A book with two pages curved up to form the shape of a heart

5 LGBTQ+ Romances by Oregon Authors to Read This Winter

There’s no better way to beat the dreary Oregon winter than to turn on the heat. A great way to do that is to add a little spice to your reading pile with a deeply engrossing romance. Here are a few LGBTQ+ romances to warm you from inside out, written by local Oregon authors who haven’t seen the sun this winter just as much as you, so they know how it feels.

Wolfsong by TJ Klune

Wolfsong is about Oxnard Matheson, a young man who lives in small-town Green Creek. One day he meets the Bennets, a strange and highly loving family that moves in next door. What he doesn’t know is that meeting them will take him on the journey of a lifetime––full of heartbreak, found family, werewolves, mates, and magic. This book brought me through all the stages of grief and my full range of emotions several times over. A mix of feisty romance, propulsive action, edge-of-your-seat thriller, and world-bending fantasy, this is a great starting point to begin your winter of heat. It’s a four book series, so it’ll keep you burning for a while.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Following the young brujo Yadriel, this story brings you on a journey into the spirit world where he finds, well, a ghost––but not the one he wanted. Cemetery Boys is a paranormal romance, a newer niche to the romance genre! As Yadriel tries to prove himself as a real brujo, he accidentally summons the ghost of the school bad boy, Julian. As Yadriel tries to help Julian back to the spirit world, he learns that maybe he doesn’t want Julian to leave at all. This story is vibrant, heartwarming, and heady-weightlessness inducing. It’ll calm you down from the raging fire the Green Creek series will set, but keep you toasty warm like a marshmallow in hot chocolate.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Another fantastic read by TJ Klune, The House in the Cerulean Sea follows Linus Baker, a quiet man who investigates magical orphans. On a peculiar assignment, he finds himself at the Marsyas Island Orphanage, where he meets Arthur Parnassus. And it all goes downhill from there (in a good way). This book is positively delightful and wholesome in so many ways. Part quirky identity-finding story, part romance, it will warm you from the deepest parts of your heart that this winter season has frozen solid––all the way down to your toes.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

In this pandemic and this political climate, this book puts the icing on the cake. We Set the Dark on Fire follows Daniela Vargas as she goes through school as a wife-in-training––what every woman is made to train for. Top of her class, she is expected to be the best, but is that what she wants? The story follows her as she rebels against the patriarchy (yes!) and tries to derail the system, falling in love with one of her female classmates along the way. It’s rebellious, clever, thrilling, and feminine forward. This book is a fiery sensation that’ll keep you blazing until spring and summer bring the sun back.

Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters

This one is a bit on the fluffier side, rather quirky and hilarious and a little . . . rom-com-y. Not that we don’t stan a good rom-com here, but that hasn’t necessarily been the theme for this list. Satisfaction Guaranteed follows Cade and Selena as they run, and attempt to save, a failing sex-toy shop called, you guessed it, Satisfaction Guaranteed. It’s a bit of a scandalous spin on the rom-com––a bit lighthearted, a bit what-we-didn’t-know-we-needed-until-we-read-it. It’s got just the right amount of slow-burn, hilarity, and serendipity that will bring you down a notch so you’re not burning bright when the sun finally comes out. After this, you’ll be just the right temperature to head into spring and summer without getting burnt (this is not a substitute for sunscreen, however).

Check out these books if you want to add a little heat to your winter and maybe even save some money on your electricity bill (wink wink). Not only that, you can support the LGBTQ+ community and local authors at the same time, and spice up your life while you’re at it!

African American woman looking up over her left shoulder, in pop-art background

Colors in Ink: Diversity Among Graphic Novels

As an avid reader, a few years back I made it my mission to venture out of my comfort zones (horror, historic fiction, and poetry) to test the waters in different genres. I picked up my first graphic novel back in 2020—A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached—and fell madly in love with the simple yet beautiful artwork, and the heart-wrenching story. I also enjoyed the fact that it was a quick read. It was beautifully written, and being used to submerging myself in novels the weight of my car, I found the graphic novel was a welcome easy-read to get me through my ever-returning procrastination of my to-be-read pile.

