A Lincoln Paranormal by Diana Rubino

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Right now, Abraham Lincoln is a hot topic. The recent movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field has been nominated for just about all the major movie awards.

Diana Rubino, who is the author of 13 paranormal and historical novels, has a passion for history that led her to writing her own book about Lincoln.

Diana, who, along with her husband Chris, owns an engineering business, is studying for a Master's Degree in Archaeology. She's a longtime member of RWA New Hampshire Chapter and the Richard III Society. A few of her favorite authors are Barbara Erskine, Philippa Gregory, and the collaborative team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Find Diana

Website: http://www.DianaRubino.com
Blog: http://www.dianarubinoauthor.blogspot.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DianaLRubino
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianarubino

Now, here's Diana to tell you about A Necessary End which will be free on February 12, Lincoln's birthday, and on February 16 - 18, President's Day holiday.

A Necessary End
by Diana Rubino

The popularity of the Lincoln movie and Lincoln's upcoming birthday on February 12 inspired me to launch this special offer for my novel A Necessary End.

Normally priced at only $.99, it will be offered free on Lincoln's birthday and President's Day weekend to celebrate our 16th President.

A Necessary End offers a dark paranormal twist on John Wilkes Booth's insane plot to assassinate President Lincoln. A malevolent spirit haunts Booth and coerces him to assassinate the tyrant as in Julius Caesar. However, since I believe every situation, no matter how foreboding, allows for humor, I've added a few lighter scenes that offer the reader some much-needed relief. How can Booth's plot not leave itself wide open for humor? If one thinks about his motley band of adoring disciples in his absurd conspiracy, it has all the hallmarks of a comic farce even though it had such a tragic end. Yes, Booth gets what's coming to him in the end.

Readers have asked me … Why did you or … Why didn’t you … about many aspects of the book. I'll attempt to answer one of each of these questions here, so you can get a better idea of what was going on during this time, and how I made the events leading up to Lincoln’s assassination fit my story.

Why Did You?

... parallel the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar in this story?

Because in the play, Caesar was known as a tyrant to the Senators, who feared losing their power, as Booth feared losing the Confederacy. Booth always considered Lincoln the tyrant, hence his proclamation sic simper tyrannis (be it ever to tyrants) when he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln.

Caesar’s Senators, Brutus and Cassius among them, conspired to stab Caesar to death on an appointed day. Booth recruited a group of like-minded disciples to aid him in his insane plot, at first to kidnap Lincoln, then to kill him.

By day, Booth was a Confederate spy and courier, taking dangerous missions so that his beloved South could fight the North in the war that tore the nation in two. But in this story, an even darker secret plagues him -- he believes he’s the reincarnation of Brutus, the man who slew the tyrant Caesar. Therefore, he believes that his destiny in this life is to murder the tyrant who’s ravaged the South -- Abraham Lincoln. In obeying the spirit of Brutus, Booth devises a plot to assassinate the tyrant.

Why Didn’t You?

... write it as straight historical novel about Booth’s plot to kill Lincoln instead of a paranormal?

Because spirituality was extremely popular in 1865 and all throughout Victorian times. Mary Lincoln was a staunch spiritualist. So stricken with grief after the deaths of her boys Willie and Eddie, she hired mediums such as Nettie Maynard to visit the White House and hold séances in attempts to contact her boys from beyond the grave.

The extent of séances, table-tapping, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and otherworldly activities in this era fit perfectly with the story I wanted to tell. We could never enter Booth’s head, but his insane behavior begs the question: was he truly haunted by a spirit who drove him to his heinous act that changed history forever?

Takeaway Truth

If you've a speculative fiction fan, make room for A Necessary End on your cyber bookshelf.

Love, Sex, and Music

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Last week, I burned a CD of the music that makes up the soundtrack I created for my latest romantic comedy Scents and Sensuality. I hereby promise all of you that it will be available on or before Valentine's Day! I swear. There I've set it in stone.

(Now I hope the universe doesn't unleash another "storm of life" on me which is what usually happens when someone tries to achieve something that seems out of reach. But "storm of life" is a subject for another day.)

Why CD

Lest you think I'm hopelessly old school, I'll hasten to explain why I still play CDs. Because 2 of my cars don't have iPod sync, only 6 changer CD players.

Anyway, many of the songs were rocking tunes. Even the sexy, romantic songs have a beat that makes you want to move. Ah, music that makes you seat-dance as you drive, tapping the steering wheel, nodding your head, singing loudly, and generally looking like an idiot to the other drivers.

Here are some of the songs I burned onto the CD. Check them out. You might like them too. You'll notice Josh Groban on the Playlist again. There's just something about his voice that lends itself to a passionate love scene.

Nobody Wants To Be Lonely by Ricky Martin

Haven't Met You Yet by Michael Bublé

Smooth by Santana (Rob Thomas on vocals)

Fallin' by Connie Francis (it was the music in a Target commercial back in the fall)

Lonely No More by Rob Thomas

Love Letter by Clairy Browne and the Bangin' Rackettes (totally love this tune -- just listen to the sexy lyrics -- hot!)

