Publishing

Plagarism and the Remix Culture

Plagarism and the Remix Culture

Many, many years ago, when I was a young writer who was just beginning to grasp the importance of things like “letter shapes” and had a vague understanding that spelling might be important in other people being able to read what I’d written (especially since I lacked the skill to remember and translate my earliest works from “toddler-scribbling” into “American English,” thus depriving the world of many epic sagas involving me, my little brother, our dog, and the various and sundry monsters who inhabited our backyard), I was big on what we now call “the remix culture” and I, somewhat intuitively, knew not to claim someone else’s story as my own because I didn’t like it when my brother tried to say that a story I’d made up and told him was his idea.

 

Now, one would think that if a girl of seven can intuit that claiming someone else’s words/story for your own is wrong, then college students and adults would have a much better grasp on the concept of plagiarism (h/t Mad Genius Club). Apparently, it seems, I was a bit precocious in my ethics by figuring out that repeating (and claiming to have “made up”) something like The Last Unicorn was wrong but that making up a different story using the same characters was okay so long as I asked permission (which makes me wonder what Nintendo thought of Nine Year Old Me’s letter asking if they would mind if I wrote a play for the kids in my neighborhood based on The Legend of Zelda that would neatly tie together the first three games — The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, and A Link to the Past. Cut me some slack. I didn’t understand the difference between commercial and non-commercial use prior to puberty. I should at least get credit for having a vague understanding of copyright rules back then, shouldn’t I?)

 

To continue; as I got older, I continued to write for things other than school assignments. A few of my short stories were completely original. A lot were based on things my friends and I did but with the names and the setting changed (mostly to protect the guilty because none of us wanted to get busted for going to the Bat Cave* after having been told not to). And many were remixes or “in addition to” stories that took the characters and settings of another story and used them to tell a new story. By the time I was in high school, I was a fairly prolific fanfic author when it came to The Legend of Zelda, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dragonlance, and The Wheel of Time. I was also a burgeoning fantasy writer working on my first novel (which needs to be completely rewritten before I let anyone see it), a multitude of short stories, and several RPG adventures/campaigns for AD&D (2nd Edition).

 

Back then, I generally had an “extra” notebook I carried around with me that I worked on when I was finished with whatever we were doing in class. This notebook would have notes on adventures I was writing, fanfics, some of my original stuff, my attempts at poetry and epics, and also poems I was trying to memorize. Once, I left this notebook in my English class and my teacher thumbed through it to figure out whose it was so she could return it. She came upon a poem that I had half-written in there and tracked me down to ask me to finish it. The poem was not one I had created — it was one I was trying to memorize and came from the Dragonlance short story Hunting Destiny. I made sure that she understood that because she was talking about having that poem published once I finished it.

 

It makes me sad to realize that, these days, many students would claim the work as their own for the accolades they could receive (at least until it was revealed they were lying). It also makes me sad to realize that far too many of them don’t understand the difference between remixing and plagiarism. I can sympathize with those who read something and mistakenly paraphrase it without proper attribution (I did this myself a few times and was always embarrassed and quickly corrected it once it was pointed out to me) but I have no such sympathy for people who blatantly rip-off (sometimes word for word) another author and then try to pass that work off as their own after making only a few modifications to try to file the serial numbers off, as it were. I have actually caught a few people ripping off some of my old short stories and trying to claim them as their own for school assignments (and those are always fun emails to get from teachers) which is why I took them down from my website years ago.

 

However, I don’t mind when people remix my stuff. I’ve had a few emails with short stories set in the Lanarian universe. I’m flattered by those even though I won’t read them because I don’t want to be accused of ripping them off later.

 

Remixing is fine, guys. And yes, “real” writers do occasionally remix to one degree or another. Some of us even dabble in the occasional fanfic (I’ve done so with Doctor Who). Many of us fantasy writers actually got our start as fanfic writers (though that’s not what we knew to call it) in our early days. For me, my progression went from writing fanfics set in established universes to taking elements of those universes and tinkering with them to try to build a new universe to eventually developing my own universes. And, I’ve read some damned fine fanfics that beat the living tar out of some of the “official” novels (especially when it comes to TV shows, films, or video games). But every fanfic that takes place in someone else’s universe comes with a disclaimer giving credit to the original source. Even many remixes that pass muster as “original works” and not “derivatives” come with an acknowledgement of influences.

