Review: The Battered Bastards of Baseball

If you've read SlingWords for a while, you've probably heard me mention my love of baseball. I was delighted to find The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a documentary about Bing Russell and his Portland Mavericks, on Netflix as a new release.

This true story documents the history of the Portland Mavericks, an independent professional baseball team started by actor Bing Russell. This underdog team was organized at a time when there were no independent baseball clubs left in America.

Backstory

The Portland Beavers, a minor league team formed in 1903 during the first year of the PCL, that's the Pacific Coast League. Attendance had declined steeply until only a few Beavers fans came to the games. The Bevos powers that be decided to move the team to Seattle.

The Beavers owners saw no chance for a return on their investment. Bing Russell saw opportunity. He started an independent ball club, not affiliated with any of the major league baseball clubs. He often said that he kept an unheard-of 30-man roster because he thought some players deserved to have one last season.

Ball Club Personnel

Bing Russell was a popular actor in Hollywood. He played the longtime sheriff on the TV series Bonanza. If you look at his resume, you'll think, as I did, that he was on every popular TV show from the 1950's to the new millennium.

Manager Hank Robinson was also a successful character actor. Wikipedia says that team members "Robbie Robinson[disambiguation needed], Jason Tatar, and Ken Medlock all have enjoyed long careers as actors as well."

Then there's the Mavericks bat boy Todd Field who had a long career as an actor before becoming a three-time Academy Award-nominated writer and director.

Bing's son Kurt played for the Mavericks in their inaugural season and again briefly in 1977, their last year.

Bing Lived His Motto

I think it's no accident that he brought fun back to baseball--fun back to the fans and the city of Portland--because his motto in life was: Fun.

While the Mavericks existed, they broke attendance records. Their club boasted pitcher Jim Bouton, a former Yankee who was blacklisted after writing a tell-all book. They had a left-handed catcher, the first female general manager of a baseball club, and other players who were given a new lease on their baseball lives by Bing Russell.

My Opinion

Underdog stories are always inspiring. This one is doubly so because Bing put his own energy and resources into building a ball club simply because he loved baseball. When the PCL tried to muscle in and take back the ball club territory, he fought for his beloved Mavericks and for Portland. Though knowing he was going to be forced to relinquish his ball club, he refused to lie down like a doormat and cave to their mediocre offer.

This is a Netflix original so you probably won't find it anywhere else for a while.

Inspiring and uplifting, it will leave you with a smile--just like the Mavericks left the Portland fans after each game.

Takeaway Truth

This is a wonderful baseball documentary. Don't miss it.

Blog Ops: 9 Blog Elements to Kill

eBook Available August 15, 2014
With over 150 million blogs out there, how can you attract visitors to yours? Once they find your blog, how can you make sure they come back to visit, or, better yet, click to Follow your blog or subscribe by email?

Here are answers to those questions, starting with easily-fixed visual design tips and ending with some crucial technical design tips.

1. Kill the written manuscript formatting.

Format your content for the Internet, not for the written page. Your content needs to be formatted to be read on a computer monitor or mobile device.

Many bloggers make the mistake of writing blog posts the same as they would a written paper. There is a specific way to write for the Internet. I've discussed this before, and I'll re-print that post in the future.

Briefly, you have:
  • a keyword rich post or article title
  • sub-headings
  • shorter paragraphs
  • shorter sentences
  • hot linked references for the reader's convenience in learning more about topics mentioned
  • numbers like 1000 instead of writing out one thousand, as you would in a manuscript
  • shorter posts, not long multiple thousand word posts. If something is over 1,000 words, then break it into a series.
This post, including subheadings, is 952 words.

2. Kill the overuse of fonts.

Use only 2, maybe 3, fonts. This is another complaint in surveys. Choose a headline font, a title font, and then a post font. For subheadings, use the post font in bold if you wish.

3. Kill the music!

I can't emphasize this strongly enough. It's one of the biggest complaints by internet users: websites that have music that starts when the site opens. This has been on the top 10 complain list for more than a decade I think, but some website publishers don't seem to know it.

4. Kill the black background and light-colored font.

Again, this is something always mentioned in surveys. Readers hate this! It's hard on the eyes, and anything that's annoying or uncomfortable to read gets rejected. The visitor just moves on, no matter how wonderful your content.

5. Kill outdated content.

If you take the time to write original content, make it something that will be perpetually valuable. Like ebooks, blog posts and other content is forever--or until you remove it. Be sure that the content always offers value to readers who may stumble upon it months or even years after you published it. One way is to really think about what you post and make sure it will give that value on down the road.

The other way is set up a system to go back and check old posts and see if the links still work and to update them if possible. If nothing else, perhaps post a disclaimer saying the content is out of date and to visit the current year's posts for more information.

