Departing Visitors

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Quote for the Week

Judith Martin, perhaps better known as Miss Manners, in her Guide for the Turn-of-the-Mllennium, said: It is a widespread and firm belief among guests that their departure is always a matter of distress to their hosts, and that in order to indicate they have been pleasantly entertained, they must demonstrate an extreme unwillingness to allow the entertainment to conclude. This is NOT necessarily true.


I'm Going to Get in Trouble for This One

Let me make some disclaimers. I completely adore the people who visited over the last two weeks. I hope they come again. Often. And stay as long as they want.

Now, having said that, and, just now sitting with my feet propped up after the last guests left late today, I must also say that having house guests is like boat ownership.

Happiest Days in Boat Owner's Life

Every person I've ever known who bought a boat and, subsequently, sold said boat have made this statement: The two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell the boat.

So to apply this to house guests.... Well, I guess you get the picture. You're delighted beyond belief when your visitor arrives. Then, after several days of cooking three meals a day, shopping, watching movies, providing entertainment, staying up late, and generally playing the role of host, you're delighted they depart.

Seriously, I wouldn't take anything for the time I get to spend with loved ones. However, I'd give a lot to have extra energy. A LOT of extra energy.

Takeaway Truth

Why can't happy days give you tons of energy and subtract years from your age and depressing, mundane days be the ones that tire you completely?

AAFR Guest Blogger

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In case you'd like to know more about funding your retirement, especially if you're a card-carrying baby boomer, check out American Association of Future Retirees.

Actually, we're all future retirees, right? You owe it to yourself to learn more about providing for the biggest expense of your life - retirement. The older you are; the more interested in this topic you should be.

We've tried to impress the importance of saving, saving, saving to all our children. I guess we've been successful in our attempts. In fact, one of our sons is a certified financial planner who is part of a notable investment management firm. I keep intending to list some of the radio broadcasts on investing and retirement which he's done. But, so much to do and so little time, yada yada yada.

In any event, I wanted to let you all know that I'll be guest blogging on the AAFR Blog from time to time.

When I do, I'll give you a heads up because everyone should be interested in this subject matter.

My first blog for AAFR is a review of the Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth bookYes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably. This should be required reading for every American who works.

Takeaway Truth

Most people have plans or dreams of embarking on a second career (one more fun than the first) after retirement from the first. It's great to have a dream, but you must also have a plan on how to turn the dream into reality.

File Extension: What's That Mean?

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You know the signoff of the TV production company that goes: "What's that mean?" I don't know which company it is. The only signoff tagline I do know is: "Sit, Ubu, sit." That was Gary David Goldberg's signoff for UBU Productions, Inc. that did the old Family Ties sitcom. I always thought that was funny. Especially when he replied: "Good dog." But I digress.

Mysterious 3 Letters

What I started to tell you about is that the "What's that mean?" pops into my head every time I see a file name with 3 letters I don't recognize after the dot. You know, the file name extension. I used to just groan and whine about having to figure out the obscure reference. But no more. I found a website that's a no-brainer. Even for a non-tekkie like me.

Rescued

Well, I found File-Types.com. It's another WordPress blog that you'll want to write down for your resource list. Why? I'm glad you asked.

The categories on the blog are letters of the alphabet. That makes it so easy to look up a particular file extension. If you have a dot asp file and you don't know what application to use to open the file, just select A in the category list. Then read about the asp file extension.

The post will explain:

• what it is
• how to open it whether you're running a Mac or a PC
• what any drawbacks to the file might be.

You see File Extension is a pretty comprehensive guide to the meaning of all those cryptic 3 letters.

Takeaway Truth

You can teach an old dog new tricks, like file extensions, even if the dog isn't named Ubu.

Holiday Gift #5: Give Me Light

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I'm a little behind in doing the Holiday Gift suggestion each day. Chalk it up to lots of freelance clients wanting my incomparable prose, lots of holiday visitors, lots of cooking, and lots of eating. (I'm scarfing down some Banana Pudding as I catch up on blogging. My bad.)

New Label: Happy Holidays

So it looks as if these Holiday Gift tips will come at random times instead of once a day. Because of this, I've added a new label, Happy Holidays, so you can find them all together if you're interested.

Today's tip was created because of a repair I was trying to accomplish before our holiday guests arrived. I was trying to insert a screw underneath my desk into the slide out keyboard drawer. Now, I'm pretty handy and ambidextrous, but I can't wield a power drill and a flashlight while lying on the floor under a desk.

Need Light

I abandoned the project until my husband came home to guilt him into taking care of the repair. In the meantime, I surfed Kim Komando's site, a great resource for gadgets and gizmos you won't find at the mall. (She should pay me to blog about her since I'm constantly telling people about her store. Sadly, she does not.) I'd seen this particular item a while back and finally found it again.

Great Gizmo

It's an LED flashlight gizmo that attaches to a power driver. I know I could have used one. I think it will make a great gift - especially for guys who are hard to buy for.

Specs:

1.5" in diameter
tool & LED flashlight
3 strong magnets on back to hold on any metal surface
Shock resistant
LED bulbs last 100,000 hours
on/off switch
Powered by 3 micro alkaline cells, type LR44 included

Price:
$11.95

Takeaway Truth

When you know a good gift idea for the male of the species, pass it on.

Ultimate Shopping for Ultimate Hunter

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You know that song lyric: "he's making a list and checking it twice?" Well, that was my husband today. You can't drag him to a mall on Black Friday and Saturday. By the same token, you can't drag him away from the computer on those days either. Why? He's discovered my smart shopping secret. Websites have Black Friday specials too!

When he found the Nikon Black Friday Promo, you'd have thought he'd personally scored a Hail Mary pass in a Super Bowl. Suddenly, he liked shopping. I mean, he can watch the football games on the TV in his home office and shop for the Ultimate Hunter's Package at the same time. (If I knew how to do that Tim Allen-Home Improvement man grunt sound, I'd do it because that would be so appropriate.)

(Uh oh. He just wandered in to my study. He's looking over my shoulder as I write this. I can't help it. I break up into giggles.)

Indignant at my snickering, he haughtily informed me that you didn't have to be a woman to know how to shop and get bargains. He said the Nikon Ultimate Hunter's Package helped him save big. He started enumerating all the ways you could save on the Nikon Promo site, but I kind of lost track after Riflescopes, Rangefinders, and Binoculars, until he mentioned gift cards. Gift cards always get my attention.

His new fave website offers an expanded program of gift cards. He thinks it's totally cool to buy a present for someone and get a gift card to spend on yourself. I could have told him that, but he probably wouldn't have heard me. He'd already abandoned shopping chitchat to return to his football game. And probably finding something on which to spend his impending Nikon gift card.

Takeaway Truth

Never underestimate the value of a good Black Friday promotion.

