Thursday, November 20

The Ferryman is Nigh - Keep the Last Obol for Yourself

Paying the Ferryman - Charon Coin PressI'm pleased to announce that Charon Coin Press has chosen to feature my work as part of their upcoming horror anthology Paying the Ferryman!

Eden in Spring is a putrefying, 4600-word tale about a man who finds out a shocking truth about the next life, and learns the hard way that the clock never stops ticking - even after death. It will be featured alongside a dozen other works by talented authors, befitting the theme of a dark outlook on the afterlife.

I'm very excited for the opportunity to be working with some talented individuals on such a delightfully frightening project, and would like to thank the staff at Charon Coin Press for their patronage. Check back here or on Charon Coin's main site for updates as they become available in upcoming months.

The banks of the Styx and Acheron are wet with bile, and the boatman draws near. Flee here for more information!


(The image above is from a cover reveal post for the anthology. It was created by artist Natasha Alterici, and beautifully captures the theme of the book in a chilling moment of white-knuckled suspense!)


Thursday, November 13

Thief in the Night - Surviving the Rapture of Writing

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You've just completed your manuscript. Your novel. Your opus. Your glorious addition to the world of literature. Now you want to share it with the world, but a nascent thought tickles your mind.

What if somebody steals my work?

You just put your blood, sweat, and tears into your baby, and soon it will be in the hands of reviewers, agents, editors, et cetera. What's to keep some dirty criminal from snatching up your prize, beating you to the copyright office, and claiming the rights to your work before you do?

Broaching the subject on writing forums is likely to get you a 50/50 response, with half the users patting your head and calling you a cute little newbie to the world of writing, while the other half warn you to hide your manuscript under your aluminum foil hat for several months until somebody at the copyright office gets around to sending you that shining piece of paper that proves your work is yours. Still others will make suggestions like mailing a copy of your manuscript to yourself before you share it with the world and leaving it sealed, with the idea that the postmark from the United States Postal Service will hold up in court should you have to sue anybody over intellectual property rights. Another suggestion I've heard is asking potential reviewers, or those who might have reason to come in contact with your pre-published work, to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Well, I'll tell you one thing. If you approached me as a potential agent/reviewer/reader or even publisher for your work, and you asked me to sign a legally binding anything simply for the privilege of basking in your glory, then you're going straight to the wastebasket in favor of the hundreds of folks a week who are sending me manuscripts to review and not asking me to get involved in a legal quagmire.

Thankfully, the concept of copyright isn't all about a race to see who can get the first little piece of paper to back up their ©, and it's not nearly as troublesome a subject as one might think. Copyrights cost a little money and a lot of time, but they don't have to. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works is good reading material for those who want to know. The gist is that your work is automatically protected by copyright the moment you write it, and this copyright is recognized in all of the nations that participate in the Berne Convention. The United states has been a participating member in Berne since 1989. Spiffy, no? You can read more about Berne at Copyright.gov. While you're there, be sure to check out §104 and §104(a) of Title 17 of the United States Code.

If you're still worried, take the following points into consideration:

  • Just as a reputable publisher and/or agent is never going to charge you for their services, they're also not going to take your submitted manuscript down to the copyright office, slap a certificate on it, and spirit it away while you wait around with bated breath wondering if they're interested in representing you. That's not the point of their business. Agents and traditional publishing houses deal with gazillions of manuscript submissions a year. They make no money by stealing your work, and they don't have the time to risk dropping their slush pile in favor of chasing after fame and fortune by pretending to be somebody else.
  • Consider that as authors, we think of our works as our beloved, polished children (myself included). Just like a chef in the Chopped Kitchen who can't believe somebody wasn't amazed by the sweet zing of honey they added to their soy sauce, we authors sometimes have a hard time accepting the idea that while we may have written a great story, we haven't actually redefined literature in our society. Unless you have a considerable track record as a published author, a potential plagiarist has little, if, anything, to gain from stealing your work. If you already are a notable author, a plagiarist still has little to gain, since it now boils down to a question of your word versus theirs.
  • Before you invest the time and money into a copyright certificate for your novel, are you absolutely certain that your manuscript will undergo no significant changes before it goes to print? Minor editorial changes are one thing, but if you're planning to change anything significant, you enter into a grey area called 'substantial and creative' changes. Ever wonder how Walmart can get away with marketing 'store brands' of patented products, with identical ingredient lists, same shape/color packaging, and so forth? Patents may be somewhat different that copyrights, but the core concept is the same - your non-editorial changes just ended up constituting a new derivative work. If you really wanted that piece of paper so badly, you may just find yourself back at square one.
  • Did I mention that Berne is automatic, and should take care of all those sticky little 'substantial and creative' changes nicely? Being free and not taking months to accomplish are some pretty nice bonuses too.

