Saturday, August 06, 2022

Funny-Ha-Ha (Comedy Writers Rights)

Why is it that when we "discover" a joke, or a song, or a photograph that particularly appeals to us, or strikes a chord, we feel entitled to appropriate it?

Could it be something deep in our genes? Perhaps it is a primal hunter-gatherer instinct. If that is the root cause of copyright infringement, it is no laughing matter for the professional creator... particularly for the comedy writer.

Which brings me to my hook line, "funny-ha-ha" and comedy writers rights.

Should comedy writers have the same rights as songwriters, or photographers? I think so, but you almost never see attribution or credit given to the original creator of a joke, do you?

Yet, what is a joke? 

It is not primarily an idea. Part of what makes a joke funny is the performance, the timing by the teller of the joke. Not everyone makes equally effective use of the pause, the emphasis, the sidelong glance, wave of the hand, or other gesture, and how they deliver the shock or surprise or wicked twist. 

While an idea cannot be copyrighted, the expression of an idea can be copyrighted. 

In the case of a photograph of, say, a lighthouse, anyone at all can take a snap of a lighthouse. What makes the image copyrightable is the skill and vision of the photographer in chosing the exact light quality, the angle of the light, the length of the shadows, the magnification, the filters, the vanishing point... etc etc.

Can one take a joke, and substitute every word with synonyms? Off the top of my head, I would say that one cannot. Often, the crux of a joke is a homophone, as in "Who's On First" credited to Abbott & Costello.

The latter is an example from a thought-provoking legal blog by David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP on Publish Perfomance Royalties for Comedy Recordings.

Lexology link:
Broadcast Law Blog link: 

As David Oxenford explains, maybe some of the streaming digital services are exploiting comedy performances --obviously for profit-- but are not paying the writers.

"...The claim in the lawsuits is that the authors of the script of any comedy bit have the right to control the performance of their works in the same way that composers of a song control the rights to use that song. [And] if these services are playing these comedy bits through a digital audio performance, not only do the comedians who are recorded performing such bits deserve a royalty, but a separate royalty should also be paid to those who wrote it...."

David Oxenford explains how music royalties and composer and songwriter royalties are paid, at least in theory. (There are other theories.) One problem, as Oxenford explains it, is that most American laws and consent decrees, and so forth, specify "musical works".

For any reader of our alien romances blog who happens to also pen original jokes, you might be interested to hear that

"...two organizations, Spoken Giants and WordCollections, have been formed to act as PROs for the composers of the works used in spoken word recordings..."

Come to think of it, that might also be of interest to audio book writers and their voice talent. David Oxenford's article should be read in its entirity. He is very thorough. His bottom line appears to be unenthusiastic about a possible expansion of royalty rights, but we should not read only that with which we agree, especially when it comes to copyright!

Which brings me to a very, very useful blog on the scope of copyright in the USA from Andrew J. Thomas, Jacob L. Tracer, Lauren M. Greene, and Steven R. Englund of the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP.

If my memory serves, this snapshot is part of a series covering the scope of copyright in various major countries, all of which is clearly set out with bullet points, and the sort of copyright-related questions that everyone needs to ask and have answered. Anyone honest, that is. (My words.)

Lexology link: 
I will snag their questions. For the answers, please visit the extract.

What types of works may be protected by copyright?

What types of rights are covered by copyright?

What may not be protected by copyright?

Do the doctrines of ‘fair use’ or ‘fair dealing’ exist, and, if so, what are the standards used in determining whether a particular use is fair?

Are architectural works protected by copyright? How?

Are performance rights covered by copyright? How?

Are other ‘neighbouring rights’ recognised? How?

Are moral rights recognised?

The moral rights segment is interesting, as is the placement in the list of topics. We don't talk enough about moral rights, in a copyright-related context, IMHO. Perhaps I should blog about it some time.
All the best,

Rowena Cherry 



Friday, August 05, 2022


Conclusion: In Which a Clumsy Girl Goes to Outer Space

This is the final of fifteen posts dealing with surprising things I learned in the course of writing a science fiction series.

We've come to the end of my long series dealing with the surprising things I learned in the course of writing my first science fiction saga containing Overarching Series cliffhangers in all but the final book.

