Not Going To Frisco: Day 4

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Welcome to Writing Biz Reality.

CONQUERING THE BLANK PAGE


How can you write when you don't know what comes next? When you're staring at a blank page or today's equivalent, the blank monitor screen.

Sometimes even when we writers have notes or an outline or some kind of roadmap, we sit down at the computer, lift our hands to the keyboard, and nothing happens. We're blank. Our mind is as clean as a wiped slate.

What do you do then?

You write anyway. Just start writing even if it's something inane and dull. Start writing sentence after sentence, describing what should be happening or the character or why you think your brain is blank. Something miraculous will happen. You'll fill the page with words that probably are germane to what you're writing.

You know what you do with that page of bad writing? You put it in the stack because you can fix a page of bad writing, even really bad writing. But you can't fix a blank page.

Nora Roberts is often quoted as saying that very same thing. I doubt if she was the first to state that insight. I bet every working writer who has earned a living has said or thought the same thing because it's a universal truth about writing.

Rough draft can be edited into finished draft. No matter how awful and pedestrian it may be. Blank pages cannot be edited into anything.

Takeaway Truth

Get the words down. Give yourself permission to write dreck if that's all you can manage. Then refine gold from that dross.

Not Going To Frisco: Day 3

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Welcome to Writing Biz Reality.

GOT DEDICATION?

Do you really have to write every day in order to be successful? Aren't there times when it's okay not to write? When the world around you is falling apart? Sure, there are times when you just can't make yourself write, nor should you.

Grief afflicts my creative process. In a short space of time a few years ago, we lost loved ones. Attending one funeral after another isn't conducive to creating fiction that's anything more than an outlet for your personal suffering. I didn't write for a long time.

What I'm saying is don't allow yourself to be easily seduced from your stated goals. Writing a book is like dieting without commitment. If you want to lose 30 pounds but you indulge in dessert every time a delectable sweet crosses your path, will you get to your goal weight?

The same holds true for writing a book. If you know you need to write 4 pages every day to have a completed manuscript in 3 months, how many pages will you write if you get pulled into the living room for TV every night? Not very many.

Takeaway Truth

Most worthwhile goals in life require sacrifice. What will you sacrifice to make time to write every day or every evening? If you can't think of anything to give up in order to have time to write, then the plain truth is that you're not really dedicated to achieving your stated goal.

Not Going To Frisco: Day 2

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Welcome to Writing Biz Reality

MYTH OF THE MUSE

A lot of beginning writers want to write books. So they tell me and others who will listen. I have a friend who wants to get paid for freelance writing, but she hasn't actually tried to do so. In fact, she hasn't written any spec articles to place in a portfolio of samples. Just like some wannabe novelists I know who haven't sat down and consistently produced pages of writing. They write when the "muse" inspires them.

Fantasy vs. Reality

These writers have an idealistic view of writing as a career. Why? Because they think you only write when you're inspired. Ask any writer - freelance or novelist - who has signed a contract if that's how they work. They'll tell you - as soon as they finish laughing - that the business doesn't work that way. If you're under contract, you don't wait for the Muse to pay you a visit. You write whether you're inspired or not.

Got a deadline and got the flu? You write. You're depressed and weepy? You write. Don't know what this scene or even this chapter is about? You still write.

Do you get the idea? Writing demands the same kind of dedication as careers in teaching or accounting or any other job. If you're a teacher and you're tired and sleepy, you don't sleep in. You go to school and teach.

If you're an accountant and you're tired of the same old grind, day in and day out, you don't skip work and go to the ball game or a spa. You go to the office at your appointed time.

Writers, if you want to be successful, adopt the work ethic of your peers out in the job force. You may be one of those who punches in and out at the same time every day. Put your butt in the computer chair at the appointed time and write.

Takeaway Truth

You have to be disciplined, and you must learn to create on a consistent schedule. But you're lucky in that you decide exactly when you must place your butt in the chair and how long you must keep it there.

Not Going To Frisco: Day 1

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Welcome to Writing Biz Reality.

IMPORTANCE OF PREPARATION

Do you have the confidence to write the book that's been teasing your consciousness? To secure an agent to represent your work? Or perhaps in a different writing arena to apply for a professional blogging job? To write ad copy?

The Big Picture

Let's look at the big picture. Do you have confidence in your ability to have a successful writing career?

Arthur Ashe, as great a human being as he was a tennis champion, once said: "One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation."

How much confidence would Vince Young or the Manning brothers have in their ability to win if they sat around drinking beer and watching TV instead of attending football training camp?

Athletes know the value of preparation. That's why Tiger Woods hits a few hundred golf balls each day, lifts weights, and runs a few miles. That's why Venus and Serena slam tennis balls around every single day. Look at any professional athlete and see how they prepare to compete.

Let's break down what Arthur Ashe said. To be successful, you must have self-confidence. To be self-confident, you must prepare.

Pseudo Math Formula

If it were a mathematical formula, one might write:

Preparation = Self-confidence

Self-confidence = Success

Therefore, preparation = success.

Now, ask yourself, what have I done to prepare? You can apply this to any endeavor, not just writing. Substitute the words or phrases that speak to what you are trying to achieve in asking yourself these questions.

Have you prepared by learning your craft? Have you mastered grammar? The narrative elements necessary to tell a story? Have you learned how to write a synopsis? A query letter? Have you studied the body of work in existence from past and contemporary writers?

