Sunday, August 28, 2022


"There's a hole... I must look into it!" is a play on words that is apparently so old that it does not turn up on the first page of a reputable, almost omniscient search engine's results.

The finding that cropped up most plentiously was, "There's a hole in my bucket," which I heartily recommend to anyone dealing with small children, teenagers, or aging loved ones.

"There's a hole... I must look into it!" is the sort of joke best told in a funny voice by a man with a mobile eyebrow and wearing a well-worn raincoat, who might be a very thorough detective, or a sex addict. 

So much for indecency.

Now to Decency, as in the Communications Decency Act, (Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material.)

Here is a very tiny permissionless excerpt from an excellent Ivy League law school publication on the matter. (I could have credited Cornell, there, but I went for alliteration.)

(c) Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2) Civil liabilityNo provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).

How interesting that they bring Good Samaritans into the topic! There is a hole in that logic, but I will not go into it! 

Legal blogger Robert B. Nussbaum Esquire of the Saiber law firm's Trending Law Blog appears to suggest that Decency is under assault with his title "Section 230 Dodges Another Judicial Bullet."

In a nutshell (nussbaum is German for "nut tree"), there are some politicians who would like to revise the so-called "Good Samaritan" immunity protections (probably tautologous of me) that are currently enjoyed by internet platforms when they host or display indecent material that is uploaded or created by third parties.

Personally, I have to wonder, what is not third party content? At least when it comes to a social media site such as Facebook.

The "bullet" or case under discussion, is one of a private individual who did not succeed in a suit against Facebook for its hosting of a sex predator.

One Supreme Court justice's opinion is well worth reading. He ruled on the law as it is written, and not, perhaps, as he thinks it should be.

It would be stretching literary license to wonder whether there's a bullet hole in the legal bucket. I only do so for a hook upon which to hang the literary device of apophasis. Additionally, as a copyright enthusiast, I hope that the grim-faced actor with the rubber glove gets royalties for that edifying apophasis meme shot!

Here's a parting link: 

All the best,

Friday, August 26, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Fiction Fundamentals: Writing Elbow Grease, Part 3 Involving Critique Partners and Setting the Final Draft Aside

Writer's Craft Article

Fiction Fundamentals: Writing Elbow Grease, Part 3

Involving Critique Partners and Setting the Final Draft Aside

by Karen S. Wiesner

Based on Cohesive Story Building, Volume 2: 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

In this three month, in-depth series, we're going to go over what could be considered the grunge work in building a cohesive story. Revising, editing, and polishing require a little or a lot of writing elbow grease to finish the job and bring forth a strong and beautiful book.

In Part 2 of this series, we discussed the revision part of the process. This time we'll go over involving critique partners and setting the final draft aside. 


Everyone knows writers can get too close to their own work. It's an occupational hazard. While you may feel that you've got a story beyond compare, it may need a little more work and you simply can't see it. That's why it's so important now to turn your beloved opus over to a trusted spouse, friend, or, preferably, a critique partner (or three) for a critical read. The opinion of others is very important. You're not ready to send that book out to a publisher/editor or agent until you've had enough reader reactions to judge the strength of your accomplishment.

I highly recommend that you give yourself this time to digest the comments a critique partner made about your beloved baby, too. At this stage, your desire may be to haul off and lay her out flat. Don't do it! After you've initially read her comments, send her this note without any embellishments: "Thanks for all the work you put into critiquing my story. I'll get back to you in a few weeks if I have any questions or comments about your evaluation." Then folder-up that project again with her comments. Put it away in your story cupboard and do something else. I guarantee that her comments, if left on a low backburner in your mind, will do their work. When you return for the final editing and polishing, hopefully for the last time before you begin submitting to publishers/editors or agents, you might even agree with your friend on several points. You'll also feel better about everything, and you'll be able to evaluate, unbiased, what needs to be done to shine up that book.


