Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Work is Money. . .

Sorry folks, life and work kinda merge from time to time and the blog hobby suffers.

Work is money, however, and since I've had my head in a script for months now, it's as done as it ever will be. I'm taking time to catch up on blogs that have lure factor. Who knows, yours might be one of these magical gems. If not, then up your game and tempt me with exciting prose, strong voice and best of all snazzy writing style.



Saturday, 11 September 2010

Aspiring Writer? How to kick Butt!

How to kick butt _ yours!

So now hear this, aspiring writers: writing is not hard work. It is hard in a certain intellectual and occasionally emotional way, but it isn't real hard work. So stop whining about it. And also stop whining about how hard it is to market your work - maybe it's no good, maybe the timing is wrong, maybe your pitch sucks, maybe you're trying to sell to the wrong outfit. "Smile and dial" is what the sales reps do, and after a while rejection becomes a part of your landscape. No, it never feels good, but you get over it quicker; you sigh, you rant (your significant other will tune you out, so get over that, too) and then you mope, and eventually you start thinking about your next pitch or story idea. You write it up and think it's not half-bad, and then you hit the electronic pavement yet again.

Get real _ Fiction doesn't sell that well. Many people don't read much fiction, or what they do read is the "hot seller" of the moment. Thus you have non-fiction titles like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (unread by me, but highly recommended by some of my readers) which sold over 2 million copies, while hundreds of really fine novels sell a few

Yeah Yeah, I know Romance sells big you say _  go look at  Harlequin Mills & Boon . Yeah, I have and I feel real sorry for all those perps who've put their writing out there on the line for all to see. The whoops of joy from established romance writers could be heard all over the United States. Yee ha _ all them bestselling authors who been wracking their brains to come up with a good idea for a next bestseller. Aspiring writers, you have given so much joy and inspiration for nothing the happiness is ocean deep in the literary world.  That's the nature of the Beast.

Truth is the majority of book sales are non-fiction titles: cookbooks, travel, history, and the like; a huge chunk of fiction is genre work like romances, military thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, science fiction and so on. Just by the numbers, if you want to be a published author, pitch a non-fiction idea: the Gardens of Suzhou, China; Medoc Magic: Cooking from the South of France; Cars of the Stars; The Tragedy of Somalia; Flygirls: Female Pilots of World War II--these are ideas I just came up with as I type, just to show the enormous range and market that exists for non-fiction subjects. It's immeasurably easier to sell a book which is on a practical, albeit narrow, topic. OK, so you won't be the next Nabokov or Twain, but you will be an author.

Here's something else to understand: the death of independent bookstores is also the death of opportunity for new fiction writers. Why? Say you're the buyer for a big chain. You (and maybe one or two other people) decide what books will line the shelves in hundreds of stores. If you decide not to buy that new novel, then the potential book buyer will never see it.

Contrast that with the indie booksellers, each of whom buys a different list of books. OK, so maybe not every indie orders 10 copies of your book, but maybe 50 do. That might be enough to get your book out to the book-buying public. But if there's no indie bookstores left, then guess what--the fate of your novel is in the hands of a very few corporate types. They may love books, but the reduction of buyers from hundreds to a handful has deprived you of the variety of opinion, quirkiness and just plain luck that every fiction writer needs to reach an audience.

To summarize: you want to sell your writing, then understand the book marketplace. You want to get paid for writing, then make sure you buy new books so the other guy makes a buck, too. I make a point of buying books at independent booksellers; yes, I do buy at the chains when I'm in a hurry, and I also buy used books, mostly ones which are no longer copyrighted (i.e. classics published more than 50 years ago).

The hoary cliche is true: if you can do anything other than write, then go do that. I know a number of writers who are far more talented than I am but who will never finish their novels, or re-write them to a state of coherence, which is the same thing. I know writers who mailed three queries and got calls back from two agents, while I have sent multiple queries of every size and type--mass mailings to hundreds of agencies, carefully pruned lists culled from editor contacts, every possible way there is to pitch agents, just to get two or three nibbles. OK, I've made it now. It was a hard slog!