Since then, I have steadily amassed a small collection of graphic novels and graphic memoirs. I have tried to specifically focus on finding ones from the #OwnVoices category, with the intent to one day amass a diverse collection for my own son when he is older.

As such, I thought I’d share some of my favorites that focus on diverse representation. The tales range marvelously from war aftermath to more classic bildungsroman-style narratives, and the artworks encapsulate and celebrate the beauty of diversity in all ranges of color—and some in black and white! If you’re looking to explore the world of graphic novels, then look no further than these amazing suggestions (in no particular order)!

  1. A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return, by Zeina Abirached. This graphic memoir centers on a day in Zeina’s childhood during the civil war in Lebanon. When her parents go missing after crossing to the other half of the city, Zeina’s neighbors step up to make her apartment feel like a safe home for her and her brother. From lessons in cooking to games and juicy gossip, they all band together to get through the chaos of the day.
  2. I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir, by Malaka Gharib. Focusing on family heritage, discovering oneself, and freedom of American immigrants, Malaka Gharib’s graphic memoir will pull at your heartstrings through the tales of first-generation immigrant children.
  3. Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe. An autobiography in graphic novel form detailing Maia’s journey through adolescence as a genderqueer teen. From confusing crushes to gushing over gay fanfiction with friends, this graphic novel is perfect for anyone wanting to understand—or relate to—the struggles and triumphs of being nonbinary and asexual.
  4. The Morning Tribe: A Graphic Novel, by Julian Lennon and Bart Davis. A fun graphic novel that centers on twins Dawn and Dusk, two members of the Morning Tribe in the Amazon rainforest, who must gather their courage and their friends to stop the Agricorp mercenaries from destroying their homeland.
  5. Nubia: Real One, by L. L. McKinney. “Can you be a hero . . . if society doesn’t see you as a person?”
  6. American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang. Following three seemingly unrelated tales, this graphic novel weaves together the lives of Jin Wang, Chin-Kee, and the Monkey King in a comical, action-packed modern fable.
  7. Pemmican Wars (A Girl Called Echo #1), by Katherena Vermette. After moving to a new town and school, Echo Desjardins struggles to fit in and find her place. That is until one day in history class, when she is transported back in time to a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie. Echo must find her bearings as she slips back and forth from her time to the dangerous days of the Pemmican Wars.
  8. Squad, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. When Becca moves to a new high school, she is surprisingly invited to join the most popular clique in school. That isn’t the weird part though: her new friends are werewolves, hunting slimy boys who prey on unsuspecting girls. A funny, action packed graphic novel focused on taking down the patriarchy—one boy at a time.
  9. Generations, by Flavia Biondi. A wholesome, heart-jerking tale of Matteo, a young gay man from a small country town who, after spending years away in Milan, must return to his conservative family and rebuild his life.
  10. Turning Japanese, by MariNaomi. “In 1995, twenty-two-year-old Mari had just exited a long-term relationship, moving from Mill Valley to San Jose, California. Soon enough, she falls in love, then finds employment at a hostess bar for Japanese expats, where she is determined to learn the Japanese language and culture. Turning Japanese is a story about otherness, culture clashes, generation gaps, and youthful impetuosity.” — Goodreads.

While this list could go on forever, these ten will hopefully help you find your next (or possibly your first) graphic novel read. If you are looking to explore even more graphic novels that center on diverse characters and stories, Richard Library has a wonderful list of Great BIPOC Graphic Novels, and Books & Bao have an amazing list of Queer Graphic Novels.

group of people talking at a table with papers in front of them

Why You, a Writer, Should Join a Writing Group

Every aspiring author, poet, or even casual writer wants to improve their writing, and there are so many ways to do it—writing every day, experimenting with scenes, and more. Another great way to keep up with your writing is to join a writing group. Writing groups are communities of writers who chat or gather to discuss each other’s writing, motivate each other, or simply socialize. There are so many benefits to joining a writing group, especially if you’re interested in connecting with other writers.

Why join a writing group?