Letting your projects sit, out of sight and out of mind, for a couple weeks--or even months--in-between stages will provide you with a completely fresh perspective. Distance gives you objectivity and the ability to read your own work so you can progress further with it, adding more and more layers and dimensions to your characters, plots and settings. Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers may reach a point where their motivation runs out, and they want to get away from the story as fast as they can. Sometimes the author may not feel inspired to write a book he's just spent weeks or even months outlining, or revise something he's spent weeks or months writing.

Setting a project aside between the various stages the project goes through also allows your creativity to be at its peak. The process becomes easier, too, and your writing will be the best it can be. Putting a WIP on a back burner for an extended period of time will allow you to see more of the connections that make a story multidimensional.

To set your project aside between stages, return everything to your story folder. For as long as you possibly can, put this book on a shelf and keep it on the backburner in your mind. Get to work on something else so you won’t concentrate too much on this project and it becomes the center of your attention again.

In the introduction to this series, I mentioned that Stephen King calls this a “recuperation time”, and it really is that, considering the blood, sweat and tears you’ve expended thus far (half-done in the writing in stages process!). When you take the manuscript down again to begin revisions, followed by editing and polishing, “you’ll find reading your book over after a…layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours…and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else. …This is the way it should be, the reason you waited…”

As a general rule, every book I write gets a few months between stages, and I really need the break from each project. I can't imagine going through all the steps in finishing a book back-to-back. I get so sick of a story when one stage carries into the next without pause, I can no longer see whether anything I'm doing is improving or ruining. When one stage of a WIP is done, I'm eager to get away from it. Many times I leave a stage certain the whole thing is fit only for burning in the nearest fireplace, but, when I come back to it months later, I discover that all my hard work previously was well-worth the effort. The layers of the story are building up beautifully into something I know will be even better when it's finally done.

The basic reason for any shelf-time for a project is obvious: You just finished one big stage, you’d have to be insane to want to read the book again right after you just finished going over it from start to finish yet again. You’ll have gained no distance from it if you jump directly into the next stage at this point. So give yourself another few weeks or more if your deadlines allow before moving on.

One other thing I alluded to earlier is not wanting to get burned out when it comes to any specific project. When writers say they’re burned out, they mean they’ve been working too much and not taking the time off to refresh themselves and keep their creative energy flowing. (This is completely different from writer’s block, which can stem from situations like a story not ready to be worked on, not enough brainstorming or inspiration, or sheer laziness usually attributed to a fickle muse.) This is especially true if you're working on the same project, doing all these stages back-to-back, without taking a break from the same project specifically or from work in general. You bring back your own love for a project each time you set it aside and then come back to it fresh. Don't underestimate the importance of doing that. You and your stories will suffer for it eventually if back-to-back stages becomes a habit.

There's another reason for avoiding burnout whenever you can. The soil in your brain is like the soil farmers sow crops in. It needs rest and rotation (writing in stages, for the author) in order to become fertile and nutrient-rich again. I strong suggested working up yearly goals prior to every new year. On this sheet, you're not only deciding what you’re going to be working on during that year, but you should also be planning your breaks from writing. If taking weekends off doesn’t refresh you, take a week, weeks or even a month off during the year. Read, watch movies, relax, and re-energize your creativity. (This doesn't mean you can't be brainstorming or researching for upcoming projects during this time.) By the time your vacation is up, you’ll be raring to go on your next writing project. Take your scheduled vacations when you’ve planned them unless something wonderful happens (an editor contracts a series from you, you're asked to write a screenplay of your book; you fill in the blank for your own idea of wonderful) in your career or life, and you can’t let the opportunity pass you by. As soon as that thing is finished, take the vacation you planned. Reward yourself by allowing your creative soil to become fertile again.

You might be wondering how many times you can set your book aside before it goes to an editor. I suggest you set it aside for a few months after the outline is complete (before you begin writing the book) as well as after the first draft is done and, of course, before you begin revising. I also suggest you set it aside again after the critical reads and before you complete final editing and polishing and send it off to a publisher/editor or agent. As with a good wine or cheese, the more shelf-time you give each book, the stronger it'll be--and the better for you to see your story clearly, my dears.

Next week, we'll go over Stage 4: Editing and Polishing.

Happy writing!