Yet despite that promising beginning, and an agent begging them to finish their book, they couldn't find the strength or will or desire to slog through the process. Meanwhile, thousands of other idiots such as myself fail time and again but keep writing and re-writing anyway. After one severe disappointment--I'd found a local publisher for the book, yes, this was the one, and then two months later they closed their doors, bankrupt--my sister asked me, "So what can you do? Give up?"  I didn't.

Note that she didn't ask me, "what are you going to do?" She asked if I could give up. The answer is no. Not because success is just around the corner, or because I need a book under my belt as a measure of my worth as a human being or even as a writer, but because some part of me gets unsettled and unhappy if I'm not engaged in the process of writing a novel or script. Now I'm out there riding on the back of movies or is that movies riding on my books -- I get confused. Can't remember which came first with my successes. 

So if you fully grasp the long odds against success--let's say they're 1,000 to 1, although I'd put them higher by a factor of ten--and you're willing to spend your life writing stuff which may never be read--well then, keep going. But know, too, that there's no shame in calling it quits. You will have learned a lot about writing, and more importantly, about yourself, if you complete a book, even one destined for the dusty top shelf of the closet.

Here's two other cliches to ponder: nobody wants to read about the village of happy people, and happy, well-adjusted people aren't driven to write novels. I mean really, what's the point in spending all that time alone, only to get rejected as sure as the sun rises in the morning? Why have all your dreams of literary glory crushed so soundly, and so repetitively? What's the point? Is it to excise some personal demons? OK, fine; then the exercise is well worth it. Is it to prove to those no-good selfish parents (or insert authority of choice) that you're a genius after all, and they should bow down and worship the very dust you tread?

At some point you're going to have to face the question of why you're crazy enough to pursue what is fundamentally a quest akin to winning the lottery, only it takes 10,000 times more effort and time than spinning a wheel or buying a ticket. Do you dream of the glory of it all, the interviews, the money, the fame, the glow of sweet success when your book makes it big?

Or do you think about how to stretch your protagonist, about what his or her parents were like, or about how to describe the tension of being in the open ocean when the waves are rising and darkness is setting in? If that's what gets you up in the morning, and if you can't wait to re-write that section again, even though you've been through it ten times already (but who's counting? Something's just not gripping enough), if you read Nabokov and Melville and Austin and James and Ellison and Twain and DeBouvoir and Pushkin everything else which you've heard is great writing, not in a class but on your own, in order to study their control of description, of dialog, of thematic dynamics and a dozen other things which you can't quite identify, then you're probably a writer, at least for now.

One of my favorite writing cliches is the one Woody Allen mocked in one of his films. In the film it was the prototypical college professor; but the same notion can be expressed by a bond trader or attorney: once I nail down a million bucks, or tenure, or that cabin in the woods (insert bourgeois fantasy of completion), then I'm gonna write that novel.

Never happens. Why? Because they're not writers. They're professors, or bond traders or attorneys or whatever. They like the idea of being a writer but not the actual work of being a writer. Emerson wrote, "Do the thing and you shall have the power," which means if you're a writer, then you write, not as a forced effort or because you're so damned great or because you covet the glory heaped on writers but because you can't quit. Rationality, wisdom, practicality--all of these suggest quitting such a madcap, lonely boring quest is a fine idea.

That's not the worst of it: just being a published writer doesn't make you any good.


Don't join a writer's group except as a recruitment tool to find professional writers and editors. I know, I know, this is the universal advice given to all aspiring scribblers: join a writer's group. Ignore it. If someone doesn't know about computers, are you going to ask their advice about setting up your 802.11g wireless router? Why ask a no-nothing just because they aspire to knowing something? Wait until they do know something, and can prove it by getting paid to do it, and then solicit their advice.

