Inktober a week underway

OK, so this is my first Inktober. I posted the first week’s worth of drawings today; check the Media link. EDIT: I added the pictures to the blog entry.

The drawings aren’t great, but…

  • no pencils to ink over, these are straight ink drawings, and
  • they show some improvement over previous drawings.

I still have work to do, quite a lot actually; nevertheless, I’m getting stuff out there for people to view (and critique if they wish), which is a huge step for me. Overcoming the fear is even more important than drawing well.

Thanks for checking them out!


Potential stumbling block: quoting song lyrics

(Note: this originally appeared, in a shorter and slightly different form, in one of my Facebook posts in a private group. I’ve also asked this as a question in LinkedIn; I received the same answer there as I did from the copyright attorney.)

Are you writing something with published song lyrics in it? Guess what: if the song was written after 1923, you have to pay to use the lyrics. Copyright laws on songs aren’t different from literature laws, but the music industry is more prone to lawsuits than the literature industry.

You can (usually) use a line or two from a written work if you cite it as “quote (author, title of work, date)”, but you can’t us a song lyric without paid permission except under fair use, which is generally limited to parody, review, critique, or something similar.

So if I want my protagonist to sing even one line from Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” I have to either write, “JD sings Jim Croce’s I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song to Mya”, or fork over some cash to the Croce estate (or whoever owns the copyright to that song). I only want two lines, not the whole bloody song…

I need to do this. One of the books I’m writing has a protagonist with autism; he’s non-verbal and communicates by writing notes or singing. Most of the time I can obliquely reference the song (e.g., he sang something about a watchtower, a joker, and a thief) or directly by title (e.g., “Oh, that’s Behind Blue Eyes by The Who”), but when a critical emotional state comes along and he wants to express himself in a very specific way (see the previous paragraph)… he CAN’T because I can’t quote a song. That’s annoying.

I asked for legal advice and that’s the response I got, along with a few names of agencies that would help me get in touch with whoever owns the lyric copyright so I can pay them. At US$30 – US$50 per use (or more!), it adds up.

Or I can write my own songs. I have taken this tack at times, but in some cases (such as the Croce song) the existing written word fits both the situation and the character I’ve written. There are people like that in the real world, so it fits the character’s personality and sets the mood properly. To make the character credible I have to write him as if he were a real person – and real people quote songs they know.

So here’s how I’m doing it. In an author note at the bottom of the page, I have the following. “If you want the full emotional experience of this page, pull out a legally-acquired copy of Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” and play it while you read this.” I’ve been assured that’s legal. Kinda loses something that way, though….

Here’s an article on BookBaby regarding this situation: How To Legally Quote Song Lyrics In Books. Also, read the GalleyCat article linked in the BookBaby blog; that article quotes a copyright attorney.

I’m not complaining that I have to cite the work of others; I want to give credit where it’s due. My complaint is that I can’t cite, I have to pay a substantial fee. What’s special about putting a poem to music that makes it different from a non-accompanied poem?

To summarize, the advice I was given as to how to use song lyrics in fiction falls into these categories. These are also laid out in the blog entry, the Galleycat article, and comments on those articles and in the LinkedIn discussion I started.

  • Don’t use published song lyrics.
  • Write your own songs.
  • Reference songs by title. Titles are not covered by copyright law.
  • Reference songs obliquely.

Lost in the discussion of “lost diagnosis”

Think about this carefully as you read it; know anyone fitting these descriptions? Maybe not – we get better at hiding it over time.

Chavisory's Notebook

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” wrote William Faulkner, and I couldn’t help being reminded of that line as I read the recent article “Compulsions, anxiety replace autism in some children,” from Spectrum magazine.

An estimated 9 percent of children with autism achieve a so-called ‘optimal outcome.’ But nearly all of these children years later develop related conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, the new study suggests.

“The majority of the group with a past history of autism are vulnerable to developing other psychiatric disorders,” says lead investigator Nahit Motavalli Mukaddes, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Istanbul Institute of Child Psychiatry in Turkey.

So let’s get something straight right off the bat.

There is—so far as has ever been revealed—no such thing as a “past history of autism.”

If children who lose a diagnosis are socially compensating to…

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Staying on task with Habitica

To say I have difficulty staying on task is a bit of an understatement. I get bored or distracted easily and, by the end of the day, I often find I haven’t done half the things I wanted to do that day. There’s a perfectly good reason for that: ADHD.