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Cohesive Story Building, Volume 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Our Viral Symbiotes

About 8% of our DNA may have come from ancient viruses that infiltrated our cells, where they established permanent residence.

Viral "Fossils" in Our DNA

The human genome includes 100,000 pieces of "ancient viral DNA." Recent studies of what function, if any, this "fossil" DNA might perform in our bodies suggest that it may play a vital role in boosting our immune systems. Amazingly, viruses that invade our cells sometimes not only become part of our chromosomes but become inheritable. The article summarizes the process thusly:

"When a type of virus known as a retrovirus infects a cell, it converts its RNA into DNA, which can then become part of a human chromosome. Once in a while, retroviruses infect sperm and egg cells and become 'endogenous,' meaning they are passed down from generation to generation."

In science-fiction treatments of traditional monsters such as vampires and werewolves, this ability of some retroviruses could be invoked to rationalize how a naturally evolved creature of a different species could convert a human victim—or willing host—into a member of the "monster" species.

When Walt Whitman declared, "I contain multitudes," he wrote truer than he could have suspected. That quote features in the title of a book by Ed Yong, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES: THE MICROBES WITHIN US AND A GRANDER VIEW OF LIFE, about microbiomes inside animals and especially humans, in the context of a vision of our bodies as "living islands" with millions of inhabitants.

On a totally different topic, but harking back to some of my earlier posts, here is a detailed article about the intelligence of octopuses, to which I've alluded more than once in the past. As the article says, they're probably the closest to intelligent aliens of any species we currently know. Cool!

Another Path to Intelligence

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sextortion, Scams, Privacy in the Toilet (Metaphorically)

Yesterday, a man with a foreign voice telephoned my landline, and without verifying with whom he was speaking, he proceeded to ask me about my vaccination status. He was quite verbally assertive about his inquiries. 

If I understood him correctly, he did not believe that I was fully vaccinated against shingles, and he wanted to administer a two-shot vaccine (which might cost up to $250 a pop, but he did not tell me that). It seemed to me that the call might have been a HIPAA violation... or not.

Anyone can claim to be anyone over the phone, and I believe anyone can control what Caller Id displays. There are Covid-19 vaccination scams, so why not Shingrix scams?

Australian legal blogger Dennis Miralis of Australian defence law specialists Nyman Gibson Miralis shared an excellent advice piece on What Everybody Ought To Know About Scams (Down Under). 

Words in parenthesis are mine. I could not resist the word play.

Original link:
Apparently, in 2021, Australians were scammed out of two billion Australian dollars. After investment scams, the next most lucrative or prevalent scam appears to be categorized as romance-and-dating. Not all of the latter would be sextortion. Dennis Miralis does not mention sextortion, just to be clear.

Legal man of mystery, Celes Keene of Klemchuk LLP on the other hand, does mention sextortion, and a whole lot of other intriguing information about your vulnerabilities, and privacy or lack thereof.

Sextortion link:
Legal jeopardy link:
Creepy age extrapolation link: 
Disclaimer: I call Celes Keene a "man of mystery" because the links to his author profile re-link to some of his best and most recent copyrightable works. I apologize unreservedly if I have jumped to offensive conclusions.
No photo, no blurb, no guidance as to his preferred pronouns...but given what he writes about, he is probably "walking the talk" and demonstrating how to follow his own excellent advice. 
Of the three excellent articles, the one that seems to me to be most interesting to authors is the one about how law enforcement is using reverse keyword searches to select suspects with a real life, arson crime narrative.
When I started writing, my research was conducted in libraries and in person. I interviewed interesting people; private pilots, an airforce pilot, lawmen, gun shop owners, funeral directors, a fencing master, Survivorman Les Stroud, a weatherwoman, a witch, a doctor or two and more. Now, there's Search, and with it the risk of being misunderstood if one happens to search the wrong topic, in the wrong place, using what some might call the wrong engine for the purpose.
As Celes Keene points out,
"...without proper restrictions on reverse keyword searches, the long arm of the law’s current use could lead to them arresting citizens that searched for terms for innocuous reasons. As an example, they note that a person searching for the specific term could trigger law enforcement investigation or surveillance, regardless of whether the person was searching that term for educational reasons or other completely innocent reasons." 
What is sextortion? Celes Keene explains, 
"Sextortion refers to the process of a scammer extorting payment from victims by securing sexually explicit photos, screenshots, or recordings of a victim through reprehensible means."

