Sidney Sheldon RIP

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Sidney Sheldon once said, "Writing novels is the most fun I've ever had."

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say, "Reading a Sidney Sheldon novel was the most fun I've ever had."

Rest in peace.

Email problems

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I've been having significant email problems that can't seem to be corrected. If you emailed me at the joansells @ joanreeves.com addy, chances are I did not receive the email.

If you need to reach me, email me at joan @ joanreeves.com. Sorry for the inconvenience which has been just one of myriad problems since the weekend. So I'm taking my frustration out by shredding all of the old documents that I've cleaned out from the file cabinet and from past years' tax returns.

As I use the industrial grade shredder, I wonder that we haven't had a series of horror movies titled SHREDDER, followed by of course, Shredder II and Shredder III. Give Saw a run for the money.

Sling Words out.

No fee contest for unpublished writers

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Cynthia Sterling (Harlequin author Cindi Myers) maintains an email list where she publishes market news each week. It's easy to subscribe. Just send a blank email with Subscribe in the subject line to:

CynthiaSterling@yahoogroups.com

and you too can get the latest in writing news.

Today, she listed a writing contest that has no entry fee and a very nice prize. Check it out.

"Gather.com, in conjunction with Borders Books, is sponsoring a First Chapters writing contest. First prize is $5000 and a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster. Through Thursday March 15th, 2007, aspiring novelists will have the opportunity to submit their full-length commercial fiction manuscripts for
consideration. Over the course of the competition, the first three chapters
of entrants’ novels will be posted to the First Chapters Group for evaluation by the Gather community and Editorial team. The community and Gather Editorial team will select five finalists through three rounds of voting. One Grand Prize Winner will be chosen for publication by a special panel of judges. It's free to enter."

All the details are available at the First Chapters website. Sounds like a great opportunity.

Icy Texas

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Just got in from the airport. Had to pick my daughter up. She made it home after a week in Paris, but her suitcase must have liked the City of Light so much it decided to stay because it didn't arrive with her. Nothing like filling out lost luggage claim very late at night in a freezing cold airport.

Of course, I suspect it was that connecting flight out of Chicago's O'Hare that separated her luggage from her. We'll see tomorrow when the missing bag is supposed to show up.

In any event, it was the quickest trip I've ever made to the airport. All Houstonians were snugged in their warm homes since ice was forecasted for tonight and tomorrow. Ice on Houston's freeways is not a pretty sight since just about everyone still tries to drive 85 mph.

Didn't spot a single patch of ice on the roads. Good old TX DOT had sanded most of the overpasses in the late afternoon. By nine tonight, the 30 mph winds had blown every bit of it away.

Be interesting to see if the sleet arrives as scheduled.

Sling Words to bed.

24

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By now the season premiere of 24 aka Jack Bauer's Hellish Life is over. As usual, it was riveting, but what was with all the commercials? Normally, the premiere is shown commercial free or nearly so. This time, there seemed to be a commercial for every five minutes of narrative.

I guess since this is now an award-winning show with increased popularity, they can stick it to those who buy commercial time. Who suffers? The viewers. Will that make me stop watching and wait for Season 6 on DVD? Not a chance.

Deadline dinner

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I don't know about you, but I'm always struggling to get meals on the table even though I actually enjoy cooking. (Made this coconut layer cake yesterday for DH's birthday, and it was fabulous!!). Anyway, back to the dinner struggle. Whether you're on a deadline or just time challenged, there are lots of ways to get that food before the family.

Check out my friend Cheryl's blog Family Chow Hall. She has five kids and a hungry husband, and she's an expert at putting meals on the table. I don't know where she finds the time to cook and blog about her kitchen adventures too. She's got some great recipes that are perfect for writers who always have their minds on something other than cooking.

World Trade Center steel

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You may have already seen this. It landed in my email box last week. I don't know the original source unfortunately, but I thought it important enough to also pass it along.

There's a new warship called the USS New York. It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center and is the fifth in a new class of warship designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. The USS New York will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.

The scrap steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, Louisiana, and used to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept. 9, 2003, Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was on site, said: "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence. It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."

Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the "hair on my neck stood up. It had a big meaning for all of us. They knocked us down. They can't keep us down. We're going to be back."

The ship's motto is: "Never Forget."

The USS New York is one of several ships in the San Antonio class of amphibious transport dock ships and is designed to transport and land troops, supplies, and equipment such as amphibious vehicles and helicopters.

It's one of three similar ships that are being built and named in remembrance of The Attack on America. In addition to the USS New York, the USS Arlington will be named because of the location of the Pentagon, which was hit by American Airlines flight 77. The USS Somerset will be named after the county in Pennsylvania in which United flight 93 crashed after being taken over by hijackers.

Zombie computers

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I think we've all thought at one time or another that our computers are attacked by gremlins. How else do you explain the random glitches that occur? Gremlins, right?

Now I read in the morning paper that zombie computers are the latest threat to the Internet. I can just picture computers walking stiff-legged with outstretched arms trying to grab the unwary PC user.

Actually, it's not some scene from Night of the Living Dead that is worrying the tekkie experts. It's the latest computer assault weapon from the bad guys. A zombie computer is one in which a program has secretly installed itself in order to band together over the Internet with other secretly possessed computers to use their collective power to commit Internet crimes.

Sheesh. As if we don't have enough to worry about.

If these genius bad guys are so damn smart, why can't they figure out something that will benefit human kind and enrich themselves at the same time?

