Ideas are up for grabs

When it comes to choosing beta readers, an aspiring author recently commented that he doesn’t accept beta readers who are strangers to him. He’s afraid they might steal his ideas.

Probably not. I wouldn’t.

When it comes to choosing recreational reading before bedtime, cozy mysteries and sweet romances have been my choices for a few years. They are clean, non-violent sub-genres, and they don’t keep me awake nights or give me bad dreams. So it’s probably no surprise that I beta read novellas and short novels written by authors of cozy mysteries and sweet romances.

However, I don’t write cozy mysteries and sweet romances. And I don’t steal ideas from authors of those sub-genres or any genres, sub or otherwise. I can come up with enough ideas on my own.

Apparently, a few of my ideas have been considered good enough for someone to steal.

When I was in the undergraduate creative writing program at a major state university, a classmate poached ideas from an article I wrote. Classmate wrote her own article, incorporating my ideas (but not my exact words), and got it published in the university newspaper. I think she was paid for her article. I, of course, was not.

I was a tad bit upset at first. Friends who read both articles noted the similarities and told me I should complain to the professor.

I didn’t do as they suggested because I knew complaining would be a waste of time and effort. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. It’s the words used to express those ideas in an article, book, or other form of media that can be copyrighted.

Ideas are up for grabs.

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Self-promotion might work the second time around

Years ago, when I lived in Arizona, I created a business card with a link to the only blog I had at the time. I also included a small icon of an antique automobile and a tagline on the card. The tagline read, Hey, Jeremy, remember the time that you . . .

I printed about twenty cards and left them at restaurants, library branches, and bookstores.

Recently, I was reminded of my brief attempt at shameless self-promotion when I met a woman who paints sayings and pictures on rocks. She gives the rocks to friends or leaves them in areas near the beach for others to enjoy.

Learning about her pastime makes me think that perhaps I should print some more of those business cards and use them to, ahem, encourage people to visit my web sites.

Yes, now I have two sites. And I once had a third. I haven’t deleted that third site; it’s just been “on hiatus” for a couple of years. Maybe someday I will re-activate My WestWord Novel blog.

Maybe.

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Yes, I’m an editor, but . . .

I don’t think it’s a big deal if someone who isn’t a journalist/author makes a grammar error when commenting on FB or Twitter. Most people probably post in a hurry and hit enter before looking at their text.

However, when posting a comment on a local, regional, or national media website, I think people should at least proofread their comments to ensure that they have used the correct word, e.g., accept not except.

Recently, on a local media website, I backed up a woman who had called out a poster on this error. Another commenter asked us if we though the man’s grammar mistake made his opinion “not valid”. No, of course his opinion is valid. But he probably could use a short refresher course in correct word usage.

This particular error is one of my pet peeves. I learned the difference between affect and effect in sixth grade English class. Thank you, Mrs. Grover.

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Apparently, my plot suggestion did not go over well

Someone recently asked my advice regarding their (the generic their) historical novel in progress. Their hero was orphaned when his criminal parents were hanged. The aspiring author, who lives in a western state, asked me to let them know what crime would have been a hanging offense in Massachusetts in the mid to late 1800s.

Specifically, in 1865, could both the hero’s father and mother have been hanged for a crime that generally seems to warrant only several years of prison time in the twenty-first century? As an example that would be relevant today, let’s pretend the parents had conned the preacher’s widow out of her life savings.

Despite having grown up in Massachusetts, I  know very little about nineteenth-century justice in that state. However, I don’t think a man would have been hanged for theft then. And, as far as I know, Massachusetts hasn’t executed a woman since the days of the Salem witch trials.

I suggested that the author have the father kill the mother. I’m fairly certain that would have been a hanging offense in 1865, and it conveniently would have dispatched both Dad and Mom for plot purposes.

For some reason, the author didn’t seem too enthusiastic about my suggestion.

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Editor/beta reader taking a break

I was employed as an editor at nonprofit organization for many years. Now I’m a freelance editor, currently on hiatus for personal reasons. If I return to editing, I have decided that I will edit only very short projects, at least for a while.