Celes Keene says that awareness is key to prevention, in other words, to not being a victim. That advice is probably good, whether one is an author searching for reprehensible information, a recipient of an invitation to sext, or a privacy enthusiast who avoids sharing their age/driver's license/biometric data on social media.

Do I need to explain my reference to privacy in the toilet? Unlikely, except that the thesaurus is less helpful than I expected, and my meaning is that privacy is destroyed, eradicated, gutted and sacked. It would be an adverbial phrase of Degree, rather than of Place.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Fiction Fundamentals: Writing Elbow Grease, Part 2 Revision

Writer's Craft Article

Fiction Fundamentals: Writing Elbow Grease, Part 2


by Karen S. Wiesner

Based on Cohesive Story Building, Volume 2: 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

In this three month, in-depth series, we're going to go over what could be considered the grunge work in building a cohesive story. Revising, editing, and polishing require a little or a lot of writing elbow grease to finish the job and bring forth a strong and beautiful book.

In the introduction to this series, we discussed the process of entering the revision mindset. In this second installment, we'll go over all things "revision".


Marguerite Smith said, "Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes." Revision can also be aptly described as when your dreams put on work clothes. The process is equivalent to getting on your hands and knees to scrub a filthy floor until it shines. It's the grunge work of being a writer, but it's well worth the effort you put into it. And revision and editing and polishing add a very definite extra layer to your story. Without it, your story probably won't read smoothly, nor will it shine.

What's the best way to revise? Below, we'll discuss ways to go about revision effectively.

Minimizing the Work

Let's first talk about the difference between the revision process and the editing and polishing process, because these, too, are separate jobs that can--but ideally shouldn't--take place at the same time.

These writing processes are similar to what builders face. It's not unusual to make design changes during construction, but builders want to minimize them. Moving a wall, for instance, can be expensive, especially if it's already been framed in and drywalled. During construction, periodic visits are made to the building site in order to monitor the home's progress. This allows the owner and builder to detect problems earlier and therefore take corrective action.

In the same way, in the process of writing a book, you want to minimize major changes to your book, like rewriting an entire story thread, or adding, deleting, or revising multiple chapters--they'll cost you a lot of time and effort (hence the need for an outline, where these kinds of revisions take only a fraction of that time and effort). If you've gone back to your outline often while writing the first draft to make sure your story is progressing the way it needs to, you'll detect problems early and be able take corrective action. This prevents major revisions at the end of a project, when you've already committed hundreds of pages to a solid structure. Terry Brooks said about this: "I believe, especially with long fiction, that an outline keeps you organized and focused over the course of the writing. I am not wedded to an outline once it is in place and will change it to suit the progress of the story and to accommodate new and better ideas, but I like having a blueprint to go back to. Also, having an outline forces you to think your story through and work out the kinks and bad spots. I do a lot less editing and rewriting when I take time to do the outline first."

What most writers call revising is actually just editing and polishing. Revision is the larger of the two jobs. We'll talk more about editing and polishing, which should be minor buffing up, later. Revision may or may not be major, especially if you've started with an outline. But it does involve tweaking characters, settings, and plots; and possibly rewriting, adding to, or deleting one or more scenes; and incorporating major research. When you revise, you evaluate (and fix) any of the following:


-Character, setting, and plot credibility and the cohesion of these elements

-Depth of conflicts, goals, and motivations

-Scene worthiness


-Effectiveness of hints, tension and suspense, and resolutions


-Emotion and color

-Hooks and cliffhangers

-Character voice


-Adequacy of research

-Properly unfurled, developed, and concluded story threads

-Deepening of character enhancements/contrasts and the symbols of these

Revision is redoing or reshaping in an effort to make what's already there better, stronger, and, of course, utterly cohesive.

