Only Constant Is Change

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Quote for the Week

My favorite musical Jekyll and Hyde, (the version that premiered in Houston, not the Broadway version) has a song I love. The lyric goes: "The only constant is change."

There's been a lot of change in Casa Reeves in the last 6 months with much of it now causing a drastic change in our lives. Our youngest decided she wants to get her Master's, but she doesn't want to incur debt in doing so. She figured it all out and presented us with a financial presentation that shows how she can fund everything herself without loans.

Of course, the first step in her grand plan involves giving up her apartment, moving home, and saving what she spent in living separately. Sure, we said it was okay. But the second step, actually moving her home, has been a sweaty, tiring process. That's what we started last week and will finish next week.

Now, my darling husband and I have to adjust to having our adult offspring at home again, and she must adjust to having parents around 24/7. Hopefully, we're all loving and mature enough to make the transition. She's been accepted to grad school and starts in the second summer session.

There's a new and different challenge ahead, but I'll blather more on that later. For now, I just want a cold drink and a warm shower and some time to do nothing. I'm exhausted. Did I say I hate moving?

Takeaway Truth

American historian Henry Steele Commager: "Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change. Education is essential to change, for education creates both new wants and the ability to satisfy them."

Inspired By Nancy Drew

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What do you think about the new Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor? I told my husband that any woman inspired by Nancy Drew to do good couldn't be all bad.

Of course, time will tell whether she'll be approved. I like what she had to say in 1997: "I don't believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstances. It says what it says. We should do honor to it." I like it because that's what I believe. I guess I would be a strict constructionist if I were on the judiciary.

Unfortunately, in later years, she seemed to speak in counterpoint to the above statement. Of course, everything I know about her is what I've read in the various media since her nomination, and we all know how that can be. I'll be following the nomination hearings with interest.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes fiction inspires reality for the better.

Beware Autograph Seekers

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There are a lot of benefits to hanging online with other writers, not the least of which is that you get a heads up when the scammers are at work. Like most authors, I get emails from people purporting to be fans who love my work. What they would also love is an autographed photograph of moi. Apparently, these folks are enamored of a lot of us writers because we all get the same letters.

Delete Key Works

Normally, I hit delete. The only time I feel bad is when the letter writer asserts that they are disabled or they're married to a disabled fan of mine and can't afford to buy books. There's always a little voice in my head that says: "Maybe they're telling the truth."

The other voice in my head that says they just want to scan my signature and somehow empty my bank accounts. So I hit the old delete key, but I feel bad about it. However, in today's world, you have to take everything with several grains of salt.

All of this is a long way of directing you to Leigh Purtill's blog about this issue, more specifically, about the 4 fans in Germany who have been sending letters.

Takeaway Truth

If I knew Latin, I'd say: Let the writer beware. Always check out letters with other writers. Chances are they're received them too.

Face Lift For SlingWords

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A couple of weeks ago I announced on my other blog that I planned to change the template. I wanted something with darker text for the body of blog posts as well as something with more space above the fold.

Research & Analyze

Naturally, I did some research first to see if it was a good idea to change from something that has proven successful. I didn't want to upset the PageRank applecart. Sure enough, I discovered that conventional wisdom says don't change your template if you're successful. Okay. Not a good move. So I left that template alone. I'll just learn more about customizing Wordpress templates so I can tweek it to meet my esthetic needs.

Nip/Tuck For Oldest Blog

So I turned my attention and desire for change to dear old SlingWords, my oldest blog which is primarily a personal journal and teaching tool for those interested in writing. I'd had the same template since I'd started blogging about four years ago. There was definitely room for improvement here.

I spent the better part of my Sunday in changing the template here. I'd already selected one I liked. That was a process that took about a week. I must have looked at hundreds of templates. Of course, uploading the new template was easy. The rest was a time suck of enormous proportions because I had so many widgets and personalizations on this blog, all of which had to be manually input again.

Kudos To Falcon Hive

The time was worth it though because I adore the template I used. It's Coffee Desk, originally a Wordpress template. It was "Bloggerized" by Falcon Hive. I think the end result is fabulous. Hope you'll agree. So please explore and tell me what you think.

