Saturday, October 3, 2015

An Atheist on the Moral Impact of Stories

I'm an avid listener to National Public Radio, so I routinely monitor programs such as "Weekend Edition" on my car radio, even when they feature guests hostile to Christianity. That is how I came to hear Scott Simon's interview of Philip Pullman last Saturday morning.

Pullman (who describes himself as a "religious atheist") wrote the children's trilogy called "His Dark Materials" twenty years ago, beginning with The Golden Compass. He incited the wrath of Christians everywhere with his 2010 book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, a fictional version of Jesus' life. While I'm not recommending Pullman or his books, I want to draw your attention to a couple of his comments from that NPR interview:
Simon:  You’ve suggested that stories are the way to teach morality.  
Pullman:  Well, ... people remember stories better than they remember commands. One of the greatest storytellers of all time, Jesus of Nazareth, told stories in order to make his moral teaching more memorable, more explicit, more clear to everyone.
Simon: Why do you think that is?
Pullman: We like hearing about people in circumstances, situations, or problems that we can relate to in some way. It’s intriguing to see how people resolve the difficulties they’re in, ... inspiring to see them overcoming hostility, difficulty, and outright hatred.
In other words, morality is forged in life conflict. Our sense of right and wrong, good and evil, beauty and ugliness grows out of wrestling with the obstacles that life throws across our way. And that struggle is best portrayed through stories, not pious sermons or philosophical lectures (with all due respect to preachers and philosophers). I agree with Pullman at that point, don't you?

I liked the interview for another reason: It proved that unbelievers care deeply about morality. Eminent atheists of every age, from Aldous Huxley to Christopher Hitchens, have focused on the moral questions of life. Couple that interest with storytelling skill and you have an author who can influence millions of people. Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis are Christian authors who come readily to mind, but atheist authors such as Pullman can wield just as much influence.

Pullman uses his storytelling gift to challenge the values we normally teach our children, such as the importance of telling the truth. He expects to shape the convictions of a new generation by telling them memorable stories.How about you?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Copyright Fallacies

Property is property, and using copyrighted material without permission is no different from the Artful Dodger picking a pocket.

Well, that isn’t quite true. Many people who “borrow” copyrighted material do so because they believe a copyright fallacy and don’t know their use is wrong. But in the law, ignorance is no excuse.

That’s why I’m using this month’s blog post to bust a few of those fallacies. They cover pictures, music, poetry, and song lyrics as well as books and blog posts and other prose texts.

Here are some of the most common fallacies.

Anything on the Internet is fair game.

There are four basic types of materials on the Internet.

  • Materials posted by the copyright owner;
  • Materials posted with permission of the copyright owner;
  • Materials posted in violation of the copyright laws—unfortunately, this is the largest category; and
  • Materials that are in the public domain. More about this below.

Only the last category is available for use without permission or a fair use. (See my July 25, 2013 post for a description of fair use.)

It doesn’t have a copyright notice, so it isn’t copyrighted.

All works are copyrighted the minute they are put in tangible form, which includes the digital formats used on the Internet. A copyright notice is just a reminder. Material that doesn’t have one is still protected by the copyright laws.

“Royalty free” means free.

“Royalty free” means you don’t have to pay a royalty every time you use the material. But you do have to pay a one-time license fee, and you can use the material only under the conditions described in the license. If you use royalty free materials without paying the license fee, you have violated the copyright.

Since it’s short, I can use the whole thing.

The opposite is true. As a general rule, you can use only a small percentage of any work, so the shorter a piece is, the fewer words you can copy. If a passage is a miniscule percentage of the whole but is the heart of the work, however, even that may violate the copyright. This rule is also discussed in my July 25, 2013 post.

* * *

So what can you use? There are four basic categories.

  • You own the copyright.
  • You have permission from the copyright owner, which includes paying a license fee for royalty free materials.
  • It's a fair use under the law—but you are responsible for determining if it is a fair use, and there can be serious consequences if you are wrong.
  • The material is in the public domain.

But what materials are in the public domain? I addressed that earlier this year but will repeat it here for your convenience.

  • Older works for which the copyright has expired. This is mostly material that was published in the United States before 1923. Works that were created or first published in another country may have a longer copyright in those countries, so you may have to be careful about distribution. Some material published after 1923 is also in the public domain, but that is more complicated to figure out.
  • Material produced by federal government employees in the course of their official duties. This includes opinions issued by federal courts and reports and photographs created by employees of federal agencies.
  • Material that cannot be copyrighted, such as names and titles, short phrases and slogans, ideas, and facts. However, names and titles and short phrases and slogans can become trademarks, which entitles them to a different kind of protection. And although ideas and facts cannot be copyrighted, the expression describing them can be. (If you want more information on what cannot be copyrighted, see my posts from May 24, 2012June 27, 2012July 26, 2012August 23, 2012, and September 27, 2012.)