Typewriter Key Jewelry

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Holiday Gift Idea #4

I totally love typewriter key jewelry. Necklaces, bracelets, rings, and cuff links made from keys of vintage typewriters. If you want to be my friend, send me jewelry. Girls like their bling, and girl writers like the bling to have letters on them.

There are lots of internet sites that sell typewriter key jewelry. Here are a few.

http://www.monkapaws.com/index.htm

http://stores.tabtypewriterkeyjewelry.com/StoreFront.bok

http://www.squidoo.com/vintagetypewriterkeyjewelry

http://www.whatsyourtype.com/

http://www.cindykroth.com/

http://www.junxtaposition.com/necklaces.html

http://www.vintagebuttonjewelry.com/jewelry_typewriter_key.htm

http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5104393

http://www.stonetreestore.com/antykeyb.html

Takeaway Truth

Writers love words. Letters make words. Before computers, those letters were on beautiful metal machines called typewriters. It stands to reason that most writers will adore typewriter key jewelry.

Christmas Journal

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Holiday Gift #3

When our youngest daughter was five years old, I bought a cloth-bound journal. The covers were cute Scottie dogs with Christmas bows on a navy blue background. That year after all the kids had opened presents on Christmas day and everyone had eaten their fill of the holiday dinner, I brought the journal out. I asked each person at our dinner table to take a moment to write in the journal. I asked the kids to write something about that Christmas.

The Christmas Journal

Every year, I'd bring out the Christmas journal and ask each child to write in it. They could write anything they wanted. Oh, the older they got, the more they complained. Each year they groan, roll their eyes, and try to weasel out of the task. However, I always got at least a paragraph.

Christmas Past

The journal is full now yet each year I bring it out and place it on the coffee table. It's often the first thing the kids want to see when they arrive for the holidays. They laugh about the silly things they wrote in the past yet even as they laugh, I see the emotion that lights their faces as they remember Christmases past.

Payback?

I have a new journal this year. My kids no longer groan when asked to record a small portion of their busy lives. I have a new generation to introduce to journaling too. This new journal will have stories from my children's children as they learn to write. For now, they just like to hear what their parents wrote so I always oblige and read it aloud. (Note to my kids: You know what they say about payback.)

Takeaway Truth

Journals, used wisely, are great ways to make memories. Try one this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving

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I exchanged my writer's hat for a chef's toque today. What with company and cooking, not to mention eating, I haven't had any time to blog. Hope your day has been as wonderful as mine.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you just go with the flow and enjoy it. Give Thanks; it will make you happy.

Gift Certificate for Hosting

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I received a special offer from SiteGround, the company I use to host my Joan Slings Words.com blog. They gave me 5 free Gift Certificates I can pass on to anyone. The gift certificate gives you $20.00 off the cost of SiteGround hosting.

If you've wanted your own domain for a blog, this is a good deal. Check out SiteGround first. You can even use the web hosting geeks site I've written about before to see how they stack up with other web hosts.

If you decide you want to use SiteGround, email me at joan @ joanreeves.com (put Real Live Person) in subject box. I'll send you the certificate code to use.

Each gift certificate gives its owner the chance to purchase a new hosting account at SiteGround with additional $20 discount.

First come; first served.

Takeaway Truth

Always use discounts to reduce your writing overhead.

Holiday Gift Idea #2

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This gift idea is for the generation that took slides - you know, those little squares that your parents probably loaded into a carousel, turned the lights out, and enthralled one and all with their Grand Canyon summer vacation? What they need to bring them into the digital generation is a Slide & Negative Converter.

Specs

Converts old 35mm slides and film negatives into digital images so you can preserve your memories without having to rely on a conversion service. Simply place slide or negative into a tray that aligns each properly. Hit the scan button and the image is converted. Provides 10 bits per color channel for data conversion. Uses fixed focus and automatic exposure control and color balance, resulting in clear digital images without loss of quality. Scans images up to 1800 dpi. Uses 3 white LEDs as back light source. For photo transfer and power, use the USB cable (requires USB 2.0). For Windows XP. Includes image editing software. 6 1/2" H x 3 1/2" W x 3 1/2" D. (1 lb.)

Price: about $99.95

Available Where

You can get this little techno wonder many places online like Hammacher. They also have a version for Vista.

It should also be available at your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Takeaway Truth

Save those old slides. Your kids can always use a good laugh.

Holiday Gift Idea #1

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Starting today, I'll be posting a blog each day with what I think is a great gift idea for writers and just about everyone else too. Today's offering is just too cool. I'm requesting one under the tree.

Source: Kim Komando

Don't let your expensive electronics dangle on the floor. Our "caddy" keeps cords tidy & protects your gear. No more will your expensive electronics lay on the floor. This unique device is designed to clean up the clutter and protect your investment. It hangs between your battery charger and the wall socket.

It provides support for your mobile phone and convenient storage for your charging cord. Your phone will be easy to find and always charged. Also great for MP3 players and PDAs.

* Made of sturdy yet flexible rubberized plastic
* 4.25" tall
* Available in Black and Red.
* Each order contains 2 caddies

Price: $12.95

Takeaway Truth

Give a gift you'd like to have, and you can't go wrong.

Reminder: Holiday Gifts

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This is just a reminder that I'll begin my annual Holiday Gift Suggestions earlier this year instead of waiting for December 1. I've got where I order a lot from the Internet, and I have a feeling that might characterize your shopping style too. Starting my suggestion blog posts on November 24 will give you plenty of time to order and receive the gift before Christmas, Hannakah, or Kwanzaa.

Gift Categories

Gifts writers will love.

Gifts anyone will love.

Some posts will have just one suggestion that fits one of the other, maybe both, of those categories. Some posts will be a suggestion in each category.

You Need A Plan

If you're a writer and want something that's really great for writers (other than bundles of bucks), direct your mom, dad, spouse, siblings, or friends to these posts. Or print it out and leave it where they can easily see it.

Number Please

These posts will be easy to find because they'll all be titled Holiday Gift Suggestions: and numbered 1 to 30, beginning November 24 and ending December 23.

Oops

Face it, if you haven't got a gift ordered by then, you've missed the sleigh. Unless you want to order something and call it a New Year's Gift. (I hate to say it, but some years my Christmas Letters have taken the form of New Year's Greetings.)

November 24

Stay tuned to this blog and to my other blog Joan Slings Words.com which will offer Holiday Tips: some gift suggestions along with ways to enjoy the season a little more, take out some of the frazzle, and find time to appreciate the small details. Those blog posts will also be numbered 1 - 30 and appear during this same time period.

In case you think I'll quit slinging words about writing and the writing biz, I won't. You'll still find posts on both blogs that will help you in achieving your writing goals or give you insight into successfully written projects.

Takeaway Truth

Holidays are fun times. Rev up your spirit. Be happy. You can be as happy as you make up your mind to be.

