Sunday, April 14, 2019

On press freedom and Julian Assange.

And why the two are pretty much mutually exclusive. At least in this case.

Gerd Altman | Pixabay

Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks -- a shadowy organization that calls itself a publisher. He has been holed up in Ecuadorian Embassy in London since August 2012, avoiding extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges that have since been dropped. As you have probably heard, on Thursday Ecuador withdrew its protection of Assange, allowing the London Metropolitan Police in to arrest him. He faces trial on the bail-jumping charge in London -- but his biggest concern is whether England will extradite him to the United States, where an indictment was unsealed on the day of his arrest, charging him with conspiring with convicted spy Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer.

Ecuador has given a number of reasons for rescinding the sanctuary it extended to Assange for seven years -- among them that he didn't wash often enough and he didn't take care of his cat. (The cat, we are told, was relocated to friends of Assange's months ago.) Perhaps the biggest reason, however, was their claim that Assange continued to direct WikiLeaks' activities from inside the embassy, using a cell phone he wasn't allowed to have.

There has been quite a hue and cry amongst Assange's supporters and others, saying his arrest and potential prosecution in the U.S. will have a chilling effect on press freedom. The New York Times has gone so far as to say that "most of what he does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations, like The New York Times, do every day: seek out and publish information that officials would prefer to be kept secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources." And these same people say that prosecuting Assange for that type of activity could lead, down the road, to charges against any journalist who publishes government secrets -- thereby weakening the press freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.

But Assange isn't charged with publishing any government secrets. He's been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion -- in other words, he's accused of helping Manning break into that computer at the Pentagon in March 2010. Manning, who was working as an Army intelligence analyst, had already given WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including information on conditions at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to Assange's indictment, Manning was having trouble cracking a password that would have helped her access more documents, and provided the partial password to Assange; Assange later told her in a private message that he was working on it.

It's true, as a number of news outlets have opined, that investigative journalists thrive on leaks of documents and information that they shouldn't otherwise have access to. The classic example is the Pentagon papers, in which Daniel Ellsberg got hold of classified documents indicating the Johnson Administration had ramped up the Vietnam War and lied to the American people about the extent of our involvement there. The New York Times began publishing the papers in 1971, but the Nixon Administration issued an injunction against the paper -- whereupon the Washington Post picked up the baton and began publishing its own series of articles. Nixon sought an injunction against the Post, too, but a D.C. judge -- and quickly thereafter, the Supreme Court -- ruled against the administration. The ruling was hailed as a victory for press freedom. (The 2017 movie The Post tells this story better than I ever could.)

So what's the difference between Julian Assange on one hand, and The New York Times and the Washington Post on the other?

Here's what it comes down to for me: In 1971, the newspapers didn't actively help the whistleblower. Assange did. If the charges against him are true, he actively assisted Manning with attempting to break into a Pentagon computer. He didn't just publish the stuff Manning handed him -- he tried to help her get more. That has nothing to do with the First Amendment. That's not investigative journalism. That's espionage.

WikiLeaks has published secret documents that have blown the lid off of a number of questionable incidents. In some cases, it has been a force for good; in others, its motives have been iffy. But in no case should WikiLeaks be disseminating documents it broke the law to get hold of -- and if it has, then whoever was involved in breaking the law should go to jail.

These moments of journalistic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A forever home.

The concept of home -- specifically, the concept of a forever home -- is intriguing me this week.

SergeyNivens | Deposit Photos

We talk about how home is where the heart is. Going home for the holidays is idealized. When we discuss adopting a pet, we talk about giving them a forever home.

But home is also where you find it, as your adopted pet can tell you. And home may not be where the heart is if the heart was badly hurt there, through abuse or neglect.

Lots of people have become nomads. It's estimated that 40 million Americans move every year at least once. That's 40 percent of us. Some may move for work and some for retirement or other reasons. And certainly, many of them may have an idealized vision of their forever home in their heads -- maybe they lived there once and want to move back, or maybe they believe, or at least would like to think, they're moving there now.

And sometimes you think you've found your forever home, but things change and you find yourself moving on.

Home is sort of a sub-subplot in Rivers Run. Collum Barth is a gnome -- an Earth Elemental -- whose family has lived in (or near) Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for centuries. He has put down roots there, as an Earth Elemental would. He is the family home, and by extension the region surrounding it.

But he's the only one left. His brother left for college and when he returned, he settled nearby -- but not in the old family home. Collum's parents, too, have moved away (we'll explore their new home in the next book, Treacherous Ground). But Collum identifies with the old place -- the one that straddles our world and the Otherworld.

By contrast, Raney Meadows spent her youth on the run. She's an undine -- a Water Elemental -- and at home in fast-flowing water. Her mother constantly moved them from place to place, sometimes at a moment's notice.  Now Raney is an actress with a beach house in Malibu, but she doesn't talk about it as if it's her dream home. It's a place to hang her hat -- and submerge herself in the soaking tub and the swimming pool. But a forever home? She may not have one.

