First Half of 2010 Ends

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Today marks the end of the first half of 2010. Time to assess. Time to learn from what you've done and not done.

Start With Goals

Start with the goals you had for this year. Were they written down? Have you accomplished any of them or at least accomplished the baby steps that lead toward a goal achievement? If not, why not? Is the goal still valid? Do you still want to achieve that goal? What would it take to make it happen?

Continue To Time Management

Look at the way you spend your allotted 24 hours each day. Are you making effective use of that time? Do you find yourself bemoaning the lack of time to do what you want? Analyze your time and see if you're truly using it effectively.

End With The Money

Take a look at your expenses and income. See if there are ways to increase the income and cut the expenses. Are your financial records in order with receipts filed and books posted up to date? If not, take care of this now. It'll be a lot harder if you wait another 6 months.

Takeaway Truth

Taking stock is necessary to make sure you're on track.

Dark Courier

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This post is for writers who like to use a non-proportional font like Courier in their hard copy manuscripts. The problem with Courier is that it doesn't print dark enough, but there's a solution. Change to Dark Courier, an HP font that's free to download.

Apple

If you use an Apple product, Courier Bold is the choice for you, but it's not free. You can get it at Fonts.com for $29.00. Just go to the site and do a search for that font name.

PC

If you use a PC, try this link for Dark Courier download with instructions.

Another great site for PC fonts that's free is dafont. Great website. I use it a lot.

Dark Courier is not that much different from Courier Bold nor from Courier with bold face selected. The Courier font is designed to look what came from a typewriter, and it is mono spacing rather than proportional.

There are minor differences, but the amount of space taken up by a character in any of the 3 above is probably the same and will look the same to everyone but graphic designers who are font experts.

Takeaway Truth

Having said all this about fonts, let me add: No editor is going to reject you because you used a proportional font instead of a mono spacing font.

Promotion By Writing Articles

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Some of you may be wondering what's the difference in writing articles and posting them for free to article sites that offer free content and the content mills derided by professional writers. Recently Angela Hoy fielded questions about this on Writers Weekly. Visit her there if you'd like some background on this subject or want to read her comments.

There are a lot of websites where you can post articles with the expectation that your bio and links will be posted along with the free articles. Sites like ArticleCity, EzineArticles, GoArticles or any of the other websites can help drive traffic to your website.

Content Mills

I won't name any names here because some good people work for them under the impression that they're building a professional writing portfolio. I see no reason to bring those struggling writers any more distress related to their work for the mills than they already receive.

Basically, the content mills say they will pay you for articles. The pay is very low and very slow in coming, and the hoops they make you jump through are often insulting.

Takeaway Truth

Legitimate article sites can help you so make sure you choose wisely.

Summer

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Quote for the Week

This week's quotation is attributed to James Dent. I could find little identifying information so as to attribute these words to the correct James Dent. There seems to be a surplus of them on the Web.

In any event, a James Dent said: "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken."

If you live in a state similar to mine, you know how daunting is the task of keeping the lawn mowed. The concept of a broken lawn mower makes one smile with relief. My! How grass does grow in the summer here.

In fact, the rapidity of grass growth is why I decided to incorporate native grasses and wildflowers in the yard of our weekend home. I love it. So do many who have stopped to comment about the natural beauty of our little rancho's grounds. Unfortunately, I don't think our neighbors, who have a suburban-esque expanse of manicured lawn, agree.

Takeaway Truth

Summer may be obvious to all who behold this heated season, but beauty is still in the eye of the beholder.

More On Book Reviews

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Here are some more points to cover when writing book reviews.

Good or Bad

There are always reasons why someone thinks a book is good or bad so think about those reasons and be prepared to articulate them in writing. Some people don't realize that you can't just say a book is good and expect people to accept that opinion.

Any judgment you make about a book must be supported by some aspect of the book. Did the characters make it good? Did they seem like real people? Were they believable? Was it the plot? Maybe the breakneck pace of the novel had you turning pages into the wee hours of the night?

Good or bad, be prepared to support your opinion. However, don't make a review personal, for example, don't call the author names if you deem the book "bad" for whatever reason. Mud slinging isn't what pros do. No writer sets out to write a bad book. Be objective and professional in your reviews.

Takeaway Truth

Strive for professionalism in your book reviews because, one of these days, you may be on the receiving end of a review. The rule of karma usually applies.

Make Book Reviews Stand Out

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A lot of websites review books, either officially or unofficially. Good book reviews tell what the book was about and whether the author did his or her job in delivering a good book.

