Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! Before I get to this week’s links, I just want to remind you that it’s the final day to comment for the book giveaway. Head on over to the Regency Giveaway thread for a chance to win a copy of Samantha Grace‘s MISS HILLARY SCHOOLS A SCOUNDREL, which hits stores February 7th. You have to leave a comment by 5pm PST, so hop to it!

Which brings me to this week’s collection of links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Charlotte Bronte’s Love Letters to Married Professor Discovered – Amazing that they survived, given all the circumstances.

A Look at Edith Wharton in Honor of Her 150th Birthday – (which would have been January 24th).

Hierarchy of Book Publishing circa 2012 – This amused me to no end. Warning: Put down your beverage before reading.

The Beautiful Estates of 15 Authors – It’s enough to make you seriously start saving your pennies.

Writer on the Road: The Black Room – Writer Jenna Blum on why she painted her study black.

For the Book Lovers in My Life…

This beautiful animated short is up for an Oscar. YouTube has just the trailer, but the full 15-minute film is available for free right now on iTunes, supposedly until Oscar night. I highly recommend it — though you might keep a few tissues on hand for viewing the complete version.

With thanks to Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray for bringing this to my attention on her blog.

Regency Giveaway

MISS HILLARY SCHOOLS A SCOUNDREL, the debut Regency romance by my client Samantha Grace, will be in stores Tuesday, Tuesday, February 7, but I’m excited to announce that I’ll be doing a giveaway for the book here this week. Some of you may recall my mentioning a few weeks back that the book received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Here’s your chance to see what the fuss is about.

Simply leave a comment here on the blog between now and Friday, January 27, at 5pm PST. I’ll choose a person randomly and post the winner here. Easy, yes? Good luck!

A Different Kind of Connection

Author Mary Robinette Kowal has issued a letter-writing challenge for the month of February. She suggests that you mail one thing through the post each day it runs over the course of the month — a total of 24 items, when you take out Sundays and the holiday (in the US). They can be letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, photos — whatever strikes your fancy. Typed or handwritten. To friends, family, acquaintances. You can read all the details of her challenge, including her reasoning for it, over at her blog.

I’m a huge fan of letter writing. I periodically bemoan the almost-universal shift to e-mail and Facebook messaging and texts. I miss getting things in my mail box that don’t demand that I send money off to someone. I subscribe to far too many magazines, just so that I’m excited to get the mail. I still have boxes of stationery in the cupboard; note cards, writing paper, pretty postcards. Yes. I’m one of those people.

But let’s face it. Who doesn’t like getting something fun in the mail? A birthday or holiday card? A postcard from someone on vacation? It takes more time and effort than shooting off an e-mail or text message. It says someone’s thinking about you long enough to write out the message, find a stamp, go off and mail it. It’s like a little bit of love coming your way.

In college, back when long-distance phone calls incurred long-distance charges, my roommate and I would write long letters back and forth over summer break. We’d complain about our summer jobs, update each other on our families, and generally discuss whatever books we were reading. I still have those letters, boxed up somewhere at my parents’ house. They’re a fun read, even now. I like trying to remember what I wrote — what my half of those conversations looked like.

But correspondence doesn’t have to be a conversation. It can be sending positive vibes out into the world. Author Carolyn See, in her wonderful book MAKING A LITERARY LIFE: ADVICE FOR WRITERS AND OTHER DREAMERS, suggests that aspiring writers drop notes in the mail to their favorite authors. Not to network or to ask for advice or with any expectation of a response, but just to let someone know that you admire their work. She believes in writing what she refers to as “charming notes,” five days a week, every week, as a component of building a literary life. You might find this an extreme practice, but I would suggest one of these a week — to a writer you admire, to an editor who’s responsible for your favorite read last year, to some industry person who gave you good advice — might appeal if you’re interested in getting back to writing letters.

I feel sorry for biographers fifty years from now. Letters and journals used to be such a wonderful resource for anyone researching a person’s life, particularly a subject who was a writer by trade. But the shift to electronic formats, and the tendency to delete much of the contents of our computers — or lose it to faulty backup habits — means that much of this type of material won’t exist for the next generation. I love the idea of bringing at least a bit of this old fashioned form of communication back into practice. At the very least, you never know what gem might show up in your own mail box as a result.

