Saturday, February 25, 2012

The tapeworm emails and the Gloria Airmails

The Flip Side of Temptation

By Mary McReynolds

A Book Review By Linda Goodman 

            This book, modeled on C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, is actually two books in one volume that chronicles contrasting strategies to win the soul of a teenage girl during the last days on earth as we know it. On the one side, devils (tempters) viciously steer the girl in every wrong direction possible, and on the other side, angels (guardians) gently guide her to the source of knowledge necessary for her to make choices that are in her best interests. The battle is a frantic one, as time is rapidly “running out.”

            Tapeworm (Auntie T) supervises Wartmonger, the tempter’s apprentice assigned to bring about the girl’s damnation.  Tapeworm embodies every nightmare boss you have ever had.  She is moody, unreasonable, self-centered, vicious, uncaring, and conniving.  She is the kind of being who would send her own mother, if she had one, to hell.

            Tapeworm also hates texting and insists upon communicating solely through email, which can supply more detailed information.  She is, however, very familiar with the acronyms that text messengers use, and she liberally sprinkles them throughout the emails that comprise this book. As one who is not fluent in such acronyms, I was grateful for the glossary at the end of the tapeworm emails.

            Tapeworm is a one-dimensional character with no redeeming qualities, as one would expect a hell dweller to be. 115 pages of her venom were too much for me. Indeed, Lewis himself said that writing The Screwtape Letters almost smothered him before he was done.

            The volume is redeemed, however, by The Gloria Airmails, written by Gloria in Excelsis (Glo), who mentors Ariel, a recent appointee to the Academy of Guardian Legionnaires, in her mission to keep the young girl safe from the tempters so that she can hear and hopefully respond to the gospel. “You are NOT to teach her. Only humans are allowed to do that,” Glo warns.

            Glo does not seem to be as harried as Tapeworm.  She takes her time and writes like a grown-up, her airmails filled with the peace that comes from trusting that all will go according to God’s plan.

            I quite enjoyed the differing viewpoints of the two warring factions on scripture. For instance, Tapeworm’s story of the Nephilim, mentioned in Genesis 6, was quite different from Glo’s version. Their versions of Jesus expelling demons from two men into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8: 28-32) also presented a study in contrasts.

            McReynolds, a writer who displays both talent and imagination, proves to be equally adept at portraying both darkness and light. Her use of metaphor and simile (i.e. “body, soul, and spirit…like a human mood ring”) is entertaining and intriguing.

            This book is a worthy successor to The Screwtape Letters.  I particularly recommend it to teens, who seem to exhale acronyms these days, but adults will enjoy it as well.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Heart Shaped Tree

CD Review

Stories written and performed by Max Tell; Music and Accompaniment by Doug Banner; $14.99

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

            This enchanting CD for children, brought to life by the silky-smooth, other-worldly voice of Max Tell and the impressive musical skills of Doug Banner, features life lessons learned by “upsetting the apple cart”.

            The centerpiece of this album is the title story, The Heart Shaped Tree, set in a village where balls, stones, and children have minds of their own. Here exist two great houses, separated by barbed wire and hatred.  As a young girl and a young boy bravely defy the bigotry (one house accuses the other of “unclean blood”) and embark upon a forbidden friendship nurtured at their secret tree, they come to realize that they are not so different.  Of course, they are discovered and an angry crowd insists that the prescribed punishment, stoning, be carried out by the children’s own parents. From such ugliness, beauty of the soul and spirit is born, as innocent children teach the adults the true meaning of peace on earth.

            The sound effects in The Heart Shaped Tree are quite effective. The tongue clucking of the House of Argu drips with disdain and the hissing of the House of Argy hints at danger.  Having the voices of the different characters call to me from different computer speakers around my office was an interesting device, and one I had not experienced before.

            Two bonus tracks are included on this album. Born Upon a Shelf is a catchy tune about the treasures found in books. The other bonus track, and my favorite, is Rodney Scribble, set in the town of Scribble, whose citizens take pride in their illegible penmanship. Enter Rodney Scribble, the great, great, great, great grandson of the town’s namesake and founder.  Poor Rodney Scribble cannot scribble!  He can only write.  This story has elements reminiscent of Dr Seuss’s famous rhymes and Frank Baum’s Magical Monarch of Mo.  Children will love joining in on the repeated mantra, “This kid can write!  We’ll never sleep another night!”

            Parents seeking stories that they can share with their children will delight in this album.  Children will also enjoy listening to it on their own.  I listened to it with my eight- year-old granddaughter, who insisted on taking it home with her.  I chuckled at the first line of her thank you letter: “I cannot scribble. I can only write.”   

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Punishment

This is the story of the first and only time my father ever punished me.  And the first time I remember my mother ever hugging me. Enjoy.

Linda Goodman

(C) Linda Goodman 1992

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To Copyright or Not to Copyright

By Linda Goodman

In January of this year, I released my new CD Bobby Pins.  For my first recording, Jessie and Other Stories, released in 1992, I had already registered the copyrights for the written versions of the stories, so I did not register the copyright for the recording. This time I decided to do both. 

I found the instructions for the sound recording copyright registration (Form SR) to be confusing, so I called several professional storytellers who have produced numerous recordings to see if they might be able to help me understand what was being asked. To my surprise, not one of them had registered copyrights for their recordings. The reason: the slight chance that their stories might be stolen did not justify the expense.

To register a copyright at costs just $35.00 if it is done online (encouraged).  To register using paper forms costs $65.00.

According to the United States Copyright Office’s document Copyright Basics, “Copyright protects ‘original works of authorship’ that are fixed in a tangible form of expression.” Tangible forms of expression include a book, CD, or any other fixed format. Registration is not a requirement for protection, however:

1.       For works of U.S. Origin, registration is required before an infringement suit can be filed in court.

2.      If copyright registration is made within three months after publication, or before an infringement, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions.  Otherwise, only actual damages and profits will be available.

On February 13, 2012, I called Richmond area copyright attorney Jonathan Pond, who verified that I had interpreted the above statements correctly. He also reminded me that works that are not fixed in a tangible form of expression are not protected.  What this means is that if you tell a story that has not been written or recorded (or otherwise preserved in a fixed format), that story is not protected. Not only that, but if someone records your telling of that story, that person can actually copyright his recording.

Most storytellers with whom I have had this conversation believe that the chance of infringement is slim.  They may be right, but I have personally had two copyright infringement issues plague me during the past five years.  In one instance, a theater group did some creative staging with one of my works, and believed that gave them the right to copyright their version, using my stories verbatim, without paying royalties. Fortunately, the group was reasonable and backed down after talking with my publisher. In the other instance, my story The Bobby Pins was published in India in a text book used for teaching English as a second language, along with a notice that the story was not copyrighted and could be used by anyone in any manner whatsoever.  Unfortunately, I do not find it feasible to fight a copyright infringement in an Indian court. Besides, there is no such thing as an international copyright.  Protection against infringement in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country.

For more detailed information than what I have presented here go to and print a copy of Copyright Basics under the About Copyright heading.