Survived Christmas

My calendar says it's December 27. Wow. Christmas is over. I survived. The last of the visitors leaves today. I think I'll be packing up the shiny ornaments, mistletoe, and garlands and reclaim my house.

The yard can stay festooned with sparkling lights and candy canes. DH can reclaim it because like, it's not my job, man.

Pralines, pray-lines or prawlines

A praline by any other name is still delicious, fattening, and irresistible.

"I can't imagine a world without pralines," cookbook author Nathalie Dupree wrote in Southern Memories.

Yes, I know this blog is about slinging words, but this is Christmas. I not only sling words but also I sling pecans and brown sugar and butter and all those yummy ingredients as I make my Magic Pralines. I guess you can't grow up in the south without knowing how to make pralines, those yummy melt-in-your-mouth confections.

When the holidays come, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I can't seem to make enough of my special Texas Trash crunch mix and pralines. I give them as gifts to my husband's office, the neighbors, friends, and family. Now that the kids are out of the nest, they expect tins of them when they visit.

So if you've wondered why I've been absent from the blog universe, that's the reason why. I'm spending way too much time sweating over a hot stove rather than a hot keyboard.

About the only writing I've done this past week are the holiday letters I send with the Christmas cards. Since I'm a writer, I feel as if I should put my art to work. I write either an essay or a short fiction piece along with a humorous, hopefully, letter, complete with photographs, recapping the year for those relatives and friends I don't often see.

This year in some of the cards, I enclosed a piece about the song The Twelve Days of Christmas: Christian Fact or Fiction along with the holiday letter. Some on my list got that, some got the holiday letter, and some got both.

If you are a writer, have you written something original to go with your greeting cards? If not, consider doing it next time. After all, we are writers, and writers write.

Sling Words out.

Punish spammers - a primetime special

Do you know if anyone has started a petition to give capital punishment for spammers? If so, I'm willing to sign it. I'm so fed up with the deluge that circumvents spam filters which will trash important emails and let the crap through in too many instances.

Okay, maybe capital punishment is a little severe so how about corporal punishment? With a wooden paddle like Mr. Lyles, my high school science teacher, wielded. It was about three feet long with a shaped handle so he could swing it easily. That sucker was a good four inches wide at the widest part and was made of hardrock maple. It was infamous in our school back in the day. Of course, girls didn't get paddles because there's no way any girl would be dumb enough to do something to merit The Paddle.

Let's sell broadcast rights to the event and have it beamed by satelite all over the world. Line those spammers up. You know the people I mean. They're the ones who send endless streams of emails. Emails wanting to show you porn pictures of children and adults and animals in sexually depraved acts. Emails wanting to sell you medical marvels to turn a man into something resembling a freak of nature. Emails wanting to sell bootleg prescriptions that are dangerous. Emails wanting to steal your financial information so they can steal your identity, reputation, and every last dime you've got. Yeah, those creeps.

Line them up, and have Mr. Lyles come out. In his booming, terrifying bass voice, he'd command: "Bend over and grab your ankles."

Mr. Lyles never gave more than one lick with his paddle. But the punishment should fit the crime so give those spammers what they deserve based upon the obnoxious quality of what they've done and continue doing. Give them, oh, I don't know. How many can the human buttocks withstand without doing internal damage? That many.

I predict worldwide that the primtime special "Punish The Spammers" would be number one in the ratings which, of course, means it would instantly be made into a weekly series.

Probably with William Shatner as host.

The Lost Room

The Lost Room continues to prove that SciFi is the place to find intelligent programming. With a clever, thought-provoking story, which means well-written, The Lost Room features a great cast. I'm sure it will be shown several times so be sure and catch all episodes.

Sling Words back to the kitchen to check on another batch of pralines.

POD: Part 3

Let's add to your knowledge base about print on demand publishing via Lulu.