 

We authors love to give credit to the authors and works that inspired and influenced our own writing. Just as musicians will credit other acts for inspiring them to get into music or for inspiring a particular song, we give credit to the authors who came before us and inspired and influenced us. We know that “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) So, we give credit. And if you want to be respected as an author, you’ll need to give credit, too. That doesn’t mean citing every sentence you write. It doesn’t mean sending out a ream of letters before you publish something. It means being willing (and even proud) to say “this story was inspired by X” or “my writing is influenced by Y.” It does not mean taking what X or Y has written, changing a few words, adding a few scenes, and then slapping your name on it and calling it a “remix” when you get busted.

 

That’s enough for now. As you can tell, this is one of my hot-button issues. :)

 

— G.K.

 


*The Bat Cave wasn’t anything cool like from Batman. It was a long storm drain pipe that ran under a road. There were bats living in there which is why we called it “the bat cave.”

Midnight of Lanar’ya Now Available Through Rooster and Pig!

Midnight of Lanar'ya Now Available Through Rooster and Pig!

Whoo-hoo! Happy Release Day to me! The second book in the Fall of the Lanarian Empire series is now up on sale at the Rooster and Pig store. It will be available via other retailers soon.

 

You guys have no idea how glad I am to have this monster off my plate. This has to have been the most stubborn book I’ve ever written. The story just did not want me to get it all down but, by the grace of Cthulhu, (I gave up swearing to real deities for Lent, Mom) I finally got it down. It took several rounds and quite a few times I thought Midnight was gonna have me pinned to the mat but I wrestled it into submission.

 

Red wine and dark chocolate may or may not have played a helping hand. The jury is still out on that.

 

My current plans are to finish The Penitent and get it out to my beta readers by the end of May at the latest and then turn my attentions to the third book (and final) in the Fall of the Lanarian Empire series. I may or may not take periodic breaks to either crank out some short stories (I have five almost finished) or work on the treatment for my political-procedural-without-the-ideology Realpolitick which I’m hoping to have done and pitch to Amazon or Netflix as they’re the only players who are really into experimenting with the Internet as an entertainment distribution medium.

 

I also wouldn’t mind finally having a best-seller so that I could quit my day job and write without having to worry about how all those pesky bills are going to get paid. :)

 

For now, though, I’m off to finish getting ready for work and then, tonight, I shall celebrate by doing something productive… that may or may not involve fermented grape juice and dark chocolate and classic Doctor Who. Jury’s still out on that.

 

– G.K.

Stolen Lives Now Available!

Stolen Lives Now Available!

I’ve just released my latest novel, Stolen Lives. This novel is an indie work and is now available on Amazon and through Smashwords. As I hear back from other retailers about availability there, I’ll update the book’s page. If you do get a copy from one place and give me a review, then I’ll contact you with coupon codes for other retailers who only allow “confirmed purchasers” to post reviews on their sites if you’ll copy your review around for me.

 

Stolen Lives started out as my 2013 NaNoWriMo project and morphed into something even bigger than I thought. But now, it’s out and I’m eager to see what the rest of the world thinks about it. For now, I’ll leave you with this quick blurb to whet your appetite.

 

What would you do if you woke up to find your entire past missing with only your name and a few vague hints to tell you who you are? Would you try to regain what was lost or would you try to start over? How would you handle having your very life stolen from you?

 

Who are you, really? Who would you be if your memories, your identity, and your life were taken away from you, leaving you a bare, blank slate?

 

Matt Tyler no longer remembers who he was. His life prior to waking up at the Farm might well have never been lived. Was he married? Did he have children? And what of these strange dreams he has? Gwen Marshall no longer recalls her life but she knows that something is missing. She struggles to regain her memories and her identity, determined to fight her way free of the haze — even if it kills her. Together, Matt and Gwen make their way through this strange, new world, following their dreams and the vague hints that offer tantalizing glimpses of who they were and who they might become…

 

“A fundamental thesis on free will. Very, very well done.” Denis Fitzpatrick, This Mirror in Me.