The Way I Want You by Julio Iglesias Jr.

I Need To Know by Marc Anthony

I Could Fall In Love by Selena

Figured You Out by Nickelback (explicit and powerful lyrics)

When I'm Gone by 3 Doors Down

My Confession by Josh Groban

When You Say You Love Me by Josh Groban

Now, back to my cave. I am slicing and dicing the manuscript today.

Takeaway Truth

Shakespeare knew that music and love go hand in hand. He said, "If music be the food of love, play on."

Facebook Lawsuit: Real or Hoax

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If you received a letter from Facebook about a lawsuit wherein you may receive damages, you may have wondered if it was the real deal or just another scam.

Luckily, Kim Komando answered that question in a recent email newsletter. It's real. To understand what's going on, visit Kim Komando to read the whole thing and find out what to do if you want to file for damages.

Takeaway Truth

Kim Komando offers a world of information in her free newsletters. Sign up today.


Review: Kathleen Woodiwiss & Her Books

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The first romance novel I ever read was Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. This was years ago and long after her first novel The Flame and The Flower, published by Avon in 1972, had become an instant NYT Bestseller. By the time I discovered Shanna, Kathleen Woodiwiss had already been proclaimed as the "Founding Mother of the Modern Romance Novel."

I wanted to post a photograph of Ms. Woodiwiss, who died in 2007 after a long struggle with cancer. The one used on just about every blog and website is her official Harper Collins author portrait. It's shown at left.

Ms. Woodiwiss wrote only 13 novels in her career, the first five of which are usually listed as seminal works in the romance genre. I'll admit to being disappointed in her later works, but I think I know now why they weren't as masterfully written as her first works:

The Flame and The Flower
Shanna
A Rose In Winter
The Wolf and The Dove
Ashes in the Wind.

In reading an interview she gave, I wasn't surprised to learn that she was constantly pressured by her publisher to hurry, hurry, hurry. She was not a fast writer, preferring to take as long as 5 years to perfect her books, and this constant time-pressure affected her work and her health. She suffered burnout and lost her zeal for storytelling. Some of the books show that. I think all writers can relate to that.

Back To The Beginning

Since I've spent more than a month being sick with the sinus infection from hell, bronchitis, etc., I've spent a lot of time reading. One morning, I decided to go back and re-read the early romances that made me want to write in that genre. All of us romance novelists owe our careers to Ms. Woodiwiss.

As is my custom when I review ebooks, I give the Kindle Buy Link because I read most books on my Kindle. However, I'm certain every book I review is available at the other ebook sellers so look for them on the platforms that match your ebook reading device. (Want your own Kindle? Click here.)

Although I have all of Ms. Woodiwiss's books in print, I decided to buy the Kindle editions of the ones I love best. Since it had been years since I had read them, I wanted to see if I still found them captivating -- after I've published several books and have had success with my own romance novels. Of course, if you read my books, you know I write contemporary romance, not historical romance as she did.

I did not begin with The Flame and The Flower, acclaimed by critics and readers as one of the best historical romances ever written. Frankly, I never liked that book because I could not get beyond the scene at the beginning when the hero and heroine meet, and he rapes her. That never has, and never will be, my idea of romance or the way a hero behaves.

Yes, I know that the story rather accurately reflects the mores of that time era. Yes, I know that the rape fantasy is popular with many women. Yes, I know that many readers say the hero redeems himself. None of those reasons make me like that story. Fortunately, I don't judge Woodiwiss's body of work by that one book, and you shouldn't either.

Let me tell you about Shanna and A Rose In Winter, two of the masterpieces by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.

Shanna

From the Amazon Book Page: "A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for a night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her with his name from an impending and abhorred arranged union. But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the gallows unfulfilled.

"But Ruark Beauchamp's destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman's noose will deny Ruark the ecstasy that is rightfully his."

A Rose In Winter

I have to show your the cover of the original printing of A Rose In Winter because I think it depicted the spirit of that book -- not because it realistically portrays the characters but because it resembles a painting from the Romantic Era and shows the turbulent passion and epic nature of the larger than life story. For the most part, the covers of her books were mundane with this one being exceptional.

From the Amazon Book Page: "The fairest flower in Mawbry is Erienne Fleming, the enchanting, raven-haired daughter of the village mayor. Charming, spirited and exquisitely lovely, she is beset on all sides by suitors, any one of whom would pay a king's fortune for a place in her heart. But Erienne has eyes for only one: the dashing and witty young Yankee, Christopher Seton.

"But marriage for love is not to be, for her irresponsible and unscrupulous father, crippled by gambling debts, is intent on auctioning off his beautiful daughter to the highest bidder. And in the end, Erienne is devastated to find it is the strange and secretive Lord Saxton who has purchased her—a mysterious, tragic figure who wears a mask and a cloak at all times to hide disfiguring scars gained in a terrible fire some years back.

