Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Drew Pictures Up

We've got more pics up. These include Drew in his high chair, Drew meeting his Uncle Dave, Drew standing, Drew smiling, and so on. My fave of this bunch is the one of him passed out on me, I just wish he had his head turned toward the camera. He looks downright angelic when he sleeps. Unless he's dreaming of bananas.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Speaking of Copyright Law...

Last week, I posted about a particular case of copyright shenanigans in which an author's estate's wishes weren't followed. Toward the end of last week, Lee Goldberg once again alerted me to a case of copyright infringement. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. Someone has written a piece of Star Wars fanfiction, published it without permission from the copyright holders, and is selling it on-line.

For those of you who don't know (*waves at family members reading the blog for Drew pics*), fanfiction is a genre of fiction in which a writer takes an established fictional universe or cast of characters or whatnot and writes their own story using those established entities. It's a fairly big underground thing that a lot of pubbed authors have spoken out against because they claim it violates their copyrights. The fanficcers have a broad spectrum of counter-arguments, none of which I know well enough to even summarize. In general, I don't have an opinion either way, though I'm sure that will change once I have a published fictional universe with copyrights to protect. I've seen a fair number of idiots and frothing at the mouth sorts on both sides of the aisle. There may be a body of case law to reference for fanfiction in particular, but the only case that comes to mind is the much-quoted Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover incident, in which the fanficcer let MZB read her piece, and then sued MZB because a later Darkover novel (which never did get published) had similar elements to the fanfic piece. I can't remember if the suit was successful or MZB's publisher decided not to go through the legal mess and just pulled the novel from publication. Suffice to say, things got ugly there and they often get ugly in this debate.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a good summary of this particular FUBARed episode, including links to the cached views of the author's now-pulled website. Most of the blogging response if focusing on this author's insanely stupid reasoning as to why she's not violating copyright laws here (and for the best blow-by-blow smackdown of this, check out Scalzi's post). This rated a rolling of the eyes and a head shake from me last week when I read it (and was in the middle of much work at the DDJ), but I actually had time today to go to the now-cached website, and I found this amazing morsel in a review of Another Hope:
In the remarkable genre of apocryphal Star Wars mythology comes Lori Jareo’s Another Hope. Mixing familiar moments from Lucas’s first Star Wars film with a mass of new story material, Jareo gives us an alternative history of what happened on Tatooine, Alderaan and the Death Star based more soundly on the now-complete three prequel episodes.

My eyebrows shot up at genre of apoycryphal Star Wars mythology. Talk about niche. But my favorite was the sentiment that this piece of fanfiction is based more soundly [than the original SW film "A New Hope"] on the prequel trilogy. Until this point, I'd had to take anti-fanfic vocals' word that fanficcers actually believe they know the characters/stories/universe better than the actual creators, but now I see it for myself and just am absolutely stunned.

But, on the other hand, assuming this author doesn't get the pants that house her amazing cajones sued off of her, I can take this as precedent to publish my "Deal or No Deal" fanfic in which it is revealed that The Banker is really Howie Mandel's long-suffering alternate persona and NBC, having realized this after the first episode, is now working with several mental health programs to get Howie help, and the models are all robots that Howie built while working through a third personality break after "St. Elsewhere." (Well, if you were a part of a six-year long show that ended with a variant on the horrid "it was all a dream" cliche, wouldn't you have a schism too?) Really, this is the best work of fiction I've ever written and ever will write, but it won't be violating copyright laws when I publish it on Amazon because I won't be earning anything from it (all profits will be donated to the "Save Howie's Psyche Now" fund) and only ya'll will know about it anyway...so don't pass this link on or else I'll get in hella trouble with some lawyer types.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Calculating Advances and Other Fun Facts

Anna Genoese, an editor at Tor, has been doing a lot to inform us aspiring and business-unsavvy writers about the ins and outs of getting a book from accepted manuscript to your local bookstore shelves. Her latest post gest into the nitty-gritty of the costs of such an endeavor, including how publishers figure an advance. Get your math hats on and bust out those calculators, this post is thick with number crunching. But it's a great post that sheds some light on the black box of the business of publishing. It also gave me some ideas about how the seemingly normal connections I've established via a few writing endeavors (my crit group, etc) may help boost my sales on that grand day when such a thing will be more than hypothetical. Or at least I think it will.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drew's Cuisine

Ah, the joys of learning to eat. We've got some great video clips of Drew discovering that food comes in solid forms, too. His expression was less than enthusiastic at first. But after a day or so, rice cereal mixed with formula worked just fine for him, and proved to be a good transition step. Then we tried bananas. The Boy actually shuddered as his face screwed up in a "Ewwww, yuck!" expression--and then he ate them anyway. I suppose it makes us cruel, but we actually gave him a few more spoonfulls after he had made his distaste known. That shudder was just cute!