The name, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is misleading. People with ADHD do not have an attention deficit; rather, it’s an overload of attention. We are aware of many things going on around us most people aren’t paying attention to – and those things cry out, “Look at me!” For example, where most people can screen out distractions, I see and hear lots of things around me they miss. In the words of the titular character of the TV show Archer, I have “total situational awareness”.

It has advantages, of course. I’m rarely surprised. I can carry on multiple conversations at once. I never get lost. I can avoid difficult situations because I see them coming sooner. It’s not all wine and roses, though.

The hyperfocus that comes with ADHD is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives me a way to complete tasks quickly. If the task is interesting and challenging enough, I can work on it for hours where most people would run out of steam in an hour or two. On the other hand, once it kicks in it is very difficult to get out of, distractions bother me more than they should (I find a ringing telephone especially annoying during these times), and working 12 – 14 hours on a task leaves no time for anything else – like eating, staying hydrated, and moving around.

I’ve tried numerous methods to combat this: list-making, setting alarms, pocket calendars, planners, Post-Its… the list is nearly endless, and most of them don’t work for very long. One thing that has helped a lot is a website called Habitica.

Habitica, formerly HabitRPG, is a role-playing game that rewards you for completing tasks. You create tasks for yourself in one or more of three categories: Habits, Daily Tasks, and To-Dos. You can plan as much or as little as you like, and it’s free to join. Like any role-playing game, completing tasks rewards you with gold, equipment, and experience. Joining a party lets you go on quests, another incentive to complete your goals and help others in your party complete theirs. Plus, you’re rewarded for “streaks” of completing daily tasks; reaching a streak of 21 consecutive days is a great motivation for doing a daily task.

But it’s more than just a planner and habit-builder; it’s a highly social program. Like any role-playing game, there are guilds to join. Some of the guilds are simply for fun; many, though, bring people together for specific purposes. I belong to several guilds specific to my needs. One of them is an artist’s guild; another is a guild of people with ADHD. Each guild provides challenges to help you meet your goals or make new ones, and a forum to share your experiences with other people. The guilds provide a place to feel like you’re not alone, a feeling of belonging, which is important.

One more thing. Habitica is open-source and encourages members to help make it more fun and useful. There are several ways to contribute, such as writing, music, pixel art, helping other players and, of course, coding. Contributing to Habitica earns you titles (ways to improve your experience even more) and tags for your user ID.

I recommend Habitica for anyone who’s looking to make building new habits and helping plan your day fun. Check it out at If you do, look me up; I’m Dan O’Dea.

I can’t fix this for you and I can’t tell you what you want to hear.

Chavisory's Notebook

This is to anyone who has ever, ever said to me “You could rule the world if you really wanted to!” who voted for or in any way enabled what happened this week.

I am pretty sure that this statement has never meant anything but a combination of “I have no actual clue either how the political world works, or who you really are,” and “I just want you to fix everything for me without me having to take seriously a single thing you say.”

And I am tired of your excuses and I am tired of you not taking responsibility for your world, and no, I cannot help you now.

Likewise, I never want to be told, ever again, “But you’re the smartest person I know!” or “You’re the most articulate person I know!” by anyone who is not prepared to listen to anything I have to say…

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Why Teaching to the Test is Educational Malpractice

As a prospective teacher I ran into this too many times to count.


thumbnail_screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-20-50-pmMalpractice is defined as “careless, wrong, or illegal actions by someone (such as a doctor) who is performing a professional duty.”

In some fields it can get you arrested. In most it’s at least frowned upon.
In education, however, it’s encouraged.

In fact, as a teacher, you can be singled out, written up or even fired for refusing to engage in malpractice. You are bullied, cajoled and threatened into going along with practices that have been debunked by decades of research and innumerable case studies.

Take the all-too-common practice of teaching to the test.

Not only do students and teachers hate it, but the practice has been shown to actually harm student learning. Yet it is the number one prescription handed down from administrators and policymakers to bring up failing scores on high stakes standardized tests.

Never mind that those same test scores have likewise been proven to be…

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“Do-Over”: Part Five, Miscellany

At this point you’ve seen the birth of an idea, the basic setting (an Earth-like world), the characters, and some things about how the plot works. This post is a list of bullet points as I summarize some concepts useful to understanding the story. If part of the story was explained in previous essays it will not be covered here.