If you want to make the reviews you write on your website stand out from the crowd, try doing more than posting a couple of sentences about the book's storyline.

Offer a synopsis of the book you're reviewing. Not every site gives synopses so if you do, that will make your reviews and your site special. Of course, you shouldn't reveal story aspects that will ruin the book for readers. Nothing's worse than looking forward to reading a book, only to have it spoiled by some detail-oriented reviewer.

Sure, it's challenging to write an accurate synopsis and to express what's good about a book without leaking the plot twists and character surprises, but it can be done. Be sure to give your honest, but fair, opinion also.

Takeaway Truth

Don't be afraid of writing book reviews. You're doing a service for the author who needs readers.

3 Twitter Help Sites

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Do you Tweet? Are you good at it? If not, here are 3 websites to help you become more proficient.

Twitter Tutorials for Newbies

Ultimate Guide For Everything Twitter

Free Twitter Tutorials

Takeaway Truth

Social networking can be an important tool in your goal for internet success.

California Gurls: Sassy and Fun

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Are you a fan of Katy perry California girls? Oh! That's Katy Perry's California Gurls? You know the cute, sassy song that just made recording history for Ms. Perry?

According to Billboard, the song made the quickest leap to the venerable list's top spot since "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani reached numero uno in its six weeks on the chart back on May 21, 2005.

If I didn't already have the perfect ringtone for my daughter ("Miss Independent" by Kelly Clarkson which so fits her!), I'd choose Perry's song because it just sounds like fun and makes me think of a sassy, spunky girl which is also my daughter.

I'm big into ringtones. In fact, if you're someone I regularly talk to, you have a specially selected ringtone on my cell. I collect ringtones from lots of websites because it's easy and pretty cheap.

My brother who suddenly moved to Colorado, fact detested by my mother, ended up with "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas. My other brother has "Man With No Name" from the Clint Eastwood movie soundtrack since he's a huge Clint fan. I'm thinking of changing that though to "Red, White, and Blue" by Mark Farner because it kind of fits my brother who loves country rock and is fiercely patriotic.

Takeaway Truth

It's easy to know whether to answer a cell call when you have ringtones keyed to the frequent callers in your life. It's also fun.

Consumer Information Catalog

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I'd completely forgotten about the publications available free or at low cost from the Consumer Information Catalog until I received one in the mail. My mom had been on their mailing list so the most recent edition of the catalog was forwarded to me with the rest of her mail.

Several years ago, before the Internet made so much information available for free, I was on the mailing list too. Each time the new catalog arrived, I eagerly read all the listings, excited about the free reading material I could get for the price of a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Tax Dollars At Work

Our tax dollars pay for these publications, and, for the most part, that's money well spent. You can get credible information on many different topics - everything from cars and computers to federal programs, finance, and travel. Now, you don't have to wait for the catalog in the mail. You can go to the website and order your publications.

Takeaway Truth

Bookmark The General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Citizen Information Center as a resource that's quite a bargain.

Summer and Ice Cream

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I can't think of any dessert better in the summer than ice cream. We crank out a few tubs of the homemade frozen treat, but, for the most part, our ice cream comes from the supermarket. Our brand of choice is Blue Bell, from "the little creamery in Brenham, Texas."

Take The Tour

We went on a tour of their production facility in Brenham a few years ago. If you get a chance, take the tour. It's great. I love manufacturing and production tours where you get to see containers whizzing along at warp speed. The only thing lacking is a musical background. I suggest something like the Gayane Suite, for orchestra No. 3: Sabre Dance by Grieg. If you get a chance, take the tour. At the end, you get a free scoop of any ice cream flavor they have.

New Flavors

We've been treating our taste buds to a new flavor each week. Oh, but they've got some fabulous taste treats this summer. Here are the results of the Reeves family taste tests.

Happy Tracks

Vanilla ice cream loaded with chocolate-coated peanut butter cups and a dark chocolate fudge swirl. This wasn't as fabulous as I thought it would be, but daughter loved it.

Butter Crunch

I first bought this in the small town near our weekend home. The teen girl cashier saw it, rolled her eyes, and said: "Oh, my God! This is to die for." Guess what? She was right. This vanilla ice cream loaded with chunks of crunchy chocolate peanut butter candy, i.e. Butterfinger candy bars, is a winner with all of us and our guests to whom we served it. Highly addictive and absolutely delicious.

Southern Hospitality

Creamy and fresh tasting, this contains their Homemade Vanilla and has chunks of pineapples, roasted pecans and a strawberry sauce swirl. Very good. Also a winner, but not superior to Butter Crunch.

