Cinderella On Prom Night

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Do you remember the old Cyndi Lauper song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? In reality, girls just wanna be Cinderella on prom night, and the fun automatically follows. With formal dresses being sold everywhere, you'd think it would be easy for a girl to find the right dress in the many malls and boutiques of the land to transform her from plain student to prom queen for a night. However, that's just not the case, and you know it if you've ever gone prom dress shopping.

Check Out AmiClubWear.com

That's why Ami Club Wear, a fashion forward California business, is the answer to a prom girl's prayer. With short and long form wear, along with the accessories that are so important, they can be your one stop shop for prom. You can search their website by the type of item you're looking for or by clicking a category like What's Hot or Just In or maybe start with their Clearance section and hunt for the perfect bargain.

Hot Fashions

AmiClubWear.com has fashion experts who know what's hot now, and they get it for you before it's outdated. For example, isn't this Red Halter Mermaid Style Dress stunning? They also make it available to you at a reasonable price without a lot of markup the way the mall stores do. The website is a secure site so you can shop with a sense of security. They take the major credit cards as well as PayPal, and they ship free with purchases over $50.00.

For their customers, they offer an email newsletter as well as a unique fashion blog. In their blog, they show celebrities wearing the latest fashions. Then they show their own models wearing similar outfits. Pretty cool.

Takeaway Truth

Beauty should be accessible and affordable.

Travel In Style

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Conference season is approaching for writers, and vacation season for all of us, not to mention those visits to college campuses for those with graduating high school seniors. Whatever your reason for traveling, you'll be pulling out the old luggage and trying to figure out if it will survive another trip. If you make an investment in Luxury Luggage, you won't have to play this guessing game each time you plan a trip.

Bulging Book Filled Bags

As for writers, when we go to a writing conference, we come home with suitcases bulging at the seams with complimentary copies of new books and all kinds of promotional materials. More often than not, some hapless traveler (name withheld to protect the embarrassed) ends up with busted zippers on a bag or broken wheels or both. When that baggage carousel at the airport goes around, there's usually more than one duct taped bag circling the room. If you make an investment in quality luggage, that won't be you hoisting the crippled bag from the carousel.

How To Buy Quality Luggage

Analyze the kind of travel you do. How often do you travel? That determines the level of durability you need. How long do you usually stay away from home? That determines the size of the bag you want. If you travel a lot, leather is probably your best choice though there is high quality cloth too.

Handles

Make sure the handles fit your hand well and are easy for you to hold because sometimes, even with wheeled luggage, you'll be lifting and holding your bags.

Wheels

Make sure the wheels on the bag are adequately sized and engineered well. In the past, when I was in France, the wheels on my bag locked and wouldn't turn. That was my lesson that cheap just doesn't cut it. I dragged that bag through France and tossed it in the garbage when I got home. You want big wheels that maneuver easily, every which way.

Writers Love Desk Accessories

I don't know of a writer who isn't a junky for office supplies and desk accessories. I know I've adored leather desk accessories ever since I visited a leather factory in Florence. When you have a beautiful leather piece, like a Writing Folio, on your desk, the smell and the tactile sensation just make you feel good. The great thing about a leather writing folio is that you can tuck it in your carry on bag so you can make notes the old fashioned way.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes quality just costs more, but because it lasts longer, it ends up costing less. A nice conundrum.

I Love Comic Sans

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Herein I confess my affection for the typeface known as Comic Sans. Imagine my surprise when I read this Wall Street Journal article about Vincent Connare, the creator of what I think is a cute, casual looking font, and the worldwide movement to ban that same font.

Reading about the Ban Comic Sans movement makes me think these people should get a life. I mean I understand Ban The Bomb, Ban Greenhouse Warming, and other such real social issues, but ban comic sans. It's just a typeface, people. Use it. Don't use it. Big deal.

Takeaway Truth

There are real problems in the world. Find one and work on it.

Acceptance

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Quote for the Week

"There are people who live lives little different than the beasts, and I don't mean that badly. I mean that they accept whatever happens day to day without struggle or question or regret. To them things just are, like the earth and sky and seasons." Celeste De Blasis, Wild Swan, 1984.

Black Holes

Do you have someone in your life who is a black hole of the universe? They just suck the joy out of you, suck the energy out of you, suck the life out of you. I do. It's a relative whom I love, but I don't enjoy which means that we both lose in a relationship in which I maintain contact out of a sense of responsibility.

Coping Mechanisms

If you have someone like that, how do you cope? Over the years I've tried pointing out the extreme negativity this person exhibits. I've suggested professional help to deal with the raging case of unhappiness and depression, but all is to no avail. My attempts are met with a cycle of indignation, rage, tantrums, and tears.

After a few decades of this, I burned out. My relative will never change because the person does not see there is a need to change. I've become philosophical about this and just do my best to be a good person and not let the black pessimism affect me. I finally accepted that you can't change another person or make another person happy no matter what you do.

Within Each Of Us


Change can only come from within, just as happiness or sadness does. We all have a choice about how we will react to life events, how we will feel, what emotions we will dwell on. I knew this all along. Finally, I got tired of jumping through ever multiplying hoops in an effort to make another happy. Finally, I accepted the situation, the person. Just the way the person is.

Takeaway Truth

A life truth: it is what it is.

Texans: Contact Your Elected Officials

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I'm not a political animal. I cast my vote and hope for the best, but sometimes you have to do more to make your voice heard. The respective bills regarding dropping the 1 credit Fine Arts requirement for graduation is such an issue. The Texas State Senate will be voting on SB3 and the Texas House of Representatives on HB3. Both bills have the goal of ending the fine arts minimum requirement.

Bad For Texas Schools

This is not a good idea for our schools here in Texas. Please read on. If you also think this is a BAD idea, contact your elected officials and ask them to vote NO. Find out who your elected official is.