Writing groups can be beneficial for many reasons. Some people join them for social support, to have a group of people they can ask questions, express their concerns, or just socialize with other writers. Other writing groups use their communities for practice and accountability. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, every November is an excellent example of a writing group that encourages accountability—writers have the opportunity to join Discord servers based on their locations and are able to participate in writing sprints, where they can compete against other members to write as many words as possible in a certain time frame, among other activities.

Want opinions and/or critiques on your latest idea, story, or poem? Join a writing group! Want to improve your beta-reading and editing skills? Join a writing group! Want to find other writers who write in the same genre you do, or wish to expand your expertise into other genres? You guessed it—join a writing group. These groups are great for motivation from like-minded people and getting to talk with fellow writers can help get your creative juices flowing.

What kind of writing groups are out there?

When it comes to writing groups, there are so many options. If you’re looking for a larger group, try the aforementioned NaNoWriMo Discord servers or join a regional group through the NaNo website. There are also other resources to find regional groups, such as the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Writers Connection. Writer’s Relief also has a long list of associations, sorted by state.

You can also consider finding groups based on the kind of writing you do. Do you like to write poetry or short stories? Are you working on a novel? Do you write exclusively romance or fantasy, or are you looking to branch out? Whatever your niche, there is most likely a writing group out there for it. There are many social media sites to find the group that’s right for you, including Discord, Twitter (using #writingcommunity), or whatever your main platform is.

Of course, you can always create your own writing group. This could be in person, in a group chat, even over email—whatever works for you and your fellow writers. For example, I am part of a larger NaNoWriMo Discord group, where I can work on the outlines for my various projects during the NaNoWriMo season in November, and I also have a (much) smaller group with two of my friends, where we call each other every week or so and talk about our works in progress, collaborate on new story ideas, and read through each other’s writing.

It can be scary to let others read your work, but having a supportive writing group can help. Writing groups can help writers gain confidence in their abilities, make new friends, and find motivation to continue their craft. If you want feedback on your writing, are interested in networking, or just want to spend time with people who share your creative interests, joining or creating a writing group could be just what you need.

chalk-painted rainbow

Honoring Trans Day of Remembrance 2022

On every November 20, since 1999, transgender lives lost to violence that year have been observed and mourned through an observance called Trans Day of Remembrance. The first Trans Day of Remembrance was a vigil started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, who was a trans woman that was murdered in 1998. Says Smith:

Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people—sometimes in the most brutal ways possible—it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice (GLAAD).

Trans people are very often the victims of bigoted, violent attacks and murder; trans women of color are the highest targeted of all trans individuals. Trans Day of Remembrance is observed through vigils hosted by LGBTQ+ activists throughout the country. These vigils usually involve the reading of names of trans individuals who have been murdered that year, as well as learning about violence against the trans community.

While Trans Day of Visibility, observed in March every year, celebrates trans lives, Trans Day of Remembrance allows the trans community, the larger LGBTQ+ community, and the loved ones of the trans victims of violence to honor their lives. The reason for this observance is heavy, but it a truth that us in the trans community contend with frequently, especially when the LGBTQ+ panic defense is still used in court in over half of the United States.

To further observe Trans Day of Remembrance, below is a list of nonfiction books written by and about transgender people that I highly recommend.

  1. Transgender History by Susan Stryker
  2. Gender Euphoria edited by Laura Kate Dale
  3. The Real Lives of Transgender and Nonbinary Humans as told to Brandi Lai
  4. Trans Love: An Anthology of Transgender and Non-Binary Voices edited by Freiya Benson
  5. There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt
A hiker gazes up at the vast, green, forested mountain in front of them

PNW Conservation Through Learning

Conservation is top of mind for a lot of folks in the Pacific Northwest. Being surrounded by such a lush, green landscape, a majority of people escape out into the wilderness recreationally. There are a plethora of outdoor activities from which they can choose: from hiking to climbing and bouldering to mountain biking to skiing and snowboarding to so many others. During the pandemic, despite the forest service shutting down a lot of trails and recreational spots in Oregon, many people turned to the great outdoors to socialize from a distance. But 2020 also saw a rash of horrific forest fires which swallowed more than 1.2 million acres of greenery in Oregon alone and displaced hundreds of people. After the destruction of 2020, as more and more people embrace the outdoors, hopefully those same people turn to conservation and help protect the lands they’re exploring.

