your stories if you are going to post them online before they are officially published. Make it clear what you’re working on. You don’t have to post whole segments if you don’t want to, but it can help as social media posts are admissible. Ideas themselves can’t be copyrighted, and there are likely many stories that you can

Be Professional

Seventh, if you do find out that someone has stolen your work, handle it professionally. Generally, the steps remain the same, and you don’t even need a lawyer to help you with this at the beginning. It is often recommended to contact the individual first and to ensure that it is not fair use. But if we’re talking about out and out plagiarism, that is actually easy to prove. If you choose to skip this step, then you contact the host administrator and inform them what has happened.

Sometimes they will ask that you file a DMCA at the same time rather than requiring the DMCA to be a separate step. You can also send a cease and desist letter.

Now to be clear, a cease and desist letter does not require an attorney or a judge. A cease and desist order does require a hearing and a judge. The cease and desist letter is something you can pick up in a template online, and it puts the individual on notice that you are exercising your rights as the owner of the copyright and you are not allowing this usage. If I am contacting a website or an individual directly, I tend to use these.  It also helps me to know what to say without becoming inflammatory.

The process often branches here. Some places like Amazon tend to respond to a copyright notice by pulling down the content and notifying the person who posted it of the strike. Youtube follows a similar procedure. The two have the opportunity to present their case for ownership. Depending on the platform, this can sometimes be quite frustrating because the room to respond is often limited so use your words wisely and avoid feeling language. Focus on the facts. Usually first response goes to the plagiarist after the complaint, but if you have proof of copyright registration (the certificate of registration), that should be open and shut (but not always; bear in mind that this provides prima facie evidence that the owner of the certificate is the owner of the work, but it can be challenged; however, most plagiarists are not going to get in this far; they want fast and easy success).

Now demanding disgorgement of profits made on your work is something that I often get asked about. I’ve actually never gone this route, primarily because none of my stories have generated enough to warrant it. And once you pull money into it, you slow things down. You can always ask for it. But oftentimes, this requires more legal action. In some cases, monetary platforms will do that automatically.

Eighth, relatively few of these cases actually go to court. Most are settled before it reaches that point. The ones that do move forward such as the Rachel Nunes case are usually more exciting because of how egregious they are. This does not mean that other cases aren’t out there.

A Few More Caveats

Be cautious of naming and shaming, particularly if you have an engaged fan and reader base. One of my thieves had a name that I realized was fairly common in India. If I had just listed her name, it could have led to some serious problems for innocent women with that same name. As angry as you are with the thief, do not take action that will harm innocents. This does not mean that you cannot talk about what is happening. It means simply that you must exercise caution.

It is neither fun nor pleasant to behave with restraint, but it will help you in your case against the plagiarist. Do not make threats of violence, death, or rape to the plagiarist. Do not use slurs of any kind. You do not want to create sympathy for the violator. (I know that it should not make a difference because what the plagiarist did is wrong, but people are emotional.)

Keep a log of all the actions you have taken. If the matter escalates further and you need to speak with an attorney, this log will be helpful in demonstrating what has been done.

Screenshot and save the conversations. Save emails and all other information. Not only is this evidence, but it will also help in your case in the event that you need legal representation and in proving your case.

All the best in your writing. I’m thinking about following this up with a one that deals with how to protect yourself online and another that deals with piracy and one that deals with idea theft and one that deals with Facebook posts, articles, and similar thefts. Let me know your thoughts.

And if you have any experiences with your stories being stolen/plagiarized, please feel free to share in the comments.

 

 

A Tale of Four Thefts

Jeff Goins’s book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, was quite an enjoyable read. The information in it is not new or groundbreaking in most respects, but it is excellent for artists of all types. And frankly, sometimes we need to hear the same things over and over before we are able to truly absorb and act on them. (To be clear, this does not mean that those who spoke the message to us earlier were failures. It simply means that it takes time for some messages to saturate, and often each application/hearing of the message results in pushing us closer toward that goal).

The book brought about a series of responses within me, and I wanted to deal with them in separate blog posts.

One of Jeff Goins’s points is that great artists steal. He provides multiple examples, and he then clarifies that he does not mean plagiarism or theft theft. What he makes quite clear is that there are no new ideas and we all draw from somewhere. He also references how many of the masters copied other greats to learn the craft. His point, and I believe Picasso’s as well as the others who have used this phrasing, are referring to the fact that pretty much everything has been done. But Jeff Goins and others refer to this as stealing.

This struck an emotional response within me that I struggled to interpret. It isn’t that I deny artists draw from sources. We are the sum of our ideas and experiences, which are often drawn from others in both firsthand accounts as well as books, movies, television, art, and more. What we experience becomes a part of us and then bleeds into our work. But I don’t particularly care for the word “steal.” Partially because I’m a lawyer. Stealing is wrong and morally problematic. It destroys trust and breaks down community. Jeff Goins’s isn’t the first one to say that artists steal. And again, he makes it clear that a true artist reorganizes, adds more, and reimagines what is taken.

The use of the word “thief” is more provocative than descriptive.

Yet still I find myself struggling. And I found myself reflecting on four experiences in particular with what I would describe as four types of “thieves.”

(Note: I will cover reboots and remakes in another post as those are different from this as well.)

The Painter: A Reprehensible Thief

When I was fourteen, I officially started calling myself a freelance writer. The only thing I had was an Internet connection and a basic understanding of Google. Without much concern for theft, I drafted and sent out stories to every place that would take them. Including a number of e-zines. One story was The Color of Murder, a tale about a serial killer known as the Painter who had a very specific method of killing and purpose to his madness. In looking back, the story wasn’t particularly good. I got a rejection from an editor with a note that the story needed work.