That link is http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ in case you want to write it down. You can go to your senator or congressman's website and use the email form if you wish.

Contact Your Senator & Congressman

If you feel that ending a fine arts minimum requirement is bad, please click the link to obtain the contact info for your senator and congressman, and please tell others about this. The vote is April 29, 2009. What follows is basically what I said to Senator Glenn Hegar and Congressman Pete Olson, my representatives to the State Legislature. Feel free to adapt my letter.

WHY ART IS IMPORTANT

I'm very distressed to learn that the Texas State Senate and House are considering dropping the 1 credit fine arts requirement as a graduation requirement. In today's highly competitive world, having a well-rounded educational background is more important than ever, and art is an integral element in achieving that goal.

Art Creates Brain Flexibility

Art stimulates different parts of our brains and causes us to feel, to laugh or cry, and to THINK about something in different ways. Isn't that the object of all education? To teach someone to use their body of knowledge to think and to use their abilities to become a productive member of society?

Art & Science Together

It is no surprise that some of our greatest math and science geniuses also create art or music. Art is the trigger for creativity in all areas. Pietro Perona of Cal Tech and Stephen Nowlin of Art Center College of Design put together "Art for Science's Sake." Nowlin said: “There’s a notion that art and science are polar opposites, and that artists and scientists only visit the other side as a kind of escape from the rigors of their own disciplines. I don’t think that’s the case. There’s a place where they overlap. There’s no doubt that science and new technology can transform the world we live in, but they can also transform the nature of art."

Build A Bridge

The study of art helps students bridge their existence with all human existence by using their imagination and creativity. This exposes them to cultures across a broad spectrum of civilization thus creating the multicultural experience that allows them to understand, respect, and value other peoples.

Art enhances life and enables students to explore their own imagination, interpret their ideas, and in many cases, release negative emotions in a safe, creative way. In the end, it may give them tools to use in their daily lives that allow them to respond to situations in a more positive manner.

There have been clinical studies that support this. Look at the many art programs used successfully in rehabilitation for those stricken with mental or physical illness or injury.

Continue Support

Currently, the minimum high school requirement supports the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Fine Arts Graduation Requirement. Every student who wishes to obtain a baccalaureate degree from a Texas institution must have 3 credits of fine arts. To drop the high school minimum requirement is to not support the higher education requirement.

Call To Action

My husband and I are two constituents asking that you uphold the requirement for a fine arts credit. Please vote NO on SB3/HB3.

Takeaway Truth

The squeaking wheel gets the grease. Nothing can squawk as loud as a motivated voter.

To Internet Publish Or Not

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I may be repeating myself, but I can't find a blog post about this even though I thought I had previously posted one. They say the memory is the first to go, right? (Actually, your energy is the first to go. I think I've been running on empty for a long time in that department, but I'm like the Energizer bunny and just keep on rocking along.)

IMHO

Since I write a lot for the Internet, I wanted to give my perspective about publishing original material on the Net because many of you are publishing your original fiction on the Net either your site or some other site in hopes that it will attract publishing interest.

Published Is Published

My Internet writing is in 3 categories: personal, on the fly blogging for pay, and expensive contracted work. I'm going to talk about the high dollar work I do that always requires signed contracts. These state what I provide has not previously been published anywhere on the Internet, and that includes any website or blog: mine or someone else's. If it has been, then I must disclose this. If it has, I don't even try to market it except as reprint rights material. Published is published even if you stick it on your site.

My Track Record

Last year I sold Internet rights on a piece that had previously been print published several years before. Since it had not appeared on the Internet though, I was able to license the work for a period of seven years for a nice sum. It was serialized with a chapter a month from Jan. to Dec. 2008.

This year, I'll have my second serialized novel appear on that site. This novel has not been print published or Internet published before, and that was specified in the contract. I was able to license it for a respectable fee, equivalent to a nice advance from a print publisher. I wouldn't have settled for less since it's a quality piece of fiction. It will be published a chapter a month from March 2009 to Nov. 2010.

Contracts = Money

My contracts specify 7 years. At that time, the site owner must renegotiate with me to keep it. Now, let's be coldly realistic. In all likelihood, given the propensity of people to download and copy, the life of the work may well be over as soon as the chapters hit the Internet. It's just too easy for unscrupulous Net denizens to copy, print, and plagiarize.

Legal Recourse

However, the site owner pursues these people and uses the most up to date software to find such instances. She takes legal action which is more than most of us can do. That's the reality of the Internet scene. I hope the reality isn't as cold as that since I've retained all other rights to both these works. I'd love to make a subsidiary deal or a book printing deal if the opportunity presents itself. (Hey, indie producers! Romantic comedies are hot, and I write superb ones!)

Bottom Line

I don't know of any publisher who will pay real money for anything that has already been published electronically. Why? Because once on the Net, it's forever on the Net. Like I said, for most people the life of the work is basically dead once it gets out there. You can cancel your arrangement, cancel the site, cancel membership, but what you uploaded will still be out there somewhere and will have been downloaded, copied, etc. by who knows how many. Even Internet periodicals that pay for articles usually won't buy if you've had it on a site somewhere or if they do, they offer pennies.

Protect Your Potential Payday

When the Internet makes it possible to scan and publish entire works of authors much more famous than you and me, it's naive to think that someone won't be tempted to copy a work, with or without copyright registration. Heck, I've had blogs I've written plagiarized repeatedly and scraped on a daily basis.

Personally, I wouldn't publish an original work on the Internet that I hoped to sell to a paying publisher because I know I would be lessening its intrinsic value. Once it's published and out there either on a website or in book form, the crooks go to work, but at least you get paid before that happens.

Exceptions

Now, if some of you are jumping up and down in protest because you know Mary Writer or Joe Six Pack who published something on the Net and then sold it for big bucks, then that just bears out what we all know. There are exceptions to every rule. Yes, lightning strikes for some people. There are bloggers who have contracted to write books because of the popularity of their blogs.

