Headache

Quote for the Week

I'm plagued by headaches. I sometimes think it's because I just think too much, but I know there are many reasons for this malady. One is either prone to headache or one isn't. My husband rarely gets a headache. With me, rarely do I go for more than 3 days at a time without suffering from one.

As I'm writing the quote for the week, I find my headache is keeping my imagination at bay. So I decided just to give you a trio of pithy sayings about headaches from people who probably suffered them too.

"I thought so hard I got a headache." J.D. Cobb

"If a man sits down to think, he is immediately asked if has a headache." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache." Catherine the Great

Takeaway Truth

Headaches miraculously vanish when you take 2 aspirin and get some extra sleep.

Truth About Art & Kids

Two weeks ago I helped my daughter the high school art teacher set up her classroom. It was a lot of work, but she needed the help since she's still on crutches after her surgery. Frankly, I had fun, and I also learned something.

Truth

One of the handouts she gives kids first taking art is about the misconceptions of art, fostered mostly by adults. You see, when kids first hold a Crayon or pencil and draw, they don't know whether they have talent or not.

That judgment comes later when well-meaning adults start telling them things like: "You should have made the tree green, not black." Or, "There's only 1 window in the front of our house, but you put in 2." Kids interpret all that as meaning they didn't do it right, that they're not very good at drawing and art stuff.

Don't Lose The Vision

They lose sight of how much fun it was to just take a handful of Crayons and draw. They were only interested in the fun of drawing and creating something that didn't exist. That sense of freedom, creativity and fun is what she tries to instill in the new Art I students who usually take the class to fulfill their Fine Art requirement. Most of them choose Art I because they think it will be easier than the other Fine Art offerings.

Art Fun

Now, once a child shows deeper interest, then a parent should provide direction. There are a lot of websites that offer everything from coloring pages to print to tutorials on how to draw. A site I frequently use if Coloring Pages. Coincidentally, this week Kim Komando offered a How To Draw website in one of her newsletters.

Takeaway Truth

Give the right kind of direction to kids, based upon their age and ability, and the freedom to just have fun using their imagination.

3 Weather Resources

We've had 2 storm days this week resulting in power outages and storm damage. Monday's storm blew out my router even though it was plugged into an expensive battery backup system. No Internet until new router connected on Tuesday.

Then, Tuesday afternoon, another storm with a nearly 4 hour power outage. Another lost day. Luckily, the new router survived though.

I thought I'd give you 3 weather resources to keep you informed of impending disasters so you could power down and save your computer and other expensive electronics, not to mention time, money, and aggravation.

Google Desktop Weather

This app is set up on your iGoogle home page so you always know the weather forecast in your zip code. You can set up how ever many you like. I have 2 set up: one for home and one for our weekend place (which I haven't been to in 3 weeks thanks to various and sundry life events).

McCapper

This website reviews several desktop weather apps in case you don't like the Google one.

Smart Phone Weather Apps

iPhone Weather App Roundup lists 10 apps you can use for your iPhone.

For the other popular smart phone, you can check out this Droid App.

Takeaway Truth

Everyone gripes about the weather, but no one does anything about it because there's nothing that can be done. Yet. The smart brains are working on it.

Miracle Microscope To Save Lives

Eighteen months ago, Andy Miller, a senior at Rice University in Houston, used common parts to invent a lightweight, portable microscope. Battery-operated and weighing only 2 and 1/2 pounds, it has been shown to perform as successful in diagnosing tuberculosis as $40,000 microscopes in hospitals. Cost? Only $220.00.

Carried on site, this low-tech, portable invention will give healthcare workers in developing countries the ability to diagnose disease much faster.

Miller's Story

Miller, a bioengineering student, had spent a year in Barcelona. When he returned to Rice, he asked a professor for a design project. Since a team at Rice had been working on a "backpack diagnostic lab," he was asked to build a microscope that could take rough handling, be small enough to fit in a backpack, yet still have the magnification required for diagnostic use. A plus would be if he could make it cheap.

He took the assignment to heart and succeeded in all areas. His working model used flashlights for illumination. The hard plastic shell had a 3D printer and a shelf for a cell phone to slide and capture images to email to labs. The result? The Global Focus Microscope.

World Implications

Small enough to fit in a lunch box and with 5 screws to attach the shell to the body, it magnifies 1000 times. When tested, it had a 98.4 percent success rate compared to a hospital's sophisticated instruments.

In countries where adequate healthcare and testing facilities can be great distances from towns and villages, this microscope will allow people to be tested and treated much sooner. Since more than a million people die of TB each year in Africa, Asia, and South America, this microscope may prove to be a miracle that can mean the difference between life and death.

