Real music as opposed to fake music

I'll be the first to admit I gripe about what passes for music in today's world. That's why when I find someone who produces REAL music (as opposed to fake music of course), I like to tell others and spread the joy. There are very few new bands that appeal to me, but I do occasionally find a singer. In this case, I discovered Josh Woodward via the blog for Robert Gregory Browne.

Amazingly, Woodward provides his music free and asks you to share it with others. If you can purchase a full album or make a donation, then he's grateful and can keep producing music in hopes of getting "discovered" by the musical powers that be. By the way, the albums are much less than in a store.

Give him a listen. I think you'll like him. He's got an appealing voice, good musicianship, but more importantly, he writes songs that, well, say something.

The tax man cometh

The day that strikes fear in the hearts of men and women everywhere, April 15 - also known as pay up or die day - is quickly approaching. What follows is a common sense approach to the business aspect of being a writer. If you need specific, targeted legal advice regarding income tax and the writer, go to the IRS web site because I am not now nor ever will be a lawyer or an IRS agent. The web site has everything you need to know regarding Schedule C, the form writers normally use as well as printable forms and booklets. So that's the disclaimer.

Let's discuss your writing business. That's right, I said business because if you write with the intent of selling your writing you are in business. You are a company; you are doing business as an author. If you conduct yourself as a professional, then it makes sense to extend that professionalism to operating your business in keeping with sound business practices.

Your writing business can be divided into two areas: the business and the creative. Let's look at the business part of your company first. This part is composed of clerical, accounting, and marketing functions and increasingly of publicity functions too.

There are two very good reasons for getting organized and keeping accurate records: it makes running your business easy which leaves more time for creative pursuits, and it eliminates that nagging fear of the big bad wolf, otherwise known as the Internal Revenue Service.

What do you need to take care of the necessary evils of business life? You need a file cabinet or a cardboard box in which you place: your receipts each month, bank statements (I highly recommend you have your own checking account devoted solely to your writing expenses and income), and manilla folders. These folders can be labeled with the project name and hold correspondence (submission letters, acceptance letters, rejection letters, etc.). Also use folders for anything else related to business. A ledger, or a simple looseleaf binder, in which you list monthly expenses categorized by type and monthly income (dream a little!) also. A folder to hold unpaid bills. Another folder in which to file information about publishing guidelines or needs, agent info, etc.

It goes without saying that you need an office or a "space" that is yours where you can have paper, pens, your computer, a phone, a Rolodex or card file, and all the other accouterments of office life. My first office was carved out of my over-sized laundry room. Now, I’m lucky enough to have a separate room with a view of trees and flowers and the street. Sometimes views though are more an intrusion than an asset, but, in any case, stake your claim on a bit of your real estate for your business.

The creative part of your company covers the development of ideas into salable books or articles and involves research materials, publisher guidelines, your personal idea book or files, written manuscripts, critiques, diskette storage, etc.

To aid the creative end of your company, label some of your folders so you have a place to stick that fascinating article you ripped out of the newspaper this morning or printed off the Net. Some topics you might need folders for are architecture, furniture, clothes, setting, psychology, medical, historical, popular culture, or writing techniques. Whatever pushes your imagination button. Then when you want to know what '90's slang for money is you look in your pop culture file and discover that the phrase you’re looking for was dead presidents. What's the use of having all that valuable info, if you can't locate it when you need it?

Some other aids to the creative half of the business: an unabridged dictionary or a good recent abridged version, Roget's Thesaurus or a similar book, Elements of Style by Strunk and White, a good manuscript format book if you are uncertain of how to prepare a manuscript for submission, and a good grammar book if you need it. Now, you don't actually need hard copies of these things because all that can be found on the Net. However, I find too many people stop the flow of words to do a little surfing to look up something and end up using Net research as a procrastination tool. If you have hard copies, beyond the tactile enjoyment of using books, you can keep the words going and in those odd bits of time, do the bits of research needed and plug in the info later.

Don't procrastinate in your either side of your business. You own the company so run it as if it were a Fortune 500 company, and, maybe, one day it will be the literary equivalent of Berkshire Hathaway.

Back from zombie land

It would seem my last blog entry in which I prophesied that I'd get some antibiotics and revert to my usual healthy self was premature. Since I last posted, I have been as sick as, well, sick as a dog to use a common but nonsensical analogy.

The antibiotics did not bounce me back to health like a rubber ball. I've spent most of this past week moaning in my recliner, in between coughing up a lung.

However, I can finally report that I think I'm going to live. So I'll be slinging words here again come Monday.

