Thursday, December 29, 2011

James Hutchings Discusses Licensing for Aspiring Writers

Regular readers of this space will know that I'm starting (ever so slowly) to take my first steps into indie publishing.  I'm somewhat casually researching the steps necessary and prudent to get my work out there for public consumption, so imagine my surprise and delight to have encountered James Hutchings.  James is an emerging writer from Australia, who approached me recently for a review of his book (look for it here later this week).  In return, he generously provided a great guest post on the benefits of licensing your work for public use, and why you may not want to worry too much about sharing it for free.  Thanks, James!
-Jon
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Many writers, whether published or just starting out, are very nervous that someone else will steal their work, whether that be another writer using their ideas in their own stories, or someone making pirated copies of their books. When I put out a collection of my writing, I specifically gave permission for anyone at all to copy my ideas, or even to cut and paste whole stories. I also contacted the Pirate Party, a worldwide network that wants to lessen copyright, and told them that I was giving anyone permission to put my ebook on file-sharing sites. In this post I hope to show why I went against common wisdom.

Creative Commons
I used a free service called Creative Commons.  Creative Commons is useful for people who want to give the general public permission to use their work, but with restrictions. In my case I didn't mind people using my work for non-profit purposes, such as posting on a blog, but I didn't want to allow anyone to make money off it. Similarly I wanted anyone who used it to give me credit. I could have just listed these things myself. However I'm not a lawyer, and perhaps I would have worded it wrong so that someone could twist what I said to do more than I meant. Also I could have been unclear about what I was allowing and what I wasn't allowing. Sure, someone could email me and ask, but the whole purpose of having a written statement is so that people don't have to ask.

Creative Commons has a series of different licenses, which give permission to do different things. They're all legally 'tight', and they're all summarized in plain language. So all you have to do is go to their site and answer a series of questions, to get to the license that does what you want. In my case I used the Non-Commercial License.

Why?
That's what I did. But why? Common sense would suggest that I'm giving something away for free that I could be selling. However I believe that, in the long run, I'll be better off. The main reason is that I've seen how many people are, like me, trying to get their writing out there. Go to Smashwords and have a look at the latest ebooks. Then refresh the page ten minutes later, and you'll probably see a whole new lot. The problem that new writers face isn't that people want to steal your work; it's getting anyone to show an interest in your work at all. If someone passes on a pirated copy of my work, it might get to someone who's prepared to buy it - and that someone would probably have never heard of me otherwise. Even if they don't want to pay for what they read, I might come out with something else in the future, and perhaps paying 99c for it will be easier than hunting it down on a file-sharing site.  Science fiction writer Andrew Burt tells the story of someone who disliked his book, and to get back at him decided to put a copy on a file-sharing site. The effect was that he got a small 'spike' in sales immediately afterwards.

I also have some less selfish motives. Many people would assume that the purpose of copyright is to protect authors and creators. Leaving aside the fact that someone else often ends up with the rights (how many Disney shareholders created any of the Disney characters? How many shareholders in Microsoft have ever written a line of code?), that doesn't seem to have been the intention in the past. The US Constitution says that Congress has the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Note that protecting 'intellectual property' isn't mentioned. The authors of the Constitution seemed to see the point as getting ideas out there where people can use them: almost the exact opposite of keeping them 'safe' and 'protected'.

The original idea of copyright seems to have been a sort of deal: you have an idea, and we want you to get it out into the world where it will do some good. To encourage you to do that, we'll give you a monopoly on its use for a limited time. After that, anybody can use it (it will enter the 'public domain').

A lot of people don't know that copyright used to give a lot less protection than it does now, especially in the United States. In the US, it used to be that works were copyrighted for a maximum of 56 years. Today copyright in the US can last for over 100 years. In fact Congress keeps extending the time. In practice, they're acting as if they never want ideas to go into the public domain.

This is great for the owners of 'intellectual property'. But it's hard to see how this "promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts," or how forever is a "limited time." In a sense it's a theft from the public. Anyone who publishes work has accepted the deal that the law offers, of a limited monopoly in return for making their idea known. Congress has been giving them more and more extensions on that monopoly, but doesn't require them to do anything to earn it.

It probably doesn't matter that much that Disney still owns Mickey Mouse, or that Lord of the Rings is still under copyright. But remember that these laws don't just apply to the arts. They apply to science as well. So an invention that might save lives could be going unused, because its owner wants too much money for it, or because it's tied up in court while two companies fight about who owns it.

Conclusion
I'm far from an expert on either the law or the publishing industry. However I hope that I've given you, especially those of you who might be thinking about publishing some writing, a different take on the whole issue of whether authors should worry about their ideas being stolen. At least I hope I've shown you that there's a different way of thinking about it, and that that way doesn't require you to just give up on making money; in fact that it might be more profitable as well as better for society.

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James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He fights crime as Poetic Justice, but his day job is acting. You might know him by his stage-name 'Brad Pitt.' He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and Others, is now available from Amazon and Smashwords. He blogs daily at http://www.apolitical.info/teleleli.
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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial License

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Archeress, Part 20


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Absolution (Conclusion of The Archeress)

As the door clicked shut, his eyes fluttered open.