That was true. The story disappeared into a file with hundreds of others, and I didn’t touch it. Until one day I was on a popular writing website and noticed a story called, The Color of Murder. There were a couple of stories out with that title, but curious, I clicked on the story and found that it was actually mine. Word for word. The author listed on the page was none other than the editor who had rejected my story.

Unfortunately for her, I still had that rejection email along with many others. Even more unfortunate for her was the fact that within the span of the last sixteen years, I had grown up, gone to law school, and become an attorney. Contacting her with the evidence resulted in what I wanted: the story being taken down.

This woman was clearly a bad thief. What she did was illegal, wrong, and in no way something that a professional would recommend. This is actual theft. Outright plagiarism. Getting in touch with the thief resulted in the story’s removal from the site.

(Also, how’s this for a bit of dark humor? Almost all the comments she got on the story were quite negative. I mean, really, what do you expect posting a fourteen-year-old’s interpretation of a serial killer who uses the blood, bones, and organs of his victims to create paintings? The concept is intriguing and something I hope to do something with in the future, but the story as it was absolutely deserved to be rejected. I find it laughably horrid that she would steal, not only from a child, but a bad story at that! There was literally no upside to her in this situation.)

This sort of theft is unacceptable. If you do it, you are not a good member of the artistic community, and most likely you will soon be ousted from the community and may face legal consequences.

The Mermaid: A Cruel Thief

Partially thanks to my sister, I love mers. She does gorgeous drawings, and when we were little, I used to whisper her stories about mers and fantastic worlds that we could only dream about. We both inspired one another, and many of the stories I drafted involved various interpretations of mer worlds. Some were set on Neptune or elsewhere in space, some in lands accessible only through magical portals, and still others in rivers and oceans in our own world.

My hope  one day is to create a gorgeous series that showcases some of the fascinating mers that my sister has created and that populate some of my stories. I shared some of these with someone who I thought was a friend, and I was so excited. The first two stories were nearly done (we often swapped stories for critiques). My friend seemed excited by them as well. She mentioned that she particularly liked the worldbuilding aspect and the inclusion of multiple races and the way that they intersected.

To my surprise, a few days later, she posted in a writing group about a new story she was writing in which she used my identical ideas and renamed characters. Multiples of my ideas and plot actually. The sense of betrayal and shock I felt was enormous. Now, I knew that I had no legal claim to the ideas. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. But this was my friend. She hadn’t told me in advance. She hadn’t even asked if I would mind. Technically, this was not required.

I would argue though that this was cruel and not something that a good member of the artistic community would do. Legally she was fine. Ethically, not so much. When I asked her about it and tried to explain how I felt, she curtly informed me I didn’t own the idea and she could do what she wanted. The friendship ended soon after that.

When it is your friend who comes up with the idea and you want to do something almost identical, it may be best to have that conversation with your friend out of courtesy. Proximity makes it trickier than if you got the idea from a TV show or out of a book.

If you already had the idea, you can mention this to your friend. But to keep the air clear between you, open communication is best. It’s also vital to ensure you do then what Jeff Goins recommends, which is to add in multiple ideas. The more you add, the less problematic it will be.

I would also add that if someone winds up being a tremendous source of inspiration or gives you an idea for something, it would also be kind to thank and acknowledge that person for their contribution. Particularly if it’s going to be quite similar to something they are releasing at the same time. Legally you’re under no obligation, but if you want to keep your creative friends, it’s best to err on the side of caution and courtesy.

The Dragon: A Clueless Thief

One of the things I’ve mentioned before is how I am hoping to soon finish a fantasy series that I started about twenty-five years ago, Tue-Rah Chronicles. I was about six years old when I first started, so clearly a lot of that time has been spent learning how to do it. This series has grown with me, and it has played a tremendous role in my life and development. The characters are as real and vivid as the people I know in some respects, and I enjoy talking about them.

In a writing group, I became friendly with another author. She and I chatted off and on, discussing what we were working on. I told her about my story and my absolute favorite character, a shapeshifter who can become anything with wings but who specializes in dragons. He is one of my favorites because he started off as one of my imaginary frenemies when I was a child, and he is one of the first I ever created. His personality is quite clear to me, and as a result, it’s incredibly easy to write him.

A month ago she announced the release of her story, a novella that featured a main character who was a dragon shapeshifter and whose name was simply a different spelling of my character’s. He also shared the same personality features and had a puzzle box that contained pencil sketches of his wife and children, something which he fidgeted with when thinking and which played a significant role in his arc. There were a number of other similarities too that hinged a little too close for comfort.

Perhaps it was because of the previous experiences or because of how much I loved that specific character, but it stung. Badly. I felt betrayed, and I couldn’t help but wonder if she’d stolen the idea from me. The fact that I was getting ready to go to final edits for my beloved epic and at last release it into the world made this hurt all the more.

Now, in this case, I had no intention of confronting her. The story itself, though similar in some minor respects, was largely different even if our characters were almost the same. I wasn’t sure what to even confront her about though I did decide I would not talk to her about what I was working on again. When I confided my pain and frustration in one of my closest friends though, she suggested I talk to this author. As I admitted, it was possible that this was unintentional. After all, our conversation happened months ago, and sometimes people absorb experiences, then forget where it is they got the idea from. (And sometimes people get largely similar ideas without even interacting with one another.)

So I contacted her and brought it up in the least accusatory and kind way I could. She responded almost immediately and apologized, stating that she remembered now but had forgotten our conversation when she was in the middle of writing. She apologized, and I was grateful to know it wasn’t intentional.

I sometimes worry I may have done something like this. It would be something of a nightmare if I did because I don’t want to hurt my fellow artists.