So far, you've learned that if you go with one of the standard copyright licenses, and you do not feel the need to register that copyright with the United States Copyright office, that your expenses, not including your time, are still zero dollars. Nada. Zip.

Today's decisions involve other aspects that may or may not cost you money depending on what you feel you need.

ISBN means International Standard Book Number. At the ISBN site, you'll find information relating to this number that is used by the book industry as well as learn how to get one if you want to do so independently of Lulu.

First, read the Distribution FAQ on Lulu to make sure you understand all the options.

If you want to have your work distributed, meaning sold, outside of Lulu, then you must have an ISBN. This enables your work to be listed on Amazon, B&N, and in other book stores. Each book and each version of a book has an individual ISBN.

If you only plan to sell your work through Lulu, which my mom intends to do with her memoir that I'm producing, then you don't need an ISBN. This means that the ultimate means of distribution, making your work available to the public, determines whether you want to cough up some significant bucks to obtain an ISBN.

Next decision involves Distribution Services meaning who will be the publisher of record for your book. On Lulu, there are three choices: Free, meaning you won't have an ISBN or any distribution services other than Lulu itself, Published By Lulu and Published By You. The two options are mutually exclusive and cannot be changed once purchased.

Once you have your final manuscript uploaded, reviewed, and ready to go, if you want the potential of wide distribution, you click the PUBLISH tab and then click the link for Distribution Options next to your title.

Published by Lulu costs $99.95. With this service, you grant publishing rights to Lulu and you receive a Lulu-owned ISBN assigned to your work. This does not affect your rights as the owner of the content just as publishing a book with Bantam, for example, they assign a Bantam-owned ISBN and are listed as the publisher but you still own the copyright.

Published By Lulu gives your book a slot in the global marketplace and will allow it to be sold on Amazon and other book retail outlets. If you think you have an undiscovered masterpiece that will attract a wide audience, then it would benefit you to pay the ninety-nine bucks and change to have it available worldwide.

To purchase this service, you'll click Purchase a Distribution Package link to the right of your project in your Projects List. Your ISBN will be assigned immediately and you will be expected to update your file with the ISBN and/or barcode in the appropriate places. Then you'll have to purchase a Proof Copy to make sure it displays properly and approve it.

Registration via Published By Lulu includes:

1. Pub rights to Lulu
2. an ISBN
3. a scannable Bookland-EAN bar code to be placed on back cover
your bibliographic data will be entered by Lulu in major international bibliographic databases and will be available to booksellers. Booksellers have the right to make your book available for sale online or in "real" bookstores. Or not.
4. Retail price will be converted into US$, British pounds, Australian$, Euros, Canadian$ by Lulu to facilitate global marketing
5. your book will be listed in a wholesaler's catalog which gives you access to online retailers

Published By You Distribution Service costs $149.95. Choosing this option allows you to be the publisher of record. I suppose if you wanted for whatever reason to be a publisher then this would be for you. The only reason I can think this would appeal to someone is if they registered a business name i.e. Starving Authors Publishing and then wanted to use Lulu for all the technical aspects of producing a finished book.

This option is offered only in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. This is more complicated, more expensive, and requires more knowledge in order to make decisions.

Registration via Published By You includes:

1. you are the registered publisher.
2. you recieve the ISBN
3. you receive the Bookland-EAN bar code to place on the back cover.
4. bibliographic data is still dispersed by Lulu, same as the other option
5. Lulu still responsible for converting your retail price, same as other option
6. Lulu gets the listing in the wholesaler's catalog, same as other option

Study this and make the decision necessary. I imagine Mom will go the FREE route since she's not expecting to hit the NYT list with her memoir. After all, free is good.

Favorite Christmas things

These are the things that put a smile on my face during the holidays.

A young, brawny man carefully wheeling a pink bicycle with training wheels from the store to his car.

The Salvation Army bell ringer greeting everyone with a Merry Christmas and a God Bless You when they drop anything - coins or bills - into the red kettle.