Takeaway Truth

Miller didn't name his invention, currently in production, the Miracle Microscope, but perhaps he should have.

School

Quote for the Week

School days, school days. Dear old Golden Rule days.

Well, those days are gone forever, but one must adjust to the changing times I suppose. Despite that, parents everywhere are rejoicing today for tomorrow is the first day of the rest of their lives - without their children at home in the daytime. You see, school starts tomorrow.

I'm reminded of what American writer and editor Edgar W. Howe once said: "If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers."

Happy back to school.

Takeaway Truth

Pay attention to those school zones. Stay off your cell phone and obey the posted speed.

Can I Borrow A Cup Of Time?

Gosh, if it were only possible to borrow an hour like a cup of sugar from the neighbor. Actually, I'd beg, borrow, or even steal an hour or two if that were possible because I'm simply swamped at the moment.

I hope you'll forgive me if I'm absent from Sling Words for a day or two.

Takeaway Truth

Even if one shuns sleeping (I'll sleep when I'm dead!), there still isn't enough time in the day to accomplish everything.

Wicklund's Long Road to Publication

Today I'm excited to welcome Cynthia Wicklund to Sling Words.

Cynthia recently saw the publication of her first novel Lord of Always. By first, I mean first published, not first written. Definitely not first written! And that's what Cynthia, as my Guest Blogger, has written about.

The Long Road to Publication

Is there a positive side to waiting a long time to be published?

I’ve often wondered about that because a long and often arduous wait can ultimately destroy enthusiasm and, frankly, hope. Thus, finding a positive in what feels like a significant negative is a struggle. Perhaps I’m looking to justify my own journey, but overall I do feel I’ve gained more than I’ve lost.

Years ago my first manuscript was requested several times, and I even got an agent. I thought I was on “my way.” The book did not, however, sell. The subsequent rejections were crushing (newbie response), but I admit just below the disappointment was a sense of relief. Relief? Yep, I wasn’t ready. I knew it then, and I understand why now.

Navigating the world of publishing can be intimidating. I was afraid to “bother” my agent, for pity sake. Rookie mistakes can stall a career before you’ve had a chance to get it off the ground. There’s a protocol, the way things are done. Unless you’re the next Harper Lee, you’d best understand that.

The business of publishing aside, what about improving your craft? Rejection means you need to try harder, right? That’s what it meant for me. Classes and critique groups and entering and judging contests. I learned how to edit my own work through editing other writers. I learned how to plot. How to take rejection without losing my confidence. Well, for the most part. But over time, I improved as a writer. I know I did.

Most important, I came to realize why I write in the first place. If my goal above all else had been to be published, I’m convinced a protracted wait would have ended my ambitions long ago. But I love to write, and that love is what has sustained me. Publication is merely the icing on the cake.

Cynthia is dipping her toe into the blogging pool with Blogger In Spite of Herself so feel free to visit her there.

Renewal

Quote for the Week

Here in Texas, and in many states, next week is back to school time. Tired moms and dads everywhere may be excused for a certain amount of rejoicing. Whether you are a work at home parent or one who treks to an outside place of business each day, now is a good time to take a deep breath and plan for your renewal.

You made it through a long, hot summer. Rebirth is at hand for those who want to take stock of where they want to be by year's end. The kids will be in school until Christmas so this is your last stand in the battle for that which will make you feel your year was well spent. For writers, this usually means a book manuscript.

If you fell by the wayside during the summer, now is the time to renew your commitment to the work in progress.

French dramatist Eugene Ionesco said: "I believe that in the history of art and of thought there has always been at every living moment of culture a will to renewal."

Always remember my motto: "It's never too late to live happily ever after." Happily ever after, to my way of thinking, means, in great part, working at something you love.

Takeaway Truth

Rededicate. Recommit. Renew.

Internet Help For Teachers

Our youngest is a high school teacher. She's been creating lesson plans and otherwise preparing for the start of school for two weeks now. I read about a website that helps teachers create testing materials.

What a cool idea! I know my daughter spends a lot of time on this necessary task so I thought I'd pass this tip on to her and all the other teachers out there who are gearing up for another school year.

This can be done with Word or other word processing programs. But a word processor isn't the ideal program for creating testing material. It can be a slow, frustrating process.

The Quizinator

I read about Quizinator in Kim Komando's newsletter. When you visit the site, you'll see that you can create the worksheets, review study sheets, and tests online. Another great tool is the ability to create a library of questions and answers which you can use as a database to design your tests. Check out the other tools at your disposal too.