We thought we had found a hit with the green beans, which he really seemed to enjoy. And then we tried pears. Move over green beans. Drew ate so much of his pear mush that he was too full for a bottle afterward and also slept through the night without a bottle. He's also green-lighted applesauce, peas, and sweet potatoes. We're not sure about squash, though. Either he was overtired last night and fussed because of that or he fussed because the squash was that bad. We'll have to see. Tonight we're giving carrots a try.

It's been a blast watching Drew discover new tastes and smells and textures. What hasn't been as much fun is discovering what solids do to his diapers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Burn, Baby, Burn

As an aspiring author, I'm always on the lookout for information about various viewpoints and actual cases on copyright law. Lee Goldberg's recent post about the matter is absolutely fascinating, as are the comments. Really, go read the post.

I'm going to have to make it a point in my will that all my journals and maybe even unpubbed work should be burned, my harddrives taken through an EM field, etc. By the time I die, there's probably going to be a damn good reason that stuff has remained my "private collection." I journal sometimes just to get thoughts out of my head that I really don't want there. If I didn't want them in my head, I certainly wouldn't want them making the rounds on the internet or whatever will pass for such in the time when my death may be something not statistically-speaking very far away. As I progress through my writing career, I may exempt specific manuscripts from this clause in my will because there may be a few books that I want to be pubbed but Death Calls before I am able to do so myself. And I'm going to get very particular about how such hypothetical MSs should be handled.

It's taken me a good three years to get comfortable with the concept of my more mature plot points and themes and such being out there associated with my name for all to see. Part of what made me comfortable with it is knowing that I have complete legal control over what the public will and will not see. This is not to say that I think all aspects of my words are perfect reflections of myself. No, quite the contrary. I've written characters that I would never want to meet in real life, worlds that make me shudder that they might ever come to exist beyond the page (or screen, or related merchandise, a woman's gotta dream, eh?). But there are places in my mind that I don't like to tread unless I am absolutely guaranteed that I'm going in alone or with a very trusted companion, where the words that live there strike too close to my own personal truths that are only my business to read. And my estate is going to damn well enforce that.

Of course, by the time I'm shuffling around in my 100s, I may be all about being a walking Freak Show and will have vanity-pubbed all my journals with purple glitter highlighting the really sordid bits and get them optioned for film and then do commentary on the DVD in which I reveal all the extra juicy stuff that rattled around in my head that I still managed to censor from even my private journals. And it will probably make for some very boring entertainment as I'm probably far less neurotic and racy even in my darkest mental nooks and cranies than I think I am. :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Resolved: Academic Freedom and Catholic Character

A while ago, I posted my response to Notre Dame's presidential address regarding what academic freedom means at a Catholic university, specifically in whether or not such things as The Vagina Monologues or a queer film festival should be allowed in a broad campus setting. A bit ago, we finally got the president's final word. Here's what I consider the money quote, as it was much my point:
Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture, but we all have something to fear if the wider culture never engages Catholic teaching. That is why the Catholic tradition must not only inspire our worship and our service on campus; it should help shape the intellectual life of the university. Our goal is not to limit discussion or inquiry, but to enrich it; it is not to insulate that faith tradition from criticism, but to foster constructive engagement with critics.
Through the various bits and pieces of rhetoric and such in his response, my first impression was that the president knew exactly what decision he wanted to make (keep whatever secular media and non-Catholic viewpoints in the campus setting, but get just as loud and broad with a counter presentation that shows the Catholic doctrine) and took this opportunity to galvanize the campus into such an action on their own without a top-down "you will do this or else" approach. Maybe that's giving him too much credit or making him sound Machiavellian, I don't know.