If after reading all of the above you're still convinced your perfect manuscript (that will never need to be significantly edited in any way) is best kept in a locked box under your bed until the certificate of copyright arrives, well...that's your prerogative. Just bear in mind that there's an easier and cheaper way, and all it involves is slapping 'Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]' on your first page (or words to that effect). I jazz it up a little and use the following:

  • The Goldenwealth Light (The Traveler of Ord, Book I)
    Copyright © 2012 Scott McCloskey

    All rights reserved. This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.

Oh, and don't forget...

  • All situations and events presented in this book are works of fiction. All characters portrayed are creations of the author's imagination - any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Feel free to employ some useful derivative with your own name and book title. I won't even come after you for infringement of the copyright on my...copyright statement.

Or something.


Tuesday, October 14

That Man Behind the Paper Curtain

I was asked: As an author, what makes a good character?

I replied: Don't you have anything better to do than ask complicated questions?

I like characters. LOTS of characters - the Traveler of Ord saga alone has upwards of thirty named individuals with significant roles to play over the span of two books, with more to come. It's possible I just want to play god in the second dimension, but I am of the belief that a novel-length tale needs lots of Toms, Dicks, and Harrys (oh my!) running around.

Why? To tell the tale from their own perspective, of course. A good character tells you, the author, how to write for them. A group of good characters reduces you to the role of taking dictation. One way to tell if you're working with such a character is to set aside your opus and write something from the character's viewpoint. A journal entry perhaps. The topic isn't important - just write from the character's perspective.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Now, what did you learn about your character? Are you absolutely certain they are who you thought they were, or who you created them to be? Don't despair if you find your hero's armor doesn't shine one hundred percent of the time, or your capricious sidekick has some moments of melancholy. After all, can any of us "real" people apply a single line of thinking to every situation we come across? Then why should you expect your characters to?

I submit that the greatest characters - the ones that you will love to write for, are the ones who break out of the mold you created for them and adamantly tell you who they are. Even if it wasn't what you were expecting or hoping for. Even if they throw a sharpened ballpoint into the middle of your well-laid plans and force you to mold your masterpiece around them in ways you weren't expecting. You were so sure the butler did it, but...he's just too nice of a guy. Curses! Time to shift the blame to the haberdasher on the sixth floor that tuned out to be a much shadier figure than you were prepared to give him credit for.

The other great part is that now you have a handy-dandy little short story for your character that you can turn into a compilation after you repeat the process with the rest of your cast.




Friday, September 19

Everywhere the Road Ends is now available!

The time has come! Everywhere the Road Ends, Book II of the Traveler of Ord Saga, is now available in paperback and digital formats on Amazon. The fate of young Theodore Ellsworth at the hands of the wraiths of the Reflectia Woods will finally be revealed, as the overall plot of the series begins to take shape. The road is darkening for Theo and Marie, as well as for their contrary friends; Tessa the gender-confused traversimorph, Maxwell Fableton the apprentice Lorewarden, and Zaradi Bracchus the balthan warrior-girl. Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel, or will everybody get squashed by a pack of wild yurt? Is Theo really a hero, or is he moonlighting as the Beast of Calharik?

Get ready for new allies, new enemies, new twists, two new cities, tall ships, and hours of more page-turning, YA adventure!

Find it here!