Until then, let's lift a glass to toast those ballroom champs Drew Lachey and his professional partner Cheryl what's-her-name. Amazing performance - especially loved the dance to Save A Horse; Ride A Cowboy.

Sling Words out (but no longer down for the count).

Writer: stay healthy

Alas, alack! I'll confess. I'm sick. I think the bronchitis I started the year with has rebounded. Probably because I didn't take all the antibiotics since they made me sicker. Sick and bored also therefore I'm entertaining myself by writing off the top of my stuffed up head. Today is an appropriate time to talk about taking care of our bodies.

Physical energy is the raw material of success. Without it, we suffer, and so does our writing. Have you ever left the computer at the end of a writing day and felt as if you'd been trampled by a herd of elephants? Every muscle protests. Your back aches; your neck hurts. Your head pounds; your wrists throb. This was me on too many occasions.

Since I spent most of last year in physical therapy and have more scheduled this year to rehab my back, shoulders, and neck, I feel particularly qualified to speak on this subject. Your body is a temple. It can be a temple of joy or despair depending on how you take care of your body.

When the wrists, and the muscles leading from wrist to forearm, begin to ache, that's the first warning sign of impending trouble. The next pain will come from the nerves, particularly the ulnar, and when that happens, it doesn't whisper trouble. It screams. And you'll scream too - in monumental pain that just won't be alleviated.

Ask around and you'll get people telling you it's tennis elbow or golf elbow or carpal tunnel. Regardless of what you call it, taking a couple of ibuprofen won't make it go away. And you sure can't walk it off. The worst thing you can do, voice of experience here, is ignore it and hope it will go away on its own.

Don't hesitate to contact an orthopedic surgeon or your family doctor at the first sign of trouble. If you're a writer, it's the difference between writing and staring in pain and frustration because you can't make yourself use that hand, wrist, elbow, or arm.

The doctor is able to diagnose where the pain is coming from and can you give you medication like steroids or prescription anti-inflammatories to alleviate it. In mild cases, taking steroids may make the pain disappear and not return. In worse cases, you may be given a prescription for all of the above as well as physical therapy where you'll be taught exercises to make the pain go away and/or to strengthen the joint.

If you haven't experienced nerve damage yet, or if you have and are coming back from a repetitive stress injury, investigate different tools to see what works best for you. If you spend more than an hour a day at a computer, learn how to work effectively by using the proper tools.

I've played with a lot of different mice, uh, mouses, uh... What the heck is the plural for the computer pointer gadget, as my mom calls it?

I've changed to a cordless mouse that is extra-large so it supports my hand completely as my hand rests on it. It's ergonomically designed to be comfortable as my hand rests on it and features a roller ball for scrolling and three additional buttons to be programmed by the user. There are many brands on the market. I also use a cordless comfort keyboard with lots of programmable keys that open and close the applications I've selected, operate my Real Music, etc. So I can punch a button with my less-used left hand for the things I use most often. Another advantage for the cordless keyboard is I can pull it off the desk and rest it in my lap, lean back comfortably in my chair, and pound away.

I've got a fairly expensive office chair with lumbar support, height adjustable arms that are open on the front so I can pull up to my keyboard shelf without bumping anything, and levers that adjust height, tilt, seat and back angle.

These things are necessary for me to work without pain so they're a good investment as well as being tax deductible.

I had my husband use a tape measure to find out what distance from the monitor I'm most comfortable with and had my optometrist write a prescription for computer glasses that work with that distance. I keep them at my computer so they're always there when I need them.

I've recently purchased one of the voice-recognition software products and intend to become accustomed to using it. I’ll continue trying new products and techniques because this is my career. I'm in it for the long haul so I'll do what is necessary to stay healthy. Tomorrow, to the doctor I go for some good old antibiotics.

I impatiently await the return of wellness. Spring is warming up to sing its siren song. My garden beckons. All pales next to the story I'm impatient to unfold, word by word.

Three events on Feb. 16

I'm a bit late posting this but wanted to honor Trivial Thursday so I'm forging ahead despite bronchitis.

The question on everyone's lips is: what inane thing will be discussed today at the old Sling Words office? Good question. I'm intrigued by three things that happened on February 16.

On this day in 1923, the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen was unsealed. Just think of the many creations to which that event gave birth. Everything from the Mummy movies to the Stargate mythology in the movie and the long-running SciFi series Stargate SG-1. If you're a fan of SG-1, then you know that the rulers of the ancient world were really a race of sentient beings called Go'auld who used the sarcophagus as a means of prolonging the human bodies they used as hosts. If only Lord Carnarvan could have visualized how the human imagination would take flight from the findings of the Egyptologists. Of course, he died shortly after the tomb was opened. The mummy's curse, you know.