I'm not sure I have one, either. Unlike Raney, I didn't move around a whole lot as a kid. But unlike Collum, I haven't lived in one place all my life, either. When I was in radio, I moved around a lot -- from Indiana to West Virginia to Tidewater Virginia to the DC area. Then we lived in Denver for a few months. For many years, I thought Colorado would be my forever home; now I'm not so sure. My current candidate is Santa Fe, but it occurred to me last week that I might not stay there forever, either.

And tonight, I learned that whole rural villages are still for sale in Spain. I'd read a few years ago about one village up for sale, and figured that was the end of it -- but no, apparently that one was the vanguard. There are lots more now. And they're cheap. I don't know how difficult it would be to retire there -- the EU has rules about letting Americans move in, after all. But...hmm.

As for Raney and Collum, I'm not sure where their relationship is going. Raney's career is in LA, and I doubt Collum would move there for her. I guess we'll all have to wait and see.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I am rested and ready. I punched up the outline this evening and am ready to hit the ground running. I'll let you know how it goes.

These moments of homey blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

RIVERS RUN is live.

I know I promised last week that Rivers Run would be available for purchase this past Thursday -- but Amazon was speedier than I expected. The Kindle version actually dropped Wednesday. Thanks to everyone who has already bought a copy of the book -- you're all my best friends forever. For the rest of you, here's the Amazon US link, and here's the one for Amazon UK. (I'm terrible about remembering to post links for the non-US Amazon stores. Sorry about that.)

I was hoping I would have good news tonight about the paperback edition. Alas, it's still in process. The explanation requires a bit of "inside baseball," so bear with me.

Up until now, I've been using CreateSpace for publishing my paperback editions. But Amazon has decided to shut down CreateSpace and bring all of its indie publishing operations under the KDP banner. I tried the KDP paperback setup for the hard-copy version of the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus (a steal at just $18.99!), but the system was in beta then, and it was almost exactly like publishing via CreateSpace. So I figured getting Rivers Run through it would be a piece of cake.

Oh haha. KDP is using a different cover creation process.

I forget what my favorite CreateSpace cover template was called, but basically you took your cover image from your ebook, created a back cover image, and dropped both images into this template. The template had preset parameters for the spine -- the number of fonts and colors was limited, true, but I was always able to find one that worked, and that I could carry across a whole series.

That template is now gone. KDP has a sort of similar one, where you can drop in your ebook cover art and put the text of the blurb and bio on the back. But this time -- unlike nearly every other time, when I've forgotten to make the back cover image until I was uploading the book to CreateSpace (whoops!) -- I'd actually created the back cover art ahead of time. And I really liked it. I wanted to use it. But the only way I could see to do that was to download one of KDP's cover templates and -- shudder -- make my own spine.

For the paperback edition, of course. I still have an actual spine installed in my back.


I downloaded the template Friday night, threw together the paperback cover image, and uploaded everything. When I woke up this morning, I had an email from KDP saying there was a problem with my cover. Which I could have predicted, as this is the first time I've made a full cover from scratch in, -- oh, since SwanSong, I think, in August 2011.

So I fussed around with it and uploaded it this morning. I'm hoping this version will pass muster. Here it is -- isn't the back gorgeous?

Fingers crossed that KDP accepts it. I tell you what, every day's a new adventure for an indie author.

These moments of elemental spiney blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The run-up to Rivers Run.

I've just a quick post tonight, as I've been working on Rivers Run all day and I'm kind of tuckered out.

The good news is that we're on track for publication this Thursday, as promised. I still have to finish the formatting and write the author's note. But here's the cover, which I finalized today:

And here's the description:

The last thing Raney Meadows needs is more notoriety. She has come east from Los Angeles to escape her life as an actor by getting back to nature. But while hiking the Appalachian Trail, she finds a body in the Shenandoah River -- a drowned kayaker who was neither a kayaker nor a drowning victim -- and the river's goddess tells Raney she has to make it right. Why Raney? Because she's a Water Elemental. Her mother is an undine.
Before long, Raney discovers she's not the only Elemental in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Earth, Air, and Fire are here, too. Moreover, these four Elementals have been brought together for a purpose: an ancient evil has awakened, and only by joining all of the Elements together can the earth be saved.
Raney wants to help, but she is torn, because getting involved would put her mother in danger. Her very human father has been looking for his undine – and he may be involved with the ancient evil that aims to destroy the earth.
Once the Kindle version is live, I'll put notices in all the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, and my mailing list. I usually aim to get the paperback out at about the same time as the ebook, but I suspect it will be next weekend before I can get that done. I will let you know.

The other good news is that I signed up today to do Camp NaNoWriMo next month -- during which I'll be writing book 2 of this series, which now has the working title of Treacherous Ground (oooh!). Stay tuned for more on that.

These moments of bloggy publishing madness have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.