 

Now, I just need to get started cracking on The Penitent and Dawn of the Destroyer whilst trying to get the treatment for Realpolitick going. After that, it’ll be A Man’s Life followed by either a Lanarian Empire prequel series, the Runebearer series, or the Remnant and the Revenants series. Oh, not to mention the short stories I’m cranking out in the background!

 

– G.K.

An Adventure In Space and Midnight of Lanar’ya

An Adventure In Space and Midnight of Lanar'ya

Right, so, first things first: I got the edits back for Midnight of Lanar’ya. There weren’t too many changes to make and so I should have a street date for it soon.

 

Also, because I am the world’s geekiest aunt, I wrote my niece a book for Christmas. It’s a kid’s book and it’s a little rough, I know. The artwork isn’t going to rival Van Gogh. But, it’s cute and she loves it. The non-hand-drawn images are stolen from Space.com, NASA, and a few other places that I can’t quite track down for provenance. So, without further ado, here is the story I wrote for her for all of you who were asking me about it on Facebook.

 

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some short stories for The Red Collection to finish

 

– G.K.

Quick Call Out For Betas!

Quick Call Out For Betas!

It is done.

 

It has been an emotional roller coaster with the characters throwing me for a few loops here and there but it is done. It is done, I am exhausted but sated. Just one last editorial pass and Stolen Lives will be ready for beta-reading which is where you, my friends, come in.

 

Weighing in at 70,380 words and 276 pages in Microsoft Word, Stolen Lives is more than a short story and less than a novel. Set in the near future where medical advances have made the impossible “possible” and have brought out some dangers unforeseen, Stolen Lives takes you through the eyes of those who have lost everything — their lives, their memories, and their very selves. Read as they struggle to reclaim that which once they took for granted — their very identities.

 

If you are interested in beta-reading this and providing me with feedback to correct errors, fact-checks, grammar problems, plot holes, pacing issues, etc, then just post “I’m in!” in the comments below followed by your email address. I will edit out your email address when I approve your comment.

 

Interested? Well, get cracking then, would you?!

 

— G.K. Masterson

Twilight of Lanar’ya Now Available from Rooster and Pig!

Twilight of Lanar'ya Now Available from Rooster and Pig!

The release date has come and Twilight of Lanar’ya is now available exclusively through the Rooster and Pig store. It will be a few weeks before you can find it on Amazon or other retailers. But, if you want to get a copy, you can grab it now from the R&P digital download store for only $8.99.

 

And, to add to the news, I finished the first draft of Midnight of Lanar’ya and sent it for the first round of revisions back on October 31st. So, if you’ve been waiting to hear back on that, there you go!

 

For my friends over at FanFiction.net, I will be putting up a chapter of Adrift early to celebrate this occasion.

 

Now to get back to work on A Man’s Life, my NaNoWriMo project!

 


PDF ePub Format MOBI Format

 

– G.K.

Kobogeddon: Phase Two — Protest Pricing

Kobogeddon: Phase Two -- Protest Pricing

Update: if you’re unsure what price to use, Rayne’s brilliant brain just suggested $666!

 

It seems that Kobogeddon is still going strong. Lots of indie authors are pulling their tradpubbed books off Kobo or deleting their accounts. Others who have had their books restored because Kobo “reviewed” them and found that they weren’t smutfests that lacked the imprimatur of one of the Holy Publishing Houses are taking their books down and going over to Smashwords or another indie-friendly service. The indies and their readers are getting pissed and Kobo (and hopefully W.H. Smith) are starting to feel their ire.

 

Now, while it would be great for all indies to refuse to sell through Kobo, that might not be enough to get the message across to them that indies are the future of the publishing world. After all, the traditional publishers have a lot of cash and influence. Indies are still getting established and breaking through to let readers know that the lack of an East Coast Elites Seal of Approval doesn’t mean squat (and that such a Seal of Approval might actually mean the book sucks). So, the ever-clever and brilliantly sneaky Rayne Hall has an idea that will hit Kobo where it hurts the most — it will keep them from attracting new customers and it might scare existing ones off. Her idea? Protest Pricing.