But this isn’t such bad territory. If someone did have to confront me about this, I would likely handle it the same as my friend and apologize and see if there was a way I could fix the situation and keep a good relationship with the other author. And that’s more in a situation when there’s an actual conversation.

In situations where the other author has no way of knowing what you are working on or you haven’t had that conversation, then it’s probably best to leave well enough alone. Lots of ideas get repeated.

The Elementalist: A Good Thief

The Tue-Rah Chronicles features a lot of different races, including some elementalists. In the chapters I released on Wattpad, I have developed some of them through the main story and others through short stories, and I have received a fair bit of feedback from readers, many of whom are also writers.

The other day, one of these readers messaged me to say that she had written a story of her own about elementalists. She mentioned that she had been inspired by the combat style that the elementalists used as well as their culture and how their lifestyles influenced their strength with various elements. And she then wrote her own story. Not a fanfiction. Not a rip off. She wrote a story that took some of the ideas that I had, added a bunch of her own, and created a whole new conflict and set of characters. In essence, she made it her own.

When she finishes this story, it’s going to be amazing. I couldn’t be happier for her. It was also quite cool to see how I was able to positively influence her as so many others have positively influenced me.

The fact that she added to the story and changed up the idea made all the difference. Her letting me know about it wasn’t necessary. If I had read her story without knowing about it, I would have noted some similarities but oddly I wouldn’t have thought she had ripped me off.

And really I wouldn’t even call her a thief. I think that this is the one where calling such a person a thief bothers me the most. She didn’t steal the idea from me though she did get it from me. I suppose if I were to make it a metaphor, I’d say that she ate the fruit of my story, took some of the seeds, spliced in components for other seeds, and grew her own kind of fruit.

Ultimately I don’t think I would call people in the second two categories thieves (particularly since in the case of The Dragon, she did not do it intentionally). Though I take the point, I feel that that minimizes the actual meaning to call such people thieves, particularly when there are actual thieves out there. Even if you see an idea in a movie and decide you want to play with it, if you do it right, you aren’t stealing it. You are adapting it. Or at least that is what you should be doing. By referring to all as thieves, I feel that this dilutes the meaning when one is trying to talk about actual wrongdoing.

The purpose of referring to all artists as thieves is, in part, to calm creators down and help them realize that nothing truly new. People who insist they have something utterly unique and that has never been done are usually demonstrating a skill in puffery or their lack of knowledge. But can’t we accomplish this by simply referring to the fact that we all draw inspiration from all around us? We drink from a common river. We don’t steal from it.

And maybe the reason that this bothers me most in the fourth case is because no one owns ideas. No one. What we own are the words we put together and the take that we give them, the perspective we bring. Even in the case of The Mers, my story wound up being quite different from my former friend’s because, though she took my concepts, she didn’t tell it the way I planned to.

Maybe this is just semantics. I’m not entirely certain, but this over reference does bother me, perhaps because I deal with actual thieves. What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s right to call all artists thieves? Is the understanding of implied conduct enough? Or is there something that we lose by referring to everyone as a thief? Is there a better word?

Seasons End

All seasons have their end. Farewells, good byes, and ends of times do not come easily though they may come fast and without warning. And perhaps not all conclusions are marred with grief. But, whether because the pain makes them seem stronger or there are more that are this way, the ones with pain so often scream louder.

It’s easier to close the book on the happy note than it is when the very words weep. It is not that hope has died or that the mourner believes this moment is the worst. Sometimes it is simply recognizing, appreciating, feeling the end and crying for what will no longer be. Crying for what might have been. Crying for all those possibilities.

Sometimes the sadness is there simply because what has ended was loved. A season has concluded. And when the new one opens, it may bring wonders anew and laughter that consoles the pain.

Doors close every day just as new ones open. But sometimes you’re in a hall, and you know the door is ahead, but you have no idea what it will open upon or even when. And sometimes it may not open for quite awhile though you hear the clicks and bangs of doors in other halls swinging wide. What matters is that one day the doors will open again, and this limbo of untetheredness may yet pass along with heartbreak and pain.

Is it wrong to weep or sob or grind your teeth in anger? When that which is good must pass away and the dreams you hold slip through your fingers, it would be stranger if you shed no tears even with your faith to hold you strong.

For just as seasons have their end, so too do they have their beginnings. And though the pain may swell and the agony endures, you know deep within that it will not always be this way. It cannot. It will not. It shall not. It won’t.

Mourning does not deny the joy that may yet come. When you mourn, your heart cries over the pain that has come and sometimes for the future ripped from hopeful hands.

It may not be as you envisioned. And if you cannot see now what the future holds as all you see is through a glass darkly, then that is where you believe and hope despite not knowing. The future and all of life cannot be taken in a single stride. Sometimes you can barely hold the heartbeat of a moment.

At times like these, your beliefs may seem stale and flavorless, cheap bread set out on a windowsill, unwanted even by the starlings and the grackles. You hold them close or sometimes loosely in the wellspring of your heart, not knowing, not understanding because sometimes the monotony of the pain and of the sorrow feels like it’s too much.

But in your heart you know…know what is true. This season ends, the doors are closed, but it will all begin anew. And this new season is not cursed, these new doors are not bolted. Different perhaps and possibly not precisely as you hope. Perhaps more, perhaps better. There is always that. But more importantly that which roots you, grounds you, anchors you will keep you from despair.

For now though, loose your tears and weep. You don’t have to be forever strong. And in the quiet of the hall, where all is locked and shut away, you are free to grieve so that when the doors swing open and light pours through, you can walk into that new day.

