Unfriendly Facebook

Are you obsessed with Facebook? Find yourself checking your news feed when you should be writing? Usually that slows you down, but it doesn’t land you in jail.

In Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, one young man found that checking his Facebook account while “working” can bring your career, and life, to a screeching halt. When the 19-year-old burglar broke into a house last August, he stopped to check his account on the victim’s computer. He stole two diamond rings worth $35,000 from her dresser, but left the computer behind. Bad move; he should’ve grabbed the computer while he was at it. At the very least, he should’ve logged out of his Facebook account.

In September, the young man was arraigned on one count of felony daytime burglary. The sentence in Pennsylvania for that crime is up to 10 years in prison. I guess he’ll have a lot of time for a while to keep up with his Facebook account.

Long Live the Typewriter

Dry your eyes, as PCmag.com said last Wednesday. The typewriter is not dead! Long live the typewriter!

Last Tuesday, the news of the typewriter’s demise made its way to a number of the writers’ email lists I subscribe to after it was reported that the last typewriter factory, Godrej & Boyce in Mumbai, India, was closing its doors. PCmag.com reported the story here.

The next day, happily, PCmag.com printed a correction. The typewriter, it seems, continues to be alive and well and in production in New Jersey, where Swintec, a company in Moonachie, “is still cranking out typewriters.” Read the followup story here.

I was sad when I heard the original report and happy when I heard the correction. My dad was in the Army during World War II and served as his unit’s Radar O’Reilly. When I was growing up, one of the things he took pride in teaching me was touch-typing. My dad passed away 20 years ago, and to this day, when I think of him, I still see him sitting at his desk, typing away at his old blue Smith Corona.

I haven’t used a typewriter in many years, and I may never have a reason to ever use one again, but it’s one of the things I’d still hate to see disappear.

And the Winner Is . . .

The Women of Mystery would like to congratulate fellow SinC New York/Tri-State chapter member Daryl Wood Gerber for her big win at Malice Domestic this weekend. Daryl, writing as Avery Aames, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for The Long Quiche Goodbye. The winning book is the first in the Cheese Shop Mystery Series.

Congratulations, Daryl/Avery!

A New Tweeter’s Favorite Hashtags

A couple of months ago, I finally took the plunge and got serious about learning Twitter. In addition to the New York/Tri-State chapter of Sisters in Crime, I also belong to the Guppies chapter. “Guppies” stands for “Great Unpublished,” although many of the members have now gotten published. Happily, many of the published Gups stick around to help those not yet published, and when published Guppy Krista Davis, author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries, offered to give an informal class on Twitter, I immediately signed up. I’m glad I did.

Twitter is a gold mine for writers who know how to use it. Following Krista’s suggestion, I downloaded TweetDeck and set up columns to load in tweets with certain hashtags, which are the same as keywords. When picking out the hashtags for each column, I found a number of great lists of good hashtags for writers. After testing out all the recommendations, I’ve come up with my own list. It’s much shorter than most, but it includes the hashtags I’ve found most useful and interesting in the past month. They are:

#amwriting
#writing
#writetip
#writingtips
#amediting
#editing
#askeditor
#askagent
#pubtip

Check them out and let me know what you think. And if you have any favorites of your own, please share them.

Some Thoughts from Michael Connelly

One of the highlights of last year’s Bouchercon for me was seeing Michael Connelly interviewed by Gregg Hurwitz. What struck me was that Connelly is not only a wonderful writer, but a really interesting person–smart, funny, and a natural teacher. YouTube has quite an extensive selection of videos from interviews done with Connelly. If you’re looking for something to do on this (finally) sunny Sunday afternoon, check them out. The one below is a particular favorite of mine.

I’m Reading a Book

A couple of days ago, I found a new video by Julian Smith that several literature-related websites and blogs were raving over. I’m not surprised; it’s a great video. Julian has been making a name for himself the past few years with his creative and fun videos. “I’m Reading a Book” is his latest effort, posted just a week ago.

For more Julian Smith videos, just go to his website.

Is Science Fiction Dying?

Back when the 20th century was still a toddler, science fiction established itself as the new genre on the block by looking forward to the 21st century, when our Chevies would be vying for airspace with JetBlue and our vacations would be to Mars and Venus rather than the Bahamas and Europe. As we now close out the first decade of the wild and fabulous 21st century, how is science fiction faring? Paul Di Fillippo reviewed the status of the genre in an article originally featured at The Barnes & Noble Review and then picked up by Salon.com. Click here to read “Is Science Fiction Dying?”

Image courtesy of Phenomenica.

An Apple Pie and an Editor Go into a Bar

Did you hear the one about the apple pie and the editor? You must have. It was all over the blogosphere this past November. I missed it originally because I was still searching for that elusive light at the end of the tunnel of my house renovation, but when I finally found that light a few weeks ago and turned on my computer to sit back for a while and surf in peace in my newly painted office, I was bombarded.

It seems that five years ago, food writer Monica Gaudio examined how good ol’ American apple pie actually has its roots in medieval Europe in an article that was published on Gode Cookery, a website devoted to medieval food. Fast forward to this fall, when Ms. Gaudio’s friend found that same article in Cooks Source, a regional New England cooking magazine whose editor, it turned out, had lifted the article from the website and used it without permission and without payment. After Ms. Gaudio wrote on her blog about her frustration in dealing with the Cooks Source editor, who seemed to believe that everything on the Internet was public domain, a firestorm erupted. The magazine has now folded, its website and Facebook page have been taken down, and its copyright-unsavvy editor has reportedly left publishing in favor of a career in retail.

My initial reaction was twofold. The editor in me wondered how a publishing professional of 30 years could not have understood copyright law. When the Internet first exploded onto the scene, I was an editor with Avery Publishing Group, a small, privately owned publisher of health books that today is a Penguin Putnam imprint. When the first few manuscripts crossed my desk with material pulled off the Web, I didn’t know how to handle it. Was the material covered by the conventional copyright laws? Did it need permission? No one could definitively answer me. But that was 15 years ago! Today, I look back at those days and slap myself on the forehead. Of course it was covered. How could I have doubted it? And how could a publishing professional with 30 years’ experience like the Cooks Source editor not know that today?

But “The Case of the Purloined Apple Pie” might just be the beginning. With more and more people turning to self-publishing, I’m afraid we’re going to see lots more material used without permission or acknowledgment. We’re already seeing it with blogs and websites. The Women of Mystery have had whole blog posts lifted and I had an entire page of my business website plagiarized.

Most of the people who lift material these days don’t do it intentionally. They just don’t know better. Even when I was at Avery, and later at Kensington Publishing, I had manuscripts handed in by experienced authors that contained huge chunks of “borrowed” material, not only from Internet sources but also from paper books, journals, and magazines. One author of mine went so far as to use most of another book word for word, just sprinkling in his own thoughts and updates here and there. Part of my function as an editor was to catch that. Self-publishers don’t have editors, unless they hire a freelancer, of course, which many don’t do because of the expense.

As a writer, my reaction was: What can writers do? We’re not going to stop writing. We’re not going to stop publishing. We’re not going to stop expressing ourselves on blogs and websites, which make our fingers itch to start keyboarding away. Aside from diligently placing the copyright notice where everyone should be able to see it and asking our friends to keep their eyes open on our behalf, what else is there to do? What do you do?

For anyone who missed the brouhaha over the apple pie article, the How Publishing Really Works blog did an excellent job of presenting the whole story and also provides a ton of links to other articles and blog posts on the subject.