Ahh, humble beginnings. Zoë Rossdale, my original Clumsy Girl, was first introduced in Glass Angels, Book 4 of my Family Heirlooms Series, where she was a secondary character who tripped onto the stage and stole my heart. She's quirky, colorful, crazy, klutzy, loveable, and liable to say or do anything outrageous. I couldn't get enough of her so I had to write a spinoff series with the Friendship Heirlooms Series. Zoë was the main character in two of the seven books in that series and a secondary character in many of the others. However, even then I didn't get my fix of the Clumsy Girl from writing two novels in her POV and including her in others. I found myself wanting to do more with her character or simply the legacy of her.

Astoria “Tori” Bertoletti, a descendent of Zoë, became one of the two primary characters in the Arrow of Time Chronicles as the librarian and planet cataloger aboard the Aero. Like her predecessor (Zoë had a gigantic Maine Coon cat that she put a leash on and walked in a dog park), Tori loves animals and nearly has a barnyard of them in her cabin aboard the ship, which provided a lot of fun, lighthearted moments in the series. Raze Salen, mankind's emissary, is the other primary character in the series, and he's Tori's best friend and later her boyfriend and husband. I loved creating these two characters and watching them grow into heroes and legends, sometimes together, sometimes apart.

The original Clumsy Girl Zoë Rossdale from the Family and Friendship Heirlooms series

You don't finish a series like this without feeling like Dorothy, forever marked by a beloved, magical world she'll never forget and always want to return to. As hard as the monumental endeavor of writing something this complicated was (and similar, hereafter endeavors are unlikely to get any easier even with practice), along with readers, I was taken on an unforgettable journey in the process of figuring all this out. I got to send a Clumsy Girl into outer space and beyond in matchless style.

Fellow authors and adventurers, whatever your complicated Overarching Series with sprawling, unique worlds; larger-than-life characters is or will eventually be, reach for the stars. Don't you dare think about holding back just because not one aspect of this endeavor will be easy and there will be countless times you'll wonder how many more hurdles you can possibly overcome. Never forget the silver lining: Virtuoso, your magnum opus awaits!

Happy writing!

Based on Writing the Overarching Series (or How I Sent a Clumsy Girl into Outer Space): 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection by Karen S. Wiesner (release date TBA)

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series, including the romantic science fiction series, ARROW OF TIME CHRONICLES

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Setting Brain Boundaries

Here's an article by Stephanie Vozza about avoiding "self-inflicted stress" so we aren't "just reacting in panic mode all day long." Learning to "manage" our thoughts can help us work more efficiently because we won't feel overwhelmed. This essay, outlining principles set forth by Joe Robinson, author of WORK SMARTER, LIVE BETTER, addresses that "where did the day go?" feeling we often experience when we don't check off the items on our to-do list. If I'm at all typical, this sense of time running away, leaving the day's goals unaccomplished, is a predicament writers often face. The daily word count target isn't reached or the designated time set aside for writing drifts by without much to show for it.

The 4 Boundaries Your Brain Needs to Feel Less Overwhelmed

Small warning note: The above website apparently lets you read a page only once before insisting that you register. So, if you decide to read this article, finish it all at once. (I first encountered it in this past Sunday's newspaper.)

The four kinds of "management" to set boundaries for your brain: (1) Attention management, concerned with improving the performance of your working memory so you won't lose focus. (2) Interruption management, which is connected to impulse control. One point under this category suggests setting aside periods of time to be e-mail-free and phone-free, thus disposing of two big interruption sources right away. (3) "Barking" management, contrasting the brain with a barking dog. Dogs bark at disturbances such as another dog going by, but when the triggering incident stops, the dog stops barking. Our brains often keep reacting long after the stimulus ends. In other words, we get mired in "rumination." (4) Refueling management, giving your brain "a break so it can rest and refuel." Production goes up after twenty-minute breaks and even ten-minute breaks. This last precept feels counterintuitive to me. Granted, a few minutes of rest are welcome, but how can they increase production if you happen to be one of those people (like me) who takes a long time to get back into the flow after a lull? Marion Zimmer Bradley used to say that housekeeping was the perfect job for a writer, because it involves a lot of stopping and starting, and you can use the stopping bits for a few minutes of writing. Suppose you have ten minutes waiting for the oven to preheat, and you need most of those minutes just to re-start your writing brain? As important as refueling may be, this advice seems to contradict the second point.