“Here to finish your Master’s chore?” he asked.
She winced.
“ Here to see if you’re okay.”
“I’m not yet dead.  My guards?”
“Unconscious, but unharmed.”
“Not like those men on the roof?”
“An unfortunate necessity.  My clean escape was sabotaged.  Now the Master is dead.”
He searched her face, looking for a lie.
“You’ve never been one for subtlety, have you?”
“I’m sorry, Rhyne.  I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but you deserve the truth.”
He sighed.  “Aila, war is coming.  What will you do?”
“Whatever I have to.  Goodbye, love.”
-The End
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So this is it.  If I was into pretentious bullshit I'd have written "Fin" at the bottom.  If I was into lame Hollywood bullshit, I'd have written "The Beginning..." at the bottom (more on that below).  I'm not really into either, but I did go with a simple "The End," even though that really isn't in vogue for fiction any more.  I still think it's important to cap a story, formally.

I hope everyone enjoyed my first real attempt at longer-form fiction.  I'm happy with the story arc overall, but there are always things you look back on and wish were better.  Obviously the 100-word limit I set myself to was a bit constrictive at times.  Of course it was meant to be, and it helped immensely to focus my writing on the task at hand (unlike the shambling path most of my outbursts in this space take, like this), but it seems to have led to some pretty terse dialogue at times, as well as some pretty vague descriptions of people and places.  That's unfortunate, but I didn't mean to completely expose the world Aila lives in with this work.  I mostly was just trying to figure out who she is, what is important to her, what she's good at (that was pretty clear, I think), why she does it.  The world sort of built itself around her, and even though we've seen only a tiny fraction of it, a lot more lies just out of sight of the necessarily tight lens the microfiction format lets us view.

I intend to fix that, though.  I know enough about her now that I'm going to expand it to a book.  It may take me forever (hell, it took a year to write this, and it's only 2000 words), but a novel will result.  In the meantime, I'm going to get my feet wet in the world of indie publishing...with this one.  The format is impossible from a traditional publishing standpoint, but an e-book sold on Amazon and Smashwords?  That can be accomplished.  I'm doing some research, but if anybody reading this has some inside knowledge they'd like to share, I'm all ears.  I'd also like to illustrate it, but since I don't do that, I'm also in the market for a good illustrator.  Contact me at the email address in my profile...we'll talk.

Thanks for reading, and don't hold back now with your thoughts.  Comments, criticism, compliments (I love compliments...), I'd like to hear what you think.  If there's one thing that all writers need, it's to know that someone is paying attention to their work.  Well, that and compliments. 
Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Archeress, Part 19

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Escalation (Part 19 of The Archeress)

Leaving the Temple proved easier than entering—she resembled everyone else, and chaos reigned for the few minutes she needed to scale the wall and disappear back into the forest.
The trip back to the city had been trickier.  The Union mob was indeed on the rampage, and the Temple was the obvious target.  Even as she escaped the Temple she noted that messengers were being sent to the other temples of the realm.  Every observer of the Way would soon be preparing for war.
Except for her.  Her mission now was to return to the city, and seek forgiveness.

Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Archeress, Part 18

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Denouement (Part 18 of The Archeress)

He looked much older and more frail than she ever remembered before. 
“So what will you do?  Killing your Master is a mortal sin.”
“I’ve already killed my student today, tasked with killing his master.  Sins are not scarce it would seem.  Chagga was barely more than a boy.”
“And he wouldn’t have been endangered had the plan succeeded.  But he might have given you pause.”
“You were wrong again.”  She stepped from the window, blade flashing to her hand.
His lunge was too slow.  Blood sprayed once again.
She swung out the window as voices rang in the corridor.



Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Archeress, Part 17

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Explanation (Part 17 of The Archeress)

 “I suppose you want to know why?” the Master asked calmly.
“I can guess.”
He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. 
“We could not afford to let the Union continue to gather strength, and that depended on your husband.”
“But you also couldn’t let the Way…and you…be implicated directly in his death.  Better to make it a crime of passion.”  She could see by his expression she was right.
“It would have solved two problems.  Your relationship with him was always dangerous to the Way.”
“You failed at both.  The Union will be here in force within days.  Maybe hours.”

Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight
Part 11:  Combat
Part 12:  Evasion
Part 13:  Suspicion
Part 14:  Ambush
Part 15:  Retribution
Part 16:  Confrontation

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Archeress, Part 16

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Confrontation (Part 16 of The Archeress)

“Master, an attack at the Sight Tower!”  The aide spoke with urgency, but not panic.  “Two guards down, and the roof is ablaze.”