One of those people who escaped to the outdoors during the pandemic was Josephine Woolington; the slowdown of the pandemic shifted her perspective of the wilderness that she had been exploring for years and inspired her to write Where We Call Home, which launched on November 15, 2022. Woolington’s book is a collection of essays detailing a variety of native Pacific Northwest species, from the beautiful camas flower to the humble western bumble bee to the great gray whale. Woolington’s essays focus on the history of each species, illustrate the importance of each species to the various Native peoples of the lands, and bring to light the importance of conservation of each species. She believes, “once you know who [what] someone is, then you appreciate them more, and eventually, you feel obligated to stand up for them.”

Where We Call Home describes ten important species and how each of those species is vital to the Pacific Northwest. Many of these species have been historically important to various Native peoples of the area. “[These] culturally significant species are especially important for readers to know so non-Native people can respect and honor the traditions and relationships that Native people have had with these landscapes since time immemorial. Learning about Indigeneous land management also challenges the Western idea that humans are separate from their ecosystems.” Woolington has done a fantastic job of recording how tribes have respected and used the land and species in the past, and how today’s conservation efforts, while obviously important, frequently “legislate Indigenous communities out of their landscapes, violating treaties that preserve tribal rights to hunt, fish, and gather in their usual and accustomed areas.”

Where We Call Home encourages an enduring respect for the native wildlife of the region. Thankfully, its essays don’t leave readers feeling gloom and doom. Rather, the essays inspire readers to learn more about the lands that surround them and encourage people to take an interest in its history. One of the most important takeaways from Where We Call Home is that “conservation efforts can often be misled, as many organizations’ staffers are mostly white, and they often don’t involve enough or any Indigenous voices in restoration projects.” If we can take a look at the way Indigenous peoples have preserved the land they live on, we have a chance to restore the magnificence of the PNW, and continue to enjoy its beauty for generations to come.

log bridge in green forest

My New View of the PNW through Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley

In November 2023, Ooligan Press will welcome the release of the nonfiction title Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley by Oregon Indigenous historian David G. Lewis. Taking on the role of project manager for this book has made me realize just how little I knew about this land and the Native peoples who call it home.

Born and raised in Central Washington, hints of the history of the Pacific Northwest and the Indigenous peoples of this area were sprinkled throughout my day-to-day life. My hometown was named after Chief Moses. My family and I enjoyed attending powwows, admiring the different dances and types of regalia worn by participants. On trips we would pass roadside signs marking the boundaries of the reservations spread across Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Although schools in my hometown often appropriated Native imagery and terminology, in my experience there was little instruction about the history of the mid-Columbia Tribes. I knew generally that Native peoples were forcefully removed from their lands; that the goal of the US at the time was the annihilation of Native peoples and their cultures through violence and assimilation. My involvement in this book project gives me the opportunity to dive deep into this history and face the details of how settlers and our government have treated tribes in the Willamette Valley and surrounding area during the last century and a half.

Reading about the numerous treaties negotiated with but never ratified by Congress, I am frustrated. Learning about the Grand Ronde Trail of Tears, the forced exodus of people from their ancestral lands, I am saddened and enraged.

At the same time, Lewis paints a picture of the time before colonization, over ten thousand years of culture and traditions such as the oral histories of the Missoula floods, the practice of the seasonal round, and the purposeful burning of the Willamette Valley floor to nourish the area. In showing what life was once like for the tribes, this book creates a newfound appreciation in me for the generations of people who lived on the land that now I call home too.

Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley also depicts the pushback from Native peoples in being forced onto reservations, highlighting several individuals, such as Eliza Young and Chief Yelkus, who were determined to build lives for themselves off the reservations. In such profiles I see the resiliency and adaptability of Native peoples.