Coming Attractions

This week I plan to try either Groom's Cake or Summer Berries. Groom's Cake is a blend of chocolate ice cream with chocolate cake pieces and chocolate coated strawberry hearts, surrounded by swirls of strawberry sauce and chocolate icing. Summer Berries is a citrus ice cream mixed with strawberries, blueberries and swirls of raspberry and blackberry sauces.

Since Blue Bell has DSD (Direct Store Distribution), their ice cream is available only in states they can service in this way. I hope you're fortunate enough to live in one of the 17 states they serve.

Takeaway Truth

The one thing Blue Bell lacks is a breakfast ice cream. It's morning as I write this, and I find I'd like a scoop with my morning coffee.

Writing Fellowship

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Want to get paid while you write or research? Here's a fellowship that pays $4,000 to novelists to allow them time to write and/or research.

What

Christopher Isherwood Foundation Fellowship

Deadline

Applications accepted between September 1 to September 30, 2010,

Requirements

Visit Isherwood Foundation website for application requirements.

Notes

They also award 2 scholarly grants of $2000 each for study of Isherwood materials at the Huntington.

Takeaway Truth

Someone will get this. Why can't it be you?

Happy Father's Day

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Quote for the Week

Favorite Quotes About Dad

"A father carries pictures where his money used to be." (Anonymous)

"We never know the love of our parents for us till we have become parents." (Henry Ward Beecher)

"The kind of man who thinks that helping with the dishes is beneath him will also think that helping with the baby is beneath him, and then he certainly is not going to be a very successful father." (Eleanor Roosevelt)

"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." (Johann Schiller)

Sadly, This Fits Me

"Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes." (Gloria Naylor) By the time I really appreciated my dad, he had passed.

Takeaway Truth

Appreciate your father now. Show him how important he is to you. Regrets are bitter and unrelenting.

Kindle Followup

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When I purchased my Kindle, I wrote up an analysis of the popular e-reader. That was on April 16, the day after the income tax deadline here in the States. I think it's time for a followup report.

Books Purchased

I just received my credit card statement and am aghast at how much I've spent on books last month. My purchases include Kindle editions of course, but I've also spent more on audio books and print books than I normally spend. In fact, I've bought twice as many books as I usually do - and that's saying something!

I find I can read so much more with the Kindle because I carry it in my purse and can take advantage of those odd moments of time that I find myself idling through. Sure, it's great in doctors' reception rooms, but it's also just as handy when standing in line at the time dilation field aka post office or in line to get a refund at Target or Walmart.

Best Use So Far

I wrote before about how convenient it was when reading in bed. I've also found it indispensable when I've been at our weekend house in the Texas Hill Country. No Internet. No TV service. No newspaper. Just golf, fishing, music, wildflowers, and a back porch to watch the wildlife. That's all great, but I miss my newspaper.

With the Kindle, I've subscribed to the Houston Chronicle. No, it's not as good as the print copy (which is saying something considering how small and insignificant the print edition has become the last two years), but it gives me the national, state, and local headline news, the sports, and a bit of the so-called entertainment pages.

Subscription Bargains

I've also subscribed to Reader's Digest and a couple of other newspapers from other geographic areas. Best of all, when you subscribe to a periodical or a blog (both mine are Kindle editions now), you get it free for 14 days. You can cancel in that time if you don't think it's worth the small monthly fee, and you're not billed anything.

Takeaway Truth

A Kindle makes it easier to read more and read more often. If you're a book lover, this is just another way to read.

Age Categories Of Children's Books

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I'm continually surprised by some of the interviews I've been listening to on my iPod featuring very popular authors of Children's Fiction. The themes and premises of these books, as the authors discuss them, seem unabashedly mature and sophisticated.

Why The Interest

I was talking with a retired English teacher a while back. I don't think she'd been out of the classroom that many years, but she was definitely out of touch with what teens are reading: books like the Twilight series and all those of similar vision. We started talking about the books targeted to certain ages and how that has changed because of Harry Potter.

I didn't know as much about this since I don't write juvenile fiction except for books I write for the kids in the family. I thought I'd do a little research and find out what age levels publishers are targeting.

Generally, kids read up. They read books where the protagonists are older than they are, and that means they sometimes read more mature subject matter. This interest in books like that trickles down to what publishers are putting out for kids.

More and more, kids are reading the adult books about tragedy and hard times. Thus, publishers are putting out books for kids with these dystopian themes. Apparently, bad times are selling good in the kids' book world right now. So are paranormal premises, just as in the adult fiction market.