"But in the passing days, Saxton's true nature is revealed to her. A gentle and adoring soul, he treats his new bride with warmth and abiding tenderness, yet appears to her only by daylight. She, in turn, vows to be a good and loyal wife to him. And then Christopher Seton reenters Erienne's world Conflicted by emotions she cannot suppress, Erienne valiantly attempts to remain honorable to her elusive, enigmatic husband but feels herself irresistibly drawn to Seton's passion, his fire, and his secrets. Entangled in intrigues she doesn't yet understand, Erienne Fleming will soon have to make a devastating choice: between love and honor . . . between her duty and her heart."

Recurring Theme

In many of Woodiwiss's novels, there is a recurring theme of masquerade. In Shanna, Ruark dons the persona of a bondsman, a slave, as he woos his secret wife.

In A Rose In Winter, the hero masquerades as a crippled, scarred burn victim as he courts his wife -- making her feel caught between her desire for two men.

In another Woodiwiss novel, Ashes In The Wind which I'm not reviewing here, the heroine is in full-on masquerade when she meets the hero.

In her other books, this plot device can be seen with some variations.

My Take

After more than 30 years since I read her novels for the first time, what's my take on these books now? They are sweeping epics with larger than life characters. They are still page turners. You won't forget the hero and heroine nor the somewhat improbable -- to us in contemporary times -- story lines. They will captivate you, thrill you, and stir you even though they are tame compared to today's graphic depictions of sexuality.

When her books first were published, they were ground-breaking because they were the first "to [follow] the principals into the bedroom." Although they did that, there were no realistic descriptions of body parts or love making. Instead, the hero "warmed" when he saw a "rosy crest" revealed by a low neckline.

You might laugh at this, but if you read the books, you'll find yourself swept along by the passion of the hero and heroine. The euphemisms and formal language aren't off-putting. The long descriptions set the scenes perfectly without boring the reader.

In today's world, I wonder if books like this would get accepted by publishers. I like to think if she published them independently, that readers would have embraced them still. In 1972, Woodiwiss was initially rejected by publishers and agents because of the length of her books -- more than 600 pages. (The Kindle edition shows more than 10,000 for the file size for Shanna.) Luckily, she believed in her stories and refused to cut the length.

More Than The Sum Of Its Parts

Yes, they are flawed with heroines whose actions range from bratty tantrums to impassioned desire for the heroes they married -- those men who ended up teaching them the way of passion. Yet, those heroines don't invite your dislike or scorn. There is still something about them that makes you root for them.

Although Ms. Woodiwiss described her heroines as "strong-willed," I'd describe them as willful. A Woodiwiss heroine is usually a woman who wants what she wants, regardless of the consequences. They cling to their opinions, even though circumstances show that they are wrong to do so, until overwhelming evidence to the contrary makes them finally grow up and accept the truth. I see her heroines as cast in the mold of Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara.

The heroes are supermen -- physically strong beyond belief -- and as handsome and intelligent as they are strong. Each is a masterful lover anxious to "take their ease" as is the phrase of bygone eras with the woman who attracts them more than any other woman of their acquaintance. The Woodiwiss hero is patient with the heroine's emotional storms and understanding. He is the kind of man every woman would welcome in her bedchamber.

To my amazement, I found the novels rife with viewpoints that change from sentence to sentence within paragraphs. That's the dreaded label of "head hopping." When I first read these books, as a reader, not as a writer familiar with narrative skills, I never picked up on that

Take everything together -- the good and the bad -- and you end up with a book greater than the sum of its parts.  Reading these wonderful novels again, I found myself glued to the ebook page, turning each as swiftly as I could -- even though I knew exactly what was going to happen and how it would all work out in the end.

Takeaway Truth

If you haven't read, Shanna and A Rose In Winter, remedy that immediately. Hie thee to Ye Olde Kindle Shoppe or the store of your choice and download two of the books that were responsible for creating an entire genre for women.

Write Every Day

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Let's talk about how often you should write. We'll call that your writing schedule.

When I first started out as a "professional" writer, meaning I wanted to earn a living by writing, I heard from many experienced published authors that I needed to write every day or, at the very least, write on a consistent schedule.

I learned by experience that those experienced authors were spot on. Here's why.

Why You Should Write Every Day

1. A novel is a BIG project to hold in your head. You must remember the basics like what names you have given to the characters from the major characters to the minor walk-on characters. If you start a book in January and write feverishly for a couple of weeks then set the project aside for a couple of weeks, you'll be surprised how those tiny details like name, hair color, eye color, profession, motivation, hidden secret, etc. will have escaped you. You'll have to go back and review all your notes, read everything you'd written up to the stopping point, and try to "get back in" to the story. That will take a lot more time than you imagine.

2. If you write on a consistent schedule, you don't have to "talk yourself" into writing. By habit, you go to your computer or wherever, sit down, and write. No mental coercion is required. No agonizing. No procrastination and thinking, "I'll relax today and catch up tomorrow." Producing so many words or pages every day builds the habit of writing. When you're sick or feeling exhausted, habit will put you in the writing position every day.

3. Writing on a schedule keeps the fire of the story burning within. If you allow that fire to turn to ashes and grow cold, you lose the creative energy to finish the project. If you don't believe me, just look at all your friends who keep starting books only to stall out, then start another, stall out, etc.