Have you practiced your craft on a consistent basis to develop a good work ethic? Have you completed at least one manuscript? Have you written enough to know how long it takes you to write a manuscript?

Have you studied the business end of your chosen career? Do you understand contracts so when you're offered one you'll have a working knowledge of what the clauses mean? Have you obtained agent representation? Have you joined professional organizations to educate yourself about your chosen career and also to take advantage of benefits they offer?

Takeaway Truth

Preparation is a step by step process of building a foundation of belief in your ability to achieve. That foundation is called self-confidence. In the end self-confidence makes you believe in the inevitability of success. Your success.

Not Going To Frisco Workshop

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The annual Romance Writers of America convenes in San Francisco on July 28. A couple of thousand romance writers will be unchained from their computers for a week of networking, workshopping, and industry hobnobbing until August 1 when they'll all be rounded up and sent home.

I'm not going. I make a conference about once every ten years, and this isn't the year for me. I'm not alone. With RWA having a membership over 10,000, there are more of us not going than going. In fact, there are so many of us who don't attend that we've got where we try to offer something to the stay-at-homers. That way, none of us feel deprived.

Here's a rundown of a few sites to visit while you luxuriate at home in your sneakers instead of forcing your feet into rarely-worn high heels and trekking down a mile of corridor to a banquet room.

The annual NGTCC (Not Going To Conference Conference). This one is free, but you must register with Romance Divas in order to participate. They'll have other authors, agents, and editors as guests.

Paperback Writer is hosting her 3rd annual Left Behind & Loving It Conference with daily workshops.

Erotica author Sasha White will be presenting Voice: The Magic Behind the Words on her blog.

Karen Duvall will be offering Writing Effective Description.

You can check any of these sites for links to other sites offering special workshops.

As for me, I'm offering a workshop Not Going To Frisco: Writing Biz Reality. The Logo for my workshop depicts the best thing about staying at home: no high heels required. Hope you'll drop by each day.

Takeaway Truth

You don't have to spend $2000.00-3,000.00 to enjoy a conference, hobnob with writing pros, and have fun - all in comfortable, luxurious surroundings that allow you to sleep in the best bed in the world. Your own.

Storytelling Truth: Part 2

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Begin a book with change, and you create a book with forward motion that pulls the reader along.

The best opening sentences show or imply change because change affects a character immediately and the change has downstream effects on the character's life.

If you're overweight all your life until you diet and exercise your way to a great body, then that's a change that's good. But what if your self-concept doesn't change fast enough? You still see yourself as overweight. Are you happy now? Probably not because inside you don't see the change. Change can have unexpected and surprising effects on a person or character if we're talking about writing, which we are.

Here are some more samples of opening sentences from the original blog that started all my ruminations along with my analysis of why they work.

With the woman on his mind and a deep uneasiness in his heart, Spencer Grant drove through the glistening night, searching for the red door. (Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz) He's driving (on a journey - journeys involve change); a woman on his mind (obviously not connected to the woman already or she'd have been named; uneasiness in his heart (strange woman and uneasiness = change coming); searching for the red door (Why? What happens when he finds it? Change of some kind is coming.

With change implied in every element of this sentence, I have to tell you the sentence itself is evocative because of his word choice i.e. glistening night, red door, and the active voice. Koontz didn't say Grant was driving. He said, Grant drove, searching. Koontz didn't say Grant was thinking about the woman, and he felt uneasy. Look at every part of the sentence and see how the individual elements combine to create a powerful opening sentence.


It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
(The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath) If she didn't know why she was there, then there's definitely going to be some change coming down the pike as she discovers her reasons. Implies internal conflict. States external change: execution of the Rosenbergs was the first time the United States had done that in contemporary times. Queer, sultry summer - that implies change because she wouldn't have used the adjective queer if the summer were just ordinary.

Death drove a green Lexus. (Dean Koontz)Again, Koontz opens with change. What is Death, but the greatest change anyone will ever experience? True, he doesn't mean it literally, but the sentence pulls you in because you have to find out what he means by Death driving a Lexus. Short, succinct, and powerful.

I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte) You know that neighbor is going to be a problem, and that means change to her environment.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
(A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens) Best of times brings change as does the worst. That aside, this is one of the most melodic and evocative sentences in literature because it instantly makes us reflect on our own best and worst, if only subconsciously. It's like a New Year's Eve lament.

Takeaway Truth

Sure, there are opening sentences that catch the attention without being about change, but when you read a sentence that makes you stop, backup and read it again, chances are pretty good it's because the sentence is about change - either implied and picked up by that part of our brain that is receptive to the human shared subconscious or it's blatant.

Storytelling Truth: Part 1

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When I blogged about great opening sentences, I promised to tell you why I think they work. However, I wrote so much about the subject that I decided to break it into two parts.

Part 1

A story begins with change. You've heard that. Why does it begin with change? Because change has a downstream affect on a person.

You have a great job one day; the next you're fired. This change is perceived as negative. It may change everything including the way you look at yourself. One day you're successful and well-paid. Let the change of unemployment exist for a while, and your self-concept may start to change. Or, one day you seem to be successful. The change of unemployment can force you to confront your true self because perhaps you never saw yourself as successful. What happens when you face the truth? Maybe you felt as if you were a poser - fooling everyone. Change will force you to either admit you were a fake, and you become a loser. Or maybe you change and become the person everyone else already thought you were.

Change can have unexpected and surprising effects on a person or character if we're talking about writing, which we are.