Even tragedies, grief, and pain come in seasons that must one day end. And if you need to sit and cry, then do. But know it shall not always be this way.

Guest Post: Farah Oomerbhoy, The Rise of the Dawnstar, and Farah’s Favorite TV Shows

Hello dear friends!

I am so happy that you can join me here today because  I get to share a post from one of my dear writing friends, Farah Oomerbhoy. You may recall awhile back fantasy novel, Last of the Firedrakes. Well, here is the sequel! And there’s going to be a third. Farah is already working hard at it, and today she’s going to share what TV shows she’s going to be watching while she works on the third book of this trilogy.

Be sure to read all the way through! There’s information on the giveaway at the end with some delightful prizes.


The Best TV Shows to Watch While Waiting for Book Three in The Avalonia Chronicles by Farah Oomerbhoy

With book two, The Rise of the Dawnstar, now on shelves it is time to wait for book three. Here are my favorite TV shows, perfect for readers to watch while waiting for book 3.

  • Game of Thrones – I can’t wait for season 7, it’s going to be spectacular. And it looks like season 7 will come out before George Martin’s book 6, Winds of Winter.
  • Supergirl – This new series has quickly become one of my favorites. It is a wonderful rendition of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, Superman’s biological cousin. Melissa Benoist is superb as the last daughter of Krypton also knows as the Girl of Steel.
  • Merlin – I loved this version of Merlin. It follows the life of the legendary sorcerer, as he becomes a servant to a young prince Arthur, before he became king.
  • Once Upon a Time – I’m sure many of you must have watched this already. It’s one of my absolute favorites. If you love fairytale retellings you will love this show.
  • Arrow – The legendary Green Arrow is spectacular in this version. Love it!
  • The Royals – A fun drama series, with some exciting twists and turns. Elizabeth Hurley is wonderful as Queen Helena.
  • The Vampire Diaries – Vampires as they should be. This series is now over but if you haven’t watched it yet, I must recommend it!
  • Smallville – Superman! Need I say more? This show is complete as well but worth a rewatch!
  • Reign – Although this is quite far from historical facts, it is a fun show to watch nevertheless. If you love history and historical fiction you will enjoy this version of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Bitten – A lovely new werewolf Netflix series. Based on Kelley Armstrong’s New York Times best-selling fantasy book series Women of the Otherworld.
  • Victoria – The ITV version. A charming portrayal of a great queen.

What shows will you be watching as you wait for book three?


Thank you so much, Farah! I’m so glad you were able to join me here, and as for what I will be watching, oooh. Probably some reruns and a list that includes all sorts of shows like Black Mirror, Frontier, Star Trek Next Generation, and so many more. All the best to you! And thank you, dear readers, for stopping by.

Aurora Firedrake returns in the spellbinding sequel to The Last of the Firedrakes.

 

The seven kingdoms of Avalonia are crumbling and evil is spreading across the land like a plague. Queen Morgana is close to finding a way to open The Book of Abraxas and it’s only a matter of time until she uses the power trapped inside its pages to enslave the entire world.

 

With Avalonia growing more dangerous by the day, Aurora must travel through war-torn lands and deep into the heart of the fae kingdom of Elfi. Her goal is to find a legendary weapon infused with the last of the realm’s ancient magic—the only weapon in the world powerful enough to stop the queen.

 

Aurora might have survived her first battle against Morgana, but the true fight to save her kingdom and restore her throne has only just begun…

 

Available on:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Dawnstar-Avalonia-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B01N5T1NDB/

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-rise-of-the-dawnstar-farah-oomerbhoy/1125543575?ean=2940154198605

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-rise-of-the-dawnstar/id1199098484?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-rise-of-the-dawnstar

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/699023

 

 

Add on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30070430-the-rise-of-the-dawnstar

 

About the Author:

Farah Oomerbhoy is the international bestselling author of The Avalonia Chronicles. Her first book, The Last of the Firedrakes, was originally published on Wattpad where it gained over two million reads and a Watty Award. Since publication, her debut has gone on to win a silver medal in IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Awards and the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, along with winning a finalist placement in the USA Best Book Awards. Farah loves the fantastical and magical and often dreams of living in Narnia, Neverland, or the Enchanted Forest. With a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Mumbai, Farah spends her creative time crafting magical worlds for young adults. She lives with her family in Mumbai, India.

 

Website: http://farahoomerbhoy.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FarahOomerbhoy
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FarahOomerbhoyAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farahoomerbhoyauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/FarahOomerbhoy
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+FarahOomerbhoyAuthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14124424.Farah_Oomerbhoy
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/FarahOomerbhoy

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Farah-Oomerbhoy/e/B01152TFAC/

Newsletter sign-up form: http://eepurl.com/bhsqoD

 

 

 

Book Details:

Book Title: The Rise of the Dawnstar

Series: The Avalonia Chronicles, Book 2

Author Name: Farah Oomerbhoy

Genre: Fantasy

Age: Young Adult

Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-63489-934-5

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-63489-933-8

ASIN: B01N5T1NDB

Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Release date: April 24, 2017

 

For each stop on tour, there will be a special number at the end of the post. Collect all the numbers, add them up, and enter to win one of three prizes! Once you have all the numbers you can enter the giveaway here: http://farahoomerbhoy.com/rise-dawnstar-now/

The giveaway closes on May 21st, 11:59pm Eastern US time.

My number is 2.

Good luck! And check out the prizes below:

 

Grand Prize

 

1st and 2nd Runners Up

So where to next?

Check out the rest of the tour stops to continue on the scavenger hunt!