I Speak Turbocharge

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My husband's dream has come true. I'm now interested in cars. I even speak car lingo, easily tossing around words like headers, turbocharge, and supercharge.

Mystery In Progress

I think I mentioned that I'm working on a mystery, hopefully book 1 of what will be a series. I posted an accountability bar in my sidebar, but I haven't updated it. (Life is really too frantic when you can't update your pages written accountability tool.)

Muscle Cars

Anyway, the genesis of this mystery was my fascination with the muscle car auctions televised on one of my HD channels. I was just blown away at Corvettes that went for 12 grand and old Camaros that went for more than half a million. The more I watched these auctions; the more interested I became in collectible cars. Much to my darling husband's delight I might add. Suddenly, he had a wife who was interested in horsepower, camshafts, and turbocharged engines.

Learn From Pros

Since I love research - it's a great way to procrastinate - I found a website to educate me,Turbo Charger Pros. I'd previously learned that the engine is one of the most important factors in the value of a collectible car. Horsepower is king. At Turbo Charger Pros, I explored their Learning Center to find out more about this.

Education

What does a turbocharger do? It's all about air induction. Turbocharging uses forced air induction to produce more power overall than the same engine without the charging.

Know the difference between turbocharge and supercharge? It's the power supply. In a supercharger, a belt connects directly to the engine so it gets its power the same way that a water pump does. A turbocharger gets its power from the exhaust stream which runs through a turbine and spins the compressor.

Alter Engine

If you don't have the kind of muscle car engine you want, then you can turbocharge or supercharge your engine in order to get the power that makes people - mostly guys - sit up and take notice.

The website I was researching has a turbocharger in stock for cars from Audi to a VW turbocharger. Cool, huh? Of course, there are other valid reasons, than racing, for wanting to turbocharge or supercharge an engine. You might want to do this if you have to tow heavy loads like travel trailers, boats, and such.

Takeaway Truth

Like I always say, if you want to learn something, check out the Internet.

Truth About Ben Stein's Holiday Message

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Today's Written Wisdom contains not a short quotation from a famous writer, but an essay from a man I personally admire for his intelligence, common sense, and his ability to articulate complex ideas.

Did you get the Confessions of Christmas by Ben Stein in your email box yet? I did. I'd read it before, but it seemed to contain paragraphs I didn't remember. Plus, the stuff I didn't recall didn't sound like something Mr. Stein would have said. I've read his books and his articles so I have a rudimentary knowledge of his voice, his style.

Of course, I immediately went to Snopes to check it out and found that it was, as I suspected, genuine - in part. They identified the suspect pieces as having been added by person or persons unknown.

Next I went to Ben Stein's website and found the original text.

If you haven't visited his site or read his books, you're missing out. Most of you probably know Mr. Stein from his television work, and many of you will always remember him for his deadpan expression and monotone voice calling out: "Bueller. Bueller. Bueller."

What you may not know is that he was a lawyer by training, a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, an actor, and the author of many novels and nonfiction books. He writes editorials and columns for print and online publications and maintains a web presence on his own site and in partnership with others.

In December 2005, as part of a CBS News program hosted by Charles Osgood, Mr. Stein gave us the piece that has circulated ever since. Here's the original piece as posted on his website. (Note: at the time of the broadcast Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson were on the cover of People Magazine.)

Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart:

I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is, either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife.

Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young. It's not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

Takeaway Truth

No one should feel threatened because another has different religious beliefs. If your religion makes you a better person - if it enables you to help your fellow humans - then more power to you. Merry Christmas. Happy Hannakah. Happy Kwanzaa. Et al.

Application-Error.net to the Rescue

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Oh, have I got another really useful website for you. This tip will help you when you and your PC are butting heads, albeit figuratively speaking. I found http://application-error.net/ which helps you figure out what Windows processes are running in the background.

So What?

Why is this useful? Sometimes when you're trying to install new software, you get an error message that a program is running in the background. You're instructed to shut down all programs before you can proceed.

Often, you think you've already closed every program. So you haven't got a clue as to what might be running. Many of you aren't familiar with how to use your Windows utilities to find these hidden applications that seem to be running as if they wore top-of-the-line Nikes thus making it impossible to install new software.

Frustrating, Right?

Not to worry. The guys - I think they're guys since the About page is signed by Mike - who created the Application-Error.net Blog give you the latest information on computer processes and malicious processes which may be lurking on your PC like an old boyfriend or girlfriend who won't go away.

The site was created because the people operating it combined two obsessions: blogging and researching windows system processes. The result is a blog that will help all of us civilians with the latest technology, the web and applications.

Takeaway Truth

Start a Resource List of experts, many of whom have set up websites like this one to share their knowledge and expertise.

Email Press Release Success: More Tips

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Here are 5 more tips on how to make email press releases work for you, not against you.

Focus

Narrow your focus so that your press release is important to your target group. Instead of sending something with a plot set in a small Texas town to newspapers in Houston, send it to the towns that surround your setting area. If you have something involving a landscaper who grafts a special rose, don’t send it to just any garden society, target the rose growers. The more you narrow your focus, the better results you’ll have in garnering interest.

Be a Pro

Always, be a professional. Proofread your email. Don’t treat it as if it’s a hurriedly scribbled Post It Note. It’s professional correspondence.

Log It

Keep a log of the press releases you send so you’ll know if you’re getting any publicity as a result.

Mind Your Manners

If someone objects to what you send, be polite and assure them you will remove their name from your list. Then do it.

Collect Permission

Install a sign up sheet on your website or blog where people can sign up to receive emails regarding book releases from you.

Takeaway Truth

Learn how professional publicists work then adapt their methods to your needs.

Help! My PC's Sassing Me

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My mom is always calling me with computer problems. She's so funny. I'll answer the phone, and she'll say: "What's wrong with this crazy computer now?"

Fortunately, over the years, I've trained her to at write down whatever she sees displayed on the monitor. So she'll read me the error message. Then she always says, "It's talking back to me. Why is it saying this and what in heckfire does it mean?"

I keep saying I'm going to put a webcam on her computer aimed at her setup. That would make it easier in one way, but trust me. I don't want to have another piece of technology that I have to troubleshoot for her - via long distance telephone.

Uniblue Rescues

Fortunately, I found a website that has helped several times. Uniblue PC-Library, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. That designation means the site has been recognized by Microsoft for its expertise, excellence and consistency in the delivery of system performance, security, and stability software.

Ah, stability. What a marvelous word, especially when we're talking about fixing my mom's computer so it will perform properly and be stable. Errors are created as a result of lots of different PC problems. They result in slowed performance at best and in a crash at worst. So if Mom has an error number, I can easily figure out what to do. The site is user friendly and explains what system error messages mean. (It also explains everything you never knew about ports, including what a port is and what it's used for and how to troubleshoot those kinds of problems.)