Takeaway Truth

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. If it involves the Internet or computers, then the doing well takes at least a day of your life if not more.

Men And Women Who Serve

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Quote For The Week

Here in the U. S. of A., we're celebrating Memorial Day this weekend. Tomorrow, at 3:00 PM everyone is asked to take a moment of silence to remember those who gave their lives for this country.

As I placed my flags in the brackets so they'll wave in the morning breeze, I think about my Dad who fought on D Day, a high school friend who died in Vietnam, friends who served in the armed forces, and those who are deployed today.

T.R.

The wise words I've selected today are from our 26th President Theodore Roosevelt who knew something about war. You may remember him as the leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, but you may not know that he is still the youngest President we've had: only 42 years old when he succeeded President William McKinley after McKinley's assassination.

What He Did

He fought corrupt business practices and had a rep as a trust buster, eventually dissolving 40 monopolistic corporations. His platform was the Square Deal in which he promised a fair shake for private citizens and business. Health care was one of his hot button issues. He called for national health insurance during his term. An active outdoorsman, he was one of the first who called for conservation of our national resources.

He was also a prolific writer with 35 books to his credit. Here are some of his words of wisdom.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic, the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done."

Takeaway Truth

Thank you to all who have served. I appreciate your sacrifices.

Books: Good News & Bad News

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Recently, I read some updated statistics offered by the Making Information Pay Conference sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group. Like most stats about book writing, reading, and publishing, I found them interesting in light of our down economy. (I think I'm going to find another phrase to describe our sagging economy since the one I used is such a cliche.)

The Good News

In the last five years, according to Nielsen BookScan, the bible for some authors looking for sales figures and trends, over the previous 5 year period, sales of adult nonfiction were up overall 11.1% .

Travel Books: Increased sales in the previous five years by 516%.

Biography and Autobiography: Rose 34.1% with sales of personal memoirs up 567%, cultural heritage up 175%, and political biographies up 56%.

Business: Increased by 19.4%. In the business category during the previous five years, personal finance had increased by 122%, economics and general business by 351%, finance by 103%, and investments and securities by 117%.

Self Help: Over the last five years, spiritual books were up 224%, books about mood disorders rose 108%, general personal growth books increased 183%, and motivational and inspirational books increased 51%.

Adult Fiction: Overall, books sales of adult fiction increased by 8.9% during the past five years. (In case you didn't know, fiction is always a harder sell than nonfiction.)

General Fiction: up 23.3%. Graphic novels: up 52.7%. Mystery and detective genre declined 12.7%. Literary fiction increased 86.1%. Historical fiction up 24.1%. Political fiction (I sometimes think anything about politics and politicians is fiction.) up 157.7%.

The Bad News

In the current year, adult nonfiction sales are down 8%, but books on cooking still rose 4.8%, humor rose 8.9%, and biography rose 7.5%. The drops were in travel books, 18.7%; business and economics, 10.1%; and autobiography 3.4%.

In adult fiction, romance is up 1.5%, but Mystery/Detective fell by 19.8%.

Children's book sales increased by nearly 9% in the 1Q 2009 with Children's Fiction up 10.4% and nonfiction up 2.5%.

My Spin

So what does all this mean? It means that some books are selling increased numbers and other sales are decreasing. You can put your own spin on the facts. Here's my spin. We're in a melancholy economy. (That's my new phrase for our sagging situation.) Consumers are being more cautious in how they spend their money in all areas. That's why some nonfiction books like travel books aren't selling as well. People aren't traveling as much.

On the other hand, books on cooking are selling because more people are cooking at home instead of ordering take out or eating out. Humor books are up because people feel a need to laugh when times can seem grim.

The power house of romance fiction showed increased sales because not only is it perennially popular but also more people tend to want happy ever after stories when times are tough. Mystery and Detective novels may be down because people don't want to read about crime when their pension plans have been hijacked by greedy corporations. Unless maybe it's a greedy corporate mogul who gets his just desserts.