I wish I’d had a book like this at some point during my education. I wish I’d learned about the cultures that influenced the naming of so many places throughout my home state. I wish I’d learned of what was taken and what was lost when the iconic Conestoga wagons rolled into the Pacific Northwest.

In taking on the responsibilities of project manager, I look forward to bringing these histories to audiences who, like me, had serious gaps in their knowledge about Oregon’s history. I am also honored to help amplify the voices and stories of Indigenous peoples. Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley will be an excellent resource for not only the everyday reader looking to educate themselves, but also in classrooms taking the very necessary time and space to learn about the peoples whose lands we now live on.

animated haunted house and moon

Three Titles to Haunt Your Bookshelf This Halloween

As someone who used to work in a bookstore and handled literally hundreds of books every day, I consider myself pretty open to trying just about any genre that caught my attention. In fact, some of the best books I have ever read were ones I picked up on a complete and utter whim. For years, however, I’d avoided one genre in particular: horror. As Halloween approached this year, I decided it was time to face my fears and see what was out there.

Once I started poking around, I realized that the genre has a lot to offer and now is a particularly exciting time to be getting into horror as the genre is becoming more inclusive and welcoming to groups it previously mocked or relegated to victimhood. Whether you’re just starting out in this genre or you’re a die-hard fan who’s been devouring Stephen King under the full moon since childhood, I’ve got three recommendations that will scare your socks off.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

This novel has the power to send shivers down your spine in the middle of a crowded store in broad daylight. I would know; I literally could not put it down even to go to the grocery store. The repeating refrain, “I’m thinking of ending things,” loops through the head of the main character as she embarks on a road trip to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Haunted by menacing phone calls and increasingly doubting her own reality, she becomes less and less sure that she’ll ever return.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado brings horror to an entirely new level in this collection of nine eerie short stories that will haunt you long after you’ve put the book down. It’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for grown-ups. Machado combines the most unsettling elements of old campfire ghost stories with sharp wit, dark humor, and a centering of queer and feminist narratives in this absolute masterpiece collection.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

I’ve saved the best for last. Weaving a haunting tale of forbidden love and threatening curses through two storylines over a hundred years apart, Emily M. Danforth creates an atmospheric and eerie drama that centers queer characters and relationships.

In the 1902 storyline, Clara and Flo, students at an all-girls boarding school called Brookhants, have been found stung to death by yellow jackets in a thicket just off-campus. Another girl’s death, a memoir by Mary Maclane, and a string of unexplained “happenings” will eventually lead to the school’s closure.

In the 2019 storyline, a film crew endeavors to capture the full story of Brookhants in a horror film/mockumentary. When the crew—consisting of celebrity Harper Harper, child star Audrey Wells, and writer of the novel The Happenings of Brookhants upon which the film is loosely based Merritt Emmons—travels to the abandoned school, they have no idea what they will awaken within Brookhants and within themselves.

I hope you find yourself happily haunted by these novels. Happy Halloween!

old fashioned movie projector surrounded by mist

Four Scary Movies Based on Even Scarier Books

It’s that time of year again to carve pumpkins, hand out candy, and scare ourselves silly with tidings of the spooky season. I for one seek out as many scary movies as I can to embrace the Halloween spirit, but sometimes, there is nothing scarier than the source material. From demonic possession—the inspiration for the slasher genre—supernatural curses, and unseen monsters, there is something for every taste in horror with these frightening books. So when the silver screen just doesn’t cut it anymore, here are four books that are even more terrifying than the horror movies they inspired.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Widely regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made, the story of The Exorcist was first introduced to audiences by William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel. The story, inspired by the possession of a young boy in Cottage City, Maryland, details the story of eleven-year-old Regan MacNeil as two priests attempt to exorcise the demon possessing her. Published in 1971, the book has terrified readers for fifty years and inspired a film and television franchise that has spanned decades. Now, readers have the opportunity to delve not only into the original 1971 publication, but also the revised fortieth anniversary edition that still evokes the same level of terror as when it was first published, with slightly less pea soup.

