13 January 2018

Copyrights & Wrongs

Article reprinted from The Military Writers Society of America's Winter 2018 Dispatches Magazine.

Most of us are moved by song lyrics, poems, or quotable quotes – they sometimes speak to our innermost thoughts and dreams. Some can even compel us to be or do better. Who doesn’t love a good chorus... 

...or a song that sings to their soul?

Also, a well-written thought can enhance your book. Stephen King does it, as well as myriad other writers...

...so why can't we?

I’ll tell you why – any work written after 1923 is more than likely still copyrighted by the publisher or artist. The publishing company and/or artists (or heirs) own the rights to artistic works until they don’t. If I wanted to put a particular song lyric which describes how a man ignores any words he doesn’t want to hear, anywhere in my book...

Which one was The Boxer, anyway? Simon or Garfunkel?

...I’d have to research who owns the particular rights to the song, send them a letter, and wait for their response... which may or may not come. The copyright holder is entitled (by law) to either deny you the right to use the quote, grant you permission (and perhaps charge you whatever they deem as fair – to them) or ignore you. If they choose the latter, you still cannot print their intellectual property in your book. Sorry. 

Them's the breaks.

Authors like Stephen King – an author who is known to use song lyrics at the beginning of his books – have big-house publishers who more than likely have copyright owners on speed-dial and have a standard contract to use and pay as needed. Most independent traditional publishers do not. Most POD publishers do not. And, be warned – most POD publishers will print whatever you give them without a care to copyright issues. Somewhere within their contract (most likely in legalese or small print) resides a clause wherein you, the author, swear the work you’re publishing with them is entirely of your own creation. That signed confession right there lets them off the legal hook. Just because they haven't any qualms printing your book with Simon’s lyrics, don’t for a second believe you’ve checked all the blocks and are therefore scot-free.

Erm...not so much...

You may think (as a self-published or POD author) your work will fly under the radar, ergo safe. I get it. You like to live dangerously. It spices up your life and thrills you. Great. But before you throw caution to the wind, consider why you’re writing in the first place. Do you put pen to paper, or fingertip to keyboard with a desire that no one read you? Do you really pour your heart and soul in black and white to go unnoticed? The internet is full of stories about people who write a self-published book and it takes off like wildfire. 

This could be you!

The next thing you know you’re showcased on your favorite talk-show and the host mentions the quoted lyric or line... and you sit there like a deer in the water (or a fish in the headlights) hoping no one is watching. Yeah...

Too late!

If you really gotta have that particular quote in your book, research and get the copyright holder’s permission to print long before your book goes to the presses. Get the permission and stipulations in writing and keep the email or letter, like, forever – don’t expect your independent or POD publisher to do it for you.  If you just want ‘a’ quote – write your own snazzy lyric and pass it off as a fictitious person...

...as it were...

...or use content written before 1923 and most likely in the public domain. One caveat though, some copyright holders renew the license regularly on popular or significant songs or performers and authors, so the age test doesn’t necessarily hold water. You still need to do your research to ensure it's in the public domain. Your best bet is to forgo the quote altogether and sleep easily...

...like a well-dosed baby.

Bottom line: Publish your book without borrowing anyone else’s ideas, hope for the best, and maybe someday you’ll be in the position to sue the pants off someone for using your copyrighted intellectual property without permission. 

 Check this out for more information: Copyright Circular 15a

Enjoy & In Joy!

19 September 2017

It's all how you look at it

I believe good writers have superpowers mere mortals don't possess. Well, not really. But close.

When you dig deep into a book by your favorite author, he or she guides you down paths of intrigue, romance, and fear... which sometimes lead to worlds yet unknown to you, the reader.

A decent writer has more than one character, usually, therefore has more than one perspective of the situation he or she is creating from thin air. Yes. We are gods.