Maximizing the Benefits

After you've completed a first draft and allowed the book to sit for a long time, the next step is revision. While I used to do this step off the computer on a hard copy of the book, the work involved after the revision done by my own messy (practically unreadable) hand, having to make all those corrections within the story file on my computer, became too immense. Literally, there was never a single page that didn't have countless changes, additions, or deletions. I now find this job a world easier to do on the computer.

I strongly believe that revision should be done as quickly as possible, with as little interruption from the material as possible. This won't compromise the quality of your revision, I promise--just the opposite, in fact! Ideally, if you can set aside a block of time of about a week (three days is generally the maximum time it takes me, but I always allow for a week) to work exclusively on the revision, you'll find that your story will be more consistent, and you'll remember details much better. In my case, I remember things photographically--I could argue that I memorize the entire book during this time, and any error will jump out at me as I work. During revision days, I may even be woken from sound sleep because a glaring error in some portion of the book will emerge from my subconscious. The whole book is quite literally laid out in my mind, ready to be accessed at a moment's notice during this short revision period. If revision on a project is broken up over a period of days or weeks, especially if you're working on other projects during this time, the book will most certainly suffer from consistency issues, and possibly even structural and cohesion problems. If you can set aside that crucial, uninterrupted block of time to focus on revision, your story will benefit from it immeasurably.

To get started, make a list that organizes the revision items in need of your final attention during this time. Fix firmly in your mind those details you need to attend to while reading your book from start to finish. Check off what you've finished at the end of each work day so you'll know what you need to deal with when you come back to the revision.

Yes, during this time you'll be working on fixing more serious problems, but you probably will be doing some editing and polishing during this stage as well. You're there; it wouldn't make any sense to not clean up something small but not quite right that clearly needs a little elbow grease. However, what you're really looking for during the revision is anything in your story that doesn't work or doesn't make sense.

One way I keep my project consistent is to have a notebook next to me while I'm reading to revise. I jot down the timeline and various other details, including the page number the detail is mentioned on. If I later have a question while revising about, say, when a certain event took place, I can always look in the notebook to make sure I've kept those facts consistent. Whenever and as often as this detail is mentioned in the story, I'll write down the page number for it in the notebook. I might decide to change the fact later, and this way I have a list of all the places affected by the change.

You may have very little left to do to make your book closer to perfect once when you complete this process.

Next week, we'll go over stages 2 and 3: Involving critique partners and setting the final draft aside. 

Happy writing!

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Cohesive Story Building, Volume 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Taste for Blood

This week I donated blood, and as usual in that situation, I thought about vampires. (Doesn't everybody?) If vampires have razor-sharp teeth that painlessly produce tiny incisions in the skin, maybe with anesthetic in their saliva like vampire bats, they wouldn't need to leave conspicuous twin fang marks that the donor has to cover with a scarf. (Vampire bats, by the way, make incisions, not punctures.) The puncture produced by the blood donation needle, at least in my experience, is so minute that it's hardly noticeable after the bleeding stops. Usually it has almost disappeared by the next day. The procedure typically extracts a unit of blood in less than ten minutes. Afterward, the donor isn't prostrated from blood loss; the worst I ever feel is thirsty and slightly tired for a couple of hours at most. So much for the dramatic image of a victim languishing on the verge of imminent death.

That's if the vampire takes only "as much as would fill a wineglass," like Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Count Saint-Germain. He's a supernatural vampire, though. For those creatures, we can postulate that they're really nourished more by the life-essence than by the physical components of blood, so they don't need to ingest a large volume of it. Likewise, the absurd movie scenes in which a vampire grabs a victim, bites his her or neck for a couple of minutes, and leaves a body completely drained of blood could be handwaved as magic. No awkward questions as to where all that liquid fits into the monster's body. But suppose vampires evolve naturally and have to conform to the limits of biology? As the vampire Dr. Weyland in Suzy McKee Charnas's THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY rhetorically asks, "How would nature design a vampire?"