I also beta read e-novellas and short e-novels—mostly cozy mysteries and sweet romances. To be honest, because I live in the States, I prefer to read works of authors whose first language is a version of English. And, for the time being, I will read works only by authors who are located in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Although I prefer to read final drafts, I do make exceptions.

 I read for clarity, consistency, and credibility, paying special attention to both plot and character development. I will be nice, but I also will be honest.

Some beta readers charge for this service; I do not. Beta reading is not the same thing as editing. However, it is a way to keep my critical reading skills fresh while I take the time to decide if I want to resume editing other writers’ full-length works.

 I will be on hiatus from beta reading in November as I am participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge.

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Meet my Beach Buddy, The Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy

If you go to the beach in Oceanside, California, you probably will see the man who walks along the Strand wearing a long, dark trench coat. Sometimes he splashes in the water; at other times, he sits on the rocks and lets the water splash him. Over the years, he’s become a local celebrity. His picture has appeared in hard copy and online Oceanside publications, including the Osider magazine and the OsideNews.com. Writers have written blog posts about him. And people often take photos or film videos of him and post them on the Internet.

I made his acquaintance on a Facebook group page in March 2015. I commented on a comment he had made about cats. Later, I learned that he was the fellow people call Trench Coat Man.

I’ve always been interested in interesting people, at times incurring my parents’ disapproval. After seeing a few pictures of him that were posted on the group page, I wanted to meet him. I saw him walking either on the beach or on the Strand three times before I got up the courage to approach him and introduce myself. I often tell people I ambushed him.

 Over the past year we have become friends. A couple of times a week, we hang out at the beach, where I often use his camera to take photos and film videos of him. He posts both the photos and videos on the Facebook group page and also posts some of the videos on his YouTube channel.

When people ask me about him, I tell them he’s my beach buddy. He has been very kind to me, and I enjoy his company.

 He may be considered a bit eccentric, but he’s also a very nice, humble, intelligent man who enjoys talking to people and making new friends. He’s not homeless, as people often assume. He has a home, a 1931 Model A Ford, and three sweet cats.

 He has no intention of ending it all, either. But that’s what some individuals, mostly tourists, think he has in mind when they first see him sitting on the rocks or walking into the water. Sometimes concerned tourists talk to him or to the lifeguards instead of making assumptions. Sometimes tourists try to rescue him. Sometimes they just call 9-1-1. The lifeguards and the police officers stationed on the Strand know him well. When asked about him, they usually say “That’s Bruce. He’s here every day. He’s okay.”

 Oceanside residents like him and are respectful of him. Beachgoers enjoy talking with him on the Strand. People look forward to seeing the photos and videos he posts on the group page and on his YouTube channel, Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy.

 He has his reasons for hanging out at the beach wearing a trench coat. One of the reasons is that his doctor told him either to cover up or to stop hanging out at the beach. You can ask him about his other reasons. Google Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy and go to his YouTube channel. Bruce likes meeting new friends, in person and online.

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Sorry, I’m an editor

I’ve read a lot of bloopers in novels and other forms of, shall I say, literature, over the years. Misplaced modifiers are hilarious. Here’s one from a real estate ad: The grounds are well kept and inviting to visitors with curb appeal. As written, the sentence indicates that the visitors have curb appeal, not the grounds.

I still wonder if this writer was serious when he or she wrote the following: The freezer units should be defrosted regularly. Not doing so could cause them to become damaged sooner than necessary? Those two sentences made me think of The Wastemakers, a book about planned obsolescence, by Vance Packard that I was required to read (and be bored by) as a college freshman.

My all-time favorite so far is the following sentence that stood out in a novel I read recently: The horses rolled their eyes in disgust. I rolled my eyes in disbelief. Technically, the sentence was written from the collective point of view (POV) of a team of Clydesdales. Only the horses know if they are disgusted.

I don’t think the author intended to write the sentence from the animals’ POV. At least, I would hope not.

Now if that author’s name had been George Orwell . . .

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