We Don't Need No Stinking Errors

Now when Mom calls with a problem, let's say an error code 8249, I just go to Uniblue PC-Library and click the Error tab. Not only will it tell me what the error is, but also it will tell me what I need to do to fix it plus they offer free software to help diagnose problems. Since their database is extensive, I've yet to run into an error not addressed.

Takeaway Truth

Technology is wonderful - when it works properly. When it doesn't, there's usually some accessible technology to help you fix the problem.

Shrink Is In: Fear of Rejection

4 comments:
I've had several emails from some wonderful readers. The theme of many of them is their fear to tackle writing and submitting. So, the shrink is in. Deposit your nickel in the tin cup then we'll talk about Fear of Rejection.

Many times we want something really bad, but somehow we never manage to take the action that will lead to achievement. Why? We're afraid. This kind of fear is nebulous but pervasive. It's something we don't really talk about in a meaningful way. We keep it hidden. Sure, we may make noises about it to our friends or our spouses, but we don't confront it head on. Why don't we? Is it because we think it's silly? Do we think as adults we shouldn't even admit that we have this kind of free-floating anxiety about something that isn't really real?

Have this conversation with yourself if you're letting fear keep you from doing something or achieving something you really want.

I've (insert something you've done that would lead to goal achievement - for this exercise I'll use written a manuscript) but I haven't (insert action to be taken - for this exercise I'll use submitted the manuscript).

Why not?

{Shrug shoulders.} I don't know. I guess I'm afraid.

Of what?

I don't know. What if the agent doesn't like it?

What if she doesn't? What will happen if she doesn't?

She'll say no.

If she says no, what does that mean to you?

{Shrug shoulders.} I don't know.

Well let's think about what her refusal means?

Does it mean big burly men armed with Glocks will descend upon your house and haul you away in chains?

Well, no.

Does it mean your name will be published on the front page of major newspapers as having written something that wasn't accepted.?

No.

Does it mean CNN, Nancy Grace, O'Reilly, Oprah, and all the notable talking heads will announce it on their respective television shows?

No.

Does it mean your spouse will divorce you? Your parents disown you? Your coworkers laugh at you? Your children refuse to identify you as their parent?

Of course not.

Does it mean you will be banned from ever writing anything again?

No.

Does it mean you shouldn't ever try again?

No.

If babies were afraid to ever try again after standing, trying to walk, and falling, there would be no adults in this world who could walk. We'd all be crawling.

You'd be kind and encouraging to a toddler who stood and fell. Be that kind to yourself. Don't give a rejection or a potential rejection or the thought of a rejection any more power over you than a "no thank you" should ever have because that's all a rejection is: no thank you.

Does a rejection mean you rose above the pack of wannabes and tried something and someone told you no?

Yes.

Does it mean you should stand tall and proud because you actually took action to achieve something you wanted?

Absolutely.


Takeaway Truth

A rejection is a badge of honor. It's proof that you took action to achieve. I've said it again and again. Every no is a down payment on a yes.

Got Holiday Spirit?

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Every year I give holiday gift suggestions on Sling Words. Usually, these are for items that have to be ordered. I realized yesterday, when I was doing some pre-Christmas shopping, that waiting until then isn't practical. Not if you have to order the item. If you're like me, you're shopping more frequently via the Internet.

Coming Attractions

So I'm lining up these gift-giving blog posts to start running a month before Christmas. Yep. You can look for them here and on Joan Slings Words, my new blog, beginning Nov. 24. Every day, I'll have at least one really good suggestion for you.

In the meantime, I found something that won't wait another week. I've got to tell you today. File this under a gift for yourself. And, guess what? It's a very affordable splurge. Holiday frames, that's eyeglass frames, of course, from my favorite online optical shop Zenni Optical.

Red = Upbeat

There's just something about these red frames that shout: "Happy holidays." That's right, I studied all the new frames and just fell in love with these happy-go-lucky red frames. I like their architectural styling, and, of course their spring hinges. That's always a must for me. I hate to admit it, but I'm a bit rough on glasses. They're sized for multi-focal prescriptions - also a must for me and my bad vision.

On the first day of December, you'll see me with my "Christmas Story" tee shirt (the one with Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun emblazoned with the phrase, "you'll shoot your eye out") and these jazzy red frames. I'll be wearing my holiday spirit.

Takeaway Truth

Don't be old school and think you need only one pair of glasses. Zenni Optical is so affordable, you can have a wardrobe of glasses.

Help Authors Guild Help You

2 comments:
A couple of weeks ago I told you about the great work Authors Guild did on behalf of all working writers. They had just announced the settlement of Authors Guild v. Google for $125 million. As Paul Harvey used to say: Here's the rest of the story.

Money Divided

All that money gets spread around to authors and publishers as well as funds to start the new Book Rights Registry. Plus money goes to the claims administrator and all the lawyers involved as well as funds for publicity and for computer security experts who helped negotiate the deal's security protocols. Everybody seems to get a cut except for our wonderful Authors Guild who brought the lawsuit on behalf of authors.

As Roy Blount, President of AG, said: "We're not complaining, really. We knew the deal going in. But this sort of thing is a substantial investment of our resources...."

Help AG

Mr. Blount has asked all of us Authors Guild members to ask all non-members to take a moment to think about the magnitude of what the Authors Guild does, year in and year out, to make our professional lives better. If you need more evidence about their work, just visit their website.

Please, if you're eligible for membership in the Guild, why not join? Two of my friends have joined in the last few months, and I thank them for their support. If you're not a member, perhaps it's time you joined.

Benefits

AG will review your book contracts, no charge, help you build a website (Take a look at mine. I'm proud of it. I do it myself, and it's super easy. And cheap.), send you an excellent quarterly bulletin that will educate you about the biz of writing. And they offer so much more. Minimum dues are $90.00 and worth every penny.

Takeaway Truth

Authors Guild, the oldest writers' advocacy group in America, helps improve the lot of writers in significant ways.

Succeed With Email Press Releases

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Here's something you need to know if you want to send email press releases, either to print media or as an “exciting announcement to friends, business associates, and family.

Follow these rules so your announcement won’t be deleted, filtered to spam, or judged rude by the recipient.

The KISS Rule

Keep it short, sweetheart. People are busy. Give the pertinent information, you know, the old who, what, when, where, why, and how along with the book info: title, genre, ISBN, publisher, release date, price, & how to get a copy. Keep it to a couple of paragraphs so the reader doesn’t have to scroll and scroll again.

Be Thoughtful

Address the emails individually. That's best. Second best is BCC if you have to. But please don't send them en masse using CC. Never CC everyone, putting all of them in as recipients where everyone can see everyone else’s email addresses. I can’t tell you how much annoying mail I’ve received from total strangers who click a mass email Reply To All. Don’t be guilty of this. If you send each one individually, the recipient will think you actually thought of them especially for this, and it will make them feel special.