Enough already!

Writers and taxes

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I've tossed my glasses aside because my eyes are crossing after studying the numbers for 2006. Income vs. expenses. Yep. It's that time of year again when I have the opportunity to give the Internal Revenue Service my fair share of taxes to support this great country. All I can say is that it's a good thing they're not depending on me to keep the lights on in America.

There are lean years and fat years in a writer's career. Last year was, well, anorexic. Most people have no clue as to how a writer struggles to turn a profit each year. I wish I had made so much money that I'd be griping about having to shell out a chunk of it to Uncle Sam. That would be fabulous; some years are like that.

As I fill out my Schedule C, I'm reminded of what the French writer Jules Renard said: “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”

So the IRS may not consider me ridiculous, but I bet they have a big belly laugh at the cubicle where my tax return is studied. I can imagine they wonder why I spend so much time and effort on my writing. Perhaps I should attach a note quoting Leo Rosten: "The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it."

Sling Words looking forward to a fat year. A very, very fat year that will make Uncle Sam ecstatic. And my husband too.

Free books

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Joe Konrath is offering two free books on his blog A Newbie's Guid to Publishing. Go to his blog, scroll down and find a thumbnail of the cover for The List and Origin. You won't be sorry. Fabulous stories.

You probably know Joe and his blog. He offers common sense advice to those pursuing publication, and he doesn't pull any punches. He's a strong advocate of promoting one's book and one's name in a continuing effort to build his readership. Thus, his offering books for free is of course part of that effort.

Well, Joe. It worked. I'm hooked. I'm a new fan so I'm spreading the word.

I think it's very brave of Joe to offer two manuscripts which failed to get publishing contracts. Brave and generous because there's a lot to be learned from reading these two manuscripts. If you're a reader, don't worry about the rest of this blog. Just download the two books for a highly entertaining read.

If you're a writer, read on.

Let's talk about Origin. This was Joe's manuscript that got him his agent. When you read it, you're immediately drawn in. He does everything right to capture the reader's interest from sentence one. The story and his other free book The List are the kind of books Dean Koontz writes. They're imaginative, fast paced, and on the cutting edge of science and technology. Read Origin and you'll see why agents wanted to represent Joe.

But my favorite was The List. This was his second book I believe. You can see his growth as a writer, but what I found so shocking was that it did NOT get published. This book would have been called a "stunning debut" by critics because it's got it all - out there premise, good characterization and appealing characters, fast paced, some buddy cop humor. Wow. I started reading about eleven at night and couldn't put it down.

The next day when I walked around bleary-eyed for lack of sleep I kept wondering how such a fantastic book couldn't get published. Not just published but made into a major motion picture starring Nicholas Cage because an aspect of the book reminded me of National Treasure.

I spent a good deal of time thinking about the situation and these are the lessons I learned:

1. Good books sometimes don't get published. Go figure. Sometimes s*** happens.

2. Don't waste time revising and resubmitting ad infinitum. Accept and move on down the road. Write something else. Then when you do get published, do like Joe and offer your great stories as free Ebooks to attract readers to your work who will then rush out and buy your published books.

3. Don't agonize and beat yourself up about why you couldn't get published. Take action and write something else. Analyze the fabulous multi-rejected books and see if there is something that can be used in the next book. Joe did this. In The List, the hero's boss is Lt. Daniels who became his lead character in his next book which started a series.

4. Try to understand the vagaries of the publishing world and don't shoot yourself in the foot when trying to get published the very first time. Joe's first two books were mixed genre which, for an unpublished writer, is a very very hard sell. Dean Koontz created this kind of book, drawing from horror, mystery, suspense, and romance. Guess what? Publishers don't like to publish a first time author in a mixed genre. Why? The author is unknown so where are you going to shelve that book so that readers can discover him? In horror? Or mystery? Or romance? There is no Mixed Genre section at your local bookstore. Joe's "Jack" Daniels books aren't mixed genre.

As you can see, the bottom line is: WRITE ANOTHER BOOK. If it doesn't sell? WRITE ANOTHER.

Writers write. Wannabe writers too often whine and moan. This is a waste of energy if it goes beyond an hour's conversation with a friend and some dark chocolate and Chivas on the rocks.

Sling Words out to WRITE ANOTHER BOOK.

New Year

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Okay, the New Year is here. Get over it! My last words on the subject. Here's a few quotations about New Year's and resolutions. I like these for the humor factor.

Mark Twain: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

James Agate: New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.

Oscar Wilde: Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

Jay Leno: Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you've met your New Year's resolution.

Thanks, Jay. I'll cross that off my list!

Sling Words out.

Resolutions

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Do you make resolutions each new year? I do. Well, actually, I just seem to carry over the resolutions from year to year which of course means I'm not achieving those I made a few years ago.

So this year I'm trying something different. I'm chucking the goal-oriented approach and simply resolving to live with less stress and more fun. That doesn't mean I'll be sitting around munching on foods I've banned from my life (dut to their propensity to settle on my thighs) and developing a daytime television habit. (I'd probably have to undergo a lobotomy to find daytime programming of sufficient interest to gaze at it hours on end.)

I've always been a high gear person in a low gear world. I think it's time I relaxed a little and do my best to find balance in my life this year.

Happy new year 2007

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Wishing you:

a day of rest after all the holidays
good weather after all the rain and snow
a day of peace after all the holiday company
a quiet moment alone to muse about the new year
and the very best that life has to offer in 2007.

Happy New Year!