6. Kill the text-only post.

Judiciously, use graphic images to illustrate your post. Make them appropriate to the content and optimize the size. (See below about website bloat.)

7. Kill the obnoxious, intrusive ads.

If you have ads, make sure they're not obnoxious. OMG but I hate popups, rollovers, and the like, and so does everyone else. Key any ads to your editorial content and the website style.

8. Kill the website bloat.

Speed is everything when it comes to websites. The faster; the better when it comes to the time it takes for a website to open. Make sure your website loads fast because most website visitors are not patient. Surveys show that if a page doesn't open in less than 5 seconds, the visitor moves on.

This is especially true if the website visitor is using a mobile device because those are lower-bandwidth devices than computers. Bloated websites with big honking banner images and tons of images in a single post can take forever to load on a mobile device.

Make sure images are optimized for all monitor resolutions. You may have a high resolution widescreen monitor that beautifully displays the huge graphic you have as your banner image, but others may not. Always think of the average computer or mobile device user who may be trying to access your website. Blogger automatically adjusts for mobile devices, but some websites may not.

When you use a graphic to illustrate a post, opt for a smaller image than a huge image. Images can always be "magnified" simply by the reader clicking the image.

There's also software to help you accomplish this. One such app is Adaptive Images. Read how it works to see if you want to add a tiny bit of Java Script to your HTML website file to have it automatically detect the user's device resolution and resize your images for it. (I suspect this is what Blogger does in their HTML code they offer.)

Remove any page elements or plugins that aren't necessary. All those things add to the time required for your website to load.

9. Kill clumsy navigation.

A visitor should be able to easily find his or her way around your website.  You should always have:
  • a contact page
  • an archive of past posts
  • an about me page and/or a page that explains your editorial policy
  • a page that explains your ad policy if you accept advertising
  • a search box so a visitor can search your website for keywords of their choice
  • and links to the other pages that actually work.
Since I'm getting ready to publish Blog Ops: Search & Destroy Bad Blog Elements; Rescue Hostage Blogs, my third nonfiction for amateur and pro writers, I'll be giving blog tips each week until publication.

Takeaway Truth

A good blog is a well-designed blog. Take steps to make yours well-designed, and you'll reap the reward with increased readers.

Best Sellers Speak

Best sellers speak. What the heck does that title mean?

A reader could infer several things from this title.

* I'm a best seller, and I have something to say today.

* Books that are best sellers speak to readers.

* Authors who write best sellers said something that I'm going to quote today.

The Truth Is....

The title means all those things.

Yes, I am a Kindle Bestselling Author

I reached that status in 2011 with my first indie published ebook, Just One Look, and my other romance novels that followed.

Yesterday, I learned that Weddings on Main Street, the box set to which I contributed April Fool Bride, had a lovely orange #1 Best Seller banner next to it. Whoop!

Becoming a Best Seller is always exciting.

Yes, Best Seller Books Speak to Readers

These books have a certain something that readers embrace. They tell their friends about the books, and the books seem to fly off the shelves.

Yes, I'm Going to Quote Best Selling Authors

Authors a lot more popular and well-spoken than I have said some wise and witty things about best sellers--some are frankly hysterical. Here are a half dozen of my favorite quotations about best selling books and/or the authors who write them for your Sunday entertainment.

You don't need to be able to string a sentence together in a way that is elegant or even vaguely meaningful to produce a bestseller -- as Dan Brown has demonstrated time and again. ~ Anthony Horowitz

Writers have it easy. If you write a bestseller or have your book made into a movie, you'll never have to work again, or so the myth goes. ~ Sara Sheridan

Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. ~ Flannery O'Connor

I've had all six of my books reach the New York Times bestseller list, which is especially rewarding seeing as I flunked out of high school twice because I couldn't write. It just goes to show you that we learn from our mistakes. ~ Robert Kiyosaki

I had a history for starting something and maybe getting halfway done. Then I'd see the same thing I was doing on the bestseller list! My ideas were right, but I hadn't done them fast enough. ~ Lori Greiner

If you write chick lit, and if you're a New Yorker, and if your book becomes the topic of pop-culture fascination, the paper might make dismissive and ignorant mention of your book. If you write romance, forget about it. You'll be lucky if they spell your name right on the bestseller list. ~ Jennifer Weiner

Takeaway Truth

Show me an author who says they don't want to be on the NYT Best Sellers list, and I'll show you a writer who plays fast and loose with the truth. We all want that!

Take a Walk: Lose Weight; Gain Creativity

Feeling creatively empty? Take a walk!

That's right. New research recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, memory and Cognition concluded that people generate more creative ideas when they're walking than when they're sitting.

Ah, yes. All those long hours sitting at the computer trying to pull words from one's brain might be cut short by taking walking breaks.

Marily Oppezzo, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University and lead author for the study, actually was inspired to undertake the study while--what else--but walking around her campus with her thesis advisor. Read more about it here.