Ring by Koji Suzuki. Kazuyuki Asakawa, a journalist struggling to find his next big break, stumbles across the biggest story of his life when chasing the story of his niece’s mysterious death. Following in her footsteps from her final week, Asakawa’s discoveries lead to more questions than answers; his niece and three of her friends passed away simultaneously, exactly one week after watching a mysterious, unmarked videotape. Asakawa tracks down the tape to watch it for himself, and he is brought face-to-face with a warning that promises the same fate as his niece and her friends. Unsettled and determined to find the truth, Asakawa uncovers the story of Sadako Yamamura and her vengeful, supernatural curse that haunts those who watch the tape. Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel offers a terrifying look into Sadako’s tragic life and the resulting curse that has since inspired several film adaptations worldwide in addition to a six-book series.

Psycho by Robert Bloch. When Robert Bloch’s seventh novel was released in 1959, it quickly began flying off the shelves, but not for the reason you might think. The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, intent on keeping the twist in his adaptation of the book a secret, bought up as many copies as he could. While this resulted in one of the most shocking reveals in cinematic history, it also meant that readers were not exposed to the equally suspenseful and shocking novel. Experience the novel that inspired one of Hitchcock’s greatest films as Bloch unfolds the tale of the Bates Motel and its unsettling manager, Norman.

The Mist by Stephen King. It wouldn’t be a list of scary books without including an entry by Stephen King. The original 1980 novella details the terror unleashed on a small Maine town when a fog bank filled with monsters traps residents in the local grocery store. As tensions rise, King weaves in terrifying images of unfathomable beasts that threaten to break into the glass-walled store. The 2002 movie adaptation offers one major change to King’s writing: the ending. While I won’t spoil either piece here, the movie received a rare stamp of approval from the original author and drastically changes the outlook offered in the source material. This is a quick read that sacrifices none of the terror portrayed in the other longer books on this list.

Happy reading this Halloween season!

bare branches of trees against gray sky

Finding Inspiration for your Gothic Novel in Portland and the Surrounding Area

Do you ever turn to face the sea along the craggy Oregon Coast as the waves churn, thick clouds hovering overhead as wind whips your hair around your face, and imagine you’re in a nineteenth-century gothic novel—or do you not dream of the dreary? If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the lookout for writing inspiration, and you love a good gothic tale. Despite what Merriam-Webster says about the genre, gothic literature is more than just eerie settings and violent incidents: it’s a state of mind, a feeling, an uneasy dread that stems from examining fear and its myriad origins. From the melancholic to the morbid, Portland and the surrounding area is rife with inspiration to get you in the gothic mood.

When I first moved to the Portland area a few years ago, I was affected at once by the dreary weather: the gray days of drizzle chilled me to the core—and I was delighted. My senses were heightened from the sight of dark skies and swaying branches, the sound of wind and rain, the smell of damp, fresh earth after a storm, so potent I could almost taste it, and the feel of it all on my skin. With these heightened senses came heightened emotions, and a heightened desire to write.

One of the first inspirational places I visited was Pittock Mansion. The sprawling, manicured grounds with fragrant flowers immediately recalled Manderley in its prime. As I descended the staircase, my footsteps echoing off the marbled floor, hand grazing the smooth wooden banister, I imagined how the new Mrs. de Winter (Rebecca) must have felt making her grand entrance to that ill-fated party, unaware that the sinister Mrs. Danvers awaited her humiliation with wicked glee at the top of the stairs. The furniture and décor of a bygone era reminds me of time passing, of my own mortality. Oh, and did I mention it is believed to be haunted? What images and characters might it conjure for you?

Not far from the mansion, off a walking trail in the woods, lies the remnants of a crumbling stone structure called the Witch’s Castle. Ruins are often present in gothic literature, at times representing the downfall of a once powerful person suffering a fate we’re fortunate enough to just be reading about in fiction. Imagine what misfortune might have befallen the former inhabitant of these ruins? What supernatural element will you include in your story? Imagine your character encountering it here for the first time. Alone. In the dark. Feel the rough stones, smell the peaty soil. Did you hear the snap of that twig? Is someone there?