 

The concept is simple and brilliant. If you are indie or support indie and you have books up on Kobo, set the price to something absurdly high. Rayne’s setting hers to $999/£999 and suggests that others do the same. However, there is the concern that if everyone uses the same price, it will be simple for Kobo to just delist or delete those books. So, I’m suggesting that people vary the prices a bit, keeping them between say $/£/€59 and $/£/€999. Edit: Actually $666 would be the most epically awesome price ever. While this won’t net you any sales on Kobo (I mean, come on. You might be good but the only books that can command hundreds of dollars/pounds in pricing are either rare print editions, antiques, or college textbooks), what it will do is kill Kobo’s price competitiveness against other, more indie-friendly stores.

 

So, if you’ve deleted your Kobo account, create a new one if you can and put your stuff back up with an insane price. If you sell through Kobo using Smashwords, disable that distribution channel and create a Kobo account, adding your stuff back to Kobo that way and setting up the insane prices. Once you’ve done this, let us know by dropping a comment here or hitting Rayne and I up on Twitter (@RayneHall, @GKMasterson). I’ll keep a list of authors who join in this action and do my best to buy some books off you guys (not for the crazy price, though. Not unless I win all the lotteries) and give you a review.

 

#Kobogeddon continues on!

 

– G.K.

The Four Horsemen of the TradPubocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the TradPubocalypse

Or “Riding towards Kobogeddon.”

 

The Twitterverse is all aflutter with the latest screw-up from across the pond. Rayne Hall, the first horseman of the TradPubocalypse has been sounding the horns over W.H. Smith and Kobo’s recent dumping of every indie author from their shelves — virtual and otherwise. If you’re curious to get caught up quickly, the tag #kobogeddon should get you started. Or you could just keep reading.

 

So, what kicked off this kerfuffle? Apparently, the webmonkeys at W.H. Smith and Kobo are too busy playing around to code filters and search-check results. They could be relying on the ancient “show all keyword matches” method that ceased being effective sometime back in the mid-1990s. So, if you had a book that had the word “Daddy” in the title, their search engine would show it in the results page for any search involving that word.

 

Even if it was clear that the book in question was part of a genre called erotica.

 

So, chances are that someone’s kid found an erotica title while searching innocuous keywords. It happens. While I don’t write or read erotica myself, I know that it exists. I’ve known that it existed since I was a teenager. Used to be that it was treated a lot like porn magazines and movies and kept tucked safely away where kids couldn’t come across but those who wanted to get at it could do so. Stores generally wouldn’t sell erotica titles (though one could argue that the entire freaking romance genre is just “erotica acceptable to middle class housewives”) but, if you really wanted to find the stuff, a trip to your local adult bookstore would net you some results. You could also order it via mail. Advertisements in certain kinds of magazines told those who wanted to know where to go to get their fix.

 

So, a kid or something finds one of these rather disgusting books and their parents get their knickers all in a twist. Complaints are made, cries about the collapse of civilization because someone wrote erotica that would fit comfortably in Genesis (like, oh say, Lot’s daughters, perhaps?) and W.H. Smith pulls down their website. Okay, so far, so good. After all, if you come across a book that is offensive during a common keyword search, you should let the site owner know so that they can tweak their search engine results or their user-controlled search filtering/browsing preferences so that erotica is only found by people who honestly want to buy the stuff and not by kids or people who would like to pretend that the dark side of humanity doesn’t exist.

 

However, instead of, you know, filtering their site better and going over to ensure that keywords return better results and possibly kicking off authors who purposefully mis-tagged their books to get higher search results, W.H. Smith and Kobo kicked off every. indie. author. They didn’t just kick off erotica writers. They threw out authors who have never written a sex scene in any of their books. They kicked out children’s writers. They kicked out sci-fi writers. Fantasy. If you were indie, you were out. Meanwhile, erotica itself is thriving on both sites, just so long as it’s backed up by a publisher. So, you can still find all the disgusting erotica you want…but you can’t find any indie-published books of any genre.