Writing effectively is a matter of getting that creative flow. It's similar to turning on the hot water faucet. Do you get hot water instantly? Probably not. The water has to run a bit before the water begins to warm. When it's hot, and you turn the water off, but then turn it on again after a short break, it's runs hot instantly.

That's how it is with writing. Write every day, and the words flow hot immediately. Write every week or so, and it takes a long while to get those words flowing well again.

T. S. Eliot: "Writing everyday is a way of keeping the engine running, and then something good may come out of it."

Takeaway Truth

Establish a consistent writing schedule and stick to it. You'll write faster, and your writing will improve also.

System Mechanic: The Magic Bullet

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Everyone bandies about the phrase: magic bullet.

Pop dictionaries define magic bullet as a medicine or other remedy, especially an undiscovered or hypothetical one, with wonderful or highly specific properties.

Well, today, I have a software for you that I call a magic bullet for PC performance. It's not hypothetical, and it's not undiscovered because I discovered it with a little help from an online friend, Jack Follman of iolo technologies. And, it definitely has wonderful and specific properties -- it improves the performance of your computer which will save you time and help you to work more effectively.

I often complain here on SlingWords about my computer problems. I bought a new PC in July 2011. In the beginning it was so fast it thrilled me. I bragged about it! Time marched on, and the new whiz of a PC slowed down, down, down. Occasionally, I started having weird problems with it. Most recently, I had Java Script errors that just about drove me crazy. It took a day out of my life exploring the myriad Java Script errors and trying to figure out which one was the culprit. Fortunately, I got that problem solved, which was a conflict between Java and a Facebook AddOn, but it made me mean and cranky.

Then Jack asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing System Mechanic, a product from his company iolo technologies. I'm very open to reviewing products I think might be worthwhile for me and for you readers so I said yes. Unfortunately, what with my writing schedule, the holidays, and the sinus infection from hell, I didn't get around to downloading the review copy until last night.

Blown Away

Frankly, I was blown away by System Mechanic. It's designed to:

Boost Speed -- your PC startup, your internet speed, program operation and gaming performance.

Diagnose & Repair problems -- over 30,000 different PC problems by using intelligent live updates from iolo Labs™.

Clean-up your files from the computer registry to removing junk files and cleaning up files that have an impact on your privacy like chat histories.

Plug Security Holes --Block dangerous program, system changes and faulty settings.

That's just the tip of the iceberg of what it can do for your computer.

Check Out Website

Visit iolo technologies and you'll find clear concise explanations of their software, what it does, and how it works. You'll also find a wealth of free articles to help you better understand why your computer's performance slows and deteriorates and what you can do about the problems.

Best of all, if you buy System Mechanic -- an absolute bargain at $39.95 -- you get an unlimited home use license, a 30 day money back guarantee, and free product support. (No, *LOL* I don't get a commission!) I'll be honest, the software is so user-friendly and intuitive, that I can't imagine anyone needing the product support. Still, it's there if you do.

In case you wondered, the software is Microsoft Certified For Windows® 8, 7, Vista and XP. You can see all kinds of badges attesting to its credibility on their website.

Count Me In

The company claims over 76 million pc's repaired. Well, as of last night, they can make that 76 million and 1 because in the space of about 10 minutes, System Mechanic scanned my PC and fixed the problems. Actually, the 10 minutes were mostly used by me to read the lists of tasks it could do to improve performance and the explanations of why it was a good thing for System Mechanic to do them.

Here's a list of what it did on my computer:

Turned off 10 unneeded start-up programs. Removed 1 broken shortcut. Removed offline temporary internet clutter, internet clutter, and downloaded program clutter. (Each of these amounted to 10-12 mb of data.)Optimized Internet configuration. Fixed 200 Registry problems. Repaired 14 security vulnerabilities. Oh, and it is enabled to check on the PC every week and apply new live definitions if needed -- kind of a safety net in case you don't actively monitor your PC's health -- which I don't. Yep. My bad.

In case you think a mistake might have been made in what it did, there's a way to reset it back to where it was.

Takeaway Truth

I have no reservation about giving 5 out of 5 stars to System Mechanic. It can improve your PC's performance, prolong the life of your PC, and keep you from investing hours on end in trying to figure out why you're having problems. In other words, it just might save your sanity.

Cynthia Wicklund On Indie & Audio Books

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Cynthia Wicklund is the best selling author of The Garden Series. The first book in the series, In the Garden of Temptation, has been downloaded over half a million times worldwide.

Oddly enough, her first published book, Lord of Always, a Gothic romance published by Ellora's Cave, didn't really begin selling until readers were introduced to her Indie books.

Now, the first book in the Garden Series, In The Garden of Temptation and the second book in the series, In The Garden of Disgrace, are available as audio books.

If Historical Regency isn't your cup of tea, then try her paranormal romance Thief of Souls.

Cynthia Wicklund Tackles The Dirty Dozen


First let me say, Joan, thank you for inviting me to SlingWords today and introducing me to your readers again. It's always a pleasure!


