From the Mind of Master Imaginationist Crystal Connor ~"A Trusted Name in Terror."

The Darkness, Artificial Light, In The Valley of Shadows

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Establishing a Chain of Custody

Things you never see black people doing in horror movies thing #6
Get mauled by a pet tiger.

Back in high school I wrote a smart ass report for my English class. Recognizing my talent my English teacher came to see me while I was sitting in detention to talk to me about intellectual property. Back then I wasn’t thinking about growing up and becoming a writer my biggest concern at that moment was getting the hell out of my little town I was ‘trapped’ in, I wasn’t the only spoiled brat who thought that way. Out of the 1,124 of my graduating class 812 of us joined the military, a handful joined the peace or job corps and the those who stayed there are still there, but the town is not so little anymore.

Years later, and I mean years I heeded every … single … word that my English imparted to me in the 10th grade. When I sent my 1st manuscript for consideration I sent two copies. One to the publisher and one to myself. When that large manila envelope came back to me, as instructed by Miss Carter, I didn’t open it but put it away in a safe place.

The military calls this ‘establishing a chain of custody.’ My English teacher was very blunt, she said “people steal and its going to be really hard to prove that somebody stole something this good from a hardheaded, smart mouthed, know-it-all  little brat … unless you have proof.” She explained that the post office puts a stamp on every single piece of mail that they mail and that stamp, in a court of law, would be indisputable in a court of law. She also warned that the most important thing was NOT to open the envelope. She said that the judge should open it. She went on to explain “that the post office stamp would  let the judge know that you wrote it first and the sealed envelope would show the judge that the contents inside had not been tampered with.”

Sage advice. I still have all nine packets and they are still unopened. When publishers changed the submissions guideline from snail mail to email, I essentially did the same thing. I created a private email account and every story I have sent for consideration I’ve also sent it bcc to my private account and those emails are still sitting there unopened and unread.

I think about Miss Carter all the time because she looked past my little bad ass and saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. When I sent her a copy of The Darkness she wrote me back to tell me she wasn’t the least bit surprised.

But the reason for this blog post is because lately, I always get on Facebook statuses linking articles about author’s who have had their work stolen, author’s like Sophia Steward and Sheila Moss, but most times it's about the author’s who are committing the crime. Author’s like Jordin Williams, Steve Jeffery, and Jon Flatland. I can’t imagine what it would be like if someone I trusted with my story took it from me. So I guess I just wanted to say be careful, and research the editor’s and publisher that you’re considering working with and no matter what always try to establish some type of paper trail.

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