It's just good to be proud of my alma mater and be reassured that it is a place where I would be happy to send Drew to not only get an excellent education but also to learn more about his faith. Not to assume he'll either want to go to Notre Dame or that he'll necessarily care a snit about Catholicism at that or any point in his life. I'm not ever going to be one of those "Momma was a Domer, and so you will be" alums, and I hope he actively questions his faith before he gets to college age. And this all assumes that Notre Dame would even want the son of a lowly genre writer whose novels contain, to use a Simpsons euphemism, "adult situations."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Move Me

Recently I've been looking for a book or a CD that will move me. Being entertained is all well and good, but every now and then, you want something to come along, slam into you, and leave you flat on your back on the floor going "Whoa." The last book that did this was Threads of Malice. I read one book recently that I thought would have the impact I was looking for, but instead it had quite the opposite. It was the first book I hurled across a room (thank God it was a paperback). I even threw it across the room TWICE because not only did it piss me off, but it did so in the last couple of pages. Yeah, note to self: a pleasant reading experience does not involve the author doing his best Dark Helmet "FOOLED YOU!" imitation. Is it too much to ask to find a book that both entertains and makes you think in a fashion that is easy to read and profound? And why do the arguments of "art vs success" always seem to fall into "us vs them" lines that indicate genre writers only entertain while literary writers only go for the deep thoughts? Dammit, I want something other than fun fluff to read, but I don't want reading it to be a chore!

I've been a bit luckier in the music department. Thanks to Jacquandor, I have discovered the bliss that is Rachmaninov. After oohing and aahing over "The Isle of the Dead," I picked up his Symphony No 2. Wow. And recently, I have found Blue October. Their recent single "Hate Me" has been bouncing around in my head, so I decided to check out the other tracks on Amazon. And damn if I didn't realize that the songs I had been attributing to Peter Gabriel for some reason were actually by Blue October (the lead singer's voice sounds somewhat similar, but it really took me too long to straighten this out; guess I'm just used to Peter Gabriel being very eclectic).

So at least my music needs have been met. And I know there's gotta be at least ONE book in my terrifying To Be Read pile that will give me the deep and entertaining experience I crave. Just gotta find it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Getting Closer

In the midst of the insanity that was last week, my little countdown up top there dropped into the double-digits. Once we get the final date of Mark's defense, that number is going to shrink a bit more. I think he'll hack a good two weeks off it at least, but he who is doing all the writing and preparation isn't so sure. Also, he just had a review he co-wrote with his thesis adviser accepted, adding to his growing list of professional pubs. His resume is killer--he just needs to get it out there in the coming months. The insanity of the move is drawing nearer, we just don't know for sure where we're moving to yet. The goal is Arizona, of course, and things seem to be pretty hopeful for that possibility. Everyone keep their fingers crossed for a continued good forecast for the biotech economy in Arizona.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sharing a Moment

Life is getting back to whatever passes for normal with an infant, and now I have time to process again. I finally have some time to reflect on the big event of the past month: the trip to North Dakota. We're advanced enough medically that five living generations of a family isn't as rare as it once was, but we're also changing society in a way that delays having children, so it may become rarer despite medical advances. At any rate, my family has been blessed to have five surviving generations, a linked bloodline of five people counting back to 1911. It was a great weekend of family memories and fun. And the side benefits were great: after spending all but the first month of Drew's life by ourselves, it meant a lot for so many of his relatives to be there to see Drew experience a pool for the first time, to watch as he first learned how to munch on his toes, to share in his amazing smiles. My grandfather worked the trip into his chemo schedule, and in a recent spate of news of bad weather across the country, it was a nice prayer answered that their drive back home didn't delay them and interrupt his very important regimen. My uncle who hasn't seen my great-grandmother in twenty-four years surprised us all by showing up for the weekend.