The second thing is that on this day in 600CE (or AD if you are a traditionalist), Pope Gregory I decreed that "God bless you" was the correct response to a sneeze. Ah-choo! It may seem funny to you that they know the exact date "God bless you" was accepted, but remember, it was a papal decree.

The third thing, just for fun, is that this day in 1956 good old Play-Doh was invented. Actually, I think that was probably the date a patent was issued to Noah McVicker and Joseph McVicker for a "plastic modeling composition of a soft, playable working consistency" that eventually became the product known as Play-Doh.

They were actually trying to invent a wallpaper cleaner. When it failed in its original purpose, the men noticed how similar it was to modeling clay but without the toxicity ad mess so they pitched it as a toy. As a result, Joe McVicker became a millionaire before his 27th birthday.

The men founded Rainbow Crafts to manufacture the product but sold out to a toy company. Hasbro now owns Play-Doh.

The formula for Play-Doh still remains a trade secret. Originally Play-Doh came only in off-white, but by 1957, yellow, red, and blue were added.

Many a parent has cursed that day as they tried to scrape the colorful pliable junk from carpet fibers, but kids everywhere have fond memories of Play-Doh pies.

Need a good laugh?

I'm riding low in the saddle today to use a Texas expression. Spent the weekend at house #1 which is under renovation. It was miserably cold with a constant brisk wind of about 15-20 mph. Started feeling bad Sunday. By Monday I was all congested.

I'm trying to avoid another bout of bronchitis so I opened up my Humor File for a dose of laughter and feel good endorphins. These One Liners from comic Stephen Wright float around cyberspace, docking every now and then in my Inbox. Laugh with me, and we'll both feel better.

Last night I played a blank tape at full blast. The mime next door went nuts.

If a person with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is that considered a hostage situation?

Just think how much deeper the ocean would be if sponges didn't live there.

If a cow laughed, would milk come out her nose?

Whatever happened to preparations A through G?

If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?

I went for a walk last night and my kids asked me how long I'd be gone. I said, "The whole time."

How come you don't ever hear about gruntled employees? And who has been dissing them anyhow?

After eating, do amphibians need to wait an hour before getting OUT of the water?

Why don't they just make mouse-flavored cat food?

If you're sending someone some styrofoam, what do you pack it in?

I just got skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious.

Why do they sterilize needles for lethal injections?

If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?

Isn't Disney World a people trap operated by a mouse?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "lisp" to have an "s" in it?

We all know light travels faster than sound. Is that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?

Americans throw rice at weddings. Do Asians throw hamburgers?

Why are they called buildings, when they're already finished? Shouldn't they be called builts?

Why do banks charge you an "insufficient funds" fee on money they already know you don't have?

If the universe is everything and scientists say that the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?

If you got into a taxi and the driver started driving backward, would the taxi driver end up owing you money?

Do fish get cramps after eating?

Why do scientists call it research when looking for something new?

Why is it, when a door is open it's ajar, but when a jar is open, it's not a door?

How come Superman could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when someone threw a gun at him?

If "con" is the opposite of "pro," then what is the opposite of progress?

Why does bottled lemon juice contains mostly artificial ingredients but dishwashing liquid contains real lemons?

Why buy a product that it takes 2000 flushes to get rid of?

Why do we wait until a pig is dead to "cure" it?

Why do we wash bath towels? Aren't we clean when we use them?

Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

What do little birdies see when they get knocked unconscious?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Should you trust a stockbroker who's married to a travel agent?

Is boneless chicken considered an invertebrate?

Do married people live longer than single people, or does it just SEEM longer?

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

Valentine's Day

This is the first time I've managed to post to ye old Blogger since Sunday. Tried all day yesterday to get something uploaded because it was my son's birthday, and I wanted to post one of my favorite pictures of him. So if this gets posted, I may try again.

How Writing Pros Do IT

I usually don't post on Sunday because the day is taken up by so many non-writing activities. I actually do have a life, and my family reminds me of that each weekend.

Still, I always have writing on the brain so I thought maybe Sunday would be a good day to do a little sermonizing. Hope you like today's advice from the pros on what they do to write good books.