The study showed that walking boosts creative brainstorming, and that increased creativity continues when one returns to the chair. However, walking didn't have the same positive effect on focused thinking, the type of cognition required to provide specific correct answers to a problem or situation.

Takeaway Truth

I've always gotten my best ideas during my morning walk. I'd even noted that when I was stuck in a scene, I could leave the keyboard to do a few minutes of physical housework--the bane of my existence--and I'd suddenly realize what I needed to make the scene work. Next time you're stumped, take a walk.

Netflix Review: The Numbers Station

I haven't been doing much writing lately since I'm limited to the time I can spend on the computer thanks to the pinched nerve in my right shoulder. Instead, I've been watching way too much Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming.

I really love that Amazon Prime offers so much more than just free shipping--which I take advantage of every chance I get. Here's a link if you'd like to Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies & TV Shows Anytime - Start Free Trial Now.

Currently, Amazon Prime Streaming has much better programming than their competitors. If you haven't tried Orphan Black yet, do yourself a favor and watch it. It's simply stunning. Also watch Sherlock. the BBC production. As for me, I'm working my way through the entire 10 seasons of SyFy's Stargate SG1 series. I'm up to Season 6 so far.

Sample Movies

On Netflix, I've got where I "sample" movies much as one samples a preview of a book on Kindle. Five minutes of watching a movie that sounds interesting is usually enough to tell whether your time would be well spent watching the whole thing.

Either I've watched everything worth watching on Netflix, or their programming just isn't up to par. They have an awful lot of obscure indie films, super low budget flicks that look as if they were filmed in someone's garage, and a massive amount of K-Pop, Japanese mange, etc. (If you don't know, K-Pop is Korean movies etc.)

When I actually find something like The Numbers Station on Netflix, it's worth a review. (The Amazon link for video streaming or DVD, etc. is for those who might want to see it, but don't have a Netflix account.)

What Is A Numbers Station

A numbers station is a type of shortwave radio station characterized by unusual broadcasts that read out lists of numbers or other incomprehensible morse code messages. The voices are often created by speech synthesis and transmitted in a wide variety of languages, but the voices are predominantly female.

The numbers stations first appeared shortly after World War II and were imitating a format that had been used to send weather data during that war. It is widely assumed that these broadcasts transmit covert messages to spies, but this is not officially acknowledged by any government.

Blurbing The Numbers Station

The Numbers Station, a 2013 British-American action thriller, stars John Cusack as Emerson Kent, a burned-out CIA black ops agent--a former wet works specialist--assigned to protect Katherine, played by Malin Ã…kerman, the code operator at a secret American numbers station located in the British countryside.

Liam Cunningham portrays the menacing Michael Grey, Emerson's cold-hearted, conscienceless boss.

My Opinion

The reviews were ho-hum for this film, but I found it quite intriguing with solid performances all around. It's a "thinking" film that one must pay attention to in order to catch the subtle clues as to what's happening and why. I find films like this don't do well in the mainstream. No big explosions, special effects, or over-the-top heroics. Just a man haunted by his past who doesn't know he's seeking redemption until he's faced with an opportunity that offers exactly that.

A lot of Mr. Cusack's films are like this. Subtle, intelligent, and respectful of the audience to connect the dots. I think the hitman topic is one that fascinates Mr. Cusack. His first entry into this genre was the droll and sly Grosse Pointe Blank, one of my favorite films. The Numbers Stations is much darker but just as excellent in its own way.

Takeaway Truth

An evening's movie entertainment is just a click away with video streaming.

Thursday3Some: Confederado do Norte by Linda Bennett Pennell

I'm enjoying my morning cup of java with southern author Linda Pennell.

Meet Linda Bennett Pennell

Linda has been in love with the past for as long as she can remember. A native of Georgia, Linda finds writing about the people and places of the South is a little like writing about a part of herself. She says: "Southerners value a good storyteller, and it is my goal to follow in that tradition."

(Since I too am a Southerner, I understand exactly what Linda means and agree with her about the tradition of storytelling.

My earliest memories are listening to my grandfather tell stories as we sat on the porch after supper.)


Find Linda Online

Website: http://www.lindapennell.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linda.bennettpennell.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaPennell

About Confederado do Norte by Linda Bennett Pennell

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell, a child torn from her war-devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

When did you write Confederado do Norte?

My title evolved during the research phase before one word of the novel was written. I wanted to use the word Confederado, but I needed to distinguish my novel from the handful of academic monographs on the subject. Confederado do Norte translates as Confederate from the North. Since our neighbors in Central and South America have historically referred to the United States as the Colossus of the North, Confederado do Norte seemed right to describe my main character.

What was the spark that gave you the story idea?