  • Tuesday, May 9th
  • Wednesday, May 10th
  • Thursday, May 11th

The Start of a New Month

A new month begins. Actually it began yesterday, but I have found that being quiet online during April Fool’s Day is probably best. (Incidentally, whether it is a good day or not depends largely on who you are around.)

March was a full month with good surprises and bad. I spent a fair portion of it ill unfortunately. Influenza slipped around, and I managed to catch it. Or rather it caught me. But given I only had two migraines in addition to that, the month was fairly good.
Indeed March wound up being a month rich in reflection. The older I get, the more messy I realize life is. It’s not about getting things perfect. It’s about muddling through, correcting course, and moving on. The importance of grace, love, and mercy increases by the day.

With April comes the full revelation of spring. Chives and daffodils already poke their thick green stems up from the soil I have hopes and dreams for this month and more. I am grateful. I am moving forward.

Writing with a Migraine: A Few Tips on Coping

Over the past two months, I’ve had many visits from a friend I really wish would leave: the good old migraine.

Now, as I have discovered from my fellow migraine sufferers, each migraine is just a little bit different. Whether vision gets stripy or nausea roils the stomach or simple shafts of yellow-white light induce agonizing beats, the pain is the one constant. And boy…is it constant.

Since about the middle of December, I’ve averaged about one migraine a week. They have been lasting about three days, but the last one stretched on for almost an entire week. So, in between migraines, I did research into what I could do to minimize the pain.

Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned that help me cope when the migraines strike.

As Much Water As You Can

glass with cola and ice  in water splash
glass with cola and ice in water splash

A couple friends told me that for every painful spasm, I should take three good-sized gulps of water. That helped somewhat for obvious reasons. It was temping at the worst movements to just lie motionless and not drink because I knew if I drank, I would have to go to the bathroom.

But you must drink the water. You absolutely must. On the one time when I skipped it out of sheer exhaustion, I paid so dearly. It absolutely wasn’t worth it.

Add Lemon and a Little Salt to Your Water

I discovered this one by accident. Most mornings, I try to start my day with a large glass of ice water with a generous tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt. To my surprise, I got some more intensive relief from my migraine with this. Before I had just chosen pure water.

Much to my surprise, I also discovered that this is supposed to be a cure-all though some offer cautions. Now, in my case, this didn’t cure the migraine, but it sanded the edges off. It also seems key that you use Himalayan or sea salt rather than table salt.

Avoid Bright Screens or Blue-Light Screens

The majority of tech devices utilize blue-light. In addition to causing problems with sleep cycle, I have found that looking at any screen with a blue-light intensifies my pain even more than the soft yellow bathroom light. The one exception was if I had the screen turned down to the absolute lowest, I could be on my phone for about 5, 10 minutes at most. Then it would cut through.

On the days when I avoided those screens entirely, the pain receded to a more manageable rate.

Have a Soothing Hobby to Fall Back On

Balls of wool on wooden table background
Balls of wool on wooden table background

Perhaps what stresses me most about migraine days is the horrible inactivity. I have found great comfort in curling up on the couch and knitting with the lights way down. Crocheting is a tad more challenging for me though others love it, and I’ve chatted with some friends who also enjoy sketching and coloring. I imagine that that soft shoosh shoosh of pencil on paper is quite soothing.

Embroidery, tatting, and other close eyed needlework may not be the best choice for obvious reasons.

Reading surprisingly works best for me is when I do it on my Kindle. The screen is sufficiently darkened and the contrast low enough that it doesn’t hurt. As for audiobooks, I’ve found that it is the voice of the narrator that makes all the difference there. Shrill or high voices can be unbearable. And I suspect my preference for deeper voices may be just as much because they don’t hurt my head.

Sadly, I did not find cooking to be as useful of a soothing hobby at the worst of migraines though at other times it is one of my passions. The smells of the cooking foods can sometimes turn me to vomiting. Same with baking. But it might be different for you. (Same goes for sniffing peppermint which is soothing for some people with migraines.)

Write on Yellow or Green Paper

Perhaps it’s the glare of the light on the paper, but writing on white paper made it even more difficult for me to focus because the pain worsened. However, I found that when I wrote in my steno pads (sunglasses placed firmly over my eyes), it wasn’t nearly so bad. In fact, I was able to write long enough to get most of the required tasks done and even some of my stories, and whenever I can sink into my stories, I disappear into another world entirely and leave all but the faintest traces behind.

Sunglasses, All the Time

This is an old one, but it’s worth mentioning here: sunglasses help protect against light sensitivity. But do watch out how tightly they fit your face. I’ve had some that hit those pressure points just above my ears so perfectly that they managed to intensify the migraine with awful accuracy. But you don’t have to invest in an expensive pair of sunglasses to get the benefits. I just use a pair of cheap wraparounds that I got at a gas station in an emergency (of course I got a migraine after I lost mine and we were on the road and headed into snow).

I even wear them indoors and just around the house. And yes, sometimes people will comment and try to make jokes about it or oddly try to get me to remove them, but if I explain, “it’s for a migraine,” they usually accept that.

As an aside, I have found that if I must be on the computer or my phone for longer than a few minutes, then a pair of sunglasses can make a tremendous difference. I still can’t work as I normally do, but I can do some of it.

The sunglasses are often enough to let me get through most of the cleaning and tidying.

Meditation and Prayer with Measured Breaths

Focusing one’s thoughts elsewhere can be greatly soothing, but getting there when in the middle of a lot of pain is so hard. One would think that having dealt with chronic pain for years that it would be easier, and I suppose, in a sense, it is. But sometimes, in the grips of a horrid migraine, all I can do is grip my head and think about what shapes the pain looks like stabbing my brain.