Linkity Link

Happy Friday, all! I’m here with my weekly link roundup. First, and most pertinent to this week’s general theme, I’m happy to say that both SOPA and PIPA are currently tabled. That does not mean they won’t rear their heads again, but it’s a step in the right direction. For those interested in the results of the Wednesday internet blackout/protest, you can see some statistics over here. It’s lovely to see what can happen when people ban together.

And without further ado, the fun stuff. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

Why Print Is Here to Stay – an argument for a world with both electronic and paper reading material.

Writing Evocative Descriptions – some good advice and examples.

The 10 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations of 2012 – I didn’t even know some of these books were being made into films…

Famous Literary Friendships – a fun roundup.

Writing A Lot… and then some – an interesting look at the inner censor

That Anti-Piracy Issue

Yesterday there was a fairly pervasive internet blackout in protest of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). For those of you who frequent the areas of the internet supported/created by writers, artists, musicians and the like, this was probably no surprise. There’s been chatter about this potential legislation on websites and Twitter for months now, with calls for voters to contact their political representatives and make their feelings known. However, a few people no doubt showed up to their computers and were confused by the lack of Wikipedia access, or the big blackout sign over the Google logo.

A brief explanation is that SOPA and PIPA seek to put a stop to internet piracy of creative works such as films, songs, and books. That sounds great, yes? Except that the heavy-handed methods these laws would wield would ultimately result in web-wide censorship. Instead of targeting individuals who are making illegal downloads of creative works available, everyone would be held liable, including owners of search engines used to locate the illegal downloads. That means Google would be blamed each time someone used the site to search for a movie download. If you link to legitimate content on a site that also hosts something less legitimate, your site could be shut down.

There are many sites that have more detailed and complete explanations available. But in essence, these potential laws are using very broad strokes where precision is required. I heard someone compare it to going after a flea with a cannon.

So where does that leave piracy? Here’s the thing: It takes two to tango, folks. I spend quite a fair amount of time sending cease-and-desist letters to sites that are hosting illegal downloads of my clients’ books. And I’ve heard all the excuses. They’re “helping” the writer by making their work available to more people. The people who download illegally never would have paid for the work to begin with, so no one’s really losing sales. The writers are rich and so a few free copies here and there don’t make a difference.

Bullshit. Seriously, all of that is complete bull.

The books are available. In this world of bookstores and libraries and, you can get your hands on pretty much anything.

If you’re not willing to pay for the work, you can borrow it from a library or a friend. Not being willing to pay is not an excuse for stealing.

Most writers have to hold down a full-time job in addition to writing because they only make a few thousand dollars a year. It takes time to write a book. Years, sometimes. And it’s rare when an advance works out to more than minimum wage for the hours it took to write the book.

I’m not saying you’re all out there downloading books and making excuses. But I am asking you to wave red flags. If you stumble across a site hosting copies of your favorite author’s works — obvious pirated copies — take a moment to head over to the author’s website and shoot them an e-mail with a link. Help make it harder for these pirates to keep their sites functional. Be a good citizen of the internet.

Yes, we need better laws governing this sort of thing online, but pirates are pirates; they’re already operating outside the given laws, so it’s unlikely new ones are going to completely eliminate the problem. And heavy-handed legislation that limits everyone’s ability to share content and information online will seriously change the face of the world wide web.

A Tweet was floating around yesterday: Download a Michael Jackson song illegally and go to prison for 5 years; help kill Michael Jackson and go to prison for 4 years. Crude, yes, but frighteningly accurate.

The blackout against SOPA and PIPA is over, but the concerns regarding this potential legislation remain. It is scheduled to go to a vote on Tuesday, January 24th. Find out where your representatives stand on this issue and let them know what you think. Help keep the internet a creative resource and place of learning and sharing for everyone.


An Open Letter to Washington from Artists and Creators

Stop the Wall

SOPA Strike (includes ways to help for non-US citizens)