One incisive quote from Joe Robinson: "We think because something's in our head, we've got to pay attention to it. We don't." Words to live by in dealing with both interruptions and pointless rumination.

Another article I happened to come across this past weekend offered suggestions for increasing efficiency by reordering the work day's priorities. To begin with, the author advises against checking e-mail and/or social media first thing in the morning. We can easily get caught up in the message stream, lose track of time, and glance up to discover prime working time has been frittered away. Another piece of advice, maybe counterintuitive for many of us, is to resist the impulse to "warm up" with easy tasks. I know I often take that approach. Instead, he says we should tackle the day's tougher agenda items first, while we're fresh. There's also a sense of accomplishment in getting them out of the way.

I find that if I put off writing in order to "clear the decks" of niggling little stuff first, I often don't get around to the current WIP until late in the day. In line with that article's advice, I do produce more words when I force myself to spend at least a few minutes writing (whether fiction, blog posts, or my monthly newsletter) before opening e-mail or checking off a list of routine, "easy" chores. Also, composing in fifteen- or twenty-minute chunks two or three times a day makes the process less arduous. Unlike the lucky writers who actually enjoy writing (such as Isaac Asimov), I find the first-draft stage slow and difficult, so any device to "trick" myself into generating prose helps.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, July 31, 2022


Today, and without straying into Karen's "Craft" territory, I should like to discuss a useful tactic for when a writer has to edit for length. This also applies to editing for advertisements, where every nanosecond, and every word counts.

Look at every "so", and every "very", and assess --brutally-- whether or you really, truly need them, and whether or not they strengthen or weaken the words around them.

The idea of my "very own" slippers, or "your very own slippers" disturbs me on a visceral level. Who shares their footwear?

The possessive adjective "my" or "your" is sufficient to describe ownership of the slippers. Adding "own" as in "my own slippers" is emphatic, but redundant. The listener, or reader is invited to wonder about other slippers in the household, and whether some slippers are communal. 

Throwing a "very" into the phrase to limit the adjective "own", means that the focus is decidely on the competition within the household for slippers. It is one thing for a child who reaches a milestone in growing up, and is given a room of his/her very own. A room of ones own is a big deal, especially if the youngster previously had to share.

"Own" is an adjective when preceded by a possessive and followed by a noun. Inserting "very" adds information --albeit precious little information-- about "own"; thus "very" is an adverb. The noun "slippers" now has three hangers-on, two adjectives and an adverb.

Think remora. One can have too much of a good thing.

"So" is another pet peeve of mine. It can be an adjective, a pronoun, a conjunction, and more. Of these, its least useful function is as an adverb, in my opinion.  

"So much," is redundant unless the speaker is in front of one, using both hands to demonstrate the yardage (size) of the absent trophy that is being described, for instance as in a fishy lie, "The trout was so big."

If a remedy helps you "so much", try a synonym. "So much" is no better than "a lot" but uses two extra characters.

An exception might be Rudyard Kipling's "Just So" stories, which you can read here:

In this case, I believe that "so" is a pronoun, and "Just So" could be replaced with "Exactly like that", which would be longer and less efficient... and which makes me think of the large and brilliant British prestidigitator and comedian Tommy Cooper, whose catch phrase was "Just like that", with the "just" a little slurred.

Those episodes don't show it, but I share them anyway, because the late Tommy Cooper's use of English is hilarious.

"Thus" might be more succinct as a synonym for "Just So" but I digress. One of my English professors at Cambridge, Mr. Cornwall, used to speak of the thusness of a word or phrase, in the general sense that the phrase or word in question could not be improved upon.

I will now end abruptly.

All the best,

Friday, July 29, 2022


Of Rewards Earned

This is the fourteenth of fifteen posts dealing with surprising things I learned in the course of writing a science fiction series.

Thus far throughout this 15-part article series, we've looked at a lot of what could be considered the hurdles that have to be leapt over in order to write an Overarching science fiction series. But there were a lot of amazing things that came with the endeavor as well. Let's talk about a few of the wonderful perks earned in the process of writing an Overarching Series in a few random musings.

