Loretta Ross

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Author: Loretta Ross (Page 1 of 2)

This should come as no shock…

…to anyone who knows me, but I HAVE SCREWED UP THE ANNOUCEMENT FOR MY FIRST BOOK SIGNING!

It is not, as I have been telling people, at the Barnes and Noble in Crown Center (in Kansas City). It is at the Barnes and Noble on Countryclub Plaza (but I got the Kansas City part right).

I was under the impression that they were two different names for the same place, but my big brother tells me that they are not. I suspect there is some connection between this sort of mistake and the fact that I get lost on a regular basis.

So, it will be at 3PM, Saturday, June 6, 2015 at the Barnes and Noble on Countryclub Plaza. And as a helpful reminder, check out these awesome bookmarks my brother Dan had made to advertise the event.Dan Bookmarks

Free Sherlock

Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling on Klinger v. The Conan Doyle Estate regarding the copyright status of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as characters.  If you haven’t been following this (as, indeed, I had not been), the basics of the suit are as follows:  Leslie Klinger edited an anthology of stories called A Study In Sherlock, inspired by the canon works (the original novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).  The Conan Doyle Estate strong-armed his publisher into paying them a licensing fee to use the characters.  When Klinger tried to publish a sequel with a different publisher, the estate again approached them demanding payment of their fee and threatening them with legal repercussions if they didn’t pay.  As a result, the publisher refused to publish the work unless Klinger obtained a license.  Rather than pay for a license, Klinger filed a suit seeking a declaratory judgement stating that he is free to use the characters because they are no longer under copyright and are thus in the public domain.

Prior to 1998 the length of copyright protection was 75 years from the date of publication.  In 1998 that was extended, for old works still under copyright, to 95 years from the date of publication.  1998 – 75 = 1923, so anything written before 1923 was already out of copyright and not affected by the new law.  Under current copyright law, new works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years.

The Sherlock Holmes canon consists of four novels and fifty-six short stories.  All four of the novels and forty-six of the stories were published before 1923, the earliest being in 1887.  Ten of the stories were published between 1923 and 1927 and are still in copyright, which was the basis for the Conan Doyle Estate’s claim to ownership of the characters.

The court’s ruling is available here and is well worth reading.  They found that characters cannot be copyrighted except as part of a published work.  Thus, Sherlock and Watson became part of the public domain when the first literary piece depicting them went out of copyright.  Any original elements of their characters that didn’t appear until the later stories are still under copyright until the story they appeared in enters the public domain.

The thing that stood out to me most, reading about this case, was one of the arguments that the estate used to try to persuade the court that they should extend their copyright protection beyond that set out in the law.  I’m going to quote directly from the decision here:

“Lacking any ground known to American law for asserting post-expiration copyright protection of Holmes and Watson in pre-1923 stories and novels going back to 1887, the estate argues that creativity will be discouraged if we don’t allow such an extension. It may take a long time for an author to perfect a character or other expressive element that first appeared in his early work. If he loses copyright on the original character, his incentive to improve the character in future work may be diminished because he’ll be competing with copiers, such as the authors whom Klinger wishes to anthologize.”

So, in other words, I might not be inspired to keep writing about my characters SEVENTY YEARS AFTER I DIE?

I wonder what Sherlock would make of that argument?

 

 

My Book Has A Cover!

My book has a cover and I couldn’t be happier with it!  I just love how atmospheric this is, like there’s a storm brewing.  Thanks so much to Lisa Novak, the amazing artist responsible, for wrapping my words in such a beautiful, striking picture.

Death and the Redheaded Woman

Yering

Every now and again someone on Twitter will talk about coming up with character names.  Most of my names, honestly, get pulled out of thin air.  But it occurred to me today that I do have one very minor character in the book I’m currently writing whose name has a story behind it.  On the off chance that anyone’s interested in that story, here it is:

As everyone who knows me knows, my day job is in the produce department at Walmart.  Part of that involves stocking fruits and vegetable and part of it involves getting rid of the boxes they came in.  One thing I really do like about Walmart is that, at least in my department, we throw very little away.  We donate almost-out-of-date food to the local food pantry, compost things that are too far gone to donate, and recycle just about everything else.  Part of that process — the oldest part, in fact — involves a huge metal monster of a squisher machine called the cardboard baler.