Picture Books

For ages 0 to 4. These are around 32 pages in length. The text per page is just one or a few sentences.

Board books, made of thick cardboard, fall in this category. They are made of sturdy material that stands up to infants.

Chapter Books aka Early Readers or Young Middle Grade

For ages 5 to 8. This is actually a division of the Middle Grade books. These are just as the name implies: books for young middle grade kids or those just beginning to read books that have chapters. These books have short chapters designed to engage young readers.

Middle Grade

For ages 7 to 10; ages 8 to 12. The younger age range are sometimes called lower middle grade with upper middle grade being the older group. The average length of these books is 100 pages or 20,000 words.

Young Adult or Teens

Traditionally, for ages 13 to 18, but younger kids are keying in to these books. They're much like adult books. In bookstores, you'll find these books close to the regular adult section, not in the children's area.

Each year the American Library Association compiles a Best Books of in various categories. For 2010, you can read what they think are the Best Novels for Young Adults. Interesting enough, you won't find mega bestsellers like the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer on this list.

Takeaway Truth

Children's fiction has changed in the last decade, and that's probably why so many adults are reading what might previously have been for kids.

3 Ways To Backup

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How many times do you have to lose data because of hardware failure or accidentally delete important files like photos, data, or videos before you start backing up your valuable files?

Backing up a file or your entire hard drive couldn't be easier. What's hard is making the habit to do so. Starting today, make a commitment to keeping your files secure.

Hard Media

Use CDs, DVDs, or flash drives to backup your files. As a matter of course, when you save a file to your hard drive, save a copy to other media. I keep a flash drive next to my keyboard. Takes a few seconds to do this when I finish working with a file. Or make a procedure where you back up at the end of the day the entire My Documents if that's where you store your work.

Most computers come with some form of backup like Roxio. Of course, you can download freeware or shareware or purchase software that will do this.

Email Backup

A lot of authors attach their work in progress to an email they send themself at the end of the day. Quick and easy to do.

Online Storage

You can get online storage space to backup and save all your files. Prices range from free to expensive for lots of space with lots of bells and whistles. Carbonite is a trusted name in Online Storage. You can get a free trial before you have to pay.

Takeaway Truth

There are many options, pick one and use it. No excuses.

Embrace Change

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The publishing world changed when multi-national corporations started buying venerable publishing houses. There was a rift in the force that is still being felt. Now, book contract decisions are made as much by the bean counters as by editors who know good writing when they see it.

Bad For Writers

This is not good for writers, especially mid-list authors who compose the bulk of professional novelists. The Death Spiral has become a too-frequent event. The tiny fraction of best sellers who are that because of complex maneuvering behind the scenes, that most people know nothing about, are the ones that get all the money, exposure, etc.

We all still write even knowing that we'll probably never get into that stratosphere because none of us do it for money, not even Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and all the others on the bestseller lists. We do it because we have words in us that are trying to get out. If you have writing in your soul, you'll do it too regardless of how daunting the odds are of succeeding or of actually supporting yourself by writing.

Compromise

Ah, compromise! Thy name is writer. None of that will make any difference to you. You'll compensate by working another job or by writing anything you can write that pays in order to have the leisure to write what you love.

Takeaway Truth

Writers write. In print. Electronically. They write.

Listen To Different Drummer

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I had a plaintive letter from an aspiring writer a couple of months ago. She mourned the lack of skilled writing and talented writers in cyberspace and the print world. In a word, she sounded depressed about popular culture and writing. I corresponded with her and want to share with you what I wrote to her.

Popular Culture

It's easy in this techno world of ours to feel as if we are alone when the whole world seems to be going in a different direction. Sometimes, I've heard other writers grouse that all Internet writers are hacks who write to titillate. Of course, this isn't true. There are good writers who deliver good content in the Internet writing community, but the ones who get the most attention are the Perez Hilton's of the cyber world.

Is our society driven only by voyeurism? Is entertainment designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of intelligence and good taste in order to reach the masses, the Joe and Molly Six Packs as I once heard a New York editor describe them?

IMHO

Personally, I think that good writing, created with thoughtful craftsmanship, will still reach people - even the aforementioned Joe and Molly Six Pack. I think people will still respond to something that strives for a higher plane of existence so don't be discouraged.

I've always believed that a good book will get published eventually. The Internet that has created this slippery intellectual property rights slope has also made it possible to get a good book published via other means than traditional publishing.