Showing Off Your Baby

Cover art can be the icing on the Overarching Series cake. It's my opinion that the cover designs in the speculative fiction genre can be some of the most eye-catching of any category of fiction…or they can be simply generic, which really sucks and, hey, talk about a missed opportunity! I started designing my own covers for my sci-fi series during the early part of researching the series, and, as my series evolved, I continued looking for just the right cover graphics that truly fit the series and stories contained in each book. I wanted to be able to look at the covers and forever remember the events, thereby immortalizing them in my mind. I also wanted readers to take one look at them and think, Wow, how cool. I gotta read this. Later, just before my series went to the publisher for editing, a professional cover artist finalized my initial designs into the oeuvre d'art you'll see below. I've lost track of how often readers tell me how striking the covers are. 

 The ship on the cover of the first book is my beloved Aero, the Human Corvette cruiser, coming out of a space corridor.

 The graphic on Book 2 is the Vreah battleship, Vashtii, which, despite being a slow, massive, heavily-armored stealth warship also resembles a luxury "cruise" ship in space.

 Book 3 not only shows the light and fast Quing ambassadorial ship Vlacos but you can see that the "black maw" (the dark energy menace in the series) has eaten part of a planet, possibly their own planet Qu or Gurgh.

 Finally, the last cover shows the secret military base Neth-Beo, militarized by the warring Sinshe-Shojani, along with their most deadly dreadnought, Paladin. Behind it is the weapon of mass destruction they've been building, which is also a stealth ship.

While personalizing your cover designs makes them super cool, breathtaking and memorable, there's another reason for going the extra mile with them. Covers this gorgeous can't help but get noticed by the buying population. Additionally, having similar cover designs for each book is a huge help in creating instant recognition for that series and a series logo should also be a priority. (The four-pointed arrow at the bottom to the left of my name is the series logo for Arrow of Time Chronicles. It also served as the series break graphic on the interior.) Looking at the Arrow of Time Chronicles covers above, you can tell they're all part of the same series, can't you? Yet they're all distinctive separately as well. We talked about series branding in Chapter Four, and cover art is definitely part of that, especially for an Overarching Series.

Be proactively creative in even these "outer" aspects in bringing a series to life as well as offering it proudly and lovingly to your readers. Showing off the cover art is definitely one of the most rewarding perks I've found in writing a series like this.

Baby's Got Back…matter

One of the things I love most about the speculative fiction umbrella is all the lore associated with these genres. As a reader, I can't get enough of this stuff and I always buy the books associated with series covering the lore. If I can get that in the back of the books themselves, that's an even better bonus.

In my science fiction series, this meant I finally got something I've always wanted to be a requirement for my books: Back matter! While the word "back matter" can have many definitions, the one I'm talking about here is the sections in the back of the book that provide further reading, deeper explanations, and a whole host of interesting information about aspects of the series. I love reading this kind of thing in any series, whether it's a book, movie, or videogame. I want to know more. In fact, I want to know everything!

In the case of Arrow of Time Chronicles, I had a specific reason for including back matter in each installment of the series that, unfortunately, really had nothing to do with It's just so cool! Because there were so many characters, locations, historically significant events, and distinctive cultures in my series, along with unique Standard Operative Procedures, I included three appendices: 1) a Human timeline/history, 2) brief culture and homeworld specifics, and 3) a dictionary of terms. These were placed in the back of each book in the series. Even the longest one in Book 4 was little more than 30 total pages. I didn't want to significantly add to the page length of any of the books, since most of them were pretty large anyway, close to 100,000 words. The biggest reason the back matter was necessary, was because I didn't want to repeat large chunks of crucial information from one book to the next that could have overwhelmed any of the chapters in the story in a hurry. Instead, I included the important information that readers might have forgotten from one book to the next or simply needed a refresher on in a place that wouldn't overload the text. That freed me up to get on with the storytelling. 

Rejoice when you get to cross a few cool things off your bucket list with the rewards earned.

Next week, we'll conclude this article series covering the surprises I had in learning to write a sci-fi series. 

Happy writing!

Based on Writing the Overarching Series (or How I Sent a Clumsy Girl into Outer Space): 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection by Karen S. Wiesner (release date TBA)

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series, including the romantic science fiction series, ARROW OF TIME CHRONICLES

Thursday, July 28, 2022

How Many Brains Does a Creature Need?

Leeches have 32 brains. Well, sort of. Each of its separate segments contains its own neuronal ganglion. As one answer on Quora puts it, "precisely it does not have 32 brains but a single brain that exists in 32 parts throughout the body," yet because each ganglion works independently, we might say it literally has a brain for each segment.

