A Thief By Any Other Name…is Still a JERK!

For a number of reasons the internet is a wonderful tool for the use of artists of every kind. It allows us to network with our peers and our fans, to take the reins on our own marketing and distribution, to do various kinds of research, and a world of other useful things. It makes our lives and platforms easier to handle and, if we so choose, allows us to share ourselves and our work with the world on a scale of our own choosing.

But there are also pitfalls. One such pitfall that never ceases to destroy my trust in people is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is something I never honestly thought that I would have to worry about. When I was still in school the only kind of plagiarism you ever heard about was kids copying each others’ work or copying entire sections of their essays out of library books. Even as I moved on to the college world the most you really came across was when truly stupid students would copy sections of Wikipedia pages without realizing that Wikipedia is created by volunteer input and is therefore not necessarily correct in any way, shape, or form.

These days, however, I can give you a list of pieces that I have seen plagiarized on the internet. I have several artist friends who have found their drawings/paintings/etc posted on other peoples’ websites with no credit given to the original creator. I know a number of writers who only found out through the help of their readers that other people were snatching their work from sites like FanFiction.net and FictionPress.com and posting it on their own websites with their own names attached. I even know a few people who write for professional websites who have found their articles copy-and-pasted onto other people’s sites with the impression that it belonged to the thief. And just recently my father, who loves photography and regularly posts his photos on Facebook, was informed by a friend that other photographers were ganking his pictures and claiming them as their own. In most of these cases the original creators had no intention of making money from their work, which is why they were sharing it freely, but that does not give other people the right to steal that work and turn around and use it for their own purpose.

Maybe we should just all start attaching these to everything we do.
Maybe we should just all start attaching these to everything we do.

Some people may say that if the thief isn’t making any money off the stolen work, then what should it matter? And I’m here to tell you that it matters a lot. For one thing, if two people are claiming ownership of the same work, how do the fans know who to trust? If, for instance, someone stole one of my stories and posted it on their own site, how many readers might read it on that site first, and therefore assume that I am the thief? Now my name has been besmirched even though I am the victim. For another thing, you have to think about things like exposure and building a portfolio. Take my father for this example. He currently has no intentions of making any money from his hobby, but someday he might, and all the photos that he’s been taking and sharing with the world will be part of his portfolio. But if other people have been taking his photos and claiming them as their own, they will have been spending all this time building up their own portfolios with those stolen photos. They’ve been gaining all the ill-gotten exposure while my father has been simply enjoying his hobby, and if his intentions do change, he’ll be basically starting over from scratch because he’ll have no way to prove that those photos were truly his all along.

There are certain things that an artist can do to protect their work, such as watermarking photos and emailing manuscripts to yourself (so that the email server has a time stamp of how long that particular file has been in your possession), but action rarely stops plagiarizers. The internet is an enormous virtual Universe that is unfortunately filled with quite a large number of jerks, and in the many examples of plagiarism that I’ve seen, the only reason the victims even found out about their work being stolen was because fans found out and informed them of the outrage.

So with that said, I offer a suggestion to the masses: keep an eye out for one another. To my knowledge no work of mine has ever been plagiarized, but for all I know there could be a dozen other blogs out there posting my Final Fantasy novelization and claiming it as their own, and I would definitely want to be informed if someone happened to wander across such a thievery. I’m sure any one of you would want the same. So keep your eyes open, friends and fellow artists. We are a community and we have to have each others’ backs on this one. Don’t let the thieves win!