Yes, Stephen King published teaser chapters a few years ago for free but you had to pay to read the rest, and he made a mint. Yes, Nora or Janet or Dean Koontz could post anything on the Net and a publisher would still pay to put it in print. Yes, being lucky helps. It's kind of like the old Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film where he asks: "You have to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky?" If you're lucky, it will work out for you. Who can predict that?

Takeaway Truth

The first publication has special significance. If you think it can result in a payday, then protect your work.

Don't Fence Me In

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One of the happiest days of my dad's life was when he bought land. I remember how he perused the advertisements before finding the perfect acreage. Oddly enough, my husband has acquired the same habit of searching for Land for sale.

The whole family teases him as he whistles "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler On The Roof and surfs the Internet looking for
fishing properties for sale. His idea of heaven would be reeling them in from sunrise to sunset.

Other times, he confines his search to Ranches for sale, after all, he is a Texas boy.

Land Management

Since he's visited the website continuously, he's learned quite a bit about land ownership and market trends. He's already knowledgeable about proper land and game management so he appreciates the expertise shown by this website that specializes in the global marketing and sale of hunting and fishing properties as well as premier ranch land for investment or conservation real estate.

Conservation

He was telling me how conservation can be encouraged and supported with tax incentives and how private landowners can use forestry management and stream rehabilitation to help preserve natural landscapes for future generations. Matching sellers to buyers who share the same conservation ethics is another way to preserve habitats. This is possible when you have experienced real estate professionals and management who all share a commitment and passion for the land as well as for sporting traditions.

Email or phone them. They'll work with you to make your dreams of land ownership come true. Don't forget to sign up for their newsletter so you'll hear about new listings and updates promptly.

Takeaway Truth

There are two resources that can never be increased: time and land. Use each wisely.

Website Notes: April 2009

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The month is almost over. I forgot to post what's new on my website with the April 1 update. Oops!

This month we celebrate or scourge computers since Casa Reeves has been afflicted with techno problems for the last two months.

The Pleasure of Reading

Gives you a behind-the-scenes-look at Alice Duncan writing as Emma Craig and her new novel Sierra Ransom. Alice tells us all about how she came to write this book that will be published this month.

Due to lack of time in front of my own computer, this is the only significant change to my website. Come back and visit in May when each page will have a captivating new feature article for your entertainment and education.

Written Wisdom

April's theme is Computers since that blasted subject is number one on my black list at the moment. Look for quotations from dear old Anonymous, The Farmer's Almanac (Yes, they have something to say!), Robert X. Cringely, John F. Kennedy, Doug Larson, Ken Olson, and Thomas Watson.

(By the way, if any of you out there have websites or blogs and would like to exchange links, just let me know. Send me an email at joan at joanreeves dot com with REAL LIVE PERSON - LINK EXCHANGE in the subject box.)

Takeaway Truth

Every month you'll find entertaining and education articles on the art, craft, and business of writing on my website.

Free Newsletters For Writers

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The Internet is a treasury of resources for writers. Here are a dozen newsletters that I think are particularly worthwhile. Some you can subscribe to the RSS feed or by email. Others you can read on site.

Ralan's Market Report

Covers SF and Fantasy as well as a few others. Not automated. You must send an email to ralan@ralan.com.

Cynthia Sterling Market News

Covers fiction markets on a weekly basis. Automated so send blank email to:
CynthiaSterling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Morning Coffee Newsletter

Working Writers Newsletter

CopyBlogger

Creative Freelancing

Book Publishing News

Horror Fiction News

Food Writing Newsletter

Poets & Writers: Tools For Writers This page has an eNewsletter registration at the bottom.

Angela Hoy's Writers Weekly includes warnings about deadbeat publishers.

Practicing Writer.

Takeaway Truth

A good writer must always have two goals: work to be a better writer and know what's going on in the marketplace.

Face The World

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When our skin is less than perfect, we sometimes wish we could hide behind a mask. It's hard to face the world with acne blemishes or dark spots marring our complexions. Some people call those dark blemishes age spots, but doctors and estheticians refer to them as hyperpigmentation.

Help!

Is there anything that can be done when you have areas of the skin that are darker in color than the surrounding skin? You don't have to just live with the hyperpigmentation, a condition caused by a variety of factors from sun damage to acne scars and others. There are skin care products that can help.

Special Formulas

SkinBeautyMall.com, a Better Business Bureau accredited website, offers specially formulated products that lighten the dark spots. Along with using correct products, for instance the Babor White Effect 24-hour lotion for combination skin, you also need to use skin care products that will prevent new damage to your skin. They have excellent cleansers and moisturizers just for skin that has hyperpigmentation. Be sure and select a good sunscreen with a high SPF also. Get one formulated for your skin type.

Focus: Effectiveness

At the SkinBeautyMall website, they have the top anti-aging products on the market, and they focus on the products they think are most effective. You can search for products according to your skin type, or by product purpose, or by product brand. With a discount of 10% off your purchase when you spend more than $50.00 and free domestic shipping, they're hard to beat. You can even ask questions of an Esthetician on staff.

Takeaway Truth

Your skin is your face; make the most of what you have.

River Walk City

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In the last few years, people across the country have come to realize something we Texans already know: San Antonio is a great city with a lot more to recommend it than just The River Walk . I visit there quite often and have even thought about buying property there. Even though I know the city well, I wouldn't dream of looking for real estate without the guidance of experienced San Antonio Realtors

Good Realtor Worth Gold

Buying or selling a home, whether a vacation home or permanent residence, isn’t always easy, especially in today's economy. You want to get the most for your property. That's where a good realtor comes in. Or, you want the best buy at a good price. That's also where a realtor experienced with the local scene can help. They know what's priced to sell and what's not. They know the dynamics of the neighborhoods and what shopping, educational, and social amenities exist.