  • You can trust the science in Do-Over. If you catch me in an error please let me know, but it’s likely from an oversimplification by JD trying to explain something complicated to a person who has no experience with the concept.
  • Ajadi weaponless combat is kung-fu with minor variations. JD’s style is Jeet Kune Do, the style of Bruce Lee.
  • Swordsmanship is medieval English-style. I debated using samurai style with the katana but decided against it because a) I know more about English sword fighting than using the katana or fencing, and b) I know more about how to build an English-style longsword than any other.
  • Domesticated food and livestock are a cross between East Asian and European styles. Lamb, goat cheese, and grape leaves come from Greek cuisine, rice is grown as it is in Japan, etc. I didn’t get too complicated here, but the first time JD uses a wok Mya has never seen one before. Another fun circumstance is the first time a trading caravan brings in two new vegetables: tomatoes and potatoes. JD goes into an ecstatic state as they were among his favorite foods on Earth.
  • Wine is the staple drink with a meal and in inns. It is considered unusual for anyone over the age of 12 to abstain from wine; one of the connections between JD and Mya is that neither drinks alcohol.
  • The land of Ajad is a hybrid of European and Japanese (about 70/30) feudal times.
  • Lukanah’s home country, Jonaheim, is based on Scandinavia when the Vikings ruled.
  • The antagonist of Last Man Standing, Alden, is loosely based on Alexander the Great; his men are a mix of Alexander’s men, the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, and the Norman invaders of 1066.
  • One and One Make One is primarily about JD’s internal struggles, therefore JD serves as his own antagonist. The few villains each have a particular and limited purpose; most don’t even have names.
  • Names are a key point in any story. I use the following naming conventions.
    • Ajadi names are always two syllables. Female names end in short vowels “a” or “u” (“ah” or “oo”); male names end in long vowels “e” or “o” (“ee” or “oh”). There are no last names, although a profession may be used. Children’s names resemble that of the parents (mom Mira, daughter Mya, granddaughter Mora).
    • Jonaheim names are based on German names. For example, Lukanah derives from the German Ludkhannah, “graceful battle maiden,” and Johanah’s name means “shield maiden.”
    • Names of the invaders in Last Man Standing are the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Greek or Mongolian names. For example, Alden is one English equivalent of Alexander. Why Alden and not Alexander, a perfectly fine English name? Two syllables read faster, and take up less room, than four. It’s a comic, not a prose work, and such things make a difference.
  • The calendar (yes, I have a calendar) is a pure lunar calendar. The year is 364 days divided into 13 months of 28 days each. That makes counting days, and knowing the day of the week, far easier (Sundays are always the 7th, 14th, 21st, or 28th of the month). Time is very important when your characters have to walk everywhere and the province is 180 kilometers (over 100 miles) top to bottom.
  • Speaking of distance and location, the province of Ajad is the northern half of Italy, bounded by mountains to the north and ocean on the other three sides. Main villages correspond to Italian cities; here’s a list, counter-clockwise from the south.
    • Port City, on the southern tip of Ajad, is the equivalent of Terni. In real life Terni is inland; I’ve chopped off the lower part of the boot and made “Terni” a coastal village.
    • Central Village is Florence.
    • The “final battleground” is just north of Bologna.
    • Eastern Village is Venice.
    • Ruko’s mine, the resting place of the Red Dragon, is half-way between Padua and Verona.
    • North Pass Village is Milan.
    • West Village is Genoa.
    • Herndo’s hut is situated roughly where Pistoia would be.

Why Italy? Its geology and geography work for The Dragon Core. Other lands are through the North Pass, a fictional Grand Canyon through the great mountain range which otherwise cuts Ajad off from the rest of the continent.

To make the story distances less of a problem for walking, actual distances are halved for the book. For example, it’s about 210 kilometers from Terni to Florence; in Do-Over, the distance from Port City to Central Village is 100 kilometers (still a 5-day journey on foot).

That’s pretty much it without spoilers. For the rest of the story you’ll have to watch it unfold on its own. I may have a script, but I’m finding as I write, and then rough-sketch, each page the characters take on lives of their own (even the setting does so!) and things won’t be as cut-and-dried as I originally planned. But then that’s part of the fun.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing and drawing it.