Things You Might Not Know About Me

I was taking dumbass-looking selfies before it was cool...circa 1999
I was taking painfully-dumbass-looking selfies before it was cool…circa 1999
  • I am an absolute terrible swimmer. When I try to swim, I sink, and when I try to dive, I float.
  • In the third grade I went through a weird stage where I felt like I should have two middle names, so I kept adding “Marie” after the “Lynn” whenever I signed my school work.
  • When I was a kid I was a huge wuss. The “Are You Afraid of the Dark” TV show scared the beejeezus out of me.
  • I grew up on the Babysitters Club books by Ann M. Martin, and by the time I stopped reading them my parents had purchased well over a hundred and fifty of those books.
  • All the books I used to read growing up are still in my parent’s attic. There must be well over three hundred of them up there.
  • I am perfectly happy to lay in bed with my daughter all day and watch Teen Titans, not just because I love spending time with my daughter, but because I have an incredibly embarrassing love of Teen Titans.
  • When I was a kid I truly believed that I had what it took to be a great actress.
  • I was obsessed with anime for several years of my life, and if I’m perfectly honest there are still a few anime shows that I would happily sit down and binge-watch.
  • The very first Star Trek thing of any kind that I ever saw was the 2009 remake with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (but I’ve since watched the entire original series, about half of The Next Generation, and most of the original movies).
  • The very first Doctor Who show that I saw was the first of the newer episodes, staring Christopher Eccelston (but I’m now currently in the progress of going back and watching all the old episodes because OF COURSE I AM).
  • Since my daughter developed a love for them, I began to develop an extreme hatred of stickers.
  • I once lost two baby teeth within a month of each other because of those ridiculously sticky caramel chocolates that pop up around Christmas time.
  • The Pottermore website totally sorted me into Gryffindor.
  • People who refuse to retire simply because they don’t know what else to do with their lives frustrate me to no end because their inability to find a couple of hobbies keeps young people with thousands of dollars worth of student loans from getting a job.
  • I project anger on myself on a daily basis for being unable to keep my sweet tooth under control.
  • I own, like, seven pairs of shoes, and three of those are steel-toed work boots.
  • Regardless of the impression it projects, I would rather wear a pair of jeans and a superhero t-shirt than bother to get dressed up in blouses and skirts and whatnot.
  • I have no patience for make-up. I wear lipstick because my lips are pale and if I don’t I tend to look sick, and if it’s a special occasion I might add a bit of mascara.
  • I’m not a fan of “fat shaming” OR “skinny shaming” because there are lots of reasons for people to be too fat or too skinny, but I honestly see no problem in shaming people who are obviously extremely unhealthy and refuse to even admit it.
  • I would love to have a pet snake…just a little one.
  • Even a simple post like this takes me a good hour to write because I only get half a sentence written at a time in between my daughter torturing me with the aforementioned stickers.

Big Love Comes in Small Packages

The Day of Love lands tomorrow, otherwise known as the day that encourages huge expectations from women and feelings of thrifty last-minute annoyance from men. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who hates Valentine’s Day and thinks that it’s a commercialized nonsense holiday (though, yeah…it kinda is), but I have come to believe over the years that Valentine’s Day is pretty much pointless. For one thing, if you need a particular day to come along and tell you to show your love for your significant other, you should probably reconsider your relationship because that’s pretty depressing.

But my real problem with Valentine’s Day isn’t the day itself, it’s the expectations of “romance”, because in this day and age we have developed a strangely warped sense of what romance truly is. Women in particular are bad for comparing their love lives to those of the characters in their books, their TV shows, and their movies. I’m not immune, but I have control enough over my own mind to realize that this is pretty foolish. Ladies (and some gents), the love lives presented to you in popular media are no more representative of real romance than the porn industry is representative of a healthy sex life.

Love is not flowers and candy and stuffed animals holding plush hearts. It is not ridiculously expensive dates at French restaurants. It isn’t bravely saving you from danger (that you wouldn’t have been in if it weren’t for your significant other in the first place). It isn’t lavishing you with constant surprise gifts that cost more than you make in a month. It isn’t extreme public acts of affection that embarrass your significant other or wind up getting someone arrested. Love is not big, impressive acts.

What is love?


Love is simply wanting to be together, to spend time together even if it’s just laying on the couch watching crappy TV.

Love is doing chores around the house without being asked.

Love is paying attention when your significant other mentions something they’d like to have so that your presents are things they actually want.

Love is taking care of each other when you’re sick, even if their whiny, nasally voice makes you want to smother them with a pillow.

Love is being supportive of the hopes and dreams of your significant other, whether you really understand them or not.

Love is trying to show an interest in each others’ hobbies, even if you couldn’t honestly care less about your significant others’ hobbies.

Love is occasionally cooking food that you can’t stand just because you know your significant other enjoys it.

Love is keeping the kid(s) occupied for a few minutes so that your significant other can have a shower in private for a change.

Love is turning the coffee maker on and getting a cup ready before your significant other has gotten out of bed.

Love is biting your tongue instead of starting a fight about something stupid.

Love is making yourself look like a complete fool just to make your significant other laugh.

Love is seeing your loved one’s faults and accepting them because you love them, damn it.