On the front of our cardboard baler there is a metal plate with the name of the company that produced it and three more names on the line beneath it.  Like this:

Manufacturer

Vernon, Al   *  Clearfield, Pa  *  Yering, Nv

And I know you all see this and immediately understand exactly what it says.  But for MONTHS, every time I took cardboard back, I would read this sign and think, “I understand Al Vernon and Pa Clearfield, but what kind of a name is Nv Yering?!?”

So, while working on this current book, I had a minor character who needed a name.  I was thinking about the character while I was crushing cardboard and so was born Firefighter/Paramedic Yering.

I haven’t said as much in the MS, but his first name’s Nv. 😉

Inside FPLM Part 3 (because no one’s smacked me yet)

Of course, there’s a lot that goes on inside FPLM.  Here’s Janet chasing down a deal.

followingshark

An internship at FPLM is very prestigious, which is why competition is so fierce.

jackie-chan-fight_7

And here we see the tail end of a release party.

drunken-master-2_l

Unfortunately, that’s the last picture I have from inside FPLM.  The NSA’s secret spy camera was (perhaps unwisely) hidden in a bottle of scotch.  On the bright side, someone has a very healthy colon and it seems there really are giant alligators in the NYC sewer system.

 

Inside FPLM Pt.2

Venturing further into FPLM, you might meet up with the cleaning staff, such as this maid:

cleaning staff

or this window washer:

window washer

It’s a little-known fact that Peter Rubie is an exotic fish enthusiast.  Check out his aquarium!

swimming-with-whales

Oh! And here’s a glimpse of one of Janet’s liquor cabinets!

liquor cabinet

Inside Fine Print Literary Management pt. 1

As we all know, our dear Shark, Janet Reid, and her coworkers tend to be coy about the details of their business.  However, it just so happens that I have an old friend with the NSA who slipped me some top-secret surveillance photos of life inside FPLM.  I thought now would be as good a time as any to share them with you.

As you can see in this first photo, FPLM is located in an older building, quaint and unpretentious.

building

 

They do have a uniformed doorman …

doorman

and, of course, excellent security.

marines

The entryway opens into this lovely atrium:

atrium

And there’s even a special elevator for uninvited guests who stop by to pitch their 200,000-word fiction novels.

elevator

Do You Know What This Is?

When I was very small, we used one of these for a couple of years.  Who knows what it is?  (I stole this picture from an Etsy shop listing, but the item has already sold so I’m hoping they don’t care.)

 

Thingie1

I May Not Be Who I Think I Am

So, I’m having an identity crisis.

A couple of days ago I lost my debit card.  It’s possible I mailed it to my editor along with a CD copy of my author photo.  It’s possible it got stolen by Red Lektrons.  It’s possible it’s fallen through a hole in the fabric of reality.  I’ve heard something about eddies in the space-time continuum.  Maybe he’s got it.  The point is, I don’t anymore.

After searching everywhere for two days, I gave in and decided to report it missing and ask for a new one.  First, though, I wanted to update my mailing address to my new P.O. Box address, because having a debit card sitting in a locked box that only I have a key to sounded safer than having a debit card sitting in an unlocked box on a country road half a mile away and not in sight of any house.  Changing your address and then asking for a new card, though, apparently triggers special security checks, and here’s where it all went, as I understand our Brit friends to say, pear-shaped.

I understand the need for extra security.  I do.  But there’s security and then there’s SECURITY!

After logging onto the website with my user name and secret password and both parents’ middle names and my high school mascot I filled out the “lost card” form and hit send.  It gave me a security warning in big, red letters and a phone number to call to complete the report.

I called the number and got a young woman who was, I’m sure, perfectly lovely and whose grasp of English is undoubtedly much better than my grasp of whatever her native language is.  But … I couldn’t understand her!

This is a pet peeve of mine.  First, I have nothing against anyone in any country, but American businesses that want Americans to support them should not outsource jobs overseas.  Secondly, they’re outsourcing their customer service to people who do not speak the same native tongue as the majority of their customers. Also, most of the phone bank outsourcing seems to involve people whose native language is inflected.  They tend to speak English with an inflection, which makes it harder to understand.  Add in the fact that the telephone compresses and distorts sound slightly (I’m not certain of the mechanics) and it makes for a very difficult conversation.

When you are in contact with a business’ customer service department, the burden of communicating falls on the business.  If the person on the other end of the phone is unable to communicate clearly for any reason, it is the business that has fallen short.

Long story short (I know! “Too late!”) I failed my identity verification quiz.  After correctly providing my name, home address, date of birth, and social security number, I was unable to recall what color car I was driving eight years ago when I set up the account,* I didn’t (and don’t) know if my social security card was issued in the state I was born in or the state I lived in when I got it, and even after making her repeat them six or seven times, I couldn’t understand the list of addresses she was reading me to see if I could remember living at one of them more than a quarter of a century ago when I was in college.