I’ve found that it does help me to pray and meditate though it is admittedly difficult to get started. I don’t have a particular favorite verse. Each day I find a new one or a particular thought to focus on. And sometimes my prayers are just “Oh God, please let it stop hurting. Please let it stop hurting.”

Digitally generated Take a deep breath vector

I have also found that focusing on my breathing helps too. I tend to breathe shallowly as the pain intensifies. But as the pain strikes, if I focus on slowing my breaths, keeping them deep and steady, and going over verses and prayers, it can help significantly.

Cold Showers and Cold Presses

The hot/cold debate is one a lot of migraine fighters discuss, and I think it’s a matter of preference.

If I can, and sometimes that’s a big if, a cold shower can help a great deal. I can’t get into frigid water straight away. But lukewarm and gradually turning to cold with the water driving down on the back of my neck works best for me. Cold washcloths to the forehead and neck are also soothing. But sometimes this can make me chill so badly that it creates other issues.

However, hot water makes mine much, much worse, so I must avoid that. I have one friend whose migraines are relieved by super hot showers, and I must confess, I’m envious.

Another friend recommended putting an ice pack on the back of the neck and then sticking one’s hands and feet in warm water. This didn’t work for me, but it might work for you.

Yoga, Pilates, and Strength Training

The older I get, the more I love exercising. Even when I can only do it in short batches and it doesn’t lead to the weight loss I want. And I have found that even on migraine days, if I can get up and do some stretches and even more advanced moves, that that makes it easier to get through the day.

This may have something to do with redirecting blood flow. Or it might be the endorphin release. Some professionals have suggested both. I usually don’t run on migraine days or even attempt the barre workouts. If I get particularly brave, I might.

But, for me, I look at these migraine days as being similar to the days when the pain from the fibro and so on becomes incredibly intense. As much as possible, I try to keep some semblance of normalcy and take care of my body. Exercising has so many other benefits that it is worth it to fight through the pain as much as possible.

And obviously I should conclude this saying that you should go to a doctor if you have continued migraines. Sometimes migraines are a symptom of something else, and it’s important to get that looked at.

So these are some of the things that I’ve found do work for me. There are many other techniques, and if you are a chronic migraine sufferer, I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to share some of your own tips if you’d like.

And hopefully you won’t have to use any of these tips any time soon. Have a beautiful day, my friends. Talk to you again soon.

What This Week May Hold 01 23 – 01 30, 2017

Whale Breaching Whale Hello There

So starts a new week.

That’s one of my favorite things about Monday, you know. The fact that it is the beginning of a new week. I suppose I could say that my week actually starts on Sunday. Sundays are one of the busiest days out of the week for me and my family because of church and church activities.  So I prefer to look at Monday as my start with Sunday as something of an in between.

These are some of the things this week will hold.

Announcement of the 2016 TNT Horror Contest Grand Prize Winner

In fairness, this was supposed to be announced on the 18th. But they needed more time to figure this out. So it’s very much a hope that they will make the announcement this week, not a guarantee.

*phew Cue the rattling of xylophonic nerves clanging up and down my back. I’m vacillating between happy thoughts and worst case scenarios.

House in the RainOn the bright side, all nine of my competitors are lovely people. I’m not going to pretend I don’t want to win (I do), but there is comfort in knowing that no matter who wins, the grand prize is going to someone I like. (One of the downsides of competing too much with your enemies is that if you lose, it smarts doubly.)

But hopefully they will release the details and make the formal announcement soon. And hopefully they will let us know.

Either way…it’s going to be all right. More great opportunities to practice patience, trust, and think with joy.

Another Short Story

I hadn’t done it intentionally but I have drafted a short story each week this month. Actually I’m up to five at this point.

For the longest time, writing short stories was almost impossible for me. They kept growing and expanding, and over the past few months, it has suddenly become much easier. It’s always been true that short stories are capsules of a larger tale. They are a window that we use to look in on a small bit of a character’s life. But, perhaps it was greed or ignorance or both, I always struggled to get this into my stories.

I would start off with a short and then, as I reached the main points, it expanded. Sometimes writing is like wrestling an anaconda that’s in the middle of a growth spurt. I have realized that I am dreadful when it comes to accurately estimating how many words are needed in a story.

But I am getting better at cutting a story off and saying, “no, no, it’s enough to look at this point. I don’t have to catch it all. Just this portion.” And when I find myself resisting this, I remind myself that I can always come back and reveal more of the story later. Setting many of these shorts in the same world has also reduced pressure.

Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories.Ray Bradbury once said, “It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” I can be a bit of a contrarian. But I’m hoping in this case, he’s correct.

Catch Up With the Paperwork

Maybe I’ll never really be caught up. Each day I try to take five minutes and clear off my work space, file the papers I have, and prep for the next day. The key word here is try.

If you could see my desk right now. I have three mugs, two water bottles, a stack of five notebooks, the checkbook register, and a mass of loose leaf papers. Not to mention a dozen or so pens and pencils clattering around my laptop and probably four or five cat toys I can’t even see.

Paperwork, particularly on the law firm side of things, always backs up. Not that it’s so good on the writing side of things. I have a whole box of notebooks that need to be transcribed. A few of my novels are hand drafted in there, and they have no backups. Prince of the Waters Below, Phoenix Shattered, Why Am I On a Quest with a Minotaur, String of Pearls, and a couple others are hopefully in that bin. I’m not entirely certain.

Anyway I’d like to get the mountains under control. All the loose leaf paper is probably the highest priority, particularly given that my cats like skiing through the mounds of paper.

For Mercy’s Sake, Woman, Promote Something

I abhor promotions, and there’s really no good reason. They don’t have to be intrusive. They aren’t bad. But it’s easier for me to find excuses not to promote one of my stories than it is for me to find excuses not to run.