It is important to get experienced eyes to read your work. I have received invaluable advice from professional editors and writers. The advice I've received from readers or wannabes (back when I was equal parts stupidity, eagerness and naivete) has been unhelpful and distracting, unless that person was an expert in the topic covered by the book. Then of course their advice is very helpful, even if they're not a writer.

Here's what you get from a professional: straight-up criticism on what's weak, but delivered without meanness or judgment. We all wish to hear the huzzahs imagined by Camus' failed-writer character in The Plague: "Hats off, gentlemen!" Yes, this first draft is brilliant, perhaps change a word or two here and there....don't count on it.

Mozart was writing decent concertos at 12, but have you ever heard of a great work of literature written by anyone under the age of 35? Jane Austen began Pride and Prejudice at 20 and finally finished it 17 years later. Most literature which has stood the test of time is written by people in their 40s or 50s, after a lifetime of experience, observation, failure, soul-searching, and yes, writing.
So be realistic about your first efforts, especially if you're still in your 20s. Yes, some people write a brilliant work in their 20s or 30s, but such work is usually based on their childhood or a real person they're describing with only cosmetic changes--for example, On the Road.

Everybody's always telling you to keep writing. That's not the trick; the trick is to keep improving. The best way to do that is to learn to become your own strictest editor. You can't be leaning on professionals to help you re-write every draft. You have to learn the essentials of editing from them and then apply those skills relentlessly to your own work. At some point your own editing skills will be objective enough that you will lose your attachment to your own words. Then, and only then, will you really start improving as a writer.

Say you've written the first volume of a proposed eight-volume fantasy which is going so far beyond The Lord of the Rings that it isn't even funny. Now that you've polished off volume one--a healthy 700 pages--now you can turn to.... volume one again and re-write it. If you went on and wrote the other seven volumes, it's unlikely you'd learn much in all that writing. You'd probably end up making the same mistakes you made in writing volume one. Better to re-write volume one seven times and learn how to edit yourself, mercilessly and objectively and skeptically, and then move on to the later volumes.

Don't blame your agent, or your publisher, or anyone else if your book fails to find a market. Accept that fate, karma, chance, luck, the gods of literary success or whatever you wish to call That Which We Do Not Control plays a huge role in any book's visibility and sales. As my sister reminds me, Hamlet isn't just about indecision, it's about timing. There was a moment when the blow should have been struck, and in hesitating, Hamlet doomed himself and others.

You cannot buy success in the literary market. Recently, some dot-com mega-millionaire decided to take the book market by storm, just as he'd conquered the Tech world. So he spent megabucks promoting his novel, hiring outlandish performers to prance about at book fairs and the like.

Needless to say, his book bombed. It bombed so big and so hard, no one's ever heard of it. It was a lousy book, and it got lousy reviews, so nobody bought it. As a good friend of mine says, if you want to get people to buy your $10 book, insert a $20 bill in each one. Short of that, you can't force people to buy a book, no matter how much money you spend on promotion and ads.

Ditto for films. Gazillionaires routinely go to Hollywood to show those yokels what real money and talent can do, and inevitably their movies bomb. If they stick it out and make it past the first five or six bombs, then they start learning from those insular yokels and they might eventually make a decent film. But most leave disgusted, complaining about the inside network and the lousy distributors and so on. That may well be true, but some books do well despite the insider network, the crummy promotion, the lackluster agent, etc.

Take the book A Simple Plan. It was a small book, no big cultural fizz to it, but it struck a chord in Hollywood one weekend, and by Monday the new author was being offered $250,000 (or something like that) for the film rights, and sure enough, five or six years later, a small film based on the book was made and distributed. Was that book the very best available on that weekend to base a movie on? Who knows? It caught fire at the right moment in the right audience, and the author struck gold.

It happens. Yes, it does. But it's like getting struck by lightning on Wilshire Blvd. You can wave a metal pole above your head, but you need the right storm and a bit of luck to actually get the lightning to strike you. So go ahead and wave the steel rod for all you're worth, but don't count on it attracting a bolt of lightning.