Gods who are not to be taken seriously.
Consider point of view for a second. We can use yesterday's blog as an example. I offered a story about the one who got away. I recounted the memory from my personal experience and point of view. I have no earthly idea how he felt about our situation. Truth be told, he might have despised me. Who knows?
He does.
Or, did.
We're not even sure if he remembers me, are we? He and I almost happened nearly thirty years ago.
We didn't even know how to dress then.
From my perspective, he and I had the beginnings of a happily ever after. What went wrong? No idea, but does it matter? If you're going to write a book about my failed relationships, you'll more than likely want to have me be the main character and use my point of view when writing. You'll start with my thoughts and memories; how they pop up from time to time - but only the good ones because humans don't like to remember the bad stuff. Maybe that's just me.

...just the bad ones, please.
So, first person narrative maybe? You start out in my head, writing my thoughts, smelling, seeing, tasting, sensing the world through my eye-filters, processing information through my limited brain. You quite literally write from my perspective. You can't imagine or discover what another character is thinking or feeling or seeing. You have no omniscient knowledge that isn't already present in my brain. You can't see any emotions or reactions on my face - unless you have me, as your character looking in a reflective glass or image of some sort. You can't see anything or anyone coming up behind me - nothing that isn't directly in my field of vision. That's why you need to know "me" top to bottom, inside and out. You need to figure out why I'm a single woman of fifty-five, who lives alone without cats. Why do relationships scare me, and do I have trust issues? Why would I rather do things myself than ask for help? If you don't know me personally, that's okay. This is why we call it fiction. But in order for you to write about me, you need to feel you know me better than you know yourself. You may want to put some of your own fears and insecurities in the mix to make it easier to connect with the writing.

Now you have to ask yourself, do you want to write a story strictly from my point of view?

So, you have a secondary character. Let's say TOWGA is our SC. I've not really told you much about him, but let's give him the moniker, Erik. We can only see Erik from my POV. We can hear what he tells me and see what he does in front of me. We can feel his strong, yet gentle arms around me. We can feel his velvet lips as they press into mine and how they linger over parts of my body; his shallow, warm breath as it momentarily cools the places his tongue touches. We can feel how his skin brushes mine, causing goosebumps to grow under his heat. We can smell his cologne and sense how it ignites my desire...

But what we can't do is know what he's thinking or feeling. We can't hear his inner dialogue. Unless we write, also, from his POV. Now, what you absolutely don't want to do is scramble the eggs, here. IF you're going to write from his POV, too, you'll need to separate the brains.

[was going to put a graphic, but that shit's disgusting]

For instance, maybe write each POV in a different section or chapter. Make it obvious to the reader that the POV has changed from one head to the other; the camera has moved from my brain to Erik's.

One of the best movies to tackle change of POV (in my humble opinion) is He Said, She Said, in which the POV is dramatically shifted by a flying coffee cup slamming into Dan's forehead.

This blog could probably go on for days because there are multiple POVs from which to choose. I have barely scratched the surface, but Imma gonna stop you right here because...

Point of View, aka perspective can make or break your novel. If you don't get it down, and down right, your audience will fall off your wordy merry-go-round dizzy as hell. Instead, here are a few good resources to get you headed down the right path:

The Fiction Writer's Toolkit by Bob Mayer (I think he has a newer version out - The Novel Writer's Toolkit - but I've not read it).
Characters & Viewpoints by Orson Scott Card
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Respect your readers by giving them their money's worth. Learn your craft, love what you do, and others will love it, too.


18 September 2017

Do You Love to Write, or Write to Love?

Some days it feels almost impossible to get down to the nitty-gritty of writing. Today is unfortunately one of those days.

The weather's been a bit brisker as of late. I noticed it on my morning walk. The sun has yet to warm up my little section of the planet or my cold fingers.

And the trees are shedding their summer attire.
This weekend as I textured and painted my living room walls, I allowed my thoughts to once again wander back almost twenty-eight(ish) years ago and to the one man whom I (I can say with certainty...probably) truly loved. Timing apparently wasn't right for us and it all just, I don't know - dissipated, maybe? I'd been struggling with that question all day yesterday, and finally went to bed with the admission that it's true: people enter our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. He must have been either a reason or a seasonal lover. I wish circumstances had been more accommodating for a lifetime one; he would've made a good one. I've wondered about him over the years. I also wonder why a week can't go by without thoughts of him popping into my mind. And I wonder what I did to deserve that particular type of hell.