The upshot is that they’ve closed my account and they’re going to mail me a check … at the same P.O. Box address they’re unwilling to mail a new card to.

So if it’s seemed like I’m not myself today, that may very well be the case.  I don’t know exactly who I am, but I am sure of one thing.  If I ever find that card, I’m going to salt and burn the damned thing!

*Actually, I didn’t remember what color “the Ciera” was.  I confused the Ciera with the Cavalier.  I’m not a car person and we’re talking three cars ago — four if you count the van my niece gave me that lasted about three weeks and almost got me arrested ….

Remembering The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

Yesterday, I sat through my first tornado warning of the season.  It got me thinking about tornados past.  The following is an excerpt of an arcticle I wrote for my old website.

A MassiveTornado  Image ID: wea00216, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

A MassiveTornado
Image ID: wea00216, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

Every year the National Weather Service records about 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S.. It’s possible that as many as 1,000 more weak tornadoes go unnoticed. Tornadoes are ranked on the Fujita Scale (or F-Scale) according to how much damage they do to manmade structures.

While a tornado can strike just about anywhere in the world, some places get hit more often than others. (Tornadoes touch down in Sedalia so often, that I once called my niece up there after a tornado and she told me, unconcerned, “Oh, it didn’t hit here. It was three streets away.”) Areas prone to a high incidence of tornadic activity, or to a high percentage of violent tornadoes, are known as “Tornado Alley”. While there is a great deal of disagreement among storm chasers as to where, exactly, “Tornado Alley” is in any given year, Missouri is often included.

At this point I’d just like to say for the record that I’ve never personally seen a tornado, in spite of walking home through a storm in Columbia one night when eight of them touched down within two hours. I’d also like to say, for the record, that I’d just as soon keep it that way!

The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

March 18, 1925. One minute past one P.M. The deadliest tornado in U.S. history touched down in southeastern Missouri, three miles north-northwest of Ellington and continued on a 219-mile long path through southern Illinois and into Indiana before finally dissipating three miles south of Petersburg at 4:30 P.M.

An F5, the strongest catagory of tornado, the Tri-State Tornado set many tragic records that day. The average tornado stays on the ground for about ten minutes. The Tri-State monster was down for three and a half hours. It travelled through three states, killing a combined total of 695 people, injuring more than 2,000 and destroying 15,000 homes. In Murphysboro, Illinois, 234 people died, a record number of deaths for a single community from a tornado. (The Great Cyclone of 1896 doesn’t meet this because the deaths were divided between two communities: St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois.)

Parrish, Illinois, and Griffin, Indiana, were completely destroyed. Seventeen children died when Longfellow School in Murphysboro, Illinois, partially collapsed. In DeSoto, Illinois, the tornado killed 33 school children. That’s the largest number of children to die in an American school from this type of disaster.

To be thorough, I should note that some historians believe the Tri-State Tornado was not actually one continuous tornado, but rather a close family of smaller tornadoes. Technically, a tornado is only a tornado when it is actually touching the ground. If it pulls up it becomes a funnel cloud and if it touches down again that is considered a separate tornado. Thus, the question becomes “did the Tri-State Tornado remain on the ground for its entire 219-mile track?” At this point, it’s probably impossible to tell. What is known is that the tornado cut a 3/4 to 1 mile wide path of destruction across three states, it held the same heading for 183 miles of that distance and nowhere along that path was spared. Eighty-five years later the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration maintains a memorial website to commemorate that deadly day and to teach new generations about the awful power of the wind.

Ruins of the Longfellow School where 17 children were killed.  In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.   Image ID: wea00234, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection   Location: Murphysboro, Illinois  Photo Date: 1925 March 18

Ruins of the Longfellow School where 17 children were killed.
In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.
Image ID: wea00234, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection
Location: Murphysboro, Illinois
Photo Date: 1925 March 18

 

Ruins of the De Soto, Illinois, public school where 33 children were killed.  In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.   Image ID: wea00238, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection   Location: Illinois, De Soto  Photo Date: 1925 March 18

Ruins of the De Soto, Illinois, public school where 33 children were killed.
In: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vol. 30, No. 9. September, 1925.
Image ID: wea00238, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection
Location: Illinois, De Soto
Photo Date: 1925 March 18

 

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