Get clear on what part of the business you are actually enamored with. If what you really hope to do is break into Hollywood, then consider joining one of the tens of thousands of people making good livings doing something other than writing screenplays. As you recall from the beginning of this little essay, there are lots of (unglamorous) jobs to be had in the film industry, and a little of the glitter will rub off on you, if that's really what you're after.

If you really want to hold a book with your name on it, then pitch a non-fiction title. Get experience as a journalist or free-lance writer, learn the trade, ask pros for their critiques, and then write a book which you can actually sell.

If you want to be part of the world of publishing, then try to join an agency or publisher as a reader. You'll certainly find out what's being submitted and see what you're up against as an author. You may find you like editing, selling or publishing writing more than you like the writing itself.

If you really, really want to write deep, probing literary fiction, then get life experience. Don't hole up in academia. The number of great books written by college professors who have the hots for vulnerable co-eds is zero. (Nabokov was a writer long before he was a professor, and furthermore, Humbert Humbert had the hots for a 12-year old.) And don't mistake travel for experience. Yes, travel is adventure, fun, dismal, even frightening at times, but it is only a certain slice of experience, a rather thin slice. It cannot replace starting (and failing at) a business, or engaging in a great political struggle, or working at a variety of manual-labor jobs alongside a wide variety of people.

And read deeply, not just fiction, but psychology, philosophy and theology. Understand the conflicts of the human condition and the multiple layers which influence human behavior. Make such research a life-long habit, because there is no end to the variations of human behavior and the advances being made by science in understanding the human psyche.

Be prepared to deal with the creative conundrum: if you're writing another thriller based on the great art of the world (a la Dan Brown), expect to be rejected because there's already a 100 clones of that fad in the pipeline. Ditto for genre work; agents and publishers have murder mysteries, military thrillers, fantasies and romances coming in by the container load. But if you come up with something so original it doesn't ring any obvious marketing bells (a murder mystery in rhyme, etc.), then expect to be rejected because the risk is too great. Thus all new writers are caught between the Scylla of me-too clones and the Charybdis of risky innovation.

Everyone in Hollywood claims to be "good at story," which goes a long way toward explaining why most Hollywood movies are mediocre. Great fiction is built on character, not story. To trot out two useful cliches about story: Godard famously said, "All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun." C'est vrai, n'est pas? Then there's the classic line that there's only two stories in the world: 1) a quest, and 2) a stranger comes to town. If you reckon a stranger comes to town on a quest, well then I guess there's only one storyline.

Focusing on story in the belief that a "great story" is the key to a great book is what most assuredly places a writer in amateur-hour. Making a character is so difficult, most writers cheat and just copy a real live person. Of course we all draw upon our experience of real people, but just copying someone's idiosyncrasies and changing their name is not great writing.

Another amateur-hour laziness is relying on pop culture to add verisimilitude to your character. "Joe Blow hunched over the Asteroids console, sipping a New Coke, and paused to turn up his new tape of The Clash." Yes, this builds character--if you have a time machine to return to 1980. Otherwise, it just dates your story and turns the reader off. Nothing is lamer than outdated pop culture references.

Be grateful for whatever bylines and exposure you earn, for there are tens of thousands of other aspiring writers who would gladly accept whatever crumbs of cash or recognition you've gained from your ceaseless toils. OK, here's the unvarnished truth about our place in the world economy as writers/authors: we are the pond-scum of the global economy, forced by pitiless imbalances in supply and demand into accepting pittances for wages. Would you like to protest the $150 fee you're offered for an item in a national publication? Well move along, pal, there are hundreds of English majors desperate for that crummy byline who will do it for $25 or even free.

Think you should get more than $1,000 for that 3,000 word piece which reaches a million subscribers? The line of people who would take your place in a New York second for $500 is down the hall, around the corner and halfway to Timbuktu.