I hope he's living a fulfilling and loving life - he deserves nothing less. I'd best stop writing about him or risk breaking out in Adele or Taylor Swift song lyrics.

We have our niches in which to write, so they tell us. I predominantly pen children's books. I find it rewarding and calming. I started writing mainstream fiction while still in high school. I shared my short stories with my closest friends, who always asked for more. It became my drug; my reason. I've yet to publish a true fiction novel. Hopefully that changes this year.

At the same time I published Daddy's Boots, I started writing Living with L.V. Brown and have been working on it ever since. The problem with novels, especially fiction novels (for me) is you can't tell when you're done. I had a college professor once who told me, "When you can't make it better, that's when you know you're done."
Great... except I always think I can make it just a little bit better, so...
Another professor said, "There's going to be a point in your writing where you have to say, 'this is good enough' and walk away. But don't walk away for good - come back to it in about a month and see if you still think it's good enough. If it is, you know it's done." Not really having any luck with that suggestion, either.

It is what it is, I suppose. It'll be done when it tells me it's done.

Like love, maybe?
The words between you melt away so you think it's done...but maybe it wasn't supposed to be a short story - perhaps it was supposed to be a full-length romance novel, and that's why you can't get him out of your head. Maybe you both closed the book too soon, when so much more needed to be written. Perhaps coming back to it... yeah, I guess I'll never know.

And, hey, my niches are children's books and (hopefully) mainstream fiction. I question my skills at creating a good romance novel, anyway.

In Joy & Enjoy

10 August 2017

Off with the Old

The best process one can undertake when one feels a shift in consciousness.
Recently a program fell (figuratively) into my lap which literally changed my perceptions, and therefore my life. I don't recall how I stumbled upon it. I'd heard it mentioned here and there -- like a side-note, or a post script -- but never got the gumption to investigate it further. Then one day something clicked, and my entire outlook on life and love changed in one distinct moment.
And when I say stumble...
I'm not going to bore you with details or my own personal journey, but I am going to reach out to anyone I may have insulted or abused within these blog posts. Although inadvertent on my part -- or at least I told myself it was, disguised as biting humor, sarcastic or sardonic commentary, or deeply meaningful insights -- I do sincerely apologize. We live, we grow, we learn. I hope you find a way to forgive me. 

I've known for the majority of my life we draw into our lives the people and experiences we need to grow as infinite beings. I finally fully understand this concept. If at one point you were in my life, it's because we both needed to learn a lesson. My lesson was undoubtedly different than yours, but both of us (hopefully) became richer from our mutual experience(s). For that I am grateful. All life experiences, especially the tough ones, help create who we are, and who we will become. Therefore I am most grateful to people in my life who have caused me the most pain and suffering. I am also very grateful you are no longer part of my life, because, honestly, who needs that much negativity in their life?

You, no doubt, feel the same about me.
If it calls to you, please investigate The Tapping Solution -- Emotional Freeing Technique (EFT), and listen or subscribe to Tony Robbins (on Facebook). If you're in a place where these messages reach you emotionally or spiritually, you'll be glad you did. If you're already a student, you know of what I'm talking. I've been a fan of Tony's for years now, (as well as Louise L. Hay, Wayne Dyer, and Abraham Hicks) but Tony's message is resonating more with me now than ever before. I told someone in an interview recently I want to swim in Tony's pool, and I will someday. I don't know how or when -- 
maybe they'll ask me to house sit
-- but I know I will. Eventually.

I have a good life, and am grateful -- from the bottom of my heart. My books have won multiple awards and are mentioned in plethora articles. I'm humbly proud of the messages and comfort they provide children. I endeavor to remain worthy of the title: award-winning author. 

From this point forward the focus of this blog will therefore be on writing, my works, and tips of the trade. It's been said if you do something for fifteen years, you become an expert. So, here I stand -- apparently your resident expert, of sorts. Drop me a line (sandra@sandstarbooks.com) or leave a question in the comments section. I'm here for you. 