How do vampire bats cope with a diet high in protein and minerals but not much else, including a potentially toxic level of iron? This article explains how vampire bats' digestion and physiology have adapted to make them the only mammals able to survive entirely on blood:

Why Do Vampire Bats Have a Taste for Blood?

For one thing, they live in symbiosis with gut microbes that synthesize nutrients not found in their restricted diets. They have other fascinating adaptations for their predatory lifestyle as well, including anticoagulants as well as painkillers in their saliva and the heat-seeking ability to perceive infrared radiation marking hot spots on the bodies of their prey. We could give our naturally evolved humanoid vampires these traits. My own fictional vampires get their bulk nourishment from animal blood and milk rather than feeding heavily on human donors, whose life-energy they need to remain healthy. Still, I fudge the total amount they require with discreet handwavium. Weyland in Charnas's novel gets "good mileage per calorie," and I tacitly assume any natural vampire would have to operate that way.

Unfortunately, in real life vampire bats suffer from an inconvenient drawback as models for romantic haunters of the night. So much blood volume consists of water that the bat has to consume half its own weight to ingest enough calories to support life. Then, of course, it has to get rid of that excess liquid just to reduce its weight enough to be able to fly. Therefore, during and after feeding the bat urinates copiously. Not glamorous at all, alas. So the writer inventing a naturally evolved humanoid vampire typically avoids discussing that problem. (In THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, the blood-heavy bat's plight is mentioned, but that unsavory topic isn't covered in the explanation of how Weyland feeds and digests.)

I'm currently reading a Japanese novel titled IRINA THE VAMPIRE COSMONAUT, set in an alternate-world version of the 1960s space race. Members of Irina's species have fangs, rely mainly on milk for nourishment, have superhuman senses of smell but can't taste most foods, are sensitive to sunlight but not destroyed by it, lead a nocturnal lifestyle, and can endure cold better than humans but are more vulnerable to heat. They drink blood on ritual occasions but don't seem to require it for survival.

The ways authors rationalize science-fiction vampires fascinate me. Some striking examples include, besides THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, George R. R. Martin's FEVRE DREAM, Jacqueline Lichtenberg's THOSE OF MY BLOOD, Octavia Butler's FLEDGING, and S. M. Stirling's Shadowspawn trilogy (A TAINT IN THE BLOOD and two sequels). I analyze these and many other works in that subgenre in my nonfiction book DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN.

Different Blood

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, August 14, 2022

What Means Moral

"What means moral?" sounds like something Yoda might say, doesn't it? Which is not inappropriate for an alien romances blog.

Indians, Australians, and Europeans may have a better moral compass when it comes to the moral rights of authors, artists, creators than Americans.  

That might be a provocative statement, but legal bloggers Andrew J. ThomasJacob L. TracerLauren M. Greene and Steven R. Englund representing the mostly American law firm Jenner & Block LLP --which I cited last week-- wrote something kinder and gentler, but similar.

"Moral rights are protected to some extent, but they are more narrowly defined and of less practical effect in the US than in many other jurisdictions."

Lexology link:

The Jenner & Block LLP "snapshot" explains what VARA (Visual Artists Rights Act) does and does not do to protect authors and their works from being ripped off, mutilated, distorted, destroyed, or modified.
(VARA is intended to protect artists from either having their names and/or copyright information stripped from their works, having someone else put their own name on the original artist's work, having someone apply the fair name of an artist onto a work done by someone else.)
As we may see with many copyright infringement/moral rights legal disputes, and perhaps most controversially with the case to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in October 2022 against the estate of Andy Warhol for modifying --multiple times-- the Goldsmith photo of Prince, the fly in the ointment for creators is the concept of "fair use", and also how far one can stretch the definition of "free speech".
"The Copyright Act also prohibits providing false copyright management information (CMI), including the name and identifying information of the author, and removing or altering CMI in certain circumstances.

State laws relating to privacy, publicity, contracts, fraud, misrepresentation, unfair competition and defamation, and the federal Lanham Act also provide certain protections consistent with the concept of ‘moral rights’."

Why are Americans morally lax? (at least as regards respect for moral rights of creative persons.)