I am actually taking a couple courses that help with promotions and advertisings. And I just have to get over this hump. It’s utterly psychological, and even though I don’t feel like other authors who do this are horrible, some secret part of me must believe that I will become some greasy haired, mustachio twirling troll (and trust me, I don’t look particularly fetching in a mustache).Octopus Running Nope 2

So I figure I’ll tackle this the same way I tackled running and spiders. One little step at a time. Scream. Flail. One more step. Repeat.

Wrapping Up Projects

I thrive having multiple projects to work on. When I get stuck on one, I slide over to the next one. The one downside to this is that I have many projects open, and I would like to get some of them done.

Sometimes having multiple projects open like this makes me feel overwhelmed when combined with other situations. So…it’d be nice to wrap some of these up more.

Anyway, it’s going to be a great week. I have many more goals, but these are just some of the highlights. What about you? What are you looking forward to in this next week for you?

Nanowrimo Update and Finally Breaking Through the Political Writing Block

Well, Nanowrimo continues on. I’m well past the 50,000 word goal at this point, but I stopped tracking word counts on November 7, I’m afraid. So I’m not sure how much farther I am. I think it’s probably about another 30 k just in totaling up everything that I have put into Google Docs.

The thing is that most of it is unusable. Well, at least for now. It’s turned decidedly political as you might have noticed if you’re on this blog. Hopefully it has been more productive rather than being simply cathartic, though, in fairness, I am writing these more for myself and my own processing than other people’s benefit. Maybe they’re beneficial. So far I’ve written about voters on both sides, abstaining from votes, women in positions of leadership, third-party voters, what does action and speaking up actually mean, is speaking up sometimes counterproductive, does past behavior excuse current, and some other matters. Obviously not all of these have been posted here. On the bright side, I’m doing better about promoting what I write. Hopefully more of that resistance fades in time.  

There have been a lot of new questions that have popped into my head, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people from different backgrounds. Over time, I’ll work through more of these questions and issues. Hopefully. Or I’ll just compile research, file it away, and then do something with it later. Some of these questions aren’t easily answered, and that’s all right.

On an entirely personal note only marginally related to the political developments in this nation, I found myself stuck with Insurgent Queen. Most of the time, Tue-Rah is my safe haven for creative development, but, for whatever reason, I just wasn’t able to make progress. I wrote little more than 100 words a day on it since Tuesday.

It took me almost four hours to write this chapter, even though it was less than 2000 words in length. I don’t particularly care for that. Granted, it would have gone faster if I wasn’t listening to the news, but I have been very bad about leaving that on. The constant chatter of various pundits and reporters and Youtubers is such that it does prevent swift thought, but I’ve been more addicted than usual to the information sources.

That’s going to have to change starting tomorrow. Constant information streams, while addictive, are massively counterproductive. I need to be informed, yes. But not at the cost of everything else.

I think I’m also a little bit behind on the number of posts that I need to make to hit the 30 on my website or Youtube. But I’m not too concerned about that.

Well, that’s enough musing for tonight. Talk to you all later. Have a blessed evening.

Of Those Who Abstain from Voting

survey-1594962Those who lost in the presidential election are eager to find shoulders on which to place the blame. While some have considered whether it was partially the DNC for choosing to back Hillary Clinton (even though now in hindsight they admit she was a weak candidate choice), others tend to lean toward two camps of scapegoats: those who abstained from voting and those who voted third-party.

I’ll cover third-party voters in another post. This one is going to focus on those who abstained from voting.

In the 2016 election, a little over 46% of American citizens did not vote.(Incidentally, it should also be noted that overall voter turnout, despite there being many new registered voters, was down this year as from previous general elections.)

The general assumption and condemnation thrown toward abstainers is that they don’t care about the country or are too lazy to participate or are morally degenerate. And sure, there may be some who don’t vote because they are apathetic, but I’ve actually found far more who have other reasons for not voting. And the majority of these individuals are not morally degenerate. They’re upstanding citizens who have their own perspective on our government and the voting process.

Voting is a right in this nation, not a duty. Some people claim that it is a moral duty and the responsibility of all those who live within this democratic republic, but there are legitimate reasons why some might choose to abstain and why it shouldn’t be condemned. In fact, it is actually just as much your right to not vote as it is your right to vote so long as you are the one who is making the decision.  

The importance of the ability to abstain has been confirmed to me in this election. Most people would agree, leading up to November 8, that there were two horrible choices (some people were rooting for a gigantic meteor to strike). And these are some of the reasons people might have chosen to abstain in this election and others.

Religious Tradition

Many religious traditions that prohibit voting do not just prohibit voting. They prohibit participation in most government forums and have done so for centuries. The reasons are many: 1) focuses should be on matters other than the physical world, 2) human governments are corrupt, 3) human governments sow division and discord, 4) governments cannot or will not promote complete pacifism, and so on.bible-428947

Many Christian traditions, from the Anabaptists to Seventh Day Adventists to the Doukhobors, likewise abstain from political involvement from voting to running for political office though each one has varying degrees. When I was researching this, I stumbled across this quote from John D. Roth, “Voting, after all, is not just a ‘right.’ It is also a ‘rite’ — a ritual of identity and loyalty binding the individual to the nation. Abstaining from presidential elections could signal to our children and to the global church that our first loyalty is to the worldwide fellowship of Christian believers, not to the nation-state.” This is a common refrain in various forms across the religious traditions. The need for internal consistency, conscientious integrity, and so on override government participation (even when that sometimes leads to their formal or informal persecution). While there are many sections in Scripture that these individuals rely on for their position, many return to John 18:36 with Jesus’s statement that His kingdom is not of this world” as well as his lack of overall political involvement. This has softened somewhat in recent years becoming more of a personal choice of conviction with some while with others such as the Amish it remains true.