Personalize

Put a little note at the top of the email with a personal message if at all possible. Enjoyed meeting you at the book signing. Or Love your blog. Or I hope I can write half as good as you. Be sincere. The few seconds you spend doing this will make the recipient regard you warmly rather than with irritation.

Be Timely

Send your email announcements in a timely fashion - not so far in advance of the book’s release that they forget, and not so far after the release that the book is no longer available. "Timing," as funny man Steve Martin said, "is everything."

Find a Hook

Make sure your news is not only of interest but is presented in an interesting or entertaining manner to hook your reader. If mailing to media for inclusion in local newspapers, remember to find a hook that makes it locally newsworthy.

Takeaway Truth

The media gets thousands of press releases weekly, sometimes daily. Individuals are flooded with email also. Make sure your email is valued by the receiver in some way.

Caution: I'm Cranky

6 comments:
I am: cranky, contentious, angry, disgruntled, irate, annoyed, incensed, and generally in an extremely foul mood after dealing with problems all the fracking day. Not just one problem but multiple problems - none of which I created. I'm just left to deal with them.

I'm so ticked off I don't feel like doing anything but vent. So, dear readers, that's what I'm doing. Thankfully, I don't get this way too often. I generally have a philosophical way of looking at bumps in the road. Tomorrow, I'll be back on an even keel.

I'll once again deal patiently with people who I'm sure have several villages in search of them once they realized their idiots were missing.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you just have to vent to get it out of your system. Thanks for listening.

Accomplishment

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Quote for the Week

In 1910, Julia Louise Woodruff wrote "Harvest Home" in Sunday at Home:

Out of the strain of the Doing,
Into the peace of the Done.


Last night, completing the final proofread of my mother's memoirs, I entered the peace of the Done. And, oh, how glorious that peace is!

Backstory

A year ago I had decided to compile all the essays and stories of her youth that my mom had written into a little book. I thought it would be a nice Christmas present to give her with a copy and print some for my brothers and all our kids so they'd have a chance to get acquainted with Nanny as a interesting person who had led an interesting life - not just as their aged grandmother.

So I started work on this little project, but I made the mistake of telling my mother what I planned to do. I should have known better. My mother immediately imagined a beautiful bound book that all her friends could buy in their favorite bookstore.

Of course I told her no publisher would want a biography or memoir from anyone who was not a household name. That did not quench her enthusiasm for what was now her project.

Little Project That Grew

The little project turned into a big project that involved purchasing the Adobe suite, roping in my daughter the artist, and learning that what publishing professionals do is worth every penny they're paid. All in all, my mom's memoirs took a big chunk of my writing life for the past 12 months.

The book, naturally, wasn't ready for a Christmas present last year. However, it's now finished. I'm checking with the various POD publishers today to get the best deal. Then I'll upload the manuscript and stunning cover art. In about a week, I'll have a proof copy. If I did my job well, there won't be any errors. Even if I have corrections, the book will still be ready for Christmas.

Fait Accompli

You'll see an announcement everywhere about MEMORY LANE: My Sentimental Journey by Lucille Dickinson Ainsworth and Joan Ainsworth Reeves. I plan to paper the Net with notices because I'm SOOOOO glad I've finished.

I hope many of you see fit to order a copy since my mom has visions of sales dancing in her head. Her book will be on Amazon for sure because I did it the right way with ISBN etc. Just stay tuned for more news about my mom's book. I'll list the POD publisher so you can buy straight from there too.

Takeaway Truth

When you commit to a project, give it all you've got. A project may take longer than you wish, but the sense of accomplishment, engendered by meeting the demands of excellence, is priceless.

Cruising for Net News

2 comments:
Just My Lil' Organic Life has a post about why you shouldn't write for revenue sharing. That was one of the things I cautioned you about yesterday. Glossary: aff = affiliate; opps = opportunity.)

Pooper's Scoops gave their monthly award, which I cannot name since my mom reads this blog *g*, to a publisher who has been involved with a payment dispute with a writer.

If you want to see the original discussion with the complaint filed against the publisher, visit Writers Weekly and read all the correspondence. Glad I didn't sign on to work with that publisher.

While I'm mentioning Angela Hoy's Writers Weekly, let me encourage you to subscribe to their newsletter or visit their site and check out the Warnings section.

Ringing my own chime, this week on Joan Slings Words, you'll find analyses of the new television shows The Mentalist and My Own Worst Enemy, which has already been canceled.

Paperback Writer is giving away two dragon books by Patricia Briggs. Deadline is Sunday night so visit her blog and enter.

Elaine Viets at Lipstick Chronicles gives a warning about a mystery shopper scam going around.

Liana Brooks at Write or Right has an interesting post about Literary Signature.

Megan Hart at Novelists Ink has One Page at a Time. Excellent post.

Takeaway Truth

A wealth of entertainment and education is just a mouse click away.

Generate Cash Flow: Part 3

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WRITER BEWARE

There are many unsavory people out there who just love to take advantage of unwary writers. Today's advice is about protecting yourself.

Securing PayPal

This advice is based on case experiences I've read where people with PayPal accounts got screwed.

Open a PayPal account with an email totally unconnected to any other email names, blog identities, etc. that you may have. Use it only for your PayPal account and for registering that account to get payment from online sources. If you never use that email address for anything else, you'll never receive the scam emails purportedly from PayPal. Then you won't spend a lot of your time trying to verify whether said email is legitimate or a con.

Also, if you start getting junk email to that address, you'll know that one of your freelance sites sold that email despite their claims not to do so.

Create a complex password for your PayPal account and the respective email registered to it. Make it upper and lower case letters, numbers, and accepted symbols. Don't ever make it a date someone can hack or a word of any kind. Write down the password. (See my blog post Memory's Secret Weapon.)

Analyze Jobs

Spend several days analyzing job listings before you start applying. Read the listing carefully. Legitimate jobs should say exactly what they want, when they want it, and how much they'll pay. Unfortunately, many legit jobs don't. So you have to develop a sense about what's real and what's a scam. Don't hesitate to write and ask questions to clarify and to get a sense of the legitimacy of a job.

Ask Questions

Recently, I did that with a Craig's list ad for short article writers, $15 for anything. Well, any writer I know can crank out 50 words on something all day long. So I responded and asked questions. Answer I received was, "many will think this is a scam and complain to Craig's list...." He went on to tell me if I thought so then don't bother him.

Other misuse of a writer's skill are clients who want you to write an article for a buck. Some even say that any idiot can write captivating copy in 30 minutes so if you can't do that and want more than wages that amount to a penny a word, then don't reply.

I could go on and on with general and specific examples. The bottom line is don't agree to write anything for so little money that you'd be embarrassed to tell someone else what you worked for.

Free Samples

If you want a carpenter to build you a fence, do you ask him to build the gate first free? Would he if you did? I don't think so.