Ladies and gents, love is all the little things, the easy-to-miss things. Big romantic gestures might happen every so often, but lots and lots of little things are probably staring you in the face the other 99% of the time. Valentine’s Day is fine and good, but if you open your eyes and really pay attention during the other 364 days of the year you might notice that your significant other has actually been showing their love the whole time.

Thoughts On Disagreeing with Other People’s Hobbies

Yesterday on FaceBook an old classmate of mine struck up a conversation about a trend she’s been noticing, wherein girlfriends/wives are banning their men from playing video games, in many cases either because they see video games as being childish kid stuff, or as being a stupid waste of time (despite the fact that most games published these days are aimed at adults, and that tons of studies show that video games are excellent for cognitive function, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and yes, even social interaction).

I thought I’d take this opportunity to say a few things about hobbies.

One of my hobbies is writing, re-writing, revising, changing, starting over from scratch, and writing some more.
One of my hobbies is writing, re-writing, revising, changing, starting over from scratch, and writing some more. >.<

Playing video games is a hobby, just like watching TV, reading books, playing a musical instrument, writing, painting, bike-riding, or playing sports. And here’s the thing about hobbies: they’re things that we do in our spare time, things that we enjoy doing that allow us to escape from the things that stress us out in our daily lives, and the things that we choose to have as hobbies are 0% the business of anyone else as long as they’re not hurting anyone.

Here’s something you may not know about me: I think that reality TV is the scum of the Earth. I believe that it’s complete nonsense and in my personal opinion watching that drivel is the epitome of a waste of time. But you know what? I don’t go wandering into my friends’ and family’s houses and ripping their TV’s plug out of the wall when I see them watching Big Brother or American Idol. Because as much as I might not like it, what they choose to watch in their spare time is their own damn business, and all I have to do is (big revelation here) not watch.

To any women who are trying to ban their men from playing video games (or, for that matter, men who are trying to enforce similar banning on their women) I ask this of you: take a look in the mirror. Think about the things that you do in your spare time and ask yourself, honestly, if these things are the greatest use of your time. If you spend multiple hours a day on your smartphone, texting with friends about meaningless nonsense, you can’t say anything about anyone who plays video games. If you sit at your computer and browse FaceBook and Twitter all evening, you can’t say anything about anyone who plays video games. If you have any hobby at all, from reading to playing tackle football, that is something that you spend a lot of time on and makes you happy, you can’t say a damn thing about anyone who plays video games.

Ladies (and men), unless your significant others’ video game playing is chronic, to the point that he never leaves the house, is one inch away from being fired from his job, or he hasn’t so much as glanced at his kids in weeks, you have no right to try and stop him from doing what he enjoys. How would you like it if he told you that you were no longer allowed to do something you love?

That’s not how relationships work, people. Just because you don’t personally enjoy one of your significant others’ hobbies doesn’t mean you can try to take it away from them. And if you honestly believe that your attempts are logical and justified, you have a lot of growing up to do. Video games aren’t childish. People who think that they can take other peoples’ hobbies away from them are childish.

Do What You Can’t Not Do

A couple of weeks ago I put the baby to bed, left my husband downstairs playing the latest Assassin’s Creed game, and snuggled up in my bed with a bag of chips to watch Cloud Atlas. Less than ten minutes into the movie I put the chips away because there was so much dialogue – and some of it difficult to catch –  that I wanted to make sure I was hearing everything properly. The movie is an aquired taste, I think (and the reviews I read on the book afterward would have me come to the same conclusion) but personally, I enjoyed it. Yes, I enjoyed it in an “oh my god this is interesting but my head hurts” kind of way.

But this post isn’t about the movie or the book (which I would like to read someday when I get a chance). No, this post is actually about one particular line from the movie (and presumably the book) that really struck a chord with me. The quote in question was spoken by one character while trying to convince another to help her expose a huge corporation of evil deeds when doing so was sure to ruin his career and possibly his life.

The quote was this: “You have to do whatever it is that you can’t not do.”

This turn of phrase gave me pause, and I found myself thinking about it several more times throughout the course of the movie. As soon as the movie was over I grabbed my phone and wrote myself a memo: “Talk about this quote on blog.”