But all those great stories aside, I keep coming back to this picture. I know it will be the first image that comes to mind when I reflect on this trip over the years. The five generations picture is great--despite the fact that I've still got ten pounds of baby fat to lose--but it's posed, it's heritage. This picture here is a moment. Great-Great Grandma Arel is saying something to Drew, and he's listening intently. I'm not sure I heard what she said then, and I know Drew couldn't have understood it, but it seems to represent the entire point of the weekend. A sharing of wisdom, a serious encounter. Great-Great Grandma Arel is looking at Drew, fully aware of who he is and of who she is, the single point from which at least 50 people are connected by blood (and if I had a better grip on all my cousins, I'd know the exact number). And Drew is looking back, very serious, very attentive, with the mind of a beginner, full of curiosity, wondering who he is, who she is, and who those 50 people are and who else is to come.
I've never had much of a chance to get to know my great-grandmother well, and I'm not sure my mother had much of a chance either. Mom lived decently far away from North Dakota growing up--though not quite as far as I did--ensuring that any visit would be brief and usually a part of a "quick, we've got two weeks to visit everybody, gotta smush it all in" mindset. Plus, my great-grandmother hasn't been able to travel much herself for a while now. I do know that she lived on her own until a year ago when her circumstances no longer allowed her to do so. She's survived as a widow for thirty years (actually, longer than that, I think). And despite the fact that she hasn't been happy in the nursing home, she had lots of smiles for everyone that weekend. She keeps a rosary by her favorite chair and that chair doesn't face the TV in her room, it faces a bulletin board brimming with pictures of her family.

I hope Drew absorbed a lot in that moment, looking into his great-great grandmother's eyes. There's a lot of wisdom and love there, and even though I only had brief moments to encounter it myself, I feel truly blessed to have witnessed it at all. Yes, this picture will be the first image that comes to mind when I think of this special weekend.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lemming Time

While I finish digging myself out of the hell that is the DDJ, here's a fun meme I found via Andi and Tambo.

Meme Instructions: Go to Wikipedia. Type in your birth date (but not year). List three events that happened on your birthday. List two important birthdays and one interesting death. Post this in your journal.

Events (Couldn't limit to 3)
763 BC - Assyrians record a solar eclipse that will be used to fix the chronology of Mesopotamian history.
1219 - Dannebrog - oldest national flag in the world - and flag of Denmark. According to legend, fell from the sky during the Battle of Lyndanisse (now Tallinn) in Estonia, and turned the Danes' luck.
1667 - The first human blood transfusion is administered by Dr. Jean Baptiste. He transfuses 12 fluid ounces (350 ml) of sheep blood to a 15-year-old boy. The boy later dies and Baptiste is accused of murder.
1752 - Benjamin Franklin proves that lightning is electricity.
1785 - Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, co-pilot of the first-ever manned flight (1783), and his companion, Pierre Romain, become the first-ever casualties of an air crash when their hot air balloon explodes during their attempt to cross the English Channel.
1924 - Native Americans are proclaimed United States citizens.

Births (No limits here either)
1330 - Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales (d. 1376)
1755 - Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy, French chemist (d. 1809
1915 - Thomas Huckle Weller, American virologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
1917 - John Fenn, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate
1939 - Brian Jacques, British author
1973 - Neil Patrick Harris, American actor

Deaths (I limited myself to only one extra)
1381 - John Cavendish, Lord Chief Justice of England
1849 - James Knox Polk, 11th President of the United States (b. 1795)

A quick, fun "circle of life" reminder. And some story ideas. I mean, a flag--one with a name, no less--falls on my birthday nearly 800 years ago and it's recorded? The chronology of Mesopotamian history started with an eclipse on good ol' June 15, 763BC? Groovy.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Another Draft Bites the Dust

I finished the first round of revisions to Carson's Learning last night. I think I kept only 20% of the original version. And all but 500 words of the 10,700 I wrote this past week (GO ME!!!) were brand new. I had planned to finish the new draft of this project last Monday when I was taking care of all the errands we missed while we were out of town, but I only got 5,500 words (yes, I know, "only") before I realized that I had no gas left and a decent amount of territory left to cover. So I put Soz aside so I could crank CL out, and I wrote the last word last night. Now I'm going to let that bad boy sit in the dark for at least two weeks before I head back in for revisions. And I have some decisions to make. Technically, the anthology for which I intended this piece didn't put a word limit on submissions, but they did say 4,000 to 10,000 words was the preferred range. Um, even with some stellar revisions and tightening of transitions and phrases and so on, I'll be hard-pressed to bring the word count down to 14,000, let alone 10,000. I'll still give it a try as I think CL would be a great fit for this project, but I'm not sure they're going to read my cover letter beyond the word count.

That's been the focus of my life in between handling major stress at work, getting sick (feaver and chills = fun!), getting Andrew all checked out and immunized, introducing him to solid foods (after three tries, he's a pro), and acting as a personal driving service for Mark and a colleague while the bus drivers are on strike. Wheeeeeeee.