Humans Resist Change

It seems inherently human to resist change. Psychologists say that change of any kind is threatening to the self-concept, and the self-concept is what you will cling to, fight for, and resist changing, regardless of whether change is good or bad. That's why so many therapists now use cognitive therapy - bringing your conscious mind into the battle to change your thinking.

Change means we are no longer in harmony with ourselves and the world around us. Change means we must change, sometimes externally, but external changes create internal changes. However, subconsciously we will struggle to maintain the status quo because of the built-in need to protect our self-concept.

Here's one of the hook sentences I used in the blog about great opening sentences along with my analysis of why they're so good.

There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever.
(One for the Money by Janet Evanovich) This is good because it's funny and insightful. It also implies change because something has happened involving this man or why else would she be talking about it? The reader immediately has an expectation of change involving this man, and the reader expects that change to be funny (because of the tone of the sentence) and negative (because of the foreshadowing of screwing up her life forever).

Have you ever tried to change a habit? Was it easy? What kind of external changes have occurred in your life? Did they cause internal changes in how you thought or how you viewed someone or a situation? How did you feel about that? Do you see how those feelings can be mined to create characters that grip the imagination?

Tune In Tomorrow: Part 2

Hook Readers With Opening Sentence

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What makes a story capture a reader? Many people say they read the first sentence and that was that. They hurried to the checkout counter to purchase the book.

First sentences are all important regardless of whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, short or long. Many readers and authors have favorite first lines. I know I do - those sentences that sing with inner music, sentences that intrigue, sentences that piqued my curiosity.

Baker's Dozen

Here are some of my favorites. Some of these opening lines are from classics; some from contemporary work.

There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever. (One for the Money by Janet Evanovich)

It is customary for those who wish to gain the favour of a prince to endeavour to do so by offering him gifts of those things which they hold most precious, or in which they know him to take especial delight. (The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, Letter from Machiavelli to Lorenzo the Magnificent, son of Piero di Medici. After spending several hours in the Medici Palace in Firenze last summer, this really resonates with me.)

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote)

Last night I dreamt I went to Mandeley again. (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

With the woman on his mind and a deep uneasiness in his heart, Spencer Grant drove through the glistening night, searching for the red door. (Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz)

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)

I never knew her in life. (The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy)

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. (Cannery Row by John Steinbeck)

Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. (Carrie by Stephen King)

Death drove a green Lexus. (Dean Koontz)

I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

It was my devil's own temper that brought me to grief, my temper and a skill with weapons born of my father's teaching. (Sackett's Land by Louis L'Amour)

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

Tune in Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I'll take some of these and tell you why I think they work. In the meantime, why do you think they work? Do you have a favorite hook sentence of your own or someone else's?

Freelance Writer Beware

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There's a new freelance writing site I visited yesterday. The name and URL are withheld because they've already done enough to embarrass themselves without my heaping more on their clueless heads.

Their goal is admirable: share more of the wealth of writing contracts with the writers themselves. I did take issue with their stance which basically says that good writing shouldn't cost big bucks when smaller bucks will do. Of course, they must have writers sign up to be part of their site in order to fulfill these writing contracts which aren't specifically detailed.

On the first page of the site, there are several grammatical errors along with what I call muddled sentences. These are convoluted sentences, usually run-on, that do not articulately express the point the writer is trying to make. I click to "About Us." No names or credentials are given. Just more buzzwords and the admonition that they're writers too.

I click to their solicitation page for writers. In a very short paragraph consisting of 3 sentences, there are 4 glaring grammatical errors.

Will I sign up for something like this? No. I can't believe any credible freelance writer would. If these people can't be bothered to proofread their own site, what does that say about their professionalism? Worse, if they did proofread it and think it's without error, then who are they to judge quality of writing?

Problem With Freelance Writing


This startup freelance writing contract business illustrates the problem with commercial writing today: everyone thinks it's so easy a caveman can do it. (No offense to Neanderthals. I know you guys are really cool and sophisticated.) Since this is the prevailing opinion, people who need content written, be it advertising copy, periodical articles, web content, etc., think they should get what they want for a few bucks. Or less.

If I had a dollar for every time in the last year I've seen job postings for clients who want 100 articles of high-quality writing for a buck each, I'd have a hundred times more money than if I actually took one of those insanely-low paying jobs.

Takeaway Truth


Freelance writer beware. If you sign up with a site, make sure the site isn't an embarrassment.

Judging People By Their Vehicles

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Recently I visited a new Blog Acquaintance. I scrolled through some of his posts until I came to a screeching halt. He'd posted a photo of a big SUV and a blistering rant. He'd been in the parking lot of a popular store when a woman drove up in a big SUV. After she had parked and entered the store, he'd photographed her vehicle. I suspect as he drove home, he was composing his ecological statement about her selfish excess.

Big Jack, Our Old Tahoe

As the owner of a big honking SUV myself, I immediately hit the comment button and wrote a hasty, though thoughtful, commentary on drawing opinions about a person's character, intentions, and/or environmental consciousness based on the vehicle one may drive.

Then I thought better of it. I'm not much for jumping into a mud wrestling contest, especially if it's in the arena of someone else's blog. That's kind of rude. So I just left a comment about the wrongs of stereotyping.

The whole thing bothered me though so I thought I'd elaborate in the arena of my own blog. This may not make me popular, but I feel it needs to be said. I once drove an even bigger honking Suburban than the old Tahoe parked in my porte cochere. If you saw little old me get out of either of these vehicles, you might have taken a picture and written the same thing.