A white-haired woman holding a can of pumpkin and telling a much younger woman how to bake a pumpkin pie.

A little boy toddling along with his mother, holding her index finger and walking up and down the toy aisle, while he exclaims, "Santa's going to bring me this and this and this and this...." Sure hope Santa has deep pockets.

Men with cell phones pressed to their respective ears as they shop. The conversations are, well, darn funny. "Okay, I'm looking at marshmallow cream in a glass jar with a blue decorated label. Is that what you want?" Or, "How many artichokes did you say to buy?" Or "I can't find Dora the Explorer in a medium size doll. Should I get my niece the large one or the small one instead?" Or, "I've been to four stores, and they're all sold out of Elmo's Anniversary doll. Wouldn't a G.I. Joe action figure with weapon be better?"

The local radio station playing endless Christmas music. Yes, it does get tedious after a while, but the first few weeks are wonderful. I sing along which is much better than griping about the traffic.

Watching A Christmas Story about young Ralphie's quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun, which by the way, my husband gave our daughter one year.

Weeping over It's A Wonderful Life when George Bailey cries out, "I want to live again." Then smiling when his brother Harry makes the toast, "To my big brother George, the richest man in town." What a sucker I am, but I like having it affirmed again that you just never know how many lives you touch as you live your own.

The smell of smoke drifting from a chimney somewhere in the neighborhood. Even here in the Houston area, home of heat and humidity, we sometimes light up the logs in our fireplaces. I remember one unfortunately warm Christmas when I turned the AC on high and then built the fire. Not environmentally conscious perhaps, but for a brief moment, I had that crackling Yule log just like the snowy places up north.

My Mom talking about her fruitcake. Though I've never acquired the taste for this dense, candied-fruit, brandy-soaked concoction, I do love my Mom's fruitcake escapades. There was one year when she the annual fruitcake before Thanksgiving, wrapped it in foil, and every day poured a portion of bourbon, I think it was, over it. A couple of weeks before Christmas, she unwrapped it to slice and serve it for dessert. Fortunately, no one struck a match. The fumes and an open flame would probably have blown the house sky high.

The first batch of Texas Trash, my secret recipe for what everyone else calls Chex Mix. Yum. Spicy enough to make your eyes water if you're in the kitchen when I'm cooking up the drizzling sauce.

Oh, and the sweet caramel smell of pralines as I spoon them onto parchment paper will make your salivary glands work overtime.

Unpacking the decorations and putting them up - inside and out. Seeing the sentimental ornaments that snooty decorators would probably label tacky always brings a tear to my eye. There are the pieces of the mobile that hung over our daughter's crib. I dismantled it years ago and have hung it on the tree ever since. Then there's the salt dough ornaments I had all the kids make each summer when it was too hot to play outside and I didn't want them watching too much TV. Ornaments made in school and Sunday school. Photographs from Brownies through Girl Scouts. From each kid's wedding, there's the boutonniere my husband wore and so many other bits and pieces of our lives. It may not be a glamorous tree, but it is a tree that reflects our lives.

Isn't that what Christmas - or whatever holiday you may be celebrating - is all about? Life and love and the best of humanity?

Major task finished

Whew! Finally I finished painting the dining room. I'd planned to do this before the holiday crowds descend, but I've been busy writing. The ladder has been in the dining room for a month. So I bit the bullet, climbed up on it and got that sucker finished.

Tomorrow, I'll blog again about the process of Print On Demand as I get ready to publish my mom's memoirs with Lulu, the Print On Demand publisher I've selected. When I get her manuscript uploaded, I'll be able to get back to my work in progress in hopes of finishing the first draft by the first of the year.

Sling Words out.

POD: Part 2

Now that you're registered, you've, I hope, cruised Lulu and printed out the articles you need to educate yourself as a PUBLISHER and a WRITER because that will be what you are if you self-publish via Lulu and do it the cheapest way possible - meaning free.