1. Do you read ebooks? If so, what device do you use?

Yes, I do. I use the Kindle Touch. I also have a Kindle Fire, but my husband somehow ended up with it. :)


2. Do you listen to audio books? If so, what device do you use?

Again, yes. The Kindle Touch and my smartphone, the HTC Vivid.


3. When did you enter the indie publishing arena, and how has it affected your career?

I published my first Indie book at Smashwords in September 2010. How has it not affected my career would be easier to answer. I went from believing my dream wasn't going to happen to selling thousands of books all over the world. Some days I have to pinch myself because I can't believe it's true.


4. What's the best thing about being an indie author?

Getting my stories in front of readers. The occasional review that makes you want to hug the reviewer. One reviewer said, "I love me some Wicklund." That didn't just make my day, it made my week. Okay, more than that. It still makes me smile.


5. What's the worst thing about being an indie author?

The same as a traditional author. The pressure to produce. That butt to chair requirement that is an absolute necessity for achieving success.


6. What would you like to tell readers if you could appear in front of all of them?

Thank you. Thank you for reading my stories. Thank you for taking the time to leave a review, good or bad. And most of all, thank you for helping me realize my dream. Without the readers there is no dream.


7. Of all the books you've written and published, what is your favorite book? Why?

In the Garden of Temptation. That's the first book I ever wrote. I was a complete neophyte. I didn't understand pacing or point of view or plotting or a host of other requirements needed to produce a decent book. I was too ignorant of the process to know I was doing it all wrong. I just wrote what I wanted to write, and I had the time of my life. Needless to say, ITGOT required a complete overhaul before I could publish it, but it was my training ground, the book that taught me to love writing, and it will always be special because of that.


8. If you were a casting director and that book was being produced as a movie, who would you cast in the major roles?

I always find that question interesting. Usually I try not to imagine faces exactly as it's a distraction to me. However, occasionally, a person really strikes me as perfect. James Purefoy, so handsome and British in A Knight's Tale, ticks all the right boxes for any of my heroes. Hugh Jackman from Kate and Leopold ditto. I have more trouble imagining an actress -- not sure why -- but I think Katherine Heigl would be a great choice for my heroine -- if she could do a British accent. Maybe it's because I'd love to exude her energy and beauty.


9. Now that you are having audio books produced from all your titles, what do you think is the most difficult aspect of the audio book experience?

Ratings, without a doubt. Because you have a narrator, you're not just responsible for your own work. A bad review means your narrator got a bad review also.

10. How did you go about choosing your narrator?

Helen Lloyd, who narrated In the Garden of Temptation, had samples on the ACX site. All I can say is she had the most warm, melodic voice and beautiful British accent. I was honored that she accepted my offer. She did an absolutely amazing job.


11. What are you currently working on?

I have a new trilogy, Knights of Heaven, that I'm currently working on. The first book, Heaven in His Touch, was already supposed to be out, so I'm a little behind schedule, but I'm working furiously to catch up. The stories are historical, British set, but they'll have a paranormal aspect to them.


12. Where online can readers find you?


Twitter: @CynthiaWicklund
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cynthia.wicklund
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4105912.Cynthia_Wicklund

My books are available at most ebook sellers, and my audio books can be found at Audible, Amazon, and Apple. My website is woefully out of date, but my New Year's resolution is to do something about that.

Takeaway Truth

Thanks for joining us today and giving readers and listeners a chance to get to know you better.

Time, Time, Time – What’s A Reader To Do?

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This morning, I'm happy to welcome Cathy Perkins to talk about one of my favorite subjects — reading.

Cathy's award-winning suspense writing lurks behind a financial day-job, where she learned, firsthand, skills like camouflage and hiding in plain sight -- skills employed by her villains. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for Honor Code (A Mystery Novella) and her mystery novel The Professor, Cathy now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her workaholic  husband and a 75-pound Lab who thinks she’s still a lap-puppy. You can learn more on her website

Find Cathy

On Facebook,https://www.facebook.com/#!/CathyPerkinsAuthor
On Twitter, http://twitter.com/cperkinswrites

Time, Time, Time – What’s A Reader To Do?
by Cathy Perkins


How can we get it all done? Everything we have to do – plus the things we want to do?

We still have twenty-four hours, right? Do we cram too much into each day, or do we simply have too many balls in the air?

When the day job, family, volunteer activities, oh, the rest of life gets hectic, often my reading time suffers. I love to read. My favorites are character-driven mysteries. But sometimes, I start a novel, then come back two days later and backtrack to remember what’s going on. Frustrating, and not conducive to "getting lost in a story."

My Discovery

Recently, however, I’ve rediscovered short fiction. Stories I can read during lunch or while sitting in the orthodontist waiting room, or …. Well, you have plenty of those moments, right?

But I do want a story. Character. Conflict. Short stories and novellas can deliver them in bite-size chunks.

As an author, I’d always been a little awed by short story writers. In just a few pages, they set up a conflict, shape a character and deliver a twisty ending. And don’t get me started on song lyrics — whew, a complete story in less than four minutes.