Case In Point

The Trouble With Love, my romantic comedy which is being serialized on Romantic4Ever.com, is a good example. That's a book I wrote at the request of an editor who left the publishing house before I finished the manuscript. The usual story applies: new editor rejected it. I fiddled with it, sent it around to other editors, but because I had written it for a particular house's editorial calendar, it didn't find a slot elsewhere even though it's a good book, and it's well written.

The problem with it, according to publishing house editors is that it doesn't have a strong marketing hook, i.e., not a vampire, secret baby, amnesiac heroine, serial killer, series about a bar like Cheers, etc. It's simply a contemporary romantic comedy about two non-vampire, zombie, shapeshifter people. Though sexy, it's also not erotica. By writing a "normal" contemporary romance, I locked myself out of the hottest markets: paranormal and erotica.

I could have let it languish on the shelf, but I chose to offer it to the publisher who had reprinted one of my print novellas as a serial on one of her websites in 2008. She snapped it up. She's said it's the biggest attraction on all her websites. Talk about a win-win situation: she received a great romance, and I was well-compensated, receiving almost as much for it as I would have if it had been print published.

Best Of Both Worlds

Ironically, it's received much wider distribution than it would have in print. Plus, I have new fans in countries that would never have purchased those subsidiary rights. I've received fan mail from North America to the middle East to Scandinavia. I appreciate those readers and am thrilled they love The Trouble With Love.

Of course, I'm not abandoning print publishing and embracing only electronic publishing. Why give up one when an author can have both?

Takeaway Truth

The business model for traditional publishing has changed. Don't be afraid of change. Embrace it and forge a new path to success.

EZ Guest Bed Solution

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We spent about 2 grand on 3 beds for our weekend place. That gives us a bed, our daughter a bed, and a guest bed. Of course, our first guests included 3 little girls. Oops. We needed another bed. A quick solution that doesn't require another bedroom presents itself in the form of raised air beds.

New Generation Of Inflatables

The raised air bed I'm talking about isn't the old vinyl monster from years ago. Remember them? They required an hour of your time, a bicycle pump, and lots of muscle power. These raised air beds come attached to their carry bag and with their own speedy air pump. In no time at all, you can roll our a queen size air bed and inflate it with a flick of a switch.

Other Options

My husband thought a Murphy bed would be neat until he realized they cost about a grand. Plus, you end up with a wall that you can't really place furniture in front of. With an air bed, you can store your guest bed on a closet shelf.

Takeaway Truth

Good things come in small packages. With an air bed, that small package turns into a comfy bed that won't cost you a lot of bucks nor take up a lot of space when not needed.

Quick Way To Speed Up PC

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Remember when you first got your PC? Remember how fast it was? Everything seemed to operate at warp speed. Does it still work that way or do you now impatiently tap the desk top while you wait for it to start up?

Try This

There are a few ways to speed up your PC. The first and easiest is to limit the programs that open at start up. This is usually the most common reason why your system runs slow. Too many computer users don't monitor how many programs are opening at start up. The more programs, the slower your system. And the greater the aggravation. It's also easy to fix.

You can disable the unwanted programs from launching at start up by using a special software. There are several on the market, for example, XoftSpySE Anti-Spyware 7.0 which has a Startup Editor. Or just do run the keyword phrase "disable unwanted programs from launching at start-up" in your favorite search engine.

Of course, if you know what you're doing, which I don't, you can edit the "msconfig" file. I would never attempt this because I'd probably delete or change something crucially important to my PC's health.

Takeaway Truth

Don't settle for poor performance. There are many software apps that can enhance your PC's start up speed.

Exhaustion

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Quote for the Week

Kurt Vonnegut said: "Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."

Oh, how true. Since my daughter's surgery this past Wednesday, I've lived in the Land of Exhaustion, home to those species who never sleep. It's funny how quickly one becomes accustomed to napping in 2-3 hour segments then arising as soon as the cell phone alarm sounds to make a snack in order to take the pain meds.

At least, we found a pain medication that she can tolerate. Took the first 48 hours of trial and error including a trip back to the surgeon for 3 nerve block injections to get "ahead" of the pain.

We've got a system. Eat snack, take meds, visit bathroom, back in bed to sleep until alarm sounds in 3 hours. Then repeat the process.

We've laughed ourselves silly at the dumbest things - like my spilling an entire can of ginger ale as I was trying to set it on the bed table in the wee hours. Certainly doesn't sound funny as I write this, but, at the time, I had to sit on the floor I was laughing so hard.