Takeaway Truth

Teachers have a hard job that is more time-consuming than one can imagine. It's nice that there are websites that offer resources to help.

Watch Hummingbirds

This morning I'm doling out link love. You must see this video of hummingbirds at a feeder.

Since I've never seen more than 1 hummingbird at a time, it's pretty amazing to see a half dozen or more buzzing around while they wait for their turn at the sugar water.

Takeaway Truth

I think aeronautical engineers who designed the helicopter were inspired by hummingbirds.

Enthusiasm

Quote for the Week

I'm having a problem getting back to a novel project I'd begun last year before all my daughter's orthopedic problems.

Finally, I diagnosed the problem when I read this quotation by automaker Walter Chrysler: "The real secret of success is enthusiasm."

Ah! The lightbulb illumines. I have no enthusiasm for the project any more. Perhaps it's time has come and gone? It's hard to dive into a project when one has little or no enthusiasm for it. What, I'm wondering, inspires the dearth of enthusiasm? The premise? The plot? The characters? The execution? Or is it merely an idea in which I wasn't fully invested from the beginning?

To find the answer, I'll spend some time analyzing the existing work. In so doing, I'll either catch fire or realize it's time to just start something new.

Takeaway Truth

Writing a novel is a long process, and one cannot possibly expect to successfully complete such an arduous task without enthusiasm.

Author Rita Schiano

Today, we're chatting with Rita Schiano, the author of Painting The Invisible Man , ISBN: 0979534704, published by The Reed Edwards Company, and Sweet Bitter Love, ISBN: 1883061156, published by Rising Tide Press and distributed now through The Reed Edwards Company.

Rita can be found at her website and her blog, Rita’s Not-So-Daily Word. She offers a free newsletter on her website and an archive of Talk To Me, her blog talk radio show wherein she interviewed creative people.

Now, let's chat with Rita.

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

For Sweet Bitter Love, 1 1/2 years; for Painting The Invisible Man, 3 years.

What has been your best experience as a published author?

Having the opportunity to go into schools and talk with kids about writing.

What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Can’t say I’ve had one.

What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

The sometimes profound effect my stories have had on people . . . on their self-exploration.

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

I write those stories now. There is never a guarantee one’s work will sell.

What do you love about your career?

The freedom to explore myriad concepts, points of view, emotional and intellectual expression through my characters.

What do you hate about your career?

Not a thing.

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

A Tempur-pedic mattress!

What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Write every day. Establish a disciplined schedule. Don’t fall in love with your words. Embrace the value of rewriting and honing your work.

What would you like readers to know?

The web site where to buy my books! Seriously, seek out and support new writers. Spend the little extra to buy a new book, not a used copy off Amazon or the like. Authors only get paid when a book sells new.

PS. Looking for some good summer reading? Check out my novel Painting The Invisible Man, and read what it’s like to grow up in a family on the fringe of the Mafia. I hope you'll tell your friends and family about this engrossing story too!

Thanks, Rita, for taking the time to visit with us and good luck with your books.

Takeaway Truth

Make a point to discover a new author today. It's a win/win situation for you and the author.

(This interview was previously published on Joan Slings Words.)

The Buzzard, The Bat, The Bumblebee

This Internet Floater is thought-provoking as well as amusing. My friend Perry sent it a while back. Hope you enjoy the fable of the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee.

The Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

The Bat

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

The Bumblebee

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It n ever sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

People

In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look to our faith, whatever it may be.

Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.

Takeaway Truth

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

3 Ways To Focus On Writing

A lot of writers like using the older AlphaSmart keyboards because they don't allow you any editing function except a backspace key. You can't delete or highlight to cut and paste and shift text around.

This is great because when you write, you're focused on creating text, not agonizing over word choice, sentence construction, and whether this paragraph goes here or better there. You just write and move on.

There are many successful authors who have taught themselves to just get the first draft done by whatever means necessary. They write and keep writing rather than backtrack or constantly edit the same pages over and over. That way, they get it down, then they can go back and edit and polish.

If you're stuck in your writing, maybe you just need to write hell bent for leather and just keep moving until you type The End. One way to do this is with a hardware device like my old AlphaSmart. The other way is with a software application that blocks all editing distractions. Here are 3 for you to sample.

Write Or Die

You can use this free online or download it for a paltry 10 bucks. You set a word goal and/or a time goal, a Consequences mode from Gentle to Electric Shock, and a Grace Period from Forgiving to Evil. Click Write and get started. I've used this. You cut and paste your work from the screen to your word processing app when you finish.