 

That, to be charitable, was pretty freakin’ stupid.

 

Erotica exists. People buy it. They read it. Not too long ago, Fifty Shades of Gray was all over the place. You couldn’t take two steps without someone talking about that book. And it’s erotica in an almost pure form. Not my cup of tea but then, I’m not getting my knickers in a twist or my corset knotted over someone else wanting to read about Sub/Dom relationships. I am, however, most displeased at the thought that someone like Sarah Hoyt, Jonathan Broughton, or even David D. Levine would have had their works pulled down because some idiot thinks that all indie books are erotica.

 

Sure, the traditional publishers are probably clinking their champagne glasses together now, all celebratory at us upstart indies getting pulled because W.H. Smith and Kobo can’t be arsed to hire competent web developers. However, their victory will wind up being as short-lived as Valenti’s attempts to make VCRs illegal (“The VCR is to the movie industry as the Boston Strangler is to a woman alone at night.”) Indies aren’t going away and traditional publishers aren’t going to stop being dinosaurs. The “gatekeepers” have had control of the market for way too long. They let in crap like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray and shut out things like Harry Potter (seriously, J.K. had to go to twelve publishers before she found one willing to print her work. She’s made over a billion dollars now. Tell me again why I should take the big houses seriously?) Indies are telling stories and building worlds that people want to read about. We don’t all hew to the politically correct lines and some of us aren’t to the left of Stalin (go ahead, try to get an in with a sci-fi house if you’re not an authoritarian. Go on. I’ll wait). In the indie world, you really do sink or swim based on how good your story is and how hard you’re willing to work to get word out there. You don’t wind up in print-hell because your publisher decides to only do one print run and then, if it sells out in a week, won’t do another because, well, you forgot to bow and scrape properly while doing your daily rounds of arse-kissing.

 

I’m working to put together a list of authors who had their non-erotica works pulled from Kobo and W.H. Smith. If you like good literature and are sick of reading the same regurgitated crap that hits all the acceptable politically correct points but neglects to develop an actual, you know, plot, then consider buying from an indie.

 

And yeah, I’ll keep posting about how Kobogeddon is going. Earlier this evening it looked like they’d banned Rayne Hall’s account entirely because she’s stirring up trouble. Methinks someone’s never heard of the Streisand Effect.

 

– G.K.

Twilight of Lanar’ya Out November 4!

Twilight of Lanar'ya Out November 4!

Yesterday, my new publisher Rooster and Pig let me know that they’ve set a release date for Twilight of Lanar’ya. It will be out for sale again with a new cover and less typos on November 4. I’m really excited about this and loving the new cover by the super-talented Lex Valentine. So, if you’d like to get your hands on a copy, I’ll be posting the information about where you can get it here on November 4.

 

 

Tell me that isn’t awesome looking.

 

And, in other news, I’m close to finished with the first draft of Midnight of Lanar’ya. I’m hoping to get it wrapped up before the end of October so that I can focus on one of my back-burner projects for NaNoWriMo. I’ve already outlined the third book in my Lanarian Empire trilogy and will probably get cracking on it in December or January — once I’m done with the edits and revisions on Midnight. It’s not a good idea to try to write a follow-up book while you’re still working through revisions of its prequel. Too easy to give into temptation and move scenes around and all that.

 

I’m also, as always, looking for a better job. I’m going to break down and take the LPI 1 exam in the next few weeks to get that certification and open my horizons up to a broader array of jobs in hopes that I can at least get somewhere better than where I am where the hours don’t leave me so drained and worn down.

 

Well, for now, I’m going to go get some more rest. My room-mate brought home Con Plague and I caught it. Once I’m back on my feet tomorrow, it’ll be back to the grindstone on Midnight of Lanar’ya.

 

– G.K.