Tears? You bet. A veritable ocean of them at times.

Takeaway Truth

Patient and parents are faring nicely this 3rd day after surgery.

Books Want To Be Free?

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My husband are I are in the waiting room of the surgery center while our daughter is having the orthopedic surgery to remove the fractured bone graft and replace it.

My husband is distracting himself by reading a golf magazine he brought along. I'm attempting to keep my anxiety at bay by re-reading some material I'd saved specifically for a second reading. I'm making notes about this so I can write a post later.

The article is in the Winter 2010 issue of Authors Guild Bulletin. "From The President" by Roy Blount Jr. is a humorous and insightful look at the concept espoused by too many that books should be free because all information should be free.

What's A Book Worth

That's the question Mr. Blount poses at the beginning of his article. From a quick analysis of the cost of a book from Amazon to Walmart, he segues to the "information wants to be free" philosophy and gives a valid and concise argument for why that idea is wrong.

Is Pie Free?

To paraphrase Mr. Blount, pie isn't free because its ingredients aren't free, and who would expect the ingredients or the pie to be free? No one, unless it's a child living at home with parents who pay for everything.

Extrapolate that to books. Books aren't free because the ingredients aren't free. What ingredients? The author from whose imagination the idea comes along with the time and energy investment made by the author to transform imagination to words on paper.

Other book ingredients are the agent who works to get a contract for the author, the various editors who edit, do cover copy, typeset (or its digital equivalent), the cover artist, the publisher who makes the financial investment in the book, and several others who could be considered book ingredients.

True Believers

What's funny but true are the 3 categories Mr. Blount enumerates who usually espouse the "books want to be free" theory.

First are those who earn their paychecks from universities to teach and who write books that sell very few copies. These colleges usually charge multiple thousands of dollars in tuition to an author's child. As someone who has paid 3 times for children to attend college, I echo Mr. Blount's question: "How about College wants to be free?"

Second are people who have invented software or a high tech something and who insist on patents, registrations, and copyrights. "How about hardware and software want to be free?"

Third are people who still live at home with parents. (One imagines a snicker or two here.) Of course, these people are free - of expenses usually.

So, do books want to be free? Not in my opinion. No more than a CPA wants to work for free or a lawyer, doctor, or any other profession. How can you expect anyone, even authors, to earn nothing from the hundreds if not thousands of hours of work they put in on a project whether it's seeing a sick patient, teaching, picking up garbage, or writing a book? I can tell you for sure that the orthopedic surgeon doesn't want his surgery to be free.

Why does the general public not seem to understand that scanning, photocopying, or cutting and pasting another's written work is the same as lifting a twenty out of someone's wallet? Book pirates steal an author's words, and the person who downloads a pirated book is also conducting an act of theft.

Takeaway Truth

The publishing industry is changing, and everyone is scared. Through it all, the ability of authors to make a living from writing must be protected.

Optimize Images For Web

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A lot of people don't realize the importance of using the right image file size. They upload a photo they took with their digital camera and usually pay no attention to the size of the image. Sometimes these image files are in MB rather than KB and take forever to upload.

Guess what? They make your site load slower than pouring molasses in a Minnesota winter. As if that's not enough of a downside, consider this: Google ranks slow loading sites low, low, low. To paraphrase Martha Stewart in the opposite: "That's a bad thing."

Perfect Size

The key is to always make your image size in pixels per inch (ppi) with 72 ppi being the web protocol that ensures fast load time and good resolution.

Just about everyone has some kind of image software with Adobe PhotoShop being the gold standard with an attached price tag that reflects this.
If you don't want to pay the big bucks for that then use any of the free image manipulation softwares that can be found by doing a Google serach for that keyword phrase.

Takeaway Truth

You want to do everything you can to keep people on your site once they've clicked its URL. Nothing makes people leave faster than a site that takes too long to load.

3 Sites To Help With Photoshop

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If you're like me, you do a lot of graphic image work when you wear your freelance writer hat. I always illustrate blog posts so I'm always fiddling around with Photoshop, not the most user friendly software in the world.

3 Photoshop Tutorial Websites

Realistic Photoshop tutorials by Vandelay Design.

Wrecking Photoshop Tutorials by BlakeCreative. Just look under the Art and Design label.

Photoshop Star has some cool effects you can recreate.

Takeaway Truth

With the help of the Internet, it's easy to find lessons on just about anything. Happy imaging.

Prayers Solicited

4 comments:
As you read this, we are at the hospital for our daughter's orthopedic surgery to remove, repair, and replace the bone graft from last June's surgery that fractured in October and never healed.