Buddhism can also be interpreted to be against political involvement, at least for monks.  The Buddha said that monks should not speak about such things, suggesting that there are other more beneficial topics to consider.  But many do engage in politics so long as they can make informed decisions and their consciences are at ease (which is often not an easy matter to resolve). However, it is still a source of frequent conversation and a matter that is often brought up for reflection given the fact that the government does not reflect most Buddhist teachings.

Even Islam has discussions on this topic. While some Muslims insist that voting and participating in political processes is essential, others maintain that it is essentially a form of idolatry because it places human laws above the law of Allah. A number of these individuals point to Surah Tawbah 9:31 where those who revere rabbis and monks are actually committing a form of idolatry with their reverence.

In my brief research binge on religious traditions that abstain from voting, I found a number of others including early Rastafarianism, Shaykhism, Baha’i Faith, Taoists, and some segments of Usuli. I’m sure that there are others. These all appear to be rooted in the same motivations and butterfly-1717300_1920concerns: compassion, harmony, and conviction.

Also, it’s important to note that there are many agnostics and atheists who abstain from voting for similar reasons without requiring a religious or spiritual mandate. They are often pacifists who focus on what is similar rather than dissimilar, promoting harmony and civil discourse.

 

Note: I am not sure what percentage of those who abstained from voting falls  into these categories. I did ask a couple of my friends who do follow the “no voting” policy and “no government involvement” whether they register to vote and if so why but I did not get a response yet. If I do get a response and their permission to share it here, I’ll add that later.

For some this may be as simple as conversion after already being registered to vote.

Inability to Agree with Candidates

In some cases, even those who vote may find certain issues that are essentially dealbreakers. In this last election, there were many people who could not bring themselves to vote for either of the two major candidates and who were unwilling to vote for the third-parties either due to their beliefs about their ineffectiveness or lack of agreement on third-party stances as well.

These individuals see their votes as being an outright endorsement of the candidate’s beliefs and practices. Others do not, claiming things such as “lesser of two evils”and “pragmatism.” (In fact, one of the things that we are seeing in this election is a loud set of voices insisting this very thing, that all Trump voters believe what the media says Trump believes and all the things that Trump has said. It may be being said about Clinton voters, but I haven’t seen that one.) Total harmonious agreement is often not the case when it comes to conscience and politics. While some can parse out what they agree with, focus on those issues, and rearrange their priorities, others cannot.

Making Another Statement

Some people choose to refrain from voting to make a point. That point might be because they cannot support any of the candidates, because of the parties’ treatment of their constituencies, or because of general dissatisfaction with the state of the country. Now, you might be arguing that in all of these regards, voting would be the more productive method for enacting change but not from these people’s perspectives.

Such individuals tend to be quite pragmatic (at least the ones I know), and that extends to the apple-455436time that they invest in various causes or endeavors. If you believe that the government is irrevocably corrupt, you may not see any benefit in putting your time into the system. You may then put your time and efforts elsewhere. Often these individuals do make public the fact that they did not vote and why, which can be helpful for cultivating change.

Seeing their votes as not being counted may be another reason. This sometimes stems from a misunderstanding of what the electoral college does or an outright disagreement with it. But again, another conversation for another day.

Inability to Make an Informed Decision

Now by this, I don’t mean that these people are stupid. Far from it. But the voting process, whether on legislation or representatives, can be a difficult path to navigate if you want to be informed. Many are inclined to assume that they know everything about a situation and can cast an informed vote, but, if random interviews on the street are any indication of current political intelligence, that is not the case.

Becoming informed on key issues is quite the minefield that does take time. Bias exists everywhere along with misinformation and propaganda. Take this last election for example. If you have the time, go pull up media reports and stories from the opposing perspectives (definitely do not rely on the mainstream media for this). Look at the vastly different information being presented.

This disparity of perspective to reality is exceptionally jarring. Even as an involved voter who reads as much as she can get her hands on, I have to confess…sometimes I don’t know if I am making an informed decision, I’m just shooting in the dark and hoping I make the right call.

Not surprisingly, some people decide that they do not have time to make an informed decision…often because they do not have the time, and so, rather than risk making a situation worse, they abstain.

Anecdotally, one of the first that comes to my mind is a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s. She cares for her mother while also teaching. I’ve offered to help how I can, but in our conversations, she’s admitted that she is just, at the moment, too emotionally exhausted to get involved. And that is all right. She is doing everything she can at the moment. Political involvement is not a requirement to be a good citizen/person/steward.no-1532842_1920

One Small Caveat

If you are someone who chooses to abstain from voting but publicly criticizes the government, it may be beneficial to explain why you abstain and what can still be done to impact the government or what you believe the steps should be. Otherwise, and perhaps even so, you may be accused of hypocrisy.

Concluding Thoughts

There are many reasons that almost half of American citizens did not vote, and it isn’t indefensible. The United States of America is a country that supposedly embraces many beliefs. And while it can be argued that the US cannot accept beliefs that are antithetical to its core, the decision to abstain from voting is  certainly not one of those.

The reality is that we cannot say for certain how those voters would have cast their votes if they had been compelled to vote against their consciences, priorities, and beliefs. But we cannot simply assume that those who did not vote simply did not care. They do not deserve to be blamed for following their convictions, nor should it be assumed that they are not valuable members of our society. If someone states that they didn’t vote just because they don’t care, by all means, politely engage and discuss the reasons. But abstention from voting is not proof that someone is bad, immoral, lazy, or apathetic.

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