Why is it free? Because you do all the work from preparing the manuscript (writing, editing, proofreading, etc.) to publishing the manuscript (formatting it properly, uploading the electronic file, reviewing proof copies to make sure there are no grammatical errors, typos, or other mistakes, setting the price, setting up a storefront in order to sell your book, promoting the book, etc.).

Before all that happens though, you have other decisions to make. So don't upgrade your Lulu account to Creator just yet. There's more knowledge gathering to be accomplished.

1. Familiarize yourself with the Help section on Revenues. How and when they are paid. What's the difference between the retail price and the Lulu price? How to access the numbers regarding your sales. How is your royalty and the Lulu commission calculated? Print, save in your binder, and read all the financial Help section because it's important.

2. Decide what kind of Copyright License you want for your book. Most of you are familiar with "Copyright usually followed by the C in a circle, a date, and a name, and the phrase All Rights Reserved. You may not be aware that there are other possibilities from this full copyright to the Public Domain, No Rights Reserved. Read the Help section about setting license. For further information, to to Creative Commons where this subject is explored in text and even in a comic strip. Print and save in your binder and decide what copyright you want to claim.

3. Learn the difference between claiming copyright and registering copyright. When a work is created, the copyright is automatically yours, but to register the copyright, you fill out a government form, submit payment, and receive a certificate back showing your copyright is registered. A book can be published without registering copyright because the copyright is inherently yours as the creator. Whether you want to claim full copyright or limited is up to you as is whether you want to register copyright. The main reason to register is that it offers you more protection, greater legal recompense, if someone plagiarizes your book and the copyright has been registered.

These last two points may sound as if I'm belaboring the point, but it's important for you to understand the implications of the various licenses and the significance of registration.

POD: Part 1

Before we get to the how-to's of Print On Demand via Lulu, let me first go through the legal blah blah blah that one must do in today's world.

1. This series on POD via Lulu is about how to self-publish ONLY on Lulu and doesn't apply to other POD ventures.

2. This series is based upon what I interpret from the instructions easily found on the Lulu site so if you want it straight from the horse's mouth, that is, Lulu, then go to Lulu and read them yourself rather than get it spoon fed to you from me.

3. I assume absolutely no responsibility for you and your POD project. None. Nada. Zip. I hold myself accountable only for the project, my mom's memoirs, which I am attempting to publish.

4. I assume no responsibility for the accuracy of the information displayed on the Lulu site nor for my interpretation of that information.

5. In other words, you're on your own in the cold, cruel world of self-publishing and print on demand.

Got it?

Okay, here goes Part 1, what I've learned thus far.

When you decide to use Lulu, you must make a series of decisions from the outset. It's easier if you think about these decisions beforehand rather than making them on the fly as you fill out the forms.

In order to purchase or create a book from Lulu, you must first register. If you've purchased from them before, you already registered and this registration can be upgraded to CREATOR.

I recommend you get a three ring binder and prepare to print a lot of the information, three hole punch it and place it in the binder and stick a labeled tab on each section so you can find it easily. That way you have easy access to all the pertinent info if you need to refer back to it.


1. Read the Lulu Basics (kind of an FAQ) which defines POD and discusses these issues: Is Lulu a vanity press; who is the publisher; how much does it cost to use Lulu; how much will the printed book cost; and much more. If you are not a writer familiar with these matters, print this info out and place it in your binder.

2. Go to the HELP index and read and/or print any of the topics you feel you may need to know. If that means all the topics, then load up the printer and get started. This section covers: who will lay out the content; what rights does Lulu have over your work; what is Services Marketplace; is this a scam. Knowledge is power so learn what you are getting into.

3. Print and read the Member Agreement to which you must agree. To find the Member Agreement, click SIGN UP, don't fill out the form yet, just click Member Agreement and get started.