Keller Willaims Legacy

At San Antonio Real Estate Agency.net, the Keller Williams Legacy website, you'll find definitive articles that tell you how a qualified San Antonio realtor can guide you through the often confusing process of buying or selling a home. Their realtors will work with you every step of the way from showing you homes to taking you through the closing process.

Takeaway Truth

A good realtor does more than just list and show houses. They help you find the home that's right for you.

Power Bloggers Have Credentials

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Everyone has heard about how much money famous bloggers are raking in. Money from AdSense, link referrals, affiliate marketing, and advertisers clamoring for space on their blog not to mention the publishing and entertainment worlds beating a path to their door in order to throw money at them.

Good Blog Credentials

Perez Hilton, recently a Miss USA judge, is a power blogger. That's not to say whether he is good or bad, but he is well-known. He has what are called good blog credentials.

Just in case you wondered what constitutes the kind of blog credentials that get you noticed by decision makers and power brokers, here are a few.

Defined

Alexa score below 150000

Technorati authority above 500

RSS Subscribers above 1000

Twitter followers (typically 1,000+)

Important speaking engagements

Book Deals

Media Coverage

Celebrity

Has Our Society Changed

One may be tempted to say that our society has transformed to a culture that celebrates the superficial, creating celebrities from out of the mainstream personalities. Is that stating the obvious or is it just that Hilton et al are the most obvious examples because the entertainment media publicizes them?

Choose Carefully

There are power bloggers of substance, but they don't get as much widespread attention as the Hiltons of the blog world. Check out these 25 Star Power Bloggers To Follow In 2009 if you are in doubt.

Takeaway Truth

There are good and bad bloggers in every strata from power to novice. Whether to follow or not is always the reader's decision.

Cute, Fluffy Tail Nuisance

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Every now and then my husband and I get together with our neighbors to complain about the fluffy tailed little squirrels that overrun our yards. Short of nuking this site from orbit, I didn't know there was a way to get rid of these cute nuisances that seem to procreate faster than a computer becomes obsolete. Fortunately, my mother had mentioned squirrel repellents to me.

Good Riddance Humanely

After a little research on the Internet, I discovered HavAHeart.com, a specialist in products that repel wild animals by scent and taste. They also have traps in case you want to trap the little critters and drive them to woods to live free rather than continue creating a nuisance of themselves on your property.

Expensive Experience

Some of you who aren't plagued by troublesome squirrels might wonder if they're really such a big problem. Just listen to my expensive tale of woe. We have an old 4 wheel drive Tahoe parked in our porte cochere. We don't use it often. Imagine how surprised we were to find that squirrels had decided to make it their vacation home? They gnawed through the transmission fluid line. Cost to repair $400.00.

Then there was the time a squirrel succeeded in getting into the attic at our previous residence. It fell between the interior and exterior wall framing and got stuck. The Saturday emergency (expensive) pest wrangler we called concluded that we should just leave it alone and maybe it would get out. It did, but only after our enduring about 8 hours of squirrel screaming.

Take Action

If you're overrun by squirrels, you don't have to be. Havahart® products can help. They're EPA approved, and they're humane and safe yet effective as well as kind to the environment. Many of them can even be used in organic gardening.

Great Resource

Their website offers a resource of articles from experts about all kinds of critters that can cause problems for your home and yard. Of course the site is Secure Shopping that accepts all major credit and debit cards. If you sign up for their E-Newsletter, you'll get valuable tips plus 10% off your on-line purchases.

Takeaway Truth

Griping about a problem may give emotional release, but taking action to end the problem is far more satisfying.

When To Quit

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I think Toni McGee Causey's blog post How Do You Know When To Quit is taking the Internet writing world by storm, much as Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream audition video did.

If you've ever felt dejected by writing rejection, please do yourself a favor and read Toni's blog post. It's about one of my friends, Christie Craig, now a hot commodity, but once a struggling writer collecting rejections instead of royalty checks.

If you think your couple or a couple of dozen rejections are too crushing to overcome, then you definitely need to know Christie who collected about 3,000 rejections. Like the old Timex TV commercials, she took a licking each time, but she kept on ticking. She believed in herself, and she wanted her dream desperately. She dreamed a dream, and she let nothing stop her from turning it into reality.

Takeaway Truth

Dreams are nothing but dreams until you build a foundation under them. For a writer, building a foundation means you write. And write. And write.

Steel: Sleek, Sexy, Stainless

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I've simply got to stop watching those home design programs on television. My husband wants to send me to a 12 Step Program, but he can't find one called Home Improvement Anonymous. My latest issue with my house is that my kitchen doesn't have one of those undermount stainless steel sinks. Of course, with a little shopping on SinksUSA.com, that little flaw can be easily remedied.

Classic Design Element

If you too lack this design essential, let me tell you why it's important. Stainless Steel is one of the most popular design elements right now. Kitchens are being created with stainless steel backdrops and countertops because the material goes with any decor and because of its durability. It'll look as good a decade from now as it does today.

Why Under Mount

An undermount sink gives a clean, modern look to a kitchen because it integrates seamlessly with the countertop. They're easier to clean because food particles, grease, and dirt don't get trapped between the flange of the sink and the edge of the countertop when you use a drop in sink. That means the undermount is better for hygiene.

SinksUSA sell only the best quality undermount sinks, but they are able to sell them at wholesale prices to the public. And what a selection they have from kitchen sinks to bathroom sinks to bar sinks and of the most popular materials like stainless steel, ceramic, copper, and stone in undermount and self rimming styles. Sure they have faucets too so you can make an excellent design choice in matching the faucet set to the sink.

