Scribd get greedy

The other day I was looking about the net for a couple of free books that I knew were around somewhere.  I had copies backed up somewhere on my file server, but I had a pretty good idea of where to find them on the net and downloading only takes a moment, so it just seemed simpler to do it that way.  I’m lazy like that.

The books in question? A series of non-fiction on writing, written by S.L. Viehl.  She has written an excellent series that includes some planning worksheets that i’ve found useful in the past and kindly made them available free online.

I tracked them down on Scribd, where they have always lived, and was quite surprised to find I couldn’t download them. Apparently their policies have changed and in order to download, i’d have to pay a fee.  I could still read online however.  This was annoying, but I still had copies somewhere on my server, and – as it turns out – my own transcribed copies of the worksheets anyway.  I shrugged and went about my business.

A few days later, I came across this.

It turns out that Scribd has started doing this to the authors of free works, but neglected to tell them!

This, then, is somewhat more serious.  Scribd has, in effect, begun to sell work that it has no right to sell, profiting of the copyright’s of others without permission.  It’s quite nefarious, in some ways, to build up a name as a provider of free hosting and then capture the intellectual property of your users and sell it for profit.  Make no mistake, whatever their justifications that is what they have done.

In the meantime, if you have works you wish to make public and freely downloadable, try Google Docs.

Shock Totem 2 is a go

Hey everyone,

Its been a while since my last posts as things have been obscenely busy at work and I really haven’t had much time to write anything at all.  One thing that has happened over this time though is the publication (at last!) of issue 2 of Shock Totem magazine, which features, amongst other great works, a short story I wrote last year.

This is my first professional fiction publication and I’m quite excited.  The issue has been out a little while now but I was waiting to see my copy before I announced it and I must say – it’s an impressive looking little magazine.  They’ve really done a good job with the production values.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Ken and the other Shock Totem staff who work hard and do such a great job putting the magazine together.  It was a pleasure working with them and I hope to do so again some time in the future.

In the meantime, go out at buy it!  Links to buy are at: http://www.shocktotem.com/shop.html

It’s available directly from the publisher and also from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online bookstores.

Edit: If you want to know more, the Journal of Always has the first review up! http://journalofalways.blogspot.com/2010/08/review-shock-totem-2.html

Read it?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

iPhone for writers

A quick round-up of some useful and free iPhone applications for writers:

Quickpedia – Wikipedia is the first stop for quick overview reference data on just about anything. Quickpedia gives a nice, easy to use iPhone interface to the popular site.

Wikihow – On the heels of quickpedia, this useful little application gives you a direct portal to thousands of how-to articles on a range of subjects. Makes for interesting reading and you never know when you might find some obscure little tip that a character could use.

BabyNames, Baby Namer – I found these two free apps last night while browsing the appstore. I’ve been putting off renaming my characters in my current WIP primarily because I didn’t want to go digging around for my baby name book, these two apps provide tens of thousands of names in an easily searchable format. They stand to be incredibly useful.

All we need now is for a browse-able phonebook for last names and we can do away with the most bulky necessary reference material for any book.

What you have to give up to write

Apparently an “aspiring novelist’s letter” inspired a post over at Whatever yesterday- whoever that was, I bet they were -awesome-.

That aside, the post is an excellent comment on what is actually a significant problem: the prevalent idea that you must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to be a professional writer.

There are people who write sheerly for the enjoyment of it, but far and away the majority of people write to one day see themselves in print, and many dream of giving up their day job and being a full time writer themselves.

To these people the words of those who have “Made It”, the John Scalzi’s and Lawrence Block’s, mean a great deal – and there are a lot of writers out there who are writing books, blogs and articles aimed at these aspiring novelists.

A lot of these books are full of stories about the pain that it can take to become a writer. I think some people probably think they are doing a kindness by preparing others for the pain that there dreams may lead them through: but some of the stories are horrific. They tend to go something like this:

A friend of mine quit his job to become a writer. His first book sucked but he kept trying. He ran out of money but he got a subsistence job to live on and kept trying. His wife left him and took the kids, and his dog died and he was living under a bridge but he kept trying and then his twentieth book took off and now he’s living the dream!

Sure, this is an extreme example (but not -that- extreme, compared to some of the similar stories out there), but there are a lot of them. It has bled into sort of a global belief that in order to be a writer you have to be willing to sacrifice everything – kids, wife, house, your entire life. Only then are you dedicated enough to being a writer, to your dreams and your art, that you can fight your way through the struggle.

At an intellectual level, I don’t believe that. I believe that with hard consistent work and a supportive family you can one day live the dream without having to sacrifice all else that you love. But it is this sort of irrational belief that curls up in your stomach like one of Conan’s serpents and squeezes the confidence out of you, the courage from your heart, until at midnight you are sweating in your bed and staring at the ceiling and you realise that you really -don’t- want it enough to give up your family.

I had that moment. I’ll say it without reservation, there is -nothing- in this world that I want enough to give up my family. I get up in the morning, go to work and slog through anything they throw at my purely so I can go home and see my daughter’s smile and talk with my wife.

So a big thank you to Scalzi for saying what we already knew, but needed to hear someone else say.

I am reminded of an anecdote I read once, went something like this:

A man with a burning desire to play violin met a traveling violin master and begged the master to listen to him play.

“If you tell me I have potential”, he said, “I will devote my life to the violin, but I would never want to do that if I had no chance of success.”

He played and the Master sat, and afterwards said. “I am sorry, you do not have the fire.”

The man went away bitterly dejected.

Years later their paths crossed again and the man shook the Master’s hand and said, “Thankyou, I have become a successful businessman and am glad I didn’t waste my life. I am glad you were able to recognise that I had no talent.”

And the Master said, “I didn’t listen to you play.”

The man was shocked, “Why?” He asked, “Why would you have done that? I could have been great! I could have been a master myself by now!”

“Because,” said the Master, “I tell everyone they lack the fire. If you had the fire, what I said should have made no difference.”

I guess we need to remember that in the end, no matter what anyone else says, it’s down to us.

Go read Scalzi:
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/07/29/what-you-have-to-give-up-to-write/