The Lifecycle of Your Masterpiece (or “Why Works of Art Shouldn’t Be Pirated”)

Let’s play pretend.


Pretend you’re a musician. You just got out of a three-year relationship. He broke your heart. Cheated on you, in fact. Even asked you for the ring back because it was his grandmother’s and he wanted to give it to “the one” and you weren’t it. Ouch. That hurts.

You spend weeks in a state of shock, hating him, hating her, hating yourself for wasting three years of your life on someone who didn’t deserve your love.

So after you cry it all out, you start to work out your feelings in a poem. In verse. With a chorus. The words are heavy, like your heart feels. The lyrics play around in your head for a few weeks, and as they do, a melody begins to lie beneath them. It’s faint at first, but as the words become more permanent, the tune gets louder.

You break out the guitar. You find your staff paper and pencil and start writing down the notes. The song’s in a minor key. The tempo is slow. Your sadness becomes a tangible thing that others will soon begin to feel with you.

More weeks go by as you perfect this thing that has now become a SONG. An honest-to-goodness song. And it’s spectacular. It’s not just the best song you’ve ever written. It’s quite possibly THE best song ever written. You go into a recording studio with a few other talented artists: friends that you want to take with you on what you know will be an amazing journey.

Your friends encourage you. Your family sees new hope for your future. The sadness has begun to dissipate.

Your life is turning around, and suddenly, you realize that the last three years of your life may not have been wasted at all, because without them, you would never have been able to write your masterpiece.

The masterpiece that is now on the radio.
On vinyl.
On a CD.
On iTunes.
On Spotify.
On a torrent site.
On another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.

And then you get your first royalty check, and pay the other people who helped you. You have a little money left over for a modest new silver ring to take the place of that old antique you weren’t so crazy about anyway.

And then you discover the torrent sites. You send takedown notices. Most of them comply.

But it’s already too late. Because your masterpiece is already on thousands – if not millions – of personal devices, and more peer-to-peer networks.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.
And another torrent site.

The world loves you, by the way. They all know you by now. They all know all the words to your masterpiece by heart. But so many of them have stolen that masterpiece from you. That masterpiece that you created from betrayal and pain and was supposed to bring you joy… has just brought you more betrayal and pain. And it’s confusing.

You’re proud of your song. It took you 26,280 hours of a relationship and 2,880 hours of writing to make it. And so many people take that for granted, and you can’t fathom why they would do that. Why they would steal from you.

Would you do anything differently? No. You’re an artist and you have to create. You knew your masterpiece would be enjoyed by others so you generously shared your talents with the world. The people of the world thank you for it. They just have different ways of showing it.


The purpose of this post is to try to put you in the shoes of the creator. You may not be one of the ones that pirate music, books, movies or TV shows, but if you are, please think twice about what you’re doing. If that song was your creation, borne of your pain and hard work, would you want it to be stolen? Then why steal from others?

As for me, I want to especially thank everyone who has legally obtained any of my books to help support my writing. I greatly appreciate it because it is still my goal to be able to devote all of my time to the books some day. (I still have a full time job at this point.) I have decided that I will continue to write and publish until it feels like a chore to me. I do it because it is so fulfilling and it makes me happy and whole… so thank you to everyone who reads my books!

How Twilight helped me make friends

I’ve never had an easy time making friends.  I’m an introvert and have been all of my life.  My friend-circles are typically pretty small.  I can be an acquaintance to just about about anyone, but being an honest-to-goodness-friend… that’s tough for me.

So there’s this little book/movie called Twilight.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  Well, it’s introduced me to some pretty incredible friends… and I want to point out a few of them and tell you the stories of how this phenomenon brought us together.

Because not everyone is as loud-and-proud as I am about my Twilight fan-hood, I’ll use abbreviations for my friends.  I’ll start with J.  I worked with him and somehow convinced him to go see Twilight at the midnight showing with about 12 other co-workers.  I had read all of the books, but he wasn’t interested– well, not until after the movie.  Then he had to read the series.

He became just as addicted as I had been, and we’d meet up at work and talk about where he was in the books.  When he got to the fade-to-black scene in Breaking Dawn, he was just as upset that there wasn’t more there as I was.  So what did we do?  We put our Twi-brains together and wrote a little bit of fan fiction.  Yeah, I said it.  Fan fiction.  It was the beginning of a beautiful writing partnership, because after “Resurrection” and “Breathless” were finished, he was with me every step of the way as I wrote the entire Emi Lost & Found series.  I couldn’t have done it without him.

The next person I met through Twilight was K.  She also worked with me, once upon a time.  In passing, we discovered we both were Twilight fans, but at work, we didn’t really talk about it.  (This was when my Twi-pride began to wane a bit…)  Anyway.  I think I friended her on Facebook and sent her a message asking her how much of a fan she was.  She wasn’t specific, but said she was a Twihard, in her own way.  It suddenly became a “who’s the biggest Twilight fan” face-off, and within seconds of revealing my fan fic identity to her, she revealed her own fan fic persona to me.  I found a little sister in that moment.

We still Rob with one another late at night.  If you think I mean “steal,” go ahead and keep thinking that.  Of course that’s what I mean.

And lastly, there’s N.  I owe this friendship to the Twitarded blog.  JJ, one of the girls who runs the blog, read LOST AND FOUND and posted her recommendation of it on her site last year.  I gave out free copies to the blog followers, and happily went on my merry way, knowing that I shared my book with some awesome women around the world.