Website Resource Guide

Their website is a secure site that takes all the major credit cards and PayPal, and they ship free to the lower 48. Not only can you shop 24/7 online, but you can also get quite an education with the articles on the website. I always like it when a website gives something of value to its visitors instead of just selling their products. For instance, I learned that wooden sinks are "the thing" in Europe. Who knew?

Takeaway Truth

In decorating your home, you can't go wrong with a classic.

TV By Candlelight

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Quote for the Week

Comedian George Gobel, beloved by my parents' generation as Lonesome George, once said: "If it weren't for electricity we'd all be watching television by candlelight.”

Indeed. Since Friday, our electricity has flipped on and off as quickly as a YoYo goes up and down. Sure we've had stormy weather down here in the Houston area, but the first day it went out for a couple of hours was Friday. Sunny skies. No rumbles at all. Kaput. Off while I was in the middle of research.

The power came back on and then the rain started. Stormed from then until Saturday evening. All in all, Saturday was a miserable day that never really brightened from a weak sunrise. All total, about 10 inches of rain fell.

Tonight as I attempt to view the first episode of the second season of In Plain Sight, I may have to view it by candlelight.

Takeaway Truth

How easily we take our utilities for granted. How bereft we are without them.

To Twitter Or Not To Twitter

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Whether to spend time engaged in social network sites is indeed the question that plagues many of us. Writers seem most pressured to participate in this activity in the hope that it will increase the awareness of their name and their product, usually a book.

Sucked In

Opportunities abound as is evidenced by the millions of sites offered by MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social sites out there. We writers are exhorted by publicists, editors, agents, and other writers to make our Internet presence known. We get sucked in.

There's only one drawback to this. Time spent on all these sites not to mention the website and blog that most of us maintain is time spent not writing. If you're a freelance writer, time spent writing for social network sites (yes, plural because most don't limit themselves to just one) means you're not writing for clients that pay you. If you're a book author, time spent tweeting or writing on walls or collecting followers in whatever venue is time you're not writing a manuscript.

Perspective Needed

It's hard to gain perspective in this issue, but a few big authors already have admitted that they just can't do it all nor do they want to. Write big contracted books and maintain a presence on the most popular of all the social networks and blog? Nope. At best, you have to pick and choose where your precious minutes will be spent or even whether to spend them hitting the social net scene at all.

Quandary Shared By All

I maintain my own website though many pay someone to do this task. I not only like doing it; I like being able to update it when I want it updated rather than being placed in the client queue for it to be done by a third party. I also write two blogs. I'm on Facebook because my daughter made me, but I seldom check the site. Same with Squidoo and Twitter. I simply don't have the time to:

(1) post to these sites or update them not to mention give attention to those poor individuals who signed up to follow me (I'm sure they've been disappointed.)

(2) write my daily contracted work

(3) work on my spec novel

(4) write my blogs

(5) have some sort of relationship with my family(they get cranky when I spend all my time in front of the computer)

(6) devote the minimal amount of time to what I laughingly call "household chores"

(7) devote an even smaller amount of time to taking care of myself i.e. exercise, etc.

(8) then there are the long distant family relations that take time in phone calls each day at the minimum

(9) all the other minutiae of life from meetings to balance the bank statement to taking care of our rental property and a gazillion other details

(9) and fun. What happened to fun? Where did it go? It's hidden all these other obligations.

I'm tired just thinking about all of it. So if you signed up to follow me on anything for which I signed up, I apologize. Just follow me on the blog because that's the only thing for which I have reserved time to which I am truly committed.

Takeaway Truth

Time is more precious than money because you can make more money, but you can never make more time.

Alice Duncan & Sierra Ransom

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The talented, multi-published Alice Duncan, who also writes as Anne Robins, Emma Craig, and Rachel Wilson, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her latest novel Sierra Ransom, to be published by Five Star in April 2009. (This interview also appeared on my website in Reading, April 2009.)

I hope you'll enjoy this story of how she breathed life into another memorable character and created what you'll find is another of her captivating stories. By the way, Alice is not only a fabulous writer by whichever name she may use, but she's also famous for living in the alien capital of the world, Roswell, NM.

From The Pen Of Alice Duncan

Sierra Ransom was a book I’d wanted to write for a long time. Today’s problems aren’t unique to our generation, but have been around for as long as people have existed, and I wanted to write about the women who coped without our modern conveniences.

Therefore, I decided to have an unmarried woman run away from her Massachusetts home to California during the Gold Rush. The product of a dreadful family, Zenobia Gray was seduced by a man whom she believed loved her. Naturally, when she arrived in California, her beau was long gone. Since California at that time was desperate for women to take care of the work that men didn’t know how to do (in other words, everything except dig holes and stuff like that), Zee at least had opportunities unavailable to her back east.

The problem with the book was that, although I’d lived in California for most of my life and had taken classes in California history in high school and college, I didn’t know much about the physical area where my story would take place: California’s Gold Country.

As luck would have it, an OLD friend (I emphasize the word old, because she’s eleven days older than I), Lauren Fiedler, invited me to visit Taylorsville, California, with her over the Fourth of July holiday, where we would stay with friends of hers. Well, hecky-darn, Taylorsville was right smack in the middle of where I wanted my book to be set! So I went, had a wonderful time, and managed to get in some real, live research while having tons of fun.

Lauren and I stayed with some friends of hers, Joe and Susan Tomaselli (Susan, unfortunately, died in an automobile accident a couple of years ago), and Joe was a mine of information about the area, the old mining operations, etc. He also told me to read THE SHIRLEY LETTERS, a book written by a woman who accompanied her spouse to the gold fields, so I got myself a copy. Boy, it turned out I was exactly right about my assumption that people have always been the same. Poor Mrs. Shirley suffered from migraine headaches and all sorts of things we suffer from today, but she had to cook over a wood fire, get water from the river, had no antibiotics when she or her hubby were injured, and so forth.