This is the brutal Darwinian world of free-lance writing, where editors squeezed by Corporate to lower costs must fill the copy vacuum for the least amount of cash possible without embarrassing the publication with cheesy writing. The more reliable and better-paid alternative is to get that degree in journalism and nail down a union position at a large newspaper.

Alas, newspapers and indeed the entire print media is under a relentless assault by free online publications. Of course nothing is free, but for a few bucks you can subscribe to the wire services and display the headline stories for almost nothing. No one does any real journalism for free; there's no investigations, no in-depth reporting, no skeptical eye cast on advertisers, the corporate world, the corruption of public trust, etc.

And the blame partly lies with you, young whippersnapper, because young people no longer subscribe to newspapers or magazines. They click on Yahoo News, absorb a superficial corporate-approved summary of "news" and then move on to download the latest forgettable song by a copy-cat band. And so news rooms are being culled, journalists are getting laid off, and the print media is struggling to get paid for the news they've spent big bucks collecting and analyzing. Well guess what, kids, you get what you pay for in the real world, and if you pay nothing for news then it's worth nothing.

Though an ascetic lifestyle is a side-benefit, what I meant to highlight is the benefit of having to market yourself constantly. This will pay dividends later when you're trying to sell your book. If you've made some bucks in the hard-scrabble trenches of free-lancing, then you'll already be hardened to pathetic pay and constant rejection, i.e. the parched landscape you will have to traverse to become a published author.

Writing isn't hard work, so stop whining about it.
Extra special bonus advice. Keep a sense of humility and humor about your writing and about yourself. The more successful the writer, the more gracious and generous he or she is likely to be.  Just keep right on avoiding the know-it-all harpy authors who tell you how it should be done _ how to write like them _ how to get published like them _ how to basically lick ass _ theirs!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

To plagiarise is OK.

You think it can't happen. Right? Let me tell you a story. There was a writer a two-bit writer who kinda got a good idea he could copy a story and with imagination shuffle it like a deck of cards so it looked different than its sister book.  It stood to reason he wanted his name and title of the book on the New York Times bestseller list. He sent it off to a publisher. The publisher kinda saw something in it and said OK we'll give it space on our list. To add spice to to his pot boiler the author tells a two-bit news hound he stole his idea and plagiarised several books so as it don't look too familiar. Whoa. The touch paper was lit. The fire spread. The book was hot property before it left the printers. Read on _

Dan Brown Plagiarized _ by Gary C. Burger, MDiv

Through other articles on this web site I have shown that Dan Brown's assertions about the Bible, Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene are complete fiction. He is not a good historian. In this article I will relate the accusation of others that Dan Brown is not even a very good novelist, or at least a very original one.

Another novelist, Lewis Perdue, claims that Dan Brown plagiarized much of The Da Vinci Code from his own books: The Da Vinci Legacy (1983), The Linz Testament (1985), and Daughter of God (2000).1 The Da Vinci Code's Copyright is 2003. John Olsson, Director of the Forensic Linguistics Institute, demonstrates substantial similarities between Brown's and his books in his web article.2 Because I have not done the analysis myself I will quote extensively from Olsson's article. These are his summary paragraphs that leave out graphs, charts and his detailed analysis. Still, I encourage you to read his whole article. It is quite an indictment against Dan Brown's claim to have done his own research.

Olsson's detailed analysis reveals "more than 50 events which occur in both Brown's and Perdue's works and that 65% of these appear in the same order and in nearly the very same position in the books." For example, Olsson cites that:

The documents, in each author's work, contain explosive secrets, and a quest to find them is launched when a member of a religious sect murders a renowned international expert. Co-incidentally (?) in each book the expert is the 4th person within his area of expertise to be killed in this way (not the 2nd, 3rd or 5th, but in each case, the 4th). As it happens the hero and the expert in each author's work are actually acquainted with each other. The murdered expert in each author's work writes a last message in his own blood, and - finally - the hero, in each author's work, is accused of the murder of the expert. More details are shown in the graph below, where each bar relates to the page number in the respective book where the relevant detail is mentioned. As the reader will observe, there are seven plot features - which I believe to be representative of the striking similarities across the books in general - mentioned in the description above, and shown in the graph below - six of these seven plot features are in sequence and on very similar page numbers within the overall books.