Children's book sales increased a lot though part of that is fueled by the paranormal books of Stephanie Meyer, or so I've read. I don't actually consider her books for children though the publishing business does because they are about high school kids. In today's world, a high school kid is far more sophisticated than I and my peers were in high school I suppose.

Takeaway Truth

Look to other depressions and recessions, and you'll see that people actually read more than in previous "up" economies. Get a book. Try it. Bet you like it.

Cultural Pulse

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I'm a bit late on this, but I wanted to call your attention to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners. They were announced back in April by Columbia University. In any given year, I manage to read a couple of books that end up being nominated. This past year I only read one of the nominees.

Actually, I just now finished, and the book was Strout's novel Olive Kitterridge. I really must find more time to read. From the time I started her book to now, I read other books so it's not that I'm the slowest reader in the world. Some books just take more time and thought.

Pulitzer Prize in Letters

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout for Fiction

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham for Biography

The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin for Poetry

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon for General Nonfiction

Ruined by Lynn Nottage for Drama.

Takeaway Truth

A quick way to take the cultural pulse is to see what is being nominated for literary prizes.

Winning Better Than Losing

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Quote for the Week

The late Al McGuire coached Men's Basketball at Marquette University from 1964 to 1977. Known for his amazing number of wins as well as for his flamboyant personality, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Mr. McGuire once said: "Winning is overrated. The only time it is really important is in surgery and war."

That's probably true. Actually, I know it to be true. So why do I feel so bad that the Rockets lost the playoff series to the Lakers?

{Big, big sigh.} Thanks, Rockets, for a great season.

Takeaway Truth

Better luck next year, Rockets.

What The Examiner Pays

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I just finished reading Angela Hoy's Writers Weekly with actual reports from writers at The Examiner.

You've probably seen the freelance writer job listings posted by The Examiner, which, it seems, is in many cities across the country. I know some writers who are columnists for The Examiner so I hope their experience is better than the ones reported to Writers Weekly.

If you were thinking about applying to The Examiner, make sure you read this first. It's not meant to discourage you from writing for them if that's something you really want to do. However, it is a reality check to make sure you're fully aware of their compensation structure.

(Do yourself a favor and sign up for Angela's weekly email newsletter. She's a great watchdog for writers.)

Takeaway Truth

Writers should get paid a decent wage for their work. No one asks a teacher to write for free or nearly free so why do they expect writers to do this?

Website Notes: May 2009

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May flowers are blooming. Must be time to post about what's new on my website with the May 1 update.

Written Wisdom

Quotations about, what else, but Mothers. Look for quotations from Sharon Doubiago, Nancy Friday, Lillian Hellman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Renita Weems,

The Pleasure Of Reading

An interview with Michael Haskins, author of Chasin' The Wind, a Mad Mick Murphy Mystery.

The Joy of Writing

Look for another article in the "Your Internet Presence" series: Website Or Blog.

Wordplay, the Official Website Newsletter

Details about the update plus an entertainment piece: From Wordsworth To Nickelback. Subscribe to Wordplay, and it will arrive in your Inbox the first day of every month.

Resources Of The Archives

An article usually appears on its originating page for two months. After that it's moved to The Archives. On May 1, these were archived: Interview With Annette Blair, Interview With Amy Clipston, Why Book Publishing Changes, Your Internet Presence: Websites, and Know Your Contracts.

Work In Progress

Opus 5 of 12 for 2009: Are You On Track.

Previously Published

An article to help you market your reverted or retained rights in case you don't have an agent to do this for you: How To Find Markets For Reprint Sales.

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.

Purpose Of Mothers

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Quote for the Week

Today I want to share one of my favorite quotations. Dorothy Canfield Fisher said it. She was a social activist and an educational reformer in addition to being a best-selling American author in the early part of the 20th century. Eleanor Roosevelt named her as one of the ten most influential women in the United States.

Background

Chances are you don't know Dorothy Canfield's most famous work, Understood Betsy, a children's book about an orphaned girl sent to live with relatives in Vermont. Something else you may not know is that she's the one who brought the Montessori child rearing method to the United States. She also presided over the first adult education program in the U.S. and she was a member of the Book of the Month Club selection committee from 1925 to 1951, thus shaping our country's literary taste.