Thus the redoubtable Zee Gray ended up operating a soup kitchen in Muddy Flats, a run-down gold camp in the middle of the gold country. The reason Sam Ransom ended up in Muddy Flats is an entirely different story. Sam, you see, was on the lam from the law in about as many states and territories as the United States possessed at that time. Sam, determined to go straight at last, decided that the prim and proper Zenobia Gray would be a person to emulate in his new life as a law-abiding citizen.

Takeaway Truth

Look for Sierra Ransom in April of 2009 and Angel's Flight in July. Buy them online from Five Star or Amazon or request your local Library to order them.

Make Good Habits

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Benjamin Franklin said long ago: "In the beginning man makes the habit. In the end, the habit makes the man."

Profound

From the standpoint of my years, I can only say that this is the wisest, most profound advice I've ever heard. If you want to live a successful life, make good habits. If you want to achieve a goal, make a habit of working toward that goal. If you want to master the guitar, then you practice chords for so many minutes each day until that practice session is second nature. If you want to be a writer, then you write so many words a day until doing so is second nature.

Work Discipline

For a writer, work discipline is nothing more than a habit of producing work each day. Desire may get you moving toward achievement, but desire wanes in the tedium and difficulty of life. When it does, habit can take over and keep you moving to the finish line.

Create Good Habits


Creating the habit of producing pages each week is the habit successful writers need in order to reach their goal of a completed work. Develop the writing habit by producing a certain amount each day. Make that certain amount your minimum daily requirement so that you cannot rest at night if you haven't met that minimum. As you become comfortable with your habit, increase your requirement.

Takeaway Truth


Desire gets you going, but habit carries you to the finish line.

Lone Star Writing Competition

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One of my RWA chapters is the Northwest Houston RWA. They are the host of the prestigious Lone Star Writing Competition which is now open. Here are the details.

17th Annual Lone Star Writing Competition

Entry Fee
: $20 NWH members; $25 non-NWH members

Postmark Deadline: June 5, 2009, arrive by June 12, 2009.

Electronic Deadline: must arrive by midnight June 5, 2009.

Any entries received after the deadline will be returned unopened or deleted unopened.

Finalists announced: August 20, 2009.

Winners announced: October 24, 2009, at the Lone Star Conference.

Eligibility: Unpublished may enter any category. Published may enter any category in which they're not published, or in which they've not been contracted for five years. Open to RWA and non-RWA members.

Enter: First 25 pages, including prologue, if desired. All entries must be in the standard submission form: 1" margins all around, 12 pt. font, double space, 25 lines per page.

Judging

All entries will be sent to three first round judges: two published authors and one unpublished author. The lowest score will be tossed and final round contestants will be chosen by the combined total of the final two scores.

Top three high scorers in each category will be category finalists. Those entries will be sent to both an agent and an editor for placement.

Final Judges

Inspirational Category:
Editor Jessica Barnes, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Agent Tamela Hancock Murray, Hartline Literary

Young Adult Category:
Editor Kat O'She, The Wild Rose Press
Agent TBA

Romantic Suspense Category:
Editor Lindsay Nouis, New American Library
Agent Lois Winston, Ashley Grayson Literary Agency

Contemporary Series Category:
Editor Wanda Ottewell, Harlequin
Agent Sha-Shana Crichton, Crichton Literary Agency

Single Title Category:
Editor TBA
Agent Paige Wheeler, Folio Literary Management

Historical Category:
Editor Alicia Condon, Dorchester
Agent Michelle Grajkowski, 3 Seas Literary Agency

Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Category:
Editor Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks
Agent Tina Wexler, International Creative Management

More Info

For any questions or for more info, contact 2009 Contest Chairwoman Melinda Porter at "bdogs80 at aol dot com."

Takeaway Truth

Contests judged by Editors and Agents are a good way to get your work in front of the people who can make things happen in your career.

Ready, Set, Move!

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Did you know that about 25 per cent of the population moves every year? I think it's a safe bet that the majority of that moving happens between Memorial Day and Labor Day, even for those that don't have children in school. This is the time of year that people start comparing moving companies so take a look at Houston Mover.

Big Time Stress

I've helped my daughter change apartments twice, and it always happens during this time. Guess what? We're doing it again after Memorial Day.

Moving is one of the top stressors in a person's life. Moving is change, always a big change. Change is often difficult, especially when it involves saying farewell to a home, friends, and a community we know. Moving to a new house that isn't yet a home and meeting new people, finding new places to shop, new churches, and new schools? That's more stress.

Analyze

Selecting the right moving company will help relieve that stress, but people often go with the first estimate or the lowest estimate. This is an area where it pays to shop around. Most moving companies have websites that tout their services, but The Houston Moving Company and its HoustonMover.biz website go a step beyond that. They tell you how to judge a moving company and how to find one that's reliable. They urge you to check out any company you consider with the Better Business Bureau.

Credentials

They specialize in moving homes, apartments, and offices. Of course they're insured and bonded, and they have all the right equipment to move your belongings safely and efficiently. Plus, they have hourly and flat fee rates. You can get a quote over the phone by calling the number on the website.

Takeaway Truth

Shop around and check credentials so you can make a wise decision.

Redemption

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Quote for the Week

Today is all about Redemption so I thought I'd use that as my subject. I'm not going to talk about the religious aspects. If you are like me, you attended Easter services and already heard that sermon.

Instead, I suggest we apply the action of redemption to ourselves and our quest for achievement. If you look up redemption in the dictionary, you'll find some synonyms are: recovery, retrieval, reclamation, reparation, salvation, and rebirth.

Tom Petty, in Lonesome Sundown, sang: "Redemption comes to those who wait, forgiveness is the key."

I think we all need to take a look at ourselves every now and then and maybe forgive ourselves when we've failed or made mistakes. I know in writing we try so hard and push so hard to achieve the success we want, but sometimes success just doesn't come.