What you might not have seen were the 4 teenagers of mine, all around 6' tall. Show me a fuel efficient car that will transport 2 adults and 4 teenagers that tall. That's why we had the Suburban. That's why we later traded it in on a Tahoe which we've now had 10 years. It's old, but it's paid for. It's also dependable, and it's 4-wheel drive. Something you occasionally need in Houston when streets flood or when the odd ice-storm hits every few years.

Just because the woman was the only occupant of the vehicle, as witnessed by my blog friend, doesn't mean she doesn't have other family members who require transportation or that she doesn't have need of a big vehicle to haul "stuff." (I've forgotten how many times we moved the kids to and from college dorms and apartments.)

It's not realistic to expect someone to purchase a vehicle for driving big groups and purchase another to be used for only one person. Most families don't have that kind of income.

Just about everyone I know has an SUV or a truck, and they all have kids, dogs, and sports equipment to cart around. We keep our old Tahoe for that reason. Sure, we've got two other vehicles, but the SUV is still here. We use it when our big kids come with their kids now, or we have "stuff" to haul. We're very popular with people who need help moving. If you see me over at the B&N, chances are I'll be driving Big Jack, and I'll be alone. So if you take my pic, let me make sure I have lipstick on.

All this is a long-winded way of saying no one should make a snap judgment based on outward appearances. It's far too easy to condemn others when one judges a book by its cover. We should always remember there may be extenuating circumstances.

Takeaway Truth

Everyone who drives a big vehicle isn't an ecological rapist just as everyone who drives a Prius isn't a narrow-minded tree-hugger out of touch with reality.

Four-Eyes? Don't Be So Old School

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I was flipping channels the other evening and came across a moldy, oldy movie. Some jock called a geek Four Eyes. Made me wonder. Does anyone use this insult any more since geeks now rule the world?

Probably not. Besides, wearing glasses is now cool. People have wardrobes of eyeglasses. Me? I have a pair of glasses just for the computer, another brainy style, i.e. tortoise-rim square frames, a "formal" pair, and several fashion readers. I'm interested in eyeglass fashions because they change every year just like fashions in clothes.

Unfortunately, I don't often indulge my desire for new glasses because frames are expensive. My last pair cost nearly $300.00. Just for the frames!

When I found ZenniOptical.com, my fashion heart soared. Would you believe you can get frames that start at only $8.00? And they're chic and stylish? I never thought about ordering eyeglasses online. Don't know why. I should have known you could.

The great thing about ZenniOptical.com is that they're like a brick & mortar optical shop. They have frames of every kind along with producing lens of every type - everything you'd find in your local eyeglass store.

I like kind of a rectangle-shape frame so these immediately caught my eye.

In case you're skeptical, just check out this excerpt from a Fox News segment about ZenniOptical.com.

Takeaway Truth


In this era of cost-consciousness, it pays to look at other options for traditional purchases. Especially when you're talking mega bucks.

Click & Donate: Free Mammogram

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I've received several urgent pleas via email about The Breast Cancer Site needing support to continue their program of donating a free mammogram each day to an economically-challenged woman.

Click & Donate Sites

Because I support all these Click & Donate sites, I like to remind others to do the same. If you aren't familiar with these sites, allow me to be your guide. When you visit The Breast Cancer Site, you'll see it's just one of 6 tabs. The others are Hunger, Child Health, Literacy, Rainforest, and Animal Rescue. You can make a donation that will NOT cost you a single penny to any of these sites by clicking the appropriate button on each site.

To donate a mammogram, all you have to do is click the link above which takes you to their site then click the pink window in the middle that says donating a free mammogram.

This does NOT cost you anything but about a minute of your time each day. Advertisers and corporate sponsors donate according to the number of clicks the site receives.

Please tell ten friends to bookmark this site and start clicking each day. Ask them to tell ten of their friends. We women are good about getting the word out so let's make use of that skill to support this early-warning program for women.

Takeaway Truth

If you're a woman or have a woman in your life - that covers everybody on this planet - The Breast Cancer Site needs your help. They've made it easy for you to give so women who desperately need assistance can receive. Click today. Bookmark and click every day. Tell others to do the same. That's philanthropy in action or just call it paying it forward.

None of That Sissy Crap

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Let's get inspired! My good friend Elaine Raco Chase sent me this. You may have seen it, but I hadn't. It totally tickled my funny bone because I don't like all those sappy odes to friendship that float around the Net. Don't get me wrong. I think genuine friendship is one of the pleasures and necessities of life. I just don't like the flowery, complete-with-kittens, cheap sentimentality. What Elaine sent though is the kind of heart-felt sentiment that Terminator Chick would email.

None of that Sissy Crap

Are you tired of those sissy friendship poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see no cutesy little smiley faces. Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

1. When you are sad, I will jump on the person who made you sad like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew.

2. When you are blue, I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile, I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.

4. When you're scared, we will high tail it out of here.

5. When you are worried, I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining, ya big baby!

6. When you are confused, I will use little words.

7. When you are sick, stay away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

8. When you fall, I'll pick you up and dust you off.

9. This is my oath. I pledge it to the end. Why? Because you are my friend.

Friendship is like peeing your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth.

Send this to 10 of your closest friends, then get depressed because you can only think of 4.