What She Said

A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.

I'd never read that quotation until many years ago when all our kids were teenagers. That simple sentence had resonance for me because I realized that I had raised my children with that philosophy. I'd tried to make them strong and resilient and tried to give them the skills necessary to lead a successful life.

I wanted all of them, boys and girls, to know how to manage money as well as how to cook a meal and iron a shirt; how to be well-mannered as well as how to be assertive. I also wanted to teach them that I would always be there for them to celebrate their triumphs or stand with them if they make a bonehead mistake, whatever is required. I hope I succeeded.

Takeaway Truth

The hardest job in the world is being a parent. Happy Mother's Day to all who have tackled that job and done the best they could.

Tech Improved Phone Service

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If you're in business, you probably have telephone providers pounding on your door, physically and metaphorically speaking, every week in order to entice you to use their telephone service. There are a lot of Johnny Come Lately's in the VoIP phone service, but why not choose a tried and true company for your Busines VOIP phone service?

Xpander Communications was recently named Business VoIP Provider of the Month on My VoIPProvider.com, a free resource that compares, reviews, and ranks VoIP service providers.

It's easy to see why Xpander was awarded this honor. They recently premiered a new version of their VoIP software which features a new customer portal and a different price structure in order to give their customers the best rates and phone plans. After all, the tag line on their website is: A Better Life For Your Business. That's what they want to help you achieve.

Takeaway Truth

Technology is ever changing. That can lead to more profits and less overhead for businesses who take advantage of the improvements.

Time Off

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Oops! I've got to take about a week off to finish a project. I'll try to post, but you know what Yoda says about trying.

One of the things I'll do while off is changing the template for the blog.

Takeaway Truth

Look for my return a week from now

Texas Summers

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If you're tuning up your A/C for the hot Texas summer, don't forget to give Round Rock HVAC a call. You know them. They're Petrocelli Services, incorporated in 1990 and rated by the Better Business Bureau Accredited Business with an A+. They've also received the 2008 Angie's List Super Service Award. Plus, there has never been a complaint filed against them with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Good A/C Contractors Hard To Find

Why am I telling you this? Consider it a public service announcement for the Round Rock area. Good heating and air conditioning contractors are an asset for a homeowner. Round Rock HVAC specializes in little jobs like minor repairs and semi-annual check ups to catch small problems before they become major headaches. They also handle the big jobs too like installing complete new systems. They do it all with an emphasis on customer service.

Experience & Expertise

Since they install and service all makes and models, chances are they know your system. They're licensed for both residential and commercial air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration equipment. Sales, installation, service, and repair? Gas or electric? They bring expertise to these situations that only a local business can.

Website Resource

The website for Petrocelli Services, RoundRockHVAC.com is a resource for the homeowner. Be sure and read the articles, especially Why You Need the Best Round Rock HVAC Contractor which tells you what to look for in a contractor. The website encourages you to check references and informs you about some of the things to look for.

Use their website form to contact them or phone them. They're waiting to impress you with their great customer service and experienced professionals.

Takeaway Truth

In Texas, hot summers demand cold air conditioning. Make sure yours is up to the challenge.

Thoughts On A Gray Day

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1. Why is it when we need rain, we suddenly have 2 weeks of solid rain flooding freeways, ruining homes, and drowning people?

2. Why do they say, nice weather for ducks when it's raining? We have ducks near the water hazards on the golf course, and they are never out frolicking in the rain. They're taking cover under bushes.

3. How does the Morton Salt company get away with the slogan: When it rains, it pours? In what I call baby monsoon season, the salt clumps up in shakers unless you put grains of rice in it to keep it broken apart.

4. If you're going to have car trouble, why does it always happen on the rainiest, coldest, or hottest day of the year?

5. Why do weeds continue to proliferate in droughts or floods, but grass, shrubs, and flowers dry up and blow away or transform into waterlogged yellowish mush?

Takeaway Truth

Why am I sitting here when I could be watching my new DVD The Jane Austen Book Club?