When you use material that is not your own, you should identify the person who created it and explain why you are allowed to use it. If the material is in the public domain, that tells knowledgeable readers that they can use it freely. If it is used with permission, that tells those same readers that they need permission, too. I’ve given you an example of a notice below.*

As Christian writers, we honor God by honoring the copyright laws. But you can’t do that if you don’t know what they are.

So now you do.


* The picture at the head of this post shows the Artful Dodger picking a pocket while Oliver Twist looks on. The drawing is one of the illustrations that George Cruikshank created from 1837 through 1839 for the serial version of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The picture is in the public domain because of its age.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, will be coming out at the beginning of October. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It’s who I am

“What do you do?”  One of the most dreaded questions among writers who don’t, or can’t, write “full-time” as they would like.

Well, I do quite a lot.

What do you do?

This is something Aine Greaney addressed in her book Writer with a Day Job. I think what she said is very affirming, especially for those of us who are still trying to make it out of the gates:

“As a nine-to-five employee, you may be inclined to define yourself by your day job. ‘I’m an accountant.’ ‘I’m in advertising.’ ‘I’m an executive assistant.’ There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s what you do. Just make sure that you also define yourself as a writer. Go on. Take a deep breath and make yourself say it, ‘I’m a writer.’”

I read the passage above one Sunday morning before church. And while I appreciated what she said, it didn’t satisfy me – my meal was missing the dessert.

She said to “define yourself” as a writer. That changes the question for me from “What do you do?” to “Who are you?”

With a little exasperation, I said to God, “I don’t feel like I even know who I am anymore. I’m almost 45… Is this what it’s like when people have a mid-life crisis?”

He nipped my mini-rant in the bud tout de suite. Not more than 2 hours later at church we sang a song called “Blameless” by Dara Maclean. If you’ve never heard it before, you can Google the title and listen to it on YouTube. I hope you will take a couple of minutes to listen to the song - it's powerful.

By the time we got to the first chorus I couldn’t sing anymore. It was all I could do not to sob uncontrollably.

That’s who I am – I am Yours!
from Fotolia by denis_pc

And that’s who you are, too. If you have received Jesus’ gift of salvation and call Him LORD, you are His. Because of His blood, we are blamelessforgiven, righteous and free.

Free to walk the path our LORD and Savior has set before us. Free to serve Him through glorious, wonderful words. What an honor and a privilege.

So when someone asks, “What do you do?,” please feel free to tell them you are a writer, as I will, let’s just always remember that writing is what we DO for the Lord, it’s not WHO we are. Live free in Jesus today!

Humbly submitted by H.T. Lord

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Dee Henderson Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

This is the ninth month of me writing about the authors who have influenced me as a writer. If you missed any previous posts, please return to them and read up on how these certain authors influenced me. There were C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Steven James, and Robin Jones Gunn.

This month, I will be discussing Dee Henderson.

From Amazon
During high school, I worked at the Meijer grocery store in Avon, Indiana, which was right around the corner. It was fine for a high school student who needed to earn money, but when I graduated high school, I wanted a better job with higher pay. I wanted a job with more value for what I could see myself doing for a long time. I attended IUPUI downtown Indianapolis and earned the job at Light and Life Christian Bookstore. Unfortunately, the bookstore doesn’t exist anymore, but I worked there for two years.  I still think of it as my favorite job. What was better than being surrounded by Christian employees who had a prayer time every morning before we opened and could talk about God to the customers?

Another perk I loved was being able to borrow books. As soon as a book came out, the employees were allowed to check them out and read them, then return them to the shelf for customers to buy. I read a lot of Christian fiction at the time. Still do, but that’s beside the point. When I quit and moved to Terre Haute, Indiana with my husband and six month old son, who is thirteen now, my husband joked that he would be broke from all the books I would now have to go buy. Luck for him, I visited the local library, so no loss of income there.

But as a child, I gravitated toward Nancy Drew books and the mystery collections of The Baby-sitter Club and Sweet Valley High and University. When I was reading books at the bookstore, I was introduced to Karen Kingsbury, a contemporary romance writer. I loved her books. Not her recent ones, but her first one we’re great. I was a true mystery and adventure girl, but the Christian genre didn’t have a lot of suspense authors at the time (it was only 2001), so it wasn’t that long ago. Yes, there was Frank Peretti, and I read all his books, but there really wasn’t much else.