Perhaps it is something to do with the zeitgeist (a German word that translates as time/spirit.) The "zeitgeist" text link to an India Today article illustrates the point well... so well, that I upped it twice.

Whether or not Andy Warhol appropriated someone else's words without attribution, the saying, “Art is anything you can get away with," reflects a morality --or lack thereof-- that is quite pervasive since Y2K. The same applies to "innovation" and "business".

Perhaps, the SCOTUS decision will be transformative for the state of moral rights in America.

As Jana S. Farmer for Wilson Elser writes:

"The decision will, of course, have far-reaching consequences on artists, photographers and those who incorporate the works other others into the content they create."

Turning to Australia, legal blogger Stephanie Shahine for the Australian law firm Rigby Cooke shares a very short and interesting Australian perspective on the meaning of "moral rights". Among several revelations about Australia is:

"...employment law and intellectual property can intermingle and that, even though copyright in works created by an employee in pursuance of their employment vest in the employer, moral rights cannot be ‘assigned’ to an employer..."

Original link:
Lexology link: 

Finally, and perhaps long overdue, in 2019, the Copyright Office put out a Policy Report titled, “Authors, Attribution, and Integrity: Examining Moral Rights in the United States.”  One of the Copyright Office's concerns was, and may still be, that moral rights are protected differently under different States' laws, and there may be a need to bring the diffferent laws into harmony by means of a clarifying federal law.

Law bloggers Anthony Lupo and Eva Pulliam for the law firm Arent Fox Schiff discussed the then-news, and their analysis of moral rights and rights of publicity is still worth reading.

Lexology link:
Original link:

The afslaw bloggers explain that:

"Moral rights are the rights of a creator of copyright protected work to receive credit for such work and, in some instances, to protect the integrity of the work to ensure that it properly represents the artist."

They also explain what publicity rights are, and how moral rights and publicity rights are often entwined, but protections also vary from State to State.

"Publicity rights are an individual’s right to control the commercial use of his or her name, likeness, voice or other indicia of identity"

PS Of course, since 2019, there have been changes in publicity rights, most notably for college athletes.
All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: Fiction Fundamentals: Writing Elbow Grease, Part 1 Introduction

 Writer's Craft Article

 Fiction Fundamentals: Writing Elbow Grease, Part 1


 by Karen S. Wiesner

 Based on Cohesive Story Building, Volume 2: 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection


In this three month, in-depth series, we're going to go over what could be considered the grunge work in building a cohesive story. Revising, editing, and polishing require a little or a lot of writing elbow grease to finish the job and bring forth a strong and beautiful book.

Once a builder has completed the house, interior painting, staining, and caulking are done, with carpeting as the last step. At that point, interior design becomes the priority. Room arrangements, color schemes, and window treatments, based on knowledge of what's available in the owner's price range and what's appropriate for each use, become the finishing touches. Everything that's done is a layer in develop the house into a home. It's in the final decorations that a solid house truly becomes a thing of beauty and a source of pride. Most new homeowners are dying to throw a party and show it off.

In writing, we have a similar layering. We can created layers through the creation of story folders, brainstorming, researching, pre-writing, outlining, and writing the first draft. (Imagine if you skip more than one of those steps! Your book is missing all those layers, and you'll definitely notice that it lacks some texture, quality, and strength as a result.)

Now we'll talk about the layers of strength and beauty that are added to a story through revising, editing, and polishing the first draft of the book. During this time, we rearrange, punch up the word colors of the book, clarify and beautify with the finishing touches that make it shine. Once you've finished this step, you'll be dying to send it out to those brave readers willing to take on the assessment of an unpublished work--those who will hopefully love it as much as you do. Even if they don't, they may help you see the strengths and weaknesses more clearly, and you can make the necessary changes before you begin submitting to publishers and agents. 