I've been trying to keep as busy as possible these last few weeks so I wouldn't have time or energy to think about this. I think they should have tranked me today because I'm a wreck. Trying hard to be positive but scared. The last surgery had so many complications that I find it hard to think beyond the knot of fear that's suffocating me as I write this.

So I'm asking all of you who pray to pray for her full recovery this time. Thank you if you take a moment to read this and send a request for healing for a special young woman.

Takeaway Truth

From your lips to God's ears.

Importance Of Backlist

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Recently, I read a back issue of the Authors Guild newsletter and marveled at the near-poetic article by Jason Epstein about a publisher's backlist. The article was culled from a speech he gave in July 2008 at the Hong Kong Book Fair.

Mr. Epstein was Editorial Director of Random House from 1065 to 1995. He was also co-founde of The New York Review of Books.,

Backlist, as defined in the article, is a publisher's most valuable asset. Backlist are books that have recouped their initial costs, earned out the authors' advances, and require no other investment expense except for print and shipping the books. Backlist sells year after year at a steady and consistent rate.

I remember back in the late 80's when, for the first time, publishers started reprinting category romance novels, mostly by Nora Roberts in the beginning. Then a full-blown publishing program of backlist titles in category romance commenced and continues to this day. One can only wonder now why it took the category publishers so long to figure out that previously published romance novels would sell, and sell very well indeed.

In this era of self-publishing and print on demand, there are a lot of authors who are accruing their own backlist. Some of these books are literary properties whose rights reverted back to the author after the original publishing contract term expired. Of course, some publishers make it practically impossible for the author to gain those rights even though most contracts give terms upon which the rights will revert to the author.

Rights are valuable assets. If you own the publishing rights to your novels, by all means use them in some way. I've always marketed my own rights since I'm a small fish in a big pond. My body of work doesn't interest most literary agents, but the earning potential of my rights is significant enough for me to take the time to market them.

Two years ago, I sold the large print rights to all but one of my novels. The books were subsequently published by Ulverscroft in North America and the UK. Don't sit on your rights. Find a way to earn from your own Backlist.

Takeaway Truth

As a professional author, you need to have a working knowledge of literary rights so you'll know what you can do with them to keep earning.

Aging Isn't For Sissies

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This weekend we had a guest at Rancho Reeves, the sobriquet with which we've christened our hill country hideout. He was telling us about an upcoming trip to Florida he and his wife have planned for next week. He said they planned to stop at a restaurant that was so good the wait line always takes an hour or more regardless of the time of day or night you arrive there.

Privately, I thought that there's no restaurant I can think of for which I will willingly stand in line more than 15 minutes, much less an hour or more.

When I came home, I found these jokes about old codgers in my Inbox. Hmmm. According to the joke, I'm old since I won't stand in line to dine. And I always thought I was just too hungry to waste time in a line.

For your Monday Musing pleasure, Getting Older.

1. (Made me laugh.) An older gentleman was on the operating table awaiting surgery and he insisted that his son, a renowned surgeon, perform the operation. As he was about to get the anesthesia, he asked to speak to his son.

"Yes, Dad, what is it? "

"Don't be nervous, son. Do your best and just remember, if it doesn't go well, if something happens to me, your mother is going to come and live with you and your wife."

2. (I've never lied about my age, but my mom always did.) Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

3. (Ah, yes. This is true for me. Life is too short to waste it in queue.) The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

4. (Not only were they unpaved, they were filled with potholes and an occasional sinkhole.) Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me! I want people to know "why" I look this way. I' ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.

5. (Shudder. Also geometry, physics, chemistry, calculus, etc. See a trend?) Doesn't about When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra..

6. (What complete and utter crap!) One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

7. (Why can't I be beautiful and comfortable?) Ah, being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

9. (Always could remember names better than faces which I chalk up to poor vision. Still that way.) First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It's worse when you forget to pull it down.

Takeaway Truth

Aging isn't for sissies. Bette Davis said that or words to that effect. I forget. Must be an aging memory problem.

Doing Nothing

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Quote for the Week

Sometimes, it's good to have a day in which one days nothing. Nada.

Doing nothing has been the subject of interest for centuries. Go back several centuries to Pliny the Younger who said: "That indolent but agreeable condition of doing nothing."

Move forward to one of my favorite movies Office Space. The oddball hero Peter says in the beginning that he wants a day when he does absolutely nothing. After he has had such a day, he tells his friends: "I did nothing, and it was everything I thought it would be."