Then why should a writer submit multiple samples of articles for how they would write a client's blog or article samples of the content they would use for a client's newsletter?

If you have to submit samples, limit it to as few as possible. If you can, use something you've written before so they can't rip off what you send and use it without paying you. Yes, people do that. Tell the client this is content you wrote for such and such and that it has been used and copyrighted by the client who paid you for it. Anybody with a brain will realize if they use it, they run the risk of Copyscape catching it.

If the sample they want is specific and esoteric, then do what you can to verify the client's dependability and go with your gut feeling.

When To Write For Free

Yes, there are times you may actually write something for free or very little pay. This is when you knowingly contract with someone to do this with it written into the contract that with the next article, your fee escalates to whatever you can negotiate. Sometimes, in order to get a better deal, we do have to audition, but try not to do it for free and try not to audition on a long involved piece. Keep it short and sweet if you can. That way, if you don't get the deal you want, you won't be kicking yourself for wasting weeks of your time in research and writing.

Contract

Always have a contract that spells out what you will deliver and what the client's responsibilities are to pay you - when, how, how much. Nail down the important points before you do the work. A simple contract is easy to write, and you can email it to the client. If you want an actual signature, then fax it to the client with instructions to fax it or mail it back to you.

Redress

When you find job listings that are scams, file a complaint against the person who listed it.

People take advantage of writers because they can. It's easy to do. Arm yourself with knowledge. Do your research. Get a contract. When all else fails and your client won't pay, find out what legal actions you can take even to getting a lawyer if the amount warrants it.

Find the websites where you can file complaints against clients and do so but be sure you have the paper trail documentation to back it up.

Miscellaneous Cautions

Avoid ads that say: "No compensation." Especially if this is tacked on: "but you have the chance to be published on the Internet and be read by millions." I can't believe anybody falls for this, but they must since I see it frequently. Hey, my friend's dog with a blog is published on the Internet and has the chance to be read by millions.

Avoid ads that want to pay you by revenue sharing unless the site is willing to send you some real data, not a stat count reading, showing what they're traffic is.

I'm sure I could give you a ton more warnings, but you get the picture. It's not all bad news. If you pursue freelance writing, you'll make some client relationships that will last for years. They'll always turn to you first because they know you're good - you write well, you meet deadlines, and you're professional.

Takeaway Truth

The old caveat, let the buyer beware, should be rephrased and adopted by writers: Let the writer beware.

Generate Cash Flow: Part 2

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SLAP ON A BRAND

This is also from the course curriculum I'm creating so I'm only going to hit the highlights. In setting up a web presence for freelance writing, make sure you coordinate everything under one Brand.

Be An Expert

Put a lot of thought into what you think you can intelligently write about. Broad categories usually include: art, auto, baby, business, college, education, entertainment, fashion, food, games, health, home, kids, law, marketing, money, movies, music, politics, real estate, religion, science, sports, technology, travel, web design, and women.

Branding

Do a lot of brainstorming and thinking to create your freelance identity. Invent an identity or name you can use for a blog, email address, and to register on freelance writing sites if you so choose. For instance, if you want to start a blog to use for writing posts for clients, let's assume the blog focus will be writing posts about action television shows. Let's call the blog Action Thrills Me. You would then set up an email account to receive correspondence, and you'd want the email address to reflect or relate to the blog. So we'll say you manage to set up a free email account as: ActionThrills @ freeemail.com. Now let's say you register with a service that offers you jobs to blog for pay. You register your user name as Action Thrills.

The point of all this is to become known on the Internet for your brand whatever it may be. The easier it is for people to remember your brand (and email etc.) the better chances you'll have to write for bucks.

Internet Presence

Set up your Internet presence under your own domain name i.e. http://ActionThrillsMe.com rather than http://ActionThrillsMe.freeblogservice.com. It'll cost you a few bucks to get your own domain. Read some of the blogs I wrote about web hosting to find where to get the best deal.

Sure, you can set up a free blog like this one. When I set this blog up, I intended it only as a personal journal. If you use free domains for your blog, it will limit you if you want to blog for pay because the free domains are often excluded from the best paying jobs. The old axiom applies. You have to spend money to make money. I've since purchased my own domain Joan Slings Words for a blog I intend to use for commercial purposes as well as personal expression.

Fake It Till You Make It

Become professional. Learn the protocol professional writers follow. Always be professional in correspondence, work ethic, writing standards, and in negotiating and honoring contracts.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about some scams and writing jobs to avoid.

Takeaway Truth

An ability to work with words is a marketable skill.

Synch Is Cool & Oh, So Hot

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I've been test driving new cars. There's nothing wrong with any of our current vehicles. It's just that my husband gets infected every fall with new car fever. I've learned it's easier to feed his fever than to talk him out of it.

Synchronize

The coolest thing I've noticed about some of the new cars is how you can synch your PDA, iPod, and other magical gadgets with the car. Want an address entered in your GPS? Just synch it from your digital assistant. Synching is hot.

I've heard people say they don't use palm-sized data assistants because it takes too much time or they're intimidated. Au contraire. With this website I'm going to tell you about, you can easily update personal items, list appointments, make notes, and so much more.

Dot What?

File Extension Library is a cool site that defines those cryptic 3 letters at the end of every file name. You know, there's a dot then 3 letters. One you probably know is dot doc (.doc) which is a Microsoft Word Document file. You can use the site to look up an extension if you don't know what application was used to create the file.

Palm Address Files

That's really useful, but what I want to tell you about their site is ABA files. These are extensions used as palm address book files. They offer options to synchronize devices with just the touch of a button. Plus, the site has an automatic installer that enables upgrading to whatever the current version is with a simple click. And the installer is easy to install too.

Takeaway Truth

If you've been hesitant to use some of the new time-saving devices and websites, take the leap. You'll probably find the learning curve small and the time saved large.

Generate Cash Flow: Part 1

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Straight Talk & My Course

A while back I was talking to someone who had written several manuscripts but had not been able to snag a contract for her fiction. She had all these writing expenses and felt incredibly depressed because she had to take money from her household budget to pay them.

To make a long story short (don't say too late), she wanted to know how she could earn some money from writing in order to at least pay her writing bills so she could keep pursuing her fiction dream.

My Advice

My advice consisted of some straight talk and the gift of part of the course I'm developing to teach next year: Make Money Writing for the Web.

Straight Talk

Get over feeling bad. You're making an investment in a writing career. Like most careers, the investment you make in your writing doesn't pay off immediately. You may have to wait months if not years to see a return on your investment. If you want it bad enough, you'll wait. How long you wait depends on various factors from the state of publishing to the quality of your writing and the marketability of your ideas.

Elements of My Course

I gave her a list of sites where she could browse job listings for writers. If you want to get some cash flow going, here are some links to get started. Some of the jobs are listed on more than one site so make sure you don't send duplicate responses.