“A massed attack?” the Master asked, without opening his eyes.
“No, Master, much too sudden.  There was no warning.”
“Clever girl…” the Master sighed.
“Apologies, Master, but wha-?”  His words were cut off by the arrow protruding from his mouth, pinning him to the door.
“Thank you for the compliment, Master.  But you underestimated me nonetheless.”  His eyes opened finally.  She was silhouetted in the window, bow in hand.
“You will never leave alive, child.”
“More underestimation.”
Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight
Part 11:  Combat
Part 12:  Evasion
Part 13:  Suspicion
Part 14:  Ambush
Part 15:  Retribution

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Archeress, Part 15

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Retribution (Part 15 of The Archeress)


Chagga hadn’t known much about his mission, but he told her all she needed.  Her student had accepted his fate with dignity, which gave her pride…and deep sadness.
Now she would add his death to the list of wrongs to be righted.
The Temple was dark save for the guard towers at the five corners, and a tiny light inside the Master’s chamber.  He would be in his nightly meditations.  What mantra was he reciting?  A prayer for success?  Forgiveness?  Or had he assumed victory and forgotten his betrayal already?

She moved from the forest’s edge toward the nearest tower.
Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight
Part 11:  Combat
Part 12:  Evasion
Part 13:  Suspicion
Part 14:  Ambush

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Archeress, Part 14

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Ambush  (Part 14 of The Archeress)

It was the smell that made her freeze.  There was a waft of odor that didn’t…belong…in the forest.  She crouched and closed her eyes, reaching out.
When the arrow came, she heard it leave the bow.  Rolling to her right, she felt it ruffle her still-free hair.  Knocking an arrow, she sighted along the shot’s vector, and…there!  The slightest hint of unnatural outline.  She loosed, and was immediately rewarded with a cry and crash.
As she approached where he lay face-up on the path, his eyes widened in fear.
“You attacked upwind, Chagga.  Have you never listened to my instruction?”

Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight
Part 11:  Combat
Part 12:  Evasion
Part 13:  Suspicion

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Archeress, Part 13

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Suspicion  (Part 13 of The Archeress)

She discarded the cloak at the edge of the city.  Her original escape plan had required moving along the river for some miles, but her impromptu camouflage had worked well enough.  Few of the Union’s security forces were aware of the events at the arena, and so she was able to walk out of town unmolested.
As she moved into the gathering dusk, her thoughts returned to her near capture.  It’s possible she could be mistaken about the door, but that did not explain the absence of her escape rope. 
Someone had sabotaged her mission.  And the list was short.

 

Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight
Part 11:  Combat
Part 12:  Evasion

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Archeress, Part 12

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Evasion  (Part 12 of The Archeress)
Booted feet scuffed on the rooftop toward the two guards, now still in a spreading pool of blood.
“Viggs, stay and watch the ladder.  The rest, fan out.  We’ll find the bastard!”
The captain’s orders scattered the guards away from the cupola.  From her prone position atop, she swung silently through the cupola door.
Viggs was turned away, dutifully watching the ladder through the open hatch.  Her thumb found the pressure point, and he was unconscious in seconds.  She donned his dark cloak.
Back inside the hatch, she slid down the ladder, loosed her hair, and joined the still-fleeing crowd.


Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight
Part 11:  Combat

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Archeress, Part 11

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Combat (Part 11 of The Archeress)
The guards came at her side-by-side, the left dropping his pike to take her low, the other toward her face and throat.
As they closed, she pulled the blades free from her forearm sheaths, curved and wicked.  The left guard, steps ahead of his fellow, thrust at her knees, hoping to trip her.  She leaped lightly to the wall, pushed off with her left foot, and vaulted over him, slashing with her right hand at his unprotected neck.  Her flip continued, allowing her to bring a left backhand slash across the second guard’s face.
Blood sprayed as she ran on.


Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress
Part 10:  Flight

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Archeress, Part 10

Okay, readers.  The micro-serial that I've been writing for almost exactly a year...is finished.  I just completed parts 19 and 20 last night, and I'm done!  Below is Part 10.  If you've been following along with the installments all along, you'll be happy to know that the action is picking up now...slow burn to a higher-paced finish. 
If you haven't read any of these yet, please use the links at the bottom of this post to check out the first 9 parts and start at the beginning--it'll make a lot more sense.  They're only 100 words apiece...how long could it possibly take, right?
One more thing:  I'm going to post the next ten installments once a day for the next ten days.  By December 11th, the whole story will be told.  Including her name.
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Flight  (Part 10 of The Archeress)
Knowing she had only seconds until the guards burst from the cupola, she sprinted along the low wall crowning the roof to where she’d left the rope.  It was already anchored to the wall with a  breakaway clip; she would drop quickly to the river bank, loose the rope with a shake, and make her way to safety.
As she got within steps, she saw that the rope was gone.  Another surprise—far too many today.
“There she is!” 
Making a snap decision, she turned and ran directly toward the two guards emerging from the cupola, already lowering their pikes.



Previous Installments:
Part 1:  Preparation
Part 2:  Infiltration
Part 3:  Eyrie
Part 4:  Patience
Part 5:  Stirrings
Part 6:  Action
Part 7:  Decision
Part 8, 9:  Discovery, Egress