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Tuesday, September 2

The Cusp of a Sequel

For those of you who have been waiting patiently for Everywhere the Road Ends, I offer my apologies. We're literally just trying to get the paperback version's spine to line up correctly with the guidelines so the the book won't go to print crooked. This was a tumultuous issue with TGL as well which I attribute to the "machine" - not the illustrious efforts of the dedicated cover artist. Unfortunately the files have to go through multiple checks and reviews each time we try, and we need to have a look at a physical proof copy that takes a few days to ship, to ensure that you, the reader, are getting the best possible product. I won't settle for anything less and I don't expect you to.

So...any day now. Ord awaits!


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Don't forget to like the Traveler of Ord on
Facebook! The road home is darkening, and the Ellsworth siblings need your support!


Thursday, August 21

The Choices We Make

Time to wax.

Winnie the Pooh probably would have said, "Blogs are a nice sort of thing to have on a blustery day."

And why not? Everybody wants to be heard - even those of us who prefer not to declare ourselves from a soapbox in the village square. On a blog, you can say your peace at length, and not have it disappear at the bottom of the 'timeline' in three hours. On the other hand, you may end up just talking to yourself.

I choose to talk to myself, except that I ascribe names and personalities to the voices in my head. It's not psychosis. It's writing.

Well...it may be both. They go well together.

Sitting about listening to this little gem of a soundtrack, a topic comes to mind. The topic of choice. We've all heard that life isn't a game and there are no 'do-overs'. I partially subscribe to that notion, but only insofar as it applies to the same life (an entirely different topic). Choices are a part of life, and it can be said that living from moment to moment depends upon making choices.

So? Are you the type who reflects on the choices you've made? Or do you throw more coal on the fire and move full speed ahead through life? Perhaps some of both?

Two choices I've made come to mind. For one, the choice to leave Japan. Of course at the time I was a student on a limited visa with a finite bank account, but I could have worked my way towards returning. Though I enjoy all of the following aspects, I can say I didn't go there just for the people, the culture, the land, or the history. I went there because it felt like the place I wanted to be. A connection I can't really put into words, that made me want to spend my time sitting in a quiet place to relish in the joy of just being. Not that I have any disrespect or lack of love for my roots, but something about it felt like home. Yet, I didn't go back, and now I believe that ship has sailed. There are too many people and too many circumstances binding me to the states, and these are important enough that they must take priority. I am not unhappy - far from it. But, there are times when I find myself sighing with nostalgic melancholy all the same. What would have awaited me had I gone that route? Is it even really worth thinking about? My desire to be there was simply one of existence. Those who know me are probably aware I care little for the pursuit of wealth and power; preferring to enjoy my days at my own pace. I doubt I could have joined a monestary, so would I have been any happier chasing the yen than the dollar? I can't say. What I can say is, there are things I have now that I would miss. My relationship with my wife, I believe, is a rare type of love in this day and age. We are close enough to nearly be extensions of the same person, and though we have as much our share of bickering as any healthy relationship, she has my complete faith and trust. Many people in this life never obtain that - even those who find romance. My children? Well, if I had built a life for myself across the Pacific surely they would be different people, if they existed at all. I like the little people they are now. My books? Considering the circumstances upon how I come across most of my ideas, I doubt any of them would have been written by now. No matter what becomes of them in the future, they will always be a part of my legacy - even if that legacy never reaches beyond my own house.

The other choice is one of career. There was a time some years back where I had an opportunity to pursue a position at a local elementary school. I chose not to - preferring instead to chase the dollar. Uncharacteristic for me, but I learned some very important life lessons from that choice that have shaped a lot of my values today. Had I taken that job, education for my children would have been easy - go to the school I work at, graduate to the one across the street, and graduate again to the next building over from that. But, my first daughter wasn't even an apple in my eye at the time, and even though I do say I don't like money, I do recognize the need for it - I make twice what I would have made at that position now, and I don't have to look for supplementary summer work. Was it the right choice? Hindsight is 20/20.

So, I've made my choices, and now I am a devoted father of two who has chosen to put life on hold until my young ones can stand on their own, as opposed to a Buddhist otaku who may (or may not) have done the same.

It helps to put things in perspective from time to time. I am happy. Perhaps that's all that really matters.

Now then, back to the stories in my head. To whomever may be listening, I invite you to reflect on your own choices. You're more than welcome to share.