Dee Henderson
From Dee Henderson's Amazon Author Page
One evening, when I had to work the evening shift with a high school student, he sat behind the register and read The Protector by Dee Henderson. I asked him what the book was about. He handed me the book and allowed me to read the back. I couldn’t believe it. A suspense book. For the next couple of days, I couldn’t wait to borrow those books, which I did and loved.

I read everything Dee Henderson had written up to that point. By reading Henderson, I started to find more suspense authors, Terri Blackstock, Kathy Herman, DiAnn Mills, Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble. I still read and love this genre a lot.

Dee Henderson taught me the love of Christian suspense, mysteries, and thrillers. Without her, I would not have been introduced to the genre, and I thank her for that.

What author defines the genre you read and/or write in? How did you become introduced to the book?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Author Interview with Rick Barry- The Methuselah Project

By Darren Kehrer
Thank you, Rick, for taking the time to chat with me in the realm of cyberspace.
Your welcome...glad to be here.
1.) When did your first get the idea for The Methuselah Project?
That’s honestly hard to answer. The initial ideas began forming back about 2008. I wanted a character from the past who ends up in our time, but still looking young. Plus, I wanted a good dose of romance. Yet, I didn’t want time machines, or space ships, or any such devices. The solution I developed was a secret German experiment. So there’s a light sci-fi thread, but the novel overall would be categorized as suspense rather than sci-fi.

2.) What has been the most frustrating experience in writing this book?

First, trying to land an agent. That’s always the first hurdle in today’s publishing environment. Second, waiting for a publisher to take an interest. But in His time, the Lord sent me both an agent and a publisher—Kregel—who loved this story as much as I do.

3.) How many major rewrites did you do on TMP?
More than I can count! Part of my writing style is to revise and polish the previous chapters before adding new words. So each chapter received automatic revising this way. Then Kregel assigned three editors to go over the manuscript, each one combing the pages in search of stray errors or for ways to enhance the story.

4.) I see that this book is also available as an ebook on different reading engines? Any comments on that?
Yes, there’s an ebook version. In fact, a clerk at our post office told me she had downloaded it as an ebook and enjoyed reading a customer’s book via her telephone. I was pleasantly surprised! Paper books are not extinct by a long shot, but it’s crucial to have ebook formats too.

5.) Did you have anything to say about the cover, blurbs on the back?
I have nothing but praise for the work of Sarah Slattery, Kregel’s graphic artist who designed the cover. Countless readers tell me how much they like the mix of the current-day guy and girl and a WW 2 fighter plane. It’s different, even intriguing.

6.) The endorsements are extremely well thought out and glowing by the contributors.
Each of those endorsers wrote what they felt. I’m just pleased that they enjoyed the story so much. If they hadn’t, I’m sure none of them would have submitted comments to the publisher.

7.) How have you gone about self promoting the book?

Kregel Publications has been coordinating a blog tour for the book. That is, they offer one free copy of the book to online reviewers in exchange for an honest opinion. To beef up the number of bloggers, I’ve also hired a PR firm to arrange even more reviews. Of course, the hope is that reviewers who don’t like this sort of fiction will not volunteer to review it. But there is no obligation to like the story. Each blogger is free to express their true opinions. So far, I’ve thanked the Lord for the positive responses I’ve seen.

8.) How did the journey from start to finish on this book project differ from your previous ventures?

It was a longer journey from start to finish. I believed in Roger Greene and his story, but I realized up front it was a bit different. Each publisher knows what works for their company, and they tend not to stray from tried-and-true genres. My mix of suspense, romance, and a tinge of sci-fi must have caused some editors to shake their heads as a risk. But I’m thrilled the editors at Kregel loved it enough to give it a shot. Many readers are glad they did.

9.) If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Many plot elements had to be figured out step by step. It was somewhat a process of discovery. I’m not sure what I could do differently, but the story is close to my heart, so I would definitely write it all over again.

10.) Sequel?
Definitely. It’s not contracted, but that’s the plan.

11.) I understand you've been building a new author website with more information about you and your books. Where can we find it?

It's at:

11.) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview for Hoosier Ink.

Thank you for taking time to interview me! I also want to thank my wife, Pam, to whom the book is dedicated. She has been a steadfast believer in me and this story, which she says is my best yet. Pam has been very patient with my many hours at the computer.

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