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Archive for the ‘The Writer’ Category

While I am still weighing the pros and cons of making my first novel freely available, I’ve found a tool that will help me if I decide to do so. Creative Commons has come up with a system that enables writers and other creative types to generate a custom license agreement and attach it to their work. If I were to give away my novel, for example, I could generate a license that allows people to freely download and read (obviously) the work but also to distribute it, so long as they follow certain restrictions. The license I’d choose would allow non-commercial distribution, so long as the work is not modified and is attributed to me. There’s even a way to embed the license information into the metadata of a PDF (provided you have a copy of Acrobat.) Handy.

Another thing that the Creative Commons people are doing is trying to dissuade people from using the US copyright to protect their work, because that extends to 70 years after the author’s death. (Thanks in part to the Disney company, which is deathly afraid of allowing Mickey Mouse to become public domain, even though most of their billions of dollars have been made off of public domain characters… but that’s a story for another time.) The Founders Copyright was created to provide an author with 14 years of copyright protection, with the option of a 14-year renewal. After that time, the work would become part of the public domain. Interesting concept.

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Giving It Away

The October/November issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction has a column about science fiction writers who are giving away their novels. I am intrigued by this because my general understanding has always been that in order to make a living as a writer, one must get paid for the fruits of one’s labor. I’ve understood for a while that musicians put songs up on their web sites and on myspace so they can create interest in their product and hopefully sell more albums and concert tickets. I even had a few of my short stories posted to my web site, back when I had a web site. It never occurred to me, though, that I should make my novel freely available.

Being an aspiring writer, giving away my novel might be a smart thing to do. Every copy that is downloaded and in someone’s hands is a step in the right direction. Every additional person who reads it increases the odds that an agent or editor will take note.

But is it really better to approach an agent and say that x-number of people have downloaded my novel, which is available for free on the internet? Would an agent be impressed, or would they wonder what they’re going to sell to a publisher if I’m giving the stuff away? I obviously need to do more research into this.

To be continued.

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OED

A lot of my friends play video games. Lately it has seemed as if I’m the only person I know who doesn’t own an Xbox 360. Over the past couple months, Bioshock and Halo 3 are the only things I’ve heard about. Don’t get me wrong, I like video games, too. I grew up in the heyday of the arcade game –PacMan, Tempest, Robotron, etc. I’ve also burned untold hours as an adult with games like Doom, Quake and Half-Life.

But now, whenever I think about buying an Xbox, I picture the hours that I would spend playing games not as worthwhile recreation, but rather as a drain on my already limited time. I don’t think that my friends are wasting their time playing these games (who am I to judge?). For me, though, I simply can’t justify it.

Last month when the Cubs started their ill-fated run toward the World Series, I decided it would be fun to go see them play in the Championship series, if they made it that far. I was prepared to spend upwards of $300 for 4 tickets to one of the games. Once the Cubs got swept in the first round, I found myself with a little extra money in my checking account. Since it was money that I had already spent, it would be a lot easier to justify buying that Xbox after all.

But I just can’t do it. For a while now, I’ve had my eye on something that would help me as a writer and feed my love of the English language. That thing, of course, is the Oxford English Dictionary. It is, after all, “The definitive record of the English language.” I’ve been impressed with the OED ever since I used it for research when I was in college. There have been many times in the years since then that I have considered buying the compact edition of the OED, or the CD version. For whatever reason, I could never bring myself to spend the $300. Looking back at some of the useless garbage I’ve spent that much on, I have to wonder what my problem was.

At any rate, I’ve signed up for an online subscription. I now have full access to the OED. Will this help me as a writer? Will it strengthen my chance of succeeding (and quitting my day job)? Only time will tell, I suppose. I have to think it will help more than the Xbox would have.

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Nom De Plume

I’ve been thinking, lately, about adopting a pseudonym. I write science fiction, mostly, and some of what would probably be labeled “mainstream.” That stuff would continue to be produced under my real name. I also like writing horror, and I think that my efforts in that genre might benefit from a stage name. First, I’d like something that would lend the proper atmosphere to the story that is to follow. My name in the byline is not likely to grab the reader’s attention. Second, I think having a pseudonym would allow me to assume a whole different persona when writing horror. Not that I’m trying to create a disguise to hide behind; it would be more like donning a Halloween costume. There’s that one part of our personalities that we keep hidden during our day-to-day lives, allowing it one night a year to take center stage. I think that having a pseudonym would allow me to channel that portion of my personality more effectively.

It’s worth a shot, right?

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