Interview: Author Rob Costelloe

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Each month I interview an author on my website for the Reading page. I find these interviews compelling so I decided to share them with the Sling Words audience too.

Rob Costelloe is the author of Coinage of Commitment. His book was a finalist in the 2008 National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

How To Get The Book

Here are the details on Rob's book so you can request it at your local library or purchase it at your favorite online bookstore.

Coinage of Commitment
ISBN: 978-1-894936-83-5
Available from Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com
To purchase from Waldenbooks, with free shipping, call 1-281-469-1901
For a free excerpt from the book, go to Rob's website. He invites you to visit Rob's Blog also.

Q & A

Joan: How many years from your first manuscript to your first sale?

Rob: 1.2, that is, 14 months

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Rob: Finalist honors in the National Indie Excellence 2008 Book Awards.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Rob: Still can't get an agent or a major publisher!

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Rob: How few dollars there are in Internet sales (of fiction)!

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Rob: COINAGE OF COMMITMENT is the love story I always dreamed of writing as great literature. At one point, I even pulled it off the market for a rewrite because I realized that it was not yet good enough to fulfill the dream. Even the cover image had to be perfect before going to press. Much of the reader feedback has been what I had hoped for, but is an author ever satisfied with sales?

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Rob: I love reader feedback jubilant enough about what my book gave them that it makes me forget the despair over making it good enough. I love the way my imagination crackles with energy when I rise at 4:30 a.m. I love editing a ms with multiple passes until very word sings.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Rob: I hate the feeling that there's probably some promo angle that I've overlooked and should be working on, that I'm not doing enough.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Rob: I'd buy a vacation in London as a treat for my wife (and me).

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Rob: Don't even think about writing fiction unless you have another source of income.

Final Thoughts

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Rob: I'm flattered that many readers insist that COINAGE OF COMMITMENT is so vividly written that it must be autobiographical. But it isn't.

Things Found In Books: Nasty Letter

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Welcome to Things Found In Books. Today's episode: a letter that speaks ill of the writer.

I found this letter, produced by a typewriter and typed on Park Square Bond Erasable, 25% Cotton Fiber, in a book purchased at Half-Price Books several years ago. The nasty tone made me certain that the girl who received this letter probably stashed it in a book and forgot about it because she didn't want to stay in touch with the guy.

Since the scan couldn't be clearly read, I transcribed it exactly as written. All the grammatical errors and misspelled words are the author's.

What If

Before you ask why I keep things like this, I'll tell you. These things ignite the imagination. They're great for playing What If.

What if the jerk who wrote this didn't get a reply. In fact, what if she told him not to bother her again? The tone of the letter is so superior and arrogant. How would a guy like that respond to rejection?

Or, what if he's truly unhinged. What if someone found this letter and matched up the names to a murder of a drama prof in that time period? What if the letter writer discovered this? (I better be sure my door's locked tonight, huh?)

************************

Man's Name Withheld
March 6, 1990

Girl's Name,

The day is overcast right now, and I've really nothing to do as of the moment, so I guess I'll return a letter that hasn't been sent yet. What's up there in Misery? I hate this lousy class now more than ever. If I don't survive, and kill the teacher, promise to visit me in prison, okay? On the track team up there yet? We only have six people on the ladie's track team down here. I bet they hate the fact you moved. Girl's-Name seems to be doing alright though. I have Girl's Name in my Drama class this Semester. She can't act at all. Really lame, her trying to do Shakespeare with her stupid redneck accent. Some people just can't be useful in classical work. She could probably be pretty good in Crimes of The Heart, but definitely NOT in any non–kikker roles. We're doing Taming of the Shrew next (?) year as a play. I hope I won't be here to see it. I doubt I could take it as they wish it to be portrayed–as kikker is some small Texas town. Ick. Why can"t he just do things the way they were written? Oh well, Fate will see he gets what he deserves, or I will...

Not much new this election year either, Mattox is running, Williams, and a few others. The big thing these days is how many people as Governor they will kill in the gas chamber. Hell, if that's all, I'll run. A lottery is second, and some old hag's drug addiction is third. Just what is going on? I don't trust any of 'em.

Well, the Freshmen are getting restless, I guess I need to beat 'em with a bungy cord. See ya...

Your loving slave,
Me, of course!

************************

Instant Character and Motivation

Do you see how something like this might inspire one to write anything from a blog post to a nonfiction article about any of these subjects: letter-writing etiquette, basic grammar, lost correspondence skills, some aspect of psychology, pathology of the superior ego, etc.

Perhaps it might motivate you to write a book. Wow! The sky's the limit for scenarios. I can easily see half a dozen nefarious angles from blackmail to murder.

Takeaway Truth

Start your own file of Imagination Igniters. You never can tell where playing What If may lead.

Ben Franklin on Death & Taxes

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Last summer when my husband and I were completing our estate planning, along with umpteen medical powers of attorney, I thought about what Benjamin Franklin said: "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." Because we're responsible people who don't want our children to have to guess what they should do with our assets, we took away the guesswork.

Will Rogers Weighs In

That's a good thing because another American original had something to say that has a bearing on our assets too. Humorist Will Rogers put his own slant on Franklin's words, making them even more appropos to our modern world. "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

Thanks for the grin, Will. Sometimes we taxpayers feel as if all we have left after April 15 is a grin. But, you know, there are ways to pay Uncle Sam and protect your assets.