Writers often seem to fall into one camp or the other — long or short — without much cross-over. I figured I was firmly in the "long" camp, concentrating on novels. I’m one of those authors who loves writing twisty, multiple suspects, numerous red herrings and a few subplots just in case things aren’t complicated enough already stories.

I was going crazy with the day job this summer, trying to finish a story to turn in to my editor, when a funny thing happened. A character from The Professor cleared his throat and said, "Get over here and pay attention."

And I discovered novellas can be fun to write.

Why Novella

Novellas fill that gray area (or whatever shade you want it to be) between short story and novel. While I usually write complex subplots, with this novella, I stripped those out to focus on the central story and theme. In Honor Code (A Mystery Novella) the story revolves around the way the main characters choose to live their lives — their code of honor.

Or lack of one.

The layers of complexity in a novella must serve multiple tasks, both driving the story forward and defining the characters. The romance in Honor Code is a subplot to the suspense, but I found a theme in mature love that I really want to explore in another story.

Hmm… maybe another novella….

What do you like as a reader or a writer? Long or short? Giving secondary characters the stage for a while? Or would you rather focus on the main character, the primary plot?

Takeaway Truth

Thanks for visiting, Cathy, and good luck with your novella and your novel. May you have great success with the short and long forms.







Colin Firth Shines in The End of the Affair

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The End of the Affair is available as an audio book with Colin Firth narrating. Colin Firth has a voice that's inviting and rich with emotion. It lends itself to the erudite inner ramblings and recollections and roiling emotions of this story.

Mr. Firth shines as the narrator of Graham Greene’s familiar story which has been presented to the public in just about every form from print to stage. He does an amazing job with the various British regional accents. When the viewpoint character, Maurice Bendix, talks about writing, there is an authenticity that writers recognize.

I've always found this story a bit depressing -- painful even -- because, after all, it's the story of a love affair that ended as most illicit love affairs seem to do. The inner emotional landscape of the viewpoint character is discomfiting yet absorbing, and as absorbing as it is self-absorbed as he mentally catalogs his memories and autopsies his emotions, attitudes, and thoughts.

Takeaway Truth

Although set in London during and shortly afterward WWII, the story is as old as time and just as relevant today as it was then, and it is beautifully and skillfully narrated.

Parents: Texting & Teens Behind The Wheel

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I was coming home from the doctor the other day. My husband was driving, and we were in his big Ford pickup. We were on the Beltway, overtaking a Nissan in the lane parallel to us. That car suddenly surged over toward us.Fortunately, my husband was able to move over to avoid a collision.

I looked down at the driver -- a teenage girl who was texting. At 65 miles per hour! Had she hit us, not much would have happened to us, but I fear at the very least, her little car would have been totaled. I shudder to think about what would have happened to her in such a small car.

Stats

In 2010, statistics released by the U.S. DOT showed 3,092 people were killed and an estimated 416,000 injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted driver -- that means a driver texting or talking on the cell phone.

Sending or receiving a text takes the driver's eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds. That time is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55 mph while blindfolded.

About 20% of drivers text while behind the wheel. Of the age group 18-24, that percentage increases to 66%!

I think the time has come to do something about this. Campaign for your state to ban texting while driving. I'd like to see an end to cell phone use while driving too. It's just got out of control.

Parents, An App To Help

If you're a parent with a teen driver, first set a good example by never texting and driving.

Second, sign up for a monthly service that disables texting and other functions when the user is driving. tXtBlocker is a highly customizable service that will do this, only permitting incoming and outgoing calls to present "safe lists" and emergency numbers.

There are probably other such services, but I just read about this one so it's fresh in my mind.

Price is based on a monthly subscription starting at $7.00/month. There's a family plan that covers everyone for $10.00. Plug the search string "text blocker" into your favorite search engines or inquire with your cell phone service provider.

Takeaway Truth

Don't wait for something tragic to happen. Do something now to remove the temptation of texting and phoning while driving.

The Right "Write" Attitude

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Rolling with the punches inspired this article because I'm still sick and supposed to be taking it easy. Sometimes you just can't go about business as usual. You just have to take a step back whether you want to or not.

Today, let's talk about the way you respond to your audience. When your work is put out into the world, you'll sometimes receive unanticipated responses from that audience.

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

A lot of authors indie publish a book and wait for the bucks to roll in. They're stunned when their book doesn't sell. A month passes, and they want to weep when they see their sales report. They get depressed. They begin to question their writing and their writing career.

A lot of authors indie publish a book and wait for accolades to be tossed their way. When they immediately get a scathing 1-star review, they're devastated. Weeks pass, more bad reviews appear even though they also have a few excellent 5-star reviews. Each bad one is like a knife in the heart. They get depressed. They begin to question their writing and their writing career.

Tempered and Tough

Most of these authors I've described above have not been in the trenches for years on end -- writing, submitting to NY editors and agents, and getting rejected over and over. Or, they've never had a book come out from a publisher and had it trashed by "real" reviewers, meaning those hired by a periodical to write journalistic reviews, not casual readers posting reviews.