Olsson demonstrates the "incontestable similarities" between the authors' heroes. He notes that:

The heroes are of the same age group, and follow identical occupations in that they are both professors in religious subject areas at very prominent universities (comparative religion [DoG] vs. religious 'symbology' [DVC]), and whereas Perdue's DoG hero is an expert in the Roman Emperor Constantine and female divinity with Perdue's other book the Da Vinci Legacy's hero as a Leonardo scholar, Brown's hero is not only a Leonardo scholar but also an expert in the Roman Emperor Constantine and female divinity. Thus we have a 100% match between Brown and Perdue with respect to occupation and areas of expertise (which even in real life would be stretching co-incidence as frequently academics within the same discipline will have slightly different areas of specialty and not a perfect match, as in this instance).

In addition, both are showing signs of ageing as the novels open, read ancient Greek, are 'captivating' on the 'podium' (Brown) or have a smile which 'captivates' at the 'podium' (Perdue), are haunted by lost loves - in Perdue the hero has a "hollow void in his chest", whereas Brown has "an unexpected emptiness in his chest".

By the end of the book each hero gains (or regains) the love of the book's heroine. The hero of DVC shares a further interesting characteristic with that of DoG: both have claustrophobia, or to be precise 'mild claustrophobia'. As mentioned above, in each of the books the hero is falsely accused of murder, against the background of each needing to fulfill the quest of the narrative, which is to locate documents relating to a female deity, either through the Holy Grail documents, or the Da Vinci Codex, or the shroud of this female deity. In carrying out this quest the hero has a further motivation, which is to protect the heroine.

Olsson goes on to show authors' heroines are "breathtakingly alike."

In DoG (Daughter of God) Zoe's hair colour is not specified, but her predecessor in The Linz Testament had auburn hair: in DVC (Da Vinci Code) Sophie Neveu's hair is 'burgundy'. Sophie, like Zoe's predecessor has 'flashing green' eyes. Both women are either 'ample' of figure, or 'robust': they are not the typical slim heroines found in many books and films. All the heroines are in the same age group, late 20's to early 30's. Just as with the heroes we have in the heroines, characters of very closely matching characteristics.

In DoG we have Zoe Ridgeway who is an art broker whose expertise includes forgery detection and whose major interest is religion, whereas in DVC we have Sophie Neveu, a Paris police officer part of whose job is cryptography and she, like Zoe, has a major interest in religion and, also like Zoe, expertise in art. It should be noted that Perdue's earlier book DVL (Da Vinci Legacy) has the art journalist Suzanne Storm, who in fact is an undercover CIA agent. So, the main characteristics of Brown's heroine with regard to occupation and areas of specialized interest are identical to those of both of Perdue's heroines, with particularly suspect areas of co-incidence being their work for law enforcement agencies, an expertise in art and an interest in religion.

The origin of Perdue's Zoe Ridgeway is given by Perdue in DoG as the goddess Sophia of the Gnostic Gospels. In fact, the actual daughter of the Sophia of the Gnostic Gospels was called Zoe. Therefore, Perdue's heroine is symbolically the daughter of Sophia.

Brown's heroine is called Sophie Neveu who is said to be a descendant of Mary Magdalene, the alleged wife of Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene, in the Gnostic Gospels (also the source for much of Brown's research) is actually a stand-in for the Sophia of the Gnostic Gospels, according to well-known writer Margaret Starbird (whom Brown admits to having consulted): "In long-standing tradition, it was she [Mary the Magdalene], understood by early Gnostics as an incarnation of Sophia,...." (Magdalene's Lost Legacy, p. 125, Starbird) In other words, Brown's heroine is the lineal (rather than symbolic) daughter of Sophia.