Some Day

My mother has been discussing what she wants done "some day." You know the day she's talking about. Unlike me, she refuses to take her concerns to a lawyer who can help her with estate planning. Why? I guess it's superstition. Lawyers probably have a good understanding of the psychology behind some people's hesitance in making final financial preparations.

Instead of trying to use logic on my mother (trust me, that never works!), I've got where I gently steer her in the direction of good information. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Wealth Preservation


I was able to let her learn for herself about Personal Asset Protection, also known as wealth preservation. Now, my mom is not wealthy by any means, but she and my dad worked hard all their lives. He's passed on, and my mom wants to leave a legacy to her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Not to Uncle Sam, as much as she loves him.

Upper Income Has Different Needs


My mom is an amazing lady with an inquiring mind. She still likes to learn so she even read up on offshore asset protection. Trust me on this. She's not in that tax bracket at all, but she said she was going to tell her arthritis doctor that she has a new understanding of the special challenges facing him in planning for financial security.

She asked me if I thought she should recommend Deferred Variable Annuities, what some call a tax haven to him. My mouth hung open in surprise. Maybe I'd better go read some of the articles she's been reading.

That's my mom. Always trying to help other people out. Always surprising me.

Takeaway Truth

If you're a writer, copyrights are intellectual property that are assets. They should be covered in a will along with your research materials and other papers. If you don't at least have a will, what are you waiting for?

Don, Glenn, Joe, Timothy B: Send Eagles Tickets

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This is an open letter to my favorite musical group of all time: The EAGLES. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, and Joe Walsh are individually superbly talented. Collectively, they are musical geniuses. Yes, I know it's not Saturday, the day I normally hold forth on pop culture, but, hey, this is an emergency.

Dear Eagles

I've been wrestling with a moral dilemma ever since I saw the full page ad for your Long Road Out of Eden Tour. My husband, our daughter Adina, and I want to go to the concert. The problem? The price of the tickets!

Sheesh! How can upper deck seats cost $165.00 and up? True, those weren't for Houston since those regular seats aren't being sold yet. I had checked pre-sales for VIP tickets. Immediately, I decided shelling out $395.00 for 3 plus tax and all the surcharges that would be added just wasn't practical. That's why I started checking the other tour dates to see how much I could expect regular seats to be.

Guys, come on! It's time to give back. After all, we've bought your albums (the ones when you each had solo careers and the ones as Eagles) from the time they were in vinyl to CD to the DVDs you now include. Multiple copies of them I might add. From the very first to the most recent. I blogged about your Eden album as soon as I could get my hot, little hands on it. I raved about it to anyone who read my blog and to anyone I could get to listen. (It really is some of your best work - ranks right up there with Hotel California.)

My husband and I raised 4 kids with your music. Every one of them can probably sing every word of the songs on the blue album. When you came back on tour and performed at Rice Stadium in Houston, we took all the kids. That cost us over $700.00, not including the cost of tee shirts. Our oldest was in college at the time; our youngest was 10.

My husband, youngest daughter, and I also went to your concert the next time you came to Houston to the Compac Center in 2003, I think it was. Another multi-hundreds expense, but so worth it.

Our youngest is now a 28-year-old high school teacher who plays your music on her iPod in her advanced art classes, introducing another generation to you.

I'm not asking for a limo - though that would be reaallllly nice! Just 3 good seats at the Houston concert for fans who have followed your musical excellence since the 1970s.

Takeaway Truth

It never hurts to ask.

Clothes Make The Man - And The Cop

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Writers are always exploring the most unusual subjects. When we find a good resource like L. A. Police Gear, we like to tell others.

You see, I've been working on a mystery. Originally, I planned it to be a series, but the story took an unexpected twist. Now, I'm thinking Big Book. A series would still be nice because I totally adore the hero and the heroine. She's a smart-mouthed, brainy broad - in the best sense of the word. He's an ex-big-city cop who wanted out of the homicidal rat race of L.A. crime so he chose a small town police chief job.

Of course, he's brought his big city ideas about how a police department should be staffed, outfitted, and run with him.

Now, how do I know what big city police departments like the one in Los Angeles really use for gear? I don't so I asked a local cop I know. He said check it out on the web. Duh! Of course.

What do you know? I found tactical gear from guns to clothes, boots, and so much more. Ask me how much a shoulder holster costs? I know that as well as what one actually looks like.

Takeaway Truth

Always strive for reality in your writing. If you're going to describe a cop's gun or gun holster or any gear then research. Know the brand name, what it looks like, how much it weighs, how much it costs. All that adds truth to your writing.

New Short Fiction Market

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Originally I saw a posting for this market on one of my freelance writing contract services. Of course, I got in touch with the publisher. Alas, it's a startup venture so their budget is not very high. However, if you're looking for a place to sell some short romance fiction, and you're not as picky as I am about wages, you might want to check out Ms. Cuppari's latest venture Voice of Romance Magazine. Actually, I hope she's vastly successful so that I can eventually place a manuscript that I think would be great for The Voice of Romance.

If you email: S. Cuppari, Publisher, Voice of Romance, romancesubmissions @ graffiti.net, you can get detailed guidelines. She already publishes Writing Edge Magazine and wants to publish a new romance novel magazine for readers and writers.

Rough Guidelines

She said she's "looking for quality submissions." (Isn't everyone?) I do not disclose the compensation I negotiate with editors/publishers/clients. You'll have to find that out for yourself.