4. Print and read the Privacy Pledge.

5. In the Privacy Pledge it mentions that as a registered creator, if you enable the Thank You Note process, you are permitting Lulu to display the publisher name (usually the creator) and the associated email address. Now is a good time to think about whether you want to set up a separate email account just for use with your Lulu account. There are many free email services available or you may have the capability with your current email provider. You can use your name or possibly the title of the book you plan to publish if the title is short or anything that may resonate with you for whatever reason.

6. Can you publish FanFic? NO. NO. NO.

7. Get ready to Register. You need the email address you chose and a password. Write these down in your file of online login names and passwords. (If you don't have a file like this either maintained on your computer or in a little notebook, start one now.) Fill out the Registration form.

Voila, you are signed up. At this point, don't upgrade your account to Creator status. Just cruise the site, printing out info you might need. Tune in tomorrow for Part 2.

Publishing my mom

For the last few years, my mother has written essays about her childhood, and I've edited and published them on my website. These captivating looks at life in the Roaring Twenties and pre-World War II Thirties have afforded me the opportunity to see my mother as the child she was and understand the forces that shaped her.

I published the essays on Memory Lane, a page I set up on my web site. This past summer, I finally fulfilled a promise to her and set up The Website of Lucille Dickinson Ainsworth. Now I publish her slice-of-life essays there, but the time has come to fulfill another promise I made to her - to publish all her essays in book form. (My mother has a way of getting me to make these rash promises.)

I started last week by studying all the POD venues out there and selected Lulu as the one that would be the easiest to use. Not only is it easy to use, but also if I use only their basic services, it's FREE. Free is a big selling point. Plus, I have a friend Ralph Neal Hansonwho just used Lulu to publish Flashback To The Golden Years 1940-1960, written at his daughter's request. So I can bug Ralph if I can't figure something out.

Since I'm mainly doing this as a labor of love for my mom who will give or sell copies to family and friends, I'm going to use the free services since we don't want to pay any fees up front which means it won't be available on Amazon and the like. It will be available only on the Lulu site.

Still, I regret the lack of a wider audience because I think about some of the events she describes, and I know there would be more readers interested than just her family and friends. Who you may well ask? Why those who need or want to know about life during that era or people who also lived during that time and want to vicariously stroll down Memory Lane. Perhaps writers too?

My mom was the only child of parents who were in their forties when they married. Her parents were born in the 1880s so she actually spans two centuries in attitudes and opinions. She comes from a family of storytellers. I can remember my grandfather who lived to be a hundred telling about seeing Annie Oakley in a wild west show when he was a kid.

My mom has an absolutely amazing memory. She's compiled several enormous books of genealogy, and her books are in the genealogy sections of libraries like the Mormon Library and the New York City Public Library. She can recall with such detail how her mother kept house, did laundry, cooked, sewed clothes, and other laborious chores. This was in rural Louisiana where most people still lived without electricity and indoor bathrooms. Soap was homemade, and laundry involved boiling clothes in a cast iron pot outside.

Mom tells about how her father and the neighbors would gather together on a crisp autumn day to butcher hogs in order to have meat through the winter. Hog Killing Time was definitely educational. By the time she was grown and married and had children, times had changed. Thank goodness! I don't think I'd have liked the nearly pioneer existence people lived when she was a child.

She talks about Huey Long and his equally flamboyant brother Earl, about outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, and so much more. These are her memories which I'll compile and edit in MEMORY LANE: My Sentimental Journey by Lucille Dickinson Ainsworth. She considers all those memories wonderful still no matter how primitive they may be to us of today's world.

So it now falls to me to learn all about Lulu and how to go about this self-publishing POD. Naturally, I like to pass along things I learn so I thought this would be a great blog series.

As I learn how to navigate the POD world, I'll pass on to you the knowledge that I've gained. Who knows? Maybe you too have a mom or dad or grandparents who'd like to see their memoirs in print.

Stay tuned tomorrow for POD: Part 1.

Sling Words out.