Is It True That a Leech Has 32 Brains?

Here's a page with thirteen wild and wonderful facts about animal brains:

13 Facts About Animals' Brains

Starfish have their neurons distributed through their arms instead of concentrated in a central location. A spider's brain is too big for its head and extends into its legs. Octopuses, similarly, keep two-thirds of their neurons in their tentacles instead of in the central brain. Thus, like spiders, they can perform amazingly complex feats with their limbs. The octopus, in fact, has the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of any invertebrate. This article explores octopus intelligence, including their ability to use tools:

How Smart Are Octopuses?

On the other hand, although we consider ourselves the planet's superior life form because of our intelligence, the humble sea squirt doesn't appear to value brainpower very highly. In the transition from its immature, mobile phase into an adult rooted in one spot, it "eats" its own brain. Among other animals that seem to consider brains optional, a cockroach can survive a long time with no head (until it starves to death). Then there's the famous case of a chicken named Mike, who lived for eighteen months after being (mostly) decapitated:

Mike the Headless Chicken

So maybe we members of the species Homo sapiens ("wise human") should be a bit more modest about the power to rule Earth through our intelligence? Maybe alien visitors would single out ants or termites as the dominant species, since there are so many more of them than us, and their excavations produce significant effects on the landscape. Or how about grasses? Not only do they cover much of the globe, they obviously employ us as their servants to help them spread and thrive.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Trouble With THE

Today, I'm talking about trademarks, specifically about a trademark of the definite article. "The" is the definite article.  "A" and "an" are indefinite articles. Articles definite and indefinite are a class of adjective because they provide additional information about a noun.

For a very good explanation of articles and other parts of speech, see this:
We writers are not always laid back when we hear that someone has trademarked a word that we use every day. One or two words have created a furore (or an American furor). Even the word "furor" was trademarked.
In the case of the furor trademark, subsequently abandoned, it was only valid in connection with the sale of certain enumerated garments.
If I had time, which I don't because I am racing an incoming thunderstorm, I would wonder what kind of clothing might cause a furor. I have one idea.  

There are phrases and sayings that are difficult to trademark, although some have tried to do so, because they are in common use. Mostly, if a trademark is approved, it is because the use of the word is limited, specific, and confined to a certain context: such as a clothing brand, or a series of novels by a certain publisher.

Here's an interesting link:

It would seem that a quick-on-the-draw innovator cannot sit on a lovely, useful (or even useless) word and make a fortune from harassing hapless folks who happen to use it. One probably could not trademark "absquatulate" (, a word that has fallen out of general use. It is a pompous word for "leaving" with mildly scatalogical undertones. It makes me think of a military man suffering from an exotic tummy bug, getting up suddenly from his place around the campfire, and rushing into the darkness downwind of his fellows.

"THE TROUBLE WITH THE" is probably a nothingburger. Legal bloggers Ashley J. Heilprin and Andrew W. Coffman for the law firm Phelps Dunbar LLP discuss the trademarking of the definite article by The Ohio State University for use in connection with their brand for sports apparel. 

One cannot protect a word without context, and one cannot trademark a design. One can protect a brand.

Lexology link:
Phelps link: 

For anyone  who might be confused or outraged or alarmed that someone can trademark "THE", this is a very well-written and helpful article covering the entire issue, and much more from what a trademark is, to what rights exist and what do not, to why anyone would go to the trouble and expense.

"A trademark or a service mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies the source of goods or services. When applying for the “THE” mark in 2019, The Ohio State University originally submitted a shirt with the word “THE” and the school’s logo prominently displayed across the chest as its specimen..

The Trademark Office found that the specimen did not show the use of the word “THE” as establishing a source of goods, but was merely an ornamental design. A design on a T-shirt is not normally protected as a trademark. Instead, what is protectable is the brand itself. The Ohio State University then offered a second specimen that included “THE” not in the design of the shirt, but on the tag. Generally, the Trademark Office considers brands on tags as evidence that consumers associate the mark with a single source of goods."

Talking of trademarks, Indian legal blogger and senior associate Udayvir Rana, of Remfry & Sagar  penned a very interesting analysis of the unique position taken by the Delhi high court over the sale of keywords for the purpose of commercial advertising.

Original link:
Lexology link:

I have to end abruptly, the thunderstorm is upon me.
All the best,

Rowena Cherry