When you click Done, you get a screen with the purchase link. The purchased version has Kamikaze mode which I like. Yep. I bought it and think it's a great tool.

Creawriter

This a free Windows download that also creates a distraction free writing zone. The icons you see in the upper right corner are there only when the mouse is passed over them and govern the functions to create a new document, save your document, and make minor changes like increasing or decreasing the font size for your convenience. You can save your work as a TXT, RTF, and DOC, and the files are compatible with nearly every word processor if you want to import your text for later editing.

WriteMonkey

Writemonkey is another free software, though you can donate via PayPal if you like it and want to support it. If you donate, you'll get a file that will enable personalization, and you can access hidden features. This is another software app that seeks to eliminate distractions therefore it's a text editor with minimal editing functions. It's designed to take over your full screen and won't allow you to open another window without exiting.

Takeaway Truth

If focusing on your writing, and ignoring distractions, is a problem, then try one of these solutions.

Tax Free Shopping

If you're lucky enough to be in a state that allows tax-free shopping before school, I hope you'll take advantage of it. Here in Texas, clothing, backpacks, and school supplies are tax-exempt for the August 20-22 weekend. Check the website for details.

To find your state's dates, just Google sales tax free shopping or tax free weekend. The nice thing is anyone can take advantage of this savings on clothing - even writers looking to stock up on certain office supplies that qualify.

Takeaway Truth

Savings on sales tax can be significant so mark your calendar and wait to buy those new school clothes and supplies.

The Skinny On Web Hosting

Want to know all about the various web hosting sites? Then get a hosting guide from Web Hosting Rating.com. They've been providing real web hosting reviews since 2002, and they're pretty darn good at it.

Shopping Around

I'm currently shopping for a webhost because one of my domains expires this month. So I'm particularly interested in current reviews of the best known webhost sites. What's great about Web Hosting Rating.com is that you can learn just about everything you need to know about website development from web hosting, domain names, and even SEO. Of course they offer webmaster tools too.

If you are a beginner at all this, and you're afraid you don't know enough, don't worry. Their free guide on how to pick the right Web Hosting Provider will give you the information you need to choose the right one for you based on your needs.

Cruising The Site

At the top you'll see a menu tab for the Top 10 Web Host Sites. That's a good place to start, but be sure and check out all their Categories listed on the left sidebar. That's depth of knowledge, and it's available to you for free.

I don't know who I'll choose yet, but at least I have a way to weed out the different offerings.

Takeaway Truth

Always research your options so you get the best deal for you and your circumstance.

Shopping For Laptop Cases

Since I bit the bullet and got Internet at our vacation home, I've been lugging my laptop back and forth every weekend. I bought this laptop last summer. Only after getting it out of the box did I realize it wouldn't fit any of the 3 laptop cases I owned.

Last year I carried it in an old EF Tours backpack which provided no padding or protection, but at least it went into the backpack. This year I've been using a huge nylon mesh totebag. Nice and roomy but still no protection. After nearly dropping it last night when I was unloading the car, I decided I should get a proper bag for it.

Shopping Online

In case you've been looking for a lightweight bag to accommodate a laptop, here's 3 that I found today. I'm trying to decide which one to order. I'll probably go with one of the backpack cases because a summer in Europe sold me on the benefits of backpacks.

Sumdex Women's Red Laptop/Tote/Brief from Overstock. Low price of $39.95.

Piggy Back Laptop Backpack from Melissabeth.com. A bit pricey at $89.00.

Express Pink Dots Backpack. A reasonable $50.99.

Takeaway Truth

A laptop is a tool of the trade that should be protected from damage and theft because data lost is time and money lost.

August

Quote for the Week

On this blistering hot day, I'm reminded of what Lord Byron wrote: "The English winter - ending in July, / To recommence in August."

The English romantic poet never experienced August in Texas. Summer here bears more resemblance to what Violette Leduc wrote in Mad in Pursuit: "I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer."

I'm inside the burning cathedral of summer, surrounded by brown prairie grass and dried up wildflowers. Even the deer don't come out in the daytime to graze any more. They wait for the coolness of evening.

A famous Indian proverb is appropriate at this point. "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun."

Here in Texas, if we must venture out into the noonday sun, those of us who are native born in the South, and possess common sense, don hats and sunglasses and make sure we drink lots of water or ice tea - that's ice tea, not iced tea.

In the south, we drink lots of ice tea, and as soon as possible we head for a shady porch with an old fashioned swing or take shelter inside air conditioned rooms.

Takeaway Truth

The hot days - and nights - of August are best spent inside with a good book.