1. All romance styles are accepted except: erotica, paranormal and futuristic romance.

2. Romance stories are 9-10,000 words in length.

3. First and second world rights are bought. Copyright remains with the author.

4. Send your stories to: romancesubmissions @ graffiti.net if you want to bypass the "getting the guidelines" step.

Takeaway Truth

New markets and new ways of getting paid for writing should always be explored. Ground-floor opportunities offer exposure, publication, and money. Besides, who knows? You may get in at the beginning of something that could become an empire. One can only hope.

Memory's Secret Weapon

2 comments:
Remember in romantic comedy movies of old when the swinging bachelor had his little black book with all his hot babes listed?

I've got my version of the little black book too. Except mine isn't really black. It's the size of a small paperback book and has a cover that looks like a retro Hawaiian postcard. You know what it is? It's an address book, but it doesn't contain mailing addresses and phone numbers. It holds my important web addresses along with passwords, registered user names, and more.

Take Charge of Your Info


Just today, I read again about someone who'd lost the piece of paper where the password to a subscribed group was written down. When that happens, you're just SOL for getting into that group or website again.

Chances are you have some of those bits of note paper floating around. You know, it's where you hurriedly jotted down a password when you visited a website and registered for the first time. sure, you think you'll remember the information. After all, you probably selected something that has personal significance.

This is not only inefficient but also it's stressful trying to keep up with important data this way. More often than not, if you don't have to enter the password or user name for a long while, the memory of what you selected fades. This is especially true if you use more than one email address and/or more than one mailing address.

Easy Solution

Make it easy on yourself. Get an address book. I started with a small one a few years ago when I first thought of this. Now I've graduated to a larger book. When I leave town, this book comes with me in my handbag so I can sign on any computer anywhere to check my various accounts, blog, email, or whatever.

What To Record

I record my registrations this way:

Web URL:
Website Name:
User Name:
Login Name: (sometimes they can be different)
Registered Email Addy you used:
Password:
Security Question Selected:
Answer to Question:
Mailing Address Registered:
Phone Number Registered:
PayPal Email Addy Registered:

Now, most of you probably won't have all that info required unless you are registering on a site that will pay you money for your services.

I've always been surprised when I've told others of this handy tool. Surprised because they hadn't already thought of it. So maybe it's not something that everyone knows about.

My daughter said I should create a book with the proper designations pre-printed. Maybe she's right. In any event, that would be a good project for me to learn the Adobe InDesign I've got loaded on my computer. If I do this, I'll be sure and let you know where to order one.

For now, take it from me, get an address book to help you organize your personal Internet registrations and emails. Trust me, it's a secret weapon that will enhance your memory too.

Good Contractor Is Gold

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If you read my blog a few weeks ago, you probably heard me complaining about the remodeling project that had disrupted my life. That's finally over. Thank God! I don't think I could have stood another week of having tile jack-hammered to pieces in order to make way for new wood flooring.

With that out of the way, I've been perusing my home projects list to see where I should throw money next. I've got a long list. There's one thing that's been carried over year to year because I haven't found anyone to tackle the job. Not that it's a complicated project. It's a simple fencing job to replace one section of fence. All the contractors I talk to want to replace everything! Over kill and over-expensive. So I keep looking for new contractors.

Certified Experts

Color me happy to discover a directory of Certified Experts. When I first looked them up, I figured they wouldn't be in my area. After all, I'm in a small town bordering a huge metropolis. But they had listings for my area. So they're bound to have listings for yours.

If you're like me and trying to tackle your home improvement list, then look for a qualified contractor who has been certified as an expert in: remodeling, heating and air conditioning, roofing, electrical, general, plumbing, painting, flooring, and, yes, fencing, among others. You'd do well to turn to ClickSmart Certified Experts.

Easy as 1 - 2 - 3

1. Go to the website.
2. Put in your zip code.
3. Click Go and it will give you a page of contractors in your area.

Whether you're looking for contractors in my part of Texas or looking for Orlando Contractors, you'll find them.

Takeaway Truth

A skilled, honest contractor is worth his weight in gold. These guys, and gals too probably, must meet rigid standards to become certified. So spread the word. It's a win-win for all of us.



Truth About E-Sales of Fiction

4 comments:
The simmering conflict between those who publish with electronic publishers versus those who publish with traditional publishers boils over periodically.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

In case you're not aware of what this conflict is all about, I'll give you my opinion. Like Aretha sang, it's about respect, baby. E-published authors think they get no respect and aren't considered "real" authors.

As what some call a "real" author meaning someone published with a traditional print publisher, let me say that a "real" author is someone who has written a book-length work and had it published by someone who pays them for the right to publish that work. So if that is you, E or print, then welcome to the inner circle of strife, conflict, and struggle known as a writing career.

The rest is just dollars and cents.

Money, Money, Money, Money

The only difference between an E-published author and a paper-published author is money. In just about every instance, the traditionally published print author will make more money than the E-published author. If you read my previous blog about distribution, then you know why I make that statement.

My books have never gone out of print since they were published. At the present time, I have only one that I haven't resold this year. (Guess I need to get busy on it huh?) Through the years, somewhere on this planet my books have been published in print editions since 1993. I don't know if the same holds true for E-published books. Let me tell you, that ability to resell rights can keep you afloat as a writer.

As a professional writer, I always look at the bottom line. The crucial question is how much income can an author derive from a published book. I like to think outside the box so I'm very interested in what E-published writers are earning. In fact, I posed the question to several authors a while back.