Writers and the Fan-Fic Culture

Writers and the Fan-Fic Culture

Cross-posted over at Rooster and Pig’s blog

 

It’s no secret that many of us — especially fantasy writers like me — got our start by working in someone else’s established universe. For me, my first “real” creative work was from the Legend of Zelda when I was eight or nine years old. After that, it was the worlds of Dragonlance and the Death Gate Cycle when I was thirteen years old. I did also work in my own universe, though the concept (Atlantis) wasn’t terribly original (hey, cut me some slack, I was fifteen), and the execution was…well…adolescent to say the least (again, I was fifteen).

 

In time, I graduated to world-building while playing and writing campaigns and adventures for Dungeons and Dragons. I also developed a healthy dose of respect for cartographers, artists, and dungeon designers — not to mention architects! By the time I got into college, I was generally writing my own original works, mostly plays and short stories as I had not really developed the chops for novel-writing. I did, however, continue to write fanfics. I wrote several set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe and one set in the world of Final Fantasy VIII. The fanfic that really got me convinced I could finally do a novel was Alayne’s Story. I spent the better part of five years writing that story, posting it on the World of Warcraft European forums every Friday. Even today, I still dabble in fanfics when I need to just build up my chops or let something original percolate so that I don’t over/underwrite it too badly.

 

The Internet, through services such as Fanfiction.net, have really given a good boost to remix writers. None of us ever think to try to profit from our works. After all, the characters and the settings are not “ours” in the ownership sense of the term. However, it is distressing to sit back and see just how many authors and corporate owners feel threatened by fanfic writers or feel as if having fanfics written with their property would somehow diminish the value of that property. This is a rather blinkered view, if you ask me. Yes, certainly, there are a lot of poorly-written fanfics out there. I’ve seen plenty of them where I wondered if the writer had any concept of grammar, spelling, or readability. There are some fanfics that, while earning passing marks for grammar, spelling, and formatting, fail because the story is unoriginal, the pacing is poor, or parts of it were too gratuitous. Granted, I’m sure all of us have written at least one or two scenes or treatments just for catharsis (and if you haven’t, you’re either not a writer, lying, or under the age of six). But, for the most part, we wouldn’t show those to anyone. There are many fanfics out there that cater to a specific audience or attempt to “fix” the story that the creator told because parts of it were unsatisfying. There are some, like mine, that delve into the “what if?” realm where we change events and then ride the ripple of that change throughout the universe (these are often called “alternate universe” or “AU” fanfics). There are some that attempt to tell the story of the characters in the days after the ending. And many of these are quite good. Many are very original. Many, in my opinion, rival the “canonical” or “licensed” works in quality.

 

For those authors and owners who either tolerate or, better still, embrace their fans and their fans’ written fanfics, these things can enrich and enhance the community — not only of that particular work, but the writing community in general. For those authors who try to stamp out fanfics using their works, who focus on exercising complete control over their works, the community of writers is left much poorer for their successful efforts.

 

After all, in the end, we’re all fanfic writers of one kind or another. All of us grew up hearing nursery rhymes and fairy tales and I’ll bet every last one of us, even the non-writers out there, would sometimes imagine “what if?” “What if Snow White didn’t eat the apple?” “What if the evil stepmother was actually nice to Cinderella instead?” “What happened during ‘happily ever after?'” “Why was the Wicked Witch…well, wicked? What made her like that?” From these questions and our imagination, new stories were born. And from practice in doing that, we began to build original tales with new characters, new roles, new monsters, new conflicts.

 

“There is nothing new under the sun.” By tolerating — nay, encouraging — fledgling writers to test their wings out with established characters, events, and universes, we enrich the literary universe and ourselves. At least, that’s what I think. And I will always be eternally grateful to Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto,* SquareSoft (now Square Enix), Blizzard, and the BBC for not suing the crap out of me whenever I, unlicensed and unauthorized writer that I am, decided to dabble in their universes for a little bit when I needed a break from my own.

 

— G.K.

 

Shigeru Miyamoto, Robert Jordan, and Brandon Sanderson are my Holy Trinity of Writers. They are served by the Archangels Russel T. Davies, Margaret Weis, Tracey Hickman, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Piers Anthony. Don’t you dare judge me.