Let's call it cumulative non-achievement rather than failure. It's rough on the soul. Sometimes we need to take a step back and just let it go. Forgive ourselves and forgive others if we think they are in some small part responsible for our cumulative non-achievement so we can redeem our dreams and go forward.

Takeaway Truth

Forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and rebirth. It's a process.

News Nuggets

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How's that for an alliterative title?

I'm trying to catch up on all my news so thought I'd pass along some of the more interesting tidbits as well as the source from which I gleaned the info just in case you'd like to subscribe too.

Twilight Rules Book World
(from Galley Cat)

This is awe-inspiring. Stephenie Meyer sold 16 Percent of all books in First Quarter 2009. The series held the top 4 slots. Translating 16 %: that means 1 in every 7 books last quarter was written by Stephenie Meyer. Don't foget her vampire series premiered as a movie franchise last year too.

Amazon Free Shipping Made Easy
(Kim Komando Newsletter)

This tip is about the free shipping Amazon offers on purchases of at least $25.00. I went to the site to check it out. At Superfiller.com, you fill in the dollar amount of how much more you need to reach the magic $25.00 amount, and they give you a list of products for that price so you don't have to browse and probably spend more money than you went.

PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories
(from Pub Lunch)

Anchor Books has partnered with the PEN American Center. They'll rename their story prize program and collection the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories.

Over To The Youth Side
(from Bookshelf)

Even Andrew Klavan is writing young adult. His latest hero is 17-year-old Charlie West who likes jet planes and karate and girls, of course, The Last Thing I Remember. I love Klavan's books so I'll probably give this one a shot even though I don't normally read young adult. Ads say target reader is age 10 to early 20's. That's some range. Of course, that seems to be the profit bottom line range.

ISBNdb.com
(from GalleyCat)

I use IMDB.com all the time so I'm excited about ISBNdb.com which will be a similar digital database for books. The website archives digital records for 4.2 million books, collected from 10 million different sources. According to the site, they get their data by scanning libraries worldwide for book information. The scanning is random and similar in a way to how general purpose web search engines scan web sites. Scanned results are parsed and stored in th website's searcheable, browseable database. They try to cross-index the database by author, publisher, genre, etc., but that's apparently in beta phase."

Takeaway Truth

A writer must stay up to date with not only publishing news but also technology/internet news too.

To Social Network Or Not

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Ah, that is most assuredly the question. I hear it all the time from authors on my writing lists who look at social networking as a necessary evil to separate themselves from the pack of authors, all crying for attention.

Most nonwriters think of social networking as an extension of their social life. Some view it as an online party. Writers see it differently though many do enjoy the social aspect of it.

Promotion Hopes

Does it do any good in promoting you or your books or to increase name recognition? Most internet gurus and marketing experts give qualified answers.

"No, it won't sell books or increase name recognition, but it can't hurt." Or, "Yes, but only if combined with other efforts."

Marketing Law

You see, the problem is governed by an immutable law of marketing: a consumer must see or hear a name approximately 9 times before it makes an impression. If you translate that into an individual viewing your web presence 9 times, you realize that the real problem is driving traffic (unknown visitors) to your social network page or website to view you and what you have to say.

If you're already famous or a rising star, that's probably pretty easy. If you're starting from ground zero, how do you get those numbers to sign up to follow you or be your friend?

Chasing Your Tail

You can spend endless hours tweeting or friending it or whatever you think might work, but the honest answer is that no one knows. I suspect a lot of people on the social network sites get ego strokes from accumulating friends and having innumerable strangers sign their walls or whatever.

I conducted a little survey last year on a promotion loop I'm on. I asked everyone to tell me what social network they used and if they thought it helped. Not one single writer could honestly say they thought their efforts were worthwhile yet they felt compelled to continue because everyone did it.

Self-Delusion

That's a trap. We each have only 24 hours a day to work at our career, take care of domestic stuff and our financial/clerical responsibilities, and to achieve that important task of having a life. If you're feeling overwhelmed and burned out, maybe you need to assess how you're spending your allotted time.

Takeaway Truth

Time is more valuable than money because you can make more money, but you can't make more time. Spend wisely.

Get Thee Behind Me, Procrastination

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Bet you are wondering what I'm doing this week since I'm again erratically blogging. I hate to confess this, but I'm finishing up the income tax return.

Remember a couple of months ago when I talked about doing my income tax forecast? All I was waiting on were some 1099s? Well, I waited and waited, but they never came. Thank goodness I keep good records and always log every penny of income.

Procrastination Demon

However, while I was waiting, the Demon Procrastination grabbed hold of me. Every time I thought about finalizing the return, it whispered in my ear, "Wait. You can do it any time. Why take time away from writing to do it now?"

Foolishly, I listed to the deceitful voice. So what happens? I end up scrambling for time between some deadlines to get the forms filled out in ink, photocopies made, and booking time in the time dilation field (that's my fond appellation for the local post office) so I can stand in line and mail this sucker certified. Why certified? I take no chances when it comes to tax matters. I want to know without a shadow of a doubt that they have my hard-earned money and the accurate reporting of same.

Takeaway Truth

She who procrastinates today lives to scramble in haste another day.

Most Wanted Reviewed

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I just received a lovely email from the Editor at Large Print Reviews who wanted to alert me to the impending posting of a review of the large print edition of my book, Most Wanted, published by Ulverscroft.

Of course I hurried to the website as fast as my connection allowed. I was delighted to read the review of what was one of my favorite romantic comedies. I was equally pleased to find the reviewer also liked it.

We writers always sweat when we hear a review has been made. Ah, reviews. They're a necessary part of the business, but I don't know a single writer who doesn't cringe when it comes to reviews. A glass of a good pinot noir helps, but some writers refuse to read reviews at all.