The reason I wanted to write a blog post dedicated to this quote isn’t just because I think it was a neat saying. I wanted to share this quote because I think it exemplifies very well exactly what is wrong with so many people’s lives these days. That is, we’re all not doing the things that we can’t not do.

By “can’t not do” I of course mean the things that define us, the things that make us who we are, the things that give us joy and pleasure in our lives. I’m talking about the things we’ve always dreamed of doing, the things we always saw ourselves doing, and the things we’ve neglected to do for any number of reasons (finances, fear, discouragement, etc). I’m talking about the things that people think of on their deathbeds and wish they’d had the courage to just do, because now they regret not doing them.

Obviously it’s not always just as simple as doing something because you want to, but consider how many people give up what makes them happy because it’s easier to give up than to work for it. Young adults give up on their childhood dream jobs because they don’t know how to go about them, or because they’re afraid they don’t have the skill, or because they’re discouraged by over-critical parents or teachers who tell them it’s just not going to happen. Parent’s give up the hobbies that they love because it takes money away from the family, or takes time away from the children, or because their peers convince them that such things are for children. Employers of every type give up everything from their personal time to their dignity because it’s what the boss says they have to do. People of every age, race, religion, gender, and social class give up things they love and cherish because some outside stimulus tells them they should. Sometimes that outside stimulus outright demands that you give up what you love.

I say that’s bullshit, if you’ll forgive me the term. There’s such a thing as responsiblities and realism, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that these are things we love, things we need, things that ultimately make us the people we are. Why should we give up? Why shouldn’t we at least try  to strive for our dreams? Sure not every little kid can become an astronaut, but for the ones who truly dream of it with all their heart and soul, why shouldn’t they be given the chance, the opportunity to reach for the stars? We shouldn’t give up our hopes and dreams based on the idea that they might not happen. We shouldn’t give up our little joys just because life tends to get in the way. If you truly love something, if you truly dream of something, you should figure out how to make it work.

I challenge you today to think hard about the dreams you gave up, the hobbies you stopped taking  part in, the little pleasures you allowed to be taken away from you. When you’ve done that I want you to imagine yourself years from now, old and worn and on your deathbed. You know you’re going to die any moment. What do you regret having not done?

Myself, I write because I can’t not write. It may sound childish to some, but it’s the truth. I know, in my heart, that years from now when I’m old and worn, if I’ve never published anything, or at least tried as hard as I possibly could to publish something, I’ll die with regret. Writing is one of the things that makes me who I am and I can’t not do it, even if it sometimes makes my life difficult, even if it sometimes feels pointless.

What is it that you can’t not do?


A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

41. How a hobby has made you a better writer

I gave myself a night to think about this one, and when I woke up in the morning I had realized the truth: pretty much all of my hobbies have made me a better writer. No, I’m not joking or exaggerating. Seriously, almost all of my hobbies lend themselves to writing in one way or another.

Hobby #1: Reading
This one should be pretty self-explanatory. I love to read, and what better way to learn about pacing, sentence structure, spelling, grammar, setting, etc.

Hobby #2: Video Games
It sounds unlikely, and parents and teachers would probably baulk at the idea that playing video games can be excellent for improving one of the finer arts, but those parents and teachers would be closed-minded. Video games – even the older, significantly less advanced ones – can have rich worlds filled with action, adventure, romance, horror, mystery…you name it! Video games are excellent inspiration for ideas. They’ve even helped me practice my writing via fanfiction (I’ve written several chapters of a Final Fantasy 3/6 fanfiction and also started a Chrono Trigger one as well).

Hobby #3: Movies
This one is more my husband’s hobby than mine, but I guess it’s mine by proxy since I do, in fact, enjoy the movies. This falls under the same category as video games; movies are excellent for inspiration, and if it was a particularly good movie, the kind that gives you shivers and has you thinking about the plot line for days later, it can even be just plain motivational. In other words, experiencing such an amazing story makes you want to write one of your own.

Hobby #4: Writing
Seriously, you didn’t see this one coming? Writing has been one of my most predominant hobbies since I was in grade school. From little one-page scenes my best friend and I would write back and forth to one another during class, to a very powerful fanfiction obsession in college, to the manuscript I’m still working on editing, I’ve been writing for fun for the past 20 years or so. And isn’t that the most important part of being a writer? Actually putting in the effort to write? Or is this just my clever way of saying that I’ve already run out of hobbies to list? That’s up for you to decide.