Have you had the luxury of a day in which you had no demands on your time and energy? If not, maybe you should plan such a day.

Takeaway Truth

Try doing nothing today. Bet it makes you feel relaxed and unwinds the stress.

Help For Authors

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If you haven't visited WhoMovedMyBuyButton, a website started by Authors Guild, do yourself a favor and drop by. The website is the direct result of multiple author complaints about Amazon's exercise of the nuclear option they exercise to remove the Add To Cart buttons from displays of books by publishers who have "offended" Amazon in some contractual dispute.

When you visit the site, you'll learn about the history of the conflict with Amazon. You'll also gain the tools needed to allow you to track the status of your books on Amazon.

Takeaway Truth

Authors need all the help they can get.

EZ Facebook Settings

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A lot of people are anxious over the Facebook security issues. In fact, I've heard several authors say they were just going to back away from the social network sites and reclaim the time they lose to this huge timesuck.

I'm a minimalist when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, et al. However, I try to keep up with the security issues even though I don't have a big social networking presence. I run Sunbelt Security's Vipre on my laptop and found a great app they mentioned in connection with Facebook privacy settings.

This App scans your Facebook Privacy Settings. It's from ReclaimPrivacy.org. the software will scan your settings and flag potential problems and can reset them.

Try it. I did. It's user friendly and only takes a few minutes.

Takeaway Truth

Privacy is quickly eroding. Do all you can to protect yours.

America's Got Talent?

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Well, I don't know if America's Got Talent, but I do know they have a boatload of people with inflated opinions of their talent. I'm probably coming late to this party because I just tuned in last night to the above mentioned reality show.

You may have seen this American Idol clone that features individuals and groups auditioning for a Vegas entertainment contract and all the hoopla that goes with that. Apparently, there are no restrictions of age or anything else to limit the contestants on this show.

The Cast

I guess you could call the judges and the host of the show the cast. The Ryan Seacrest wannabe is Nick Cannon of the movie Drumline. Judges are Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel.

The Contestants

I watched 30 minutes of the show and saw contestants who had been found in the Texas round of auditions. These included an 18 year old boy from Alexandria, Louisiana, who had a fantastic voice. He sang and played the guitar, and he was good. Unfortunately, I didn't catch his name, but I did hear the name of the dog act made up of 9 rescue dogs that appeared next. The Mutley Crew was great, but, then, I'm partial to dogs.

Unfortunately, a scantily clad overweight woman who did an original burlesque dance, a band director who played turkey basters as musical instruments, an inferior magician, and a woman twirling flaming sabers followed.

Of all of those, the boy singer, the dog act, and the saber twirling woman got passed on to Vegas.

Takeaway Truth

Entertainment is like beauty; it's in the eye of the beholder.

Danielle Steele On Reviews

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I've been looking for this quote for a while so I could see the exact wording. Finally, I located it.

For your pleasure this morning, here's what Danielle Steele had to say about reviews. There is much truth in the following statement so you might want to stitch it on a sampler and hang it above your computer.

"A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it."

I was thinking about this when I read a book recently by someone who is one of my favorite authors. The book just fell flat.

Takeaway Truth

No one sets out to write a bad book. Somehow, sometimes, the elements just don't come together.

Get The Scoop

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I'm of the opinion that there's no such thing as too much information when it comes to the pursuit of internet success. Success is built much like a website is built, that is, from the ground up, with your choice of webhost being the foundation. Therefore, you need the latest in web hosting news. TMI just isn't applicable when it comes to issues that affect your overhead and your ability to maintain an appealing, non-crashing website.

Not Your Father's Internet

In 20 years, we've gone from a culture where the Internet was an oddity for most people to a culture where just about everyone with a computer has a website of some sort. Gone are the simplistic websites hosted by an ISP from a tiny bit of bandwidth to dazzling sites that gobble bandwidth and entice visitors with lots of bells and whistles. Hosting is big business and is of paramount importance to the educated website owner.

For Your Consideration

Sure, WebHostingFan.com gives you the latest news from the web hosting industry, but they have more than that to offer. They'll report and interpret the latest trends along with reviewing the best of the web hosting providers.

This is of primary interest to you because, like me, you probably pay a fee every year to the company that hosts your site. You need to know the different kinds of hosting options. For instance, do you know why multiple domain hosting isn't necessarily a good idea? I do. I read about it on WebHostingFan as well as an article on determining whether your web host is search engine friendly.

Takeaway Truth

Do yourself a favor and learn the basics so you'll know what you need and what it should cost.