Takeaway Truth

The only way a working writer can deal with the stress of reviews and keep writing is to believe the good reviews and ignore the bad.

In The Present Moment

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Quote For The Week

On the rare occasions when I catch a TV talk show, it seems I usually hear one of the celeb talking heads hold forth about being in the present... living in the present moment. This (along with being your authentic self) is a popular topic on talk shows.

This philosophy of living fully in the present moment isn't something new. Most happy people discovered this secret long ago.

Back in 1926, Dorothy Dix, America's highest paid and most widely read female journalist of her time (1861 - 1951) said in Dorothy Dix: Her Book: "I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us."

Ms. Dix who was actually journalist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer dispensed advice on relationships,what they called love and marriage back then, in columns syndicated in newspapers all over the world. She had an estimated reading audience of 60 million.

Takeaway Truth


There's nothing new under the sun, only new ways of expressing old truths.

Houston Exhaustion

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No writing of any kind today since I spent the day traversing Houston's freeways as I took my daughter to the doctor on the north end of town. That's a trek that usually takes a half day and requires the patience of Job when contending with 6-8 lanes of traffic on FM 1960.

The skies were clear and blue, but the wind was high. In fact, the Shell Houston Golf Tournament canceled play today because of the wind. There's a meteorological corollary between this golf tournament and the weather. I don't think the Shell Open has ever been held when the weather is ideal. The event usually gets fierce spring storms, unusual cold snaps, or blistering heat. This time it was almost 50 mph winds.

The bright spot in the day were the wildflowers blooming on the shoulders of the roads on the way into town and on the slopes of overpasses. Our state flower, the Bluebonnet, is beautiful en masse, but it's even more stunning when blended with a field of the bright orange Indian Paintbrush, which unfortunately, I couldn't find today. Guess I'll have to go hunting for some to photograph.

Takeaway Truth

Springtime in Texas is breathtaking.

Be Cool, Be Solar

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Last fall, I blogged about my younger brother who bought a mountain in Colorado. Here's a photo he sent last week of the house he's building, powered by solar energy.

Solar Rules


You can see one of the solar panels he's installed. He's using the solar power not just for heat or hot water but to power his entire home. I bet you didn't know you could even have a Solar Cooling System.

Now, you might think that cooling a building using the energy from the sun sounds crazy, but it's really not. In most solar power systems, the sun's energy is stored in a battery array which then is released as electricity when you need it. That means that the brightest, hottest days of the year produces the greatest solar power of course.

Solar AC

Solar air conditioning systems work with a water-assisted air conditioning system to transfer the energy into a water or ventilation system. There's no long-term storage of the energy. What you get in sunlight is what you use each day. So the sun provides a substantial amount of the energy needed for your air conditioning. That means you use less AC from traditional coolant systems that emit environmentally damaging gases and other pollutants.

You do something good for the environment and for your budget. Instead of cringing when thinking about the electric bill during July and August, you can keep your cool when using this alternative energy method and actually lower your energy bills while remaining cool and comfortable.

Untapped & Underused

My husband and I have always been interested in solar power. It's an untapped energy source just waiting to be embraced. Sure, solar energy has been used since ancient times, but only in the last few decades has technology evolved that makes it not just an expensive option but a viable alternative. Only a tiny fraction of the solar energy available is being used.

My brother chose solar energy because it's a lot cheaper to install a solar panel array and batteries than to pay through the nose to the local utilities for electricity. For remote locations, solar power can actually cost less than traditional utilities. For existing locations, solar is a green alternative with a payday at the end.

Takeaway Truth

The world is changing, and we can help it change for the better.

Spring Spruce Up

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I'm making my Honey Do list for you know who, and I just saw a program on HGTV where they spruced up the exterior of a mundane house's facade with exterior shutters. The end result looked great so I think I'm going to add that little upgrade item to our weekend cabin.

Takeaway Truth

Even the plainest home can be improved with decorator touches.

Kelly Clarkson Rocks My Writing

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Here's a beach scene from The Trouble With Love. Chapter 2 of my romantic comedy being serialized on the Romantic4Ever.com website is live today.

I've added another song to the soundtrack, or playlist, below. Since there are now 3 songs on the soundtrack I thought I'd discuss how the music relates to the story being told.

Background

The title of my romantic comedy was inspired by the Kelly Clarkson hit The Trouble With Love. The musicality of that piece and Kelly's voice are of course fabulous, but what the song had to say was what hit me. Written by Ms. Clarkson, Evan Rogers, and Carl Sturken, the lyrics resonated with the story I wanted to tell about an obsessively independent young woman. I won't give all the details of the back story since I prefer you to learn what makes her tick as the story reveals them.

Soundtrack Line-up

Somehow, Kelly Clarkson's songs just fit the flow of the story. First up is Miss Independent written by Rhett Lawrence, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, and Matt Morris. The titular character captures the present character of Susannah Quinn, the heroine of this romantic comedy. Whether Susannah "grows" as the song's Miss Independent does is what you'll discover as you read each chapter.

Chapter 1, published March 1 in this serialization, has another Clarkson song Walk Away written by Ms. Clarkson, Kara DioGuardi, Raine Maida, and Chantal Kreviazuk. That's what Susannah wishes Hogan, the guy giving her so much grief would do. The female anthen song is also what Susannah wishes she could do: just walk away from all her dumb mistakes, her problems, and the situations holding her from her dreams.

Chapter 2, published today, April 1, has a 1972 Carly Simon song You're So Vain. Ah, yes, most women, regardless of their age, know this female anthem. Does this song really describe Hogan, Susannah's nemesis? Or is it just easier for her to believe he's a shallow player of the love 'em and leave 'em school? Read the chapter and make up your own mind.

Takeaway Truth

Good music enhances a good read the way a soundtrack enhances a movie.