Monday, April 25, 2016

The Best Thing That Could Have Happened

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Getting told by a celebrity that I couldn't use his name or likeness in my story is possibly the best thing to happen to my story. I was very upset at first, but I've moved past that. The story shall go on, in a completely fictionalized form. Now I don't have to worry about writing anything insulting or that may come across as painting a real individual in a negative light, because the main character's idol is fictional and therefore I can have her do and say whatever she wants about him. Teenyboppers aren't always very nice, even when they "love" someone. I know this from experience.

So I have been going back through the story I have written so far and changing things here and there, and writing new material, and it is still fun, although different than what I originally envisioned. Oh well, that happens with most storiesthe story you originally think you're going to tell doesn't always end up being the one you actually write. Sometimes, characters and stories take on a life of their own.

I'm just happy to be working on a new novel, one that is fun and not dark and gloomy (like some of my stories are.) It's been a blast, and I hope it continues to be so. Working on this book has reminded me why I love to write. I can't wait to let you guys read it.

~S.B.~

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Book Blocked"

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Once upon a time, when I was an adolescent, I got my "start" as a writer by having corny love poems published in teeny-bopper magazines. The first time I ever saw my name in print was when BOP magazine printed a response I wrote for their Hey, Hey! What Do You Say? column. I was eleven years old, and I knew I was on my way. Later, when I was around 15 or 16, I had a handful of poems written for Joey McIntyre (and one for Jordan Knight) published in both BOP and BB magazines (remember those?) Most of my life, and my writing, has revolved around various fandoms, as movies, TV shows, and music wereand aremy escape from an otherwise unhappy existence. I find inspiration in the things I love, and often that is reflected in my stories.

A couple months ago I had an idea for a novel, which would be told from the point of view of a teenage girl's fan letters and love poems to her favorite celebrity. The celebrity I chose was a real-life one whom I admire and am a fan of. I have written quite a bit already, and have been having fun with it, but I wanted to write and ask permission to use this person's likeness before getting too ahead of myself. As a freelancer, I am aware of what types of photo licenses can be used for commercial purposes, and I also am aware that I would need to get a model release from anyone whose photo I used on the cover of my book. I thought it would be fun to feature an old publicity still (which, to my understanding, are in the public domain if dated prior to 1989,) cropped in a heart-shaped frame, such as you would find on a cover of a teen magazine. So, I contacted the appropriate email on this celebrity's website, and pitched my idea, along with my request to use a photo (actually, I asked how I could go about obtaining permission. I half expected to be told I would have to pay a licensing fee to use this person's likeness.) I figured the worst they could do is say "No," and possibly ask me to not include their name in the title of my book. The book itself is not about this celebrity, nor is he featured as a character in any way. Nothing in the book is slanderous. It is a collection of love letters and poems from a fan, which she never sends because she feels they are not good enough. I felt anxious contacting this celebrity's representatives, because I knew if they responded in a negative or off-putting way, I'd be crushed.

And sure enough, I am crushed. I received a response a while ago saying that not only could I not use this person's likeness, I could not use his name, period. Anywhere in my book. Even though the book is not about him. It is about a fan. It is a story written out of love. I am not seeking this person's endorsement. I am not trying to cash in on anything by using their name. It was a fun project for me that helped me get past my writer's block. It was a project that distracted me from my depression. It was a labor of love, and it hurt reading a response that insinuated that I was somehow committing copyright infringement for even writing it. (Mind you, this is not something that has been published!) The person who responded reprimanded me for not seeking permission and any copyright issues up front (wasn't that what I was doing? Or attempting to do?) and advised me to consult with my "literary attorney to see where this book [I] have written falls." (I never said the book had already been written. I had also mentioned in my opening line that I am an independent author...I don't have a "literary attorney." I'm not J.K. Rowling, for Pete's sake! Whoops, am I allowed to say her name?)

I get celebrities have the right to privacy and to control their public image. And I respect that. Hey, you don't want me to use your name in my book. Fine. I'll fictionalize it. But don't make me feel small or talk down to me! I doubt the celebrity in question was even consulted regarding my inquiry, as the response came from his webmaster. Still, I feel gutted and sad and like my voice doesn't matter. My stories don't matter. I don't matter. I'm just an annoyance that some egotistical old star can swat away, like a fly. My stories and characters can be squashed and killed because they're not good enough. If I were a high-profile author, would I be having this issue?

Public figures are thatpublic. And to say that I cannot write about being a fanwhen I am a fanfeels like a slap to the face. And right now, I don't feel very much like a fan at all. I feel like I have been censored and I worry that I'll never be able to publish any of the stories I'm working on because, god forbid, my characters might be obsessed with a band, or go to a movie, or maybe a character is described as looking like someone famous. (I knew a teacher in high school who relished the fact that he resembled Harrison Ford. Am I allowed to say that name? Or do I need to consult an attorney?)


Right now I am very, very disappointed, frustrated, and depressed. I feel like my story got killed before it was fully developed. Oh, eventually I'll get over it. I'll fictionalize the story and maybe I'll even still dedicate it to the person who tried to book block me. After all, they can't possibly sue me over a dedication, can they? 

~S.B.~

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Call Me Old Fashioned

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Call me old fashioned, but for the life of me, I cannot write on my computer.

I can't even really explain it. Perhaps it is paranoia that someone is lurking and reading over my shoulder (I have a difficult time writing if anyone else is around, period, and I do not share my writing with anyone until I have finished a complete draft.) Perhaps it is anxiety from confronting a completely blank slate that's waiting for me to fill it with words, to somehow get this story that is living inside my head onto paper to the best of my ability.

All I know is that having a large, empty screen in front of me sends me into a brain freeze, and I cannot write a single word.

Now give me a pen and paper, or a smaller screen to type on (such as my smartphone or tablet) and the words flow freely.
I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps because I grew up in a time without computers? (Oh, sure, computers were around, but I never had free access to one.) Or perhaps because I'm less likely to edit as I write when I'm writing longhand. It could even be that I'm less prone to distraction when I'm writing on something that has no (or limited) Internet access.

Curious, isn't is? I guess we storytellers all have our preferred methods of writing. I prefer having things typed up (it makes it easier to read and involves one less step in preparing a manuscript for publishing -- when you write longhand, you have to go back and retype it all up afterwards) but I get more done when writing with my handy pen and paper. Ahh, if only stories would write themselves! That would make life so much easier.

~S.B.~






Sunday, April 3, 2016

Update

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It's been quite a while since I last posted, and I'm aware that I'm well-overdue for an update. I've been busy at work on several different titles, which I hope will be available later this year. Currently I have three children's books, two novels (well, three really, but one's been put on the back burner for now), and one collection of short stories in the works. Between balancing working on these and freelancing, I've been busy, busy, busy!

All three children's stories have been written, and I am in the process of finishing up the illustrations for one before moving on to the others. Illustrations take a lot longer than the actual writing, but I'm hoping to have all three stories released by the end of the year.

As for my writing for older readers, I'm hopeful that I'll be finished with one novel by the end of this month, and then I will focus on finishing up the collection of short stories, which has been in the works for about three years already. Sorry I can't give more in-depth details than that, I have this hangup over discussing the stories I'm working on before they're finished. Just one of my weird little quirks!

If everything goes as planned, you should be seeing new published work from me by early this summer!

~S.B.~