I once walked the property of the Edgefield. The hotel, winery, and distillery was once a poor farm, housing the area’s impoverished from its construction in 1911 until it was abandoned in the 1980s. Many of the residents remain on the property—buried in unmarked graves, the thought of which was enough to make me shiver on an unusually warm day. The red brick façade with its creeping, climbing greenery could be the setting of any number of gothic tales. At times, it made me think of Thornfield Hall, the unhappy home of Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre). But on the inside, the darkness, the heavy wooden beams and walls, the allegedly haunted halls, were more reminiscent of a Poe tale. Make your way to the tasting room and ponder what stories they’d tell if those walls could talk (or what might be entombed within them). While a cask of Amontillado may not be on the menu, you might swirl, sniff, and sip a glass of Black Rabbit, a delicious red blend (not at all like Amontillado, but still bloody good) and let your imagination wander.

Finally, if the cliffs of the Oregon Coast remind you of those at Whitby, where Mina and Lucy first encounter the titular vampire in Dracula, you might also be inspired to visit the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, or any cemetery, and walk among the graves as they do, romanticizing the macabre in true gothic tradition. Let your senses go to work fueling your imagination. And while you’re at it, jot down some names you come across on the headstones, the earliest of which is dated 1846—your characters will thank you.

When you finish your gothic novel, or manuscript-length collection of short stories, submit them to Ooligan Press for consideration!

flower and spiral notebook with text

Can I Use That? Copyright and Fair Use

In the publishing world and beyond, copyright is important for protecting the rights of creators. The US Copyright Office summarizes a copyright as “a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.” A work is original if it is made by a human and has some level of creativity to it. This means you made something yourself. A work is fixed if it is in a form that is at least somewhat permanent, such as being written down, posted online, recorded, etc. A work does not need to be published nor registered with the US Copyright Office to be copyrighted. Even a handwritten journal full of poems or unreleased original songs on a computer would be protected by copyright in the US.

There are many instances in which it is practical and reasonable to use someone else’s work. A high school history teacher may want to share photographs of a major historical event to bring their lesson to life. A late night show may want to produce a satirical skit about a politician’s speech. A scientist may want to compile the findings of peers to supplement the publication of their latest research. You do not always need permission from or to pay the copyright owner in order to use their work. This is where fair use comes into play.

Fair use is the “legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.” In a nutshell, fair use allows you to use someone else’s work without getting their permission or paying them. While determining exactly what is or is not fair use can be tricky, Section 107 of the Copyright Act outlines the framework for deciding if the use of a copyrighted work is likely fair use. This framework is broken down into four parts.

Purpose and Character: Receiving money for use of someone else’s copyrighted work is not considered fair use. Your use is more likely to be considered fair use if it is for nonprofit educational purposes, but it is also important to consider if your use is transformative. According to the US Copyright Office, “transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.”

Nature of Copyright Work: At the core of copyright is the protection of creative works (think novels, paintings, etc.), so fair use is generally more difficult to apply to such creative works than to more fact based works (think research papers, news reports, etc.).

Amount and Substantiality: Generally, the more of a copyrighted work you use, the higher risk of your use not being fair use. There are always exceptions though, and you should take care to avoid using parts of a copyrighted work that reveals its core ideas. If your use is essentially the spoiler of the original work, then why would someone read/watch/view/etc. the original work? This leads to the last piece of the framework about potential effects on the market for the copyrighted work.

Market Effects: If your use “harms the existing or future market for the copyright owner’s original work,” then it is unlikely to be covered by fair use. Simply put, your use should avoid hurting the chance of people paying for the original. Creators should reap the monetary rewards of their work, and copyright is here to help protect that.

While at face value these four factors are straightforward, every use of a copyrighted work is a unique situation and you should carefully examine each one. Many universities offer fair use checklists to help people determine if their use of a copyrighted work is likely to be considered fair use. For example, Columbia University Libraries’s fair use checklist is available here.

When you want to use any part of a copyrighted work, make sure to do your due diligence from the beginning to assess if your use is fair use. This can help protect you from potential legal issues down the road and ultimately fosters respect for the rights of creators.