Not too long after, I got an email from a woman in South Africa… well, at the time, she said she was from SA– and in my puny Texas head, I thought she was from San Antonio.  I found out after I’d offered to ship signed books to her that she actually lived a gazillion miles away.  Anyway.  N. had written a blog post about a job interview from hell… and from her post, I’m pretty certain that plane did fly directly into hell… but she was thanking my book for keeping her sane.  I was so flattered!!

N. and I started exchanging emails, tweets, blog comments… pretty much any way you can communicate for free internationally, we were doing it.  I’m pretty sure she’s really just a younger version of me living on a different continent, because we do seem a lot alike.  Anyway.  She’s become someone that I look forward to hearing from and chatting with as often as possible.  I hope that– when I become a trazillionaire– I’ll be able to fly to her country and meet her and be exposed to a different culture for the first time in my life.  🙂  And maybe she can fly to the states, too, and see what our nutty country’s like.

So… Twilight may be a whole lot of crazy things, but for me, it’s given me friends and pushed me to find my passion in writing.  In my life, that’s really not so bad.

Has Twilight brought you closer to people?  What about other books, movies, music, or trends?  How has pop culture made your life better?

My Music Habits and #NaNoWriMo

I started participating in NaNoWriMo in 2009. That year, I began writing the first and second books of my second series. I skipped between scenes and characters and books and it turned into a disjointed mess that I’m still trying to carefully weave plot lines through, but I won, damn it… and I became obsessed with a band in the process. 2009 was the year of the Decemberists… and it’s no wonder the 50,000 words I wrote came out the way they did. Each little Decemberists song is its own little book, telling a tiny story that balloons to epic proportions when added to music. What Colin Meloy and his band can do is nothing short of miraculous, in my mind.

2010, I discovered the upbeat stylings of Hello Goodbye. They were perfect for the third book of the second series, which is what I focused my attention on during that November. I needed happy, young love and that’s what I got. I was also introduced to a band called Stornoway late in the month. They were a perfect blend of strange nostalgia and longing, and at that point in the story, I needed that.

This year, I struggled for 12 days to find motivation. I’d been listening to Christina Perri and Jeremy Lister, and they were okay, but I’d been listening to them in October, too, as I was working on another project.

Yesterday, I discovered Fleet Foxes. My God, how beautiful is their music?! They are similar to Other Lives, who I was fortunate enough to see in concert when the Decemberists passed through earlier this year. Together, Fleet Foxes and Other Lives make a gorgeous, rich, ethereal three-hour journey into another colorful and textural world. I think I could live in this world forever. Is it a little too advanced for Livvy? Maybe, but she’s a smart girl, and a creative thinker, so I think she could be inspired by this playlist. I know I am.

What about y’all? What are you listening to? (And Nikki, I know what you’re listening to, and I know you’re patiently waiting for a list. It’ll come. In December, it’ll come.) 🙂

Emi Lost & Found playlists!

Nikki, my self-proclaimed stalker (she’s not really), asked me if there were any playlists that accompany the books… and what do you know?!  There are!!  I thought I’d share them with others, so you can see what music carried me through the series.

Lost and Found:
F*cking Boyfriend – The Bird And The Bee –  The Bird and the Bee
Closer – Only By the Night – Kings of Leon
Razor – In Your Honor (Bonus Video Version) – Foo Fighters
Walking After You – The Colour and The Shape – Foo Fighters
Emaline – Ben Folds Live – Ben Folds
#41 – Crash – Dave Matthews Band
Say Goodbye – Crash – Dave Matthews Band
Here’s to Love – Down with Love – Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor
Breakable – Girls and Boys – Ingrid Michaelson
Wonder (Live) – Colin Meloy Sings Live! – Colin Meloy
She Belongs To Me – Blue Light, Red Light – Harry Connick, Jr.
I Burn For You – Songs Of Love – Sting

Time Stands Still:
Dreaming (Live) – Live Session (iTunes Exclusive) EP – Zero 7
Hallelujah – Grace – Jeff Buckley
Winter Song – The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs – Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
Left Behind (Live) – Live Session (iTunes Exclusive) EP – Zero 7
That Home – Ma Fleur – The Cinematic Orchestra
Bubbly – Coco – Colbie Caillat
Goodnight and Go – Speak for Yourself – Imogen Heap
Better – Begin to Hope – Regina Spektor
July, July! (Live) – iTunes Live from SoHo EP – The Decemberists
Swing – Yeah Ghost (Deluxe Version) – Zero 7
Incredible Love – Everybody (Bonus Track Version) – Ingrid Michaelson
Sweetness Follows – Automatic for the People – R.E.M.

Never Look Back:
Pretty Little Thing – Biscuits for Breakfast – Fink
A Girl Like You – Empire Records – Edwyn Collins
Spark – The Bird And The Bee – The Bird and the Bee
Pageant Of The Bizarre – Live On MPR – Zero 7
Jill – Blue Light, Red Light – Harry Connick, Jr.
Are We There Yet – Everybody (Bonus Track Version) – Ingrid Michaelson
You Are the Everything – Green – R.E.M.
Terrified (Featuring Jason Reeves) – Unbroken – Katharine Mcphee
An Interlude – The Hazards of Love – The Decemberists
Somersault – When It Falls – Zero 7
Folding Chair – Far (Bonus Track Version) – Regina Spektor
When Mac Was Swimming – Befriended – The Innocence Mission