The problem with these authors who are having their hearts broken is that they haven't been toughened by years in the trenches. I've been doing this for more than 20 years. Just as steel is made stronger by heat-tempering, so is an author by being roasted alive on a fairly regular basis.

I have some advice for all of you who aren't selling like you wish or those who are getting savaged by heartless reviewers. Consider adopting these characteristics for the new year.

7 Tips For Attitude Adjustment

1. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you're in this to make some quick bucks over a short time frame, then you're in the wrong business. From the moment you begin indie publishing, you must know that you're in it for the long haul. It will take time to build an audience and name recognition and begin selling steadily each day.

2. Learn everything you can about marketing and promotion.

Pick and choose among the many avenues and do what you can do without sacrificing the writing.

3. Write and keep improving.

4. Strive to publish at least 2 books a year to keep growing your audience satisfied.

5. Learn to ignore bad reviews because you will ALWAYS get them. There's no avoiding them. Just read some of the scathing reviews the biggest names in romance get -- like two of my favorites, Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Linda Howard -- and you'll realize that there are a ton of people who don't like the 2 most popular names in the genre! So if people don't like your books, then you're in good company.

6. Focus on the good -- making sales however few they may be -- and adopt the attitude that tomorrow will be brighter and keep trying.

If you sold a book this week, then rejoice! Careers are built one book at a time; one sale at a time.

7. Don't look at other authors who are doing well and envy their success. For heaven's sake, don't try to sabotage your fellow authors because they're succeeding, and you're not. What goes around; comes around.

I've been a professional writer -- meaning earning my primary income from writing -- for a couple of decades. I had a lot of lean years even when I was selling regularly to NY. There were more years when my writing income came from freelance clients not from books. I just didn't give up though, and finally all the hard work paid off. A lot of people might look at me and say that I made it big in less than a year, but they don't see that other 20+ years of work and dedication.

Takeaway Truth

No one has it easy. You either pay your dues in the beginning, along the way, or just when you think you're going to get the big break. No one gets off scot-free, but you can make it easier on yourself by adopting the right "write" attitude. That attitude adjustment will help you be less vulnerable to stinker reviews, and it will also keep your motivation ramped up.

What To Do About Copyright Infringers

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One of the biggest problems facing those who work in the Arts is copyright infringement. File sharing just about killed the music industry before trade organizations stepped in and tried to stem the rising tide of piracy.

DMCA

Authors who want to make a living selling their work are now facing a similar horde of pirates and file sharers. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is supposed to provide protection for us, but it's meaningless until the government actually starts prosecuting people who are taking our work and uploading on servers for others to download for free.

You, Rights Owner

You, as the rights owner, are supposed to send Takedown Notices when you discover someone has infringed your copyright in order to protect your copyright. If you don't, then that free file will be duplicated on countless servers worldwide. You also may face the problem of an ebook seller pulling your legitimate books because someone has decided to take that free file, slap their name on it as the author, and upload it somewhere.

Full Time Job

Catching these bad guys is a full-time job. You can send Takedown Notices, and/or hire someone to do it for you. I do both. I use MUSO.com to act as my agent. Their software scans the Internet and when an illegally offered file is found, they send me an email. I go look at it, and either say, yes, it's illegal, take it down, or I say no, it's authorized. If I click Takedown, they send notices to the website owner, the host, etc. and stay with it until it's down. Some slip by them. I have Google alerts in place that catch some.

MUSO Helps

MUSO now sends you a list of Google Search Engine Results Pages that show websites that offer your book for free. The pirates hate this because if they're removed from SERP's, that hurts their business. People find them because of searches.

If you've done nothing about dealing with this problem, you need to wake up and take action. Here are some resources to educate you and show you what to do and who to contact. Print this for a resource list or bookmark since it will be archived here on SlingWords.

Educate Yourself

1. Learn about Content Theft At These Websites

2. Plagiarism Today: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/

3. CopyNot: http://www.copynot.com/

4. U. S. Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-infringement.html

What To Do; Who To Contact

1. Sample DMCA Letters: http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/stock-letters/

2. DMCA Contact Information: list of websites for just about everyone from domain hosts to search engines. http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/dmca-contact-information/

3. Google List of Infringing Domains or Websites: the bad guys who may have your book posted for free -- 158,000+ on this list. http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/copyright/domains/

Report Piracy

1. Disney Company: tips@disneyantipiracy.com

2. National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), the U.S. government's clearinghouse for investigations into counterfeiting and piracy — crimes that threaten the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy, and our war fighters.
http://www.iprcenter.gov/referral

3. Romance Writers of America: reportpiracy@rwa.org

4. Authors Guild: staff@authorsguild.org

5. eBAY: http://pages.ebay.com/help/tp/vero-rights-owner.html

6. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/?id=208282075858952

7. Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/about/copyright/

8. Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/forms/dmca

9. Apple/iTunes: http://www.apple.com/legal/contact/

10. Google: http://support.google.com/video/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1284043&page=ts.cs&rd=1

11. Royal Canadian Mounted Police deal with it in Canada: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/fep-pelf/ipr-dpi/guide-eng.htm

Takeaway Truth

If you feel your copyright has been infringed, don't ignore the issue. Take action. Make this one of your 2013 professional goals.