I knew from my college studies that some Southerners immigrated after the Confederacy's defeat, but little else. As the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War drew near, an article about Brazil's Confederados and their descendants appeared in a magazine to which I subscribe. I learned that one can still see Confederate gray uniforms, antebellum ball gowns, and the Stars and Bars on display during festivals hosted by persons with Anglo surnames. That tidbit led to research that gave a fuller understanding of the people who chose immigration rather than live with Reconstruction. While I do not agree with their choices before or after the Civil War, I found their story fascinating.

Why do readers buy Confederado do Norte?

My readers are drawn to historical fiction, suspense, and of course, romantic elements. If you like your historical fiction flavored with suspense and spiced with a touch of romance, you've come to the right place!

Buy Link for Confederado do Norte by Linda Bennett Pennell

Amazon Kindle Edition of Confederado do Norte

Takeaway Truth

A little vacation can always be found between the covers of a book. Buy a book today for a getaway from the mundane.

Meet Kelly Rae

Please welcome Kelly Rae, one of my Authors of Main Street friends.

About Kelly Rae

Kelly Rae writes Contemporary Romance novels that she hopes will touch people and make them want to fall in love for the first time or all over again. She is currently working on a series, the Wedding Novella Series, with a novella out each month this summer. The first of which is titled, Once Upon a Wedding, and is available as part of the Weddings on Main Street Anthology. As of July 1st, it's also available as a single novella.

Find Kelly Rae Online

Website: www.kellyraebooks.com
Twitter: @KellyRaeBooks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KellyRaeBooks

1. In which genre do you write and why that particular genre?

My current releases are all Contemporary Romances, with heat levels from sweet to warm. I started with this genre, because it was one of my favorites to read, so it seemed a natural beginning. In the future I have plans to write Romantic Comedy's and I have at least one Romantic Mystery Series - rolling around in my head.

2. What's your most recent book and what's it about?

My most recent book, is the 2nd novella, in my One Day at a Wedding Series. Every Other Wedding is the followup to Once Upon a Wedding, which debuted a budding relationship between Cassie Anderson and Dan Simmons. Every Other Wedding tells their story from Dan's POV; how they met, what kept them apart in the beginning, and where they are headed now.

3. As an author, what can readers expect when they read one of your books?

I like to add a sense of humor to all of my characters, even the more serious characters will have at least one moment in the story that will make you laugh - now it might be at them, but only when appropriate to the character! I cannot imagine going through life without laughing, it makes the good times better and saves the soul in the bad times!

4. How did you "become" an author? For instance, was there a moment when you said: "I think I'll write a book."

When I was 12, I wrote my first story and won an award in my school district. This was beginning of my addiction to stories. I was always a voracious reader and one day in my teens I thought "Why not? Why couldn't I write a book?" So, I did. Then I got married, had a baby, and ten years passed before I did anything with that first book. Now, it's all I want to do!

5. What's the best thing about being an author?

Getting all of the stories that are rolling around in my head out, so I have room to think and remember where I left my keys.

6. What's the worst thing about being an author?

I think the worst thing is that being a writer is that you really on write about 50% of the time, the rest of the time is spent doing the business side of it all. I much prefer writing to the business side.

7. Do you have editions of your books available other than ebook editions?

Yes, What If... , my debut novel is available in paperback at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

8. Do you listen to audio books? If so, what device do you use?

I think I am a rarity these days, because I don't listen to audio books. I have a tendency to miss chunks of the story when I listen to an audio version. My brain checks out and suddenly I am plotting a scene or another book of my own, rather than listening to the audio book.

9. What device do you use to read ebooks?

I have, and use, both a Kindle and a Nook, with no real preference to either. I still prefer holding an actual book in my hands to read, but it sure is easier to travel with an ereader. I bought my first Nook, when I was headed to Ireland for 13 days. I could have read several books just on the flight there and back, so it was definitely easier to have an ereader than a suitcase full of books.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write, write, then write some more and work on a tough skin. It's not every job where everyone around has the ability to critique your work on a daily basis. You have to be able to handle the criticism in a way that won't impede your writing. Oh, and don't quit your day job on the first book. :) It also helps to find author blogs that you enjoy and check them often for tips, updates on the publishing world and how to's.

11. If you could tell readers one thing, what would it be?

I think I would ask them to spread the word when they read a great book, to review that book online or share the title and author with a friend. A book takes a lot of time and effort, on the part of the author, and just saying something nice in a review not only has a chance to make their day (for those that read all of their reviews), but it can also help their sales. Reviews are the lifeblood of authors.

12. What is your big dream (or goal) as a writer?

I would love to make the NY Times Best Seller list, that would be monumental. The ultimate goal is to be able to make a career out of writing, to be able to sustain my life, and that of my son, with my words and stories.

Buy Weddings on Main Street.

Takeaway Truth

Summertime is reading time. At such low prices, you can buy several every weekend.