The stages involved with this layer include:

1.               Revising

2.               Involving critique partners

3.               Setting the final draft aside

4.               Final editing and polishing

By this point, you may have already completed an outline (hopefully, a cohesive one) that you've utilizing in writing the first draft of the book. Between these steps, you've hopefully let your story rest quietly on a shelf, ideally for a month or more each time. Stephen King calls this a "recuperation time", and it really is, considering the blood, sweat, and tears you've expended. When you take the manuscript down again to begin revisions, followed by editing and polishing, "you'll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It's yours, you'll recognize it as yours...and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else...This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. ..."

Writing and revision are two completely separate processes that require different mind-sets, and therefore shouldn't be done at the same time. While writing a book, a simple need to polish words, sentences, or paragraphs can become a complete rewrite. This isn't a productive way to work when you're attempting to finish the first draft of the book. An unfortunate side effect of revising, editing, and polishing your story while you're still writing it is that you don't get the necessary distance from it in order to be able to revise effectively. You need to enter the revision phase with fresh, objective eyes once the first draft of the book is finished. Only then can you see the story as it really is. I love what Stephen King says about this process: "I'm rediscovering my own book, and usually liking it. That changes. By the time a book is actually in print, I've been over it a dozen times or more, can quote whole passages, and only wish the damned old smelly thing would go away. That's later, though; the first read-through is usually pretty fine." 

If you're building a house, you wouldn't start painting before all the walls were up. You wouldn't put in carpet before the plumbing and wiring were done because you'd end up having to tear out the carpeting in order to get the necessary plumbing and wiring in where they should be. Paint and carpet are the polish of a completed room; they're final steps in dressing it up. In the same way, writers should concentrate on finishing a full draft of the book before endeavoring to do any revision, editing, or polishing. 

Next week, we'll start the process of applying writing elbow grease with Stage 1: Revising.

Happy writing! 

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Cohesive Story Building, Volume 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Female of the Species

I've just read a recent book called BITCH: ON THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, by British zoologist and documentary filmmaker Lucy Cooke. It's a fascinating survey of the long-neglected status of females in biologists' studies of the animal kingdom—or should that be "queendom"? (Unfortunately, I'd be embarrassed to recommend it aloud by the title, a word I've ever spoken only in connection with dog breeding.) As the author describes the state of the field until recent decades, zoologists regarded males as the unquestioned drivers of evolutionary change, with females dismissed as "passive" and boring. She takes on the mission of demonstrating how wrong those scientists were.

She begins at the microscopic level, with gametes, revealing errors in the image of the female's egg as passively floating around waiting to be penetrated by one of the active sperm cells. In fact, the ovum has ways of controlling which sperm will be allowed to fertilize it. Chapter One, "The Anarchy of Sex: What Is a Female?" covers the development of the embryo, what determines its sex, and many examples of ambiguous sex among animals. Cooke goes on in subsequent chapters to explore the "mysteries of mate choice," in which females are much more active than had been assumed in the past, the assertiveness and competitiveness of females of various species, female-dominated animal social groups, how mating patterns can be a competition between male and female, sexual behavior in supposedly monogamous species, nonreproductive sexual encounters, the complicated nature of maternal behaviors, females who devour their mates, "primate politics," parthenogenesis, and the vital importance of older females in the societies of animals such as elephants and orcas. The final chapter, "Beyond the Binary," discusses intersex phenomena, animal homosexuality, and creatures who change sex. Some species can switch back and forth, and one fish is known to change sex up to twenty times in a day for optimal reproductive efficiency. Dedicated science-fiction readers will be reminded of Le Guin's aliens in THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS and the chieri in Bradley's Darkover series.

In 1981, anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (yes, that's the correct spelling), whom Cooke often cites, published a book on a similar theme, THE WOMAN THAT NEVER EVOLVED. Her study, however, focuses more narrowly on primate and human females. Like Cooke after her, Hrdy's work emphasizes the masculine bias that led over a century of scientists to concentrate overwhelmingly on male animals' biology and behavior, treating females as mere footnotes to the main story. It's a bit mind-boggling that a wide-ranging study published in 2022 still has to start by clearing away that tangle of underbrush. Anyway, Cooke's entertaining and informative book illustrates that we don't have to seek very far on our own planet to find creatures whose biology and behavior may seem as alien as those of many fictional extraterrestrials.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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