Plagiarism

Sometimes people are charged with plagiarism when it was unintentional.

Not for those instances when segments are reproduced word for word for several pages but in other times, shorter passages, and even ideas.

Newton is credited with the old saw about seeing further than his contemporaries because he stood on the shoulders of giants.

He probably paraphrased an earlier quote that was quite similar. It does not mean it wasn’t his thought.

Many times in history we have seen parallel creations going on at the same time.

And we have all heard that imitation is the sincerest form of respect.

Still, after reading a lot one can find it difficult to recall exactly where certain thoughts came from.

Citation becomes impossible. Nor should it be a big deal.

It is the nature of human thinking to latch onto a thought that resonates with us and we may carry it around as part of our psyche for years before it is put to paper perhaps in a phrasing different from the original but in some wording more peculiarly our own.

This does not mean it cannot be construed as an “original thought” – many assume there are no such, anyway – but it can be claimed as one’s on if stated differently.

Avid readers often have this problem.

When younger, I kept a bibliography of all the books I had read for several years. Later I lost track of the list and the urge to keep track of such things but when I came across the pages many years later I was amazed to see the list topped out just over twelve hundred volumes.

That’s a lot of books!

And I can guarantee that bits and pieces of many of them have found their way into my own writing. A thought here, a phrase there, but (hopefully!) no fully developed stories.

It is the nature of writing that we use words that are already in use and some of them seem to string together nicer than others.

Of course, when too many writers string the same words together it becomes cliche and anathema in subsequent writings. Such as using “golden orb” to describe the Sun. *shudder*

We cannot help but mimic what we know, what we learn, even if certain combinations of ideas seem “original” or “unique” by some readers.

Even some of the best modern writers fall into the trap of “repeating themselves” with characters, situations, events, and even whole sections of dialogue from one of their books to another.

Yes, they plagiarize themselves.

We shouldn’t take it so hard if we seem to accomplish the same but we should strive to veer away from that slippery slope.

(And I sincerely hope I have not posted something similar before!)



the Myth of Re-Branding

bettycrocker2

It is very “trendy” today for businesses to “modernize” their logo and attempt to bring their companies into the 21st century, to make them hip and happening places.

Unfortunately, too many businesses think this is THE answer.

I mean as opposed to actually changing their business model.

It is the management’s version of plastic surgery and we all know how well that has gone for several celebrities. It may look really good for now, but as time progresses… And then you need more plastic surgery to “correct” things.

That’s a Lose-Lose agenda.

Years ago the U.S. Postal Service spent somewhere around $20M to get new logos and a re-branding facelift.

Other than the marketing firm that got the windfall, nothing much changed. It was a poor use of funds and a very stupid move by management.

But not only giant dinosaurs make that mistake. Smaller fish have wasted a lot of revenue to fall into the same trap.

Re-branding usually only works well if it reflects a new business model as well.

Old decrepit bodies do not look well even if the face is shiny and youthful.


A Mountain of What’s-in-a-Name

Robert A. Heinlein wrote under several pen-names for various reasons. Stephen King wrote under a pseudonym as an intellectual exercise.

I was not attempting anything like a world record or anything but I had a few more than those two… combined.

Yes, at one point, I had seventy-one pen-names, but I have since greatly reduced that number. A lot of people may not understand why I had so many… I mean, what was the purpose? Why would one person need that many “aliases” if not for… well, some purpose that is not entirely aboveboard.

Actually, it was never intended to mislead people or to try and hide my identity. It was geared for the print publishing industry… that is, for when I ever got published. I wrote a LOT of different styles and for a wide variety of genres, as well as had a rather large output – I have written a 100,000+ word novel in eight days.

In the regular print industry, publishers expected an author to do a book a year… tops. In some special circumstances they might do more but nothing on the order of what I saw my output being when – and if – I was writing full time as a career.

Also, several agents had suggested I utilize a different name for each genre, in order to more completely “brand” myself as an author of a particular genre. It made sense… at the time. And so that is how I approached the business. Each genre had a different “persona” writing the material.

As time went along, I was able to create a biography for most of the different names. Yes, just as an author would do for the characters in their stories – creating a rather lengthy and involved “backstory” that may never see the light of the printed page – I created the “backstory” of each of the pen-names, being able to draw from each one’s “personal history” for use in their stories.

But the print media never “discovered” me or my multi-personality disorder and I have since gone the indie route to publishing. And as the books were written under different names, that’s the way I have started publishing them. But now it seems that the entire exercise was a waste of time.

Sure, it helps keep track of the genres and makes it less confusing for the readers – who wants to read a good sci-fi yarn and then find your “favorite author’s” new book is a romance? Or a mystery? Or a gruesome horror tale? Certainly readers use a little more latitude in their decision-making processes but would it be too much of a stretch to make all the genres by a single name?

Anyway, after much thought on the subject, I have trimmed to list of all the names that have not been published in one form or another, which leaves me with the much more manageable roster of nineteen pen-names. Basically a single name per genre. Does anyone see this as still too many or is the issue really a non-issue?

Should they all be by the same name and merely announce the genre on the cover? Such as “A Horror Tale by” and another: “An Historical Urban Fantasy Western Juvenile Cozy Mystery”?

Or is a name-per-genre about par for the course?

Any thoughts?

a Bit of Nostalgia

The previous posting reminded me of a poem I read recently. It is by Claude Beaumont-Cursonn and is from his recently published …not to be. released earlier this year by Martian Publishing. (posted here with permission of the author)

My life has been altered
by our paths’ crossing
in one rare but brief moment
so long ago… faraway
the winter snows seem, now.
Strange legacy, indeed,
of a love-forever, once;
so soon forgotten…

                        …so often remembered.

Images of Fear (less than a thousand words)

Several months ago, I designed a cover for one of our author’s books. The author liked it and so the book was listed with the illustration.

Unfortunately, one e-book distributor rejected the item because of the cover. It contained an image that was, apparently, illegal in many countries of the world.

There are very few images that can strike such fear in the heart as this one (not pictured due to internet and publishing restrictions worldwide).

It is such a simple little doodle, found among the ancient ruins around the world used as an accent motif, a shaman’s mandala, or a perplexing sign of wonder.

Australian aborigines used the emblem, ancient Navajo mystics used it, neanderthals of Europe and Africa utilized it as well.

And up until a few years ago, we could picture it as well.

But now, with the tender sensibilities of people taking umbrage about such things, it has been outlawed in many places. Not in Southeast Asia, though, where it has been a symbol of good luck for millennia. Still, those people are hounded when they wear it anywhere in the west.

The emblem is, of course, the swastika and has come to mean something decidedly other than “good luck” in the west. Hitler quite effectively demolished the market for that emblem.


Today, you can see the same shape in a checker board, or in the lines of a floor laid with square tiles, and wonder: when will these be outlawed as well?

Images hold power, certainly, but shouldn’t we try and remove the taint rather than reinforce the horror?