Reality vs. Hype

I wasn't surprised, and, yet, I was surprised. Many authors claimed to be making tons of money with their E-publishers but they don't give facts and figures. In fact, they become defensive when asked. A few go on the offensive and charge anyone who asks with being inflammatory, etc.

I have to applaud and respect an author who readily posted her stats though they were disappointingly small. (I think as writers that we're all looking for good-paying publishers.) This author admitted that her biggest problem was getting her book to readers. (That old bugaboo distribution.)

She made the point that her book was a traditional romance, which she chooses to write because that's the kind of story that comes to her. (If you're a writer, you know what she means.) She said quite frankly that her friends who write erotica or erotic romance really are doing well financially. She's seen their earnings statements. I believe her too.

Quantity Counts


The top income-producers among E-authors publish many books a year. It's not uncommon to see a best-selling E-author with half a dozen or more books published each year. Now that's prolific by any standards. Most authors couldn't produce that quantity of books even if they wanted to. More books mean more income.

Anonymity Helps

If you think about it, Internet buying is the "plain brown wrapper" of retailing. It's about as anonymous as you can get so many readers feel free to indulge their tastes for the spicy when they might feel constrained to buy a book of this genre at their local bookstore, assuming the store stocked it.

Sex Sells

So if you want to E-publish fiction, sex sells much better than the more conventional books, but you'd better be a fast writer if you want to make decent money. Of course, many erotica and erotic romance authors hope to build a readership and get discovered by a big publisher. That has happened for some.

Takeaway Truth


Though E-publishing hasn't lived up to the much-ballyhooed label as "the future of publishing," I believe their market share will continue to grow. It may eventually equal or surpass the sale of print books, but that's far in the future. That doesn't mean you should discount them as a viable market. It just means you should do your homework, check out the stability of the publisher, separate the facts from the hype, and make an intelligent decision for your book, your career, and you. That's true whether you choose E-publishing or print.

PayPerPost Offers Opportunity

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Just about every writer I know is always looking for new paying markets. Preferably well-paying markets. In the world of writing, the only constant, whether you write fiction or freelance articles, seems to be shrinking markets and even more shrinking dollars.

New Opportunity

That's why I was delighted to learn about PayPerPost, a website that helps freelance writers connect with advertisers needing their services. Sure, there are other freelance venues on the Internet, but what makes PayPerPost different is that the writer gets to keep more of the money the advertiser pays. In fact, if you put a "sign up" button on your blog, the advertiser can conveniently contract with you directly at your specified minimum. (See mine over there on the right side. Don't forget to check out my Disclosure Statement too.) PayPerPost gets a cut, but, hey, that's the cost of doing business so I don't begrudge it to them.

Why Use PayPerPost

I've done a lot of freelance writing over the years. I've ghostwritten blogs for other people, and I've blogged for about four years here at Sling Words. I always write about good ideas and good products with thoughts of directing others to them because I like to share. It's no sense keeping all that good info to yourself when other writers or maybe Joe and Molly Citizen might need or want to know also.

PayPerPost offers me the chance to use my blog and actually earn money from slinging my words around. Hey, I love writing this blog, and I plan to keep on doing it for a long while. Occasionally getting paid to write about something I really believe in or something I'll use is just icing on the cake.

Oh, there's also the homey atmosphere of PayPerPost with its Customer Love and its cute nickname for its clients. I'm a Postie now, and you can be one too if you wish.

Jump On The Money Wagon

So I'm happy to pass along the tip about PayPerPost to you. Visit them. Read their FAQ. Search their site. Sign up too if you want to use your blog to make some bucks. Tell them Sling Words sent you.

Now go forth and may your words and your dollars multiply.

Flag Folding Symbolism

2 comments:
I like Sunday. It's always a nice relaxing day suitable for spiritual uplifting and/or inspiration. It's the time to look back on the previous week, either smiling with satisfaction or sighing with relief that it's over. Then you can look ahead with expectation to the coming week.

My friend Frank, retired military, provided the inspiration for today's message. He sent me this about the folding of the flag when it's removed from a coffin and, once folded, is presented to the grieving family. Perhaps you've received this already since it's probably just another Net floater, not that such status lessens its importance.

I was struck by the symbolism of the action of folding our flag. I didn't know that each fold of the flag, seen too often of late draped over coffins of our soldiers who lost their lives far away, means something rooted in history.

I did a little research using the link Frank gave me. After you've consumed this food for thought, I hope you'll pass it on or link to it. Thomas E. Bourne of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, compiled and posted this on the site to which his name is linked. Mr. Bourne served in the U. S. Coast Guard from 1951 to 1954. Thank you, sir, for enlightening the rest of us.

A Little History

At military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776.

Have you ever wondered why the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly fold the Flag of the United States of America 13 times? You may have thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but that's not true.

Symbolism of 13 Folds

The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.


The 2nd fold is a symbol of a belief in eternal life.

The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.


The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.


The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."


The 6th fold is for where people's hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The 7th fold is a tribute to the Armed Forces, for it is the Armed Forces that protect the country and the flag against all enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of the republic.


The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.


The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.


The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.


The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews' eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians' eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation's motto: "In God We Trust."


After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today.

Takeaway Truth

The next time you see our flag draped over a soldier's casket, even if you don't know who it is, respect his or her sacrifice, even if you don't like the war being fought. Teach your children to respect our Armed Forces, our flag, our country. If possible, make a donation to a veterans' organization.