Blog Her Job Listings.

Poe War.

Blogger Jobs.

Freelance Writing.com.

Writers Weekly.

Jobs Pro Blogger.

About Freelance Writing.

Freelance Writing Gigs.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of this series: Set Up For Success. This will give you today to cruise these sites and read some of the job listings. If you can't wait for tomorrow's blogisode (Do you like my made-up word for blog episode?), then please let me know if you applied and what the results were.

Takeaway Truth

If you're a writer, you have the means to make money with your words.

Mumble the Peg

4 comments:
I'm almost finished editing my mom's memoirs which is good since I'm scheduled to upload it to the publisher on Friday. This project has taken me a year longer than I thought it would. Originally, I'd planned to have it finished and in print by last Christmas. Here we are with the 2008 Christmas looming large on the horizon. There is light at the end of this tunnel though.

In one of my mom's stories, she mentioned how the boys loved to play mumble peg. I knew there would be at least a couple of generations that didn't know what that was so I did some research.

Playing With Knives

Mumblepeg or mumbletypeg is sometimes called mumble the peg. It's a noun deriving from the phrase mumble the peg, from the loser's originally having to pull out with his teeth a peg driven into the ground. Mumblepeg dates back to 1627. So what is it? A game in which players try to flip a knife from various positions so that the blade will stick into the ground.

When my mom went to school, all the boys carried pocket knives, and they would play mumblepeg with their knives at recess. No one every threatened anyone else with the knife. No teacher or administrator ever thought it amiss that boys had knives so they never confiscated the pocket knives.

Takeaway Truth

My, how times have changed.

Free Domain Names - Really

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Recently I told you about Web Hosting Geeks. Today, I cruised their site to check out the best web hosting offers for a client. To my surprise, I noticed one of the tabs was Free Domain Names.

Free

I clicked it and discovered a list of web host providers who are not only inexpensive but who also offer a free domain name if sign up for them. Now, that's a pretty good deal by anyone's measure.

Awards

Next, I checked out their award categories just to see how the various providers ranked. The lovable geeks at WHG (Web Hosting Geeks) rank providers in 12 categories, but the ones that particularly interested me were Best Budget Hosting, Best Blog Hosting, and Best Email Hosting because that's what my client is most concerned with.

Reviews

To finish my research, I checked out their Web Hosting Reviews. Though they have 6 kinds of reviews, the only one I was really interested in were the Customer Reviews. I like to know what customers, real people who have used the services, think about the provider.

Takeaway Truth

When you're shopping for support for your online presence, something free is, to quote Martha, "a good thing."

Janis, Immortal in Death

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This afternoon I opened a book I hadn't read in a very long time and found a card a guy had sent with flowers an even longer time ago. The card said: You, me, a bottle of wine, and Janis.

I can't even remember the guy's name, but I remember he was trying, unsuccessfully, to woo me with promises of wine and Janis Joplin music. And, oh, how I remember Janis who uttered a piece of Rock Wisdom that has always stayed with me over the years.

Rock Wisdom

What's Rock Wisdom? It's what I call the profound comments and song passages from the musical geniuses who shaped my Baby Boomer world. Janis was wise, but, in the end, she couldn't see the forest for the trees. She died way too young.

Hellion From Texas

Janis Joplin was a good old girl from Port Arthur, Texas. She was born January 19, 1943, and she died October 4, 1970. If you haven't heard her raw, anguished voice, you've missed something. In the turbulent 1960s, as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, she took the world by storm.

Today, she's still remembered. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked her #46 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. It took years, but a couple of years ago, her hometown finally did something to recognize her contribution to music. She's celebrated in the Museum of the Gulf Coast located in Port Arthur.

Janis can best be described as a misfit from the day she learned how to talk. Here's her bit of Rock Wisdom that I took to heart: Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

Profound. Though the same comment has been said by many others before and after Janis, some far more educated and articulate, those two simple sentences seem to shout their meaning.

Drugs or Booze

In an interview once, Janis said, Who needs drugs when there's booze? Sadly, she must have felt she needed the heroin she shot into her veins.

I was sitting at a tiny kitchen table in an Okinawan apartment on a gray October morning when the English language radio news reader reported Janis Joplin, dead at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. Why couldn't she have heeded her own advice?

Takeaway Truth

Events that shatter your false assumption that youth is immortal often get embedded in memory.

Guess Who? It's Santa!

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With Christmas less than 6 weeks away, I thought it appropriate to start pointing you to some sites to help you get prepared. In December, each day I'll post a blog about a great gift idea for writers - actually, for just about anyone. Today, let's talk about creating magic for kids.

Let's Write Santa

For many kids, writing a letter to Santa is a holiday tradition. Some of the funniest things I've ever read have been children's letters to the jolly man in the red suit.

Most kids don't expect an answer, but in today's world, it's easy for parents to change that situation. They can easily arrange for their children to get a letter from the big guy himself.

Letter From Santa

There are lots of websites that offer personalized letters from Santa, but how do you pick the right website? Some smart entrepreneur has come up with the perfect solution: a website that reviews the other websites that offer a letter from Santa service.

Letter From Santa reviews all the official Letter From Santa providers online. You can even see what the letters and envelopes look like so you can pick the best one for your child. You'll also find a list of the other perks offered by providers like reindeer food, Santa Good List Certificate - even a phone call from Santa himself!

Takeaway Truth

Create a magical experience for your child, and use the Internet to help you choose wisely.

Why Read Print Publications?

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Let's talk about the genesis of ideas. I've mentioned my Imagination File where I stash things ripped from newspapers, etc. Thinking about these clippings made me think about the fact that a lot of people today don't read anything if it's not online. I still subscribe to the Houston Chronicle and read it every morning. I also scan the free small community papers tossed in my yard on a regular basis. Why? Because all these newspapers are a source of great ideas. You'll find articles that you won't see online.

Online Drawback

The online publications mainly cover broad topics of general interest to a worldwide audience. Now, there's nothing wrong with this kind of coverage, but you won't find on kind of stories on the Yahoo or MSN home pages that tickle your imagination.

When I read local papers, I'm always reminded of an old television show my dad liked. The name of this police drama was The Naked City. (Of course, in the South everyone called it the Nekkid City.). The salacious, at that time, name isn't what I remember most. It was the voice over tagline: There are 8 million stories in the naked city.

Where do you uncover these stories? One place is the local newspaper.

8 Million Stories

Here are some of the 8 million stories I've clipped over the years that sparked my imagination for one reason or another.

From the Franklin Sun, the small weekly paper from the parish where my mom lives: An old, apparently used at some point, coffin was found in an abandoned house that was being torn down.

From a Sugar Land paper: First African American principal honored. Billy J. Baines, now 77, has been honored by the Fort Bend Independent School District by having a new middle school named for him.

