The State of Writing Today

What’s Happening With Authors? Including Christian Authors?

A couple of weeks ago I posted Nora Roberts’s response to the plagiarism issue going on with a Brazilian author who has become known as #CopyPasteCris. According to @CaffeinatedFae, “We are now up to 64 books, 35 authors, 3 articles, 3 websites & 2 recipes that were plagiarized by #CopyPasteCris.” (https://twitter.com/CaffeinatedFae/status/1104161561399123969)  Yes, I copied @CaffeinatedFae’s words, but because I’m telling you where it comes from, it becomes research. And you can go there and read a lot more about the situation

A number of years ago I used to write a satirical column that I emailed out. (This was before Facebook and Twitter) I had a radio DJ who had a talk show and did some comedy pieces as part of it that he would love to use my work if I didn’t have a copyright notice on it. I told him that I had no problem with him using some of my stuff, just let people know where you got it. (I know – being paid in exposure. I didn’t know anything about it at the time.) He declined to do that, even though it would be throwing a bone to a local, struggling writer by giving me the recognition for my work. At least he had the integrity to not use my stuff then.

We’re seeing a lack of integrity in the writing in many situations right now. We had the romance writer who tried to trademark a common word used in the Romance Genre, “cocky,” that threw a lot of writers up in arms. If this could happen in the romance genre, it could happen elsewhere. A lot of people got mad. Some friends wrote a Romance Anthology with the title “As Cocky as They Come” as a protest – with every story title including the word “cocky.” I tried to write a story for the anthology, but if there was any doubt before, there isn’t now: I’m not a romance writer. I wrote a forward about the importance of fighting that kind of censorship. Whatever your view on the genre, and some of the stories are ones that I wouldn’t read, trying to trademark a word is blatant disrespect to others. I think we should stand in support of the rights of others, even when their expression of their rights isn’t our cup of tea.

What really bothered me today was reading a Christianity Today article about a popular author for Christian ladies. Many of my friends admire her work. They made the claim that her second book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” is full of plagiarism. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve heard others talking about them. That a Christian author would plagiarize like that, if the article is correct in its assertions, is unconscionable. Holly Hansen, a friend who’s done more research on this than I have, wrote a blog post that dealt not only with the plagiarism, but also the theological quality of the books. Her blog, titled, “Girl, Read a Great Book” helps to highlight to problems the author of “Girls, Wash Your Face” and “Girl, Stop Apologizing” has set in motion.

There are other posts out there that deal with this problems of theology, but sadly, self-help and self-adoration appears to be a popular genre among people who claim to follow Christ. I would make the point, and saw that some of those other posts made the same point, that Christians need to stop worrying about getting a hold of our lives and start learning to let God take control. The best life I could ever have is one where I’m walking with Christ and living in obedience to Him. Should I plan? Sure. Should I work hard? Sure, but I should always be living and writing ethically and in accordance with His will. So stop worrying about taking control of your life, and learn how to give that control over to God.

Daily Work

Nora Roberts Deals With the Plagerism Issue

There’s been a major scandal in the writing world,again. This time, the problem is plagerism. A reader noted that something published by Cristiane Serruya sounded a lot like another book that she’d read and she compared the two passages. They were word for word the same. As the scandal has unfolded, Cristiane Serruya has stolen pages, paragraphs, and sentences from numerous authors. Nora Roberts had a great take on this issue and with her permission, I wanted to share the first part and then give you a link to her site. She lays out the problems in an amazing way.

I’m going to start with the then, to get it out of my system.

Back in the late 90’s, when those of us on-line used message boards to communicate with each other, a reader posted a concern about the similarities in my book Sweet Revenge, originally published in 1988, reissued in 1997, with Janet Dailey’s Notorious, published in hardcover in ’96, in paper in ’97.

As she continued the story in her blog, she noted that Ms. Dailey had not only plagerized her, she’d tried to get sympathy for this one time event, only, it wasn’t a one-time event. Then, she compared it to what’s happening now. If I ever write a best seller, it will be written from me, not stolen from other authors and cobbled together to make it look like I did it. I’d love to have a best seller, but never at the expense of my integrity.

The rest of her blog can be seen here: PLAGIARISM, THEN AND NOW

 

Daily Work

Getting Ready for the Memorial

Yes, I’m still around. I’ve been busy with all the things I need to do to get ready for my mom’s memorial service so I haven’t taken any pictures, but I sure have looked at a lot of them! I found the hard drive that had all the pictures I really wanted – or so I thought. Very few pictures were on that hard drive and not many of my mother. Does anybody else have one of those boxes where you keep all your old pictures? You took them while things were happening. You looked at them when you got them back from the drug store after they developed them, (How do you explain THAT to people of today’s generation?) and then you threw them in a box until the next time you decided to look at them – which probably hasn’t happened yet.

There were a few pictures of my mom that I remember distinctly. I’ve seen them in the area of my box. I thought they would be cute for our memorial service. I started pulling out all the pictures from THAT box. I pulled out a couple hundred old pictures before I found any pictures of my mom. It was a lot of work going through those old pictures. Even though I didn’t find the one picture I was looking for, I found a few other fun pictures of my mom that will look nice at the memorial service. Her obituary showed up today in her local paper. My sister did a great job on the writeup and they found a picture that captures her personality better than I found so far! This picture is of my mom, my dad (on the left but you can’t see his face). my wife, and another couple who I think I know what friends they are, but I’m not sure.