Be professional. "Fortify yourself within an impregnable structure of writing habits." Leonard Bishop

Don't talk about writing, write. "You must write. You must finish what you write. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order. You must put it on the market until sold." Robert A. Heinlein

Improve your skills. "The difference between using the right word and the one that is almost right is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." Mark Twain

Get the story told. "Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft." Stephen King

Keep your focus on what you can control - the writing. "It is more profitable to stay aware of trends generally, yet concentrate your energies on simply writing the best novel you know how to write. Don't chase the market. Write the novel that is in you." Jack Bickham

Don't write static copy. "When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns." Raymond Chandler

Write for today's reading audience. "I try to leave out the parts that people skip." Elmore Leonard

Sling Words out.

Writers on the Verge

of giving up.

In case you missed it, go read the blog entry Potential by Joe Konrath.

Sometimes it takes a lot of persistence to keep going, but often that is the difference between someone who succeeded and someone who did not. In his analysis of writing and potential, Joe analyzes the talent vs. technique issue as do those who comment on Potential so be sure and read the comments too.

Personally, I've always felt if you could quit writing, then you're probably not meant to be a writer in the first place. That's not a slam. It's a truth because most people who are writers, published or not, can't seem to quit. The thought of not writing is anathma to them.

Of course, I should perhaps make the distinction between writing and writing for publication, but I always look at that issue this way: writing without publication is like acting without applause.

Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure this is a quote I remember from some wiser person than I, but this early in the morning I can't recall who first said it.

Sling Words out to go sling some words on my WIP.

Life of a Writer

"The life of a writer is tragic: the more we advance, the farther there is to go and the more there is to say, the less time there is to say it." From Gabrielle Roy, in Donal Stephens, Writers of the Prairie (1973)

Sling Words gives that a big AMEN.

Facing the world

My hat is off to the French woman with the face transplant who had the courage to face the media. What an ordeal she's been through.

Is it immoral to get a new face? Not in my opinion. I can imagine how distressing it must be for her and her family because in her own words, she looks nothing like she did prior to the terrible mauling from her pet Labrador. Still, she is the same woman. Perhaps her personality will "imprint" her new face.

This new procedure is a true miracle for all who've suffered horrible disfigurement. Even the best surgical procedures hasn't been enough to allow some to go out into the world without provoking stares and whispers.

God bless the doctors and those who pioneer this new medical approach that seems straight out of science fiction. And God bless the woman who must learn to live with a new face.

20 truths about writing

A little over ten years ago I experienced a personal loss that made me realize fully how fleeting time is and how fragile life is. It took a tragedy for me to realize that I had no guarantee of another decade, or even another year, in which to find the time to turn the ideas bombarding my brain into novels.

My journey from unpublished novelist to published has been a bumpy one. Looking back on that pot-holed road to success, I realize that I wouldn't know as much about the publishing industry, the creative process, and the business of writing had I been an overnight success.

Many of the lessons I've learned have been learned, I'm embarrassed to say, the hard way. I often joke to my friends that I'm a slow learner - perhaps resistant is more accurate. My mother always said I was the most stubborn child she'd ever seen. I tried to impose my belief systems on the vagaries of the publishing business. For instance, I believed that you could write a book about anything that struck your fancy, and if it was a good book it would get published. Guess what I learned? The publishing business didn't care what I thought. Big surprise, huh?

Perhaps Ben Franklin meant people like me when he said: "Experience keeps a dear school but a fool will learn in no other." I don't say this with bitterness, but with a self-deprecating laugh. I may not be the brightest person in the world, but I possess one trait that many do not have. I learn from my mistakes, and I learn from other people's mistakes because I figure I won't live long enough to make all of them myself.

From the vantage point of experience, I decided to pass along these truths for your consideration. Perhaps you'll learn faster than I did and enjoy your journey far more.

1. Writing successfully requires a consistent commitment. You must place the seat of your pants in the seat of the chair on a consistent basis and produce pages.

2. Writing is hard work physically so incorporate taking care of your body from the start. Prevent problems like back spasms, sciatic pain, carpel tunnel rather than try to cure them.

3. Writing is hard work emotionally so take time to play. Don't tell your child "later" every time she or he wants to toss a ball with you or take a swim. Don't tell your husband “no” when he wants you to go fishing with him or play golf. You'll regret it one day if you do. Pages can be written another day, but time with loved ones can't be reclaimed. Life is short. Children grow up while you aren't looking.

4. Writing is hard work mentally so read for pleasure and read to learn more about the world.

5. Not every good book you write will sell.

6. After you sell a book, you'll still get rejected.

7. If you don't get rejected very often, maybe you aren't trying hard enough.

8. You'll lose friends because some become jealous. The day may come when you realize there is no excuse for their nasty comments to others about you. No excuse but jealousy. You'll grieve, but, if you're smart, you'll accept and move on.