My next book? It's already written, but is on hold for a bit to prevent conflicting releases with
Everywhere the Road Ends. The topic is a secret (unless you really want to talk about it). Here's a hint:

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Thursday, August 14

Akiba's Trip: Undead and Just a Game

I recently acquired a rare and unlikely import on my Playstation Vita - a quirky little modern culture romp called Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed.

For those that don't know, Akiba's Trip (or 'Akiba Strip', as you like) is a video game featuring an open city environment recreated from modern day Akihabara. In it, you are tasked with exposing undead monsters hiding amongst the populace. Since you are a normal person and not some soldier of fortune hero type we all can't relate to (a refreshing concept), you accomplish this by attacking your targets and stripping off their clothing, while they try to do the same to you. Once they are sufficiently exposed to the sun they disintegrate, much like a vampire.

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I must say, I'm quite entertained. Though I never visited Akihabara while I was on study abroad in Japan, I did frequent enough shopping districts on the Keian line between Kyoto and Osaka for the environments in this game to feel nostalgic, right down to the pitiable street walkers whose job it was to divert attention to the store that employed them by whatever means necessary. I consider myself a rather agreeable person, but as I was very obviously foreign they tended to leave me alone (and made a habit out of directing me to the handicapped toilet).

Me: (in broken Japanese) "Excuse me, but where is the ________?"
***HANDICAPPED TOILET***

I found many handicapped toilets in Japan. Oh well.

Back to subject at hand. When I purchased this game, the salesperson commented that he was surprised it was ever imported. I had to agree with him, though lamentably so. My original interest in traditional Japanese culture went as far as a major in college, but considering my background, it was only a matter of time before I discovered pop-culture about 17 years ago. I haven't looked back, and I suppose that may have to do with why I would immediately gravitate towards a game like this, and not see it as the slightest bit odd. But, the salesperson did have a point. Here's one of the reasons.

The Most Despicable Game Ever.

Before I make my point, I should hope I don't have to bring up the fact that I'm as much a supporter of equality of the sexes as any other forward-thinking, reasonable-minded person. Those who know me should already be aware of that, and those who don't, well, I just told you. I'm proud of the business my wife has built and have every intention of encouraging my two little girls to be all they can be when they grow up. I'm still going to say my peace.

Obviously there is no full nudity in this game (underwear is as far as it goes), nor is there any blatant sexuality apart from a few innuendo comments on the level of primetime TV, but as you can see the game has received criticism on our sexually immature side of the globe through claims that it exploits women, since there are a few screenshots circulating showing a male character removing articles of clothing from a female character. From even a short time playing it, I find it quite clear that as usual, the criticism can mainly be chalked up to ignorance. Despite the concept, the game has very little to do with titillation. It's more a mix of action and comedy, and you strip as many men as you do women (if not more). Later into the game you can also choose to actually play the game as a female character. I suppose the aforelinked article would find it acceptable if said protagonist went around tearing the clothing off of hapless men.

Haters who are just looking for the next cause, I offer you this thought: Calm down, unplug from the social networking for a few hours, go get some coffee or something, and let the people with interests that differ from your own enjoy themselves, as you would like us to allow you to do the same. I might also advise you to explore cultural diversity. Japan's history is centuries longer than that of the United States and was not built upon rigid Puritanical morals. People bathe together. People are less afraid of their bodies. People also expect you to be responsible for your own conduct, rather than feeling a need to police you and save you from yourself. As far as the exploitation/objectification argument is concerned, I'll fight that battle right alongside you - but I won't open fire without a legitimate target.

Peace said. Clicks bated.



(In case you're wondering, I believe Akiba's Trip is rated 'mature'. That should be helpful enough for most of us, but if you're really worried about your kids getting hold of this title, not to mention the oodles of titles portraying extreme violence that are only rated 'teen' (which for some illogical reason we seem to be more accepting of in the states), try doing some parenting now and then, rather than letting society do it for you. A million points to the first person who can explain to me why even taking about, much less providing education on, parts of the body we all have is so taboo, while extreme gore, violence, murdering of people in all walks of life, genocide, etc is considered a 'must-see' film, or perhaps a cop drama.)