In both Perdue's and Brown's books, the goddess Sophia has been wronged by the church authorities who have deprived the goddess of her rightful position as an official deity in the church. The quest is to obtain access to the 'explosive' (both authors) documents which prove the link between Christ and the female goddess in each case, and thus demonstrate the inviolable position of the female deity in the church, and re-assert the 'sacred feminine' as the core of religion.

The ways in which these documents are hidden, the people who protect them, and the ways in which they come to light, are remarkably similar across both books. These striking parallels will be explored in greater depth in subsequent analyses.

Olsson reveals an even bigger "smoking gun" to prove Brown plagiarized Perdue.

While the plot sequence is certainly a smoking gun there is, in this analyst's view, one even more powerful smoking gun, which is a document known as the Codex Leicester, an actual book written by the Renaissance scientist and artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. The codex Leicester is written on linen paper, but Perdue erroneously records this as 'parchment' in his book - an error that extensive researches (across the Internet, as well as other sources) do not uncover as occurring elsewhere. In his book Brown repeats this error. There is, to my knowledge, no other mention of the Codex Leicester being on 'parchment' anywhere else other than in these two authors' books. Therefore, it does not seem feasible that Brown could have got this particular misinformation anywhere else than from Perdue.

Finally, Olsson shows undeniably strong similarities between the authors' cryptological elements such as a key hidden behind a painting that gives access to a container in a bank vault that holds more information.

But wouldn't you expect similarities in this genre of literature? After all there are lots of books and Internet articles speculating Vatican conspiracies, non-traditional understandings of the history of Christianity, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and more. Adair Lara wrote a helpful article in the San Francisco Chronicle that addresses what kind of similarities count as plagiarism in a novel.3 Here is an excerpt:

Not all similarities are plagiarism, however. Two-thirds of those 50 similarities, according to Perdue, are scene a faire, a legal term meaning you can't copyright information that one would expect to find in such a book or that would naturally follow from the narrative, such as a gunfight in a cowboy movie.

"Most challenges lose on scene a faire," Perdue says, leaning forward in his cane chair. He uses furniture as an example. You would expect, he says, to find a couch, a coffee table, chairs in a living room such as the one we are in. So a writer who finds them in the work of another cannot expect protection.

Random House's general counsel agrees. "At most, the only commonalities are unprotected scenes a faire and historical facts," Trager said. "Aside from these general characteristics, the books are different in the most apparent and obvious ways."

But Perdue isn't done with his furniture analogy. "But a living room with an olive press," he says, pointing at his own, "that's expression." The law doesn't protect scene a faire elements or ideas, but it does protect the expression of those ideas.

"You would also expect to find a Swiss bank and a safe deposit box in a thriller," he says of details the works share. "But a curator of a fabulous art collection leaves a nontraditional gold key to a heroine by concealing it in a religious painting, and the name of the painting refers to a female spiritual figure that the heroine is related to? That's expression."

Expression is the difference between "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story."

Perdue emailed Adair Lara about clarifications to her article that he thought were important. You can read that email on his blog.4

In summary, there is very strong evidence that Dan Brown plagiarized, not just a few elements here and there, but the majority of his book from Lewis Perdue. But why would he take that kind of a risk? Why would Random House, his publisher take that kind of risk? Perdue speculates in Adair Lara's article that Brown was desperate, "He needed a breakthrough book," theorizes Perdue. "His first three had not sold well."

Perhaps his first three books did not do well because he is not a very skillful writer. When people are desperate they manufacture all kinds of rationalizations in their own minds that sound logical. We can only speculate how he rationalized his deed. Beyond that, I don't think he or Random House will be able to plead they didn't know what he did would be considered plagiarism.

Lewis Perdue website