Thanks for being here for me.
In Light & Love

07 June 2017

Aw... shucks.

Hearing nice things said about your book(s) from an uninterested party pretty much makes the world go 'round. I mean, my mother always gushes about my creations, but she's supposed to, right?

Imagine my pleasant shock and surprise when I see my titles show up on stranger's blogs, websites, or mentioned in articles.

For the military family - the boots books series:

A deployment book for Daddies to read to their child(ren)..
12 Veterans Day Books for Kids features none other than the above favorite, Daddy's Boots.

Daddy's Boots is included in the top five "best books for military kids to help them THRIVE within this military life..."

A book to address anxiety when Daddy's headed home.

Operation We Are Here gives a shout-out to Daddy's Boots and But...What If? in their article, Books for military children with a deployed father.

Another article, 9 Books to Help Military Children lists But...What If?, and says about it, "Homecomings are often – and for good reason – painted in a celebratory light. In this book, however, the author highlights some of the worries children might experience and be hesitant to voice as deployments come to an end. This is a great book to begin exploring feelings and expectations as homecoming day approaches."

A book to address anxiety when Momma's headed home.

...And the list is growing. 

Another of my books that makes the headlines(ish) is Pickysaurus Mac. Proud of this little book, too, I am. It's given practically dozens of individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder a book to call his or her own.

An awesome review by Growing Book by Book on Pickysaurus Mac states, "...is one of very few books I could find that addresses the sensory challenges that some children deal with at mealtime."

And another from Eyas Landing: "This clever book encourages children to experience new textures in a safe, unenforced environment that increases sensory tolerance and lets them know that other kids share the same discomfort with food."

Mac can't find anything to eat to save his life.

Though, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Mac's friend, Brooke, and her icky picky sister - a newer addition to my family of books. So new, in fact, nothing has been written on or about it (or I'd have added it)... pretty sure only my mother has purchased it to date. But, that's okay.  

Add it to your wish list today!

There you have it. Endorsements from people I don't know who don't know me. It gives this author a great deal of encouragement, I can attest to that. I appreciate every shout-out. 

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy & In Joy

10 June 2014


I wrap my fingers around you.
I've longed for the feel of you in my hands; your hardness pleases me.
I caress you while I imagine the heights you'll take me.

I slide you in...
I slide you out, ever... so... slowly...
I position you... I pause...

My heart beats a bit faster. My breath catches.
I bite my lip.

I'm not quite ready.  It's been a while...

Slower... we have time.

I slide you in, and hold you there.
The seconds pass. I sense your energy - our potential...
I dare not move for fear of ruining this perfect moment.

I slide you out.
I bring you to my lips; my tongue plays with your tip and my lips barely dance across your shaft. My mind is already where we could be together.

Okay. I'm ready.

I place your tip in the proper position and slowly move with you... and with every stroke I become more excited, more alive... more me.  My passion pours out through you.
Each stroke melds us, you and I. Entangled in a divine purpose, fate brought us together.
I feel your power as you allow me to guide you. My hunger builds.

Our strokes come faster now, more powerful; raw with desire.
My mind races; my heart pounds, I grip you tighter.. I am lost in the moment with you...
The phone screams from its cradle...

...My passion evaporates; gone.

I slide you back into your cap.
I place you on our half-written page...

There will be no more writing today.

20 February 2011

In sickness...

I ache.
I shiver.
I flush cold with fever.
I nestle my shoulder deep
into the warm cave of your armpit.
My heavy head finds soft purchase
in the valley between your shoulder and chest.
Your strong arm tenderly cradles my back.
The cadence of your breath lulls me...
I sleep.
I dream.
I heal in your love.

As the bonds of sleep release me
I slowly awaken.
Your arm morphs into my blanket.
I stir.
Your chest reveals itself as my pillow.
I rise.
My shoulder has no cave.

I feel your absence.
You exist only in my dreams.
You've yet to enter my life.

The one
who'll snuggle me
...in sickness and in health.

pass the popcorn, please!