From Houston Chronicle: Robert Dale Howell put to death. He's the 18th inmate to die at Huntsville. He was 50; no public campaign was ever waged on his behalf to save him. (Apparently all the abolish death penalty groups aren't impartial in their support. They seem to go for the high-profile cases, and this guy had no PR at all attached to him at trial or afterward. He had killed before and got away with it. Apparently, the only reason his defense could come up with for why he should escape the needle for having killed his crack dealers in a crack house was that "yes, he killed them, but he didn't rob them afterward.")

From Houston Chronicle: Work crew finds skull near terminal site. Anthropologist called in. (Interesting. This was in an area that is now Port of Houston property on a dead end road. There was a serial killer working the area just to the west and south of there. Several bodies were found in League City from the 1980s on. No one was ever arrested. I remember reading about all those unidentified bodies they found in the field near League City and wondering why no reference was ever made to a serial killer. Finally, about twenty years later, there was a big splash in the Houston Chronicle about serial killers working the Texas area, and it was mentioned.)

From Bingo Gossip, a counter-top newspaper picked up at a BBQ joint in Luling, TX. Paraphrased letter to the advice columnist Nosy reads: Dear Nosy, My husband and I are newlyweds married 3 months ago when I found out I was pregnant. I met him after he'd broken up with his girlfriend who is also pregnant. She's getting ready to have her baby. He wants to borrow money from me to go spend 2 weeks with her. I understand he doesn't want to miss the birth of his child because he missed the first one when he was in jail. I love him but I feel uncertain about all this. What should I do?

You won't find material like that on the Yahoo's News! I can think of several articles that could be written as a result of the letter above not to mention some sweet ideas for a murder mystery or a chick lit or women's fiction where the poor girl grows a brain and realizes her potential. Or a nonfiction book about the poor choices women with low self-esteem make in trying to feel loved.

Takeaway Truth

Increase the breadth of your inspiration and your knowledge of human nature by reading print publications, especially local ones, in addition to online news.

Love Those Geeks

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Remember when the word geek used to mean someone who had an invisible L (for loser) tattoo on his or her forehead? Oh, how old school. Now, everyone loves geeks. Since I was probably considered a geek in high school, I embrace this new popularity. Yet, I have to confess. I'm not nearly smart enough to be a true geek, even though I try to pass on good geek info to my audience in hopes of making their lives easier.

Learn from WHG

I'm always writing about web and blog design and Internet issues. I try to steer my readers to websites that help them in their online efforts. For instance, I tell anyone interested in setting up a website to check out Web Hosting Geeks.com. (WHG for short.) This site has ratings and reviews of website hosts as well as associated costs.

No Techno Babble

Even better, WHG has their web hosting blog that will help educate you about Internet business. If you sell books or other products from a website, or want to, then read their blog about SSL (Secure Socket Layer), the standard for securing E-commerce transactions since its introduction in 1994. Want to know how much you should pay for a domain name? Do you really need a dot com name? Read the blog - it's a treasure trove of information, written in a way the ordinary person can understand it. That in itself is a reason to love these particular geeks because I hate wading through a bunch of techno babble.

Takeaway Truth

In a challenging economy, you need to make every dollar count. Get the information you need in order to make good decisions about your Internet presence.

Be a Diamond

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Quote for the Week

Way back in 1947, in Christian Kleinknecht's book Poor Richard's Anthology of Thoughts on Success, Minnie Richard Smith wrote:
Diamonds are only chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs, you see.

Lately I've been hearing lots of rumblings of despair from both authors of book-length fiction and their freelance-writing compatriots. The general consensus is that the economy is in the toilet, publishing is in recession, and rejections from business clients and editors are descending on us like snowflakes in a Montana blizzard.

What's a poor writer to do?

1. Take some small comfort in the fact that this scenario is cyclical. There are always peaks and valleys in a writer's career. So, be forewarned.

2. Even if you get rejected, know that the time spent writing the book was not wasted. Your skills improved. You learned by doing. Sometimes you have to learn what doesn't work in order to narrow your focus onto what does work.

3. Books will still be published in a down economy. Businesses will still need writers to produce everything from Internet content to print ad copy to educational articles and more. All the things that needed to be written a year ago will still require writers.

4. Decide if a writing career is really what you want. If it is, then grow a very thick skin that withstands rejection and develop your persistence ethic.

Persistence Ethic

What's a Persistence Ethic? It's the mental and emotional fortitude that allows you to persist in the face of rejection. It's what turns lumps of coal into diamonds. It's what keeps you writing and submitting over and over and over.

Ask any geologist how a sparkling diamond can come from an ugly black lump of coal. The answer is that massive pressure and an equally impressive amount of time is required to convert the coal to a diamond. Isn't that what a writing career is all about?

Pressure

Pressure to create. Pressure to produce. Pressure to do it book after book or article after article. Pressure to promote. Pressure to work with difficult clients, agents, and editors.

Time

Time spent learning the required skills. Time spent learning the business. Time spent submitting and getting rejected. Time spent waiting to hear good news. Time spent going through the process again and again.

Takeaway Truth

If being a professional writer is what you want to be, then resolve to be a diamond by just doing your job.

Breathtaking View

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My brother took this photo from his home site in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado.

He announced that it was only 4 degrees there yesterday. He went on to report that with the sun shining brightly it felt like fifty. So he, his son, and the contractors were working in their shirt sleeves as they tried to get the foundation poured for the house.

He always loved playing in the cold so he's really in his element.

Takeaway Truth

Sly and the Family Stone said it best. Different strokes for different folks.

Random Advice: Check Your Phone Bill

2 comments:
Just thought I'd pass along some Random Advice for Friday. I feel like ranting, but I'll restrain myself. Apparently, I got slammed.

Do Your Research First

My recent AT&T billing showed a charge for a company called Greentree Data. Almost ten bucks including tax. I researched them online and found a site listing numerous complaints against them for slamming phone customers. I'd never heard of the company before, but apparently they're well-known. I called the number listed for that service and asked who the frack were they and why were they billing my phone account.

Take All Appropriate Action

They said I had signed up online for their service. Did NOT. Never heard of them. I told them to remove their service from my account and refund me. Remove their charge and refund it asap. I then called AT&T and ended up with a very nice Customer Service Rep. Told her about the situation. I filed a complaint with AT&T about Greentree.

At&T said they would make a note on my account, but they have to get a refund from Greentree in order to refund to the customer. Apparently, this is a lengthy process in which Greentree may continue billing. You either have to call in each time and dispute the charge or pay it or not pay it and then late fees start piling up.

To my amazement, I received a refund check from Greentree yesterday so I can't rant any more than telling my experience. Of course, I'll be checking my phone bill to make sure they're not still billing me.

Takeaway Truth

Always check every page of the bills you receive and immediately dispute any charge you didn't authorize.