My mom didn’t seek the limelight, and she wasn’t in a lot of the pictures I have of my family. I should also point out that someone has said that you need to take a lot of bad pictures before you start taking good ones. When I look at most of the pictures I have, I believe it. I have a lot of bad pictures! But this one is cute. We had a garage sale when we moved from seminary to my first pastorate. Our first child was outside with us in his playpen. People came up, trying to buy the playpen. This sign was my wife’s solution.

Still, it was a lot of fun going through those old pictures. I’m not going to say whose pictures I found, but I’m guessing that my kids will be a lot nicer to me in the days to come. Just sayin’. I also started ripping the old CDs I have. I have a wide variety of classical, Christian, and comedy CDs, and I enjoyed listening to them while I was ripping them. Then, I made my mistake. I closed down my computer when I left for church. Once I got home, it took forever to start back up and then I had technical difficulties. Eventually, I had to do a hard shutdown so I could reboot and hope that this computer will work as it’s intended, not as if it’s auditioning for Frisbee status.

 

Daily Work

It’s Time to Take on the White Whale

With all the preparations I’m doing at home for my mother’s memorial service, I’ve needed to put my bird photography on hold. Never fear, I will resume the Bird Brain Chronicles soon. In the meanwhile, I’m taking on my white whale. (Please note the clever Moby Dick allusion there.) My White Whale is the story of how my wife and I battled her breast cancer. We got the official notice on the last Saturday of January in 2016. I kept notes throughout the journey, knowing that while we couldn’t be sure of the outcome, we were confident that God had things under control.

About a year ago, I finished the first draft of the story, and then began editing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to working on the story because I wanted to get it just right. And yet, it was always my next project and then something else came along. Last year, my writing time was consumed with work on my devotional series. I wanted to make sure that I had the whole series edited and ready for publication. And, that happened. mind you, I still need to work on marketing, but I’ve been blessed in some great ways because of this process.

This church, Troy First Assembly of God, is using my devotionals to support the spiritual growth of their church. The pastor asked permission and offered to compensate me. He showed a lot of integrity in the way he asked and set things up. A couple of times he’s passed along comments that gave me an emotional lift when I was a bit down.

See how easy it is to get distracted from my white whale? I’m not sure what makes this so had to edit, aside from the fact that I hate editing in general, but I think it’s because this is a story that I think will have such importance and be such a blessing to others that I want to be sure that I do things right. When people get a cancer diagnosis, it’s frightening – at least to us it was both times. Cancer isn’t the death sentence that it used to be, but it’s still a killer if not dealt with properly. The purpose of the book is to give hope, but show the practical steps we took. It’s meant to prepare people for the depths of chemotherapy and the drudgery of the process of waiting for the next treatment.

No one has the same experiences with cancer or with the treatment, but, people can live with hope and they can conquer cancer. And I’m trying to convey that in one short little book. And it scares me because I want this book to help others. Pray with me, will you?

Daily Work

January 18 – Searching and Sorting

Today I didn’t take any new pictures. I knew that the timing would be difficult with my wife’s follow-up eye appointment today, so I decided to make today a day of searching and sorting through pictures. Only, it wasn’t bird pictures, it was pictures of my mom to get ready for the memorial service we’ll be having soon. I still have a lot of pics to sort through. I have three external hard drives to find. I’m grateful for them, though, because having had cameras and computers stolen in robberies in the past, I have lots of pictures to choose from.

Since I lived so far away from my mom, I don’t have as many as I’d like. Most have been from the last few times I’ve gone up when she’s been bedridden. I debated posting some of them here, but decided not to. Well, I may post a couple that I’ve made public elsewhere. These were pics taken at my mom’s 90th birthday party this last June.

 

My mom has been a Cubs fan as long as I can remember. At her party, the Cubs game was playing in the background. The Cubs jersey I’m wearing was a gift from my children. We gave my mom her Cubs jersey customized with her name (James) and her age (90). I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the Cubs won the World Series before she died. She got to enjoy that year as she celebrated the season and then the ultimate victory in the series. We had lots of fun discussing the games on the phone during and after the series. I should note that Cubs regalia was the dress code of the day…at the least people were asked to wear blue.

 

 

This next picture is of everyone in the family who showed up. We had a LOT of these pictures, because we kept messing up. We were enjoying each other’s company too much. Anyway, my mom’s caretaker patiently took as many pictures as needed. She had a couple of great caretakers these last three years and our family is grateful for them. They started watching over mom after the second time the family was called in because she “wasn’t going to make it.” That’s right, we had been told twice before that she wasn’t expected to live. They just didn’t tell her so she decided to keep on living. While her recent death is a cause to grieve, I knew that every minute we had with her was bonus time. She was the kind of person who exuded warmth and kindness, and while I know this isn’t theologically correct, I can imagine everybody in heaven right now sitting down and eating the egg salad sandwiches that she was known for. Going through these pictures has brought great joy as I remembered the times they represent and the strength and love she showed in all areas of life. I am stronger, my family is stronger because of her love and her example.