9. You'll make new friends who accept you and cheer you on.

10. You won't get rich unless you are that one in a million, and no one can predict that so don't expect it.

11. It takes a bit of luck to sell and continue selling. Good luck seems to grow with a positive attitude.

12. Sometimes deals fall apart for no apparent reason.

13. Sometimes what you think is a curse is a blessing and vice versa.

14. Always remember why you started writing in the first place - because you love putting words together.

15. You can't bend the world, especially the publishing world, to your will.

16. Don't believe everything an editor or an agent says to you.

17. Don't place too much emphasis on reviews - good or bad.

18. Share what you know with others. If you help someone else along the way, you help yourself (and protect your karma).

19. Don't speak ill of other authors or their books. No one ever sets out to write a crummy book. Even if you don't think a book is particularly good, always remember that the author sweated blood over it - just as you do over your work.

20. Always write. If you are waiting for a contract, start a new book. If you are certain that you'll never sell, write. If you are depressed, write. If you are ecstatic over a sale, write. Never stop writing because when you do, that writer's muscle stiffens and atrophies from lack of use. Always write and strive to do better at your craft. Perfect your skills. Develop a great work discipline. If nothing else, you’ll create one heck of an inventory.

Sling Words
wishing you a happy writing day to start the week.

Fishing in Texas

This is Sunday, a day of rest and leisure, but don't think about swimming in the lake that was home to this fish!

This picture was one of several that came in one of those emails that float around cyber space. It actually had a link that I followed to
Aim Low Productions. If you go there, you'll find all kinds of video footage and stills devoted to fishing.

Apparently, this alligator gar, a fresh-water fish, was caught in a north Texas lake in August 2005. Swimming in that lake might give new meaning to the phrase "fish bait."

Full of hot air

Nope. Not me, but the balloon seen through the trees in my backyard. What a surprise to open the blinds this morning and see a hot air balloon hovering over the block behind me. Grabbed my camera and managed to shoot one dig pic before it raced out of sight.

Why I didn't write much x 10

1. Coping with renovation and repairs at two properties.
2. A contractor who took off for Mexico leaving me scrambling
3. Rain storms that slowed the progress of replacing rotten siding and speeded up the process of damage
4. Coping with other people's emotional issues
5. Regressing in my back physical therapy
6. Coping with problems left by deceased relatives
7. A broken water pipe in the foundation of the real estate I call home which has resulted in NO water in said house
8. Updating web site which was way overdue
9. Feeling tired and exhausted from all of the above.
10.Reading very rough draft of WIP and realizing I was going to cut out one of the major secondary characters because she tended to be too prominent which will mean a major rewrite, but I think it will make the book stronger.

So I didn't write as much as I had planned this week, but I did get some pages done each day. Despite the major revision to my story line for Sex, Murder, and Mint Juleps, I think the book will be stronger for it though I'm ready to be finished with it. Now.

Sling Words out to pray for the plumber to show up on time today.

Trivial Thursday - author born

Most Americans probably haven't read James Joyce who was born in Dublin, Ireland, 124 years ago today. That's 1882 if you don't want to do the math. Admittedly, his work isn't wat we'd call reader friendly, but that's not surprising given his personality and, yes, genius. I think the G word has to be applied to a man who learns Dano-Norwegian in order to read Ibsen's plays in the original language.

Though he was a brilliant scholar at university, an essay he wrote was rejected by the adviser to the school's literary magazine. He self-published the piece and began a lifelong rebellion against the literary establishment.

After graduation from university, he moved to Paris where he had planned to become a doctor in order to support himself while writing. If you're a writer, it's not surprising that he gave up that idea to devote his time to writing. Writing has a way of taking over your life. (It'll take your soul too if you let it.)

Sling Words salutes James Joyce whose writing is best described as rebellious against society's restrictions and mores. Hand salute!

How to get Google to list you

I've got some friends (Hi, Pat and Cheryl) who have started blogging at Family Chow Hall. I think they're on the search engines already, but I thought I'd again publish the link to help others get their blogs or web sites listed with the Google search engine. I've included a hot link to make it super easy.

Simply go to the Add a URL page on Google and fill out the form.

The other search engines have a similar process for getting listed. Just find the equivalent Add a URL page.

Check out Family Chow Hall for some excellent recipes and interesting facts from this mom of five.