Entertainment Biz Can Suck

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Did you see the news about the lowest grossing film of 2012? Playback, a horror film starring Christian Slater, had that dubious honor. In real life, Mr. Slater sounds like a man who has come to grips with his past and moved on down the road so he can probably shake off the negative results of this disconcerting news.

When my husband told me about this, I couldn't believe it because Christian Slater is a wonderful actor. He had a great series in 2008, but My Own Worst Enemy was on network television where it didn't stand a ghost of a chance of surviving. He needs a series on USA Network or TNT -- one of the cable channels that offers out of the box entertainment. Give him a role like in Burn Notice or Leverage or Royal Pains.

Playback

Now, I haven't seen Playback and know nothing about the script, the production values, or anything. I just know that Mr. Slater brings his talent to the role -- no matter how poorly written. I've seen him in some pretty awful movies -- meaning badly written with no transition, characters and story lines that make no sense, etc. -- and he is the best thing in those movies.

Playback, which cost $7.5 million to make, was in only 1 theater for 1 week. It grossed only $264.00 in that week. To me, it sounds as if the film had no distribution deals in place and received no promotion which means the company that made it simply "threw him under the bus."

Capricious Powers That Be

Why? Who the heck knows? That seems to happen a lot in the movie business and in the book publishing business too.

It seems that Mr. Slater just can't get a good role in a well-written movie nor can he get the support of the studio in terms of distribution and promotion. It reminds me of authors who write their hearts out and have books published that get panned by reviewers, ignored by readers, and remaindered at the end of the year while the author gets orphaned by the publisher.

Takeaway Truth

It just goes to show that the entertainment business is capricious and can suck for those who are established as much as for those who are unknown and trying to get established.

Decisions: What To Write Next

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I've heard a lot of writers say: "I just can't decide what to write. I've got all these great ideas, but I can't figure out which one to work on. I want to pick the most marketable idea, but I end up confused."

(This article previously appeared in Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you want to read articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Part of the problem is that they're trying to second-guess or predict the market. Will vampire books continue strong or should I switch to a fantasy elf book since The Hobbit is coming out at the movies? Or maybe I should write Martian werewolves? Will Romance be just as popular next year or is Mystery going to be the hot new genre?

Indecision Leads To Writer's Block

Never try to write to the market. Write the story that's keeping you awake at night and captivates your imagination in the daytime.

If you still have an embarrassment of riches in the form of story ideas or premises, and you truly cannot decide between all the options, then an off the wall decision may be required. You can engage in some fancy psychological charts and processes to arrive at an objective decision or use my simple method.

K.I.S.S Decision Process

Yep. Keep It Simple Sweetheart. This Decision Process is a no-brainer, and it works because it gets you moving on SOMETHING!

1. Write down each idea on a slip of paper.
2. Put them in a bowl.
3. Have your spouse or your kid or your neighbor draw a slip of paper from the bowl.
4. Whatever it says is what you will write next.

Believe it or not, this really works for people who can't decide because they're confused by marketing decisions or other concerns that make them always second guessing themselves.

The Ground Rules

1. You must agree to write the idea that gets drawn so only put in ideas you really want to write.

2. You must get someone else to draw the name just to keep you honest.

3. You must tape the slip of paper over your work desk or monitor so you can see it each time you sit at your computer.

4. You must take action immediately. The key to goal achievement is taking immediate action. List the steps needed to write the book from beginning to end and block out the time on your calendar. Do it now.

5. You must save all the other slips of paper for future use. If you get a new idea, don't stop to mull it over or make notes, just write the idea on paper and add it to the bowl.

6. You must agree not to work on any other ideas until the first idea is finished.

This works because you're separating all the confusing marketing information from the creative process. You want to get it written before you worry about marketing.

This removes the confusion and emotion and all the other factors that have tied your hands in the past. This allows you to move forward, focusing on the idea you drew without losing clarity of purpose, because you now have your work in progress defined.

Takeaway Truth

Stay on task. Stay focused. Keep your thoughts on the work at hand. Keep your eyes on the goal.

Auld Lang Syne

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"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?"

Thus begins the song many of us sing at midnight every New Year's Eve. Auld Lang Syne , literally translated as "old long since," or idiomatically as "long, long ago" or "old times" or "days gone by," was a poem written by Scots poet Robert Burns in 1788.

The words were later set to the tune of a traditional folk song. About 200 years later, in the United States, England, and Scotland, holiday gatherings had guests joining hands at midnight and singing Auld Lang Syne to say farewell to the old year and welcome in the new.

Canadian big band leader Guy Lombardo was credited with popularizing the song for New Year’s celebrations in the U.S. via his annual radio broadcasts beginning in 1929 and eventually moving to television New Year broadcasts. The song became his trademark, and he recorded it a few times.

Today, the song is well known in many countries, and is not sung just for New Year's. It's not uncommon to hear it at funerals, graduations, or farewell ceremonies. The Boy Scouts in many countries close their jamborees with it.

Takeaway Truth

So, let's "... take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne." Happy New Year!